ECP vs MRT: Changi Airport to Bugis and Chinatown with Go-Ahead Bus Services 36 & 12e

Changi Airport has a reasonably well-connected public transport system to many points in Singapore. While there is a direct airport-to-door downtown hotel shuttle service for S$9, Singapore does lack a direct expressway public bus heading into the city. With 1 transfer, Go-Ahead Bus Services 36 & 12e uses the ECP as much as possible to head from Changi Airport in to the city.

MRT Travel Time from Changi Airport to Bugis

Bugis has many hotels and hostels around, so that’s a useful place for tourists to get to before starting their Singapoliday.

With 1 transfer at Tanah Merah, the MRT train journey takes 50 minutes according to Google Maps.

MRT Travel Time from Changi Airport to Chinatown

For those who want a cultural (?) side of things, Chinatown also has many hotels and hostels around, or tourists might start their Singapore trip with breakfast there before check-in to their hotel later in the afternoon, so that’s another useful place to get to from Changi Airport.

With 1 transfer at Expo, the MRT train journey takes 61 minutes according to Google Maps, though I personally will not use this looping route if travelling from Changi Airport to Chinatown.

Go-Ahead Bus Service 36
Changi Airport to Lagoon View

To kickstart my journey from Changi Airport to the city, Go-Ahead Bus Service 36 plies the ECP to get to the city, with a parallel length to the ECP along Marine Parade. For this challenge to work, I found a way to skip the middle Marine Parade stopping portion, and that would be covered by Go-Ahead Bus Service 12e.

For a fair comparison to the MRT, I boarded the Go-Ahead Bus Service 36 from Terminal 2.

Go-Ahead Bus Service 36 buses layover here, so the bus captains will depart according schedule while the bus waits at the bus bay for a few minutes.

My bus departed at 3.18pm, kickstarting this ECP race with the MRT to the city.

Making a brief stop at Terminal 4. If you are coming in on AirAsia and other T4 airlines, this ECP bus combination might be particularly useful as it saves backtracking time to Terminal 3 to catch the MRT.

Heading along the ECP.

Taking the Bedok exit.

Lagoon View would be the first stop when Go-Ahead Bus Service 36 leaves the ECP to Marine Parade. This is where I alighted at 3.36pm to transfer to Go-Ahead Bus Service 12e.

Walk 300m from Lagoon View to Opp Eastern Lagoon II

Not exactly a smooth transfer point, the walk between the two bus stops just after the Bedok exit of the ECP is about 300 meters apart. But this walk will help avoid the stopping sector along Marine Parade.

This transfer may not be suitable if you are lugging 20kg of luggage or so, but should be fine with 7kg of cabin baggage.

Cross the road here and to the opposite side later on.

Go-Ahead Bus Service 12e
Opp Eastern Lagoon II to Bugis and Chinatown

I had timed the connection to ensure a short transfer time, and I observed across a few days that Go-Ahead Bus Service 12e will stop at the Opp Eastern Lagoon II Bus Stop at around 13th and 43rd minute of the hour during 30-minute frequency periods.

From this bus stop, Go-Ahead Bus Service 12e will hit the ECP immediately.

And just 2 minutes of waiting at the bus stop, the Go-Ahead Bus Service 12e appeared right as predicted at 3.43pm for my seamless ECP connection.

Heading back on to the ECP immediately.

Skipping the whole Marine Parade sector of Go-Ahead Bus Service 36 with ease.

For tourists, snagging a seat on the left side of the bus will get you a nice photo of Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore Flyer. Unfortunately, since I boarded at the last stop before hitting the ECP, the seats were taken up already.

Heading down the Rochor exit from Benjamin Sheares Bridge.

The first bus stop is Bugis Stn Exit D. Alight here for hotels and hostels around Bugis MRT and Kampong Glam.

Time of arrival? 3.54pm.

My journey from Changi Airport to Bugis MRT by this Go-Ahead Bus Services 36 & 12e ECP bus connection took just 36 minutes, easily beating the MRT travel time based off Google Maps, though I do have to add a disclaimer that the journey time might be similar if you do get an immediate connection at Tanah Merah.

