Additional Information about Singapore
On this page we have collected some further useful information for a trip to Singapore. One should specially be aware of the different means of transport, from the road traffic to the tube and buses up to taxis before travelling to this densely populated city.
Singapore is marked by a big traffic volume that is not comparable with the rush our of german big cities. The number of the driving schools is limited to three because the traffic politics try to reduce the amount of the cars on the roads by this way. Owning a car is the result of richness, as those who want to have a car here have first to acquire a certificate(CoE = Certificate of Entitlement) and pays for 10 years approximately S$ 10.000. Moreover, the prices for new cars are approximately 20% above the average in Europe.
Additionally, there is left-hand traffic, a thing that can be chaotic even for an experienced driver. Furthermore, there are traffic signs and traffic rules tha are not usual for Europeans; Nevertheless, Singapore has a sophisticated traffic system, with which the traffic is regularized per road charge in the Central Business. The prices of the road charge are calculated each day depending on the volume of the vehicles. The city also does not have space for parking, as the number of inhabitants continuously grows and there is not enough parking space.
Rented cars can be only driven with an intergovernmental driving license and moreover, they are very expensive (from S$100 per day + gasoline and road charge). If you plan to travel to Malaysia by car, it is better if you do not rent the car until getting to the border, as the rent and the gasoline costs there are half of the amount. But if one wants to drive to Malaysia with a vehicle of Singapore, the tank must be filled to 75%, as the gasoline price is cheaper in Malaysia.
Subway Net (MRT)
My recommendation for Singapore is to make use of the cheap public transportation. The subway net of Singapore (MRT = Mass Rapid Transit) is cheap and a reliable means of transport with which one almost can get straight away to the sightseeings. The tickets can be brought at the automats at the stations or at the counter. In case of a longer stay (more than 5 days) it is worthwhile to buy an EZ-Link card. The card costs S$15, whereby S$10 are charged on the card and S$5 deposit are charged (all prices are from the year 2008). Similar to other metropolis, there is an automatic system with which the charge of the trip is calculated with the EZ-Link card.
The use of the card works as follows: by stepping in, the card is shortly held at the card reader at the entrance barrier and thereby, the maximum ticket price is charged. By stepping out, the card is again held against the card reader at the barrier and the difference of the price is rewarded. The cards can be comfortably recharged at the automats of the subway stations. But of course it is also possible to buy single tickets. The prices for one single ticket are from S$0,80 up to S$2,00. Thus, it is nearly impossible to get to the subway underground without a ticket.
The subway net itself is structured in a simple way and also easy to understand for the tourists. There are three major lines that are divided by colours: the North South Line (red), the North East Line (purple) and the East West Line (green). Unfortunately, the trains only work up to mignight, but as taking a taxi is not so expensive this should not be a problem. The main problem by using the MRT is simply the mass of people that cavort at the bigger stations and changing points; Everybody only thinks of oneself and wants to get into the train at any cost, although in the peak times the trains apper any five minutes. Under these circumstances, taking the subway can be quite an effort!
For the case one stands at a bus station waiting for a bus and wonders why the bus does not stop there is an explanation. One should always put forth one's hand if one wants to take a bus line, otherwise the bus won't stop! One has to step into the bus where the driver is and use the card reading device for the EZ-Link card. The trip price will be automatically charged as it is the case at the MRT. Of course it is also possible to buy a single ticket in the bus, but therefore one should have some coins available (most of the times, the bus drivers do not have any change).
Moreover, the bus lines of Singapore do not have a fixed driving plan but only intervalls in which the driving times are announced (10-15 minutes cycles). Also in the stepping out, the bus trip has its perfidies! As it is the case in Germany, one should press the button before getting out so that the bus driver knows that he should stop at the next station. But now the most interesting point of the thing comes! There is no sign in the bus with which one can see when one has to get out. The best is to ask the other travelling guests or the bus driver himself in order to get a sign.
I have never seen such an abundance of taxis as in this city! Without them, the traffic would totally break down and from the business man up to the woman from the supermarket, no one would get punctually to his working place (despite MRT). They are available everywhere, which means that there are, as it is also the case in Germany, taxi stations. They are recognizable by their blue colour and the rather older models (mostly Toyota Camry). Of course it is also possible to hire a taxi by waving or per telephone.
There is to consider that the taxis driving on the road have some sign on the roof with the labels hired, on call or the green inscript Taxi which means available. Be careful with the which mercedes limousines, these are comfort taxis and have overcharged prices! All taxis are air-conditioned and have a taxametre with which each kilometre is equally charged.
