The Magic of Singapore: Asia’s Premier Travel Destination

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Welcome to Singapore! An urban island-nation where tradition, modernity, and a distinct multicultural blend coalesce into an unforgettable experience for any traveler. Widely celebrated as the shining jewel of Southeast Asia, Singapore brims with awe-inspiring sights, rich historical narratives, mouth-watering cuisine, and so much more. This guide will be your indispensable companion as you embark on your journey into the mesmerizing tapestry that is the Lion City.

From the shimmering skyline adorned by iconic structures like Marina Bay Sands and the towering Supertrees of Gardens by the Bay, to the vibrant and immersive neighborhoods of Chinatown, Little India, and Kampong Glam, Singapore truly embodies the spirit of east-meets-west. This city-state, despite its relatively small geographical size, promises an unmatched array of experiences. Whether you are a history enthusiast, an urban explorer, a food lover, a nature aficionado, or an avid shopper, Singapore has something for everyone.

Singapore skyline at night

This guide aims to help you unlock the best that Singapore has to offer. You'll explore hawker centers humming with life where you can savor the legendary chili crab, Hainanese chicken rice, and laksa. You'll wander through verdant green spaces like the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Singapore Botanic Gardens, offering a respite from the urban hustle. Not forgetting the pulse of nightlife along Clarke Quay, the thrill of the world-class Universal Studios, and the allure of the eclectic local arts scene.

You'll uncover the secrets and the allure that make Singapore an unbeatable travel destination. Our curated insights will guide you through well-trodden paths and lead you off the beaten track, unveiling the true heart of the city. So pack your bags, open your senses, and let the charm of Singapore enchant you in a way that few other places can. Adventure awaits in the Lion City!

Best 10 hotels to stay in Singapore

Singapore boasts an impressive range of hotels, from luxury retreats to stylish boutique hotels, each offering its unique take on hospitality. Here's a list of ten of the best hotels you might consider for your stay:

  1. Marina Bay Sands: An iconic part of Singapore's skyline, this hotel boasts an incredible infinity pool on the 57th floor, offering stunning views of the city. It also houses a museum, theatres, high-end boutiques, and a range of dining options.Marina Bay Sands Singapore

  2. Raffles Hotel: This historic hotel is the birthplace of the Singapore Sling cocktail. Its colonial architecture, lush gardens, and luxurious suites make it a timeless destination.Raffles Singapore

  3. The Fullerton Hotel: Another heritage hotel, The Fullerton offers views over the Singapore River and Marina Bay, and it's close to the Merlion and the Raffles Place MRT station.The Fullerton Hotel Singapore

  4. Shangri-La Hotel: Set amidst 15 acres of lush greenery, this hotel offers a resort-like experience in the heart of the city, known for its outstanding service and comfort.Shangri-La Singapore

  5. Capella Singapore: Located on Sentosa Island, Capella is an ideal retreat for those seeking a tranquil, luxury resort-style stay.Capella Singapore

  6. The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore: This 5-star hotel offers panoramic city views, a 4,200-piece art collection including works by Andy Warhol and Dale Chihuly, and a luxurious spa.The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore

  7. Mandarin Oriental, Singapore: With its distinctive architecture, Mandarin Oriental offers breathtaking views of the Marina Bay and skyline, coupled with excellent dining options.Mandarin Oriental, Singapore

  8. Parkroyal on Pickering: This hotel stands out with its unique, green architectural design inspired by terraced rice fields and boasts a dedicated wellness floor.PARKROYAL COLLECTION Pickering, Singapore

  9. Andaz Singapore: A concept by Hyatt, this hotel is a stylish and vibrant option for modern travelers, with a rooftop bar offering spectacular views.Andaz Singapore A Concept by Hyatt

  10. The Vagabond Club: A boutique hotel with a Parisian-chic aesthetic, it provides a unique, artsy atmosphere for travelers seeking something different.The Vagabond Club A Tribute Portfolio Hotel Singapore

Remember to book in advance, especially during peak seasons, and always check for any travel advisories or restrictions that may be in place. Enjoy your stay!

What is the best time to visit Singapore?

Singapore has a tropical rainforest climate with no distinct seasons, and it is relatively hot and humid throughout the year with temperatures usually ranging from 24°C to 31°C (75°F to 88°F). Rainfall is also quite even throughout the year. However, there are periods of slightly less rainfall.

Generally, the best time to visit Singapore depends on the kind of activities you are planning to do.

