What Can You Do On The MRT? Things You May Not Know & More

MRT Guide Singapore

Taking the MRT is a daily ritual for most Singaporeans, being arguably the cheapest and fastest way to get around Singapore. But how much do you really know about the MRT – what can you do or not do on them? And do you know what MRT stands for? 

Let’s find out together, shall we?

What is the MRT and what does it stand for?

The MRT is one of the main forms of public transport that people in Singapore use to get around, being Singapore’s principal mode of railway transportation. It is a common sight all over Singapore, and stations can be found in almost every neighbourhood.

If you didn’t know, MRT actually stands for Mass Rapid Transit – but I guess that is really too much of a mouthful to say, so let’s just stick with MRT.

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Source: SMRT

A little brief history is that Singapore’s MRT system only first began operations back in November 1987. The first MRT station was Toa Payoh MRT, with the initial launch of the MRT system spanning from Yio Chu Kang to Toa Payoh (commonly known as the North-South Line).

Eventually, this spanned to the entirety of Singapore, forming the complex system that we see today.

Even in recent times, the MRT system is still being worked on and new stations are always being built – increasing the convenience to travel all around Singapore.

So with that brief introduction to what the MRT is, let’s answer some questions that you may have on your mind! 

Can I pay cash for an MRT ride in Singapore?

You can choose to pay for your MRT ride in cash by purchasing a standard ticket at the General Ticketing Machine, which is found in all MRT stations.

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Source: SGTrains

There are 2 options that you can choose from when purchasing these standard tickets:

  1. ‘Single Trip’ option
  2. ‘Return’ option

The difference between the 2 is quite self-explanatory. The ‘Single Trip’ option allows you to take a single trip to your destination while the ‘Return Trip’ option allows you to take a trip to your destination and back home

While it might seem like common sense to purchase the ‘Return Trip’ option as you obviously have to go home eventually, did you know that this option actually didn’t exist before?

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As seen here, it was only with the introduction of the new standard ticket scheme in 2012, were you then able to purchase a ‘Return Trip’ as opposed to just a ‘Single Trip’ – saving you the time of queuing to purchase another single trip ticket when going home!

Important note: Return trips can only be used on the day of purchase. However, you can get a refund for unused trips as long as it’s within three days from the date of purchase from any Passenger Service Centre at the MRT station.

“Interesting Fact – did you know that you can use the new standard ticket an upward of 6 times?”

This was done in an attempt to incentivise commuters to reuse their already-bought standard tickets and minimise wastage.

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Source: Mothership

As seen from the image, on the purchase of your 1st trip, you would have to pay an additional 10-cents as a deposit on top of your travel fare. However, on your 3rd trip on the same ticket, you would get your 10-cents back, in the form of a discount on your travel fare. 

And finally, if you somehow forgot your EZ-link card for the 6th time, you will get a 10-cent discount, courtesy of TransitLink.

Important note: Travel fares on the standard ticket are higher as compared to a standard stored value card – EZ-link card, concession card, etc. – so it is still a better idea to use your EZ-link cards.

Discontinuation of the standard tickets service

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Source: LTA

Unfortunately, as published on the LTA website in August 2021, the sale of standard tickets is to be phased out progressively from 1st January 2022. And this is the result of their low usage in recent years.

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This low usage can be attributed to the rise of the many options that commuters can now use to pay for their fares, which didn’t exist just a mere 5 years ago.

From options such as Apple Pay, Google Pay or SimplyGo, these new options are far more convenient and easily accessible, requiring just a tap of your phone at the gantry.

Can I drink water in the MRT?

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Screenshot from Google

While sights like these are increasingly common, you are actually not allowed to drink water or any form of beverages on the MRT. This is explicitly stated on the SMRT website, and the drinking water on the MRT can incur a fine of up to $500 if caught.

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However, most of the time, the SMRT staff are kind enough to let you off and just inform you to stop drinking or you will be fined. As such, personally I have never seen someone get fined for drinking on the MRT – but take that information with a pinch of salt.

“Nevertheless, the general rule of thumb would still be to refrain from drinking on the MRT. This is to prevent any mishaps that could occur such as the spillage of your drink.”

I think most of us have probably had this experience before – where there was spilt coffee on the floor and it was just slowly creeping up to your shoes. And you would have probably tried to avoid it because nobody wants a coffee-stained shoe.

So thinking about that, you wouldn’t want it to happen to you so why would you take the risk of causing that to happen to someone else? Let’s be considerate to the other commuters too!

Consumption of medication

With that said, while drinking is prohibited on the MRT or the MRT platform, there is an exception to this case – the consumption of medication.

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Screenshot from SMRT

According to SMRT, if you do need to consume your medication within the premises, arrangements can be made for you by approaching the station staff.

Can I bring food into the MRT?

You are able to bring food into the MRT, so purchasing food for takeaway, before heading home on the MRT, is no issue. However, like beverages, while you can bring food into the MRT, you are not allowed to consume food on the MRT.

If you do so, you will be liable to incur a $500 fine.

However, this does not mean that you can consume your food or drinks in the MRT stations because it is not allowed in both the MRT and MRT station.

