Travel to Singapore

Singapore is city-state and a parliamentary republic situated in Southeast Asia.

This island country, though densely populated is well known for its large expanses of green spaces, earning it the name of the Garden City. Fifty percent of Singapore’s area is occupied by green spaces. It has 50 major parks and 4 nature reserves. The remainder of Singapore is dominated by urban development, with the skyline boasting of many skyscrapers.

The city’s first name was ‘Singapura’ – meaning lion-city in Malay and it is from there, that the name Singapore was derived. It was established as a British trading colony in 1819 and presently is the world’s busiest trading port. The relatively young country, combines modernity with the cultural legacy of its different people- the Chinese, the Malay and the Indians.

With a year-round warm climate, a mouth-watering food-scene, vibrant nightlife, many shopping malls, lush green spaces and cultural opportunities, Singapore is a wonderful starting point for any foray into Southeast Asia.

Check out our guide for first-timers in Singapore.

Travel tips for Singapore

Haji market in Singapore

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Shopping in Singapore is a must! Here is the ultimate guide of where to shop in Singapore, from luxury malls and boutiques to street markets.

Visa Requirements for Singapore

People of the EU, Australia, USA, Switzerland, Norway and South Korea can enter Singapore without a visa and stay for up to 90 days. Nationals of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, India, Russia and Ukraine etc. can apply for an e-visa online.

However, certain countries, like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Libya and Saudi Arabia etc. will need to apply for a Singapore visa at an embassy or consulate in person. Please check the current guidelines for obtaining a Singapore visa online and check whether you qualify for a Singapore visa on arrival. When you enter Singapore you will have to fill in an immigration card, which you will have to carefully keep, to be presented when you leave.

Important Cultural Information

Culturally, Singaporeans are a mix of the West and the East. They have adopted many western customs but in certain contexts, are not as liberal as their western counterparts.

Men wearing shorts and women wearing revealing clothing is not frowned upon and open toed shoes are acceptable. Certain bars and upscale hotels may enforce some sort of dress code, however. Public displays of affection are not accepted along with nudity and toplessness on beaches.

Make way for people in a rush by standing on the left hand side of escalators. Singaporeans will not push or shove, but will wait in an orderly manner for people getting off trains.

It is a common practice to shake hands with someone rather than hugging or kissing someone on the cheek in greeting.

Removal of shoes before entering someone’s house is mandatory. This is also required at temples and many places of worship.

Banking & Money in Singapore

The currency used in Singapore is the Singapore Dollar (SGD). There are 100 cents to a dollar. The money that is in circulation includes the 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent coins, a dollar coin and 2, 5, 10, 50, 100, 1000 and 10000 dollar notes.

ATMs are found everywhere in Singapore. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted around town. There are booths, particularly in shopping malls that offer exchange of currency. Try to avoid currency exchange at the airport, where the rates will not be the best. There are a number of foreign banks operating in Singapore but a few of the local banks include Bank of Singapore, DBS Bank, OCBC Bank and United Overseas Bank.

Medical Emergency Information

The following numbers should be kept in mind for emergencies:

Ambulance: 995
Drug and Poison Information Centre: +65 6423 9119
Fire: 995
Police: 999
Singapore General Hospital: +65 6222 3322

Healthcare is of the highest standard in Singapore and Singapore is a popular destination for medical tourism.

Some private hospitals with Accident and Emergency Service include Raffles Hospital, Mount Elizabeth Hospital and Gleneagles Hospital. Some government hospitals with A&E facilities include Singapore General Hospital, National University Hospital and KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. Although healthcare is not free in Singapore, there can be significant savings on medical procedures at a government hospital versus a private one.

Sign up for travel insurance coverage for the entirety of your trip to Singapore – we recommended comparing the available options with World Nomads and Safety Wing.

Wi-Fi and Internet in Singapore

The major telecommunication service providers in Singapore are MobileOne, StarHub and SingTel. GSM 900/1800 and 3G/4G networks are offered by all three providers.

