Singapore is an amazing city with many architectural sites to see. It is so clean and everyone is very friendly, but it is an expensive city to travel to, especially compared to the other countries in Southeast Asia. There are many strict rules, for example you cannot drink or eat on public transportation, but chewing gum is not illegal as most people think – they just don’t sell it there and will fine you if they catch you littering it.
When to Go
The temperatures in Singapore stay about the same all year round, at around 30˚C, so anytime of the year is a good time to visit. It is always very humid and hot, and there will be flash downpours. July, though, supposedly ha the least amount of rainfall.
Before You Go
People dress up here a bit more than the other Southeast Asian countries, so it is good to pack some nicer outfits to go out in. A good pair of walking shoes is also good to pack as the city is small and you can walk almost everywhere, if you can bear the heat. Don’t forget to pack a converter. Here they have 3 pronged Type G plugs (the same as the UK) that usually supply electricity between 220-240 volts. There isn’t really a need to put your phone on a plan as you will be able to find free Wi-Fi at almost all restaurants and even some stores around the city.
Many international airlines fly to Singapore. From the US, United Airlines just started a direct flight from San Francisco which takes 16 hours and 30 minutes. No visa is needed for Canadians or Americans. If you are coming from Malaysia or Indonesia, flights can be as low as $30US.
To get from Changi Airport to the city center you can take the metro or a taxi. The East West MRT line goes directly from the airport to the city center. If you are not staying right in the city or have too much luggage to carry, take a taxi. Taxi’s here run by the meter and won’t rip you off – the taxi fare breakdown I written on the door. Silver cabs are more expensive than the others so avoid taking them if you can. If you take a taxi between midnight and 6am you will be charged 50% more of the metered fare and if you take one during peak hours (Mon-Fri 6am to 9:30am, Mon-Sun 6pm to midnight) you will be charged 25% of the metered fare.
To get around the city, use the MRT line. It is very clean and air conditioned, and pretty much covers the whole city from end to end. If you plan to use the MRT more than a few times, purchase an MRT card for S$12. The card costs S$5 so this will give you S$7 worth of credit but it is worth it because the fares using the card are cheaper. For example a S$1.60 fare without the card would be only S$0.97 with the card. Buying the card will also meant you don’t have to line up every time you want to use the MRT (you cannot purchase multiple tickets ahead of time). You can also refill the card but only in increments of S$10 so keep that in mind.
The city is very small so if you are up for walking, that is also a great way to see the city and the little hidden streets. For places where the MRT line doesn’t take you (like the Singapore Zoo), they have Uber, but it is worth downloading the app Grab as this is a more popular taxi app there and prices are usually cheaper. You also can order the car and pay with cash or credit card.
Where to Stay
If not on a budget, definitely look into staying at the Marina Bay Sands hotel. If you plan early enough, you may be able to get a good deal on a room. There are also many chain hotels around Orchard Street which is a very good and central location. If you are looking for a more boutique hotel in the area, try Hotel Jen.
Where to Eat
There are many amazing local dishes that you can find all around Singapore, because of the mix of Chinese, Malaysian and Indian people, here you will find a lot of this type of food. Here is a list of some of the local dishes that you should try:
- Chili Crab – not very cheap but a must have and definitely worth it!
- Satay – grilled meat on a stick, usually found in street stands
- Chicken Rice
- Sambal Singray – stingray cooked in a spicy chili sauce
- Carrot Cake – deep fried radish (not sure why it is called carrot cake) that you can order light or dark (which includes dark soy) usually eaten for breakfast
- Kaya Toast – toast with a coconut based jam and butter, usually eaten with soft boiled egg and tea
- Fishball Noodles
- Pepper Crab
- Duck Porridge or Duck Noodles
- Fried Oyster Omelet – a dinner dish
- Laksa – prawn noodle curry soup
- Chwee Kueh – rice cake with picked radish
- Bak Kut Teh – pork rib soup
- Wonton Noodle Soup
- Hokkein Prawn Noodles – fried noddles
- Sugar Cane Juice – freshly squeezed
- Roti Prata – Indian breakfast dish consisting of naan bread dipped in curry sauces
There are so many good places to eat in Singapore but they are most famous for their food stands. There are food courts and food centers. Food courts tend to have nicer amenities such as air condition and are usually located within large malls. Food centers are where you will find the hawker stands and they will be in an outdoor area. You will find that hawker stands in the same food center will offer the same food and most of them will be about the same quality but I tend to choose the stands that have the most people lined up. Make sure that the food centers are not closed for cleaning before going. Also note that most places in Singapore do not provide napkins so if you need them I would advise to pack a few tissues in your bag and some hand wipes. You may see some packets of tissue on a table at the food centers but those aren’t there to take, this is how locals reserve their table. Here are a few places to check out for lunch or dinner.