The next stop is Bugis Junction. Alight here for InterContinental Singapore and Mercure Singapore Bugis.

Next, Bras Basah Cplx. Alight here for Hotel Grand Pacific, Reddoorz Plus Victoria Hotel, Hotel Royal @ Queens, Oxford Hotel, Carlton Hotel Singapore, and Raffles Hotel (although if you can afford that you shouldn’t be taking the bus).

Next, Aft Chijmes. Alight here for The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore.

Grand Park City Hall has a bus stop directly in front of the hotel. Alight here for Peninsula Excelsior Hotel and lyf Funan Singapore too.

High St Ctr bus stop is next. Alight here for Clarke Quay hotels.

The next bus stop is Opp Clarke Quay Stn right in front of the touristy Song Fa Bak Kut Teh outlet. Alight here for Hotel Swissôtel Merchant Court and hostels around Clarke Quay.

Next, Hong Lim Pk. Alight here to protest with an approved permit, and Parkroyal Collection Pickering.

I alighted at Chinatown Point at 4.10pm, outside Chinatown MRT Station Exit E. Alight here for hotels and hostels around the main part of Chinatown.

My journey from Changi Airport to Chinatown MRT by this Go-Ahead Bus Services 36 & 12e ECP bus connection took just 52 minutes, easily beating the MRT travel time again based off Google Maps.

Go-Ahead Bus Service 12e continues on to Chinatown Complex, Outram Pk Stn Exit H for Dorsett Singapore, and Kampong Bahru Road, before it terminates at Kampong Bahru Bus Terminal.

Conclusion

Overall, with a timed connection, the Go-Ahead Bus Services 36 & 12e ECP route is a direct and fast way to travel from Changi Airport to the city, easily beating the MRT without a sweat. Unfortunately, just like my previous ECP vs MRT challenge from Tanjong Pagar, it does not work in the reverse direction due to the routing of 36 hitting the ECP earlier at Victoria School/Seaside Residences, though there’s a lot more departure times.

Changi Airport Express Bus?

This only underscores how much more time could be saved without the transfer at Bedok South/Siglap. Perhaps a new Go-Ahead Bus Service 36e could be introduced to skip the entire Marine Parade sector, when tourism returns, to offer a quick and convenient way into the city for tourists.

Existing express distance fares would still be affordable for a direct route to City Hall and Orchard hotels without walks to and from MRT stations, even if not valid with the Singapore Tourist Pass.

This convenience of a direct airport express bus service is proven with the high demand of premium-fare Cityflyer bus services in Hong Kong where travel time is comparable to the MTR Airport Express Line because of the first or last mile journey between hotels and the MTR station.

Airport staff and local travellers can even connect further and faster to the west with Express 502, offering a trans-ECP-AYE travel from Changi Airport all the way to Jurong East and Boon Lay with just 1 transfer.

Fares-wise, perhaps a new variant of the Singapore Tourist Pass could be introduced to include all express buses in Singapore, or even just include it anyway, just like how the Transport for Ireland Leap Visitor Card is valid on the premium Airlink Express 747 Airport Bus route.

I mean, what are the odds a tourist would use Express 506, 851e, and the likes, or how 60 cents more per fare could affect the revenue of the Singapore Tourist Pass? If anything, it will save tourists confusion when trying to tap on Express 502 to get from Orchard to Dhoby Ghaut and finding that they can’t or their additional top-up value just got magically charged.

Changi Airport Night Bus?

And while I’m ranting, why not a new Go-Ahead Bus Service 36N too, duplicating the existing 36 route, or even a new non-expressway stopping variant, to cover the graveyard hours where there are no public transport options to and from Changi Airport at all? A low hourly frequency would be sufficient to serve travellers at odd-hour flights outside of public transport operating hours. A NightRider or Nite Owl fare of S$4.40 to S$4.50 would still be more attractive than a taxi or Grab to the city.

Would you want to have a new Go-Ahead Bus Service 36e express bus between Changi Airport and the city? Would it be useful for you as a local or tourist?

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