  1. Sightseeing: If you're interested in outdoor sightseeing like visiting Gardens by the Bay, Sentosa Island, or the Singapore Zoo, the less rainy months between February and April might be a good time to visit.

  2. Festivals: If you want to experience cultural festivals, then timing your visit around specific events could be ideal. For example, you might want to visit during the Chinese New Year (usually in January or February), the Hari Raya Puasa (end of Ramadan, which varies but can fall between April and June), the Mid-Autumn Festival (usually in September or early October), or Deepavali (usually in October or November).

  3. Shopping: If you're interested in shopping, consider visiting during the Great Singapore Sale, which typically happens between June and August.

  4. Avoiding crowds: If you want to avoid tourist crowds, you might want to avoid the peak travel times which are December, June, and July.

Remember that while these can guide your decision, the weather can be unpredictable, and events may vary from year to year.

Do I need a visa to travel to Singapore?

Whether you need a visa to enter Singapore depends on your nationality. Some nationalities can enter Singapore for short-term stays (typically for tourism, transit, or business meetings) without a visa. Others need to apply for a visa before traveling to Singapore.

The nationals of many countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and most EU countries, are allowed to enter Singapore for short stays without a visa.

However, visa policies can change, so it is essential that you check the current requirements with the Singaporean embassy or consulate in your home country or the official website of the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) of Singapore.

What are the top tourist attractions in Singapore?

Singapore is known for its blend of culture, cuisine, arts, and architecture. Here are some of the top tourist attractions that you might want to consider visiting:

  1. Marina Bay Sands SkyPark: This is a luxurious complex that offers stunning views of the city from a height of 200 meters. It includes a hotel, an infinity pool, restaurants, and a viewing deck.The Merlion fountain at Marina Bay

  2. Gardens by the Bay: This is a nature park spanning 101 hectares of reclaimed land. The park consists of three waterfront gardens: Bay South Garden, Bay East Garden, and Bay Central Garden. The Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome are two bio-controlled greenhouses that are particularly worth visiting.Early evening view of the Supertrees Grove, and Cloud Forest Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay

  3. Sentosa Island: This island resort is home to Universal Studios, Adventure Cove Waterpark, Madame Tussauds, S.E.A. Aquarium, and several beautiful beaches.Sentosa island in Singapore

  4. Singapore Zoo: Known as one of the most beautiful wildlife parks in the world, it houses over 300 species of mammals, birds, and reptiles.

  5. Orchard Road: This is Singapore's premier shopping street, with fashion favorites, specialist stores, and loads of other lifestyle choices.

  6. Chinatown: You can visit the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, explore the shops, and try local food.

  7. Little India and Arab Street: These are ethnic districts that offer unique experiences with their colorful shops, vibrant culture, and incredible food.

  8. Raffles Hotel: This is a colonial-style luxury hotel in Singapore. It's a historic landmark where the Singapore Sling cocktail was invented.Iconic Raffles Hotel in Singapore

  9. Clarke Quay: This riverside quay is filled with bustling bars and restaurants, and it's a favorite spot for a night out.

  10. Merlion Park: Here you'll find Singapore's national icon, the Merlion, a mythical creature with a lion's head and a fish's body.

What is the currency of Singapore and where can I exchange money?

The currency of Singapore is the Singapore Dollar, denoted as SGD or S$.

You can exchange your currency to SGD at several places:

  1. Banks: Many banks in Singapore offer currency exchange services. These usually provide reliable and safe services but might have less competitive rates compared to other options.

  2. Currency Exchange Counters: These can be found in shopping malls, city centers, and other popular tourist areas. They often offer competitive rates.

  3. Changi Airport: There are numerous 24-hour money changers at Changi Airport. Rates might not be as good as in the city, but it's a convenient option when you first arrive.

  4. Automated Teller Machines (ATMs): Many ATMs allow you to withdraw local currency using your home bank card. Just be aware that your bank may charge you international withdrawal fees.

  5. Online Money Transfer Services: Services like TransferWise or Revolut often offer very competitive exchange rates.

Before exchanging your money, it's a good idea to check the current exchange rate so you can compare it with the rate you're being offered. Also, be aware that some places might charge a service fee for currency exchange. Always count your money before leaving the counter, and keep your receipt in case there are any problems.

Singapore Currency - Singapore Dollar - SGD

For convenience and safety, consider using a mix of cash and cards while traveling. Cards are widely accepted in Singapore, but having some cash can be useful for smaller transactions or in places where cards aren't accepted.

