With a young child and a baby, I have fairly limited transportation options in Singapore that don’t involve me losing my mind-buses want me to fold/take apart the stroller and the MRT is a 20 minute walk at adult pace (aka 40 minutes at glacial toddler pace). At some point I threw up my hands in irritation and just started using cabs about 99% of the time.
Cabs are fairly affordable and relatively easy to get. There are exceptions-the 50% after-midnight surcharge (which, granted doesn’t affect us often), the absolute paucity of cabs the second water begins to fall from the sky, the dreaded shift-change where cab drivers never want to go to the part of the island where I’m going, and rush hour(s). Considering the times I’m around, I’m most affected by rainstorms and the 5pm(ish) shift change.
However, when you are taking upwards of 20 cabs a week at approximately 10 bucks a pop, cabs start to look like a poor value. When a friend shares that her monthly leased car costs about the same or less than your projected cab budget for the next month, the appropriate response is to ask for the number of her leasing agent.
Today I dropped Ellie off at school and took a cab to the Hyundai showroom to meet with their leasing department. I was escorted to the car, and I gave it a test drive around the block. Before I knew it, I had the keys and was driving it off the lot for a 4 day trial.
Why only a 4 day trial? The Matrix is a very different kind of car than I’m used to. It feels much more like an SUV, even though it is technically a “compact” car, in that the driver is fairly high up off the ground, and the entire back opens up. The “trunk” space is fairly small compared to our Accord in the US-I can fit my stroller in there, but I’m not sure if I could go for a spree at Fair Price and still have room in the car for the stroller and the kids. I’m not crazy about the lack of “isofix/LATCH” for securing car seats (although I’ve mostly been told to buck up-Asian cars in Asia don’t tend to have them-which means we’ll be securing the car seats with seat belts).
Perhaps the biggest x-factor is getting used to everything being “backwards.” I have driven on the “wrong” side of the road before, when we were in Scotland in 2009. But that was only a few day rental, I had GPS, and once out of Edinburgh, I was primarily doing highway driving, as opposed to city driving. Today I managed to repeatedly piss myself off when attempting to hit the turn signal, I instead turned on my windshield wipers. It also feels very wrong to look to the left for my mirror. I’m reasonably confident it’s something I’d get used to quickly, and then driving at home will be the experience that feels “wrong”, but I want a few days to be sure before committing.
What was driving in Singapore like for me today?
It’s the wrong side of the road. My brain hurts and I have to really focus while driving, far more than I do back home.
I don’t yet have GPS, so I got lost trying to pick up Ravi. Thankfully google maps saved the day and I eventually picked him up from work. Getting lost when you “sort-of” know where you’re going is frustrating. Apparently I wasn’t paying as much attention as I thought I was to the cab driver’s routes.
I had to get a cash card. Certain roads cost money to drive upon at certain times of the day, and all the parking garages cost money. However, Singapore has streamlined the process by requiring each car to have a transponder by the driver’s side. You go to 7-11 to buy a “cash card” that you assign value to, and then insert into your transponder. When you drive on the roads, you pay “ERP” (electronic road pricing). When you go to the mall or what have you, your transponder is scanned when you enter and exit and you’re charged the appropriate rate (90-120 minutes at United Square was 4.20 SGD, for example).
The Parking Garages are AWESOME (or at least the one at United Square is). There are signs on each level telling you how many spots are open, and above each spot is a light that is either red (occupied) or green (available). This is pretty damn cool to me.
The Parking Garage ramps SUCK. To be fair, it was just a misjudgment on my part, but my growing confidence was shattered when I was leaving United Square. I was going down the exit ramp that spirals through the levels of the garage, and as I turned a corner, I misjudged the angle and cut my wheel too soon. The back wheel scraped the curb, and damaged the hubcap. Not five hours, and I damaged the car. It was definitely a body blow to my confidence.
I need a bluetooth headset if we keep the car (and GPS). I need to be able to call Ravi when I’m approaching his work as they don’t allow lingering. After having gotten lost several times on the way over, I was not thrilled at the 20 minute detour I had to take to try and find my way back to his work after being shooed away. I don’t know Singapore half as well as I apparently thought I did. The repeatedly getting lost did not help my confidence.
Right now I’m about 50/50 or 60/40 on the car. It has been SO NICE to know I can leave on my schedule, to not feel rushed as I’m trying to get gear and kids in and out of the car, and being in control of my destiny (vehicularly speaking). However, it’s definitely a challenge and stressful. I’m glad that right now we’re only trying it for 4 days, and then I can make an informed decision on Monday about whether I want to try a 2 month rental (after which we’d sign a long term lease agreement).
Any advice you might have about driving in SG is very welcome in comments below…