The easiest way to get to Sentosa is via shuttle bus (S$3) from HarbourFront Bus Interchange, running every 15 minutes from 7am to llpm Sunday to Thursday, and until 12.30am on Friday and Saturday.
You can also catch the Sentosa Express rail link from the 3rd floor of the mammoth VivoCity mall, next to HarbourFront MRT.
For a more memorable trip, take the cable car to Sentosa from the top of Mt Faber or HarbourFront Tower Two (see p507). Standard cabins cost S$18.90/9.50 for adults/children one way; the cable car operates between 8.30am and llpm.
Transport on the island is included in the admission price. There are three colour-coded bus lines zooming between attractions, and rnotorised trams connecting the beaches. The island is small enough to walk around but some parts are steep. You can also hire bikes and in-line skates from S$5 to S$10 per hour at Palawan and Siloso Beaches - very tempting when weekend bus queues start to burgeon
Three other islands popular with castaway-fantasising locals are St John's, Kusu and Lazarus. On weekends they're mildly crowded but during the week they can be almost deserted. . .unless your visit clashes with a school camp - still, they're great for fishing, swim-
ming, a picnic and guzzling BYO six-packs. St John's and Kusu Islands have changing rooms and toilets.
St John's Island : is the largest of the three. It was once a quarantine station for immigrants, a drug-rehabilitation centre and a detention centre. These days, there isn't much there except retro-looking low-lying bungalows, a swimming lagoon and local flora. Bring a fishing rod and expect to snag some snappers or groupers - just as well, because the culinary offerings here are nonexistent.
You can stay overnight in air-conditioned colonial-style bungalows (from S$53.50 per night) - contact the Sentosa Development Corporation (rg 1800-736 8672) for details. You could also camp for free along the beach.
Lazarus Island is now connected to St John's via a concrete walkway. If St John's is quiet, then Lazarus is a ghost town. It's popular with anglers and local campers. At night, it's pitch black except for the twinkling of lights from shipping boats moored not far off the coast.
Kusu Island is more culturally interesting; devotees coming to pray for health, wealth and fertility at its Taoist temple and Malay kramat (shrine). There's a turtle sanctuary (awww) and the Tua Pek Kong Temple next to the ferry jetty. Entering the temple is akin to entering someone's home: a lazing resident dog stares at you, fishing nets and laundry lie drying in the sun, and a mango tree out the back tempts you with its juicy fruit (no, don't try).
A canary yellow-painted kramat is at the top of some steep steps on a small hill. Strangely enough, there's a Chinese altar at the front of the kramat and the caretaker offers you Chinese-style joss sticks for S$2. Pray for wealth and pick a 4D lottery number.
You can visit both temple and shrine in less than an hour, leaving you the rest of the day to loll around on the beach. Kusu is also home to the only place in Singapore with sea water that's actually clear! The swimming lagoon that faces Indonesia is pure joy and most visitors spend most of their time frolicking here. BYO food and drinks. The 'hawker centre' marked on the map is empty.
The liveliest time to visit Kusu is during the annual pilgrimage of Taoists in the ninth lunar month (around October).
Getting there & away
For general border crossing details, see p483.
AIRPORTS & AIRLINES
Singapore's slick Changi International Airport is about 20km east of the city centre. It has three terminals. Changi's facilities include a 24-hour medical centre, a post office, a transit hotel, free showers, free internet access, free local phone calls, left luggage (between SS3.15 and S$ 10.50 per day de-pending on the item's size) and a children's playground for transit passengers. Pick up the free booklets, maps and other guides (including the airport's own magazine) from information stands.
