How to Take a Taxi in Singapore

How to Take a Taxi in Singapore

Taxi is a popular transportation method in Singapore for people who place great emphasis on convenience and time.

It’s also the best transportation mode if you’re traveling with kids, elderly, or if you are carrying luggage or shopping stuffs.

Taxi is the only available transport between midnight at 5am, which is the period when the buses and MRT are not in operation.

In this article, I’ll guide you through the nuances of choosing the right taxi, getting a cab (both from street and app), car seat requirement, understanding fares, deciding on the most economical payment method and many more.

As someone who has been living in Singapore for over 15 years, I will also share my tips on etiquette and practical advice to make your taxi riding experience a smooth one.

What is a taxi?

Comfortdelgro taxi
A blue cab (Photo: Comfortdelgro)

First, let’s define a taxi.

In Singapore, taxi usually refers to the traditional taxi that you can hail along the road and runs on meter.

Here’s the list of taxi companies in Singapore:

  • Comfort / City Cab
  • Premier Taxi
  • TransCab
  • Prime Taxi
  • Strides Taxi

What is a PHC (Private Hire Car)?

Grab Car
Private Hire Car (Photo: Grab)

PHC are privately-owned cars which have license to transport passengers. All PHCs have a blue “Private Hire” decal at the front and back of the vehicle.

PHC operators are:

  • Grab
  • Gojek
  • Tada
  • Ryde

Grab and Gojek are the biggest two Private Hire Car Operators in Singapore. Uber is no longer available in Southeast Asia since it was acquired by Grab in 2018.

Difference Between Taxi vs PHC (Private Hire Car)

1. You can hail taxi on the road or at designated locations, but you must book PHC via mobile app.

2. Taxi doesn’t require a car seat, PHC does.

3. Taxi usually runs on meter while PHC normally has a fixed fare.

There are exceptions though, taxis booked from CDG Zig app have fixed fare.

Taxi Capacity in Singapore

When it comes to taxi capacity, the law is very strict. Everyone must comply with the allowable taxi capacity as follow.

For 4-seater taxi, here are the allowed number of guests (exclude driver):

  • 4 adults
  • 3 adults + 2 children
  • 2 adults + 3 children
  • 1 adult + 4 children
  • 6 children

For 6-seater taxi, here are the allowed number of guests (exclude driver):

  • 6 adults
  • 5 adults + 1 children
  • 4 adults + 3 children
  • 3 adults + 4 children
  • 2 adults + 5 children
  • 1 adult + 6 children
  • 6 children

Do note: Children refer to guests aged below 12 years old. Three children below the age of 12 are considered as two adult passengers.

Private Hire Car Capacity in Singapore

Unlike taxi, Private Hire Car (PHC) like Grab/Gojek/Tada/Ryde doesn’t really differentiate between adult and children.

That means, a 4-seater car is strictly for 4 passengers (exclude driver), and a 6-seater car is strictly for 6 passengers (exclude driver).

If you have a child or children below 1.35m tall, a car seat or booster seat is required. Do read the section about car seat requirement further in this article.

How to Get a Taxi in Singapore

1. Hail a Taxi Along the Road

If you are in CBD area (Central Business District, which includes Tanjong Pagar, Marina Bay, Bugis, City Hall, Bras Basah, Dhoby Ghaut, Orchard, Chinatown), you CAN’T hail a taxi along the road.

If you are outside CBD area, you CAN hail a taxi along the road, EXCEPT at the following locations:

  • Bus stop, and 9 meters from bus stop
  • Lanes with zigzag double lines
  • Bus lanes during bus lane operating hours
  • Expressway

Take note of the text above the taxi’s roof:

  • If it says TAXI in green, it means it’s available
  • If it says HIRED in red, it means it’s occupied
  • If it says the name of a location, it means the driver is heading towards that direction

2. Wait for a Taxi at Taxi Stands or Designated Locations

The safest way to get a taxi in Singapore is to wait at the taxi stands or designated taxi points (eg: lobby, entrance, etc).