If you are able to bring your own unlocked 3G/GSM phone then just pop in an easily available prepaid SIM card and you are good to go. Prepaid SIMs are available at 7-Eleven stores, shops selling phones and even at currency exchange counters. SIMs with talktime and data can be expensive from the data using perspective. Using a data only SIM is a good idea.

There aren’t that many Internet cafes around Singapore but you may find a higher concentration in Little India and Chinatown. Public libraries do offer low-cost Internet service with a registration. Chains that provide free internet service include McDonalds, Coffee Bean cafes, Starbucks etc. Make sure to always use a VPN service (like ExpressVPN) when using free public Wi-Fi.

You can also get a Tourist SIM card online before arriving in Singapore – just pick it up at the airport. Buy it here (use this code – KLOOKGSS15 – for $25 dollars off).

Arrival in Singapore

Singapore is the largest hub for air travel in the whole of Southeast Asia. Singapore’s Changi International Airport (SIN) is the point of arrival in Singapore. Airlines in the budget sector flying in to Singapore are Scoot, Jetstar Asia and Tiger Airways. AirAsia and Firefly are also fly in from most locations in Asia. Flights from Europe, North America, Australia and South AFrica include networks operated by KLM, British Airways, Etihad and Emirates.

To get to the city centre from the airport you can avail of the affordable airport shuttle, taxi, limousine service, the subway or the bus. The airport shuttle will drop you off at any downtown hotel. The subway may be crowded and requires a transfer, mid-journey, to a city-bound train.

Search for available flights to Singapore on Expedia.

Singapore is linked to peninsular Malaysia via two established land routes: ‘The Causeway’ – from Woodlands to Johor Bahru and ‘The Second Link’ – between Tuas and Tanjung Kupang. It is possible to take a bus from Malaysian destinations in to Singapore, like redBus, KKKL, Aeroline, Transtar etc.

The Malayan Railway has a train service between Woodlands in Singapore and Johor Bahru. There is a ferry service between Singapore and Malaysia and the Riau Islands of Indonesia. The 5 ferry terminals in Singapore include Changi Point FT, Changi FT, Marina Bay Cruise Centre, HarbourFront FT and Tanah Merah FT.

Singapore is a popular layover destination. Here’s how to spend 48 hours in Singapore.

Areas of Singapore

Singapore can be divided into 5 Community Developmental Council Districts or CDCs. Each CDC has an appointed mayor and a managing council.

The 5 CDC’s are: Central Singapore CDC, North East CDC, North West CDC, South East CDC and South West CDC.

The city centre is located to the south and is made of mostly the Marina Bay Area, the Orchard Road shopping district, the Riverside and the financial district. Chinatown and Little India are small pieces of China and India that have been transplanted into Singapore. Little India is to be found north of the city centre.

Woodlands is a northern residential area of Singapore, also home to Singapore Zoo. Sentosa forms a separate island that was once a military fort that has now been developed into Singapore’s playground- with Universal Studios, many beaches and parks being part of it. The North East and the Tampines form additional residential parts of Singapore.

Transportation in Singapore

Given the compact size of the island country, it is possible to get about via taxi or the subway. It is not necessary to rent a car.

An EZ-link fare card will allow you to access the public transportation system seamlessly, with minimum expense. You can use it on MRT trains and city buses. The MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) and LRT (Light Rail Transit) are the main train transit routes in Singapore.

Different lines on the MRT system include the East West Line, North South Line, North East Line, Circle Line, Downtown Line, Thomson-East Coast Line, Jurong Region Line, Cross Island Line and more.

The city is well connected on the surface by buses but they are less convenient than the MRT. On the plus side, they do allow the visitor to see Singapore from the surface during the commute.

Taxis, though few in number, are reasonable priced and a good way to get around.

In Chinatown, you will see a three-wheeled bicycle called a trishaw.

Boats do cruise along the Singapore River and provide the opportunity to take in the Singapore skyline.

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Accommodations in Singapore

Accommodations in the budget, mid-range and luxury are all available in Singapore, although during peak season and popular events, rooms in the more lush hotels, are likely to be unavailable.

For budget accommodations, a traveler would be looking at paying under 100 dollars for a double room per night. Backpacking hostels and cheap hotels in the Geylang, Little India and Balestier districts fall in this category.

In the mid-range, fall the older hotels and newer boutique style hotels.

If you are looking to splurge, then look no further than the iconic Raffles Hotel (possibly the best place to stay in Singapore) where you might be looking upward of 300 dollars, for a night of rest and relaxation. Marina Bay and Orchard Road also have a high concentration of upscale hotels. The Grand Hyatt, Four Seasons, Fairmont and Shangri-La are all 5 star hotels in Singapore that deserve mention.

Whatever your budget, the question of where to stay in Singapore can always be satisfactorily answered. Check out the various options available on Agoda and HostelWorld (for more budget-friendly options).

Check out our guide of where to stay in Singapore.

Accommodations in Singapore

Luxury hotels in Singapore

Best Luxury Hotels in Singapore

If luxury is your thing, Singapore is your destination. Here is a list of the top luxury hotels in Singapore to stay in.
Where to stay in Singapore

Where to Stay in Singapore

Singapore is packed with awesome accommodation options. We've listed a few good options of where to stay in Singapore.

Food & Dining Guide for Singapore

Singapore is a country where people of different ethnicities have come together, naturally bringing along their varied cuisine. Hence, in a single location it is possible to sample Chinese, Malay, Indian, Thai, Japanese, Italian, French and American cuisine. Naturally, over time, these cuisines have undergone modification, resulting in some cases, in a fusion style cuisine or even original dishes.

Some Malay dishes to try include Nasi lemak (rice in coconut milk with anchovy, peanut and chili accompaniments often with fried fish or chicken on the side), satay (barbecued meat skewers), Mee rebus (egg noodles in gravy with hard boiled egg) and Mee Soto (chicken soup with egg noodles).

Indian dishes include the modified roti prata (local version of flatbread paratha), roti telur (same as previous with egg), chicken tikka masala,  nasi biryani (a yellow, low-spice variation of the Hyderabadi original), fish head curry and more.

The Chinese dishes commonly found in Singapore have origins in the Fujian and Guangdong regions. Hainanese chicken rice, fishball noodles, prawn mee and pork rib soup are dishes to sample. The most affordable places to eat are the laid back, casual hawker centres.

Check out some of the best seafood restaurants in Singapore.

Food eating etiquette widely varies, ranging from the chopstick wielding skills of the Chinese and the Malay and Indian people using their hands.

Singapore’s Attractions

There’s plenty to see and do on your Singapore holiday and it can be a wonderful destination as there are a number of things to do in Singapore with kids, along with many affordable things to do in Singapore (though, not always so easy to find).

The Singapore Botanic Gardens boasts of more than 1000 species of orchids on display, treehouses for children to play, a farm, a rainforest and the historic Tanglin Gate. When in Singapore, you simply must meet the iconic 28-foot Merlion statue – a hybrid lion-fish creature. This photo-worthy structure shoots water in to the bay.

The Esplanade- Theatres on the Bay is a beautiful arts venue, which is capable of hosting parallel arts performances in its many spaces. The venue’s spiky dome resembles a durian fruit.

Sentosa Island, is host to a number of tourist attractions- the beach, Universal Studios, The Aquarium and an adventure park. This large island resort, south of Singapore, makes for a nice day out.

Singapore Zoo, one of the best in the world, is a must-see for families with children. Primate Kingdom, The Elephants of Asia, animal shows, tours and safaris are just some of the things you can indulge in when visiting.

Lastly, Gardens by the Bay is the closest you will come to an actual urban jungle. It features a stunning Supertree Grove and a Skyway that provides views of the surrounding gardens. The Flower Dome and Cloud Forest are also features in the Gardens, not to be missed.

