You might be thinking, ‘Well that’s easy - just hail a cab, hop on it and get to my destination!’ You’re right! But knowing the ins and outs of the taxi world here would help a whole lot!
1. Beat peak hour timings and surcharges
Getting a cab during peak hours is like waiting on a deserted island to be rescued because 90% of the cabs that pass by you on the roads are taken! Where's a cab when you need one?! Peak hours run from 6 -9.30am on weekdays, and from 6pm-12am everyday. You pay an extra 25% of the fare during these times. From 12am to 6pm, the surcharge is 50% more. If you are heading out of the city any time from 5pm-12am, you pay an additional $3. From certain places where you board such as the airport or Marina Bay Sands, location surcharges apply to. Road tolls, which we know to be Electronic Road Price (ERP) here, are set up as electronic gantries over the island and entering some areas could cost you another dollar or two. Well, after explaining the number of surcharges, it seems like you will have to spend a fortune getting from point A to B on a cab, but the good news is, Singapore is an island after all. To give you an estimate, taking a taxi from the airport into the city would cost about $15. That's okay. :)
The prices don't deter locals from taking cabs anyway, because cabs are taken and it can be challenging to get a cab during rush hours. Other than making it a point to leave earlier, or later for your destination, there are ways to make sure you get your taxi.
2. How to get a taxi - hailing and booking
You can hail for a cab anywhere, except on a highway, (I wouldn't know what you are thinking be doing walking along one.) There are bus lane hours during rush hours, where the leftmost lane on some roads denoted in yellow are designated for buses. Drivers caught driving in those lanes to speed up would be, no prizes for guessing, fined. So cab drivers might not stop for you if hail a cab where the taxi driver would have to stop in the bus lane.
The best would be to join the queue at a taxi stand mostly at shopping malls or buildings, although the waiting time might be long during peak hours or on a rainy day. One of the ways to beat the taxi crowd is to book for a taxi. It costs on average $4 for the booking, depending on which taxi company and time of your booking, but it's really worth it during peak hours, or if you are in a really ulu (Malay for deserted) place, you just might wait for an hour for a taxi to pass by only to find none. To book ahead of time (more than 30 minutes before), charges are at $8. There best ways to book a cab - by phone or through phone apps. Sometimes the phone lines get jammed and you are put on hold for a long time. You might want to try booking via an app.
Comfort & CityCab: 6552-1111 (App booking: Comfort Delgro taxi booking)
Trans-cab Services: 6555-3333 (App booking: Trans-cab taxi app)
Premier Taxis: 6363-6888
Prime Taxi: 6778-0808
SMRT Taxis: 6555-8888
Other phone apps for booking a taxi: GrabTaxi, iCabSG, MyTeksi, MoobiTaxi
Photo source: yawningbread.org
3. The green and red sign and what it says
If the top of the taxi is lighted green, it is available and if it’s red, it’s not. An empty taxi might have a location indicated on screen above the taxi, that shows where the taxi driver needs to be headed. You will see this mostly when it's time for cab drivers to change shifts. If you are headed somewhere near where he’s going, just flag down the cab and let the driver know where you want to go, chances are he would be willing to pick you up.
Photo source: fergustan.net
Most taxi drivers are friendly, but some are too friendly. Once a conversation starts, it is difficult to stop. That’s okay if you are enjoying the conversation, but if the taxi uncle starts complaining about everything from the weather to the government, you might want to be prepared how to end it. Plugging in some earphones might help, or pretending to sleep. If they don’t stop, just politely tell them that you need a rest. Taxi drivers also know the best food haunts so you can ask them where to go for a good eat. Or if you are new in Singapore and have some questions about how things work here, they would be happy to answer.
5. Don’t worry, charges go by the meter
The industry is highly regulated so fares go by the meter. The flag down fare is between $3 to $3.40 depending on the taxi company, and the meter jumps $0.22 for every 400m meters travelled. Beyond 10km, it jumps the same amount every 350m covered. $0.22 is also charged fro every 45 seconds of waiting time. To ensure you don’t get ripped off because you are unfamiliar with the roads, use the tool at gothere.sg for an estimate of the fare from your starting point to your location. It even tells you how much more you can expect to pay during peak hours.
There are several modes of payment – cash, Nets (via a debit card) or credit card. If you don’t have enough cash with you and pay by Nets, it’s 30 cents charge for the transaction and 10% of the fare charged (with taxes on this 10%) if you pay by credit card. A receipt is not given by default, so ask the taxi driver for it if you need one. Just a note that sometimes the older taxis (you can tell which ones are the older ones) do not have Nets or card services so you can only pay in cash. It is also good to carry smaller bills because sometimes the driver might not have enough loose change.
7. Special taxis
Special taxis come with special prices. For taxies plying the roads, you can see taxies like the white Mercedes cabs, black Chrysler cabs and London cabs, Maxi cabs (7 seater). Those cost more to ride if you flag them down. You can also call to book these cabs at a flat rate. (Limousine Cab: 6535-3534)
*Tip for tourists! Once you land at the Singapore Changi airport, just follow the signs that would lead you to the taxi stand. If you see a long queue not to worry, there is a long line of cabs waiting outside to pick up passengers so the queue moves pretty fast. If you have your whole family with you, kids and loads of luggage and all, you might want to opt for a larger cab. You will see a row of counters providing limo services. Fares are at a flat rate between $55 to $70.