AIRLINES FLYING TO/FROM SINGAPORE
The major airline offices in Singapore:
Berjaya Air ( 6481 6302; www.berjaya-air.com; Block 13,01-13 Old Birdcage Walk,
British Airways (66221747; www.britishairways.com; 06-05 Cairnhill Place, 15 Cairnhill Rd)
Cathay Pacific Airways (65331333;www.cathaypacific.com; 25-07 Ocean Towers, 20 Raffles Place)
Garuda Indonesia (6250 2888; www.garuda-indonesia.com; 12-03 United Sq, 101 Thomson Rd)
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (6823.2220; www.klm.com; 06-01/02/03 79 Anson Rd)
Lufthansa Airlines (6835 5944; www.lufthansa.com; 05-01 Palais Renaissance, 390 Orchard Rd)
Malaysia Airlines (6433 0220; www.malaysiaairlines.com; 02-09 Singapore Shopping Centre, 190ClemenceauAve)
Qantas (6415 7373; www.qantas.com; 06-05 Cairnhill Place, 15 Cairnhill Rd)
Silk Air (6223 8888; www.silkair.com; 17-08 Keypoint, 371 Beach Rd)
Singapore Airlines (6223 8888; www.singaporeair.com; 02-38/39 Paragon, 290 Orchard Rd)
Thai Airways (6210 5000; www.thaiair.com; 02-00 the Globe, 100 Cecil St)
Compare the costs of flying into Singapore versus Malaysia. You can travel overland to Singapore from almost anywhere in Peninsular Malaysia (and vice versa) in less than a day.
The following budget airlines operate out of Singapore. They are changing their networks all the time, so check web-sites for details. Bookings are made almost entirely online.
AirAsia : 6307 7688; www.airasia.com)
Cebu Pacific (6735 7155,6737 9231,6220 5966; www.cebupacificair.com)
Firefly (03-7845 4543; ww.fireflyz.com.my)
Jetstar Asia (1800-6161 977; www.jetstarasia.com)
Tiger Airways (6538 4437; www.tigerairways.com)
For other internet bookings.
For details of flights between Singapore and Malaysia, see p482.
The Causeway linking Johor Bahru (JB) with Singapore handles most traffic between the countries. Trains and buses run from all over Malaysia straight through to Singapore, or you can get a taxi or bus to/from JB. There's also a crossing called the Second Link linking Tuas, in western Singapore, with Geylang Patah in Malaysia - some buses to Melaka and Malaysia's west coast head this way. If you have a car, tolls on the Second Link are much higher than the Causeway.
Buses run frequently from Singapore into Malaysia, some continuing to Thailand.
From Singapore, both the Causeway Express and Singapore-Johor Express air-con buses (S$2.40) and the public SBS bus 170 (S$1.70) depart for JB every 15 minutes between 6.30am and llpm from the Queen Street Bus Terminal (Map p522; cnr Queen & Arab Sts). Bus 170 can be boarded anywhere along the way, such as on Rochor, Rochor Canal or Bukit Timah Rds. Yet another, quicker, option is to go to Kranji MRT station by train and catch bus 170 (S$1.20) or to Marsiling MRT and catch bus 950 ($1.20).
In all cases, when you get to the Singapore checkpoint, take all your belongings and get off. After clearing immigration you have to wait for the next bus (but don't have to pay again, as long you have your ticket). Repeat the process at the Malaysian side or, once you've cleared immigration, simply take a two-minute walk into JB city centre. The public bus stops at Komtar Shopping Centre and then the Larkin terminal 5km north of the Causeway. The coach terminates at the terminal. If at all possible, avoid crossing at weekends, when it gets infernally busy.
If you're travelling beyond JB, it's easier to catch a long-distance bus straight from Singapore, but there's a greater variety of bus services from JB and the fares are cheaper.
Long-distance buses to Melaka (S$25, 4V4 hours) and east-coast Malaysian cit-ies Kuantan (S$35, seven hours) and Kuala Terengganu (S$40, 10 hours) leave from and arrive at the Lavender Street Bus Terminal Lavender St & Kallang Bahru). The terminal is 500m from Lavender MRT station, or get there on buses 61, 107,133 or 145.
Buses leave from outside the Golden Mile Complex for Kuala Lumpur (S$40, five hours) and other northern Malaysian destinations, including. Ipoh, Butterworth and Penang. There's a string of bus agents in the Golden Mile Complex -shop around. Lavender MRT station is about 500m away. Get a one-way ticket if you're planning on returning to Singapore - tickets are cheaper in Malaysia.
