My Ultimate Singapore Travel Guide is filled to the brim with helpful insights and recommendations on what to do and where to eat.
There’s no other place like Singapore. It’s a place I’ve been dreaming of visiting for years, and this past fall I got to spend two full days in this unique metropolitan city. Back in college, I worked at a transportation research facility, analyzing data for engineers and mathematicians. We worked in a windowless lab on computers without access to internet or anything that would distract us from the data.
However, there was one project we worked on that allowed everyone to have access to Google Maps. Of course when we needed a break we’d do some exploring…. And Singapore was always my favorite city ‘to visit’, especially Marina Bay Sands. The buildings are beautifully unreal, truly breathtaking!
So it’s absolutely unbelievable to me that four years later I was able to travel to this ‘Garden in a City’ and enjoy a refreshing Singapore Sling on the roof of the Marina Bay Sands.
Singapore Travel Guide
Located just off the southern tip of Malaysia, this vibrant city/state boasts a beautiful blend of Malaysian, Indian, Chinese, Arab and English cultures – all with its own twist. Known as the “Lion City” and the “Garden in the City”, it’s packed with delightful culinary experiences, luxury accommodations, and bumping nightlife.
Whether you’re planning to visit Singapore, or it’s top on your travel bucket list, here’s my guide filled with travel tips, recommendations, and need-to-knows.
Why Visit Singapore
First off, there’s NO other place in the world like it! Singapore is one of the most traveled countries in Asia, and for good reason. It’s a fun, diverse, and vibrant metropolitan city that has great public transportation and hundreds of things to do. The cost is high, but the city is safe, clean, and very well run.
- Currency: The Singaporean Dollar (SGD) is the currency and the current official exchange rate 1 USD is 1.35 SGD
- Tipping: You don’t have to tip in Singapore and it’s not expected. A 10% service charge will be included in your bill at restaurants and bars.
- Language: Singapore has five official languages with English being widely spoken in all of the city. Important to note that the English spoken here is more like an English-based creole referred to as ‘Singlish’.
- Entry & Visas: As of November 2018, travelers from Europe, United States, Europe, Australia, Norway, Switzerland, and South Korea can visit Singapore for up to 90 days without a visa. For more information visit this website.
- Safety: Singapore is one of the safest places in the world, partially due to the excessive amount of security cameras that are everywhere, always watching. You won’t have to worry about theft, scams, or personal safety whether you plan to travel alone or with a partner. But, you can’t be too careful.
- Transportation: To avoid the hassle, you can book available Singapore airport shuttles before your arrival at the airport.
- Water: The water in Singapore is absolutely safe to drink, no worries. :)
- Laws: That being said, Singapore has very strict laws and fines for everything. This all sounds extreme but be cool and respectful and you won’t have any problems. (I haven’t heard anything about police being corrupt so that’s awesome) Some of the things that can get you in trouble include:
- The sale of chewing gum is banned (to keep the streets clean)
- Feeding pigeons can get you a $500 fine
- Littering is a $1,000 fine
- Smoking is only allowed in certain areas with a $500 to $1,000 fine if you’re caught smoking in a non-designated area
- And possession of drugs in Singapore is punishable by DEATH
Finally, it’s important that I let you all know that Singapore is quite expensive and many residents are very wealthy, especially in comparison with other cities/countries on that side of the world. There are plenty of free things to do and see, but expect to bleed money here. I consider it a more expensive New York City or Washington DC.
The weather in Singapore is great year-round. The city is right near the equator so expect tropical weather which includes high heat (75 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit) and plenty of humidity.
The high season is November through January, as well as during the Great Singapore Sale in June and July. April and May are recommended as being the best times to visit Singapore. August through October is the low season with slightly higher temperatures.
Big World Travel Tip: Regardless of when you go, pack a rain jacket with you. It rains in Singapore every day, usually for a minimum of 30 or so minutes.
Getting to Singapore
Being an international hub, Singapore is one of the most easily accessible places to get to thanks to the high amount of flights from/to/through the Changi Airport. It’s the perfect gateway to the rest of SE Asia and you’re guaranteed to find a HUGE volume of very cheap flights to nearby countries.
