Are you dreaming of exploring a vibrant and dynamic city that boasts a blend of cultures, traditions, and modernity? Then let me introduce you to the exciting and mesmerising city-state of Singapore! I’ve visited eight times now, my most recent visit for seven days, and here are my top tips for Singapore to help you love it as much as I do.
Singapore in a Nutshell
Before your first trip to Singapore, here is a little about this amazing country to get you excited.
Singapore is a small island nation located in Southeast Asia, and it’s widely renowned as a global financial and business hub, foodie heaven, and shopper’s paradise. But that’s not all – Singapore is also a top tourist destination that attracts millions of visitors every year. And it’s not hard to see why!
Firstly, Singapore is a melting pot of cultures, religions, and ethnicities. The diversity of the city’s population is reflected in its food, architecture, and festivals. From the colourful and bustling streets of Chinatown to the majestic and tranquil temples of Little India, Singapore is a feast for the senses. And if you’re a foodie, you can’t beat it! Singapore’s cuisine is a unique blend of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Western influences, and it’s some of the best in the world.
Secondly, Singapore is also known for its world-class attractions. The city has so many things to see and do, from stunning parks and gardens to iconic landmarks and museums. One of the most popular attractions is Marina Bay Sands, a luxurious resort complex that boasts a stunning rooftop infinity pool with breathtaking views of the city skyline. The Gardens by the Bay is another must-visit destination, with its towering Supertrees, beautiful flower gardens, and awe-inspiring conservatories.
Lastly, Singapore is a safe, clean, and organised city that’s easy to navigate. The public transportation system is efficient and affordable, and English is widely spoken. And with the city’s strict laws and regulations, you can rest assured that your visit will be hassle-free and enjoyable.
So, if you’re planning a trip to Singapore, there are a few tips and tricks that you should keep in mind to make the most of your visit. So, pack your bags, grab your passport, and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime in the beautiful country of Singapore!
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Top Tips for Singapore
I originally shared most of this as a Facebook post after my latest visit, but realised it was worth sharing on the website too, with even more detail. Here are my all time favourite Singapore travel tips.
Where to Stay in Singapore
I have stayed all over Singapore – Joo Chiat, Chinatown, Little India, Marina Bay, Bencoolen and now Tanjong Pagar – and my honest opinion is that so long as you are sort of in the central area of Singapore city, it doesn’t matter which area you stay in. Public transport is so good that you can get around really easily.
This time we stayed at the Cantonment Serviced Apartments in a 2-bedroom apartment. It was basic but neat and clean and had plenty of space. We were after a kitchen so we could make our breakfast, and it did the job with all we needed. The rooms are only serviced twice a week, but that was fine by us. As it was we were only there to sleep.
It was close to a decent shopping centre, within walking distance to Chinatown (about ten minutes) and two different MRT stations (< 10 minutes) on different lines. Buses were only a minute or two away.
If you are looking to splurge, perhaps you want to swim in *that* rooftop pool, then Marina Bay Sands is a bucket list place to stay. I stayed there right at the beginning of my gap year.
For hostels, I’ve stayed at Betel Box Hostel in Joo Chiat (multiple times) and love it for the amazing staff and the “less shiny” location. It’s a little out of the city centre though, and while the rooms are okay, there are better ones out there for a higher price, but still, it’s my favourite hostel.
I’ve also stayed in a hostel in Chinatown which no longer appears to be in operation. This was great for a single-night stay right where all the food is, so perhaps consider something in that area if you are only staying briefly and just want to eat all the things.
For a good mid-range hotel, we enjoyed the Village Hotel Albert Court. Again this was for a single-night stay, and it was within walking distance to Orchard Road (or one MRT stop) which we wanted to visit to see the Christmas Lights.
How to Get Around Singapore
We always use the MRT (which means “mass rapid transit”) & buses. I don’t think I have even caught a taxi/Grab while there, but I do always make sure I download the Grab (Grab bought out Uber a few years ago in South East Asia – it’s pretty much the same thing) app ready to go in case I need it.
For this trip, we were in Singapore for seven days and would have done at least 5-10 trips on public transport every day (possibly more) and in total we spent only $25AUD.
We have a transport card from previous visits, but I noticed that it is no longer necessary and you can now simply use a debit/credit card. Be careful with foreign transaction fees though, you would want to make sure you are using a card that doesn’t charge them.
Depending on your card, you may prefer to buy an EZ-Link transport card, which will cost you $10 with a $5 credit. You can get this on the platform at the MRT station at the airport. You will have to go to the counter as the self-serve machines only accept local debit/credit cards, and you will need to pay with cash. Topping up the cards is easy at the machines at almost every station, at 7Eleven stores, on their app and more.
There are also specific tourist passes available, which allow unlimited travel for a number of days in Singapore. In my opinion, you will get better value with a standard EZ-Link card, but you may prefer these as the prices are set.
