First-Time Expat in Singapore: Tips for Getting Around

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It’s no secret that travelling is so much easier when you have a car. However, the costs that come with owning a car sometimes far outweighs its benefits, especially when you’re living in Singapore. For example, according to Big Fat Purse, you need to be earning, at least SGD 5k a month in order to maintain ownership of your car, due to the rising costs of petrol. Car owners must also obtain a Certificate of Entitlement (COE) before they can drive their vehicle in Singapore, and costs more than SGD 80k to bid, due to the government’s decision to curb car ownership as part of efforts to reduce traffic volumes in urban areas.

So what happens if you can’t afford to buy a car? Of course, if you’re living near your workplace or in an accessible location like Orchard Road, you can easily walk or cycle to wherever it is you need to go. The cycling culture is very much alive and flourishing in the island city-state. There’s even a guide on intra-town cycling by Singapore Land Transport Authority, which covers everything from cycling etiquette to designated cycling paths. However, if cycling is not your thing…

Getting Around In Singapore 

For first-time expats in Singapore who don’t have a car or aren’t keen on getting one, rest assured that getting around in the island city-state using public transport is not as difficult as it sounds. One can get almost anywhere in Singapore either by train, buses, cabs, and rented cars. Here’s how:

Bus in Singapore

If you’re looking for the cheapest way of getting around Singapore, look no further: Not only does Singapore’s bus system has an extensive network of routes, it’s also the most affordable method of transportation. Upon boarding, you can pay for your bus fare using cash (just make sure you have the exact change) or tap your EZ-Link stored-value card on the card reader. Then sit back and enjoy the scenic ride to your destination in air-conditioned comfort.

MRT/Train in Sinagpore

The fastest way to zip around the city is undoubtedly by the MRT. Almost all of Singapore’s key attractions are located within walking distance of an MRT station, and if they aren’t you can still supplement your travel by taking a bus at the stop outside the railway station to your final destination. In order to travel on the MRT, you would need to buy a ticket or use an EZ-Link stored-value card.

A complete map of Singapore’s MRT system.

A complete map of Singapore’s MRT system. Photo By

Taxi in Sinagpore

As the most expensive method of transportation among the three options, travelling by taxi gives you the most comfort and accessibility, as they can drop you right at the door. All cabs in Singapore are metered, but the final fare depends on various factors, such as when did you board the cab, where are you going, how long does it take you to reach your destination, and which company’s taxi did you board. Unlike the bus and train, you can hail a taxi from almost anywhere by the roadside. Alternatively, you can queue for one at specified taxi stands.

For more information on timetables and journey planning, visit the Land Transport Authority site here

Improve Your Stay With These 6-Pack (Apps)

So you know the various modes of transportation available to you, but did you know that there is more than one way to access them? Here are 6 apps to make exploring Singapore and all it has to offer a breeze:


GoThere is so useful, we even covered it in our article on Diversity Has A Name, Singapore: An Expat’s First Impressions. Basically, what the app does is it tells you exactly how to get to your destination based on the time and date you’ve selected, in 4 different ways – bus, train + bus, taxi, and car; as well as additional information such as fare and duration of travel. Don’t be put off by its minimalist design; the app is created with the goal of delivering accessibility and convenience to users, and the lack of bells and whistles enables the site/app to load faster.


MyTransport.SG Mobile is an award-winning app that provides detailed information on all modes of land transportation. With the app, you can plan your journey using the public transport Journey Planner; locate nearby bus stops and taxi stands; obtain real-time island-wide bus arrival information and real-time parking lots availability for popular locations, as well as traffic updates during peak hours.


Extensive as Singapore’s land transportation may be, sometimes it can be a hassle, especially if you need a ride to your destination pronto. The Uber app aims to rectify the increasing demand for public transportation by letting anybody become a driver AND earn extra cash in the process (providing that they pass background and safety checks, of course). To get a ride, just tap a button to choose your ride – economy, premium, accessibility or carpool – and set your location. When you arrive at your destination, just hop out—they’ll automatically charge the credit card on file.


If Uber is not your cup of tea, why not try Grab? Conceived as an alternative to taxis/cabs and a competitor for Uber, Grab provides 3 different services, which are:

  • GrabTaxi– Book a budget or premium taxi from a network of drivers.
  • GrabCar– Ride in comfort in a private car and pay a fixed fare that is an agreed upfront.
  • GrabHitch– Hitch a ride or give someone a lift with our carpooling community.

All you have to do is download the app or login to the website, key in your pick-up and drop-off locations to get your estimated fare, and Grab will find you the nearest available driver. Easy-peasy!


Looking for something more comfortable than the bus or MRT yet cheaper than a cab? You’ll be glad to know that you’re not the only one – which led to the inception of Beeline, an app where you can pre-book seats on a direct shuttle to your destination! What’s interesting about this app is that you can suggest a route that you would like to use and the app will analyse the crowd-sourced data with existing transport data. Unlike apps like Uber or Grab, you’re ferried to your destination via private bus operators. The app is still in its beta stages; so if you’re keen on this concept, why not give them a go?


You may not be using iChangi as frequently as you do others, but the app will come in handy for those holiday trips abroad or flying home. From flight updates and transit guides to shopping and dining information, this app makes navigating Changi Airport a snap.

Now that you know all there is to know about getting around in Singapore, what are you waiting for? Here are a few useful articles from Team Expat about Singapore’s must-see attractions for you to cut your teeth on!

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