Traveling around Singapore with Kids #2-Strollers

Disclaimer–I can only address this from my own limited (and thus stroller-bound) perspective as the mom of a toddler.

As I said yesterday, my biggest concern about getting around Singapore with Elanor was how stroller friendly the city is.  Boston is a nightmare with strollers as most of the subway stops don’t have escalators or elevators (and frequently one or both are broken).  The Green Line is a total no-go with a stroller (unless you don’t mind pulling the kid out and folding it/unfolding it/ hauling it, the kid and your diaper bag around).  Which is why when I needed to go into the city with E, I just drove in and parked near the Common or wherever we needed to be, even if I did want to get some walking in.  New York is slightly better-they at least are honest about which stops are and aren’t accessible and the elevators (while smelly) usually work, as do the escalators.  London was the worst of all where stairs were inescapable and accessibility was a laughable notion.  Where would Singapore fall?

The answer is–it depends on what you consider acceptable use of a stroller.

Rule #1–Get over any fear you may have of taking your stroller on an escalator (up and down).

Bottom line…if you can not bring yourself to ride on escalators with your stroller, you are screwed.  Period.  In many situations the only way to get over or under a busy street is by a walkway that you’re only going to get to via escalator.  Often in the malls, the elevators (especially on the weekends) are always filled to capacity…Godot will arrive before an elevator that will accomodate your stroller.  Sure there are signs that say you’re not supposed to but EVERYONE does it.  It is the only way you’re getting anywhere.  If you want crosswalks and elevators, you’re going to be taking a lot of cabs, and you’ll never see any of the other 7 or 10 floors of the mall.  You’ll also only be going to the four or so grocery stores that aren’t in the Basement level of a mall.

Rule #2–There is always an accessible entrance for every MRT stop

The subway (MRT) is awesome with a stroller.  You may have to go on a scavenger hunt to find the accessible lift or the entrance with the escalators, but Every. Single. Stop. Has. Them.

Further, the MRT trains are level with the platform, meaning you can just roll your stroller right onto the subway car.  It’s also cheap, frequent, and for the most part people are friendly and make a point of giving you a seat as a mom with a stroller/kid.

However, it doesn’t go everywhere.  There are new stops on the Circle line opening over the next few years and they’re already working on another new line, but it is true that if you don’t live near the city center, the MRT may not be the most conveinent method of travel.

Rule #3–Avoid Busses whenever possible

This may not be realistic, depending on where you live or where you’re trying to go.  BUT…most busses have a few steps to get on, some have small dividers that make it next to impossible to fit a larger stroller on without folding it (even though all have wheelchair areas where you can easily stand out of the way with a stroller), and bus drivers can be assholes about strollers.  I once had three bags, my diaper bag, my purse, the stroller and a SLEEPING child and was told by the driver to fold the stroller…in that case I pretended I didn’t speak English and kept indicating in French that I didn’t understand his gestures as I manuevered us onto the bus and parked in the handicapped area.  When I have help with me (either B, my helper or Ravi) if a bus is going to be involved, I just leave the stroller at home, knowing the other person will help keep things under control and that they can carry either the stuff or Elanor if she gets tired (with my back, I can’t carry all of it).

Rule #4–Always have emergency cab fare

Unless it’s after midnight or you’re way out on the island (like at the zoo), 20-30 dollars will get you pretty much anywhere you need to go.  I usually just have an emergency 50 in my wallet for cab fare because I’m paranoid.

Rule #5–Beware the random stairs

This is a particularly irritating Singaporean phenomenon.  You take an escalator down a level, you get off and WHAT THE HELL??? it’s three stairs to go down before you’re on level ground again.  Or inversely there is a perfectly good escalator that will take you to the skywalk you need to cross but first you need to go up four stairs to get to it.  Why?  I do not understand it, and I’m often infuriated by it.

Luckily Singaporeans are very kid friendly (which is another post all by itself) and I have never found myself in that position without being offered (and usually accepting) help.  I have gotten help on and off busses, too, but I find that help  to be fairly rare.  So it is frustrating, but manageable.  I still just don’t understand what their purpose is.

Rule #6-Small aisles

Your stroller may be tricky to manuver around some stores (Mustafa especially) because they make the aisles absurdly small.  Just something to be aware of.  If you’re American, the best reference I can give you is half the normal aisle width of a Target and 1/3 the width of the big cross aisles there are the norm.

A secondary warning…beware small hands that can reach stuff.  We accidentally shoplifted a soft toy from IKEA because Elanor grabbed it without my noticing and then (again without my notice) dropped it and it fell under her seat in the basket.  I found it when we were home.

Rule #7–Beware the suburbs

Most of the major roads in the city center have easily crossed roads; some have crosswalks, other have over or underpasses with escalators.  But the further you get away from the city center, the most frequent way to cross a road is the skypass.  Stairs up, walk across, stairs down.  If you are stuck in the burbs, get a car or get used to cabs.  Walking becomes a virtual nightmare.

Conclusion

Overall, I find Singapore to be stroller friendly.  However, I live about a mile from two different MRT stops and can walk to them in 20 minutes.  I take cabs with Elanor far more than I do on my own, largely because I don’t want to deal with the bus system, but if I have the time, I can usually get anywhere I want to go without resorting to cabs.  But I think this is a “Your Mileage May Vary” kind of thing that is heavily influenced by where you live, your disposable income, and your willingness to deal with escalators and searching for accessible entrances.

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6 Responses to Traveling around Singapore with Kids #2-Strollers

  1. HY says:

    Thanks! Very useful post! I am a Singaporean who just returned (with a new baby) after three years in US. I came across this while googling for stroller friendly places in SG.

    • Crystal says:

      Glad it was helpful! I’ve actually been thinking about doing an updated version of this post, as I’ve now been running around Singapore with strollers for a few years now 🙂

  2. ifan says:

    Thank you for the helpful post.
    I’ve been to singapore many times.. and next week will be my very frist time exploring singapore with our 28 months son.. And He’s also almost reaching the 0.9m height (what I read is a child reaches over 0.9m height should start paying transportation fares). Considering to buy a child concession EZlink card just in case the bus driver tells us that the child should pay the fare… I do note that we can just carry the toddler on mrt’s..And Very much agree about the “bus drivers can be assholes about strollers” ..

    Me and wife bought a third stroller, small and light enough for travelling (also small enough to be carried to plane cabin, weighs almost 7 pounds). Don’t know if we should “go crazy” and ride the escalators with the boy on the stroller.. by reading your post.. well .. at least gave us a bit of confidence to do that..lol

    also thanks for the stroller tips on mustafa..

    cheers

  3. Thanks for this. I’m heading to Singapore in June w/ my 3 kids (2, 5 and 11). Everyone tells me I need a stroller for Singapore but my husband is a minimalist when it comes to traveling. He’ll have to get used to the idea that a stroller is minimal when you have 2 young kids with you!

    • I think if you were another year or so out (depending on your individual kid) you could get away with it, but with 3 and a 2 year old, a stroller is going to be a big help. Prepare yourself mentally to take it on escalators though.

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