Singapore Travel Guide
A global commerce and finance hub, Singapore is paving the way for the future. Founded as a British trading colony in 1819, the country gained its independence in 1965 and has since transformed itself into a prosperous and thriving nation. Often referred to as one of the safest and cleanest places in the world, this city-state ranks quite high on today's list of most popular travel destinations.
With an aesthetic medley of open spaces and green high rises - think plant covered buildings and rooftop gardens - Singapore offers a breath of fresh air.
Colorful neighborhoods, delicious fusion food, historic temples, exciting wildlife reserves, luxurious shopping malls - it’s no wonder millions of people are flocking to this island nation each year. A melting pot of culture, Singapore’s diversity is a huge part of what makes it so incredible. From ethnic enclaves, each with its own traditions, to shiny skyscrapers that soar in the skyline, the city boasts an enticing blend of old and new.
Top 10 Things To Do in Singapore
When to visit
Situated just north of the equator, Singapore boasts a tropical rainforest climate with no distinctive seasons. The weather remains pretty consistent year round, with average temperatures ranging from 75°F to 87°F. High humidity and abundant rainfall can be expected regardless of what month you visit; however, there is a monsoon season from November to January that is a bit wetter than the rest of the year. While there’s no dry season per se, May, June and July get slightly less rainfall. June and July are also the hottest months and tend to have hazy skies.
Best time to go and insider tips for planning your visit
With relatively uniform weather throughout the year, it’s always a good time to visit Singapore. Winter typically sees the most tourist traffic, being a popular time for people to take off for the holidays. Chinese New Year, one of the nation’s most popular holidays, also attracts a fair amount of visitors.
Off season falls around late summer, early fall. But Singapore gets a fair amount of business travelers year round, so don’t expect prices to drop during this time as they do in other destinations during low season.
No matter when you visit, be prepared for hot and humid weather. Drink plenty of water throughout your stay to avoid dehydration and swelling of the fingers, hands, legs and feet - common, yet easily avoidable side effects of high humidity. Showers are usually short lived, but they can come by surprise. To make sure you’re always prepared, keep a pair of sunglasses, as well as an umbrella, with you at all times when you’re roaming around outdoors.
How to Save Money in Singapore
In comparison to its neighbouring countries, prices in Singapore are more on par with European and North American standards. With that being said, there are a ton of ways to save money while traveling through the city-state.
Try these tips and hacks to cut costs, while still enjoying the best of Singapore.
1. Use the MRT
Singapore’s MRT (subway) is the most efficient and cheapest way to get around the island. It’s also very punctual and exceptionally clean. Base fares start at S$1 (about $0.74). Maps showing the surrounding area are printed on the walls in MRT stations, making it extremely easy to use unlike other subway systems.
2. Avoid traveling during National Holidays
Especially during Chinese New Year (Jan/Feb), prices for hotels, transport and other visitor-related activities skyrocket. It’s definitely a great opportunity to take in the nation’s culture, but if you’re on a budget, you might want to consider planning around these dates.
3. Take advantage of Happy Hour
There a ton of great places to grab a drink in Singapore; but the city’s nightlife hotspots can come at a cost. If you’re on a budget, timing your cocktail time for Happy Hour will help minimize the damage on your wallet. Be sure to try the famed Singapore Sling - the island’s beloved gin cocktail.
Language: English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil
Country Code: +65
Time zone: GMT +8
Electric: Plug Type G (230V/50hz)
Currency: Singapore Dollars (SGD or S$)
Citizens of most countries can get a 90-day visa on arrival, so long as your passport is valid for at least 6 months from the day you enter. Citizens of India, Myanmar, Armenia, Russia and several other countries will need to obtain a visa prior to arriving.
In addition to the standard banned items, it is prohibited to bring in pornographic materials, CDs, DVDs, software or certain religious materials. For more information on customs regulations, you can refer to Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs page.
ATMs and money changers are widely available throughout the city. Most establishments (hotel, shops and restaurants) accept credit cards. You can refer here for the daily SGD exchange rate.
Approximate Daily Budget
Budget - S$56 ($41)
Midrange - S$149 ($110)
Luxury - S$414 ($305)
Check out these tools to help you further budget your Singapore trip.
It is not customary to tip in Singapore. Most restaurants will automatically add a 10% service charge to the bill that goes directly to the staff. If you feel that your server did an exceptional job, you can add an extra 5%. Likewise, cab drivers won’t expect a tip. However, if you’re happy with your driver, it’s always nice to round up when paying your fare.
Holidays and Events to Time Your Trip For
Chinese New Year
The dates change each year but always fall in January or February.
What to expect
Nearly 70% of Singapore’s population are Chinese, and even those who aren’t look forward to this festive holiday. The streets come alive with parades, lights, red lanterns, traditional dances and more. It’s a wonderful opportunity to feel the life and spirit of Singapore.
Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix
What to expect
The Singapore Grand Prix is a motor race on the calendar of the FIA Formula One World Championship. The first street circuit in Asia for F1 races, the Singapore Grand Prix had its debut race in 1961. The event now takes place each year on the Marina Bay Street Circuit. A range of music concerts and other events take place before the race, adding to the fun of the occasion.
Over 40 percent of Singapore’s residents are born abroad, making it a wonderful melting pot of culture. Considered the most religiously diverse country in the world, it’s more than likely you’ll find yourself amidst a mosque, temple and church all within a half mile radius of one another. Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Taosim are among the predominant religions. There are numerous holidays, events, and festivals held throughout the year. Chinese New Year and Thaipusam, a Hindu Festival, are popular, as well as Vesak Day, a Buddhist holiday. Timing your visit with one of these holidays would certainly promise an unforgettable experience.