Travelling with young children in Singapore is free if the child is under 7 years old. If they are also under 90cm tall, you do not need to do anything further. If they are taller than 90cm, you can apply for the Child Concession Card to access the free transport. From seven, kids pay the full adult rate. Don’t worry though, it’s so cheap.
For planning my trips around Singapore, I use Google Maps, no extra app is required. Simply put in where you want to go and hit “directions” and all the options will be laid out for you. I like that it also tells me which exit I need from the MRT stations – something that has had me very lost in the past when I have emerged from the wrong subway exit.
How to Pay for Things in Singapore
Talking about debit or credit cards, you will find you will mostly pay for everything by card – in fact, many places are cashless. Even some of the hawker centres we visited were cashless.
Apart from the MRT cards at the airport & a top-up at a 7Eleven, there were very few places that insisted on cash during our visit. We used it sometimes because we had it, but it wasn’t essential, so there is no need to carry around a lot of money. I would take S$100 out of an ATM on arrival and see how you go from there.
How to Stay in Touch
Finally, wifi is easier to use on arrival at Changi! It used to need a code, but now you can connect easily as soon as you land. This means you can easily contact the family to say you’ve arrived, search for things you need in the airport, look at maps to help you get to your accommodation and more. It used to be such a pain doing that pre-covid with the code.
For phone/data for our visit, I bought a SIM card through Klook before arrival and picked it up in the airport just outside the baggage hall. This is the one I got.
It was easy to set up and we had no issues with it. We paid $30AUD for the one that lasts 12 days because we were there slightly longer than 7 days. I used it for calls and texts, and of course, lots of data. I didn’t even get close to the 100GB though, even with using it to Dropbox all my photos on the go.
Since my last visit to Singapore, I have travelled to multiple countries in South America and I tried something new while I was there – an eSIM. This was a game-changer for me. Local SIMs are great, but I don’t usually use the phone/text allowances, I really just need data. I have also noticed over the last few trips that more and more I need to receive a text message with a code to access banks, airline accounts, and other websites/apps that have 2-factor authentication.
An eSIM runs in conjunction with the normal SIM. I had the eSIM set up for data, and my home SIM set up for calls/texts. I could receive texts for free (those codes!) but so long as I didn’t send any texts or send/receive calls I was not charged any international roaming fees.
It sounds daunting at first, but if you have a newer phone, this is a great solution. I go my eSIM from Airalo. I loved the app to easily keep track of my data and top up if needed, and the setup videos were so simple to follow. There is a huge range of options and plans too, to suit where you are travelling and how much data you need. I will be using an eSIM whenever I travel now.
Where to Eat in Singapore
We love hawker centres in Singapore and street food in general so this really is my mecca when it comes to food. It’s also a great way to save money when travelling in Singapore without compromising on taste.
On my latest trip we were within walking distance of Maxwell Food Centre so ended up there on more than one occasion. While there are plenty of delicious options, my go-to is always the Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice.
When you arrive, you will likely see a line in front of this stall (and around the corner and out the door) – this is a good thing. This chicken rice is delicious and incredibly popular so jump on the end of the line. It moves quickly and you will be very glad you waited.
I also recommend Newton Food Centre and Lao Pa Sat for those who are new to this style of eating. There are dozens of different dishes to try, and I haven’t found a bad meal in Singapore yet, so just choose something that takes your fancy. Try carrot cake (not cake at all!) and oyster omelette for some local favourites. Some other dishes we always seem to get include laksa, satay sticks and fried kway teow (or char kway teow).
And a tip for hawker centres – or anywhere in Singapore really – if you see a packet of tissues or something similar on a table, then don’t sit there – that is the way locals reserve a table while they are getting their meals.
Another local favourite is kaya toast. This incredibly sweet jam is served with thick slices of toast and a boiled egg for breakfast. Again, it’s available all over, but an easy place to get it is at the chain “Ya Kun Kaya Toast”.
For a traditional Chinese restaurant with delicious food go to Fatty’s in Sim Lim Square. It’s not as cheap as the hawker centres, but we had a fantastic meal including drinks for about S$30/person.
If you have specific dietary needs or have a fussy child with you, don’t be concerned that you won’t be able to eat here. You will find all the international food chains and a huge variety of different cuisines and types of restaurants. I just happen to love Asian food so I predominantly eat that when I am visiting.
Safety in Singapore
Singapore is really safe and we did not feel at all unsafe even walking around late at night. I wouldn’t like to say there is no crime here, but it is very rare, and most likely to be opportunistic. Just watch your belongings (especially on public transport or in the airport) as you would anywhere else in the world and you are unlikely to have any problems.
Covid is almost a thing of the past, with mask-wearing on public transport recently dropped. That was about the only visible sign of Covid during my visit in late 2022, so now I would expect it to be life as normal.
You’ve probably heard about Singapore’s ban on chewing gum – yes, that is real. You cannot bring it into the country, and you are better off not chewing it in public either.
