Singapore is a small yet modern country. In many ways, it’s quite different than most of its neighbours – highly efficient, diverse cultures as well as super clean and safe to travel in! Nevertheless, Singapore is also known as a pricey country to visit by South East Asian standards, especially compare to Vietnam, Laos or even Malaysia.
But, that definitely shouldn’t deter you from skipping it on your South East Asia travel itinerary altogether.
Getting to/from Singapore
Singapore is well-connected by air to major cities around the world. The country has a world-class airport, Changi Airport (SIN), which serves as a major hub. You can book a flight to Changi Airport from various international destinations. Many airlines offer direct flights to Singapore, while others may have layovers in transit cities.
If you are in neighboring countries like Malaysia, you can travel to Singapore by land. There are two land border crossings with Malaysia, namely the Causeway (connecting from Johor Bahru to Woodlands) and the Second Link (connecting from Johor Bahru to Tuas). You can use buses, trains, or private vehicles for this journey.
Another option is to take a train to Singapore. The Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) railway network runs from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Singapore. The train journey takes several hours, and you will arrive at the Woodlands Train Checkpoint in Singapore. Singapore can also be travelled from Thailand by train, though there will be a few transfers in between.
Cruise ships also offer routes to Singapore, particularly from nearby countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. You can check with cruise companies for available itineraries and schedules. It is also popular to use ferry services operate between Singapore and Indonesia’s islands such as Batam and Bintan for weekend trips.
Before traveling, it’s essential to check visa requirements, travel restrictions, and any specific entry requirements or guidelines set by the authorities in Singapore. Most visitors to Singapore do not require a visa for entry. For more information on visa requirements and the Visa Free Transit Facility, you can check with the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority. The period of stay granted will be shown on the visit pass endorsement in your passport.
On immigration clearance, the SG Arrival Card (SGAC) e-Service should be completed before you leave your departure point. Check the latest travel restrictions, entry requirements, and COVID-19 protocols imposed by the Singaporean authorities or the country you are traveling from.
Getting from Changi Airport to City Center
The Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) is the fastest and most efficient way to travel from Changi Airport to the city. Follow the signs within the airport to the MRT station located in Terminal 2 or Terminal 3. You can either take the East West Line (EWL) or the Downtown Line (DTL) to reach various parts of the city. The journey to the city center typically takes around 30-40 minutes.
Public bus is the cheapest option but a longer journey. There are several buses like number 24, 27, 34, 36, 53, 110 and 858 to various part of the city. You can find bus stops at the basement levels of Terminals 1, 2, and 3. Check the bus service information boards at the airport or refer to the TransportSG app or website for bus routes and schedules. Be sure to have an EZ-Link card or exact change to pay for the bus fare.
Taxis are readily available at the designated taxi stands outside each terminal. Follow the signs to the taxi queue, and inform the taxi driver of your destination in the city. Taxis in Singapore are metered, and additional charges may apply, such as airport surcharge and peak hour surcharge. Popular ride-hailing services such as Grab and Gojek operate in Singapore. Follow the signs within the airport to the designated pick-up points for ride-hailing services.
Getting around Singapore
Singapore has one of the most reliable transportation system in the world. The world-class MRT System is made up of six main lines that bring most of Singapore within easy grasp. In addition, there is an extensive bus network that complements the MRT system. Buses cover areas that may not be directly served by the MRT, making them a useful mode of transportation. Bus services operate from early morning until midnight, and some routes offer night bus services. If you foresee yourself taking public transport frequently, you many want to consider getting a SG Tourist Pass which allows you to have unlimited travels on Singapore public transport.
Being a city-country, Singapore is relatively small with many attractions within walking distance of each other. Having well-maintained sidewalks and pedestrian crossings, walking is a pleasant way to explore. Just be mindful of the hot and humid weather, and use pedestrian crossings when crossing roads.
Best time to visit Singapore
Singapore does not have distinct seasons like countries in temperate regions. Instead, it experiences a wetter period during the monsoon seasons and slightly drier periods during the inter-monsoon periods. Having high levels of humidity throughout the year, can make the weather feel hot and sticky. Singapore has a relatively consistent temperature range, with average daily temperatures ranging from 25°C to 31°C. It is advisable to be prepared for Singapore’s warm and humid climate by wearing light, breathable clothing and staying hydrated.
Although Singapore is a year-round destination, the country experiences two main monsoon seasons: the Northeast Monsoon from December to March and the Southwest Monsoon from June to September. Late February to early April is the best time to go sightseeing in Singapore with the least amount of rain. The cheapest time to visit Singapore is July through October as it is considered an off-peak period. Don’t forget to pack an umbrella or raincoat for sudden rain showers. Additionally, it’s a good idea to check the weather forecast before heading out, as weather conditions can vary from day to day.
