Last Updated on 7 November 2022
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What to know before visiting Singapore?
A bustling hub of multiculturalism, Singapore has long been used as merely a stopover for international travellers. But it is fast becoming one of the best destinations to visit in Asia (and quite rightly so). Abundant with temples, markets, and extravagant light and sound shows, there are some truly incredible things to do in Singapore throughout its many vibrant districts. I can’t think of any reasons not to visit Singapore, but there are certain things you should know before you go. So here are 17 essential travel tips for Singapore that you must know whether it’s your first or third time visiting!
1. Eat in Hawker Centres
Unique to Singapore, Hawker Centres are buzzing open-air food courts where you can find all kinds of delicious local dishes at affordable prices, without compromising on quality! Lined with stalls which sell an eclectic mix of scrumptious snacks and meals from Satay to Seafood, one of the top travel tips for Singapore is to eat in Hawker Centres (especially if you’re travelling on a budget). One of the unique features of Hawker Centres is that they offer sociable shared seating areas to sit and enjoy your food in the company of others from all over the world. Makansutra Gluttons Bay is one of the best Hawker Centres in the Marina Bay area, and is located a stone’s throw from the iconic Marina Bay Sands.
How to get to Makansutra Gluttons Bay: Makansutra Gluttons Bay is located just beyond the Float @ Marina Bay Grandstand. Continue past the Float @ Marina Bay Grandstand as if you were heading towards the Merlion for ~350m. You will find Makansutra Gluttons Bay tucked behind a row of trees to the right, before you reach the Esplanade Outdoor Stage (there is a sign to denote where it is).
2. Singapore is super humid
One of the things to know when travelling to Singapore is that nothing can prepare you for the stifling humidity. With average humidity levels of ~84%, Singapore is one of the most humid places in Southeast Asia, and is on par (if not worse than) places like Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, and Siem Reap. And there isn’t much respite from this, because Singapore’s climate remains hot and humid year-round. Some of the top tips for surviving the Singapore humidity is to keep hydrated, wear sun cream, avoid the midday sun and seek refuge in the air conditioned aisles of 7-Eleven or a shopping mall.
Tip: With the chances of rain showers year-round (which are usually heavier in December and January), one of the essentials on your packing list and top travel tips for Singapore is to take an umbrella!
3. There are some unique laws in Singapore
There are some dos and don’ts in Singapore. And you’ll probably want to be aware of these so you don’t end up breaking any of the local laws or getting issued with a large fine. One of the most famous ones is the ban on chewing gum which has been in place since 1992, due to it being a public nuisance. But some of the other things to know when travelling to Singapore is that it’s illegal to leave a public toilet unflushed, urinating in an elevator is a big no no (who does this anyway), e-Cigarettes are prohibited, it is illegal to walk around in public or at home in one’s birthday suit, and Durian is banned on public transport due to its pungent smell.
4. Singapore is not just a chic skyline – it’s extremely diverse
At first glance, you might think that Singapore is just an ultra modern city with a chic skyline, which is what I naively thought before visiting. But it is a vibrant hub of multiculturalism which spans way beyond the lavish area of Marina Bay. In Singapore, you’ll find that communities from all over the world live side by side in perfect harmony. This is reflected in the many neighbourhoods, such as Little India, Chinatown and Kampong Glam. You’ll find diverse food, bustling little markets and differing pockets of culture throughout these districts, which shows that Singapore is so much more than glitz and glam of Marina Bay!
5. You need travel insurance
Whether it’s Singapore or anywhere else in this wonderful world, travel insurance is always a necessity when you are travelling abroad. You never know when you might need medical assistance or financial support to return home – both of which can be extremely costly out of your own pocket. So don’t compromise, and get yourself a good level of travel insurance which provides you with all the cover you might need.
6. Get to Supertree Grove early – one of the best travel tips for Singapore
Watching the magical light and sound show at Supertree Grove in Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay is one of the things which should be on any bucket list for Southeast Asia. It’s a purely enchanting experience which will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, as you lay and watch the lights dance and twinkle to the sound of music in the night sky. And because it is one of the quintessential Singapore experiences (and is free to watch), it gets very busy. So get there well in advance of the start time so you can find a decent spot at the base of one of the trees to perch yourself.
7. A Venetian Canal in a shopping mall is a thing
It might seem quite eccentric, but a Venetian Canal inside a shopping mall is a thing in Singapore. And it can be found in the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. Abundant with luxurious outlets, an afternoon of retail therapy at the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands is probably something reserved for those who aren’t travelling on a budget. But you should definitely stop by to see the resident canal that’s populated with Venetian Gondolas – it’s a pretty unique scene!
8. Singapore is one of Southeast Asia’s walkable cities
Being one of Southeast Asia’s smallest countries, Singapore is a walkable city with many of the main attractions located within a pleasant stroll of each other. And what’s more, Singapore is pretty much flat, so you are unlikely to encounter any hilly climbs (unless it’s your hotel stairs)! One of the top travel tips for visiting Singapore is to schedule your itinerary so you do your sightseeing by neighbourhood. This way, you can maximise your time in the city, especially if you only have a few days.
