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14 MRT Hacks Every Kiasu Commuter Must Know To Save Money & Reach Your Destination Quicker

MRT hacks in Singapore

Ah, the MRT. We complain about it all the time. It’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s too crowded, it keeps breaking down. Our daily commute often involves being packed into train carriages like our favourite Ayam Brand sardines. It’s a necessary part of getting around in Singapore, but sometimes it makes us “underhappy”.

Seeing as the MRT plays such a big role in our lives, there has to be a way to make our journeys less likely to make us cry tears of frustration. We asked around and listed these MRT hacks in Singapore every kiasu commuter should know to make travelling easier.

1. Each door is labelled with a number

MRT Hacks - Screen door labels at the MRT

Did you know that all doors on the MRT are numbered? This makes it easier for your friends to hop on the train and join you on your journey. 

Let’s say you’re supposed to meet your friend at City Hall, and she’s joining you on the train at Somerset. Rather than leave your cosy corner to look for her, simply tell her that you’re at Door 20, and she can meet you at your cabin.

2. Every station has a secret meeting point

MRT Hacks - White analog clock

There’s a white analog clock located at roughly the same section of the platform across all stations on the North-South and East-West Lines, which serves as a handy meeting point.

3. Plan a quick escape to the escalators

MRT Hacks - People getting on the escalator
Sometimes, I exit from the train and come face-to-face with a daunting flight of stairs, and I weep on the inside. Knowing where the escalators are at the station
that you’re alighting at allows you to position yourself at the right door – so that you can make a mad dash for the escalators and leave the crowd in your dust.

You could try remembering the door numbers for stations you frequent. Or, take out the guesswork by referring to this handy MRT transfer guide by Reddit user u/EconomicSanction. You’ll need to figure out which direction you’re heading towards first, then you’ll know which door to position yourself at to have the escalator right in front of you.

The chart only covers all lines except the Thomson-East Coast Line.

4. Get unobstructed access

If you frequently switch lines at City Hall or Raffles Place, you will know the drama of flinging yourself across the platform to change trains. But did you know that some doors open up in front of a wall? Avoid them if you need to do a Roadrunner upon alighting.

Note: For example, door 10 on the train from Joo Koon to Pasir Ris at Raffles Place Station allows you unobstructed access to chiong across the platform to get on the North-South line. Dashing out of Door 11 will result in a collision between face and wall.

5. Get money for taking the MRT

MRT Hacks - Travel Smart Journeys (TSJ)Image adapted from: Simply Go

You take the North-East Line train every day – why not get some money out of it? Make your daily commute worth the crowds by signing up with Travel Smart Journeys (TSJ) to earn points and redeem cash rewards. 

You’ll have to transfer to any of the following bus services heading towards the CBD or Marine Parade: 43E, 654, 660, 666, 671, or 672. Only then will you be awarded with 150 points worth $1.50 per trip. These points can then be used to redeem e-travel vouchers for use on public transport.

6. Save $0.50 on trips before 7.45am on weekdays

MRT Hacks - Empty MRT station

The early bird doesn’t just catch the worm, they also pay lower train fares. All you have to do is tap on an MRT gantry before 7.45am on weekdays and you’ll be given $0.50 off your total train fare. That’s $0.50 you can use for your morning kopi instead.

7. Look to the other side

MRT Hacks - Look for the "other side"
Certain stations open on a different side from the others after a stretch, and if you’re alighting at those stations, moving to the other side allows you to flee easily.

These stations are:

  • North-South Line
    • From Marina South Pier to Jurong East- Raffles Place, Braddell
    • From Jurong East to Marina South Pier- Bishan, Braddell, City Hall
  • East-West Line
    • From Joo Koon to Pasir Ris – Dover, City Hall
    • From Pasir Ris to Joo Koon – Raffles Place, Dover

8. We like to move it, move it” in the train

Move to the centre of the train cabin, where all the seats are. You’ll more likely get a seat as you’ll be in prime position to strike once someone leaves. It’s hard to make a mad dash from the doors to a freshly vacated seat. 

Just remember to look around to make sure no one else needs the place more than you do, or you might end up on the Internet.

Bonus hack: Take note of school uniforms and school-related tees, as well as which stations have a mass exodus of students. Such stations include Dover, Ang Mo Kio, and Bishan. This usually results in several vacated seats, so move quickly for the kill.

9. The Great Jurong East Dilemma

MRT Hacks - Jurong East MRT StationImage credit: Loc Kee via Google Maps

Trust us, we’ve done the math.

