A vibrant, bustling city, Singapore combines all the charm of South-East Asia with the wonder of the modern world. One minute you’re wandering past high-end storefronts on Orchard Road and the next, you’re tucking into the island’s very best food, elbow to elbow with locals at a Hawker Centre. From unique cultural experiences and a fascinating history to unbelievably good food and modern-day fun, there’s a lot to see, do and eat in Singapore. A popular transit hub, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself transiting through this eclectic country at one point or another. Whether it’s a stopover or a longer stay, Singapore has a lot to offer travellers. To help you #TravelWell here’s our ultimate guide to Singapore!
But first, watch this…
Where is Singapore?
You’ll find Singapore located just off the tip of the Malay Peninsula, about one degree north of the equator. It is comprised of one main island with a number of smaller islets and islands forming part of the country too. Established as a trading post of the British Empire in 1819, Singapore has long been a port for travellers and that unique history continues today as more than 65.6 million passengers pass through Changi Airport each year.
How to get to Singapore
To get there we fly direct from Australia to Singapore with Singapore Airlines with a flight time of around 8 hours. Owing to its central location there are many airlines with flights to Singapore but, for us, Singapore Airlines is always our first choice. We’ve experienced Singapore Airlines economy, premium economy and business class and have found, no matter where you sit on the plane, the service is always the same! There’s a consistent approach to customer service that makes you feel like your needs matter. The staff are always so welcoming, friendly, patient, kind and attentive. There’s genuine pride in working for the airline, which flows through into the customer service we, as guests, receive.
In addition, we find the seats are very comfortable, there’s always a great selection of entertainment (featuring tv shows and movies you actually want to watch!) and the food is delicious too. They offer a great range of meals for dietary requirements (note: if you love Indian cuisine you should try the Indian vegetarian meals, they’re fantastic). A full-service airline, our luggage and seat selection are included in our fare, which makes the experience all the more stress-free. If you’re planning a trip and looking for an airline recommendation we highly recommend Singapore Airlines and fly with them every chance we get.
- Is Premium Economy really worth it? Here’s the truth!
- 6 Thoughts I had flying Business Class with Singapore Airlines
Is Singapore a safe destination for travellers?
Singapore is renowned for being a safe destination for residents and travellers alike. As someone who has lived in Singapore and travelled there repeatedly, I have never had an experience that has made me feel unsafe in any way. When we’re in Singapore we have no hesitations withdrawing cash from an ATM late at night or wandering around with our cameras out. With that said, it’s always important to be mindful wherever you travel in the world so we follow the same basic safety principles as always. We’re mindful to keep our belongings where we can see them at all times and use our hotel room safe to store valuable items.
Is Singapore a budget-friendly destination?
If I had never lived in Singapore I would have been of the opinion it is an expensive destination. This is due to the cost of accommodation, alcohol, some experiences and restaurants as well as Singapore’s famous high-end shopping scene. But there are many layers to Singapore and, in my opinion, some of the best experiences are the least expensive. Instead of eating at restaurants for every meal try eating at Hawker Centres dotted across the island. Here, you can feast like a King for under SG$10!
The best food on the island is found in Hawker Centres so not only will you save money, you’ll be trying authentic local cuisine. The alcohol tax means booze prices are high so try taking advantage of your hotel’s club lounge benefits as they usually include two or three hour-long happy hours where drinks are free! In place of catching taxis or ride-shares around the island, get yourself an EZ-Link Card and catch the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) instead. The train system in Singapore is incredibly easy to figure out and use. It’s also very safe, clean and affordable.
10 Must-know tips for visiting Singapore
Here are a few things you really need to know before you travel to Singapore:
- The local currency is the Singapore Dollar (SG$) and no other currency is accepted (i.e. US Dollars). Downloading a free currency conversion app that works offline, like XE Currency, will come in very useful!
- Singapore has four official languages; English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil but there’s a fifth unofficial language; Singlish! This unique hybrid of English and local dialect influences is a beloved part of Singapore. When talking to locals the speed at which they talk may make it seem as though they aren’t speaking English but listen closely and your ears will adapt. Before you know it, you’ll be adding ‘lah’ and ‘ah/uh’ to your sentences, calling people Aunty and Uncle and clipping your sentences (it kinda reminds me of that episode of The Office where Kevin starts cutting out unnecessary words!).
- While Singapore’s laws are very strict, I often hear people express worry they’ll be arrested for things like accidentally dropping a food wrapper. Don’t worry, it’s not like that! If you do litter, just pick it up and put it in the trash.
- The heat and humidity in Singapore can be very intense, especially if you aren’t used to it or are coming from a cold climate. Trust me, you don’t want to underestimate it. To avoid heatstroke and exhaustion you may want to plan to do your sightseeing in the mornings and afternoon/evenings, outside of the hottest parts of the day. Use sun protective gear (I always carry an umbrella to shade me), rest often, and drink lots of water.
- While cards are widely accepted, you’ll want to make sure you have cash on you if you’re visiting Hawker Centres as it’s unlikely they’ll take your card for payment.