What is the food like in Singapore?

Singapore is renowned for its diverse and delicious food scene, which reflects its multicultural heritage. Here are some famous dishes and food experiences you should try:

  1. Hawker Centres: These are open-air complexes housing many stalls that sell a wide variety of inexpensive food. They are a fundamental part of life in Singapore. Some famous ones include Maxwell Food Centre, Lau Pa Sat, and Old Airport Road Food Centre.

  2. Chilli Crab: This is one of the national dishes of Singapore. Mud crabs are stir-fried in a semi-thick, sweet and savory tomato-and-chilli-based sauce.

  3. Hainanese Chicken Rice: This is another national dish, featuring poached chicken served with fragrant rice cooked in chicken broth and a variety of dipping sauces.Hainan chicken rice

  4. Laksa: This is a spicy noodle soup that combines Chinese and Malay culinary influences. The curry laksa, in particular, is rich and aromatic, filled with noodles, prawns, fishcakes, and tofu.Singapore Laksa at Singapore zoo

  5. Satay: These are skewers of marinated meat, typically served with peanut sauce, cucumber, and ketupat (rice cakes).

  6. Rojak: A traditional fruit and vegetable salad dish commonly found in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. It's typically composed of cucumber, pineapple, bean sprouts, and peanuts in a tangy dressing.

  7. Roti Prata: A South-Indian flatbread that is crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. It's served with a variety of dips, commonly curry.

  8. Kaya Toast and Kopi: This is a traditional Singaporean breakfast consisting of coconut jam (kaya) and butter sandwiched between crispy toast, served with a local-style coffee (kopi).

  9. Bak Kut Teh: This means “meat bone tea,” and it's a soup made from pork ribs and a blend of herbs and spices, served with rice and several sides.

  10. Sambal Stingray: Barbecued stingray slathered with spicy sambal sauce and served on a banana leaf.

  11. Char Kway Teow: A popular noodle dish stir-fried in dark soy sauce with a mix of ingredients like shrimp, Chinese sausage, fishcake, and bean sprouts.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Singapore's food scene is vast and varied, and you'll find a blend of Malay, Chinese, Indian, and Western influences in the cuisine. It's a food paradise for adventurous eaters!

How reliable is public transportation in Singapore?

Public transportation in Singapore is highly reliable, efficient, and extensive, making it easy to get around the city-state.

  1. MRT (Mass Rapid Transit): The MRT system is the fastest way to get around Singapore. It's very reliable, punctual, and covers most tourist spots and residential areas. Trains generally run from 5:30 a.m. to about midnight and are frequent, with waiting times ranging from 2 to 7 minutes depending on peak or off-peak hours.

  2. Buses: Singapore's bus system is comprehensive and can take you almost anywhere in Singapore. Just like the MRT, it's reliable and efficient, and can be a good way to see the city as you travel. Some buses also operate after midnight, making them useful if you're out late.

  3. Taxis: Taxis are relatively affordable and readily available throughout Singapore, although they can be slightly harder to find during peak hours or heavy rain. You can hail them on the street, at taxi stands, or by booking through an app. Singapore also has ride-hailing services like Grab.

  4. Biking and e-scooting: Singapore has seen an increase in bike and e-scooter sharing services, which are a great way to get around locally. There are dedicated paths in several areas of the city for bikes and personal mobility devices.

One useful feature of Singapore's public transport system is the EZ-Link card or the Singapore Tourist Pass. These contactless cards can be used on the MRT, buses, and even some taxis, making it easy to travel around without needing to buy individual tickets for each journey. They can be topped up at MRT stations, convenience stores, or using an app.

Despite the small size of Singapore, during rush hours (typically 7-9am and 5-7pm), the MRT and buses can become very crowded, so it's something to keep in mind if you prefer to travel more comfortably.

What are the local customs and etiquette in Singapore?

Singapore is a multicultural and cosmopolitan city-state, with a diverse mix of traditions and customs from various ethnic groups. Here are some general local customs and etiquette guidelines:

  1. Greetings: A simple “Hello” or “Good morning/afternoon/evening” is usually sufficient. Handshakes are common, especially in a business setting. However, some Muslim women may not shake hands with men due to religious reasons, and it's respectful to follow their lead.

