Although small in size, Singapore is full of attractions and is well worth exploring as a visitor. There is a remarkable diversity in what the country has to offer. It mixes modern buildings with traditional temples, hosts some world class museums and even has it’s own rainforest. Often included as part of a wider Southeast Asia trip or as a stopover between other destinations, Singapore is definitely worth visiting in it’s own right. This Singapore Travel Guide will first give you some information about the country before highlighting some of the best things to see and do in the city.
Singapore Travel Guide – Key Information
Changi Airport has flights all over the world and has plenty of destinations within Southeast Asia too. It makes Singapore a great place to visit either at the start or the end of any trip through Southeast Asia. Or even has a stop in the middle, whilst flying from place to another in the region.
You can also enter Singapore by land from Malaysia. You cross from Johor Bahru, it’s usually quick and efficient. Though watch out for traffic during rush hour. There are buses which take you from Malaysian immigration to Singapore immigration. Afterwards you can take buses into Singapore, either getting off at a MRT stop to continue your journey or travelling into the centre. There are also shuttle trains between the two. Specifically to/from JB Sental in Malaysia and Woodlands Train Checkpoint in Singapore. This is particularly useful should you be coming from train from Malaysia.
There are also ferry’s which you can take to or from Singapore. Particularly of note is the service to Batam in Indonesia, which is a method many travellers use to travel between the countries. Check visa requirements if your heading to Indonesia, their visa on arrival scheme requires entry at specific points.
As always, check your own countries visa rules before travelling to Singapore. They offer citizens of many countries visa free entry on arrival, for a set amount of days (which is usually more than enough for tourist purposes). Confirm your own visa requirements before travelling.
Singapore has a great Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) system that’s easy to use and connects the city well. You can get to all the major attractions using this system as well s to and from the airport. They offer a tourist pass available in certain stations at dedicated counters. It’s definitely worth getting if your planning to see a lot of the city, it will really help you save money getting around from place to place. You can check up to date information on this on their website here: http://thesingaporetouristpass.com.sg/type-of-passes/
Singapore is really well regarded for the quality of it’s food. Food is a big deal here and on any given evening you will see queues forming outside popular restaurants. The cultural mix found in Singapore means food from all across the Asian region and beyond is on offer here. There certainly is a good variety of styles to try when you visit the city.
Little India is a fantastic place to find cheap meals in Singapore. ‘Thali’ meals are great value for money. These offers several different small dishes along with the rice/bread. I recommend trying either a Dosa meal or a rice meal.
Hawker Centres are great places to find a variety of interesting foods. There are many across Singapore and are very popular with locals and visitors alike. If you love eating street food then be sure to spend some time checking these out.
The shopping malls in Singapore are vast with many food places alongside the stores. In particular look out for the food courts. These offer affordable meals often made to a high standard. These can be a good place to try Malay food as well as a whole other range of Asian styles. Korean food tends to be particularly popular with the locals.
China town in my view offers similar to what you will find in China Towns across South Eats Asia. expect noodles, spring roles, stir fry’s and as such. If you enjoy that type of food then be sure to head there. Some of the places are more touristy than others look for the more local friendly ones for better quality food.
Note for Vegetarians/Vegans
As a vegetarian myself I found Little India and the food halls the best places to find vegetarian food. Many of the restaurants in Little India are vegetarian only, and even those which aren’t will offer a large vegetarian menu.
The food halls usually have a vegetarian stand that offers Malay dishes made in a vegetarian style. To clarify I am talk about food halls in shopping malls and alike, not Hawker Centres. I particularly like the vegetarian stand in the ‘Food Junction’ found in the Bugis Junction shopping mall.
In Chinatown you can find some specifically vegetarian restaurants. many of them serve the Buddhist style ‘mock meat’ that is popular in the Chinese community across Southeast Asia. Look out for Yi Xin Vegetarian, it’s one worth looking or there.
Most of the food in these places should be vegan friendly but check with them just in case. Additionally be aware that whilst some Hawker Centres have vegetarian stands many don’t. If your thinking of heading to one ensure you google first as many don’t.
The country uses the Singapore Dollar. ATMs are plentiful and many places take card. Its good to have cash on you for buying food. Especially if your going to the Hawker Centres or are buying street food. Prices are significantly higher than the rest of Southeast Asia. Plan your budget as you would in somewhere like Western Europe, the USA or Japan. Don’t let this put you off though, in terms of tourist activities, backpacker hostels and meals it’s possible to find budget options if you look for them.
As alluded to above, accommodation in Singapore is quite pricey compared to the rest of Southeast Asia. For backpackers looking at hostel beds, expect to pay over £20/$22 a night minimum. There are a lot of pod style hotels here which can be good as they give you the privacy of a pod despite being in a shared room. many hostels have double pods for couples of offer too, so you can stay in a dorm and share with your partner or friend.