This has caused headaches, despair, and broken friendships. If we’re headed to Jurong East (JE) from the North-South Line (NSL), should we stay on the line and go all the way up, or should we change to the East-West Line (EWL) at Raffles Place or City Hall?

We have the solution – Bishan is where things turn around.

  • Bishan to JE, via NSL – 41mins
  • Bishan to JE, via EWL – 39mins
  • Ang Mo Kio to JE, via NSL – 38mins
  • Ang Mo Kio to JE, via EWL – 42mins
  • Braddell to JE, via NSL – 43mins
  • Braddell to JE, via EWL – 37mins

MRT Hacks - Bishan MRT Station
Rush hour at Bishan MRT station can be really packed. Board during off-peak hours if you don’t wish to be squished.
Image credit: via Instagram

Of course, these are for the die-hard MRT traditionalists who rue the existence of the new train lines. If you’re heading to JE from Bishan, take the Circle Line to Buona Vista and change to the EWL. It only takes 34 minutes.

Note: Waiting time for trains is not included.

10. No battery? No problem

MRT Hacks - Charging points at MRT stations

If your phone is low on juice and you think you’ll have a crisis if it dies, fear not. Some stations have free phone and laptop charging points for those who desperately need power sockets. 

Here are just some of them: 

  • Bugis
  • City Hall
  • Orchard
  • Tanjong Pagar
  • Kent Ridge
  • Outram Park
  • Ang Mo Kio

11. “Bounce” for an empty seat

This is a classic hack. If you’re close to the end of an MRT line and you want a seat badly, bounce. Bouncing is something I do a lot – I’ll be at City Hall heading up to Ang Mo Kio, so I’ll take the train down to Marina Bay. 

I’ll wait for everyone else to get out, and plop my bottom into a seat. The train will reverse directions at the end of the line, and I can get to my destination in comfort.

12. Observe your fellow commuters

MRT Hacks - Tanjong Pagar MRT station
Image credit: Peifeng via Google Maps

We mentioned in #8 that you should keep an eye out for school kids in uniform on the train and move in to seize a seat when they spill out from the train to go for classes. The same applies to the office crowd. 

If you’re travelling on the North-South or East-West line, keep an eye out for people clad in office wear. They’ll likely alight at the Tanjong Pagar or Raffles Place stretch of the line, which opens up space for you to breathe and maybe snag a seat to rest your tired legs.

13. Embrace contactless payments like Apple Pay

MRT Hacks - Contactless payment methods

Odds are, you’ve been faithfully clinging on to your EZ-Link card to tap in and out of public transport. But if you’re a forgetful person who doesn’t always remember to bring your wallet, there’s no need to panic buy another card. You’ll still be able to pay for transport fares using Apple Pay or Google Pay.

Just make sure you have a credit or debit card linked to your Apple Pay or Google Pay account on your smartphone. Then just tap like how you would when paying for stuff with PayWave.

14. Top up your card on the EZ-Link app

MRT Hacks - EZ-Link app

And if you’re still using a physical EZ-Link card, gone are the days you must physically top up your balance at the MRT station’s self-service machines. Just have the EZ-Link app downloaded on your phone. To top up your card, you’ll need to hold up your EZ-Link card near your phone’s NFC reader and you’re good to go.

As a bonus, you’ll even be able to earn points with every transaction and redeem them for vouchers at restaurants and shops.

15. Slim down your wallet by using your bank card as your MRT card

MRT Hacks - NETS card and NETS FlashPayImage credit: NETS Singapore via Facebook

The odds are, you have a NETS card. You also probably have a separate MRT card. And it’s unlikely your wallet has enough slots to accommodate the multitude of cards that are part and parcel of life.

Here’s an easy solution – simplify life by combining 2 cards into 1. You can use your bank card to pay for all your public transportation journeys – as long as it has a NETS FlashPay logo on the back of your card. Like this:

If your card has a FlashPay logo like that, top up your NETS FlashPay at any ATM, NETS self-service top-up machine or Add Value Machine Plus (AVM+). Then use it as you would use a regular MRT card, and you can redeem 10% travel rebates and earn free MRT rides!

You’re essentially getting a reward for simply doing what you do everyday, which is one of the best things ever. Find out more about this nifty scheme here.

Try out these MRT hacks

These are the MRT hacks you need to make your journey smoother, but remember, common sense and courtesy are king. Armed with kindness, sensibility, and your complicated affections for public transport in Singapore, any journey can be, if not great, then at least tolerable. If you liked this article, you’ll love our article on MRT secrets.

For more train-related articles, check out:

Original article published on 24th June 2019. Last updated by Haizreen Natasha on 8th December 2023.
This article was brought to you by NETS FlashPay.