Getting Around in Singapore

Getting Around in Singapore

A Guide to the Transport System in Singapore

Winning the top spot four years in a row as the best place for expatriates to live and work, Singapore boasts not only clean and safe surroundings but a world-class public transport system that continues to be the envy of many countries. Anyone who has visited Singapore knows how easy it is getting around in Singapore. Planning to work there as an expat? Here's your guide to the transport system of Singapore to make your new life easier to navigate.

Driving in Singapore

There are currently 5.6 million people in Singapore, making it one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Unlike larger cities, it only has around 9,300 lane-kilometers of public paved roads. In contrast, there were 546,706 cars in Singapore at the end of 2017. Thus, the Singapore government continues to promote the use of public transport such as buses and MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) to allow more people on the road.

Expatriates may drive in Singapore. Driving in Singapore is on the right-hand side so it may take some adjustment if you're unused to this arrangement. Expats living Singapore for more than a year or become Permanent Residents need to change their foreign driver's license into a Singapore license to continue driving.

Want a Car? You Need a COE

Unlike in other countries, getting a car in Singapore isn't that easy. The government implements stringent measures to curb car ownership and use. One of the most important and costly requirements to get your own vehicle is the Certificate of Entitlement (COE). The Vehicle Quota System administered by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) helps regulate the number of vehicles on the road to prevent gridlocks.

Those who wish to buy a new car need to bid for a COE, which has a 10-year validity from the date of registration. More often than not, the cost of the COE is higher than the price of the vehicle itself. The owner also needs to pay two kinds of registration fees, the Excise Duty, and the Road Tax. For more information, visit the Ministry of Transport website at

What is the ERP?

Road congestion is a serious matter in Singapore. To help ease bottlenecks, the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) was implemented in 1998.

All vehicles in Singapore have an In-Vehicle Unit (IU) installed which contains the cash card. Passing through roads with the ERP gantries in operation automatically deducts the amount from the cash card using RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology. The ERP charges on a per-pass basis and encourages motorists to adjust their schedule, route or mode of travel.

Singapore's Public Transport System: Fast, Convenient, Efficient

Due to land scarcity, the Singapore government promotes the use of public transport such as trains, buses, and taxis. A report from global management consulting firm McKinsey ranks Singapore first in affordability of public transport, second in terms of effectiveness, and one of the lowest in terms of accidents and fatalities. Thanks to an efficient combination of integrated road networks and rail infrastructures, people living in Singapore have plenty of options when it comes to getting from Point A to Point B.

The most popular is the Mass Rapid Transit or MRT which carries over 3 million riders per day on average, and a network stretching 230 kilometers all over Singapore. The MRT system is considered the easiest and fastest way to commute with its network of 6 operating lines and 141 stations. Trains run every three to eight minutes daily, while the stations open at 5:30 am and close at 12:30 am.

Riding the trains is a breeze with the use of stored value cards called the EZ Link and NETS FlashPay cards. The bus fare is deducted each time you tap your card on the card reader at MRT stations. The cards can also be topped up at many ticket machines, and any MRT ticket office or convenience store. Fare discounts are also given to seniors, children, students and people with disabilities. Tickets for single trips are available, while visitors may avail of the Singapore Tourist Pass for unlimited travel on the MRT, LRT, and buses to visit popular tourist attractions.

Public Buses and Taxis

All 20,000 Singapore buses are air-conditioned and a bus stop is always within walking distance from most residential areas. Around 95 percent of Singapore's public bus fleet is wheelchair-accessible, with the goal of having 100 percent of all buses compliant by the year 2020.

To pay the bus fare, commuters can use their EZ Link card or NETS FlashPay card for bus rides by tapping on the card reader upon embarking and disembarking, which will also show the fare and distance traveled. Cash payment is also allowed but no change will be given.

With the opening of more MRT lines, the Singapore government plans to increase the number of buses on the road, aside from the ones currently operated by bus companies like the SBS Transit and SMRT Buses. The additional buses provide feeder services for new HDB developments to help residents connect to MRT stations, commercial areas such as shopping malls, and other community facilities.

Other bus services such as the Premium Bus Service offer direct journeys and guaranteed seats, while the Fast Forward Bus Service makes fewer stops and has flexible routes to save travel time. Visit for more information.

Getting a taxi is quite easy – you can hail one on the street, wait at taxi stands, book through the phone or use an app. All taxi rides are metered and based on a flag-down rate and distance traveled. The flag-down fare for standard taxis ranges from SGD 3.20 to SGD 3.90 while premium taxis may charge a flag-down rate of SGD 3.90 to SGD 5.00. There may also be additional charges for peak hours, ERP, public holidays and for certain locations like Singapore Changi Airport and the Singapore Expo.

To book a cab via the taxi company or via an app might incur a booking fee which may be charged separately from the taxi fares. Most taxi drivers provide receipts at the end of the journey and accept cash, credit cards, mobile payments, and the NETS FlashPay or CEPAS stored-value cards. 


Go back to the Singapore Expat Guide.

Back To Top