Master the Singapore MRT

Quite Possibly the Easiest Way to Get Around Singapore

The Singapore MRT (Mass Rapid Transit), also known as the Singapore subway or Singapore metro, forms the backbone of the city’s mass transit system.

Before I decide on a travel destination, I usually take a few minutes to investigate what will be my transportation options when I arrive. I LOVE taking this form of public transportation for its ease of use and low cost. 

As such my favorite way to get around Singapore is… you guessed it, the Singapore MRT. Hey, I’m originally from Los Angeles so any chance I get to avoid driving or being stuck in traffic… I’m all for it! :-)

Use the map below to navigate the MRT system, or click here to visit the official Singapore MRT site featuring an interactive map. Also see the section below for a usage guide.

Singapore MRT map (Click to Enlarge)

With about 2.4 million riders per day, taking the Singapore MRT is one of the most popular forms of transportation for both Singaporeans and visitors alike.  It is cheaper than taking a taxi, and navigating the subway map is not as intimidating as it might seem.

Even though hailing a cab in Singapore is relatively inexpensive when compared to most major cities, taking the Singapore MRT is a great way to trim your transportation expenses and save money while not feeling like you are sacrificing safety and comfort. And in a world-class city like Singapore, costs can add up FAST.

Using mass transit and walking is an excellent way to quickly learn your way around Singapore.  The city is very safe in general, so if you are willing and able, go ahead and walk the extra block or so to the nearest metro stop around the corner.

If you’ve never taken the Singapore MRT, don’t worry; it’s simple to use and easy to learn.  Follow these tips and you’ll be using the Singapore subway system like a local in no time.

Ticket Options

Here are the available ticketing options for your use of the MRT system:

  1. Standard Ticket
  2. Singapore MRT Ticket Machines Singapore MRT General Ticketing Machines
    Calvin Teo, Wikimedia Commons

    This is your typical one way / one time use pass. 

    Where to buy: Purchase at any station at the automated General Ticket Machine (GTM)

    Cost: Fares range from about SGD $0.90 from one station to the next to no more than a few dollars for a long distance.  In addition to the fare there is a SGD $1 deposit for the card, refundable upon return to the ticket machine.

    Pros:   This is most useful if you are not planning to use the MRT system that often, are going to use other forms of transit, or play it by ear. 

    Cons:  The Standard ticket used for entry cannot be recharged, meaning you have to buy a new ticket every time you use the trains.  There’s also that SGD $1 refundable deposit for the card which you must return to the ticket machine for your money back.

  3. Singapore Tourist Pass
  4. This card designed for visitors gives you unlimited use of the MRT trains and busses, sold as a 1, 2, or 3 All-Day travel pass. 

    Where to buy: Can be purchased at the TransitLink Ticket Offices at the following stations*:

    • Changi Airport
    • Orchard
    • Chinatown
    • City Hall
    • Raffles Place
    • Ang Mo Kio
    • HarbourFront
    • Bugis

    *Note that these stations each have different hours of operation. If you go during typical business hours you should be ok.

    Cost: Basically SGD $8 per day, plus a refundable SGD $10 card rental fee.  So a 1-day card will cost SGD $18, a 2-day card will cost SGD $26, etc. Card must be returned within 5 days to be eligible for the SGD $10 refund.

    Pros:   Unlimited use is nice, especially when you want to see all the sights or if you might get lost a few times along the way. Also you don’t have to queue up to buy a Standard ticket every time you use the trains.

    Cons:  Most trips on the Singapore MRT will cost you around SGD $1.50-$2.50, so you have to ask yourself if you will get enough use out of the pass to justify the flat fee of SGD $8.00 per day. Remember, you might decide to walk more to see the sights or end up taking a few cabs as well.

    Don’t forget to return the card within 5 days of it being issued for your SGD $10 refund.

  5. EZ-Link Card
  6. It’s a rechargeable / reusable smart card for use with trains and busses in the city. This is what most Singaporeans use for their daily trips on the MRT system.

    Where to buy: Purchase at TransitLink Ticket Offices or Passenger Service Centers at most MRT stations. You can recharge these cards at GTMs, manned ticket counters at the stations, post offices and even 7-Eleven convenience stores (small SGD $0.30 fee may apply).

    Cost: If you purchase your card at a TransitLink Ticket Office or at a Passenger Service Center, the cost is SGD $12; $7 of which is stored for your use and the remaining $5 is the non-refundable cost of the card.  Next, if you buy it at a 7-Eleven, the cost is SGD $10, with $5 being stored, and $5 non-refundable.  And finally, if you buy at a post office, you pay only the $5 cost of the card, and the post office will charge a $0.30 fee to add value to it. 

    Pros:   This is most convenient if you are planning to stay in Singapore for a while, allowing you to add value as you go and avoid buying a Standard Ticket every time you use the train or bus. 

    Cons:  The $5 fee for the card is non-refundable.

How to Use the Singapore MRT

This section will teach you the basics of how to use the Singapore MRT system in case you’ve never used a subway before.

For illustration purposes let’s say that after a long day of hitting the shops on Orchard road, you’ve decided to head over to Clarke Quay for a nice meal at a restaurant along the river in one of the most happening parts of town.

You walk to the nearest Singapore MRT station (Orchard), and pull up to the General Ticket Machine (GTM). For this trip you opt to buy a Standard Ticket one way, as you might stay late along the riverfront and take a taxi back to the hotel.  On the map of the MRT system at your GTM, select your destination, in this case Clarke Quay.  Pay the fare as shown on the monitor and retrieve your ticket card.

Head to the entry gate and tap your card to the electronic reader.  Go to the boarding platform and select the train heading for Marina Bay (the end of the line).

Singapore MRT Fare Gates Singapore MRT Fare Gates
Terence Ong, Wikimedia Commons

Once your train arrives, take it two stops and get off at the Dhoby Ghaut station.  Here you need to transfer to the North East (Purple) line.  Similarly take the train heading towards Harbourfront (the end of the line), and get off in one stop at Clarke Quay.

MRT Stations and Train Frequency

Singapore MRT stations are very clean and safe even during the evening hours. I’ve yet to find any form of vandalism or graffiti in any station as they’re monitored by security guards and CCTVs. The trains are all air conditioned, relatively new, and monitored by security cameras.  So yes, they are also clean and graffiti free.

Singapore MRT Fines Singapore MRT Fines...Ouch!
Calvin Teo, Wikimedia Commons

You will typically find the MRT stations surrounded by any number of shopping centers and various places to eat. You will likely be munching on many tasty treats in Singapore, but don’t do it on the train; there is a fine for eating or drinking on the MRT that Singapore officials take very seriously.

If you just miss your train, don’t sweat it; the next one will typically arrive in about 3 to 8 minutes, so there’s usually never a long wait to catch a ride. You can check the estimated arrival time of the next train on the LCD screens overhead.

On a normal day Singapore MRT trains are in operation from 5:30AM-12:30AM (the next morning), allowing them to provide service to the majority of the population, from the early bird commuters to the late night diners.

If you decide to explore some of the city’s nightlife and stay out ‘till the early morning hours, plan on hailing a cab.  There will most likely be a bunch of them waiting at a taxi stand outside nightclub establishments during these hours.

Give the Singapore MRT a try during your trip. Its quick, easy and a good value.

Singapore MRT Harbourfront Station Singapore MRT Harbourfront Station
Calvin Teo, Wikimedia Commons

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