Keinian ideals – Costs of living in Melbourne (versus Singapore) part 3: Transport

Back after a long, long interval. Let’s continue looking things over shall we?

The focus of this post: transportation, also a very important part of our lives. How much difference is there in the transport systems available?

*Disclaimer: all of the below are my opinion, and do not form any basis for factual arguments – I’m not writing a university research paper that requires substantiation and quotes. Feel free to disagree and ignore this post if you do feel like it.

Private transport

Singapore
It would be fair to say that cars are a luxury for the average Singaporean. Consider the following:

  • With the Certificate of Entitlement (COE) inflating prices of the vehicle,
  • Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantries springing up all over the island like mushrooms after the rain – you might be able to avoid it if you do not have to enter the city at all,
  • The ever-present vehicle maintenance costs,
  • And a compulsory ten-year lifespan before the cars are sent to the scrap heap. Safety hazard, or a need to reduce to vehicles on the road? I’m not sure either.

Suffice it to say that you would probably sink a good deal of your salary towards the car repayments/maintenance/fixed costs, if you are the average Singaporean. And by average, I would be saying something like $2,800 per month, or even less. Not everyone is a university graduate, and blue-collar wages are not what we would call attractive. (We’ll talk about wages in the next post.)

A cheaper alternative: you could rely on scooters or motorbikes to get around, which would save a considerable amount on maintenance and petrol.

Australia
It’s a pretty big place, and cars are a pretty common (or even a vital) facet of everyday transportation. The suburbs are pretty large, and driving a car is a matter of convenience over here. I’m not a car buff for sure, but IMO cars are definitely more affordable over here. Points for consideration versus the SG environment:

  • There’s no COE, period.
  • Electronic pricing gantries exist on the highways, but there are freeways (yes, free aka you don’t pay) that offer access to the city.
  • Vehicle maintenance costs exist, and probably would be cheaper if you know how to do it yourself; human labor costs are much higher in Australia after all.
  • No lifespan limit on the vehicles; I have seen twenty year-old vintage cars chugging along the road without exploding into spare parts.

So you are pretty free to get a used vehicle at an affordable price if you’re running on a tight budget; vehicles on a range of prices, and in varying states of use of course.

And yes, motorcycles and scooters are readily available for purchase. I have no idea on the price differences in this area, but judging from the prices I have seen on the store windows: it seems like the bikes are pricier here.

Or try cycling to work – I know this guy who actually cycles 40km to work everyday. Now that’s what I call fitness.

Public transport

Singapore
The Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) and bus services (SBS Transit and SMRT Buses) form the backbone of public transport.

The result? Peak hour = crowded trains and crowded buses. People are packed inside like sardines in a can, for lack of a better description. Stuffy, and all too uncomfortable.

This is a personal perspective: in my years of taking the MRT I usually end up standing more often than not. Either the train’s too crowded, or there are other people who need the seat more than I do. This is fine of course, but being younger does not mean you do not get tired from standing.

Buses cover the island more extensively, and while the bus stands out as an easier way to get to your destination with less walking involved versus the MRT, it doesn’t mean it’s the miracle cure to all your transport woes. Buses are by nature erratic in their schedules, which means happy waiting. And what if you fall asleep? Missing a stop often means a long way to walk.
(You can probably tell that I don’t like buses very much, and that’s the bloody truth.)

Fare system: Singapore uses the EZ-Link system, which offers seamless payment across the train and bus networks. Passengers use a magnetic card that is tapped on a reader upon alighting. This deducts the maximum fare of the journey from your card, and the correct amount is credited back into the card when you tap the card reader before getting off. No freebies, unless you can actually “forget” about tapping the card altogether.

Taxis are available, but prices have risen and are no longer as affordable as they were a year ago.

Quoted from shenando:

“$2.80 + $0.30 (diesel surcharge). 385m go up $0.20 or every 30 seconds, peak period = 35% extra”

And yep, taxis have ERP surcharges too.

Conclusion: public transport is a bitch.

