One of the things I hear most from visitors to Singapore is how they liked it but didn’t love it. When I ask them where they went and what they did, their answers paint a picture of the usual tourist spots. When pressed further for details on all the amazing food they must have eaten, they usually tell me they found the food expensive and western. Ummmm…. say WHAT?! As any local or expat worth their salt will tell you, truly wonderful, local Singaporean food is not only affordable it’s an eclectic mix of cuisines from all over Asia and it’s a culinary wonder, full of flavours and textures.
I lived in Singapore for a while and my family still live there now. We quickly learned how to sniff out amazing food, away from the fancy restaurants around popular tourist areas. We ate our way through menus, trying new things, reading about local favourites and getting recommendations from friends. Now, I pretty much exclusively eat at Hawker Centres in Singapore, because that’s where you find the best chow.
Here’s the thing about that, I’ve had a lot of time to cultivate my Singapore food knowledge and, when I visit, I have the time, resources and knowledge to get around to lots of different places and unearth my favourite Singaporean eats. For tourists visiting for a few days, that kind of thing just isn’t feasible. There’s no way you have the time to waste buzzing around in an Uber, hoping the restaurant you read about online is actually as good as it’s supposed to be.
Enter the Makan Bus. This brilliant idea was created by a good friend of mine, a Singaporean local, who LOVES food and realised like I do, that tourists just weren’t getting to experience the real Singapore. So, he created the Makan Bus and, being the good friend he is, threw me on it to try it out for myself and see if it really stands up to the test. You guys, it DOES! I’m so happy the Makan Bus exists because I get sad thinking about all the people who have visited Singapore and wasted their time on bad meals or meals they could have eaten anywhere in the world. So many good food memories missed.
If you’re planning a trip to Singapore and want to find the best local food, with absolutely no hassle, the Makan Bus is a must-do! Here’s the skinny on what it’s all about and why it’s worth your time and money. But first, to get you inspired, watch this video about my experience on the Makan Bus. It includes some TERRIBLE dancing, rapping and singing.
What is it?
The Makan Bus is, essentially, a food tour of Singapore. The bus is small (not one of those huge hop-on-hop-off buses you see around town), so you won’t be over-run with tourists. You climb aboard and the bus takes you, in air-conditioned comfort, to a total of 10 stops. Some are food, some are sightseeing stops. This is great because you don’t get too overwhelmed with the food, you get a chance to have a breather in-between bites.
How does it work?
You can hop on and hop off the bus as many times as you like throughout the day. There’s a guide on board the bus, who will talk to you about the history of each meal you try and answer any Singapore questions you may have. When you get to a food stop, they give you recommendations on what’s great to try. The buses are on a loop and they come by every 22 minutes. So you can spend longer at some spots and less time at others. It’s a really convenient way to see Singapore and eat ALL THE FOOD.
How much does it cost?
Tickets are S$28 per person and don’t include meals at the places you visit, that you’ll need to fund yourself. The loop starts at Orchard Central and you can buy tickets online at www.makanbus.com or check with your hotel concierge if they sell tickets.
Why is it worth my time and money?
A great question! I think it’s really valuable for visitors because it takes the guess-work out of it. You won’t be walking into a busy, hot, crowded hawker centre and be overwhelmed by the hundreds of food choices. You’re taking straight to places that serve iconic, delicious meals and given recommendations on what to try and what to avoid, as well as learning about the origin of the dishes you eat. Also, it gets you out of those tourist areas people always visit. The Makan Bus is your chance to see the real Singapore, the Singapore I know and love. It’s a great way to have a genuinely local experience.
Pro Tip: If you do go on the Makan Bus, don’t over-eat. I’d recommend going in a group or as a couple and, at each stop, just getting one or two dishes to share among you. The last thing you want to do is over-eat on the first stop and miss all the amazing food at the following stops! Pace yourself, amigo.
Watch our ‘Singapore for first-timers’ video
Phoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger with a love for storytelling. Phoebe creates practical, fun and engaging written content designed to inspire and energise travel-lovers and dreamers. Follow her and Matt’s adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and through Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.