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Driving and Public Transport for Expats in Singapore

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: August 2014


The Singaporean government does not particularly want people driving around in private vehicles, and has taken several steps to dissuade them from doing so. The number of new vehicles allowed on the road is controlled by the Vehicle Quota System. Furthermore, you will need to bid for a Certificate of Entitlement, then pay various fees to be permitted to drive. Importing your vehicle from home is an even more fraught and expensive process.

All in all, that getting a car completely roadworthy will take a lot of patience and a lot of money. Besides, public transport in Singapore is so good, and traffic congestion so bad, that most locals don’t drive and very few expats hire a car.

If you do have the funds and the patience, Singapore is a safe country to drive in. With approximately five deaths per 100,000 people per annum, the country is near the bottom of the world table. The quality of main roads is good, and the most common language on road signs is English.

Citizens of other countries wanting to drive in Singapore must have a valid International Driving Permit. Anyone wanting to stay in Singapore for more than 12 months will need to get a Singaporean driving licence, though valid foreign licences can be converted.

Typical speed limits in Singapore are given in the table below.

Road type Speed (kph) Speed (mph)
Motorways 80-90 50-55
Urban 40-50 25-30

The CBD and major roads are subject to an electronic road-pricing scheme. You need to apply for electronic payment to pay for this toll.

Driving in Singapore is on the left and the minimum driving age is 18. The legal limit for blood-alcohol content is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood (0.08%). However, you may still be arrested if you are below this limit but not considered to be in proper charge of your vehicle. For a first offence, your licence will be suspended for a minimum of 12 months. You will also either be or imprisoned six months or given a fine in proportion to the severity of the breach of law.


Public Transport

Singapore has an excellent, fully integrated state-run public transport system, which, as mentioned above, practically renders private driving unnecessary. If you are staying in Singapore for some time, it is wise to buy one of the two brands of smart card (EZ-Link or NETS Flashpay), or you will need to pay exact change each time. Note further than eating, drinking, smoking and spitting chewing gum are banned on all forms of public transport.


In most cases, taking a train is the quickest and most efficient means of traversing the island state. The main railway network on Singapore is the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), which has 108 stations and is still expanding. The MRT is supplemented in some parts by the Light Rapid Transit (LRT.) Taken together, these two railways run across most of Singapore, and are reliable, safe and highly regarded by locals and expats alike.


Singapore runs a highly efficient bus service. The two bus companies are SMRT Transit and SBS Buses. The bus network is extremely extensive, meaning that buses are the best option for short journeys and for journeys to or from places where there is not an MRT station nearby. Buses are also cheaper than the MRT, though if you prefer more comfort, premium buses serve on many routes, including areas around the CBD.



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