If you happen to wait at a quiet taxi stand that is rarely visited by taxi, read other options below.

3. Book a Taxi from Mobile App

There’s only 1 taxi that you can book from mobile app, and that is Comfort. Simply download CDG Zig app (ios/Android).

After typing your origin and destination, you can choose the size of the taxi, as well as the fare type (fixed or meter).

And because Comfort is a taxi, your pick-up point can be a taxi stand.

4. Book a Taxi by Calling the Taxi Company

If you do not have mobile data, but you have local calls, you can make a phone call to any of the taxi operators to request for a taxi. Booking fees apply.

Here are the phone number of all taxi operators in Singapore:

  • Comfort / City Cab: 6552 1111
  • Premier Taxi: 6363 6888
  • TransCab: 6555 3333
  • Prime Taxi: 6778 0808
  • Strides Taxi: 6555 8888

How to Get a Grab / Gojek / Tada / Ryde in Singapore

Grab, Gojek, Tada, and Ryde can be booked via their respective mobile apps:

Do note that you are not allowed to hail Private Hire Cars from the road.

After booking through the app, you need to board them at designated pick-up points. You’re not allowed to board them at taxi stands or bus stops.

Each PHC operator has different rules about waiting time and may charge extra fee if you arrive late at the pick-up points, so make sure you are at the pick-up points before booking a Grab / Gojek / Tada / Ryde.

How to Pay for Taxi in Singapore

You can pay taxi via the following method:

  • Cash
  • Debit/Credit cards. Admin fee of 10% on the taxi fare + 9% GST on the admin fee apply.
  • EZ-Link, NETS, NETSPay, NETS Flashpay, DBS PayLah!, OCBC PayAnyone, UOB TMRW, Alipay, WeChat Pay. Admin fee of S$0.30 applies.

Let’s be honest, admin fee of 10% for debit/credit card payment is quite steep! The good news is, there’s a way to avoid this charge. And that is by booking a taxi with CDG Zig app and choose a fixed fare. The bad news is, fixed fare is a dynamic pricing, so the price depends on supply and demand, not based on distance.

So, if you hail taxi from the street or from taxi stand, it’s best to pay by cash or other payment method that’s not debit/credit card. And if you book a taxi from mobile app, it’s best to choose fixed fare.

Anyway, in the grand scheme of things, if you can afford a taxi, a 10% surcharge is not a big deal. If you don’t have cash, then it’s definitely better to pay with debit/credit cards than frantically looking for an ATM to withdraw cash and paying too much ATM withdrawal fee.

Car Seat Requirements in Taxi and PHC

Taxi: Taxis are exempted from car seat requirements. But, children below 1.35m tall can only ride in the rear of the taxi.

PHC: Private Hire Cars MUST COMPLY with car seat requirements as follow.

  1. For newborn to 2 years old: child must be placed in rear-facing car seat.
  2. Between 2 to 5 years old: child should travel in front-facing car seat.
  3. 5 years old and above, but below 1.35m: child should use booster seat.
  4. All children below 1.35m tall can only ride in the rear of the car.

Grab Family can accommodate kids aged 1 to 7; meanwhile GoCar Kids can accommodate only kids aged 4 to 7.

Pet Requirements in Taxi and PHC

Taxi: Pets are allowed in a taxi, however, they must be caged or muzzled, except guide dogs for the visually-disabled.

PHC: Pets are only allowed on pet-friendly vehicles, such as Grab Pet.

Why are There So Many Additional Fees in Taxi Fares in Singapore

The meter taxi fares are made up of the following components:

  • Booking fee, if any
  • Flag down fee, if any
  • Distance fare/time-based unit fare
  • Surcharge fee, if any
  • ERP fee, if any
  • Admin fee, if any

Booking fee refers to the fee charged when you book a meter taxi through phone or app. It costs between S$2.30 to S$4.50, depending on the time and the taxi operator.