- Ban Leong Wah Hoe Seafood for Chili Crab – a very local spot but outside the city. The chili crab I had here was probably one of the best dishes I have ever had. It will come with fried bread buns which you will use to dip in the sauce. They don’t give you forks to pick the crab out of the shell. They will give you crackers, but be prepared to get your hand messy, and they only will give you one or two wet wipes. A chili crab for 3-4 people here will cost around S$80.
- Ya Kun for kaya toast – get the traditional set that comes with soft boiled egg and tea. To eat the soft boiled egg, crack it slowly and transfer it to the small bowl given, add soy sauce and pepper and mix. You can dip your bread in it if you want.
- B. Ah Meng Kitchen for pepper crab – a restaurant in an alleyway in the Geylang area that serves very delicious local dishes. You won’t find any tourists here and they aren’t allowed to serve alcohol after 8pm but the food is great!
- Sakunthala’s Restaurant in Little India for traditional Indian food – would recommend walking around Little India and eating here for lunch. This place is very reasonable.
- Old Airport Road Food Center – great place for hawker stands located a little outside the city so you it will be less touristy and less expensive that the Newton Food Center which many locals find not as good.
- Maxwell Food Center – another place for hawker stands more centrally located (right next to Chinatown).
- Tang Plaza Food Court – a nicer version of the hawker stands where you can find all the local foods. This is underneath the Marriott hotel right at the Orchard MRT station. The fishball noddle stand here is very good and only S$5 for a bowl. You can also try Chwee Kueh here for only S$2.
- Jumbo Seafood for Chili Crab – if you can’t venture out of the city to Ban Leong, this is a good place to get chili crab in the city. But it is very expensive and will cost you S$120 upward for 3-4 people. Do not go to Long Beach Seafood as it is very touristy and not very good.
Where to Grab a Drink
Drinks here are expensive, about the same as a high end place in the US or Canada. The cheapest price you will find for a single beer will probably be around S$8 and cocktails can get up to S$25. Here are a few places that are good to check out for drinks.
- Ce La Vie – bar at the top of Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Go at around 5 or 6pm and stay for sunset to see an amazing view of the city during daytime and at night.
- Clarke Quay
- Club Street
- The Library – a speakeasy bar in an area close to Little India. You need a password to get in which you can find next door in Keong Saik Snacks.
- Amber Lounge or 1 Altitude – if you are in town for the F1 race and are looking for the after party spots, here is where to go but cover is very very expensive.
What to Do
- Stroll through the Singapore Botanical Gardens that includes the National Orchid Garden, the Ginger Garden and the Healing Garden. The Botanical Gardens are free but to visit the Orchid Garden it is S$5 or S$1 if you are a student, and is open 8:30am to 7pm daily.
- Explore Gardens by the Bay. Purchase tickets to walk OCBC skyway and visit the cloud forest and flower domes. Tickets for all three will cost S$36 and they are open 9am to 9pm daily. The skywalk, which is through the supertrees, has a light show at night that you may want to time your trip to see. You can also visit each dome and the skyway individually: S$8 for the skywalk, and S$16 for each dome.
- Go to the top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and watch the sunset at the bar. There is the famous infinity pool at the rooftop here but you need to stay at the hotel to swim in it. If you book early enough, you might be able to find a good deal. Drinks here are expensive but worth the view.
- Walk through Little India and Chinatown. Don’t miss the Sri Mariamman Temple and the Temple of Thousand Buddha’s in Chinatown. Entrance is free and they have free pants and shawls for women to cover up if they are wearing shorts and a tank.
- Go to the F1 race if you are visiting mid-September. It is the only F1 night race and a lot of fun.
- Go on the Night Safari tour and visit the Singapore Zoo. On the Night Safari, you can see all of the nocturnal animals awake and moving. If your eyesight is bad though, you may have a tough time spotting some of the animals in the dark. A ticket for both parks will cost S$59 for adults, so if you have time it is worth seeing both as the night safari costs S$45 per ticket.
- Eat their famous Chili Crab at one of the local restaurants listed above.
- If you have time, check out the Treetop Walk in the Central Water Catchment. It is open every day but Monday from 9 to 5pm. It takes about 2-3 hours to complete and you will walk about 6km.
- Go on the Singapore Flyer, a giant Ferris wheel with a 360˚ view of the city and where you can see as far as the distant islands of Malaysia. This will cost you S$33 though. Reserve a spot online to avoid lines.
- Visit the National Gallery of Singapore occupying two of central Singapore’s most historical buildings.
- Take a day trip to Sentosa Island, an island south of the city center. Here you will find some nice beaches if you want a change from the city life.