- There’s a large expat community in Singapore, which makes it even more multicultural than it already was to begin with! As a result, you’ll find a broad range of restaurants and bars catering to just about every nationality you could think of. It also means it’s a great place to meet people from all over the world and make new friends.
- With so many expats living in Singapore and many business deals going down over drinks, Singapore’s nightlife scene is kind of epic! So, if you do love to party, you’re in for a real treat.
- While Singapore is renowned for it’s super safe, squeaky-clean image, there is a ‘red-light district,’ in Geylang. Honestly, there are some pretty great restaurants there and I’ve never had a problem when I’ve visited! But, if you are keen to see Singapore’s ‘other side,’ head there after dark.
- You can easily visit Malaysia by catching the bus, walking or driving a car across the border. We used to do this a lot when I was living there, heading over to Johor Bahru for a day of shopping and great Malaysian food. Just beware, while the border control staff in Singapore are all above board, we have had situations where staff on the Malay side of the border sought bribes to allow us to enter or leave.
- Tipping isn’t required in Singapore, though you’re welcome to if you would like to, of course
- Read our full guide to 11 things to know before you go to Singapore here.
The best time to visit Singapore
Singapore is a great destination year-round. I often read articles talking about the different seasons and, yes, there are technically different seasons but there’s not really going to be a time to visit that will allow you to escape the heat altogether. Remember, earlier, when you read that bit about it being one degree north of the equator?! Yeah, that ain’t changing which means the heat ain’t changing either. With that in mind, planning a visit around January to March will see you coinciding with some of the island’s festivals like Chinese New Year and Holi. Singapore also comes alive from November to December with Deepavali (the festival of lights) and some absolutely epic Christmas and New Year celebrations!
How to get around in Singapore
In Australia, taxis are so expensive we rarely use them. In Singapore, they’re really well-priced which makes catching taxis around the island a viable transport option. Also, you’re very unlikely to get ripped off in a tourist scam as Singaporean taxi drivers run a fare meter. Make sure when you get in, the meter is started, just as a precaution. It’s also important to bear in mind that torrential afternoon downpours are common in the rainy months, coinciding perfectly with peak hours. This creates a huge demand for taxis which can make it virtually impossible to get one so, if this happens, public transport is a better option.
While Uber has been outlawed, you can use ‘Grab’ which is essentially the same thing. Just make sure you download the app and register an account before you leave home as you’ll need to verify your mobile number and, if you don’t’ have an international sim, won’t be able to do it once you arrive. The easiest and most affordable way to get around Singapore as a tourist has to be by public transport. Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system is incredibly well organised, very clean, reliable, and easy to navigate. Catch the bus or train around the island paying for tickets as you go or pick up an EZ-Link card which can be topped up with credit to make it even easier!
Where to stay in Singapore
Given the size of the island and how easy it is to get around, you can’t really go wrong when choosing an accommodation spot. While it may be tempting to book a hotel right on Orchard Road, I would only recommend that location if you’re really into shopping. Otherwise, I’d recommend spots around the Downtown area. Ideally, you want to find a place right above or very close to an MRT station. Look for spots near City Hall, Esplanade, Raffles Place, Telok Ayer and Downtown MRT stations. Find great Singapore hotels here!
Swissôtel The Stamford
This hotel truly has it all and is our favourite place to stay in Singapore! Swissôtel The Stamford is perfectly located in-between two MRT stations, with one being directly below the hotel. There’s plenty of great food options close by, within easy walking distance and you could also do a lot of our exploring on foot, owing to its great location. Our favourite things about the hotel have to be the incredible views over the city, out to the water and beyond as well as the incredibly luxurious, modern rooms. Find Swissôtel The Stamford here and read my full review of it here.
Crowne Plaza Changi Airport
We often find ourselves transiting through Singapore, with one or two days layover. In those instances, we love staying at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport. It only takes a few minutes to walk from baggage collection to the hotel reception and, before you know it, you’ve had a shower and are all cosied up in bed, relaxing. The rooms here are very spacious and well fitted out, with everything you could possibly need to have a great stay. Best of all, it’s located a short walk from Jewel at Changi Airport, has an awesome pool and an epic club lounge! We love visiting time and time again to reconnect with Raymond, the amazing Club Lounge manager who never forgets us. Find Crowne Plaza Changi Airport here.
If you love boutique hotel experiences you should definitely check out Amoy Hotel. Located in Singapore’s Central Business District, the Telok Ayer MRT is right outside the hotel’s unique temple entry-way. Inside the decor throws back to Singapore’s spice trade routes, with dark wood, vintage pieces, exposed brick, warm lighting and split-level rooms. With plenty of great food closeby, a distinct heritage feel and a convenient, central location, Amoy is a great base for your Singapore adventures. Find Amoy Hotel here.