Melbourne
Victorian public transport consists of four elements:

  • Trains: similar to what the MRT offers, with more seats. Trains come more or less on time, which is not a bad thing.
  • Trams: my absolute love when it comes to short-distance public transport. Arrives on time according to the timetable. Moves in straight lines along the main roads most of the time, does not fcuk you up too much even after missing a couple of stops. Walking back 500m is greatly preferred to “oh shit was I supposed to turn left here?” Steady motion with minimal jerking, great for short naps.
  • Buses: Air-conditioned, pretty similar to the buses in Singapore but I haven’t seen any double-decker ones around so far. Taken the bus twice since I came here, and it’s been fifteen months. I still dislike buses.
  • Taxis: Taxis are an absolute killer here, which is why most people have their own cars. Expect fares to cost up to twice of Singapore’s cab fares. And Sydney’s much worse.

The one thing that I like are the timetables on the tram and bus stops; they are usually pretty accurate, which wins Singapore buses hands down. The Metlink Melbourne website timetables are a blessing too, I have relied on them for most of my travels around. Singapore, ahh. I remembered the good old days, like the time when I saw three buses (same service number!) trundle off one after another, leaving me in their wake. And this probably isn’t too surprising, but it was a good forty-five minutes before the next one came.

Fare system: Melbourne uses Metlink Metcards, which is a pretty interesting system. The state is separated into two zones, Zone 1 and Zone 2. Fare prices increase if you travel from one zone to the other. Cards are valid based on time rather than the distance or number of stops. So if I had a 2-hour ticket, it would be valid for the entire two hours, regardless of the number of trips made.

Tickets can be purchased with a variety of options, ranging from 2-hour to daily to weekly/monthly/yearly even. And there’s stuff like 2-hour x 10 tickets, 5 x weekend tickets which offer bulk purchases in a single card. Much more convenient, I’d say.

Drawbacks? The Metlink tickets are actually paper with magnetic strips so.. kill yourself if the ticket gets into the laundry. More so if your ticket happened to be a yearly ticket.

Travel tips:

  • Connex inspectors ambush the trains and trams every so often, so try not to “forget” about validating your ticket. Getting slapped with a hefty fine is definitely not the way to save money. And running away would not be a good idea because the inspectors come in teams of four. As usual, do it only if you’re confident about not getting caught.
  • Metlink Melbourne + Google Maps = easy travel. It’s usually much easier to pinpoint the location when you know the numbers are in sequence.
  • Odd-numbered buildings are on the left, even numbers are on the right of the road.
    Edit: Stand corrected by Honda (retarded me) – Odd left, right even or vice versa, depending on whether you’re going up or down the road.
  • If you have got a car, having a GPS unit would be a good idea. Having a copy of the Melways in your car would be an even better idea.

Summary: no real summary As requested by Meow in the comment section.

The obvious conclusion? Public transport in Melbourne is pricier but way more predictable and less packed than SG. Private transport is affordable, period.

And yes, this is just food for thought yet again. More to come in the next post.

Keinian ideals – Costs of living in Melbourne (versus Singapore) part 2: Accomodation

In this post, we visit an integral component of our lives: our homes.

Most of us live in a HDB flat (read: public housing) in Singapore, and married couples (usually) apply for their own little domestic haven eventually. For the sake of privacy (read: recreational physical activities without your in-laws wondering what that rhythmic thumping noise was), if nothing else. Now that didn’t come out too well did it? Hecks.

Disclaimer: I am merely doing a comparison of numbers, so please leave the AUD/SGD exchange rate out of it. You earn SGD, you spend SGD. Same thing goes for AUD; you don’t earn AUD and spend SGD in Australia do you?

Rental:

Unlike Singapore, a lot of people (that includes me) rent apartments, which is actually private housing. That’s part of the downside of not having a family to lean on, but it’s fun since you get to have your own pad sooner. Like Singapore, rental prices are cutthroat, especially in the city. What’s different is that it is actually possible to stay in the city and not die from bankruptcy; let’s not go into the details of possible moolah you would have to fork out for an apartment in Orchard Road.

