Singapore is a Southeast Asian island city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, 85 miles north of the equator. An island country that's highly urbanized and made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the Singapore Strait to its south.
Few places in the world offer such a bewildering variety of tourist attractions as Singapore. In such a small area, this island Republic has everything - cosmopolitan city life, sandy beaches, lush rainforests, quaint villages, and hectic night markets.
Singapore is a shopper's paradise, with numerous shopping malls, street markets, and boutiques selling everything from designer labels to local handicrafts. The city is also home to a number of fascinating museums, art galleries, and historical sites. Nature lovers will enjoy exploring the many parks and nature reserves, while foodies will be spoilt for choice with the wide variety of cuisines on offer.
If you are thinking of visiting Singapore, there are a few things that you should know before you go. First, Singapore is a very small country, so it is quite easy to get around. There are two main ways to get around Singapore: by public transportation or by taxi.
Public transportation in Singapore is very efficient and affordable. The Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system is a great way to get around the city, and there are also buses. Taxis can also be a good option for getting around Singapore, although the costs can quickly mount up, so a rental car might be just the ticket.
Traveling around a relatively small area with five million locals and a revolving door of about 20 million tourists annually can get chaotic. Don't take on the streets of Singapore with all your luggage in tow. Visit a Bounce storage locker and drop everything off to make things easy on yourself.
How to get around Singapore by train
As a tourist, the main way you are likely to get around the city is by using MRT trains. The system comprises six main lines and tons of MRT stations. The first section of the North-East Line opened in 2003, making it the second MRT line in Singapore after the North-South Line. The network has since expanded rapidly, with new lines and extensions opening on an almost yearly basis. The latest addition to the network is the Downtown Line Stage 3. This method of transit serves over three million riders every day, which should tell you just how useful it is. The trains run on time and mostly underground, with numerous tunnels and viaducts.
The train is the ideal way to get from the Changi Airport into the city, although the route is not direct. The airport has its own station, so you leave from Changi Airport station and head to the Tanah Merah station. Once there, transfer to East-West Line heading towards Tuas Link.
The cost to ride the MRT depends on how far you're going. Trips range from SGD$1.50 (about US$1) to SGD$2.50 (about US$1.80) per trip. If you plan on taking this form of public transportation frequently, invest in either a Singapore Tourist Pass or an EZ Link Card.
The EZ link cards work on both the Singapore MRT trains and the city buses and are reloadable. Head to a 7-Eleven to purchase one and it'll cost you about SGD$5 for the card plus whatever you want to load on it. You can reload at any of the MRT stations, which makes this option very convenient. The Singapore Tourist Pass is a card that's valid for a specific time period - anywhere from one day to three days. You don't technically have to pay for the card itself, but you do have to provide a SGD$10 deposit, which is returned to you when you return the card. It's important to note that the Singapore Tourist Pass must be returned in no more than five days after the initial purchase to get your money back. As for the daily costs, it's SGD$10 (US$7.20) for a single day, SGD$16 (US$11.50) for two days, and SGD$20 (US$14.40) for the full three days.
For your sightseeing needs, you'll likely take advantage of the Circle Line and Downtown Line to get to places like Marina Bay near the Central Business District, Chinatown, and all the best downtown shopping locations in Singapore. Even access to Sentosa Island involves the metro coupled with the Sentosa Express, which is a monorail. You can catch the metro trains starting from 5:30 am all the way up to midnight most days. A quick download of the Singapore metro app will have the schedules and maps at your fingertips. It also works offline, which can be incredibly handy.
If you happen to be heading to the outskirts of town, you can also take advantage of the Singapore LRT trains. These trains run to the major stations within the city to facilitate the movement of people, especially during peak hours. But, as a tourist sticking to the main tourist attractions, you likely won't need to make use of this part of the public transport system.
How to get around Singapore by bus
Another popular method of public transport for locals and tourists is the Singapore bus service. Bus services run throughout the city to areas like Chinatown, Little India, Marina Bay Sands, and beyond. These public buses can get crowded during peak travel times, but are otherwise a good option to get around the city centre. But, if you have the choice and the MRT system will get you where you want to go, choose that instead of the bus system.
