How to Use the MRT in Singapore

For all the reasons Singapore is my favorite airport in the world, I feel like the one area they could improve is signage to get from immigration to the metro (MRT) station.  I’ve come through immigration at all the different terminals and sometimes it’s very simple to find the station and other times, it feels like a maze. 

The MRT will pretty much get you close enough to anywhere you need to get in the city.  The system looks like it was designed with the user in mind by making it easy to navigate.  Also, the stations are air conditioned  to give you a break from the humidity that can make some days very uncomfortable. 

It may be a bit of a walk from the station to your final destination but you can always take a Grab (Uber), taxi, or public bus from the station onward.  Finding the station at Changi may be a bit of a challenge but it’ll be much cheaper than a taxi to get around the city and is very simple to use.

Changi Station (airport)

Depending on which terminal you arrive, it seems like the metro is either super simple to find or just a maze of floors and passageways to find.  No matter how many times I come through Singapore, I feel like I’m never 100% confident in finding my way. 

Train to City Singapore
Follow the Train to City signs to the MRT station.

If nothing else, remember that the station is on the bottom floor in Terminal 3.  I believe you can easily get to the MRT station from Terminal 2 and 4 as well but from Terminal 1, you’ll want to take the people mover to Terminal 3 and then follow the “train to city” signs.

Sometimes the signage is really easy and clear to follow and other times, it seems nonexistent.  But pretty much, just follow the signs that say “train to city” and you’ll eventually find it. 

Changi station
All the way down to Changi MRT station.

Tickets

Once you take the escalators down to the lowest level, you’ll find the ticket kiosks BEHIND the escalators.  Just walk around and you’ll see them.  Buying a ticket is pretty easy since you can choose your language and just use the touchscreen the rest of the way.  Just find your final MRT station and touch the screen.   The kiosk will automatically calculate the fare from Changi to your station.  

Ticket kiosks
Ticket kiosks are behind the escalators.

When using the kiosks, make sure you have some small bills on you (preferably $2 or $5) since I think the ticket kiosk is limited in the amount of change it can provide.  The kiosks also say they accept credit cards but I’ve never been able to get them to work so I try to make sure I have some bills on me.  It’s also a great way to use up any coins you have at the end of your trip.  There should be people there (I don’t know if they’re employed by the MRT but I believe they are) to help you if you need it.

Depending on your length of stay, you can either buy a day pass for X number of days or just buy a ticket every time you use the MRT.  It could make sense to buy a day pass and I think it costs $20 total ($10 for the card and $10 for the fare).  The card is refillable (I believe) and you can top it off at a 7-11, which are all over the place.  If you plan on taking 2 or more round trip journeys (assuming it costs $2.50 each way),  you’ll be better off with the day pass. 

Another thing that makes it nice over walking is that the MRT stations are usually air conditioned.  In this humidity, a walk of just a few blocks can be miserable so at least you won’t feel wasteful for taking the MRT on short trips when you have the day pass. 

Stations

Singapore has really designed a smart and easy to use system to navigating their metro.  Not only are all the metro lines colored differently, the stations are also numbered which  makes it much easier. 

A lot of times, the metros are marked with the final destination marking the direction the metro is going.  Most times that’s enough but it can be a bit of a process if you don’t immediately see or know your stop so you’re stuck looking at the map to see if you missed it. 

MRT Map Singapore
MRT map.

The stops are numbered on the MRT so even if you don’t know the final destination of the train, you can tell which way you need to go because the station you’re at is numbered and the station you’re getting off at is also numbered.  Since there are only 2 possible directions a train can go, you just need to see if the numbers are getting larger or smaller and get on the correct metro. 

The stations also have tv screens that tell you when the next train is arriving so you’re always in the know as to how long it’ll take. 

Singapore MRT
Next train coming in 7 minutes. Also note: no eating, drinking, or smoking in the cars or the station.

Things to Note

Know that Singapore is a very clean city and there are reasons for that.  They have specific laws and although you may not agree with them, you do have to respect them or face the consequences.

You aren’t allowed to eat, drink, or smoke on the trains or the train stations for that matter.  You won’t see vending machines on the platform if you want to buy water since you can’t drink it there.  You’ll find convenience stores like 7-11 just outside the station so you buy whatever you need after using the MRT. 

Overall, you’ll want to think twice before you do anything that may not be acceptable.  Smokers typically have to go to a smoking section.  Just because you’re outside doesn’t mean you’re allowed to smoke there.  You may be directed to a designated smoking area mainly so you don’t litter your cigarette butts. 

Final Thoughts

The MRT in Singapore was really designed with tourists in mind and I really appreciate it when cities go out of their way to make it easy as possible for tourists who don’t know the language to navigate.  Signs are written in different languages (including English) and are easily found.  I like that the different lines are color coded and the stations are numbered to make it super easy to know which way you need to go.  Adding an air conditioned climate to make the wait and train comfortable just shows that this system was designed with the user experience in mind.  All this makes for an easy trip to Singapore without relying on a car or taxi. 

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