Given it’s an island, you’re probably thinking, “I can’t really go wrong with choosing where to stay in Singapore.” To be fair, that’s pretty accurate. But, as someone who has lived in Singapore and spent a lot of time there as a local and a traveller, I can honestly say there are locations that are better than others. If you want to make the most of your time in Singapore, it’s important to choose the best spot to base yourself! To help, here are my thoughts on the very best and worst places to stay in Singapore.
Note: This guide is aimed at travellers to Singapore, so I’m going to use landmarks, well-known areas and MRT stations as reference points. For example, I’ll use Changi Airport and Orchard Road, as opposed to suburb names like Bukit Timah or Tanglin. Images are from all over Singapore and may not directly align with the destination mentioned.
If you’re visiting Singapore for a holiday, basing yourself at Changi Airport isn’t a good idea. It’s going to take you a fair bit of time each day to get to and from all the best things to see and do, so a central location is better suited. But, if you’re spending one night in Singapore, a stay at an airport hotel is a good idea. It’ll eliminate, ‘Gotta get to the airport on-time,’ stress and you’ll easily be able to spend an entire day or night out exploring Singapore before retiring to the hotel for a rest.
Orchard Road is famous for shopping and you’ll find no shortage of high-end brands, well-known stores and cool, local shops too. With huge shopping complexes lining Orchard Road, there are plenty of spots to grab a bite to eat, like burger chains and American favourites. If you’re looking to spend the whole time shopping, Orchard Road is a central place to base yourself. But, if you’re after a more authentic experience, it may not be the best fit for you as it kind of feels like you could be anywhere in the world – it just doesn’t offer that distinctly Singapore vibe.
For something a little different, you might like to think about spending a few nights at Sentosa. Away from the hustle and bustle of busy Singapore streets, Sentosa offers a beach break and plenty of gorgeous hotels and resorts to choose from. There are great spots to eat and plenty of ways to stay entertained, like Universal Studios. That said, once you’re at Sentosa, you’ll find it inconvenient to go back and forth between the mainland, so it’s really best to stay there for one or two nights and enjoy Sentosa itself, rather than trying to use it as a base for your Singapore adventures.
Marina Bay / Bayfront
What I love about the Marina Bay area is it gives you more of a sense of space. Rather than be squished in among the many highrises in other parts of Singapore, there always feels to be a bit more breathing room in the area around Marina Bay. There are quite a few fantastic hotels in this area, not just the iconic Marina Bay Sands. You’ll have no trouble getting around from this location, there’s plenty to see and do, including Gardens by the Bay, and some good food spots too.
If you love nightlife, nearby Clarke Quay is also a good pick. There loads of waterfront bars and restaurants here, so you can nab a spot along the water and enjoy a few cold drinks on a muggy, Singapore evening. It’s pretty easy to get around on foot here, you’ll have easy access to the Clarke Quay MRT station and no shortage of spots to eat and drink.
Telok Ayer/Raffles Place
You’ll find Telok Ayer and Raffles Place kind of in-between Clarke Quay and Marina Bay, so you really get the best of both worlds here. What I like about this spot is how easy it is to get around, you have quick access to two big MRT stations, which make sightseeing convenient. You’re also nice and close to Chinatown and the great food on offer at the Chinatown Complex Food Centre. The only issue with this part of town is because it’s in the heart of lots of office buildings, it can be busy at peak hour and quiet on weekends. (Note: Raffles Place is not where the famous Raffles Hotel is)
Dhoby Gauht / Bras Basah
If you want to stay near Raffles Hotel, places near Dhoby Gauht or Bras Basah MRT stations are your best bet. Base yourself here and you’ll be close to Little India (amazing food!) and Orchard Road, but far enough away you aren’t too lost in a sea of huge buildings. You can easily go shopping at Bugis or grab something to eat at the high-end restaurants at the iconic Chijmes complex.
Head a little further along, toward the water, and you’ll find Esplanade and Promenade. Again, this spot puts you close to Raffles Hotel and Chijmes, but also right next to Suntec City Mall. You can easily explore the National Gallery of Singapore, wander along the waterfront and check out the Helix Bridge too. It’s nice and central, but a little further away from those distinctly CBD spots, like Telok Ayer.
A stay at Tanjong Pagar offers a bit more of a local food experience while still keeping things central and inner city. You’re more likely to find yourself exploring spots like Tiong Bahru, home of hipster cafes, great food and iconic old buildings. There are loads of great food spots nearby, like Potato Head and Cake Spade. Seriously, do a quick search of the area on google maps and you’ll find a myriad of food options! Being just outside the major city central area, things here are a little quieter but still centrally located.
While they aren’t nearly as many as the central areas, you’ll still find a few hotels in spots like Katong. The obvious disadvantage of staying somewhere like Katong is that you’re away from the major areas, but it’s Singapore so you’re only a 10-minute cab ride or a few MRT stops from where you want to be. Staying at Katong does open up some more local experiences, like exploring the East Coast Parkway and eating at my favourite food court on the island, the East Coast Lagoon Food Village. But, then again, you could always just catch a cab there.
If I were booking a hotel in Singapore, personally, I’d be looking to stay somewhere near Marina Bay, Raffles Place or Doby Gauht. I find these three spots to be great location-wise, with plenty to see, do and explore nearby. They’re convenient to get to/from and make for a great base for everything I want to do in Singapore. Just remember, Singapore is a small place so even if you do end up getting it wrong and choosing a hotel in a bad spot, you’ll still find it easy to get around and won’t miss out on any of the great things you have planned!