There are shared long-distance taxis to JB from Singapore's Queen Street Bus Terminal. Share taxis to JB are about S$10 per person, with a maximum of four passengers per taxi, though prices vary depending on the queue at the immigration checkpoint.
From Singapore there are three air-conditioned express trains daily to Malaysia (about seven hours to Kuala Lumpur) with continuing services to Thailand. Contact Keretapi Tanah Melayu or its booking office at the Singapore Railway Station for information. Depending on the carriage class and whether you ride in a seat or a sleeper, a Kuala Lumpur fare will be between S$19 and S$l 10. For a tricky immigration issue when travelling by train, see p565.
The luxurious Eastern & Oriental Express departs Singapore on the 42-hour, 1943km journey to Bangkok before heading onwards to Chiang Mai and Nong Khai (for Laos). Don your linen suit, sip a gin and tonic, and dig deep for the fare: from SS3000 per person in a double compartment to S$5500 in the presidential suite. You can go as far as KL or Butterworth for a lower fare.
MALAYSIA FROM SINGAPORE
Regional cruise trips depart for Malaysia from the HarbourFront Centre next to HarbourFront MRT station; a host of agents here handle bookings.
Ferries depart the Changi Point Ferry Terminal for Tanjung Belungkor, east of JB. This is primarily a service for Singaporeans going to Desaru. The llkm journey takes 45 minutes and costs S$ 18/22 one way/return. There are usually three services daily in each direction. From the Tanjung Belungkor jetty, buses operate to Desaru and Kota Tinggi. Ferries also sail for Pengerang (one way S$6), across the Straits of Johor in Malaysia. This is an interesting back-door route into Malaysia. There's no fixed schedule; ferries leave between 7am and 4pm when full (12 people). The best time to catch one is before Sam. Clear Singapore immigration at the small post in the terminal. To get to Changi Ferry Terminal, take the MRT to Tanah Merah, then bus 2 to Changi Village (or just a taxi).
INDONESIA FROM SINGAPORE
No direct ferries run between Singapore and Indonesia's main ports, but you can travel between the two countries via Pulau Batam, Pulau Bintan, Tanjung Balai and Tanjung Batu in the Riau Archipelago.
Pulau Batam, Tanjung Balai & Tanjung Batu
Ferries depart for Pulau Batam, Tanjung Balai and Batu, all about 20km away, from the HarbourFront Centre, taking about 30 minutes to get to Sekupang, or 45 minutes to Batu Ampar. The main agents are Penguin, Dino/Batam Fast and Berlian, all with offices at HarbourFront. Between them they have dozens of departures every day, at least every half-hour from 7.30am to 8pm. Tickets cost between S$30 and S$34 return. Ferries dock at Sekupang, where you can take a boat to Tanjung Buton on the Sumatran mainland. From there it's a three-hour bus ride to Palembang. This is a popular travellers' route to Sumatra.
Pulau Bintan & Batam
The same companies that operate ferries from Batam also have several ferries a day from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal to Tanjung Pinang, the main city on Bintan, or Teluk Sebong on the island's north coast as well as to Nongsapara on Batam. The 45km journey takes about an hour and costs between S$38 and S$48 return, ferries departing from 9am to 8pm.
Singapore has fantastic public transport, with a tangled web of bus and train (Mass Rapid Transit; MRT) routes taking you to the doorsteps of most sights. The MRT is easy to navigate, but stops are sometimes far apart (walking in 30°C humidity is sweaty work!). Pick up a free MRT-system map at any MRT station, and the useful Transitlink Guide, which details all bus and MRT routes, from bookshops (SS2.50). Due to car-ownership limitations, taxis are also considered public transport. For public transport information, see www.sbstransit.com.sg.
To/From the Airport
Taxi or train (MRT) are the best ways to reach the city. Trains depart Changi from below Terminals 2 and 3 for the CBD from 5.30am to 12.06am (adult/child S$2.70/1.50,35 minutes, every 12 minutes). Trains to Changi from City Hall station run from 6am to midnight. In both directions you'll have to change trains at Tanah Merah station (just cross the platform).