  2. Dress code: Singaporeans dress in a wide range of styles, but overall the dress code is quite casual, especially due to the warm and humid climate. However, when visiting religious sites, you should dress more conservatively. For instance, avoid wearing sleeveless tops, shorts, or mini-skirts. Some places provide robes or wraps for visitors who are not appropriately dressed.

  3. Respect for religious and cultural diversity: Singapore is a multicultural society with a variety of religions including Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and others. It's important to respect each group's customs and traditions, especially when visiting religious sites.

  4. Eating: When eating at hawker centres or food courts, remember to return your tray and clear your table. If you're invited to someone's house, it's common to bring a small gift. Also, some Singaporeans follow halal or vegetarian diets due to their religious beliefs.

  5. Public behavior: Littering, smoking in public places (except designated smoking areas), and jaywalking are illegal and can result in fines. Singapore is also known for its strict drug laws. Chewing gum is not banned, but the importation and sale of gum is regulated.

  6. Tipping: Tipping is not customary in Singapore and is often not expected as a 10% service charge is typically added to the bill in restaurants. However, you can still tip if you feel you've received exceptional service.

  7. Queuing: Singaporeans respect lines, so always wait your turn whether you're at an ATM, a taxi stand, or buying food.

  8. Language: The official languages of Singapore are English, Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil. English is widely spoken and understood.

Remember, these are just guidelines. The diverse nature of Singapore's society means that customs can vary widely even among Singaporeans themselves. When in doubt, don't hesitate to ask – people in Singapore are generally friendly and willing to help.

Is Singapore safe for tourists?

Yes, Singapore is generally considered very safe for tourists. It has a low crime rate and the streets are safe to walk, even at night. The country's laws are strictly enforced, and penalties for crimes are severe, which deters criminal activity.

However, like any other destination, it's important to take the usual safety precautions. Keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded places, and be aware of your surroundings. Be cautious of any scams targeting tourists.

Singapore's strict laws extend to things that might be considered minor offenses in other countries, so it's important to familiarize yourself with local laws and customs. For example, littering, jaywalking, and smoking in non-designated areas can result in heavy fines.

In terms of health, the tap water in Singapore is safe to drink, and high standards of hygiene mean that it's generally safe to eat at hawker centres and street food stalls.

Transportation in Singapore is also safe and reliable, whether you're using public transportation, taxis, or ride-hailing services.

In general, Singapore is a very tourist-friendly destination with a reputation for safety, cleanliness, and efficiency.

What is the shopping like in Singapore?

Singapore is known as a shopper's paradise, with a wide range of options to suit various tastes and budgets. From luxury designer brands in high-end malls to street markets and independent boutiques, you can find almost anything in Singapore. Here are some of the best shopping experiences the city offers:

  1. Orchard Road: This is Singapore's most famous shopping street, and it's lined with malls like ION Orchard, Ngee Ann City (Takashimaya), and Plaza Singapura. You'll find a variety of brands, from luxury to high street, as well as a range of dining options.

  2. Marina Bay Sands: The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands is a high-end shopping mall where you can find luxury brands like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Prada. Don't miss the stunning architecture and the indoor canal where you can take a sampan ride.

  3. Bugis Street Market: This is one of the biggest and cheapest places to come shopping in Singapore, with hundreds of stalls selling clothes, accessories, souvenirs, electronics, and household items at bargain prices.

  4. Chinatown Street Market: Here you can find everything from lanterns and calligraphy art to traditional clothing and Chinese herbs. It's also a great place to pick up souvenirs.

  5. Little India (Serangoon Road): This vibrant district offers a range of goods like textiles, spices, gold jewelry, and traditional Indian clothing. Don't miss the Mustafa Centre, a 24-hour shopping mall known for its wide variety of goods at low prices.

  6. Haji Lane: Located in the Arab Street district, Haji Lane is a narrow street filled with independent boutiques selling unique clothing, accessories, homeware, and more. It's a great place to find items by local designers.

  7. VivoCity: As the largest shopping mall in Singapore, VivoCity offers a mix of retail stores, restaurants, and entertainment options. It's also the gateway to Sentosa Island.

  8. The Great Singapore Sale: Usually held in June and July, this annual event features huge discounts at shops all over the city. It's a great time to pick up some bargains.

  9. Funan Mall: If you're into electronics, this digital lifestyle mall is the place to go. You'll find a wide range of electronics, gadgets, and IT products.

  10. Clarke Quay: Besides being a nightlife hub, Clarke Quay offers a unique shopping experience with its historical riverside quayside featuring a variety of shops.

