Thursday, December 13, 2007

New unlimited travel pass for visitors

Dec 13, 2007

A one-day pass for buses and trains will cost $18 with $10 refundable; also available: two-day and three-day versions

By Maria Almenoar

TOURISTS here will get to enjoy unlimited rides on public buses and trains with a new travel pass that went on sale yesterday.

Three versions of the Singapore Tourist Pass are available at eight MRT stations, including Changi Airport, Raffles Place, Chinatown and HarbourFront.

They go for $18 for a one-day pass; $26 for a two-day pass; and $34 for a three-day pass. All allow unlimited travel on Singapore's Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and Light Rapid Transit (LRT) rail systems and public buses. The price of each card includes a $10 deposit, which is refunded if returned within five days from the date of issue.

The passes can be returned at the eight MRT stations where they are sold.

If they stay longer, visitors can use the card as a standard ez-link card - like all other public transport users - and top up its value at any TransitLink ticket office, or passenger service counter at MRT stations, to pay for each ride.

Together with the tourist pass, visitors can also pick up a new travel guide with information on places of interest and how to get there by bus or train.

The pass and guide are long overdue, say regular visitors to Singapore like Japanese housewife Mariko Yamanaka, 41, who is based in New Delhi. She visits Singapore every three months to see friends and uses the trains and buses to get around.

'I don't have to worry about how to operate the ticket machine at the station, figure out the fare, stand in line and get the $1 deposit every time. And for tourists who are not good in English, this card will be especially useful,' she said.

Similar day-passes have been available for years to travellers in cities like Hong Kong, London and Paris.

Singapore's first attempt at the travel pass was in 2003. Known as the Singapore Visitors Card, the pass cost $30 for a stored value of $10 and gave users discounts at popular tourist attractions and retail outlets.

About 5,000 of those cards were sold, but the initiative was discontinued in 2005.

The new card is backed by EZ-Link - a subsidiary of the Land Transport Authority (LTA) which sells and manages the cards - the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and LTA. They decided to have another go at it this year, largely because of tourist feedback.

About 3,000 visitors here every month ask STB about getting around the country using public transport. And about the same number of adult ez-link cards are sold every day.

Said EZ-Link senior vice-president (business and technology) Nicholas Lee: 'Tourists said they had to fumble for change in local currency to top up their card... that's why the pass element is incorporated, so that they don't have to worry about that.

'With the projected increase in tourist arrivals to Singapore, we want to have a product to cater to the needs of tourists.'

Singapore expects 10.2 million tourists this year and the target is for 17 million visitors a year by 2015.

So far, 35,000 cards are ready for sale. Aside from getting around, the cards also offer visitors discounts at various places like the Singapore Zoo, local nightspot Zouk and restaurants.

Down the road, tourists may be able to order the cards online and pick them up when they arrive.

Hotels are also hoping to offer the cards to their guests. Orchard Hotel general manager Rene Teuscher said: 'It will definitely make it more convenient for them and we'd be happy to sell it in our hotel.'

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