Posts Tagged ‘public transport’

Stranded in Singapore

In my entire time in Singapore, I have never felt so lost and helpless as what happened yesterday.

6.30pm: It all started with us having to leave the office at about 6.30pm yesterday. The boss was going to City Hall and offered me a lift. I had a dinner appointment with the Partner at Tanjong Pagar. At first I agreed, which meant I would have to meet the Partner at City Hall MRT, before taking the train to Tanjong Pagar. In the end, I declined the boss because the journey would involve a detour and I would rather take a straight bus down to Tanjong Pagar instead from our new office. This proved to be the biggest mistake of the day.

6.35pm: When I got down to the ground level. I was shocked to see the massive jam along Pasir Panjang Road. The traffic was literally stand still. My hopes of taking the public bus flew out the window. Couldn’t see a bus for miles and I didn’t want to have to squish like a sardine in one either. Decided to take the shuttle bus to Harbour Front MRT station instead. Somehow the shuttle arrived quickly even though it seemed the traffic outside the office hadn’t moved an inch. Alas, the shuttle was full after having picked up a load of passengers from the building before us. If this one is full, the next one would likely be full as well given the frequency of the shuttle!

6.45pm: Once again, I changed my mind and dragged myself towards the bus stop. A hoard of people were there, all looking anxiously at the stand still traffic. The one and only bus that would take me to Tanjong Pagar came and left without stopping. It was now 6.50pm. Worse still, a shuttle went past to, and I could see there were a few empty seats at the back. A colleague who was with me when I was at the shuttle stand told me a 2nd shuttle arrived within minutes, empty. DAMN!

6.55pm: Told myself, just take the next bus that comes! It’ll take you somewhere! So I took the next bus, and it happened to be heading towards Bukit Merah. In my haste, I translated Bukit Merah into Red Hill, and immediately assumed this bus would take me to Red Hill MRT station. Of course it was not the case, and I immediately realised my mistake. To make matters worse, I was still stuck in the almighty jam since the bus was still due to travel down Pasir Panjang Road! So not only was I still stuck in the jam, I had boarded the wrong bus!

It was at this point where I truly felt stranded. Even if I had money, nobody would be able to save me and make me get to where I wanted to go any faster. Even if I were to hire a taxi, it would also be stuck in the jam with me having to pay for it dearly.

7.03pm: Adversity gives rise to desperation which gives rise to wacky ideas.  After 5 minutes on the bus, I told the bus driver I was getting off! It was fine because in all that time, he hadn’t even crossed the traffic junction, let alone reach the next bus stop. I felt a rush of hope after getting off the bus and leaving the oppressive jam.

7.10pm: I walked towards the Alexandra bus stop. There was a crowd there too, but lesser than the one at Pasir Panjang. More importantly, the roads were clear. Thankfully, the bus that would take me to Queenstown MRT arrived and I was one of the last passengers up. This bus didn’t stop at the next bus stop so I was lucky to be able to get on. I even managed to get a seat when a load of people got off at the Queensway Shopping Centre.

7.19pm: Finally, I arrived at Queenstown MRT station. Next train to town, 5 minutes. For a peak hour period, 5 minutes was way too long. But hell, if it’d said 10 minutes, I would somehow have not been surprised. Still, I had to be glad that I was finally on firm ground, where I knew I would definitely get to Tanjong Pagar within 10 minutes once I boarded the train. Interestingly, my colleague only arrived at Harbour Front MRT 5 minutes earlier.

7.33pm:  I arrived at Tanjong Pagar. A journey that would normally have taken 20 minutes by bus from my office saw me having to jump through hoops in order to reach my destination 1 hour later.

Moral of the story: Never say no to your boss!!!!!!!

How to travel around in Singapore

Travelling around in Singapore is relatively easy and affordable. You can get to almost any place in Singapore using public transport. However, while trains and buses will get you to your destination, they are not the fastest mode of transportation. This is especially so when you are visiting attractions on the outer reaches of Singapore.

These are the rules to remember when deciding how to get about. All dollar amounts quoted are in SGD.


If you have money, this is almost always the best and most comfortable way of travelling. I shall first explain the ins and outs of hiring a taxi in Singapore. Further down, I shall describe the situations in which it may not be a good idea to take a taxi.

Charges:- All taxis in Singapore are metered. When you get into a taxi, make sure the driver turns on the meter ($2.80, $3 or in a very blue moon $5 depending on the size of the taxi). The meter runs based on the distance covered. Also, there may be various surcharges incurred depending on whether you’ve entered the city area, whether you’ve crossed a toll gantry, whether you’ve flagged it during the peak hour and also if you’ve flagged it at the airport. The charges are all displayed prominently on a notice pasted on every taxi’s back left door.

Taxis in Singapore are fairly affordable, especially if you are comparing to other places like London or Japan. To give you a sense of how affordable this is, a ride from Changi Airport to the heart of town would cost about $20+ during off peak hours. This may not sound cheap, but remember, Changi Airport is right at the Eastern end of Singapore. So you have crossed half of Singapore with that amount of money.

Hiring one from the road:- Hiring a taxi can sometimes be a tricky affair. Generally, one hires a taxi by standing at the roadside and sticking his arm out to flag one. Taxis are identified by the sign on the roof of the vehicle proclaiming taxi. If the sign is red, it means that the taxi is occupied, so don’t bother wasting arm strength trying to flag down each and every taxi that comes by.

Hiring one by phone:- It is relatively easy to find a taxi outside the city. However, come peak hour, or if you are within the city, it may be much harder. The best method is to telephone for one.

Remember this magic number: 6552-1111.

Call this number and give your current location and a taxi will be despatched to your place for a surcharge of about $3-$4 (again depending on whether it is peak hour or not). Obviously, this may not be a feasible solution if you are unable to get hold of a local phone, because the duration of the call may be up to a few minutes long.

Hiring one from the taxi-stand:- If calling for a taxi is not an option for you, you will just have to patiently wait. If you are outside the city, continue trying to flag down that taxi by the roadside. Or you could try taking a bus to the nearest train station.

If you are within the city and if calling for a taxi is not an option for you, you will unfortunately have to head to the nearest taxi-stand and join the queue. It is illegal for taxis to stop along the major roads so don’t bother with that method. There are taxi-stands at all shopping centres, all hotels and dotted sporadically on major roads. Not all taxi-stands receive the same flow of taxis. In my opinion, your best bet is to go to the hotel’s front drive in as there are usually less taxi customers there. Also, the doormen can help you answer any questions should you have any or perhaps even call for a taxi.

Remember, lots of Singaporeans will also be calling the magic number for a taxi. So should you see people suddenly getting out of the queue to board the upcoming taxi, it is not because they are jumping the queue. It is simply because they have booked it.

Other advice:- There are also other less common ways of booking a taxi, such as through your Iphone. For more information, look here

If you are travelling to the outlying areas of Singapore, such as The Singapore Zoo, The Night Safari, Jurong Bird Park, The Science Centre, I would suggest that you take a taxi. It is simply faster and more comfortable although it would cost about $20. Using the trains and busses would take you more than 1 hour, if you are coming from the city.

Taxis run 24 hours everyday and trains and buses run till about midnight.

In the next post, I shall highlight the ins and outs of using buses and trains in Singapore.

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