I called Singapore “Asia for Beginners” – and one of the things that makes Singapore so easy to visit is the excellent public transportation. From trains and buses to taxis, there are plenty of options and they are all reliable, fast and relatively inexpensive – at least to the high prices for hotels, restaurants and bars in Singapore! Check out my Travel Made Easy tips for Getting Around Singapore after the break!
To/From Changi Airport: Changi is regularly rated one of the best airports in the world and the easy transportation to and from the city helps with that. The easiest and most comfortable way to get into the city is by taxi. There are well managed taxi lines at each terminal and you are typically in your taxi within 10-15 minutes. The longest lines I found at Terminal 2, but they usually move quickly. One thing to look out for is that there are different types of taxis charging different rates – the most common taxis are blue or yellow Comfort/City Cabs, usually Hyundai Sonata. They are large, comfortable, usually in very good condition and at around SGD25 for a ride into the city a good value. Keep in mind that Singapore has a confusing set of base rates and fees for distance and time that vary by taxi company and even the type of car! Look out for the black Chrysler 300 cars at the airport – they are significantly more expensive (around 40%), but you can decline them. As many people do, you can get a taxi quicker by accepting them and skipping ahead in the queue! There are also surcharges for the airport, for peak time and nighttime as well as trips into the central business district. There is nothing you can do about those, the system is automated and the drivers always use meters and are generally very honest, so you don’t have to worry and try to understand all the fees!
If you want to save some money, you can also use the excellent subway system MRT. The “green” East-West line goes to the airport, but the line splits a few stops prior to the airport, so you might have to switch trains. It’s very cheap at only about SGD2 for a trip to downtown. If your destination is along the green line, it’s quick and easy and you’ll be in downtown in 30-40 minutes. If you have to connect and make your way with luggage through a busy station, it will add some time and effort. The trains can get crowded during rush hour, so finding a seat and space for your luggage can be tough. And the trains only run from around 5:30h-23:18h. An equally inexpensive, but even slower option is the airport bus (line 36) that goes from the airport to the city – you have a good chance of getting a seat, but it will take about 1h or more to get to the city.
If you are alone and have some large luggage, the Airport Shuttle Bus that goes to the major downtown hotels is an alternative at $9. It leaves every 15 minutes from each of the terminals and takes about 30 minutes, drops you off at the hotel and is more convenient than the MRT – but if there are two or more of you, the price difference to a taxi is small!
Getting Around Singapore: Getting around Singapore is pretty easy thanks to the great public transport system. Your toughest task is to figure out where you are and what bus or train to take – but thankfully, there is an app for that! Download “Singapore Map” and your transport problems are mostly solved! Pick the location you are at and your desired destination and Singapore Maps will provide you with an estimate of time and fare for the trip by car, taxi, bus or train. You can pick the mode of transport that best meets your need of time vs cost. For train and bus, it will give you directions on what station to go to and what lines to take. It couldn’t be easier and more convenient. It was one of the most useful apps when I lived in Singapore and I wouldn’t want to travel without it! The train stations, trains and buses are all very clean, reliable and save. The stations are well marked, have clear directions to the different lines and destinations and maps for the network as well as the immediate neighborhood, making it pretty easy to find your way. The bus drivers and MRT station staff are polite and professional and I never encountered any issues. The MRT and bus system is easy to use with NETS cards, an electronic, stored-value card that you can purchase at the MRT stations.
If you plan on using taxis a lot, I recommend downloading the ComfortDelGro Taxi Booking App. Taxi lines at malls are often long and flagging a taxi down on the street might take a while, so being able to book a taxi on your phone makes it much easier and faster.
Alternatives to ComfortCabs are uber and GrabTaxi, but because taxis are so reliable, safe and relatively inexpensive, the need is not as great as in cities with more dysfunctional taxi systems, say Manila or San Francisco!