One card to rule them all: Must-have transportation cards in Asia
TRAVELING VIA PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION in a foreign country can be a very enriching experience. Besides, nothing spells “adventure” more than getting around like a local would. It is also usually easier on the wallet than car rentals or cabbing.
Most major cities in Asia have gone through a boom in transport infrastructure development and are well connected in the sense that there are options to take the train, subway, monorail, or bus, or a combination of two or more.
The ease of transportation provides for a spectrum of possibilities, especially when it connects travelers to the outskirts and allows them to take the road less traveled. For those who are planning to travel through Asia in the near future, here are some “one card to rule them all” stored-value smart cards that you will be needing for public transportation.
They make very good souvenirs that you can keep and remember your travels by, too!
Home to the second best transportation system after Hong Kong, the EZ-Link card is the first thing that you need to buy upon arrival in Singapore. The card is commonly used on the island for paying transportation fees in the city-state’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), Light Rail Transit (LRT), and public bus services. It also has limited use in the small payments retail sector and can even be used for payments in Singapore’s branches of McDonald’s.
Price: An adult EZ-Link card costs SG$12, inclusive of a SG$5 non-refundable card cost and a SG$7 card value. It can be bought at MRT stations or 7-Eleven outlets. If you’re lucky, you may be able to get your hands on some cute limited edition designs.
First-timers in Japan, especially Tokyo, will instantly discover that the map of its train lines looks like a spiderweb. And that’s because it is the main transportation system, often praised for its punctuality and safety. For ease of travel, getting a Suica card is highly recommended. It can be used for trains, buses, monorails, and the metro. In addition to the Tokyo area, the Suica can also be used for certain transportation systems in the Sendai and Niigata, Hokkaido, Tokai, West Japan and Kyushu areas, and on other card networks like Pasmo. It can also be used for purchases onboard trains as well as from vending machines, to rent coin lockers and for spending at convenience stores and restaurants.
Price: A new card costs JPY$2,000, which includes a JPY$500 deposit that will be refunded if the card is returned. It can be bought via ticket machines at any JR station.
Malaysia’s credit card-sized Touch ‘n Go can be used as a mode of payment for highways, public transportation, selected parking, retail and theme parks. It is the common cashless ticketing system for all rail (LRT, MRT, KTM, KLIA Express) and bus lines in Klang Valley, as well as all Rapid KL buses, Rapid Kuantan buses, and Panorama Melaka buses.
Price: A Touch ‘n Go card can be purchased at the price of RM10, without any loaded value. It can be bought at Touch ‘n Go Hubs, Touch ‘n Go SPOTs a selected petrol stations, Touch ‘n Go Sales Counters, or LRT stations.
The 悠遊卡, otherwise known as EasyCard, can be for payment on the Taipei Metro (also known as “Taipei MRT” or “Taipei Rapid Transit System”), buses, and other public transport services in Taipei. Having expanded to multiple places of business, its use has also since been expanded to include convenience stores, department stores, supermarkets, taxis, and other retailers.
Price: An adult EasyCard costs NT$500, inclusive of a NT$400 balance and NT$100 deposit. It can be bought at all MRT stations and convenience stores such as 7-Eleven or FamilyMart. Taiwan also occasionally release limited edition cards.
The T-money card can be used to pay for bus, subway and some taxi fares in and around Seoul and other places in South Korea such as (but not limited to) Gyeonggi-do, Incheon, Busan, Daegu, Daejeon, Jeju, Gangwon, and Gwangju. Like many other smart cards, T-money can also be used in lieu of cash or credit cards in some businesses. This includes stores and attractions including Seoul’s four palaces (except Gyeonghuigung), Lotte World amusement park, Kyobo Book Centre, GS 25, CU/FamilyMart and other selected convenience stores.
Price: A T-money card costs KRW2,500 to KRW4,000. T-money has also rolled out accessories such as watches, dolls, portable memory sicks, rings, bands, and small cards with a lanyard. It can be bought at convenience stores (GS25, CU, 7-Eleven, Ministop, With Me, Buy The Way, Story Way, etc.) or from ticket vending and card reload devices inside subway stations.
The multiple award-winning Octopus card system is the second contactless smart card in the world and was originally introduced for fare payment on the Mass Transit Railway (MTR). But it has since grown into a widely used payment system for all public transport in Hong Kong. The Octopus card has also grown to be used for payment in many retail shops in Hong Kong, from convenience stores, supermarkets, fast-food restaurants, on-street parking meters, car parks, to other point-of-sale applications such as service stations and vending machines.
Price: The standard “on-loan” Octopus card costs HK$150 and includes an initial HK$100 of credit plus a refundable HK$50 deposit. It can be bought at all MTR stations, including at the Airport Express station at Hong Kong International Airport.
There are no railways in Macau, but bus and taxi services serve as the primary means of public transportation in Macau. Buses are the best way to get around and if you’re planning on staying for a couple of days, it’s best to get the Macau Pass. The card can be used to pay for bus rides, and it will even you a 30-40 percent discount on the bus fare. These days, it is also accepted by vending machines, supermarkets, convenience stores, select F&B outlets, and other shopping and services.
Price: A Macau Pass for MOP$130, with MOP$100 value and MOP$30 deposit. It can be bought at the Trans Macau Office.