The most convenient bus is the airport shuttle service (adult/child S$9/6) that will take you to any hotel, except those on Sentosa and in Changi Village. Shuttles operate daily from the arrivals halls of all terminals roughly every 15 minutes from 6am to midnight and every 30 minutes all other times. Book and
Trishaws peaked just after WWII when mo-torised transport was practically nonexistent and trishaw drivers could make a tidy income. Today there are only around 250 trishaws left in Singapore, mainly plying the tourist routes. Trishaws congregate in the pedestrian mall at the junction of Waterloo and Albert Sts (Map p522), outside Raffles Hotel (Map p517) and outside the Chinatown Complex (Map pp526-7). Always agree on the fare beforehand: we were quoted S$40 for half an hour, but you can haggle.
Public bus 36 leaves the airport for the city approximately every 10 minutes between 6am and midnight (adult/child S$2/l). It takes around an hour to reach the city centre, passing through the Colonial District and on to Orchard Rd. Heading to the airport, pick up bus 36 on Orchard or Bras Basah Rds.
Taxis to the city cost around S$20, plus surcharge. From Friday to Sunday the surcharge is S$5 from 5pm to midnight and 50%' of the fare from midnight to 6am; at all other times the surcharge is S$3. Alternatively, there's a 24-hour limousine taxi service (S$45) available to any destination in Singapore.
You might find yourself at the small, modern Seletar Airport catching a Berjaya Air flight to Pulau Tioman in Malaysia. Seletar is in the north of the island; taxi is the easiest way to get there. Otherwise bus 103M from Serangoon MRT will take you to the gates of the Seletar Air Force base, from where you change to a local base bus to the airport terminal.
Singapore's roads are not for the fainthearted. It's furiously hot, and drivers tend to be fast, aggressive and not particularly sympathetic to the needs of cyclists. Fortunately, there's a large network of parks and park connectors and a few excellent dedicated mountain-biking areas -at- Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Tampines and Pulau Ubin. Cycling up to Changi Village and then taking the bike over to Pulau Ubin is an excellent ad-venture. Other excellent places for cycling include East Coast Park, Sentosa, Pasir Ris Park and the route linking Mt Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park and Kent Ridge Park.
If you haven't brought your own, pick up some wheels at Treknology Bikes. Bikes can also be rented cheaply at several places in East Coast Park and on Sentosa Island and Pulau Ubin.
Boat & Ferry
There are regular ferry services from Marina South Pier, and from Changi Village to Pulau Ubin . You can also take river cruises or harbour cruises.
Singapore's bus service should be the envy of the world. You rarely have to wait more than a few minutes for buses, and they'll take you almost anywhere. Most are air-conditioned and even have TVs!
Fares range from 90 to S$1.80 (less with an EZ-Link card) there are also a few flat-rate buses. When you board the bus, drop the exact money into the fare box (no change is given) or swipe your EZ-Link card. You need to swipe your card again when you disembark - if you forget, you'll be charged the maximum fare for the bus journey! Contact SBS Transit (1800-287 2727; www.sbstransit.com.sg) for details.
Singapore Airlines runs the SIA Hop-On (19457 2896; www.siahopon.com) tourist bus, departing from Raffles Blvd and traversing the main tourist arteries (Orchard Rd, Bugis Junction, Suntec City, the Colonial District, Clarke Quay, Boat Quay, Chinatown and the Botanic Gardens) every 30 minutes daily from 9am to 9pm. A Sentosa shuttle runs from 10am to 9pm. Tickets are available from the driver: S$12/6 per adult/child for a day pass; SS6/3 with a Singapore Airlines or SilkAir boarding pass or ticket.
Nutty and garish, the City Hippo (6228 6877; www.ducktours.com.sg) offers a confusing array of tour options round all the major sites. Two-day tickets including a river cruise cost adult/child S$33/17. It boasts live com-mentary and an open-top deck. There are numerous pick-up points around town.