The taxi prices are unbeatably cheap in this city and one gets from A to B for less than S$ 10. The drivers do not expect any beer money or a rounding up of an odd fee, as coins are rather disturbing to the drivers.
During ordering a taxi on the phone one has not only to mention the place at/or the street's name but one also gets a 4-digit number with which one can identify the taxi. This 4-digit is shown at the car plate at the front and the back of the car. Simply stop the taxi then the driver will ask for your name (your name is saved together with your phone number and the place of destination in the display of the taxi). By this way, it is always assured that everyone gets the ordered taxi.
Prices and Beer Money
The "West of Asia", as Singapore is called many times, is, compared to the other Aisian countries, expensive, but compared to the European standards still cheap. For a meal in the Hawker/Food Court one pays approximately S$ 5 and a stay over night costs approximately S$ 100. THe MRT is very cheap as also the use of taxis. Most of the sightseeings do not cost any money; What more can you ask for?
But with the prices given in the restaurants or hotels one should consider that the prices are stated with one or more plus signs (for exmple S$ 29.99++). This means that to this price, some taxes are to be added (approximtely 9%) and service fee (approximately 10%) that are not included yet in the price. In case there is a third plus sign behind the amount this should be the so-called tourist tax that is of pproximately 1%.
Sometimes it can be quite annoying to recalculate a total amount that is shared with other people. To the contrary, beer money is not expected. This is why one should not be surprised to get as change a bank note that is from Brunei. The currencies of Singapore and Brunei are equal and exchangeable.
The Singapore dollar is not only available at the banks but also in the exchange shops of the shopping-malls and shopping miles (money changer). The opening times of the banks are the same as the European ones (approximately 09.30 a.m. - 04.00 p.m.), the money changers have the same opening times of the shopping-malls of approximately 09.30 a.m.-10.00 p.m.). Moreover, it is also possible to get money at the ATM (EC-dispensers) around the clock.
According to my opinion, Singapore belongs to one of the most secure cities in the world. One can freely move in all quarters and does not have to be afraid of assaults; A thing that of course does not mean that one should abstain from the usual attitute that gives a certain security as for example that one should not explicitely demonstrate ones richness by jewels during a city tour. This would be respectless to those who are poor even though Singapore does not count to the poor cities of Asia.
Also in the evenings one can walk on the streets in the dark without any need to be afraid. Of course one should here also take care that, as it is also the case in our country, one always walks on illuminated paths and does not choose any isolated paths or shortcuts. Although one seldom sees a police patrol, I always had a good feeling of security. This is propably due to the politics of Singapore that still applies death penalty. The people simply respect the law a lot and are much too afraid to commit a crime.
But it happened to me once that during a meal in Marina Food Court, a security guard told me to always keep my handbag close to me. Apparently, there were repeatedely pickpocketings announced by the guests who left their handbags unattended at the table. Personally, I did not have any bad experiences and cannot describe any bad impressions.
Due to the reason that in Singapore, people of the most different cultures and religions live, there is also a mix of the most different bank holidays. Thereby, many bank holidays depend on the lunar calendar and thereby they differ from year to year. These days are not only important for the local people but also for the tourists, as they can tke part on many of the celebrations. The streets are colourfully adorned and decorated and people celebrate frolicsomely.
The biggest festivity takes place on the national holiday that reminds on the independence of Singapore. Already 4 weeks before August 9th, the fly scales and officers already practice their parades, as also the military marines and parachutists do. It can oftenly occur that one gets scared when the jets fly between the skyscrapers and cause a noise that makes one believe that a war starts! The people of Singapore are very patriotic and show this also with the flags that are fixed in almost all the houses. The spectacle is completed with a huge firework.
The most important bank holidays are as follows:
- January, 1st: New year's day
- January/February: Chinese new year's festivity
- January/February: Hari Raya Haji (Festivity in honour of the Mekka pilgrims)
- March/April:Good Friday
- Maiy 1st: Day of work
- May/June: Vesak Day (Birthday of Buddha Sakyamuni)
- August, 9th: National Holiday
- October/November: Deepavali (Festivity of the triomph of the good to the bad)
- November: Hari Raya Puasa (End of Ramadan)
- December 25th: Christmas
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Author: Natascha Nißl; Copyright: Patrick Wagner, www.tourist-guide.biz