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Living in Singapore

Traffic Regulations and Licenses

With the city’s great public transportation system, it is hard to make convincing arguments in favor of driving in Singapore. Furthermore, expats will probably have a hard time rationalizing the horrendous costs that anyone trying to buy and maintain a car here faces. Get the facts below.

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An important fact about driving in Singapore that will surely not escape any expat is that traffic moves on the left-hand side of the road. This is due to the colonial past of Singapore, which, along with many other countries around the globe, was under British rule for a good portion of its history. While this may seem like an all too obvious piece of information, it is still important to keep this in mind at all times. It is not unheard of for absent-minded foreigners to pull out of their driveway and unwittingly become wrong-way drivers.

Legal Limits

Speed limits for cars and motorcycles on Singaporean roads are as follows:

  • general: 50 km/h
  • expressways: 70-90 km/h
  • tunnels: 50-80 km/h

The general speed limit only applies if there is no sign setting another limit, frequently 40 km/h.

The legal alcohol limit in Singapore is 350 micrograms for every liter of breath, or a blood alcohol content of .08%. However, if you get into an accident or are otherwise found to be unfit to drive after enjoying a drink, you can be penalized even if you were below the limit.

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Penalties for Traffic Violations

Hefty fines (and even imprisonment) are not the only penalty for offenses. Many of them are also penalized with points on the Driver’s Improvement Point System, a demerit system for motorists. If you accumulate more than 24 points in a two-year span, your license will be suspended for three months. Should you be in this unfortunate situation more than once, the Traffic Police has the authority to revoke your license for up to three years.

You can, however, get rid of your accumulated demerit points if you manage to drive for more than twelve months without earning any new points. The Singapore Police Force’s website offers an overview of all offenses which carry demerit points on their website. To give you an idea, driving without a seatbelt will incur three points, whereas talking on your phone while at the wheel will be penalized with twelve points.

Driver’s Licenses

For a period of up to twelve months, you may legally drive in Singapore with the driver’s license issued in your home country, provided that it is in English. If it is not, you will need either an International Driving Permit or an official translation of your license into English.

If you intend to spend more than a year in Singapore and want to make use of a car during your stay, you should apply to get your original license converted into a Singaporean one right ahead.

The prerequisite for such a conversion are similar to the ones stated above: Your license either needs to be in English, or you have to have an official translation, or an International Driving Permit. Furthermore, the conversion is only possible for class 2B and class 3 licenses (i.e. motorcycles below 200cc and cars up to three tons).

If you would like to drive heavier and larger vehicles, you will have to take the Singaporean driving test for the respective class. It is slightly different with motorcycles, though: if you can prove that you have the necessary training and experience in handling more powerful machines, you may be able to have your license converted after all.

Please check with the government of Singapore for further details on this matter. Please note that for all conversions, you need to pass the Singaporean Basic Theory Test (BTT). The above link also features info on where to take the test and all other requirements for exchanging your permit, such as the necessary paperwork. 

Updated on: September 22, 2016
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