Feature Articles

A Complete Guide to Taking Cabs

By: joyceho on 15 Jan 2013
Catching a cab might be the fastest way to get around the island. Convenient, affordable and fully air-conditioned, cabs are frequently used by locals and tourists alike. However, not having a clear idea on how cabs operate here in Singapore may present a problem for the unacquainted.  Here are a few quick pointers you should note should to ensure maximum comfort from flagging a cab down to making your payment.

Different types of Cabs
Standard cabs usually comprises of Toyota Crown, Hyundai Sonata and Nissan Cedric. The occasional Mercedes 'limousines', Silver Arrows, Volkswagen Minivans and 'London Taxis' can also be seen along the busy streets of Singapore. Unless you have made specific bookings for such maxi-cabs or limousines, the flag-down and meter charges are more or less standardised.

Additional Charges

While most cabs are law-abiding and charge by the meter you might find that it sometimes cost you a few dollars more to go to the same destination as before due to additional charges. Here’s a list of surcharges you might should take note of before heading to your destination.

Type of Surcharge

Applicable When


Peak Hour

Monday  Friday : 6.00am to 9.30am
Monday – Sunday & Public Holidays : 6.00pm to 12 midnight
Applicable at the time of boarding.
25% of metered fare
Midnight Surcharge 12 midnight to 5.59am 50% of metered fare
Central Business District (CBD) Surcharge, including
Marina Bay Sands
Monday – Sunday & Public Holidays: 5.00pm to 12 midnight
Applicable for all trips starting from city area and is payable on top of the Peak Hour Surcharge.
Location Surcharges ​Singapore Changi Airport & Freight Centre: Friday - Sunday (from 5.00pm to 12 midnight)

Singapore Changi Airport: all other times

Seletar Airport

Resorts World Sentosa

Marina Bay Sands: Sundays & Public Holidays
(from 6.00am to 4.59pm) 

Singapore Expo Centre

Applicable at the point of boarding.






In addition, all Electronic Road Pricing occurred during the trip would be payable by you, the customer. Electronic Road Pricing, or ERP, is a overhead electronic toll collection scheme to discourage drivers from entering common congested areas in the city centre.

Here’s the breakdown of how the metre operates:

Basic Cab Fare


Limousine Service

For Flag-Down (inclusive of 1st km or less)

S$2.80 - S$3.00


For every 400m thereafter or less up to 10km



For every 350m thereafter or less after 10km



For every 45secs (or less) waiting time



Surcharges are indicated on left side of the red price metre which is located below the cab’s audio system. The number next to it, on the right, indicates the price of the journey itself.

Calling a Cab

Flagging a cab might be difficult, especially at the start or end of the day (i.e. 7am to 9.30pm or 5pm to 11pm on weekdays), rainy days or festive seasons. If you are in a hurry, booking a taxi by phone might be a faster alternative. A small sum usually ranging from S$2.30 to S$3.30 would be incurred as a booking fee. Limousine cabs usually have a booking fee of S$10 to 18.

Every 45 seconds of waiting incurred at the booking venue would cost you an additional S$0.22. If you have no preference as to which cab services you wish to book under the basic Dial-A-Cab number is probably the easiest way to book a cab. Add the number ‘6’ before keying in the letters as you normally would to spell out DIAL-A-CAB (i.e. 6342 5222) and you will be linked up to  the nearest available cab driver around your area.

Aside from remembering the given car plate number that has been assigned to you, asking the phone operator for the cab colour might be a good idea. Each cab company in Singapore has a standard colour that matches with their company colours that makes them recognisable. A personal tip I use is to save the phone numbers of those cab companies according to their company colour. For Example: Cab Comfort Blue 6552 1111.

