Moving Overseas as an Expat

On The Road

In Singapore, they drive on the left side and the roads are wide and well maintained. However, they do get busy. Cars do undertake and overtake so make sure you check both sides before pulling over. There are not many roundabouts in Singapore; instead they use U-turns, which are clearly marked. It’s well worth reading the highway code before you start driving as there are  a number of rules and regulations that differ to say, Britain or other western countries.

If you’re driving in Singapore and are going to be here for more than 12 months, you do need a Singapore driving licence. You can convert your existing driving licence but this must be done within a year of being here. This involves taking the basic theory test. For more information see

The Government, in a bid to lower the number of cars on the road, have put in place a number of measures to manage car ownership. These include high taxes, a Certificate of Entitlement and high registration fees—all of which can make owning a car pretty expensive. More information can be found at Land Transport Authority.

So, most expats in Singapore lease a car. Look out for a reputable leasing company and be careful of paying too much up front. Keep records of what you pay and make sure you know if insurance is included. Also check if you can travel across to Malaysia in the car if that’s something that is on your agenda (it takes only a few hours to get there and is a popular jaunt for expats).

In-vehicle Units

Every car is fitted with a little device in the front window. This is called an IU device (In-Vehicle unit) and it will be your best friend. It will get you in and out of car parks and around the roads of Singapore. On some of the roads are gantries which will charge you automatically as you drive under them. The charge is deducted from your IU device automatically. However, it does need a cash card in it and this needs topping up regularly.

To do this is easy — once you know how and where. You can do it at most ATM machines — just pop your bank card in and follow the instructions. A lot of shopping centres also have Top Up Machines, usually situated by the walkway or lifts. They can be pretty hard to spot but look like this:

Expat Essentials | IU Top-up Machine | Expat Blogs

You can also top up at 7-Eleven stores and some petrol stations. Always make sure you’ve got at least $20 on your card as it can be easy to go through it in a day, especially if you’re parking in the CBD (Central Business District). However, once you know where you’re going you’ll find the money on it lasts longer.


If you go in to a car park without a barrier, or want to park in a road (check you can first), it’s likely you’ll need coupons to park. These coupons can be bought at 7-Eleven stores and a number of garages, and cost 50¢ or $1 each and are bought in books of ten or so. Check the colour of the parking bays and read the back of the coupon book to see how many coupons you should display for the time you’ll be there. Pop out the little round tags for time and date and you’re good to go. It is always worth keeping a book of them in the glove compartment.

Filling Up

When the car needs petrol you will find a number of petrol stations to choose from. Some offer a discount to certain bank users, some offer you a loyalty card. The loyalty cards are worth getting as they give them away free (you usually have to register online) and you are then given 10% off your petrol. For nothing! Some people have a preference as to what brand of petrol station they use, but there’s no big difference.

Also, when you drive in to a petrol station you will see people by the pumps ready to help. Their job is to fill your tank for you. Tell them what type of petrol you want and how much and that’s it—all you have to do is pay. Tip them if you feel you want to.  Maybe buy a bottle of cold water to give them on your way out as a thank you, or a couple of dollars is appreciated. However, it is NOT compulsory or expected.

Getting Around

Get a good SatNav. In my experience and the experience of many others I’ve met, the roads can be a little confusing for the first six months or so and you will get lost a lot. The roads do not run on a grid system like New York and there are a lot of one way streets and motorways that cross through major roads. So, to save your sanity, invest in an up to date SatNav.


They are popular mode of transport in Singapore so be aware of them when driving on the roads. Check your blind spot before moving into a new lane. They tend to approach from both sides so just be aware.

Joanne Jeyes moved with her husband, three children and their dog to Singapore from the UK eight months ago. With writing and travel being two of her biggest passions she has combined the two to write a popular expat blog and hopes to get ‘that book’ published some time soon. As a former journalist for women’s magazines, she enjoys writing on many different subjects and finds humour in most situations. A qualified Signalong tutor, Joanne has also taught many children and adults to communicate through sign language – something she thinks all children should learn to do.

Read more from Jo in her blog Five Go Mad In Singers.  Or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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