If you need medical assistance when you are visiting Singapore be assured that it is world-class here. On one of my earlier visits, I had to go to a hospital for some tests. I went to Raffles Hospital and received fantastic care.
At the time I just picked the closest hospital, but I have since learned this is a private hospital with a 24hr A&E. I had to pay the full cost of a visit up front and it was reimbursed through my travel insurance later, but it was much cheaper than I was expecting.
Another concern when visiting another country is the water. The tap water here in Singapore is safe to drink, so keep away from those plastic bottles and bring your own and refill it.
Being Understood in Singapore
Do not worry about language in Singapore. There are four official languages here – Malay, Tamil, Mandarin and English. Most signage is in all four languages, but since English is the administrative language, you will find that everyone speaks it reasonably well.
If you talk to locals long enough, you may start to hear their local dialect, often called Singlish. This is English mashed up with some words from the other languages.
An example could be the Malay word for eat, “mayan”.
“Hey, wanna go makan? It’s dinner time.”
Or those tissues on the table I mentioned earlier? The person “chope-d” the table by putting them there.
Dress Code in Singapore
If you are worried about what to wear in Singapore, then don’t. Really, anything goes, so dress however you would like.
Having said that, remember it is hot here, so loose, flowing clothes that cover your skin will be the best. If you are planning to be outside, a hat is essential as the sun here is fierce. The locals tend to dress conservatively, so that is something to keep in mind during your visit too.
Your number one accessory will be an umbrella, as it seems to rain in Singapore almost every day. It won’t rain all day though, just for a small portion of it. It’s not unusual for there to be a torrential downpour mid to late afternoon for twenty minutes or so but the rest of the day is fine. I actually quite look forward to the rain as it often washes away the high humidity and leaves the evening refreshed.
Things to do in Singapore
I could write a novel about all the things to do and see in Singapore. This country might be small, but it really packs a punch when it comes to attractions. You will almost certainly want to visit Gardens by the Bay, hang out on Sentosa Island, drink a Singapore Sling at Raffles and visit the Singapore Zoo.
Often you will hear Singapore described as “expensive” and “not a budget travel location”, and it certainly can be a little pricy if you are not careful. There are lots of cheap or free things to do though, so don’t let that deter you if you are travelling on a budget.
Since I can’t possibly share everything in this Singapore travel guide, here are the attractions we saw on this recent visit to give you some ideas for your own trip.
(I bought most of my entry tickets in advance through Klook, usually only the night before, I find they tend to have the best possible prices in Asia. The links below are to where I booked)
- Sentosa Island (beach clubs, southernmost point of continental Asia)
- SEA Aquarium
- Wings of Time light show
- Universal Studios
- Haw Par Villa & Hell’s Museum
- Singapore Botanic Gardens (the only UNESCO World Heritage site in Singapore)
- National Museum of Singapore
- Visited the bars at Boat Quay
- Took a selfie with the Merlion
- ArtScience Museum
- Marina Bay Sands (watched light shows x 2 from the observation platform)
- Jurong Bird Park (has relocated since our visit, reopening again as Mandai Bird Paradise in May 2023)
- Little India Free Walking Tour
- See the Kampong Glam street art
- Buddha Tooth Relic Museum
- Changi Airport (Jewel)
And there are still so many more things we want to do! I will need to plan another trip back to Singapore soon!
Singapore is my most visited country – read about some of my previous visits here
My Favourite Things About Singapore
Travel Diaries – Singapore (Our 1st gap year visit)
Travel Diaries – Singapore (Our 2nd gap year visit)
Travel Diaries – Singapore (Our 3rd gap year visit)
TRAVEL PLANNING ESSENTIALS
Find flights – I always use Skyscanner as my starting point when searching for flights. One search will give many options including airlines I may not have thought of. This means I can find the best possible flights to suit my needs
Book accommodation – my go to is always Booking.com for the best places to stay. It’s not just hotels anymore, but hostels, apartments, B&Bs and more. I love that the bookings are usually cancellable, and that I can book now and pay later.
Hire a rental car – RentalCars.com is my go to here. It allows me to do just one search and it finds cars from many of the different supplies, so no checking multiple websites to compare.
Get travel insurance – you would have heard by now that saying “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel”. If we’ve learnt anything from the last couple of years it should be how essential travel insurance is. I use CoverMore for my insurance.
Pick up an eSIM – I tried an eSIM on my last trip and it was fantastic. I set it up before I went so it was ready as soon as I landed, and I still had access to my home number for emergencies. Get your own eSIM at Airalo.
Book activities, tours & attractions – I use a few different websites for this. Viator and Get Your Guide tend to be the first places I look. In Asia, Klook often has more options, and in Australia it’s Experience Oz.
Manage your money – the best way to manage your different currencies is with an account from Wise. You can hold money in many different currencies, and use them with the ATM card or from your phone.
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