Here's a list of the various cab service providers in Singapore:

Company Name Cab Colours/Type Hotline
SMRT Cabs White 6555 8888
City Cabs Yellow 6552 1111
Comfort Cabs Blue 6552 1111
Premier Cabs Silver 6363 6888
SMART Green and beige 6485 7777
TransCabs Red and White 6555 3333
Yellow-Top Taxi Yellow Hood with Black Body 6293 5545
Prime Taxi a Silver Blue Maxi Cab or a Black or Grey Limousine 6778 0808

Flagging A Cab

Most cabs use LED display sign to indicate their availability. The words “hired”, “on call”, or “busy” are displayed in red  indicates that it is being occupied or that it is picking someone who just made a booking. When the driver is changing shift, the location may be shown in green. This means that the cab drivers would only take on customers who are headed towards that general direction. While it is rare that cab with light indicators would have them switched off, it probably means that he's finishing a shift or headed for his lunch break.

If you are flagging a cab and see a flashing headlight, it is often an indication that the cab driver is notified and is coming to pick you up. If available cabs are still whizzing pass you as you wave frantically for their attention, it might be time to move away from the bus stop and into the nearest cab stand. This is particularly so around the CBD area when cab drivers are only allowed to pickup passengers along the street during during highly congested periods of the day.

Dos and Don'ts

A standard cab can hold five people, comprising four adult passengers and the driver. Unfortunately the fines for a driver can be quite hefty and hence they have to be very strict on this. If you have kids (ages 12 and below) with you the maximum seating capacity can be either of the following - three adults and two children or vice versa; one adult with four children or; six children.

Although eating and drinking are not allowed in cabs, most cab drivers would allow you to carry food in provided that they are tightly sealed. Durians are strictly prohibited.

Unlike some other countries, most cab drivers would not turn down customers who appear drunk. Plastic bags for vomiting purposes are usually available upon request. Although there is no fines in place should you inevitably puke in the cab, do bear in mind that this might cause the cab driver the lose a hefty load of money spent on cleaning up and result in lost time.

Most cab drivers would not mind sending different passengers to more than one destination. If you are planning to save on a cab fare by sharing a cab with a few friends it is very unlikely that a cab driver would turn you down. As a courtesy however it is usually good to inform him that you are planning to make a few stops before hand.

Getting Around

While most cab drivers are familiar with the general roads in Singapore, you may chance on the occasional unfamiliar road name. If they are unsure of where your destination is, referring the venue to a familiar landmark or main road area can be helpful. Leaving the minor details as to the little nooks and turns he might need to take later would also minimise confusion between you and the driver.

It is uncommon for a cab driver to ask which visitors their preferential route. However if you look like a local, you might encounter questions like “Would you like to go via CTE, AYE or ECP?” Unless you have a preferred route to your destination, politely telling them that you’re a foreigner and requesting for the shortest or fastest route possible would be sufficient.

Love Thy Cab Driver

The daily life of a cab driver can be an extremely lonely one. Hence cab drivers can tend to be chatty from time to time. Having been in the business for several years however also means that cab drivers are usually the best people who know the best food places to go as well as provide interesting insights to Singapore! Most cab drivers speak adequate English. If you explicitly inform them that you are a foreigner and requests for some recommendations as to where to go for your next sightseeing adventure, most of their recommendations will rarely disappoint.


Although most people prefer to pay their cab fares in cash, not all cab drivers might have enough spare change to return customers, especially particularly at the start of their shift. Thankfully, paying by NETS or Credit Card is almost always available. Please note that a surcharge of 30 cents applies for every NETS transaction and a 10% administrative charge on top of total taxi fare is applicable for credit card payment. If you are unsure about paying electronically, usually asking a cab driver if they have the necessary devices to perform electronic payment might be a good idea at the start of the journey.

Making payments by an EZlink card (the transportation card which you can use for buses and trains) is a relatively new introduction to the cab systems in Singapore. Not all cabs therefore have EZlink card readers. If you’re low on cash or credit card hence asking about the availability of an EZlink reader might also be a good idea.

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