To get you started on the right foot, here’s an introduction to the wonderful world of public transport in Singapore, including apps and top tips.
Public transport is an essential part of our lives. But it can make or break your day. We’ve all been there: the train breakdown, the crammed and late buses, and paying a monster bill for a surge-priced car-sharing ride. Fret not, we’re here to help you map out your trips on public transport – whether it’s a daily commute or a short visit to Singapore. From trains to buses to taxis – and useful apps! – bookmark this guide and you’ll never be stranded in the city again.
Guide to public transport in Singapore
Conveniently located within walking distance of Singapore’s key attractions, the Mass Rapid Transit system (aka MRT) is the easiest way to travel around. Most trains and stations are accessible to wheelchair users, the visually impaired, and families with strollers – talk about easy breezy!
Trains run from 5.30am to about midnight daily, with periods extended during some public holidays. Expect trains to arrive every two to three minutes at peak times, and every five to seven minutes off-peak. For easy reference, the MRT consists of six colour-coded lines – North-South (red), North-East (purple), East-West (green), Circle (yellow), Downtown (blue), and Thomson-East Coast (brown).
On a smaller scale, the Light Rapid Transit system (aka LRT) is a feeder service railway that takes you closer to home in some residential neighbourhoods. Hop on board and travel to neighbourhood estates in Sengkang, Punggol and Bukit Panjang. You’ll want to download the MRT and LRT map for easy reference on the go!
MRT fares and tickets
If you’re sticking around longer in the city, save all the hassle by getting an EZ-link card or a Nets FlashPay. These handy cards allow you to travel via train or bus by tapping on card readers when entering or leaving the station or bus. Commuters are charged based on the distance travelled.
Get one of these bad boys at any Ticket Office or Passenger Service Centre counters at MRT stations. Top up with cash or card at ticket machines, AXS stations and 7-Eleven stores, or try the EZ-link Mobile app. Another cool tech innovation: the SimplyGo app, which allows you to pay using contactless bank cards.
Standard single-trip tickets can also be purchased at ticket machines for $1.40 to $2.50 (including a $0.10 refundable deposit). For friends visiting this tropical island, a Singapore Tourist Pass is a great welcome kit! The card offers unlimited train and bus rides from $10 (including a $10 refundable deposit) for a day.
Ensure your EZ-Link card has sufficient value before tapping at the entrance gates. Avoid the “priority seats” on trains designated for pregnant women, the elderly and the disabled, unless you’re feeling unwell yourself. If the train gets busy, avoid crowding at the door.
Feast your eyes on Singapore’s charming streets! While far more complicated than the MRT network, buses in Singapore are aplenty with several serving similar routes. Plus, most are wheelchair-accessible and air-conditioned. Get familiar with your destination and check out detailed bus routes located at every bus stop. Similar to trains, buses run from about 5.30am to 12.30am. If you’re out past your bedtime, hop on night bus services.
Bus fares and tickets
As mentioned, you can totally pay your bus fare simply by tapping your EZ-link card, Nets FlashPay or Singapore Tourist Pass on the card readers located by the driver as you board. However, do remember to tap out when alighting. If you’re stuck without a card, prepare change in coins and ask the driver for the fare before paying.
Coloured “reserved” seats located in the front section of buses are designated for pregnant women, the elderly and the disabled. If you’re left standing up, be sure to hold on to those handrails tightly. Bus drivers in Singapore are known to hit the brakes hard.
Compared to cities like New York, Hong Kong and London, taxis here are affordable. You can easily hail one on the street or via apps like ComfortDelGro. Now, you have more options at your fingertips too. Just download ride-hailing apps like Grab, Gojek, Tada and Ryde. Alternatively, you can queue at taxi stands found at most shopping malls, hotels and tourist attractions.
Taxi fares and payment
Handy when travelling to places that are inaccessible by bus or train, all taxis go by metre with flag-down rates starting from $3.70. There are surcharges for peak hour, travelling to the airport, passing under the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) toll system and pre-booking. Payments can be made via cash, credit card or Nets.
During peak hour, festive season and rainy days, we recommend booking a taxi or hailing a ride on your app of choice in advance. Here’s a (not so) fun fact: it can get especially tough to get a cab when drivers are changing shifts or it’s close to the witching hour (they prefer to pick up passengers after midnight for the surcharge). Cabbies will roll down their windows and you’ll be expected to shout out your destination. If your answer pleases them, you’re in!
Best public transport apps in Singapore
Enjoy all the features of an efficient bus app and the A to Zs of MRT lines through this app. We love the options that allow us to save our favourite stations and stops and rename them for easier access. Rest assured it’s accurate – the app uses data directly from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to provide bus timings for your reference.
Singabus, download on the App Store or Google Play
2. SG Dr. Bus
Aside from the sleek and minimalistic interface, this app is also known for providing super fast bus timings as a result of its instant updates. It offers all the bus travelling essentials for users, including capacities, routes and schedules. Plus, check out smart features like a battery-saving option and customisable colour templates.
SG Dr. Bus, download on the App Store or Google Play
3. SG BusLeh
To help commuters in Singapore better plan their journeys, SG BusLeh provides up to three bus arrival timings for users. The map feature shows you exactly where the bus is in real-time, so you can figure out whether you want to run to the nearest bus stop or finish your coffee first.
SG BusLeh, download on the App Store or Google Play
4. Bus Uncle
Using local uncle-speak, Bus Uncle has character. And quite literally so – it functions as a chat. You input a query on bus timings and “uncle” replies in local lingo. He even tells jokes! It’s definitely a useful resource that injects some colour into the life of anyone on public transport in Singapore.
Bus Uncle, chat on Facebook Messenger, Telegram or Google Assistant
Expect nothing but to-the-point info on the official app from the Land Transport Authority. Get updates on bus timings, determine your MRT or LRT journey fare, dial taxi booking services, and check real-time information about traffic congestions and train breakdowns.
MyTransport, download on the App Store or Google Play
Available in most major cities (Singapore’s one of them!), Citymapper is every traveller’s dream. Incredibly smart and user-friendly, this app lets you map out your commute on public transport according to your preferences. Too tired to make the trek on two feet? There’s an option with the least amount of walking. Want to stick to buses? Totally possible! On top of that, the app also keeps you updated on traffic congestions and train breakdowns.
Citymapper, download on the App Store or Google Play
7. Explore Singapore
Handy for those who often use the MRT and LRT in Singapore, this public transport app works offline to help you calculate the quickest route to your destination. Fast and easy to use, it updates automatically for future station openings and timetable changes.
Explore Singapore, download on the App Store or Google Play
Now, get out there and take Singapore by storm with these nifty public transport tips and apps!