There are a few cultural rules/norms you should try your best to practice while traveling through the country. Most people associate the left hand with the bathroom, so try to greet, wave or eat with your right hand. Also refrain from touching people's heads in social situations, as some cultures consider that area to be sacred.
Despite its strong Asian ties, English is very much a part of the culture in Singapore. The country used to be a British colony, and while the Brits are long gone, English remains the national language and is also considered to be the country's working language. Tamil, Malay and Chinese are also commonly spoken. Typical Singaporeans know two languages: English and the language of their ancestors.
What to Eat
From Michelin Star restaurants to drool worthy hawker centers, Singapore teems with exquisite fusion food. One of Anthony Bourdain's favorite destinations, it's a haven for hungry foodies.
Be sure to add these must-have dishes to your Singapore bucket list.
A popular noodle dish showcasing a blend of Chinese and Malay flavors, Laksa consists of rice noodles (rice vermicelli) served in a spicy soup with either chicken, prawns or fish. There are many different types of Laksa. One popular version uses a spicy coconut milk based broth while others go for a more sour flavor. There’s usually always a wide array of toppings, such as chili, coriander and cooked cockles, that you can add at your discretion.
2. Hokkien Mee
The Singaporean version of Hokkien Mee gets its influence from China’s Fujian province. It consists of egg noodles and rice noodles stir-fried with egg, slices of pork, prawns and squid. Served and garnished with bean sprouts, other vegetables, sambal sauce and fresh lime, Hokkien Mee is a hawker stall specialty.
3. Chilli Crab
Considered one of the country’s ‘national dishes’, chili crab is every bit worth getting your hands a little dirty for. Hard-shell crabs are steamed and cooked in a semi-thick gravy consisting of a chili base. Despite the name, they actually aren’t that spicy, but rather full of flavor.
4. Chicken Rice
This local favorite consists of boiled chicken served over rice. While it may sound simple, the flavor and aroma is absolutely to die for. The chicken stock in which the rice is cooked in is by far the star of this dish. Each restaurant or stall will have their own special recipe.
5. Chai Tow Kway
More of a snack than a meal, this rice flour cake is greasy, gooey and delicious. Contrary to its popular nickname, ‘carrot cake’, it doesn’t actually contain any carrots. Chai tow kway is, however, made with daikon radish, which in Chinese dialects is referred to by the same word used for carrots.
This list only scratches the surface of the nation’s dishes. You can easily discover tons of other tantalizing options by roaming through the 100+ food stalls at the Maxwell Food Centre, one of Singapore’s most popular hawker enclaves; or, head to Little India and Chinatown to get your fix of Indian and Chinese food. For more must-eat dishes and where to find them, check out this Singapore food guide. If you’re looking for sit-down restaurant, we suggest you book a table if you plan on dining during busy meal hours.
Getting Around in Singapore
Singapore is the easiest city in Asia to get around. The island’s world-class international airport is located just a little over 12 miles (20km) from the city center. The cheapest way to travel from the airport to downtown Singapore is by MRT or bus. It will take you about an hour and costs around S$1.50 ($1.25). Both options are clean and safe. There’s also an airport shuttle that runs to and from the downtown area 24 hours, 7 days a week. An adult ticket costs $9 and a child’s ticket $6. A taxi will take around 25 minutes and will cost you around S$30.
Once you’ve made it to the center, exploring the city by foot is very possible in conjunction with the convenient MRT. You can get a credit-card-sized electronic EZ-Link card at any MRT station. Valid on both subway trains and local buses, it’s super easy to reload your card's credit as needed at any station. Maps showing the surrounding area are printed on the walls in MRT stations as well, so you’ll have no trouble locating where you are or deciding where you need to go. The MRT runs daily from 5:30am to midnight; buses operate between 6am and midnight. There are quite a few handy (and free) transportation apps to help you navigate Singapore. If you simply need to figure out the best way to get from one point to another, gothere.sg provides you with public transport options as well as an estimated taxi fare.
If you prefer to travel by cab, taxis are readily available and can be hailed down from the street. All drivers honor the meter so you don’t have to worry about negotiating a price. Do note that the fare will go up between midnight to 6am. When it rains, it can be a little difficult to find an empty taxi, so try and plan accordingly. Uber is also becoming more and more popular in Singapore.
Flights to Singapore
For the fifth year in a row, Singapore’s Changi Airport has taken home the award for Best Airport in the World for 2017. A little over 12 miles from the city’s business center, Changi Airport serves as a major hub for travel to all corners of the globe. It boasts impressive architecture, teems with luxurious shopping and spa facilities, offers free internet and even has a swimming pool.
Serviced by both full-service and budget airlines, you can find great deals on flights to Singapore via sites like SkyScanner, Expedia and Momondo . With great international connections, it’s also convenient to plan a layover visit to Singapore while you’re traveling elsewhere in Asia.
There are trains and buses that regularly travel between Malaysia and Thailand. The prices are very affordable and offer some incredible sightseeing along the way.
Hotels in Singapore
Hotels are spread out just about everywhere on the island. With that being said, each area caters to specific travelers. Sentosa is great for families, Little India is perfect for backpackers and Orchard Road is excellent for those looking to shop while in Singapore. To get you started, refer to the suggested areas below depending on your desired price range.
Budget: Chinatown, Little India, Lavender Street and Arab Street
Mid-Range: Bras Basah Road to Rochor Road
Upscale: Marina Bay, Orchard Road and Sentosa Island