Accommodations & Getting Around Singapore and Beyond

Cavenagh Bridge and Fullerton Building (presently being used as a hotel), two of the old icons of Singapore

Singapore is an island city state that it is possible to visit various locations in a day thanks to the excellent public transport. All you need is just an EZ-Link Card to travel around by the local buses and trains services. These trains services are termed the Mass Rapid Transit, or the MRT for short. The EZ-Link Card can be bought at any 7-Eleven convenience store or any train station for S$10 or S$12 with an initial value of S$5 or S$7 respectively. You need to top-up the stored value for another S$10 at least if not more. It depends on the frequency of your ride and note that if you top-up at 7-Eleven store there will be a service charge of S$0.50 as of this writing and no additional charge if you top it up at any train station. Past midnight you only have taxis for transport and there is a surcharge of 50% on top of the meter reading.

Robinson Rd not busy as Orchard Rd. Exit at Tanjong Pagar MRT Station

There is a new dormitory hostel that I had just found out called City Backpackers in Chinatown area. Previously I only knew of the one in Bencoolen Street which has been around for ages. For budget hotels, go look for it at Changi Road. These hotels are a walking distance to the train station plus you can find many local eateries nearby and some open past midnight if not 24 hours. There are many budget hotels in Geylang Road just after Changi Road towards the city but look for one near the junction of Paya Lebar Road (near the Paya Lebar MRT Station.) The other hotels in Geylang Road further down the road between Lorong 1 and Lorong 22 may be attractive to some. They are in a district associated with a certain colour and besides the full daily rental they also rent out the room for 3 hours for lesser amount. It is not for transit passengers and I think you get the idea. Many budget and reasonable hotels can also be found around the famous Mustafa Shopping Centre (there’s a supermaket too) which opens 24 hours daily at Serangoon Road area otherwise known as Little India. Quite a number are found at Jalan Besar just east of Bencoolen Street and a walking distance to Mustafa Shopping Centre. Still, if you want to stretch your dollars further, then stay in budget hotel in Johor Bahru, Malaysia and come to visit Singapore in the daytime and return to Johor Bahru by night.

Hotel 81 and Tristar Inn, a walking distance from Paya Lebar MRT Station

Another hotel along Changi Road, near to Eunos MRT Station

What about premium hotels? I don’t have to mention it, they are in abundance and mostly in the city and business district area, the popular tourist shopping belt of Orchard Road.

Typical settlement in Riau Archipelago, Indonesia

From Singapore, you can go travelling to the neighbouring regions. There are ferry services to Riau Archipelago, Indonesia at Tanah Merah and Harbour Front ferry terminals. You can go to Peninsula Malaysia (West Malaysia) by train, bus or taxi. There is a bus and taxi terminal at one of the ends of Queen Street that creates a T-junction with Arab Street. The other end meets Bras Basah Road. Here you can choose to go to Johor Bahru, Malaysia via express or non-express bus or taxi. Or, you can take the MRT and go north closer to the border to Kranji MRT Station where there are buses operated by two different companies that will take you across the causeway to Johor Bahru. The alternative to Kranji MRT Station is to go to Woodlands MRT Station and beneath the station there is a bus terminal, look for bus service number 950 to Johor Bahru. Please note that once you are done with the Singapore Immigration and Customs checks make sure you board the same bus (service number) or at least the bus operated by the same company. Failing to do so you will be charged for the fare again.

Queen Street Bus Terminal

Kranji MRT Station. The railing on the left is where the queue for the buses. There are two railings one for each of the two bus operators

Woodlands MRT Station. Below is a bus terminal. The railing ahead of the bus pictured here is where the queue for service 950 to Johor Bahru

There are other express bus terminals with buses that go to other states in Malaysia which you can read here. But frankly if you are on a budget it is best to go to Larkin Bus Terminal in Johor Bahru for express bus services to other states in Peninsula Malaysia. Not only there are more choices, it is cheaper too.

I did not mention specifically the train service from Singapore to Johor Bahru because it is a short distance and there is no shuttle service except for the daily schedule services to Kuala Lumpur and Kelantan with stopover at Johor Bahru, but then it is cheaper to get the ticket in Johor Bahru. From Malaysia you can continue with the train journey up to Bangkok at Butterworth, Penang, Malaysia. This train travels overnight and takes about 22 hours to reach Bangkok. It sounds disheartening but at least it’s a train journey with sleepers and not a bus journey plus you save the price of a one night hotel stay. Do not expect the landscape to change dramatically once the train crossed over to Thailand because culture wise it is about the same within the border areas, the only difference is that you begin to see Thai temples come into view ever increasingly in frequency.

Hua Lamphong Train Station, Bangkok. The journey from Butterworth ends here. There are a few budget hotels along the road seen here on the right side of the picture. Picture shot from Station Hotel

If only there is a train link in Cambodia or Laos, it would then be possible to travel overland by train all the way from Singapore to Europe via China and Russia. At the moment, this is only possible if you can make it from Thailand to Vietnam via Cambodia or Thailand to China via Laos by whatever means you can overland. Its a dream that is not impossible.

Note: I write this article hopefully it will be of help to budget travelers like me. Wish you a happy and safe travels.

Update 11 October 2013

Well I have read it somewhere that they gonna built high speed rail from China right up to Singapore through Laos. It will be in phases. For starters one is from Laos to Thailand and the other from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and it will not be solely for passengers.  I don’t know if I have the chance to experience it but it is good to know it is in the pipeline. Cheers to it.