Hay! The life of a Filipino in a foreign country. Very sad and I'm dreadfully suffering from a major case of homesickness, but you've gotta move on, right?
Anyway, I wanted to do this very quick post on how to get around Singapore before anything else since I figure this would be extremely useful for a lot of our kababayans (countrymen) who will be visiting the Lion City soon. Plus, it will make a quick reference point for all the future entries I'll be posting about, too.
(Please note, though, that this and all my other succeeding posts about Singapore and life here are based on a foreigner's -- a.k.a little old me -- experiences. And since I am still fairly new here, I may misunderstand some customs and rules but will definitely edit any future posts for corrections, if any are found. J)
Ok so on to our regular programming...
I will spare everyone the history report on Singapore as this can be just as easily searched though the web (oh the wonders of the internet!) Google can provide you with enough reading material on this; but for those wanting to know more about the Lion City, you can also visit worldatlast.com for more details.
What is generally well-known about this city-state is that Singapore is a tiny country in Southeast Asia which surely compensates on its small land area by being bigger and better in terms of public service and attractions (both natural and man-made). And getting to them is as easy as pie.
Similar to Hong Kong, you can get around almost every major tourist attraction of the Lion City either by car (if you're lucky enough to have a friend or relative who has one here), by taxi cab, train, or bus. Since a lot of visitors typically do not have access to cars here, I will focus more on the latter 3.
Taxi cabs are convenient and extremely helpful whenever you find yourself lost, albeit a tad expensive as compared to taking the MRT/LRT trains or the bus.
A taxi's flag-down rate starts from S$3.00 to 5.00 (approximately Php90 to 160*; depends on the car model of the taxi you ride as providers here provide special cars for different services.) Aside from that, there are other add-on fees included on top of your distance and flag-down fares (i.e. rode during peak hour or from midnight to 5:59a.m., when passing inside the city area, etc. For the complete list of fees, please check out the http://www.publictransport.sg/content/publictransport/en/homepage.html website.)
|Singapore taxi cab|
MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) / LRT (Light Rapid Transit) Trains
Singapore's MRT system initially spanned the section between 2 areas called Yio Chu Chang and Toa Payoh when it first opened in 1987, making it the second oldest metro transit system in Southeast Asia (our dear old Manila's LRT holds the oldest distinction.)
From it's humble begginings, the system has then been added additional lines that aims to service both Singaporeans and visitors of their country. This impressive rail network forms the backbone of the Lion City's public transport system with over 141 stations, and is further complemented by smaller regional LRT lines.
|Source: SMRT website|
Services usually start at 5:30 a.m. and end by midnight, with special services extended during public holidays.
|Train platform at Yio Chu Chang MRT station|
There's ample seating and space for commuters. Although it gets a little crowded during rush hour but mercifully, it's not as bad as being packed like sardines like what we experience in Manila.
|Inside a train|
Well, it is all a matter of perception, though. I remember one instance I was riding the MRT here on my way back home after having breakfast with Hubby. It was rush hour and a little crowded than usual but I could still place a step on all 4 sides. However, I still overheard a group of students complaining that it was so crowded they weren't comfortable already. Chickens! Hehehe!
Another thing I love about commuting here is that it's so easy even with a stroller in tow. It is likewise accessible and convenient even for handicapped travellers.
Fares are also relatively cheaper, as compared to taking a cab, ranging anywhere from S$0.66 to 3.04 (approximately Php20 to 97*) depending on the distance and if payment is made through ez-link cards (more on that below.)
Travellers may also choose to ride the bus. Fares range from S$0.67 to 1.58 (approximately Php21 to 50*.) Also note that unlike in Manila, loading and unloading of passengers are done only at designated bus stops.
There are also special buses that are equipped to accomodate handicapped commuters too.
|Place for handicapped commuters|
Buses here are always equipped with at least 2 doors -- one at front beside the bus captain (driver) and another one in the middle. Always remember that entering buses SHOULD always be done on the front door (the one next to the driver) only. This is so the drivers could see if you've paid your fare or not. Yes, folks. Wala pong conductor dito. You may, however, choose to exit at either the front or middle doors. No restrictions there.
How do I pay?
For taxi cabs, you can choose to pay either by cash or by credit card. There is also what is known as a NETS Cash Card, a kind of stored value smart card, here that most locals use to pay for a variety of other items and services. You can also request for a receipt as cabs are equipped to issue such.
Payment for bus and train rides can also be done by cash but an ez-link card might be the best and most convinient option for most commuters. It is a stored value card that is used to pay for public transport fares. Nowadays, though, it's also accepted by a number of establishments as well (learn more about the ez-link card through their site at here.) TIP: Be sure to tap your card once when entering/boarding and again when alighting the bus or train.
|Source: ez-link website|
There is also what is known as a Singapore Tourist Pass which provides unlimited train and bus rides for a day to 3, depending on the type of card you purchase. This is more favorable for tourists who are visiting the Lion City for short periods only as they also provide discounts and a host of other benefits as well (you can view the differences between an ez-link card and a Singapore Tourist Pass here.)
How do I get there?
Ok. You know where you want to go. You know what to ride. You know how to pay your fare. But how exactly do you get there?
The good thing about most Singaporean main tourist attractions is that they have COMPREHENSIVE (the Philippines could really take a page from this country) websites that give detailed information regarding operating hours, entrance fees and even directions on how to get there. And finding their sites are as easy as simply goggling them.
But say you're coming from your hotel in point A and need to get to your destination (tourist attraction) in point B, then do what we do and check out streetdirectory.com.
Hubby introducted me to this handy little website a few years back and it has since been my best friend whenever touring visitors here.
You simply type in your starting point and desired destination and viola! You're given instructions on how to get there with options on how you want to get there (whether by car, taxi, bus or combined bus and train routes). You're even given an estimate on how much your taxi fare would cost. Now isn't that something?
Locality maps depicting the surrounding area are also placed inside and around most train stations and other locations as well. Don't be afraid to consult them if need be.
|The Madir in front of a locality map found inside an MRT station|
If all else fails and you still find yourself lost, then be bold and ask someone. Tourist centers are scattered in major tourist hubs and friendly train ground personnel are always there to extend assistance.
Almost everyone here speaks English (the British English, mind you, which means an elevator is referred to as a lift, etc.) You will just, however, may find it harder to understand them because of their accent and their use of Singlish (that's for another post altogether.)
Other than that, locals are very friendly and willing to lend a hand.
Additional info when in public:
Yes, Singapore is indeed a FINE city (as the local joke goes.) So it's not unusual to see signs like these (picture below) on the bus or train stations. Please take note and be mindful. Show respect for we are visiors, mind you.
|A FINE city indeed|
Another thing you'll have to take note is that when riding the escalators and taking your leisurely time (i.e. not in a hurry to step off) try to stand on the left side as much as possible, most especially in places where there is high foot traffic like in the train stations. The right side is kept open as a courtesy for people who are in a hurry.
|To the left.. to the left..|
I once made the mistake of ignoring this unspoken rule inside the MRT, and during rush hour too, no less! To say that I was met with really unfriendly and dagger-like stares was an understatement.
This, however, I've noticed isn't usually followed in areas where people like to take leisurely strolls, say inside a mall.
Another thing, kiddos who are below 0.9 meters ride for free on buses and trains.
So yes, indeedy. Singapore is as commuter and tourist friendly as can be. J
*S$1 = Php32
For more information and tips on getting around Singapore, you may opt to visit the following websites: