Singapore is a unique destination in Southeast Asia: futuristic, modern and multicultural. These are some of the words that best describe this country/city. Some people find it boring, superficial, expensive but I think there are many reasons why you should visit Singapore.
Singapore is a group of Islands which is city and country at the same time. It is the smallest country in Southeast Asia and also one of the most expensive. This modern city leaves you speechless with its surreal gardens, its modern architecture and its order.
At times Singapore doesn’t feels like Asia at all. If you’ve been to Thailand or Cambodia, visiting Singapore will be like traveling to the future!
How to get to Singapore
If you’re travelling around Southeast Asia, the best way to get to Singapore is by plane. There are several low cost airlines that have flights to Singapore, some of them are: Jet Star, Tiger Airways, y Lion Air. As usual, I recommend to book flights via skyscanner.
Flights arrive to Changi Airport which is one of the greatest airports in the world. From there you can take different transports to get to the city centre:
- Taxi: An expensive option but also convenient if you’re travelling with a group of people. The cost of a journey from the airport to the city center is around $20/30 SGD.
- MRT: Changi airport is well connected to the city center by MRT, the metro system in Singapore. The journey lasts 30 minutes and it costs $2 SGD.
- Bus: Another cheap option is to take bus number 36 which takes you to Singapore center. The journey lasts 1 hour and costs $2 SGD.
- Private Transfer: The best option if you’re travelling in group or have many suitcases. This private transfer can carry up to 13 passengers and takes you to the city center in 30 minutes.
Laws in Singapore
Singapore is the cleanest and tidiest city I’ve ever been (so far). The reason why the city remains clean and tidy is because of the strict laws imposed.
These are some of the prohibitions: Chewing gum, spitting, feeding pigeons, not flushing a public toilet, carrying durian (fruit with awful smell) in the subway, etc. If you break a law, it can lead to imprisonment or big fines. Drug Trafficking is punished by death and spanking is a legal form of punishment. It is not surprising that Singapore is one of the countries with the lowest crime rates in the world. This makes it a safe destination for travellers.
Even with its strict laws, Singapore is one of the countries with the best quality of life and one of the most popular countries among expats. The mix of cultures and people make it a very interesting place to visit and this is the thing I liked the most about Singapore. Within the same city you can find the colorful neighborhood of Little India, Kampong Glam (Arab quarter) with its beautiful mosque and Chinatown, of course. Different cultures and religions living under the same flag.
Language: the four official languages of Singapore are Malay, Mandarin, Tamil, and English.
Costs of visiting Singapore
It is true that Singapore is much more expensive than other cities in Southeast Asia. You will notice this mainly in accommodation prices, which are much higher. I suggest you book your hotel with time to find good prices. If you’re with a partner or group,you will always get good deals through Airbnb (if you register through this link you’ll get $40 usd).
-A taxi from the airport to the city centre should cost around $20 (SGD) = $15 USD.
-As for food, it is still relatively cheap. In the hawker centers (food courts), you can get a plate for between 2 and 6 SGD (between $1.5 and $4.5 usd).
Transport in Singapore
The city centre is connected by MRT (mass rapid transit) system. As the city, Singapore’s public transport system efficient, clean and punctual. Operating hours are from 5:30 am to 00: 30 in the evening and fares vary between $1 and $3 (SGD) each way. You can also get a Singapore Tourist Pass which allows unlimited metro and bus rides in one day (S$10), two days (S$16) or three days (S$20).
Where to Stay in Singapore
One of the most famous attractions in Singapore is Marina Bay Sands Hotel, an icon of the city. On the 57th floor you’ll find the famous infinity pool, which is the world’s largest elevated one. It is a great experience to stay here and finally see what the famous pool is really like.
Other places to stay are:
- Raffles Singapore: a historic hotel built in 1887 which survived the war.
- Ritz Cartlton Millenia Singapore: a luxury hotel with incredible views of the city).
- Zen Rooms: a capsule hostel in downtown.
- Porcelain Hotel: modest hotel with good location.
What to do in Singapore
Not only the famous hotel is located in the marina area. A visit to Marina Bay is not complete without seeing: ArtScience Museum: shaped as a lotus flower, hosts art, science and design exhibits; Singapore Flyer: one of the world’s tallest Ferris wheels ; and the Helix Bridge: a pedestrian bridge which architecture fans should not miss. The Gardens by the Bay are also located in the Marina Bay.
Marina Bay Sands
You might not stay at the hotel, but you can still visit it. Marina Bay Sands does not go unnoticed in the city’s skyline. The hotel is an attraction for itself, it even has a luxury shopping mall with a Venice style canal, including the gondolieris! The hotel also has an observation terrace, the SkyPark Observation Deck, offering panoramic views of the city.
Raffles Place is the commercial district of Singapore, where you find some of the tallest buildings of the country and also several buildings from the colonial period. Your can have some drinks at the the historic Raffles Hotel, named after Raffles, founder of Singapore. There are two sites along the Riverside which are nice for a walk and nice restaurants: Boat Quay and Clarke Quay. Where the river ends you’ll find Merlion, the famous fish with lion’s head that spits water and where everyone gets a picture. Singapura means “Lion City” so Merlion is a symbol of the country.
Gardens by the Bay – “A city in a garden”
Gardens by the Bay is a natural park of over 100 hectares, created to improve the quality of life along with the flora and fauna. Within the park there are two giant conservatories: the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest, which has an artificial waterfall of 35 m high. But the real magic is the Supertree Grove: trees up to 50 m high made of steel and covered with plants. Singaporeans have invented a whole new concept of what a city should look like: ‘a city within a garden’ and its result is surreal.
Prices: The visit to the outdoor gardens is free while the rate for the conservatories is $28 SGP. To access OCBC Skyway (aerial walkways that connect the trees) you have to should pay extra $8 SGP.
The real magic happens every evening, when the trees light up and the Supertree Grove Light show starts. You can’t miss this show! It’s seems from the outer space. Access to the show is free and it runs twice a day: 7:45 and 8:45 pm.
As its name suggests, Little India is the indian neighborhood, with colorful houses and Sri Veeramakaliamman temple. I haven’t been to India but people who have been there say Little India looks nothing like it. Anyway you can still visit this beautiful neighborhood and find many cheap electronics shops and indian food restaurants.
Your visit is not complete without a classic visit to Chinatown. It is a neat and clean version of Chinatown though,but you will find shops that sell cheap souvenirs and all kinds of objects as in any Chinatown. Some of the Buddhist temples you can visit in this area are the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Thian Hock Keng (oldest temple in Singapore).
You can also take this Chinatown night tour which includes dinner and a cruise along the Singapore River
The Muslim Quarter, with its Arabic food restaurants, shops, shisha bars and the beautiful Masjid Sultan mosque. You can spend a couple of hours visiting the mosque, the textile stores and enjoy an Arabic plate. It is a very pretty neighborhood
I’m not a big fan of shopping but Bugis Street Market is one of the largest and cheapest Singapore markets. You can get anything: clothing, souvenirs, electronics. The food is also very cheap and even if you don’t want to shop, it is a fun place to visit. In the Bugis area you’ll also find stores like Uniqlo and Topshop.
You‘re probably wondering why I added the airport to the things to do list and it’s because this airport is an attraction by itself. The installations include an entertainment deck, various gardens, a movie theatre and even a slide! Isn’t it awesome? You can actually have fun while waiting for your flight.
Sentosa Island is an island resort home to Universal Studios Singapore, beaches, gulf courses and the Merlion (yes, another one). Visiting Sentosa is one of the top things to do in Singapore with kids.
Another great thing to do in Sentosa is to take the Singapore Cable Car Sky Pass which connects Mount Faber with Sentosa offering unique views of Singapore’s southern precinct.
These are some of the main reasons why I suggest to visit Singapore and not let it out of your route around Southeast Asia.
Need more tips for visiting Southeast Asia? Check out these posts:
- Useful websites and discounts to plan your trip
- Tips for planning a trip to Thailand
- What to do in Bangkok in 3 days
- Visiting the temples of Angkor in Cambodia