You might want to have a Singapore tour guide but given the friendliness of the city to foreign tourists, trip planning by yourself should be a breeze.

Depending on how much you want to see, you might find it fruitful to look into a Singapore tourist pass, which will help you to save.

Things to do & see in Singapore

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Shopping in Singapore

Shopping in Singapore tends towards a higher-end price range.

Batik textiles, porcelain, Merlion statuettes (Merlion is the official mascot of Singapore), RISIS Orchids, Malay jewellery and snack items like barbecued pork, kaya (coconut jam) and laksa paste are popular souvenir items from Singapore.

Don’t forget to carry home a bottle of tiger balm to alleviate those sudden headaches.

RISIS Orchids were created when a talented Singapore chemist came up with the brilliant idea of preserving orchids in a coat of copper, nickel and 24-carat gold. The orchids have a number of purposes- as pen holders or brooches and are available at RISIS outlets at Suntec City Mall or Centrepoint Shopping Centre.

Singapore has a conglomeration of fantastic shopping malls – some with stunning architecture. ION Orchard, Paragon Shopping Centre, Knightsbridge Mall, Mandarin Gallery and Suntec City Mall are all places to visit.

Nightlife

Though the ‘Lion City’ has an earnest, business like attitude during the day, it certainly knows how to enjoy itself and party when the sun goes down. There are many things to do in Singapore at night.

To enjoy a cocktail at a bar or to visit a nightclub there are certain key areas in the centre of town that should be visited – around Orchard Road and Clarke Quay. Clarke Quay has a great location near water and many, many bars and restaurants. Some have alfresco dining and live music.

The light show at Marina Bay Sands is an obvious draw along with a number of rooftop bars with great views of the Singapore skyline, like the Altitude Bar.

Orchard Road along with its malls has a number of bars and pubs and is one of the key Singapore tourist spot.

Sentosa Beach is home to a number of beach-bars. Do visit the futuristic ‘Gardens by the Bay’, which lights up magically at night into a light-filled wonderland with 50 metre illuminated trees. The free show starts at 8pm each night.

Safety Tips for Singapore

Singapore is one of the safest cities in the world with a very low crime rate.

It is safe to walk about late at night for women, avoiding of course red light areas.

Law enforcement is extremely strict. Spitting, chewing gum, littering and drinking/eating in public areas is strictly prohibited resulting in fines and even ‘corrective work orders’ (picking up litter).

Possession of drugs can result in 10 years jail or a very high fine or even both. Murder, rape, molestation, kidnapping etc. are subject to the death penalty.

Conclusion

With its medley of skyscrapers, its innumerable green spaces and bustling atmosphere, Singapore is a global city that fruitfully combines Western infrastructure with Eastern cultural influences.

Singapore is home to the Chinese, Malay, Indians and many more ethnic communities. What they have created in Singapore is a melting pot of different cultures and religions, who live in relative peace and harmony. This fusion is evident in the cuisine. Many of the traditional recipes have undergone change.

Singapore is a relatively new country but with its prosperity, tax friendly status, development and its claim to being the busiest port in the world, it has attracted people from all around the world, who now call Singapore home. Visitors flock to Singapore for the good food, the warm climate, the shopping opportunities, the beaches, the cultural milieu, the nightlife and so much more. Singapore now hosts the F1 Singapore Grand Prix, which has become a fixture on the local calendar.

Singapore is expensive by Asian standards so it may not be the ideal backpacking retreat. However, a few days to take in and appreciate certain key aspects of the city, should be on every Southeast Asian and Singapore itinerary.

If you are looking to splurge, you will definitely find a wealth of experiences and value for money in Singapore. A swig of the national cocktail, the Singapore Sling, at the Long Bar of the historic Raffles Hotel, where celebrities such as Somerset Maugham, whiled away their time, makes for a memorable Singapore experience.

Travel tips for Singapore

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