Bus fares are similar to the Mass Rapid Transit fares in that they accept EZ link cards or a Singapore Tourist Pass to pay your fare. Like the metro, the price of your journey depends on its length, but fares start at SGD$1.40 (US$1). You can also pay for your bus trip in cash to the bus driver or by card at one of the machines. Consider downloading the Singapore bus app, called SG BusLeh, if you plan to take multiple trips on the bus. It will tell you arrival times for both SMRT and SBS buses.
While the bus is generally inferior to the metro MRT, something to keep in mind is that nite buses cover various bus routes, seven to be exact, for anyone who is enjoying some of the unmissable things to do in Singapore at night. These buses run from 11:30 pm to 2 am on Friday and Saturday nights as well as public holidays to get you home safely to your hotel. These buses are perfect for when you don't want to shell out any extra cash for a taxi.
How to get around Singapore by car
If you prefer to avoid the crowds of the public transportation system, your only option to get around town, other than on foot, is by car. There are basically three ways to navigate the city by car: ride-sharing, taxis, and rental cars.
Singapore doesn't currently have Uber, but for ride-sharing, the most popular app here is called Grab. While you may not have heard of it, Grab is everywhere in Southeast Asia.
Due to the effective public transport in Singapore, it's generally uncommon for tourists to use rental cars, although it's certainly not unheard of. You can research prices for your trip and many of the well-known companies have a presence here. A few words of caution, though, if you're planning to get behind the wheel yourself. For North Americans and most Europeans, the steering wheel will be on the wrong side of the car. The Brits will be fine, but this is definitely something to consider. Parking and traffic are also real challenges when navigating the city streets yourself.
Taxis are typically one of the best ways to fill any gaps in the public transportation or when you just can't board another bus or metro. Taxi stands are available throughout the city and taxi fares are metered, which can mount up if you get stuck in traffic. Use them sparingly and you'll be fine.
Can I get around Singapore on foot?
It's not really possible to get around the whole of Singapore on foot, but you can definitely explore individual neighborhoods this way. Some particular favorites to check out are Chinatown, Marina Bay, and the Central Business District. These areas are all adjacent, and it's possible to sightsee in each one during a single day, although your feet are definitely going to be tired. Your best bet is to use a combination of walking and metro so you're not doing too many unnecessary steps.
If you really want to prioritize walking on your trip, consider taking advantage of one of the city's many free walking tours. Companies will take you on a guided walk around the most popular neighborhoods, like Chinatown, Little India, Kampong Glam, and Marina Bay. Just don't forget to tip your very knowledgeable guide!
Can I get around Singapore by boat?
One of the more unique ways to travel around Singapore is by boat. Given the city's location on the Singapore River and the Straight of Singapore, this probably doesn't come as a surprise. River taxis operate during the week, and these boats can take you to some of the major attractions within the city. Although the route only has five stops, it can get you to places like the Singapore Flyer and the Asian Civilisations Museum. The stops on the river routes are Robertson Quay, Clemenceau, Clarke Quay, Boat Quay, and the Esplanade.
If you don't want to use a boat exclusively to get from A to B, there are also plenty of boat tours available in Singapore. You can ride a traditional bumboat on the river or head out on a sunset sail on an iconic tall ship. It's easy to make use of the water here!
With so much to see and do, Singapore makes an ideal holiday destination for everyone. So whether you're looking for excitement or relaxation, adventure or sightseeing, you're sure to find it in Singapore!
With the abundance of MRT stations and access to cheaper fares with an EZ link card or tourist pass, there's no reason not to take advantage of the comprehensive public transportation network in Singapore. Buses run all over town and taxis are great for filling in the gaps or when you need to travel outside of the public transport business hours. Car rentals can be used as a last resort or for anyone who prefers to commute around town without strangers sitting next to them.
You should also bring reliable walking shoes on your trip as you're bound to do a bunch of exploring on foot. Give your feet a break and opt for a scenic boat cruise to rest while taking in wonderful views.
The truth is, no matter how you plan to get around Singapore, you're going to have a fabulous time! With an island that has as much as this, it's impossible not to.