How to be a public transport ninja – Singapore edition

In the spirit of being car-lite. You’re welcome, LTA.

Peak hour commute in Singapore is a nasty business. If you don’t drive, you are probably one of tens of thousands cramming into the trains and buses every morning and evening, to get to and from the office. That could be better than being stuck in traffic jams, but I digress…

If you’re new to taking the buses and trains in Singapore, getting used to peak hour commute requires conditioning for it to be tolerable. Before I started work in Singapore, I spent 3 of my 4 years in the US as a car owner. Where I lived, driving is a necessity and my car felt like a limb.

After returning to Singapore to take on a new job, I experienced culture shock during the early weeks of commuting via public transport to my office. It can be a nightmare enduring the long queues, the jostling for seats, the smells, and rude people.

That said, having tried public transport systems all over the world, I say Singapore’s is pretty good. And with some planning, it can be a breeze. Here’re some tips:

1. Download Google Maps and MyTransport apps, to navigate the city’s buses and trains

The essentials

Google Maps works great in Singapore for general routes. It cannot, however, give you more complex directions for getting around places quicker and faster. More experienced travellers will know that Google Maps can’t give you the most efficient means of transfers between train and bus routes to get you from Point A to B. But it is good enough for tourists and it is a good gauge, too, for seasoned travellers.

Use the MyTransport app to check for buses and waiting times. Other apps to consider include Gothere and BusLeh.

2. Get your EZ-Link card. For tourists, you may consider the Tourist Pass.

The EZ-Link card is the only card you’ll need to pay for bus and train trips in the Singapore public transport system. You can even use the EZ-link card to pay for other products. The card can be bought at TransitLink Ticket Offices at MRT stations and most 7-Eleven stores.

Tourists may want to consider the Tourist Pass:

In general, purchasing the EZ-link card or Tourist Pass is more cost efficient than single-trip tickets. Take going from one end of the island to the other: Tampines East to Pioneer MRT station. It’ll cost $2.04 for adults with an EZ-link card, while a single-trip ticket will cost $2.60.

Tampines East MRT station

3. Transfer fares for the budget-conscious

Travellers can get a concession on the travel fare when making transfers. This is so long as you do it within 45mins of changing from bus-to-bus, and train-to-bus and vice versa. Train-to-train transfer doesn’t work though.

4. Be conscious at busier MRT stations

These include Bedok, Bishan, Serangoon, Paya Lebar, MacPherson, Buona Vista, City Hall, Raffles Place, Jurong East, just to name a few. Avoid standing where doors open, because there’ll be a surge of people trying to get into the train during peak hours.

Also, if you’re in a hurry to get out of the train, it may be good to check where the stations’ lift and escalator exits are, and exit the doors nearest to these exits.

5. Bonus! If you’re meeting people on the train and/or at the platform, you can do this easily by checking the door number.

If you’re meeting companions mid-commute, you can make arrangements to meet at certain carriages by checking the numbers at the platform screen doors.

Do you know if any more tips? If so, please share them with us:

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