Singapore’s currency is the Singapore dollar (SGD or S$). Notes are issued in common denominations of $2, $5, $10, and $50; coins are in denominations of 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents, and $1. Polymer notes are progressively replacing the paper banknotes in circulation.
ATMs are plentiful around Singapore and accept most types of debit and credit cards, usually charging a fee for each withdrawal. Larger retailers and companies accept all major cards, and there are often adverts in the press offering discounts on shopping and meals if you pay with your card.
This is many free public hotspots across Singapore available at many locations including malls, museums, public libraries, MRT stations, Changi Airport and major tourists attractions. To get connected, register for an account with your foreign mobile number at any Wireless@SG hotspot and you will receive your login details via an SMS message. Overseas charges may apply.
Alternatively, you may collect a 4G portable Wi-Fi from Changi Airport.
Eating in Singapore
One of the best things about being in Singapore is undoubtedly the food. Being multi-ethnic and heritage, Singapore has a wide variety of local delicacy to offer! Nevertheless, choosing to eat out a restaurant can be a costly affair. A 3-course meal can easily set you back several hundred dollars, especially if you add a nice bottle of wine or two to the bill.
As pricey as Singapore can be, you can actually still eat delicious food without paying a bomb for your meal. Even without street food vendor like in Thailand or Vietnam, there are hawker centers and food courts around with each dish costs you as little as S$4-S$6. The best part is, there is much more variety of food to choose from than eating in a restaurant!
Drinking in Singapore
Alcohol is heavily taxed in Singapore! An average beer in a bar will set you back around S$10-S$15, while a bottle of house wine in a restaurant will start at around S$60++ and if you want to indulge in fancy cocktails in one of Singapore’s roof-top bars, expect to fork out around S$20++ per drink.
If you are looking for ways to save money on alcohol in Singapore, you may head to hawker centers for a large bottle of Tiger that costs around S$6-S$7. Also, instead of purchasing alcohol in overprices nightclubs, you can also pick up alcohol at lower price in the supermarkets or 7-Eleven. Then head to the Singapore river for epic views over the city.
The most expensive part of travelling in Singapore is definitely the accommodation costs. Unfortunately, the budget accommodation options in Singapore are still not that cheap. Similar to Australia and New Zealand, a bed in hostel can easily cost at least S$25-S$30.
Alternatively, you may try using Couchsurfing to stay with locals who have extra beds and couches and stay for free. There is nothing better than having a local guide to show you the ins and outs of the city!
Things to pack for Singapore
Singapore is not a conservative country, so you can dress however you want. For those who are not used to the heat and humidity, Singapore can be quite a brutal place to walk around. Wear dry-fit clothing if possible so your skin can breathe and wear comfortable walking shoes. Almost every indoor is heavily air-conditioned, so be sure to carry a cardigan or light jacket to layer up with.
Other essentials you might want to consider bringing are umbrella, sunglasses, mosquito repellent, sunscreen and water bottle.
Good to know
- Chewing gum is ban in Singapore since 2004 to improve cleanliness of the city, with an exception has existed for therapeutic, dental, or nicotine chewing gum.
- Doing/possessing/selling drugs is an offense punishable by death. So don’t be doing any of that nonsense.
- Singapore is notorious for being a “Fine City” – Do note that you can be fined hundreds of dollars for smoking in certain public places and sheltered areas, littering and even spitting.
- The tap water here is perfectly okay to drink without boiling it, so avoid buying water and just refill your bottle. It will save you money and it’s better for the environment!
- Singaporeans tend to refer to strangers such as cab drivers and hawker centre stall owners as “Aunties” and “Uncles”. This is an endearing way of addressing older gentlemen and ladies.
- Singapore has 4 official languages: English, Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil. However, don’t be too surprised to hear Singaporeans adding to their sentences the occasional “lah” and “leh”. These are just bits of what make the local Singlish vocabulary so unique.
- Singapore has a 7% Goods and Services Tax (GST), which is levied by all companies except small businesses. Prices in shops include GST, but it’s not uncommon for hotels and restaurants to leave it out, quoting prices with “++” at the end. The first plus indicates a 10% service charge and the second plus indicates the 7% GST. So avoid eating in restaurants and bars.
Lastly, if you want to keep a track of all my photos and travels, remember to follow @wanderrsaurus on Instagram!