Here are 8 more awesome places to stay in Singapore:
- Marina Bay Sands
- The Fullerton Bay Hotel
- Rendezvous Hotel
- Holiday Inn Express Orchard Road
- Oasia Hotel Novena
- Shangri-La Hotel
- Village Hotel Katong
- Mandarin Oriental
15 Foods you must try in Singapore
Eating is pretty much a national pastime in Singapore! Honestly, I have to recommend that you eat as much food as possible, sampling from the broad range of cuisines on offer across the island. If you went to Singapore and didn’t stuff yourself… did you really do it right? I think not. Here are my tips on must-try food in Singapore. It’s important to note the very best food goes down at Hawker Centres so nearly all of these recommendations can be found at one of the many great Hawker Centres across the island, making them very budget-friendly.
- Start your day the traditional way with Kaya Toast, made from a sweet, coconut jam, and delicious silk-stocking tea or coffee
- Dive mouth-first into delicious dumplings either from a Hawker Centre or spots like Din Tai Fung, Mouth or 126 Eating House
- If you love noodles, be sure to sample Char Kway Teow, a delicious combination of flat rice noodles, dark soy sauce, egg, seafood/sausage and more
- You absolutely must try fried carrot cake, one of my favourite Singaporean dishes! Interestingly, it is not a cake and does not contain any carrot!
- The perfect mix between fresh, spicy and sweet, Rojak is a tropical fruit and vegetable salad perfect for something light or as a vegetarian option
- You cannot visit Singapore without trying Hainanese Chicken Rice at least once! It’s pretty much the national dish and they love it so much they made a whole Romeo and Juliet inspired movie about it.
- One of my all-time favourite things to eat in Singapore (and the world) is Masala Dosa. In my opinion, the very best one is from Komala Villas in Little India.
- Speaking of Little India, if you love curry be sure to head to the Banana Leaf Apolo for truly delicious curry and Indian fare.
- Another of my all-time favourite things to eat in life is Roti Prata, a crispy, delicious flatbread cooked over a grill and served with dipping curry.
- If you love chicken wings keep your eyes peeled for crispy, golden BBQ chicken wings or ‘teddy-bear wings’ found at Hawker Centres. The chilli they serve them with will blow your mind!
- Vegetarians and vegans will love sampling clay hotpot, which includes a mouth-wateringly good veggie gravy and loads of yummy veg and tofu too! They also have meat options, of course, for the carnivores.
- Head to Lau Pa Sat after dark and eat your way through the iconic ‘Satay Street’ where you can sample some of the islands very best satay, accompanied perfectly by gooey peanut satay sauce. Y-E-S!
- Singapore is famous for its incredible Chilli Crab. You’ll definitely get covered in crab juice but it’s worth it to sample the BBQ’d perfection and spices!
- If you’re feeling adventurous, BBQ Stingray is a local delight that will expand your horizons and it tastes absolutely amazing.
- It’s so hot in Singapore that ice creams and rich desserts don’t usually sit too well. Instead, try ice kachang! It’s essentially shaved ice topped with syrup, condensed milk, jelly, fruits and some pretty unique toppings like red kidney beans and even corn. Don’t knock it till you try it!
- Read our full guide on must-try food in Singapore here.
8 of the best things to do in Singapore
There’s no shortage of wonderful things to do in Singapore! Here are a few to get you started:
- Soak in the very best views of the island from above by visiting rooftop spots like Pinnacle @ Duxton and 1-Altitude
- Visit the iconic Gardens by the Bay; exploring the Cloud Forest, Flower Dome and spectacular Supertree Grove
- See a different side of Singapore by heading out to the East Coast Parkway to ride bikes and sit on the beach
- Make your way to Chinatown, visiting the incredible Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Maxwell Food Centre
- Spend a day exploring the vibrant streets and temples of Little India, making sure to check out the Tekka Centre and wet market
- Have an amazing day at the Singapore Zoo or a unique evening experience at the epic Night Safari
- Step back in time to the 1920s as you wander the gorgeous streets of Tiong Bahru, making a visit to the iconic Tiong Bahru Bakery
- Head over to Sentosa Island to visit Singapore’s beautiful beaches and visit Universal Studios for a fun-filled day
- Read our full guide to 16 Things you absolutely must do in Singapore here.
What to pack for a trip to Singapore
Here’s what you need to pack for a trip to Singapore:
- Overall, you’ll want to pack clothing that is breathable. For Matt, this is usually shorts and a sweat-wicking t-shirt. For me, it’s usually summer dresses, cotton skirts and linen tops. It’s going to be hot and humid so make sure your clothing is going to allow your skin to breathe and keep you as cool as possible.
- I always recommend wearing a high SPF sunscreen and a hat if you’re out exploring during the day
- In terms of footwear, I find we’re on our feet a lot in Singapore so we prefer to wear comfortable sneakers or breathable sandals
- Make sure you pack your swimmers so you can take advantage of the hotel pool!
- If you’re planning on dining out at nice restaurants, you’ll want to bring a few special outfits with you. Singapore is very fashion-forward so don’t be afraid to get all glammed up for a special dinner
- You will absolutely need a good quality, strong deodorant, especially if you typically sweat a lot as-is
- Surprisingly, I always recommend packing a really warm jumper or jacket. You see, to compensate for the heat, shopping malls, hotels etc will have the air conditioning set to ‘freeze’ and you can quickly become very cold.
- Read our full guide on what to pack for a trip to Singapore here.
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