Remember that as a visitor to Singapore, you can benefit from the Tourist Tax Refund scheme which allows you to claim a refund on the 7% Goods and Services Tax (GST) paid on your purchases if you spend above a certain amount.

As of my training cut-off in September 2021, COVID-19 measures such as capacity limits and mask mandates may be in place in shopping locations, so it's good to check ahead of time.

How expensive is Singapore?

Singapore is known for having a high cost of living and can be one of the more expensive tourist destinations in Asia. However, how much you end up spending can vary greatly depending on your travel style. Here's a general overview:

  1. Accommodation: Luxury hotels can be quite expensive, but there are also many budget and mid-range options available, including hostels and budget hotels. Accommodation costs can range from around SGD 20-40 per night for a hostel bed, SGD 100-200 for a budget to mid-range hotel, to SGD 300 and above for luxury hotels. These prices can vary depending on the location and time of year.

  2. Food: Eating can be relatively cheap if you dine at hawker centres and food courts, where meals can cost SGD 3-6. Mid-range restaurant meals might cost around SGD 20-40 per person, while high-end dining can easily exceed SGD 100 per person.

  3. Transportation: Public transport in Singapore is efficient and relatively cheap. A trip on the MRT or bus could cost between SGD 1-3, depending on distance. Taxis and ride-hailing services are more expensive but still affordable for short distances.

  4. Attractions: Entrance fees for popular attractions like Gardens by the Bay, Universal Studios, and the Singapore Zoo generally range from SGD 20-80.

  5. Shopping: Shopping can range from bargain prices at street markets like Bugis Street to high-end luxury goods in Orchard Road or Marina Bay Sands.

  6. Nightlife: Drinks, especially in popular nightspots like Clarke Quay or Marina Bay, can be pricey. A pint of beer might cost between SGD 10-20, while cocktails can range from SGD 15-30.

Remember, prices can vary and it's always a good idea to check the most up-to-date costs. Despite its reputation as an expensive city, it's definitely possible to explore Singapore on a budget by choosing more affordable accommodation, eating at hawker centres, and enjoying the many free or low-cost attractions.

Best 2 to 6 day Singapore Itinerary

Singapore offers a variety of attractions, activities, and dining options to suit different travel styles. Here's a flexible itinerary that can be condensed or expanded, depending on the number of days you have available.

Day 1: Explore Downtown Singapore

  • Start your day at Marina Bay Sands. Head up to the SkyPark Observation Deck for stunning views of the city. Visit the ArtScience Museum nearby if you're interested in design, technology, and culture.
  • Visit Gardens by the Bay with its iconic Supertree Grove and climate-controlled conservatories: the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest. Don't miss the Garden Rhapsody light and sound show in the evening.
  • Take a leisurely walk along the Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade and catch the Spectra light and water show outside Marina Bay Sands.
  • Finish your day with dinner at Satay by the Bay or one of the many restaurants in the Marina Bay Sands complex.

Day 2: Explore Heritage and Culture

  • Start your day in Chinatown. Visit the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, explore the street markets, and try some local food.
  • Head to Little India. Visit the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple and wander around Tekka Market. Try some Indian-Singaporean food for lunch.
  • In the afternoon, visit Kampong Glam and explore the historic Sultan Mosque, Haji Lane, and Arab Street.
  • Enjoy dinner at a Middle Eastern restaurant or a hawker centre in the area.

Day 3: Sentosa Island

Day 4: Singapore's Wildlife

Day 5: Local Neighborhoods and Shopping

  • Start your day at the Tiong Bahru neighborhood, exploring the unique art-deco style buildings, boutique shops, and local food markets.
  • After that, head to Orchard Road for shopping. You'll find everything from luxury brands to high-street fashion.
  • In the evening, visit Clarke Quay. Enjoy a river cruise, dinner at one of the many riverside restaurants, and the lively nightlife.

Day 6: Relaxation and Farewell

  • Spend your last day relaxing at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. If you're an orchid lover, don't miss the National Orchid Garden within the park.
  • For a final taste of Singapore, visit the nearby Dempsey Hill, a dining destination set in lush greenery.
  • Lastly, if you're flying out late, you might want to explore Changi Airport. It's an attraction in itself with unique features like the Jewel Changi's indoor waterfall, themed gardens, shopping, dining, and even a cinema.

Remember to customize this itinerary based on your interests, energy levels, and the opening hours and days of the various attractions. Enjoy your trip to Singapore!

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