Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Taxis in Singapore

Singapore's government heavily taxes cars in an attempt to reduce traffic congestion and pollution. By "heavily", I mean a Honda Civic, for example, costs over $100,000. (You can check out the prices of more brands here.) The tax code is structured such that it is basically not possible to own a car over 10 years old (so the used car market is not a way to get a cheaper car). 
Taxi near our house
Many expats own cars anyway (because their jobs are very high paying). A car is not surprisingly a huge status symbol here, so most Singaporeans who can afford it also own cars. These groups are still a small minority, however, and most people must take various forms of public transportation.

R in a taxi: she loves holding on to the railing
Taxis are the most convenient, and the one we use almost exclusively. Little R has ridden in hundreds of taxis (we average at least two rides/day); she only rides in a private car when we are visiting the US. All these trips have been made without a child safety seat (which are almost never used here), as they are not required in taxis.

Taxis are invariably extremely clean, and the drivers always use the meter (and observe other regulations, like not smoking in the taxi, or stopping at red lights: quite a contrast from China.). Due to legal requirements, they must be Singaporean citizens, which provides a strange contrast to the typical taxi driver in the US. They all speak English, but frequently will ask for directions. Sometimes they don't know the way, sometimes they want to avoid the mental pressure of picking the route: I find this tendency intensely annoying in either case. 

Taxis are easy to find outside of peak hours. During peak hours (6-7 in the evening, for example), it can be almost impossible to find one. This causes many complaints from Singaporeans, because so many people depend on taxis to get around, but remains a problem regardless. My solution is to try to avoid going anywhere during these times (possible since I have a very flexible schedule). 

I hate driving, so taking a taxi everywhere is actually a big plus about living here. For car aficionados, though, Singapore could be a rough place!


  1. Is it hard to get used to not having her in a carseat? On one hand, the carseat is a big pain, so it would be nice not to have to deal with it, but on the other hand, I think I would be so nervous! Do you just hold her in your lap or does she sit and wear a seat belt?

    1. I was nervous at first, but then I got used to it (I suppose repetition dulls everything, even anxiety about your child's safety). We just hold her; she is too small for the seat belt (I think it would actually be a safety hazard at this point).

  2. Wow, and I thought cars here were taxed insanely!! Cars here are all cheap and crappy, especially in our part of Spain. We've been renting cars (switching every month) and some of them seem to have no power at all, but at least they're newish. We nearly bought an old taxi cab but because our paperwork wasn't completed at the time, the transaction couldn't take place.

    That's really nuts that so many people rely on taxis so heavily. Do you miss driving? I miss it so much. I can't drive a stick and I'm scared to learn after stalling out in my practice lessons.

    1. I should have clarified "cheap" as "cheap-looking" rather than "inexpensive-cheap." It seems even the crappiest cars are still pretty expensive by American standards.