Thanks to good roads and a well-integrated transport system, getting around Singapore is generally stress-free.
The city-state is pedestrian-friendly, most streets have paved sidewalks, and crossing even the busiest of roads is easy to do via overhead bridges, underpasses and crosswalks.
Walking is not for everyone though, and even those who typically enjoy taking a stroll to get around might be deterred by Singapore's heat, humidity and monsoon showers. Some expats therefore prefer to drive, even though it's not strictly necessary to own a vehicle in Singapore, as the public transport system includes several excellent options.
Between bus routes and Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) lines, commuters can get just about anywhere they need to go, and cabs and ride-hailing services are abundant and inexpensive.
Public transport in Singapore
Expats who plan on using public transport regularly should consider buying a rechargeable EZ-Link card, which can be used on public buses, train services, taxis and a number of other services throughout Singapore. The EZ-Link app can be used to recharge your card, among other things. More information can be found on the EZ-Link website.
MRT and LRT
The MRT in Singapore is clean, air-conditioned and serves more than 130 stations throughout the city-state. MRT trains typically run from 5.30am to midnight, arriving every two to three minutes during peak times and every five to seven minutes during off-peak periods.
The two Light Rail Transit (LRT) systems in Bukit Panjang, and Sengkang and Punggol, were mostly designed as a complement to the already extensive MRT system, providing further-out areas with a link to the MRT.
Singapore's trains are currently run in combination by SMRT Corporation Ltd (SMRT) and SBS Transit (SBS). Each company operates a number of lines that together form Singapore's rail network. More information can be found on Singapore's Land Transport Authority (LTA) website.
More than 300 bus services run throughout Singapore, operating from about 5.30am to midnight. These routes tend to go further into the residential areas than the MRT lines, and residents often use them to connect to an MRT station. Services are provided by one of four bus companies: SBS Transit, SMRT Buses, Tower Transit Singapore or Go-Ahead Singapore.
Taxis in Singapore
Taxis are a comfortable and convenient way to get around Singapore and are also relatively cheap. Most cabs have a light on their roof, with red indicating that the cab is occupied and green meaning it's available.
Those looking for a ride should head to the closest taxi queue to wait for a cab. These are often located near busy areas, such as shopping areas or hawker centres. If there isn't a queue, simply stand along the curb and flag the next available cab down by waving at it. Another way to book a taxi is to call one of several taxi companies, or book one online. It's a good idea to keep a few cab company numbers and websites on hand.
Ride-hailing services also abound in the city-state. Expats can simply download one of several apps – Grab, Gojek, ComfortDelGro and TADA all operate in Singapore – follow the steps, connect a bank card, and order their ride.
Cycling in Singapore
Cycling in Singapore is increasing in popularity and the government has pledged dedication to make the city more bike-friendly by adding new cycle paths and overhead crossings, as well as providing more secure bicycle-parking facilities. With 286 miles (460km) of cycle paths currently already built, the LTA plans to nearly triple this to a whopping 808 miles (1,300km) by 2030.
With paths currently lacking in many areas, cyclists have two options if they'd rather avoid the roads: riding on the sidewalk or using the Park Connector Network (PCN). Riding a bike on sidewalks is common, but expats are advised to use a bell to alert pedestrians of their presence.
The PCN is a series of wide walkways for pedestrians and cyclists which link public parks together. These cut behind neighbourhoods, along waterways and sometimes connect with major roads and MRT lines too. PCN routes are scenic and sometimes faster than using roads. More information about specific PCN loops and routes can be found on the National Parks website.
Driving in Singapore
Owning a car in Singapore usually isn't necessary. Public transportation is extensive, efficient and affordable. But some expats do prefer buying or leasing a car or motorcycle for the freedom that it affords them.
Whether leasing or buying, drivers will have to pay for a Certificate of Entitlement (COE), which allows an individual to own a car in Singapore for 10 years. The system was created to try and limit the number of cars on the road, and the price of a COE depends, in part, on the current demand for COEs.
There are other costs involved too. Parking is almost never free, insurance prices are high and road tolls quickly add up. Expats who want to import a car will also have to contend with registration fees and customs taxes.
Expats can drive in Singapore as long as they have a valid driving license from their home country along with an International Driving Permit. After 12 months, expats will need to obtain a local license, for which they will have to take a test.
►Find out about popular expat neighbourhoods in Areas and Suburbs of Singapore
"I do not have a driver's licence nor do we own a car, but with readily available and cheap taxis we have never felt the need. Taxis are our last option though, due to the sometimes-intense traffic jams.
"MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) being the first option since it's never far to walk from the closest station to any destination, and it is a fantastic system with punctual trains and great security around the tracks. It is my favourite thing since moving here, the great difference between the MRT in Singapore and subway in Stockholm." Read more about Ellinor, a Swedish expat, and her move to Singapore in her interview.
Are you an expat living in Singapore?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Singapore. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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