“Food and drink consumption is not allowed within the premises so if you are hungry, do grab a bite or drink before you tap in”

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My face when the staff said “EXCUSE ME SIR”
Source: AminoApps

I personally have been caught before for eating the last bite of my sandwich right at the gantry before tapping in. Luckily, the staff only took down my particulars as I was still a student and let me off with a warning. 

He did state, however, that if I was to get caught again – I would be receiving a warm welcome from my friend, the $500 fine.

Can I bring durians on the MRT?

Based on this image, you would assume that you should not be bringing your durians onto the MRT. But then you would probably be also wondering “Why is the fine for durians not listed though?

“A simple way to put it would be that while it is actually not illegal to bring your durians onto the MRT, SMRT does advise you to not bring it – as indicated by the sign”

While SMRT does not explicitly state on their website whether durians are allowed onto the MRT, they have replied to inquiries about it.

As seen from SMRT’s reply to an inquiry, the SMRT staff do have the right to ask you to dispose of the durians.

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Source: yearofthedurian

And that failure to do so upon their request will make you liable to be fined up to $500. The circumstances around them asking you to dispose of them are unclearbut you can probably assume that it is if someone complains to them about the smell.

As such, I would say that bringing your durians into the MRT does sit in a grey area and that while you can bring them, you may be fined if you fail to dispose of them upon request of SMRT staff.

Can I bring my luggage onto the MRT?

You can bring your luggage onto the MRT as long as it fits the size limitations stated in the guidelines provided by the Land Transport Authority (LTA). The dimensions are 120cm by 70cm by 40cm.

You can be rejected entry into the MRT station if your luggage exceeds those dimensions! For example, this elderly lady was rejected entry in the MRT station as her items were way too large.

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“If you are not sure whether your luggage does fit into the size limitations, there are size checkers at MRT stations that you can refer to.”

As seen from the guidelines, these restrictions do also apply to other large itemstrolleys, PMDs (Personal Mobility Devices), foldable bicycles, etc. As long as they fit within the allowable size dimensions of 120cm x 70cm x 40cm, you will be allowed to bring them into the MRT.

Important note: Since most non-foldable bicycles do not comply with the allowable size dimensions, you cannot bring them onto the MRT.

Can I bring balloons into the MRT?

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Source: AsiaOne

If you’ve seen this sign or image before, you might be curious what sparked it. Like how dangerous could balloons be right? I mean aren’t balloons just floating coloured balls, how dangerous could they be?

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Much to your surprise, balloons can actually cause MRT faults, as demonstrated by an incident on 6 April 2014. The story goes that an aluminium foil balloon had been accidentally released into the underground MRT tracks, where it eventually came into contact with an electrical insulator on the ceiling of the tunnels – leading to an electrical fault.

With that said, it is still perfectly fine for you to bring your balloon onto the MRT as such incidents are indeed rare. And they will remain rare, as long as we follow the signs and “Hold them tightly”.

“Interestingly Hong Kong actually has a ban on bringing certain kinds of balloons onto their Mass Transit Railway (MTR) – their equivalent of the MRT.”

This was the result of a balloon causing the shutdown of an entire railway back in 1996.

In retrospect, I guess you can say that we Singaporeans are quite lucky to not have our balloons banned from the MRT.

Can I bring pets into the MRT?

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Snippet from the Rapid Transit Systems Regulation

You will not be able to bring any pets into the MRT, no matter how small they are, based on the Rapid Transit Systems Regulation. Even if they are hamsters or small enough to fit into a pet carrier, you can be fined up to $500.

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As seen here, the reason why you cannot bring your pets onto trains is due to hygiene and religious reasons. However as stated, there is an exception to this rule, with that being guide dogs.

Guide Dogs can be brought into MRT trains and stations

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Source: SGTrains

As stated on the SMRT webpage, guide dogs are allowed on MRTs to assist visually impaired commuters. You can distinguish these guide dogs through the special harness that is worn around their bodies.

Are you allowed to sit on the MRT floor?

While it is not explicitly stated on SMRT’s website that you cannot sit on the MRT floor, they have replied to questions on their Facebook page, regarding such queries. 

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Source: Facebook

The consensus is that SMRT does encourage commuters to refrain from sitting on the floor to prevent any inconveniences to other passengers.

As such, I would say that sitting on the floor is your decision to make as there is no hard and fast rule. But it also does ultimately boil down to the situation you are in too!

If the train is not relatively packed, then the decision to sit down on the floor is ultimately yours to decide. But if the train is packed, then I would definitely highly advise against it for your safety and otherspeople tripping on you, people falling on top of you, etc.

Are NSFs allowed to sit on the MRT?

If you’ve ever thought about this, high chances are you’ve probably seen this picture before.

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Screenshot from Reddit

It is pretty funny, I have to admit, but it is still sad to see things like this though. Even though it is definitely ok for NSFs to sit on the MRT, many still decide to take it upon themselves to shame NSFs who decide to do it.

These people tend to lash out as according to them – “Being an army personnel means that you are not allowed to sit down, as you are in uniform”.

The fact is that such claims don’t hold any weight!

