Hassle-free ways to get around

For those without a car, transport becomes an issue during Chinese New Year.

No one likes waiting on the side of the road sweating in his festive best.

That is why Mr Lawrence Peer, 55, has been renting a car every Chinese New Year. He uses it to transport his wife and two daughters while visiting relatives.

The business development director typically rents a 2-litre Toyota Camry for about a week, paying about $150 a day.

But he says it is well worth the money.

"It is just more convenient for the whole family. We sometimes give rides to elderly family members and help them to run errands, which we cannot do using public transport.


PHOTO ILLUSTRATIONS: LEE CHEE CHEW

"Taxis are also hard to come by during the Chinese New Year period."

Rental companies are enjoying brisk business. Motorway Car Rentals, for example, has rented out about 160 of its 200 cars for next month's festive period.

Demand generally triples during this time, says its general manager, Mr Jeffrey Low, 47.

"Usually during this period, almost all our cars are snapped up. In general, our customers do not have a car, but want the convenience of having one while visiting relatives during Chinese New Year."

Over at Hertz Singapore, all its rental cars have been fully booked for the Chinese New Year season.

Diversified motor group Prime, which has more than 100 cars available for rent out of its 1,200- car fleet, has seen more than half of them booked for the Chinese New Year period.

Online rental portal Drive.SG, which aggregates more than 3,000 cars from more than 50 car rental companies, has three to four times the average number of bookings during the Chinese New Year period.

As of press time, only 30 to 40 cars from its partners are available.

Its co-founder, Mr Adrian Lee, 29, says: "From past experience, our partners' cars are all fully booked during Chinese New Year. Some people started asking about rentals as early as October last year."

Many of his customers, he adds, use the cars in Singapore. But some drive to Malaysia to visit their relatives there.

He says: "Our customers typically have quite a few places to visit, so having a car saves them travelling time."

Rental prices can double during the Chinese New Year period, he adds. A 1.6-litre Japanese sedan, which can seat five people, for example, can go for up to $888 a week, compared with $450 during non- peak periods.

Taxi companies and ride-hailing apps say they are confident that enough of their drivers, or driver partners, will be on the roads to meet the increased demand.

Ms Tammy Tan, group corporate communications officer for ComfortDelGro, whose fleet of more than 17,000 taxis accounts for close to 60 per cent of the market, says: "Our experience is that the supply of drivers will not plunge significantly during Chinese New Year. This is because not all Chinese drivers will take the day off."

For those who are thinking of hailing an Uber taxi, they should be prepared for surge pricing - where higher fares kick in during busy periods.

Although Mr Chan Park, 28, Uber's general manager for South- east Asia, expects that there will be "many thousands" of its driver partners on the roads, he does not rule out the possibility of surge pricing, which kicks in when demand in an area cannot be met by the number of drivers on the road in the vicinity.

The price increase, which typically lasts for a few minutes and is determined by demand in a specific location and time, encourages more drivers to become available or to drive to that area.

Mr Lim Kell Jay, 33, head of Grab Singapore - formerly known as GrabTaxi Singapore - says the company offers incentives for drivers to get them on the roads to meet passenger demand, but declines to share details.

During the first two days of Chinese New Year, buses and trains run as usual. For example, trains operate between 5.30am and about midnight.

But during the weekend before Chinese New Year, train and bus services will be extended.

For example, train services on the North-East and Downtown lines, as well as on the Sengkang and Punggol LRT systems, will be extended by close to two hours on Feb 7, the eve of Chinese New Year.

On the North-East Line, the last train towards HarbourFront will depart from Punggol at 1.33am.

On the East-West Line, the last train towards Pasir Ris will depart from Outram Park at 2.07am.

•Go to www.sbstransit.com.sg and www.smrt.com.sg for detailed information on the operating hours of buses and trains

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 31, 2016, with the headline 'Hassle-free ways to get around'. Print Edition | Subscribe