Tips for exploring Singapore by public bus
One of small blessings of life in Singapore is its world class public transport system. Most visitors quickly become acquainted with the MRT which is a direct line into must-see neighbourhoods like Chinatown and Little India, but don’t overlook the public buses. Not only will you feel less like a sardine during peak hours, the buses are the cheapest way to get to far-flung spots like the Singapore Zoo and Changi Village. Here are some tips for making bus travel in Singapore as easy as possible.
First of all, get an EZ-Link Card. Singapore bus fares are complex and based on the distance you travel, but if you use the card they’re automatically calculated when you “tap on” and “tap off”. Otherwise you’ll need to tell the driver how many stops you’re going and pay in exact change. Plus, with lower fares and transfer rebates when you board a different bus service within 45 minutes, the EZ-Link card quickly pays for itself.
If you have a smartphone, it’s GPS paired with a Singapore transport app makes getting around by bus completely foolproof. There are a few free options including SG NextBus and MyTransport Singapore, but my personal preference is Bus@SG. All have information about bus stop locations, route maps, and schedules.
If you only have internet access at your hostel or hotel, try the ‘Plan My Route’ function on the SBS website to find the best bus route before you leave. Simply enter your starting point and ending point and it’ll tell you all your route options plus estimated travel times.
When you’re out exploring the city, the bus stops themselves are a wealth of information. Each bus stop has a sign with the bus services passing by and a list of each stop on its route. Each stop has a practical name based on nearby landmarks (such as ‘Opposite Raffles Hotel’) and bus stops near MRT stations are marked with a white circle. Major bus stops in downtown Singapore are a reliable spot to find a map of the surrounding area.
When you see the bus coming, flag it down by extending your arm. If no one at the bus stop flags the bus and no one on board presses the buzzer to request a stop, the bus will drive right by.
If you’re still uncertain it’s the right bus route or when to get off, simply ask the bus driver. Singapore’s bus drivers are friendly and will be able to answer your questions in English.
Lastly, there’s no nice way to say this, but many bus drivers in Singapore treat the pedal like an on/off switch which translates to a lot of sudden movements. So, if you’re not able to get a seat, hold on to the railings – there’s a good reason they’re there. I’ve seen many people lose their balance on the buses and a woman recently hit her head so hard she fell into a coma when the bus started moving before she could reach her seat.