Car & Motorcycle
Singaporeans drive on the left-hand side of the road; it's compulsory to wear seat belts. Unlike in most Asian countries, traffic is orderly. But expect local drivers to display true kiasu (Hokkien for 'afraid to lose') spirit in the form of aggressive driving, tailgating, speeding and wild lane-changing sans sig-nalling. The profusion of one-way streets and streets that change names (sometimes several times) can make things tricky. The Mighty Minds Singapore Street Directory is essential for negotiating the city. See also opposite for zoning and parking issues. Don't bother riding a motorcycle around Singapore, as drivers have little regard for bike safety.
A valid overseas licence is needed to rent a car. An International Driving Permit isn't usually required, but bring one. Most rental companies also require that drivers are at least 23 years old.
If you want a car for local driving only, smaller rental operators usually quote rates that are slightly cheaper than the major companies. Rental rates are cheaper in Malaysia - if you want to drive around Malaysia, it's better value to hire the car from Johor Bahru.
Rates start from around S$100 a day, while a collision-damage waiver will cost about S$20 per day for a small car. Special deals may be available for longer-term rental.
All major car-hire companies have an office at Changi Airport. There are other offices around Singapore:
Avis ,Express Car (6842 4992; www.express car.com.sg; 1 Sims Ln)
Hawk (6469 4468; www.hawk rentacar.com.sg; 32A Hillview Terrace) Hertz (16734 4646; www.hertz.com.sg; 01-01 Thong Teck Bldg, 15 Scotts Rd) Premier (www-singapore.com/premier; 03-05 Balmoral Plaza, 271 BukitTimah Rd)
RESTRICTED ZONES & CAR PARKING
Between 7.30am and 7pm weekdays, and from 10 15am to 2pm Saturdays, the area encompassing the CBD, Chinatown and Orchard £d becomes a restricted zone. Cars may enter as long as they pay a toll. Vehicles are automatically tracked by sensors on overhanging ERP gantries that prompt drivers to insert a cashcard (available from 7-Elevens and petrol stations) into their in-vehicle unit. The same system is also in operation on certain major highways. Rental cars are subject to the same rules.
Anyone who doesn't pay the entry toll is automatically photographed by cameras on gantries and a fine will soon arrive at the car owner's address.
Parking in many places (especially in resi-dential areas) in Singapore is operated by a coupon system; buy a booklet at parking kiosks, post offices and 7-Elevens. Display coupons in your car window with holes punched out to indicate the time, day and date you parked. Many car parks are now run using the same in-vehicle unit and cashcard and ERP gantries instead of the coupon system.
Mass Rapid Transit (MRT)
The ultraclean, safe and efficient Singapore MRT (1800-336 8900; www.smrt.com.sg) subway and light-rail system is the most comfortable and hassle-free way to get around. Trains run from around 5.30am to midnight, departing every three to four minutes at peak times and every six to eight off-peak. Single-trip tickets cost from 90 to SJ2.70, less with the EZ-Link card.
Most of the MRT's tracks run underground in the inner-city area, emerging overground out towards the suburban housing estates. The system connects with the Light Rapid Transit (LRT) trains at Bukit Panjang, Punggol and Sengkang.
Construction is under way on a central loop line (ETA 2010) that will link the city centre with Holland Village, Suntec City and the Singapore Indoor Stadium area in Kallang.
You can usually flag a taxi on the streets or grab one from the many taxi stands. The fare system is also complicated, but thankfully it's all metered, so there's no haggling over fares. The basic flagfall is SS2.80 to S$3.20, then 20c for every 385m.
These are the taxi companies: Comfort and CityCab (65521111) Premier Taxis (6363 6888) SMRTTaxis (6555 8888)
There are a whole raft of various surcharges to note:
50% of the metered fare from midnight to 6am.
35% peak-hour charges between 7am and 9am, and 5pm and 8pm. S$3.50 for telephone bookings; for advance bookings you'll pay S$5.20. S$3 on all trips from the CBD between 5pm and midnight, Monday to Saturday. You may also have to pay another surcharge if you take the taxi into the CBD during restricted hours (see Restricted Zones, left).
S$5 surcharge from 5pm to midnight Friday to Sunday; S$3 all other times for journeys from the airport.
Confused? We are too. Just follow the meter and ask for a receipt to check charges.
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