In terms of locations, closeness to a MRT stop is the major factor here. For convenience i’d recommend you stay at least within 5-6 stops of Chinatown or Downtown. This is the central area as such. This way you can head back to your accommodation easy enough after a hard day’s exploring before heading back out for food and other evening activities. You’ll find past that and the journeys between stops can get longer. You can find a MRT map by clicking here.
I’ve stayed in the Bugis area which was good for food as there are many restaurant around and a food court in the shopping mall. I’ve also stayed in the Lavender area which isn’t far from Little India. There is a Hawker centre here too.
Here’s a quick 3 laws you definitely need to adhere to when visiting Singapore:
It is vital you stay away from drugs in Singapore, they have extremely strict laws that includes use of the death sentence.
When travelling on the MRT it is important not to eat or drink. It is not allowed on there and carries a fine if you are caught doing so. You will also see sign’s saying ‘No Durian’. This fruit has such a strong stench they’ve banned it from the MRT.
You should not jaywalk, this is illegal and also frowned upon by locals. If caught you will face a S$50 fine.
Singapore Travel Guide – General Tips
English is pretty much spoken everywhere in Singapore, so you will get along fine with it. Whilst Malay is the official national language, English is widely used and over 30% have it as their main language at home. Additionally many Singaporeans have it as a second language, and speak it fluently. Other languages you will encounter include Tamil and Mandarin. Additionally you may hear various other Chinese dialects too.
It’s important when visiting the temples in Singapore that you follow the guidelines. Particularly the Hindu temples will require you to remove your shoes. Look to see where others are leaving there’s and place yours along with them. You should also be dressed appropriately too. If you know you will be visiting a temple that day make sure your shoulders are covered and your legs to the knee.
Singapore is a mixture of different races and religions. Whilst Singapore certainty has it’s own identity, it’s important to be considerate of the mixture of backgrounds. Many Chinese and Indian migrants moved here under British Colonial rule, and have long established communities here. In fact Chinese is the largest population by quite some way. Malay is the second largest group, and of course it is the largest ethnic group in Singapore’s neighbour Malaysia. Expect to see a wide diversity as you travel around the country.
There are several religions in Singapore that have notable followings. Buddhism and Taoism are the largest, and other Chinese religions are often featured besides these in temples and communities. The next largest religions are Islam and Christianity, followed by Hinduism. There are various others present in smaller numbers too.
Singapore Travel Guide – What to see and do in Singapore
Gardens By The Bay
The Gardens By The Bay are a spectacular feat of engineering and are visually stunning. It’s this visual impact that makes them the obvious choice to top the list of things to see and do in this Singapore Travel Guide. A treetop walk is a good thing to do here, walking between the tree’s in the Supertree Grove. It gives you amazing views over the Marina Bay Sands too. Whilst here you can visit 2 conservation domes. These are the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome. these are artificially created environments to showcase plants from all over the world. The Cloud Forest also includes the largest indoor waterfall in the world. Additionally these domes seek to educate you on the environment and dangers of local warming, in fact it’s an important theme running through the gardens as a whole.
Visiting at night the tree’s are all lit up. Walk around the area and check out the different colours and displays. And the free light and sound show every day in the evenings are very impressive. It’s known as the Garden Rhapsody, and is usually on twice nightly. Click the link to check the latest timings.
Singapore’s Chinatown is full of shops and colourful Chinese decorations. A lot of this is aimed at tourists but it’s still worth looking around, there are some nice old buildings and plenty of interesting food options.
Whilst in Chinatown there are a couple of temples worth checking out. The first is the impressive Buddha Tooth Relic Temple located in Chinatown was built in 2007. It also serves as a museum. Dedicated to Buddhism, it is full of images of the Buddha and other Chinese Buddhist artwork. The second is the Sri Mariamman Temple. It is found just on the edge of China town and is the oldest Hindu temple in the city. Founded in 1827, it is built in the style of Dravidian architecture, which originates from South India. The other Hindu temples mentioned in this Singapore Travel Guide also follow this style. The Indian population in Singapore is largely Tamil, migrating from South India and Sri Lanka.
Full of colourful art, houses, restaurants, shops and stalls, Little India is the centre of Singapore’s Indian community. Its a fun place to walk around and observe the local community going about their daily business.
There are several Hindu temples here and there are two in particular recommend visiting. Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is the most popular with visitors. It was build in 1881 and is dedicated to the Goddess Kali. Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple is dedicated to Vishnu and dates back to 1855, though it’s impressive Gopuram was added later in 1966. They are both full of colourful artwork relating to Hindu mythology and worship. Their Gopuram are temple entrances that feature a tower covered in Hindu sculptures.
As I mentioned earlier in this Singapore Travel Guide, Little India is a great place to go for food. There are numerous restaurants here of high quality. And at comparatively cheap cost compared to elsewhere in the country. Komala Vilas and Ananda Bhavan are my 2 favourite here.
