Vehicle Type – Car or Mini-bus
The two most common forms of transport would take shape in the form of a Car or a Mini-bus. Most anglers typically form a group of 4 to 6 pax (for a fishing charter). While the Mini-bus should generally be cheaper (due to Diesel fuel), the difference is that you have to get down at the causeway (be it Woodlands or Tuas) and lug your items across to the immigration counters and back to the vehicle. While this may be acceptable if you have young, strong chaps or little equipment, it can be quite a physical exercise if you have lots of fishing equipment like fishing rods, tackle boxes and iceboxes. Worse still, if your fishing trip is productive, you’re going to have to lug full iceboxes. This isn’t the problem for cars since there is no need to get down – you clear immigration customs at the immigration booths directly. Most transport operators use MPVs which can sit 5 to 6 pax so my personal recommendation would be to always go for the car.
Vehicle Registration and Nationality of Driver
This may be a point that most overlook but I would always recommend Singaporean drivers and vehicles for practical and safety reasons. Singaporean drivers are usually more reliable because of a few reasons – they know roughly where you stay when you tell them, they are quite flexible with the pickups, schedule and so on (no need to give them extra money for additional pickups or programme add-ons).
The most important reason though, would be the credibility of the Singaporean driver and his vehicle registration. In the past, during a trip to Ah Fatt Kelong, the Malaysian Mini-bus driver told me he wasn’t licensed to do transport services and as a result, all of us had to meet him at an alternate location after clearing the immigration customs. We had to walk quite a distance and most of us were wary as we had all our fishing gear in the bus! I’ve also heard stories of Malaysian drivers having past criminal records (additional waiting time at customs) and drugs/tobacco/illegal items smuggling is a real thing these days so you don’t want to get caught with contraband cigarettes smuggled in by the driver when you come back to Singapore! I’m not saying that Singaporean drivers are more law abiding but generally, your heart feels more at ease when traveling with a fellow Singaporean.
Besides, Singaporean drivers also speak English or Chinese (Malaysian Malay drivers don’t and I do have problems communicating with them) and love food a lot so we usually go to the best eating places for our stopover meals!
Car and Travel Insurance
The organizer of the trip should always ensure and check with the transport operator about the availability of car and travel insurance (and that extent of it to – for example, what does it cover? Theft? Accidents?). This is very important if you are travelling on the road. I’ve been to Malaysia about fifty times to do fishing and I’ve had two accidents – one involved a car upside down in a drain and another involved a collision with a wild boar. You don’t want to get into ugly incidents when shit happens and there’s no insurance to back you up! Very often, reliable and decent transport operators get their vehicles insured to protect themselves. Personal travel insurance is also recommended for the individual passenger.
Plan your route well
Most Singaporean transport operators will do this for you and will advise you on pick up locations depending on the passenger’s drop off point but it’s always good to also check if the plan is good. Singapore is pretty small but if you have passengers staying far away from each other (and it’s a door to door pickup), the schedule often stretches as well. For our previous 1 day Sibu fishing trip with Engler’s charter, the first pick up point was at 3.30am. Timings are also a key consideration in the reverse – for those that stay in the East, they are often the last to drop off (Can be pretty late) so do treat them nice and buy them a drink! If the locations of the passengers are really very complicated and/or diverse, it is recommended to set up a joint pick up location at a convenient location (nearby MRT) so you can save time and waiting.
Facilities and special services
Anglers are really spoilt when it comes to customer service and facilities. While you might only think of the transport as a means to get to your fishing location, you should also know what your transport operator provides. Most Singaporean transport operators provide a full spectrum of services such as trip planning and booking such as booking the fishing charter, fishing accommodation and even advising you on fishing tackle. Although these services are usually provided at an extra cost, I find that it’s really worth it as you ride on the experience of these transport operators and their fishing contacts.
Also consider the special services that the transport operators provide because not all transport operators just provide a normal vehicle for your fishing trips. The vehicle must have special storage meant for anglers and this means overhanging storage for fishing rods, enough space in the boot for icebox. My time on Engler’s Charter brought me to a whole new level because he offered free Wi-Fi and even had a mini fridge for drinks in the vehicle!
See what I mean?
Nigel may not be the most enthusiastic fishing professional out there but he certainly has his views. While he is not a qualified academic, he is an environment enthusiast with a particular interest in sustainable fishing, urban farming and climate issues. He has been featured in the media for a few fishing related cover stories and articles.