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Singapore is an enchanting land brimming with contradictions. It’s a bustling metropolitan centre with top-of-the-line shopping, nightlife and culture in the middle of a lush tropical land that reveres traditional, old-world values and customs.
There’s a lot to plan if you’re travelling to Singapore, from finding a place to stay and deciding what to do to learning the local etiquette and laws. When travelling to Singapore, keep the following in mind:
Quick Travel Notes
Etiquette & Customs: Singapore is a very clean and orderly city, so you should respect these rules. Do not litter, smoke in public or chew gum. Because all of these things lead to litter and uncleanliness, they are frowned upon and are often accompanied by fines. Furthermore, tipping is not common and most places include a service charge in the price. It also is discouraged by the government in Singapore.
Transportation: Transportation in Singapore includes trains, taxis and buses. The mass rapid transit train system is the fastest mode of transportation, according to YourSingapore.com, and most destinations are within walking distance of a station. Taxis are a good option if you don’t want to take the train or bus. They are metered and may have surcharges, so be sure to check with your driver about fares. The bus also covers most of Singapore. You can pay with exact change or you can buy a Singapore Tourist Pass.
Ecotourism: The Singapore government has invested in being sustainable. Trees, shrubs, plants and flowers are seamlessly integrated into the urban city to protect the habitat of the mythical lions that gave the city its name, explains Frommer’s. In addition, there are a few preserves including bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Pulau Ubin and Sungei Buloh Nature Park.
Temperature & Weather: Because Singapore is very close to the equator, it does not have varying seasons. It also has a tropical rainforest climate, so it remains hot and humid all year long and has a lot of rainfall. Daytime temperatures are usually around 30 degrees Celsius and nighttime temperatures fall to 23 degrees Celsius.
Do, See & Explore
Singapore has a wide variety of activities and places to see. From family-friendly fun to shopping and nightlife, Singapore has something for everyone. A few places to consider:
- Orchard Road: This is a premier shopping destination in Singapore that’s comparable to Fifth Avenue in New York and Ginza in Tokyo. It has humble beginnings as a fruit orchard that, over the years, has become a dominant retail space with shopping malls, restaurants and hotels. It has nearly 800,000 square metres of space and a wide variety for every taste and budget.
- Singapore Zoo: This zoo is considered one of the most beautiful wildlife parks in the world. It is open, and the animals roam freely in naturalistic habitats. The Singapore Tourism Board awarded it the Best Leisure Attraction Experience award nine times, and it gives visitors a chance to experience the Mandai rainforest. The zoo also has elevated platforms to see giraffes, underwater galleries for their otter and pygmy hippo exhibit and glass observatories to see predatory animals such as cheetahs and lions.
- Marina Bay: If you want to experience Singapore like a local, consider a trip to Marina Bay. You can get a birds-eye view of the city, enjoy a river taxi around the bay, stroll along the waterfront promenade and walk the Helix, the first curved double-helix bridge.
- Singapore Cable Car: When the sun sets on Singapore, the city really comes alive. No matter what your budget, you can find plenty to keep you busy at night. One fun choice is to take the cable car between Mount Faber and Sentosa Island. It’s a great way to get a 360-degree view of Singapore harbour – but make sure you don’t miss the last cable car back that leaves at 9:45 pm.
- Hawker Centres: Singapore is home to over 200 hawker centres, specialising in chilli crab (a signature dish), the ever-popular chicken rice and more exotic creations featuring cuttlefish, stingray or durian – a fruit that, according to Singaporeans, “tastes like heaven but smells like hell.” It’s hard to pick a favourite hawker centre, but Tiong Bahru Market, Maxwell Street Hawker Centre, Lau Pa Sat and the Tekka Centre in Little India are all extremely popular with locals.
- Zouk: This complex is made of five different clubs, making it a great nightlife destination:
- The Velvet Underground includes a prized art collection
- Dance features forward-thinking music and an LED panel-covered ceiling
- Phuture is futuristic with its lights and sounds
- The Wine Bar is lower-key with great seating to meet for drinks
- Zouk is inspired by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi and has a great sound system, lighting and multiple levels of dance floors and bars
Health & Safety
Safety should always be your first consideration when travelling. When visiting a different country, you need to be extra cautious about local laws and customs that may be different. Some laws to be aware of in Singapore include:
Outrage of Modesty: This law covers any immodest or inappropriate conduct in public places and may include penalties such as imprisonment, fines and corporal punishment. Men must behave appropriately toward women, and homosexual acts between men are illegal. Avoid foul language and inappropriate touching.
Drugs: Be sure to check what drugs (including over-the-counter drugs) are prohibited in Singapore, because they may have restricted substances that are common in Australia. If you have prescription medicines, you must apply for approval at least 10 days before arriving. Penalties are severe.
Paperwork: Before you leave on your trip, be sure to fill out any necessary paperwork and documents. Some items to consider include:
- Visa: Unlike other countries, who’s nationals require a visa, Aussies do not need a visa if they are staying less than 90 days.
- Passport: Like many foreign countries we travel to, you must have six months validity on your passport to both enter and exit Singapore. You will be issued a social visit pass upon arrival, and you must prove that you have a valid passport, sufficient funds and tickets to return to Australia.
- Smartraveller strongly recommends a comprehensive travel insurance for all Australian travellers. Your insurance needs to cover overseas medical costs and medical evacuation no matter how healthy you are, because the Australian Government will not pay for medical expenses overseas. Also consider getting insurance that covers rental vehicle excess and your personal items. This can cover lost or delayed luggage costs as well as any stolen items including computers, cameras and smartphones.
Singapore is a popular tourist destination, and hotels fill up quickly. Depending on your budget, you should book your hotel well in advance. Hotel suggestions include:
- Budget properties: These types of accommodation may be difficult to find, because establishments come and go quickly. Some areas to look are in Little India, Bugis and Clarke Quay.
- Mid-range hotels: These properties are located by the western end of the Singapore River. Some boutique spots include Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar.
- You will find the most options on the luxurious side. Try the Raffles Hotel or Sentosa Island.
- Unique spots: Try out some unique sleep destinations such as Kam Leng Hotel in old-world Singapore, The Scarlet Hotel and Capella Singapore in Sentosa Island.
No matter what you do or where you stay, you are sure to have the time of your life in Singapore. Be sure to plan ahead for any mishaps by investing in travel insurance, and then let the city show you what it’s all about. Enjoy!
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