How to Ride the Singapore MRT Like a Champ

I haven’t even been in Singapore for a full 2 months (which simultaneously feels like a really long and really short time. Internal clocks are not travel-safe and I’m pretty sure mine’s been broken for years). But in this short time, I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time (and money on my MRT EZLink card) using public transit, aka the Singapore Mass Rapid Transit, or MRT. In order to justify all of this commuting, I feel the need to pass on all my MRT wisdom to you lucky readers.

Basically, the inside of the MRT looks like this:

(It actually took a lot of strategic planning to get a shot of an empty row, they're pretty rare)

(It actually took a lot of strategic planning to get a shot of an empty row, they’re pretty rare)

But in order to help me explain everything, I’ve colour coordinated it. The scale follows the rainbow, where red is the worst colour (because you’ll end up with a red-hot burning desire to change positions), yellow/green is in the middle and purple is the top spot (because purple is a royal colour, and you’ll feel like you own the MRT in this spot). Cool colours (green, blue, purple) are for seated spots and hot colours (red, orange, yellow) are for standing spots.

EEEEE!! Pretty Colours!!

EEEEE!! Its like a rainbow unicorn threw up all over the subway!!

Now, before I begin, I just want everyone to accept the fact that you would rather sit than stand on the MRT. Even if you’re shaking your head and claiming you’re too “macho” or “just plain nice” to need a seat more than anyone else, deep down you know you’ll be trying to figure out how to get a seat without looking lazy/like a selfish jerk after a couple of stops. I know if I’m standing on the MRT by myself, my thoughts will eventually start drifting towards how I can stealthfully sneak into a seat, or I’ll start analysing the people sitting to see if any of them look like the type who will be getting off at the next stop (is there anyone in a suit just before getting to Raffles Place? Is someone doing the pre-getting-up shift?)

Now, without further ado, here is my overly in-depth analysis of the MRT, from best to worst:

Royal Purple

Definitely the best seat in the house. You’re far away from the reserved seats, so no one will be looking at you to give up your seat, and if you’re riding the MRT at an off hour and not all of the seats fill up, you’ve maximised the amount of seats that can be occupied without anyone actually having to sit directly next to someone else (room for you and 4 other people), as visible in the following image:

You + 4 others, how nice :)

You + 4 others, how nice !

Chillin Dark Blue

Similar to Royal Purple in the fact that you’re far away from the reserved seats, the main difference is that there will now only be room for 3 other people to sit staggered, so you’ve slightly decreased the chances of having room for yourself AND your bag (or just being able to lounge across multiple seats), as visible here:

You + 3 others, how almost-as-nice

You + 3 others, how almost-as-nice

Sky High Light Blue

Getting closer to the reserved area, but still very comfortably seated. It should also be noted that in cases where the MRT is over-crowded, Chillin Dark Blue and Sky High Light Blue may become more favourable than Royal Purple, as it means shoving past fewer people standing between you and the doors if you’re going to be exiting at stop other than a major interchange.

Grasslands Dark Green

This is the reserved seat, so sitting here means you have to give up your seat to someone who needs it more. This first issue here is just determining who falls into this category. I’m always a little afraid about offending someone by assuming they can’t handle standing for a few minutes, but at the same time, you look like a jerk if you don’t get up. The next issue is the actual getting up and having to actually STAND on the MRT. However, when you get up, you look very chivalrous in front of everyone else and can distract yourself from the fact you have to stand by thinking about how much of a good person you are.

Neon Green Flashing Lights

I always end up finding the spot beside the reserved seats the worst place to sit. If you end up sitting beside a small child, chances are, they’ll get antsy and end up poking and squirming around their seat, and most of yours. Plus, the need to give up my seat to someone else rubs off on me when I see someone beside me get up, and I start feeling like a lazy jerk for not doing the same.

Shocking (OMG you have to stand now) Yellow

*Gasp*, you’re stuck standing!! At least in this section, you’re next in line to swoop into a seat, should anyone get up. Try to position yourself close to the middle for easier access to more seats!

Semi-Awkward Orange

(Such an awesome colour name, I know. I should work for Crayola.) Here, you probably won’t get the chance to move to the seating area, but you can lean non-chalantly against the walls and at least pretend like you don’t care you have to stand.

Red-Hot Hatred

These spots suck. Period. You have to stand, PLUS you don’t even get a handhold, so you’re at the mercy of the MRT every time it jerks around. If no one else is in a Red-Hot Hatred spot, you look really drunk when this happens, because if they can support themselves, it’s possible to generally stay in the same position while you swing around wildly.


6 thoughts on “How to Ride the Singapore MRT Like a Champ

    • Its like a whole other mode of transportation during rush hour!! Calm, scenic views get replaced with the backs of people’s heads and all hopes of personal space don’t even make it past the sliding doors!

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