Singapore: Sleeping on the job

by admin on April 5, 2011

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If you don’t have a car in Singapore (a £40,000 car in the UK can cost over £130,000 here, so a lot of people don’t), the best way to travel is by taxi as it’s cheap and easy, and everyone does it. In fact, there are over 25,000 taxis in operation, which complete over 500,000 trips a day (the population of Singapore is 5,000,000). But with no strict regulations governing the use of child car seats and very poor driving, it’s definitely not the safest form of transport.

Travelling by taxi is an experience itself, and quite often a white-knuckled one. I quickly learned, after arriving here, to carry a map with me at all times, because the drivers either don’t understand you (or choose not too) or don’t know where they are going; they continuously take their foot off and on the accelerator so the car lurches forward the whole time, which means if you get car sick, like me, by the end of the journey you will have turned green; they career from lane to lane because they have a) very little road sense or b) are about to fall asleep; and on several occasions, I’ve noticed a strong smell of alcohol when you get in the car, which I can only put down to the driver having a sneaky drink to get through his long shift. Unlike in London, where taxis have to stop if you flag one down, here, they do what they want. I’ve heard that they often pass women with babies/young children and I’ve been passed by a few for seemingly no reason at all.

Every time you get into a taxi here in Singapore, you take your life into your hands. You pray you’re going to get to your destination in one piece. Taxi drivers often work 11+ hour shifts so they get tired – the heat doesn’t help. One expat told me he was on the way to the airport and actually had to launch himself over the front seat and grab the steering wheel to avoid the taxi hitting a barrier. I am always very aware of how alert they are.

We jumped in a taxi yesterday. It was only a 15 minute journey – as most journeys are, here in Singapore. I could see the car was not quite moving in a straight line, and it kept veering into the middle lane, then back into the one we were supposed to be in. My eyes fixed on the driver’s eyes through the rear view mirror and I watched him like a hawk. I could see his eyes beginning to close, so I said, in a very loud voice, “you’re not tired, are you?”. I was quite amazed when he replied “yes, I’ve been doing an 11 hour shift, you’re my last pick up”. “Great”, I thought. In an equally loud voice I said “I’m pregnant and there is a 3 year old in the back, so PLEASE don’t fall asleep”. For the rest of the journey I talked to him non-stop to make sure he stayed awake. We arrived home safely.

If there’s ever a case to get our own car, especially with a new baby coming, this is one of them.


Liz Dawes April 6, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Yikes! Sounds like a few trips I’ve taken to Hong Kong. Tug at other half’s heart strings “What price my safety?” etc etc and cry a LOT till you get the car. It’s the only way.

Whitelilymummy August 20, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Hi huni, reading this article bought back lots of memories for me. I lived in china for two years and the exact same situation happens there. Its Quite an experience, and one I don’t miss too much!x

admin August 22, 2011 at 9:37 am

Hi I can imagine it was quite hard living there as an expat.

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