I am currently staying in a 2-bedroom apartment of approximately 64 square metres, at a rental rate of $1,600 per month. It’s reasonably located in the city, and a pretty good deal to boot. The only downside’s that the apartment does not come with a carpark (damn). On the average, rental costs for 2-bedroom apartments in Melbourne are either similar or higher to what I pay. And yes, the prices are *still* rising. Unfortunately, Melbourne city apartments are always competitively priced, and Sydney is much worse, judging from the rates I saw on my last visit there.

I haven’t actually asked about rental accomodation in Orchard Road or City Hall, but it is pretty logical to hazard a guess that $1,600 would not cover the rent, Singapore’s real estate being limited and all.

Purchase:

Quoting from HDB Infoweb, a new HDB 5-room flat in Clementi would cost about $478,000. That would be a possible floor area of 110 square metres, and you would be entitled to a lease of 99 years.

We should take into account the fact that people like us probably wouldn’t live beyond (99+current age) years, but it’s always comforting to know that your kids could stay in the same place without buying a new one if they wanted to.

The below statistics were taken from a search off realestate.com.au, incase you were curious.

A 2-bedroom apartment in my building would cost something like $440,000, with a possible floor area of 65 square metres. And it would count as a freeholding up to the point when the building collapses or something.

Alternatively, we could consider a 2-bedroom house in a suburb close to Melbourne city e.g. Fitzroy North, which would work out to something like $650,000 (land plus house). The floor area would be about 135 square metres, which would trash the HDB flat outright in this area. And yes, it would be a freeholding too.

And of course, location defines the price. The further we head out, the cheaper it gets.

Over at Bundoora (approximately 40 mins’ drive from city), a 3-bedroom house would cost about $350,000 or so. I couldn’t get the floor area because the listings did not show any, but an estimate would be 130 square metres and above.

Aside from actually judging on the amounts we have to fork out on buying the house, we probably have to consider our financing options too.

CPF/Superannuation financing:

In Singapore, we get to utilise our CPF as a part of the downpayment. No such rule goes for Australia’s superannuation fund (we call it CPF); it’s untouchable. Good or bad, you decide for yourself.

Bank loans:

Disclaimer: I am not trying to perform an indepth analysis of all banks in Australia so that we could have a look at the cheapest repayment rates, so keep that in mind.

Australia

Singapore

  • POSB’s Home Ideal First offers an interest rate pegged to the CPF rate, which would be about 2.5% for now.
  • UOB offers a rate of about 3.50% p.a.; it’s a little variable but I couldn’t be fcuked to write that much.

We can probably conclude that buying a place of your own in Australia isn’t as affordable as Singapore, but of course the benefit of having a freehold affects the equation. I’ll think about the next topic to discuss, and leave these as food for thought.

Keinian ideals – Costs of living in Melbourne (versus Singapore) part 1: Taxes

I came across this post by mrbiao, titled Analysis on Canada vs Singapore, again (Day 94 in Vancouver). His post raised quite a few relevant points that could have just applied to Australia as well as Canada.

This is probably the most popular question that friends endup asking. “Australia tax so high, good meh?”

Income tax: Australian’s income tax is of course much higher than Singapore’s.
If we were to take an average Singaporean university grad’s income, say $3,000 per month so that’s $36,000 per year.

Australia – Using the simple tax calculator, we end up paying AUD$6,150, or about 17.08%. This is a rough figure, refer to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) for more details.

Singapore – If we refer to the tax rates found on the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) website, we end up paying SGD$680, or about 1.89%. Note that there might be other possible reliefs like NSMan, insurance, charity etc.

Goods and Services Tax (GST): Australia does 10%, with Singapore holding at 7% for now.

This seems to be a pretty clear-cut case isn’t it? If we are judging from the numbers alone, why the fcuk would people want to leave Singapore for Australia? Or anywhere else for that matter?

Logically, we should conclude that other pull factors exist in the picture. I’ll do my best to write about some in a later post, so keep an eye open for now.