9. Use public transport
If your legs do get tired from all the walking or the distance is just too far, then you can rely on Singapore’s fully integrated public transport system. The Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system offers an easy way to get around the city, and it’s not going to break the bank. Unless you arrive at an unsocial hour, the best way to get from Singapore Changi Airport to the City (and vice versa) is to use the MRT. This way, you will avoid wasting valuable sightseeing time stuck in traffic or risk missing your flight.
How do I get from Singapore Airport to the City? To get from Singapore City to the Airport (and vice versa), take the East West Line to Tanah Merah MRT Station or the Downtown Line to Expo MRT Station, and then transfer to Changi Airport MRT Station.
10. Flights around Southeast Asia can be cheap from Singapore
Singapore is home to one of Southeast Asia’s major airports, and an advantage of this is that you can usually find a whole host of cheap flights to other parts of Southeast Asia. If you’re travelling from outside of Southeast Asia, it’s likely to be a long old journey for you to get there. So why not turn you trip into one fit for a bucket list, by visiting a few other places too, like I did on this 3 week itinerary for Singapore, Malaysia and Bali? International flights are quite pricey and if you’ve got a couple of weeks spare, it’s probably going to work out cheaper in the long run to visit a few places at once.
11. Singapore is pricey (so do your research)
Singapore is known as one of the most expensive cities in Asia, if not the world. But that doesn’t mean you can’t travel on a budget. As with Europe, one of the best travel tips for Singapore is to do your research before you go, so you don’t end up making spontaneous and costly decisions. Aside from your flights (especially if they are international), your largest expense is likely to be accommodation. If you are using your hotel just to sleep in and are willing to forfeit daylight, one of the best ways you can save money on accommodation is to book a room without a window (note: this is something that can help cut your costs on accommodation in Hong Kong too). Eating in Hawker Centres and walking to get from A to B are two of the best money-saving travel hacks for Singapore.
12. The currency is the Singapore Dollar
The best currency to use in Singapore is the Singapore Dollar (SGD). For your own security, it’s always a good idea to take a mix of cards and money, and to keep these in separate places in case you lose anything or items get stolen (crime is low in Singapore, but you can never be too safe). Although many retailers, hotels and restaurants accept major cards, this may not be the case in smaller shops, so it’s best to carry cash with you too. There is an agreement in place with Brunei whereby the Brunei Dollar can be accepted in Singapore too (and vice versa).
13. Alcohol is expensive, so stick to happy hour
Unlike the Malaysian island of Langkawi which is tax-free, alcohol is heavily taxed in Singapore making it expensive. The cheapest places to buy beer is at a supermarket or Hawker Centre, but even then it’s fairly pricey. At a Hawker Centre you can expect to pay in the region of $3-$5 for a small can of beer, and $7-$10 for a large bottle. So if you want to cut your travel costs for Singapore, perhaps stick to water or soft drinks, or look out for happy hour deals.
14. You can drink the tap water
Unlike many Southeast Asian destinations, the tap water in Singapore is safe to drink. It falls within the Drinking Water Quality guidelines outlined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Singapore’s Environmental Public Health Regulations. This not only lessens the costs to you because you don’t have to buy drinking water, but it’s great for the environment too. A useful piece of travel advice for Singapore is to include a refillable water bottle on your packing list, so you can cut out unnecessary plastic usage.
15. If you’re from the UK, you won’t need a plug adapter
If you’re travelling to Singapore from the UK, you won’t need a plug adapter because the sockets in Singapore take UK-style 3-pin plugs. The only thing you may need to pack an adapter for is an electric toothbrush, as these are often fitted with the 2-pin plugs designed for Europe, but if you’re from the UK you’ll likely already have this anyway. If you’re travelling from outside the UK to Singapore, then you’ll need to pack yourself an adapter that converts to 3-pin British type. The standard voltage in Singapore is 230v, so you’ll only need a voltage converter if the voltage of your home country is dramatically less (such as in the USA).
Tip: Worst case scenario, larger hotel chains may be able to provide you with an adapter if you need. If not, you’ll be able to pick one up in Singapore. Perhaps try the Mustafa Centre, which is a 24 hour shop which stocks souvenirs, electronics, food, clothes and more.
16. There’s a lot of hype about Changi Airport
For many, a visit to Singapore Changi Airport is a bucket list experience and vacation destination in its own right. Dubbed the world’s best airport for many years, Singapore Changi is one of the main transit hubs in Southeast Asia with facilities to match. Along with general amenities like restaurants, lounges, and duty free shops, there are more extravagant ones like a swimming pool, rainforest-surrounded indoor water fountain, hotels, cinema, entertainment decks, and gardens. If you’re travelling internationally and have a long layover, you’ll probably want to hope it goes via Singapore Changi Airport because you are certainly not going to be bored!
17. Singapore is a safe city (but exercise caution)
Singapore is classed as a pretty safe place and crime is relatively low which is probably down to the harsh penalties and prison sentences attached to offences. But you shouldn’t let this lure you into a false sense of security. One of the top travel tips for visiting Singapore is to keep your wits about you and use your common sense. Beware of petty crimes like bag snatching and clue yourself up on common scams. Don’t store all your money and cards in one place, and leave any valuables in the hotel safe. Stay in brightly lit and busy places, and keep your bag securely over your body. Take the same precautions you would anywhere else in the world.
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