Getting Around in Singapore
Grabbing a taxi in Singapore is one of the safest in the world, but a bit pricey. They all use a meter, so no haggling, and all can accept credit card. Important to note is you’ll have to grab a taxi or plan on being dropped off at one of the taxi stands. At some locations it will be zero wait, others you can expect to wait in line for up to 20 minutes.
Grab, is the equivalent to Uber in Southeast Asia, is great to use in Singapore. You get the charge upfront and all the rides can be paid by credit card via the app. We might have used this four or five times when we were in Asia.
The MRT Rail System is the fastest and the most efficient way to commute within Singapore. All the major attractions are located at a short walking distance to the respective MRT stations as per the localities.
Where to Stay in Singapore
Singapore has all of the options for accommodations, ranging from the highest end of luxury hotels to ‘budget-friendly’ hostels. Thanks to the MRT Rail System, getting from neighborhood to neighborhood is easy.
If you’re on a budget, or looking to go where the travelers go, check out Little India or Chinatown. We stayed at the Cube Hostel ($60 for a two-person bed) right in the heart of Chinatown, I highly recommend it.
If you’re planning your trip far in advance, and have a little room to work with on the budget, I highly recommend checking out the prices for the Marina Bay Sands hotel. You can get a good deal on basic rooms if you watch the prices.
Where to Eat and Drink in Singapore
Singapore is a foodie’s paradise, even for the ones on a budget. You’ll find a variety of cuisines in every corner of the ‘Garden in the City’. Little India and Chinatown are my top recommendations for finding great food through hawker stalls and restaurants alike.
The top dishes to try in Singapore are Chilli Crab, Satay, Hokkien Mee (Egg Noodles), Dumplings, Chicken Rice and Durian.
Here are some places to check out for delicious food in Singapore:
- Chinatown Hawker Centre
- Satay by the Bay
- Chinatown Seafood Restaurant (we ate here twice!)
- Tekka Centre in Little India
Drinking wise, Singapore has a vibrant and entertaining nightlife, especially in the Clarke Quay neighborhood. Make sure you arrive to clubs early or make a reservation because they do fill up very quickly, especially on weekends.
Big World Travel Tip: Head to Raffles Hotel, the birthplace of the Singapore Sling, where you can see the safe in which bartender Ngiam Tong Boon locked away his recipe books, as well as the original cocktail recipe that was jotted down on a bar chit in 1936.
When it comes to beer, prepare yourself to throw down several dollars for Tiger beer, which is widely available. There is also a bit of a craft beer scene, but the brews will be very expensive and mildly impressive.
I recommend visiting LeVeL 33 brewery located near the Marina Bay. Located on the 33rd floor, it’s the world’s highest urban microbrewery and has unbelievable, perfect views of Singapore’s skyline and the Marina Bay Sands hotel. Make a reservation if you come late, or wish to get food. And get to ready to fork over $9 to $12 USD for a pour.
What to do in Singapore
Singapore has so much to do! There are so many beautiful buildings, religious temples, and out-of-this-world museums. Here’s a list of the top attractions to visit in Singapore:
- Singapore Botanic Gardens, especially for the world-famous National Orchid Garden.
- Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, a stunning four-story Buddhist temple in Chinatown.
- Haji Lane for an interesting mix of shopping boutiques.
- Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore’s oldest Hindu Temple.
- Mustafa Centre, one of Singapore’s 24-hour shopping mall, with several floors of EVERYTHING.
- The Quays along the river, most notably Boat Quay, Robertson Quay, and Clarke Quay
- Marina Bay (Here’s a full guide of things to do at the Marina Bay)
- Gardens by the Bay, especially at night!
Big World Travel Tip: The Marina Bay area has some of the top tourist attractions in Singapore. If you only have an afternoon or day in the city, I recommend spending it all here. Here’s my guide of the best things to do there.
As a travel destination, Singapore isn’t the nicest on the pockets. But that definitely shouldn’t keep you from visiting this stunning and modern city. Let me know if you’re heading to Singapore and if you want some more recommendations on traveling there. Cheers!