We’ve visited Singapore probably over a decade ago and loved it then as we did now. After this recent trip, we’ve gathered a list of things you should know if visiting Singapore. These info always help to make for a smoother trip.
Singapore is a small island nation, being a city and country, located at the southern tip of Malaysia. It is 194 times smaller than the state of Florida, with Florida being approximately 140,000 sq km and Singapore at 719 sq km. It is slightly more than 3.5 times the size of Washington, DC. However, Singapore’s population is estimated to be around 6 million people!
Similar to what we encountered in Malaysia, Singapore had all the glitz and glamour but on a much bigger scale. Have you watched the movie Crazy Rich Asian!?! We felt that Singapore had an air of sophistication. There were a lot of nice, clean cars on the roads along with very well dressed people strolling to their next appointment or next luxury fashion shop.
On the other hand, Singapore’s ubiquitous shop houses are still very well preserved along with their famous hawker stalls that can be found everywhere. Even the people at these establishments were very conservatively dressed.
Singapore is one of the only three city-states in the world; the others being Monaco and Vatican City.
We were intrigued by Singapore’s economical history, being a developed country or first world country in Asia with one of the strongest economies with a per capita GDP, higher than that of most developed countries. It’s first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, turned Singapore into a first world country in a single generation! That’s quite impressive!
Singapore: Things You Should Know
Here is a list of travel tips for those planning a trip to Singapore or if you’d just like to learn more about this city-state-country.
It’s official languages includes English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. However, English is the main language used in schools and at work and is the city’s/country’s most commonly spoken language.
You may be thinking, what about “Singlish”? Well, it is widely spoken informally, but it’s not an official language of Singapore. You can tell a true Singaporean when you hear them speaking English with a distinctive accent along with some local slangs. When you’re there, end your sentences with “lah” and you’ll speak like the locals.
One Season All Year
You’ll find the same weather throughout the year in Singapore and that is hot and humid. We’ve experienced humidity, but Singapore’s humidity is at a totally different level – extremely high! If walking outdoors, you’ll be sweating in seconds. Pick the right clothing to wear in this climate and choose outdoor activities during the cooler morning hours rather than later in the day.
Singapore’s Botanical Garden is the only tropical garden that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a must visit in our opinions since it’s the mother of all botanic gardens.
In recent years there have been an increase in eco-friendly developments featuring designs with a focus on environmental sustainability. If you looked up, you’ll witness these buildings. We noticed unique looking buildings with lush greenery in between some floors overflowing outwards. They were not only beautiful to look at, but environmentally effective.
Did you know that Singapore’s famous Gardens by the Bay spans over 250 acres of reclaimed land? Supertrees can be found here which consists of 18 massive, tree-shaped vertical gardens. They are apparently made up of more than 162,900 plants and more than 200 species and varieties of bromeliads, orchids, ferns and tropical flowering climbers. They were absolutely stunning to look at; unlike anything we’ve ever seen! Also, at night they light up and there’s a light show choreographed with music.
It’s amazing what genius ideas they’ve initiated over the years.
Gum chewing is forbidden in Singapore. You can only chew gum with a medical prescription. More than likely, you won’t see anyone chomping on gum nor will you see any for purchase in shops/stores.
Make sure you flush after using the toilet because it’s an actual crime if you don’t! Singapore is known for it’s cleanliness and to take it to this level is outstanding in our eyes.
There are many neighborhoods to explore, such as Chinatown with it’s famous Maxwell’s Hawker Food Center, Little India, Tiong Bahru with it’s Art Deco style buildings, and Katong for it’s ubiquitous shop houses.
Make sure you visit some Hawker Centers since some of the hawker chefs are famous for churning out world-class dishes.
Again, as in other Southeast Asian countries we’ve visited, GRAB is so efficient, convenient and fairly inexpensive in Singapore. We utilized it for our transport from the airport to our hotel and throughout the city.
We must highlight the convenience of GRAB in all of the SE Asian countries we’ve been to. As soon as you request a car, it’s at your location within 2-3 minutes! There’s really no waiting around.
We also used the tram (aka subway system) in Singapore which was straight forward and seamless. In using the tram, we found that Singapore has an underground world! A lot of the buildings are linked via an underground path. It makes sense, since it’s so hot and humid.
Singapore is ranked as one of the most expensive cities to live. However, it’s small enough to adequately explore in a few days; therefore, with even a 3-4 day visit, you’ll be able to see and experience most of Singapore.
There are also lower cost places to eat such as hawker food stalls. In addition to visiting the numerous neighborhoods mentioned previously, there are plenty of free activities such as the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and famous Garden’s by the Bay with it’s Super Trees and light show.
It is not customary to tip in Singapore and service staffs do not expect it. However, you may notice on your bills that service charge was included. This will be apparent when dining out in most restaurants, cafes, and bars. Hawker stalls and smaller shops will have an inclusive net fee which includes the service fees as well as taxes.
Alcohol & Smoking
Taxes on alcohol in Singapore is quite high and therefore, drinks are costly. However, happy hour is a thing in Singapore so be sure to look out for these usually starting at around 5pm. Also, if you want to save some money, purchase alcohol in the shops/stores but note that they stop selling liquor at 10:30 pm each evening.
Cigarettes are also expensive in Singapore. And it’s banned in most restaurants, clubs, bars and even in many public areas. There are designated yellow smokers box in public areas where you may puff away. This also goes for vapes.
Cleanliness of Singapore
It’s also the cleanest country we’ve been to in Southeast Asia, with Japan at its tail, in our opinions. Its strict laws have been very effective at keeping the streets clean. Even the buildings were spotless!
However, in stating that, on our first visit to Singapore Ernest ate something that did not settle well and we believe it was a meal from the food court at a luxury, high end mall. Fast forward to our second visit, low and behold, Singapore did it to him again. Maybe it’s something in the water??
Singapore is very safe with it’s high safety standards in place. Crime is low and it’s generally safe to be out on your own late into the night. Bribery and corruption is also not an issue in Singapore. In saying this, it’s always good to use common sense when traveling in a cosmopolitan city, just as you would at home.
We hope these travels tips helps with your trip to Singapore. It’s such a beautiful city/country and we’re sure it will be a great time.