There is no rule that states army personnels are not allowed to sit on the MRT, as even though we do represent the SAF – we are still commuters who pay the same fares like everyone else and do have the right to sit down.

Unfortunately, this backlash did eventually result in the behaviour that we see above – where some NSFs choose not to sit down even when there are empty seats, due to fear of being snapped on camera.

“If you are an NSF and reading this, do feel free to sit on empty seats because there is no rule saying that you can’t.”

However, do keep in mind your basic courtesy and give up your seat for elderly or pregnant women who might need more than you. With that said, giving up your seat to people who need it more, is something all of us Singaporeans should do and not just NSFs!

Can I take photos in the MRT station?

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As stated on SMRT’s website, you can take photos in the MRT or the MRT station as long as the pictures taken are for non-commercial use. So yes, feel free to continue taking your #OOTD or TikTok videos because it is 100% legal – just don’t pose any inconvenience to other commuters.

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However, if you plan to do photography within the premises for commercial or other purposesacademic, wedding, media – you are able to request for permission. The details can be found in the link provided above or you can refer to the image attached.

How long can I stay in the MRT station?

This was a pretty surprising one for me too.

Did you know that there is actually a time limit to how long you can stay inside the MRT!

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As seen here, the maximum time allowed for travel within the MRT system without tapping out is 120 minutes/ 2 hours – meaning that your journey must be completed in 2 hours.

After you’ve stayed past the 2-hour mark, you won’t be allowed to tap out of the MRT station via the gantry and will have to approach the service counter for assistance – where you will then be charged an additional $2 penalty fee to exit the station on top of your fare.

What does card mismatch mean?

Card mismatch is a situation whereby your entry or exit is not registered into the system. This can lead to issues where:

  • If your entry was not registered – you will face trouble exiting at your destination
  • If your exit was not registered – you will face trouble entering during your next trip

What happens if my entry is not recorded?

If your entry was not properly recorded upon entry, you will likely receive an error message upon attempting to tap out your destination. 

Fret not! At that point, do head to the nearest passenger service centre and let them know about the issue.

Most likely, they will rectify this by charging you the correct fare, which will be based on where you had boarded.

What happens if my “tap out” is not registered even though I exited?

If you’re using a stored-value card or concession card and the gantry fails to register your “tap out”, you will receive an error message the next time you try to tap into the MRT, and will be unable to enter the station.

To resolve this error, you will have to head to any passenger service centre and get their help to rectify this error. Based on my own experience, they would rectify this error by charging you the appropriate fee.  This is done by checking the stations where you last boarded and alighted.

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If you’re using a bank card or an app such as SimplyGo, you will be charged a flat fee of $2, regardless of the distance that you’ve travelled.

Can I tap in and out of the same MRT station?

You are able to tap in and out of the same MRT station. However, you will have to pay even if you have not travelled anywhere. This is due to the boarding charge of $0.77 as seen here.

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This means that if you tap into the MRT station and proceed to tap out immediately after, you will have to pay $0.77. However, this only applies if you tap out within 20 minutes of entry. 

If you tap out of the same station after 20 minutes, based on online replies, you will have to pay an additional $2, on top of the $0.77.

You might think that with the new Distance Fares system, you can avoid this as this system allows you to tap out of an MRT station and then tap into another MRT station without paying extra if the transfer is done within 15 minuteswaiving the boarding charge.

However, this is false!

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As seen highlighted by the red box, this charge waiver does not apply for exit and re-entry into the same station. This means that if you choose to re-enter the same train station, even within the 15 minutes, you will still be charged the boarding feeno waiving of the boarding charge.

Random facts you may not know

Here are 3 interesting facts that you may not have heard before!

#1 Did you know that SMRT actually had its own mascot in the past?

Being aptly named Captain SMRT, he was fully donned in a red spandex suit that came fully installed with a red cape. He is probably the hero that we all wish we could be.

#2 Dover station was not planned for at the beginning

Dover station is actually known as an infill station – which refers to a train station built on an already existing railway line to address demands for it.

Quoting this article, Dover station was the result of calls from Singapore Polytechnic to build an MRT station to serve students and staff of the polytechnic.

#3 Phantom stations

Contrary to what you might be thinking, there is no horror story attached to this. 

What “Phantom stations” actually refer to are hidden MRT infrastructures within an MRT station, which tend to be sealed off from public access. Having these areas allow new MRT lines to be developed, without disrupting the operation of existing lines.

For example, Punggol MRT has a restricted level that has been rumoured to be part of the upcoming Cross Island Line (CRL). Having such pre-built infrastructure in place, as such, ensures that while the CRL is being developed, the day-to-day operations of Punggol MRT are not affected.

Closing Thoughts

Ending it off here, there is definitely a lot about our MRT that we do not know despite it playing such a pivotal role in many of our daily lives. I do hope that through this you have discovered something new and interesting or have had any of your doubts cleared.

With that being said, considering the importance of the MRT in many of our lives – let’s do our best to make the commuting experience good for everyone and keep to the rules stipulated by SMRT!

If you’re wondering why the Downtown Line has a loop, you can check out this guide here.

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Isaac Lim

Always looking to try new things and blogging is one of them!

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