Planning a trip to sunny Singapore? The city-state is a favourite travel destination for visitors all over the world. Singapore’s modern skyscrapers hint at its economic hub status, while the noisy heartland neighbourhoods provide a glimpse into its multicultural diversity. From its laws to its quirks, locals know the ins and outs of this cosmopolitan city. Before you book the next plane ticket out, here are some tips when planning the ultimate Singapore trip.
1) Before you depart for your Singapore adventure
So you’ve settled on Singapore! Here’s a checklist to ease your Singapore trip planning:
- Check if you need entry Visas and other entry requirements here.
- Pack clothes in light and airy fabrics. Singapore lies one degree north of the equator, with a tropical rainforest climate. Comfort is key as it gets pretty hot. You will spot many locals wearing t-shirts, shorts and slippers to go about their day. Chuck a hat and portable umbrella in your suitcase to protect you from the sun and rain.
- Take note of prohibited items in customs regulations. Singapore has strict laws so it’s always best to check what you’re allowed to bring into the country.
- Change currency to the Singapore dollar (SGD). Not to fret though, there are many ATMs and licensed money changers scattered throughout the island.
2) Accommodation based on your travel preferences
In land-scarce Singapore, houses don’t come cheap. The island boasts high housing costs, and accommodation might be on the pricey side. Choose one that suits your needs.
- For the backpackers: Hostels are a budget-friendly option. This no-frills lodging is good if you want to mix around with like-minded tourists.
- For the un-claustrophobic: Capsule hotels are growing in popularity here. The individual pods have minimal facilities for people to stay overnight. An example of this is The Pod.
- For the chic traveller: Try Lloyd’s Inn if you want something more minimalist, or Studio M for a loft-style hotel.
- For the quirky ones: Boutique hotels like the Wanderlust Hotel or New Majestic Hotel offer different themes on each floor/room.
- For those without a budget constraint: If you want colonial grandeur, check out the historic Raffles Hotel. If swimming in the iconic infinity pool is for you, try Marina Bay Sands Hotel.
- For the one who wants to live like a local: Home-sharing websites have changed the travel game worldwide. Check out Couchsurfing, and Airbnb . Great for tourists who prefer a more homely stay.
3) Eat to your heart’s content
No Singapore trip planner is complete without a mention of Singapore’s status as a foodie’s heaven. Almost every cuisine imaginable can be found here. An absolute must-do is to eat at a hawker centre. You can find Chinese, Malay, Indian and Western cuisine all under one roof.
Don’t be surprised if you see tissue packets on tables of hawker centres. Some locals chope (reserve) their seats with tissue packets to inform others that the seats are taken. A pro-tip is to follow the queues! The stall with the longest queue tends to have the most delicious offerings.
Here’s our LocoMole Must Eat Food Trail to guide the way!
4) Speak Singlish, lah!
Everywhere you turn in Singapore, you will find locals peppering their sentences with Singlish. Singlish, or Colloquial Singaporean English, is an English-based creole language. Colourful and expressive, it exemplifies multiculturalism as it is borrowed from Malay, Chinese dialects and Tamil. The words lah, meh or lor also punctuate sentences for added effect.
Ordering your makan (food) at a local coffee shop can also be a lesson in Singlish. Kopi (coffee) can be ordered many ways, according to your taste and preference.
Overall, Singapore is a safe country. However, according to a local police campaign, “Low crime doesn’t mean no crime”. You can never be too careful, so just be aware of your surroundings. A travel tip would be to save emergency numbers in your phone just in case. When an incident happens, you might not have WiFi to find out what the local emergency numbers are, and there might not be anyone around to ask.
Non-emergency ambulance: 1777
Police Hotline: 1800 255 0000 (non-emergencies)
6) Getting around
Getting around is relatively easy. Here’s your Singapore trip planner’s transport tips:
- Buses and trains are pretty affordable. They run from around 6a.m to 12a.m, depending on which route you are taking. Grab the essential EZ-Link card at any of the Ticket Offices at bus terminals or train stations. You can get a Singapore Tourist Pass, which offers you 1 to 3 day passes for unlimited rides on buses and trains. Download the SBS Transit’s iris app to check when your bus is coming. For advices on the shortest routes, check out Gothere.sg for detailed routes to get you anywhere!
- Taxis with meter fares can bring you around. Try calling to book a cab during rush hours or when it rains. In addition, ride-sharing apps like Grab and Uber can be used. Download them on your mobile device and use them to zip around town.
- If you are looking for a novel tourist activity hop on a bumboat by Singapore River Cruise or experience a blast from the past by taking a leisurely ride in a trishaw.
7) Be aware of the Fine City
Singapore is extremely orderly and clean, in part due to its laws. There’s a reason why we poke fun of the “Fine City” nickname, given due to the country’s fineable offences. While we don’t just throw people in jail for chewing gum, there are some rules to be mindful of.
- The legal age for smoking and drinking is 18 years old.
- E-cigarettes and vaping is prohibited in Singapore, and be aware of designated smoking areas when you’re out.
- While you can drink the night away after 10.30pm in licensed bars, restaurants and cafes, drinking in public places from 10.30pm to 7am is not allowed. Retail shops can’t sell takeaway alcohol from 10.30pm to 7am. There are even stricter rules in Geylang and Little India, designated Liquor Control Zones.
- Graffiti and vandalism is against the law here. There are designated areas where artists are able to unleash their creativity. You can check out colourful murals by local mural artists here.
- Things like littering or not flushing the toilet after you use it could also lead to a fine, so do clean up after yourself!
Just be mindful of the local regulations and you’ll do fine.
8) Tips to save money
Singapore is one of the most expensive places to live in Southeast Asia. Here are some tips if you want to make your trip a little bit more bearable on the wallet.
- Tipping is the exception, rather than the rule. Many don’t tip as a result of the 10% service charge and a 7% Goods and Services Tax (GST) at restaurants or bars. However, your generosity will not go unappreciated.
- Save by eating at hawker centres and local kopitiams (coffee shops). They offer a wide range of options for a good price. Depending on the place, it can cost you around $4 per meal.
- Alcoholic drinks are expensive as it is heavily taxed here. Do suss out the best Happy Hour promotions. Women can also gain free entry into clubs or enjoy drink promotions on Ladies Night (mostly Wednesdays).
- Make use of free WiFi around the island. Don’t chalk up high bills for using roaming data. There’s a free public WiFi service called Wireless@SG available at certain places like shopping malls. Coffee shops like Starbucks also have hotspots called Y5ZONE. There might also be free WiFi at restaurants, cafes and hotels, so don’t be shy and ask for the password if it’s available.
- Free activities! Enjoy nature by roaming Singapore Botanic Gardens. You can also hike at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Macritchie TreeTop Walk. Keep an eye out for free performances at The Esplanade, or for a water and lights show at Marina Bay Sands.
9) Skip guided tours. Have a self-guided tour instead!
It’s easy to move around Singapore all on your own. But if you still want the insights provided by a guided tour guide, consider one of our trails here instead! This is a fun way to explore the city on your own time. Instead of following a tour group around, these trails bring you to all the must-see places in Singapore through your own mobile device. You will be able to learn more about the ins and outs of the country through interesting stories, cool must-dos, and exciting challenges. Check out more local tips and tricks here for the ultimate Singapore experience.