Whilst here I also recommend stopping by the Indian Heritage Centre. It is a look at the history of Indian community in Singapore. It covers how they came to be here and how they keep their cultures and traditions alive.
Singapore’s old Arab Quarter is a great place to go to admire street art and check out the shops and cafes. Under British colonial rule this area was for Arabs and the Malay. Many of them were merchants and you can definitely see their legacy here. The old shop buildings are interesting to admire and many of the street names are inspired by the Arab world.
Masjid Sultan (aka the Sultan Mosque) is located here. Its the oldest mosque in Singapore, with building beginning in 1924. It really stands out here and is very impressive to look upon.
The Asian Civilisations Museum
This museum is one of my personal favourites in the world. It looks at the history of the Asian area from India eastwards, particularly focused around South Asia, Southeast Asia and China. There are many different items on display here from throughout the historical periods. The Tang Shipwreck display here in particularly is hugely educational, demonstrating the trade routes between Asian countries as well as with the Middle East. It was found in the Java Sea and sunk around the 9th century.
The different religions of the region are covered in the museum. for example Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Taoism and more. There are many interesting artefacts from these on display. In fact the 4 galleries the museum covers are Trade, Faith and Religion, Material and Design and Chinese Ceramics. Check out their website for information regarding opening hours and entrance fee’s.
This building is huge. In fact so huge it’s actually 2 buildings that are joined together. They are the old City Hall and Supreme Court buildings, and you can read some of the history about them as you explore the gallery. The gallery itself has a huge collection of Singaporean and Southeast Asian art, covering many different styles and artists. There really is an incredible amount of art on show here and you will need several hours to admire it all. It might be wise to plan your trip in advance using their website! The views over Singapore from the rooftop are spectacular too, make sure you head up there.
This national museum explores the history of Singapore from it’s ancient history through it’s colonial era into the modern day. This city started out as a small fishing village to grow into one of the biggest most advanced cities in the world. Not only does the museum cover historical events and leaders but it also looks at the lives of everyday people in Singapore throughout this. There are many different exhibitions that covers different aspects of Singaporean history. Their website can be viewed here should you wish to check out whats on and see up to date entrance information.
These fantastic gardens were first created in 1859, when Singapore was under British colonial rule. There is a lot to see here, it’s home to many species of tree’s and plants. There are also animals and birds to spot too, look out for terrapins and monitor lizards. The latter in particular are found on the shores of the Eco lake. It’s one of several lakes in the gardens.
You will also find a small rain-forest here. Singapore is one of only 2 cities in the world to have rainforest within it’s city borders. The other is Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. In fact this rainforest is actually itself one of two in Singapore. The other is found at Bukit Timah (which is the next entry on this Singapore Travel Guide).
When you are here you can also visit the National Orchid Garden. They proudly state that they are home to over ‘1000 species and 2000 hybrids’ of Orchid. It certainly is a very colourful place to walk around!
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
This area of rainforest within the city of Singapore is hugely popular with locals. They head here to hike and enjoy the scenery. Jogging is popular here too, expect to see plenty of people running along the paths. The rainforest is actually centred around Singapore’s highest hill, which the reserve is named after. Bukit Timah is in fact only 163 meters high so it’s very walk-able. Though it does get very sweaty in the rainforest so you should take plenty of water. There are plenty of path options for follow as well as checking out the top of the hill.
Fort Canning Hill
This hill is of particular historical significance. In the past it was known as the Forbidden Hill, due to the locals belief it was haunted. This was because it was a burial ground, and past Kings of the region were said to have been laid to rest here. When the British colonised the city they built residential buildings here for the governance of the city. In 1861 a fort was built here and maintained by the British until 1907 when it was demolished. You can still see the gate here. The British then built an underground military command centre, which was particularly relevant during World War 2. And not just by them, the Japanese actually used it too during their occupation of the city between 1942 and 1945.
Whilst personally I found the other attractions listed in this Singapore Travel Guide more interesting to visit, the historical important of this hill means it’s still worth checking out.
Art Science Museum
Part of the Marina Bay Sands resort, this museum is a fun place to visit. It has a permanent display where you can explore the digital art science gallery and interact with the displays. There is a very ‘futuristic’ feel to this place. Check here to have a look at it’s website:https://www.teamlab.art/e/artsciencemuseum/
It is also features touring exhibitions. Check here if you want to see whats on currently: https://www.marinabaysands.com/museum.html
The official mascot of Singapore is the Merlion, a creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish. In the city you can find a statue of this mythical creature, with water flowing from it’s mouth. The area in which it is located gives great views across the water, where Marina Bay Sands is located. It’s this which has led to it being including it on this Singapore Travel Guide. The views really are worth stopping by here.
Thanks for checking out this Singapore Travel Guide! I hope it inspires you to visit and helps you plan your own trip here!
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