It is one of the cleanest, easiest cities to be in, but there are a few things about Singapore worth knowing before you go…
Singapore has long been a stop over city, but more and more, it is proving itself as a stand alone destination. There are plenty of reasons to extend your stay in Singapore, not least, that gorgeous weather. Before you plan a few extra days in Singapore en route to Europe or elsewhere in Asia, there are a few little things about the city that are worth knowing…
You won’t want to leave the airport
There is a reason that Changi airport is named as one of the best airports in the world. It has everything you could ever want in an airport, and more. Scrap that. It has everything you could ever want, period.
Even if you don’t have lounge access, a longer layover at Changi is far from painful. There is so much to explore that you won’t want to be holed up in a lounge the whole time. Changi is home to a giant waterfall, bouncing sky nets, and even a butterfly park. It is probably easier to rattle off what it doesn’t have to be honest.
Even though I always have work I can do to flesh out a longer layover, I barely even want to touch it when I am at Changi!
Singaporeans (and visitors) love light shows
Singapore has done a fine job of giving tourists reasons to visit. There are all the big draw cards – like Marina Bay and the Raffles – but you can’t underestimate the pulling power that a light show has. Light shows are some of Singapore’s more well known tourist activities. While they aren’t high up on my list of reasons to go to Singapore, they are still worth checking out.
Each night, there are 4 light shows that happen around Marina Bay Sands, and they are always rammed with people. There are 2 at Gardens by the Bay, and 2 just by the floating Louis Vuitton store. They have even put a light show in at the Changi Jewel. Yes, that impressive waterfall feature at the airport has it’s own daily light show. the Singaporeans just love light!
This isn’t south east Asia – things can get expensive!
Almost every conversation I have struck up about Singapore has had someone saying ”it is expensive”. Anyone who is coming from holidaying in Vietnam, Indonesia or Malaysia, feels the hurt on the hip pocket even more. It can be a bit of a surprise for anyone who heads over expecting a bargain holiday in Asia.
The Aussie dollar buys around 90-95 Singaporean cents, so the price you see is, more or less, the price you pay. And for most things, the price you pay, is more or less what you would pay in Australia.
Coffee, food and alcohol tend to be the biggest fund-eating culprits in Singapore.
As I drink a decaf soy flat white, I am accustomed to paying around $5.00 for a coffee at home. But I refused to pay somewhere around $7.50 for a coffee in Singapore. And this wasn’t just a one off – most places we went, coffee wouldn’t have returned much change from a $10.00 note. The familiar, comforting taste just didn’t seem worth the price of a carton of eggs back home.
Eating out at your every day, middle tier restaurant is akin to eating at a middle tier restaurant back home – just a wee bit more with the exchange rate and service charge. Add a glass of wine each onto the bill, and you are looking at anywhere between $80 – $120 for the pair of you. It all ends up adding up, especially if you are going out for breakfasts too.
The michelin cuisine that Singapore is so famously known for will need a lot more room in the budget. Those restaurants are an assault on both the senses, and the wallet.
Eating at the hawker centre is a must
Singapore is the home of the hawker centre. There is just about one on every corner. A hawkers centre is basically a collection of small, local stalls, doing the local food that they do best. You can find all sorts of delicacies at a hawkers centre, from satay and dumplings, to char kway teow and the famous Hainanese chicken rice.
If you are happy to eat at the hawkers restaurants for every meal (and there is no reason you can’t), you will save yourself so much money. At a hawker restaurant, you won’t pay over $10.00 for a decent meal, $15.00 if you want a can of beer with it. And let’s face it, a big bowl of hot noodles and beer is a dream meal.
The best hawkers centre is Lau Pa Sat, the ‘old market’. It is right in the heart of the CBD, and one of the more impressive looking centres about. The other hawkers centres are equally as good as far as the food is concerned, but the old market has the architecture over the others.
Getting around by taxi is actually really cheap and easy
Unlike most south east Asian countries, traffic is not a problem at all on the roads of Singapore. You can cross the road without having to dodge scooters, and you will never really get stuck in a traffic jam if you jump in a car. Thanks to the insane taxes on owning a car in Singapore (a Toyota Corolla costs near on $100,000 to buy and own), there aren’t that many cars on the road. Most locals rely on the metro system or busses for transport.
Catching a ride in Singapore is simple. If you download the Grab app (Asia’s answer to Uber), you can get a taxi or ride share within a matter of minutes. Just like Uber, everything is tracked and safe, but you still have to hand over cash or a card when you get to your destination. And, just like Uber, prices are really reasonable.
If you are a little more environmentally conscious, do as the locals do and jump on the metro. Obviously, it is even cheaper than getting in a car, and the network is pretty comprehensive.
Most of the districts are within walking distance of each other
I discovered this when we did a bicycle tour of the whole city in just a matter of hours.
It is popular opinion that walking is the best way to see a new city, so if you are up for it, walk around Singapore as much as possible. It takes just 15 minutes to walk from Clark Quay to just past China town, and even less than that to get from Marina Bay Sands to the heart of the CBD. With everything more or less within walking distance, it really doesn’t matter where you choose to stay. That decision can be made based purely on hotel amenities and atmosphere.
Chewing gum isn’t illegal
Everything you heard about gum being illegal in Singapore is a myth. Well, sort of. Anyone bringing in sellable quantities of gum will get pinged, but other than that, chewing gum is not going to cop you a fine. Don’t go fretting that you have a packet of gum on you, and feel free to chew it in public if you must. Just be a considerate chewer and dispose of your gum properly.
June is the season for luxury shopper’s
Singapore is a luxury shopper’s heaven. From Vuitton to Versace, Dolce to Dior, it is all across Singapore. Heck, Vuitton even has a floating store.
If you go to Singapore at the right time, these luxury stores are all on sale. Head over mid season – late June is a great time – and most of the stores are offering anywhere between 30-50% off. Mid-season in Singapore is a great time to pick up the luxury bag you have been eyeing off.
Browsing the shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, or sauntering down Orchard rd will satisfy any shopaholic.
Ditch the single use plastic and take a refillable water bottle
Tap water in Singapore is very safe to drink. Although it is a foreign country, the infrastructure in Singapore is impeccable, and there is nothing sinister lurking in the tap water. Given how much water you need to drink to stay hydrated in the heat, it makes sense to bring your own water bottle along. The last thing you want to do to the environment is go through 5 or 6 single use bottles each day. Conscious travel is good travel!