Flag down fee refers to the fee charged when you step into a meter taxi which you get either by hailing from the road or by waiting at the taxi stands. It costs between $4.10 to S$5.00.

Distance fare refers to the fare based on actual distance traveled. The rate varies between taxi companies. Time-based unit fare refers to the fare based on actual time spent on the journey.

Surcharge fee refers to additional fee that’s imposed based on the time of your travel and location of your travel.

Here are the surcharge fees:

  • Midnight surcharge: 12midnight to 5.59am – additional 50% of the metered fare
  • Peak hour surcharge: additional 25% of the metered fare during:
    • Mon-Fri: 6am-9.29am (exclude PH), 5pm-11.59pm (include PH)
    • Sat-Sun: 10am-1.59pm (include PH), 5pm-11.59pm (include PH)
  • Location surcharge:
    • City Area: S$3 (5pm-11.59pm)
    • Changi Airport: S$8 (5pm-11.59pm), $6 (all other time)
    • Garden by the Bay: S$3
    • Mandai Wildlife Reserve, including Night Safari, River Wonders, Singapore Zoo, Bird Paradise: S$3 (1pm-11.59pm)
    • Marina Bay Cruise Centre: S$5 (7am-11am), S$3 (all other time)
    • Marina Bay Sands: S$3 (Sun & PH 6am-5pm)
    • Resort World Sentosa: S$3
    • Seletar Airport: S$3
    • Singapore Expo: S$2
    • Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal: S$3

ERP fee refers to the fee charged by ERP gantry (which is like a toll fee in busy areas).

Admin fee refers to the fee charged due to the usage of certain payment method (eg: 10% admin fee for credit card payment).

How much does a taxi ride cost in Singapore? 

It depends on your travel distance, the travel time, and which type of taxi you take. The father your travel, the more you’ll need to pay because the taxis are using meters.

If you travel during peak hour or midnight, there’ll be additional surcharge and they’re not cheap. Not all taxis are equal, the more luxurious taxis charge higher rate.

For a ride between Changi Airport to Singapore City Center during the day, expect to pay around S$30 to S$50 per trip.

Tips for taking a taxi in Singapore

According to the law, a normal 4-seater taxi can only accommodate 4 adults, or 3 adults + 2 children (3A+2C), or 2A+3C, or 1A+4C. Children are below the age of 12. Do not try to bargain with taxi driver to allow more than the allowable number of passengers.

If you have more people in your group, consider taking the 7-seater taxi. The capacity is 7 adults (A), or 6A+1C, or 5A + 3C, or 4A+4C, or 3A+6C, or 2A+7C, or 1A+9C.

If you need to use the trunk, help yourself. Don’t expect the drivers to help you. Based on my personal experience, most Singapore drivers don’t help passengers to load their stuffs into the trunk.

Give full address or postcode of your destination, not the building name. Usually, taxi drivers would key in your address or postcode to their GPS device instead of building name.

It is possible that taxi drivers refuse to take you as their passenger if your destination is not in the direction of where they’re heading to. Don’t be offended, it’s pretty common. Just get out of the taxi and look for another one.

If you’re at the front of a queue at taxi stand, the next taxi in the taxi bay is a Limousine and you know Limo’s flag down & distance fares are more expensive than a normal taxi. You’re on budget and you don’t need a luxury ride, what can you do? Simply take the next available standard taxi. Or inform the people queuing behind you that they can take the limo if they want.

Some drivers will ask you which route you prefer to take. You can either use Google Maps to find the best route and inform the driver of your preference, or you can let the driver decides.

Most of the drivers are honest and will take the best route in their opinion, but they might be using the outdated GPS device that doesn’t recommend optimized route and the ride ends up costing you more than you need to pay.

If you don’t want to deal with the feeling of the driver bringing you on a longer route, consider booking through the CDG Zip app or Grab/Gojek app. This allows you to choose a flat fee instead of relying on the meter, offering more control over your transportation costs. But bear in mind that app fares are based on dynamic pricing and influenced by demand and supply.

Featured image credit: Depositphotos

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