Planning a trip to Singapore? I was lucky enough to live in beautiful Singapore for a few years and get to go back and visit regularly. It’s a gorgeous place and somewhere I consider to be my second home! You’ll find it packed with delicious food, great viewpoints, adventures galore and friendly locals. Before you set off on your adventure, here are 11 things I think you need to know before you go.
1. The best food is found at Hawker Centres
Instead of making a beeline for fancy restaurants, I recommend spending your meal times visiting Hawker Centres. These are the places you’ll find the very best food Singapore has to offer! It’s where the locals eat and it’s where you’ll find the most delicious food. My friend Seth is a Singapore food blogger and his list of ’30 Famous Local Foods to Eat in Singapore’ is a great starting point. Alternatively, jump on the amazing Makan Bus.
2. Getting around is easy
Don’t stress about getting around in Singapore, it’s super easy. The train (MRT) is really affordable, clean, safe, air conditioned and so easy to work out! Taxis are affordable and reliable too, you don’t have to worry about being scammed or overcharged. You can also get around easily and affordably using Uber. Just remember, it can be hard to get a cab or Uber during peak times. You can read more about how to get around Singapore here.
3. Alcohol is expensive
Alcohol is heavily taxed in Singapore, so ducking out for a few quiet drinks in town is often a costly experience. The only real way to beat this is to grab a bucket of cold beers at a Hawker Centre instead. My favourite spot is out at the East Coast Lagoon Food Village, where you can drink a few cold Tiger tallies and see the beach. You can read more tips on exploring Singapore on a budget here.
4. Singlish is real!
Singaporean English, also known as Singlish, is a real thing. When Matt visited Singapore for the first time with me he thought I knew how to speak fluent Chinese, but the taxi driver I was talking to was just speaking Singlish. Expect to hear the word ‘Lah’ a lot, thrown on the end of a sentence or word for emphasis, and the words ‘can’ and ‘cannot’ used in place of yes and no.
5. It isn’t as crazy strict as it’s made out to be
I’ve heard people ask if they’ll be arrested for accidentally dropping a food wrapper! Don’t worry, it’s not as scary strict as all that. You’ll need to make sure you don’t do things like chew gum and spit it out on the sidewalk or throw your empty cups and rubbish straight on the ground, but you also won’t be hauled off by the cops if you accidentally drop a wrapper. It is, however, important to avoid things like public urination.
6. The heat and rain can be intense
It can get really hot in Singapore, the humidity can kick your ass! So be prepared for it by packing clothes that are light and breathable. If you have long hair you might like to think about slicking it back into a bun, braid or ponytail with lots of hairspray! I’d also recommend packing an umbrella in your day pack when you head out because the tropical afternoon thunderstorms will saturate you. Read my tips on what to pack for a trip to Singapore here.
7. It’s nice and safe
I’m a real nervous Nelly when it comes to safety, but Singapore is one of those places you can really feel at ease. Want to walk around by yourself at 3am? No worries! Need to withdraw a large sum of money from the ATM? All good. I’ve never had anybody ever harass, threaten or confront me. It’s a place you don’t have to worry about pickpockets or scams or getting jumped in an alleyway.
8. There are malls everywhere!
Singapore is mad for shopping malls. You’ll find the island crawling with them and, to be honest, most of them are the same. A mall is a mall is a mall. So, once you’ve seen one and gotten your shopping fix, I’d recommend braving the muggy weather and seeing places like Little India, Haji Lane, Faber Peak, Tiong Bahru and the East Coast Parkway. Get outdoors and explore! You can find more tips on things to do in Singapore here.
9. The best coffee ain’t from Starbucks
In my opinion, the very best coffee in Singapore can be sourced at a food court or Hawker Centre for a few dollars. Don’t waste your money on fancy latte’s from a cafe, try the local iced coffee with milk or iced tea with milk instead. It costs significantly less and the rocket-fuel coffee will keep you going all day! You can find out more must-try food tips for Singapore here.
10. There are some amazing rooftop views around town
With such a small space to work with, Singaporeans have become very good at maximising the space at their disposal. There are so many amazing rooftops in Singapore waiting to show you things from a different angle. Here are my tips on the best, must-visit rooftops in Singapore.
11. You can’t really get your location wrong
If you’ve been staring at a map for days, trying to work out the best place to stay, you need to stop worrying. Singapore is a small place and the public transport system is great, so it’s easy to get around. You can stay pretty much anywhere and find it easy to get something to eat, visit the must-see spots and experience Singapore properly. Don’t sweat it! You can read more about where to stay in Singapore here.
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.