When in Singapore, do as the Singaporeans do.
Follow this maxim to a T and you are sure to have a great holiday in Singapore. But, if you choose to ignore these, the “fine” city may make your travels an expensive affair.
Singapore’s exemplary civic obedience did not arrive easy. It was achieved through stringent rules and regulations that has made the country a safe haven with negligible crime rates. As tourists, it is good to be aware of these rules to avoid unnecessary troubles during your stay!
Things not to carry to Singapore
1. Say No to Drugs
Singapore’s drug laws are strict and among the strictest across the world. People who smuggle drugs into Singapore are given the death penalty. Don’t assume you will be given a lenient sentence just because you are not a local.
Laws in Singapore do not discriminate when it comes to possession or consumption of drugs. It’s illegal to have traces of drugs even in your bloodstream.
If you are selected for a screening and test positive for an illegal drug, you might be jailed and fined.
Attempting to get a hold of drugs is a very serious offence in Singapore as seen in the recent case of Ong Jenn, the grandson of the founder of a famous chain of stores in Singapore. He was arrested when he was on his way to collect the drugs from his dealer and was sentenced to two years in prison.
2. Don’t bring in tobacco based products
Carrying tobacco into Singapore is not straightforward. You are expected to declare all tobacco products that you bring in, failing which, a S$200 fine can be imposed on you.
Tobacco in Singapore is taxed heavily and even a single packet of cigarette is not ignored. An open packet of cigarettes might be excused, but don’t count on it.
Added to the list of prohibited items that you cannot bring into the country is shisha, electronic cigarettes, vaporizers, dissolvable tobacco or nicotine, gutkha, khaini and zarda.
Tourists traveling from Malaysia and Thailand need to be especially careful, because cheap tobacco bought in those countries will be heavily taxed in Singapore.
3. Don’t bring in alcohol beyond a limit
There is a limit to the amount of alcohol one can bring into Singapore.
This might come as a surprise to many because areas like Clarke Quay are dedicated to pubs and clubs that serve copious amounts of alcohol.
You can partake in Singapore, but the quantity you can bring in is limited to 3 litres. This is the breakdown of alcohol that you can bring in.
- One litre of spirits, one litre of wine and one litre of beer or,
- Two litres of wine and one litre of beer or,
- One litre of wine and two litres of beer.
If you have a keen eye, you might have noticed, you cannot bring in more than a litre of spirits.
If you do bring in more than a litre of spirits, you must disclose your alcohol in the red channel, where you will be taxed.
Another set of stipulations that you should follow to not get caught is
- You must be more than 18 years of age to bring in alcohol
- You should have spent more than 48 hours outside of Singapore
- You cannot be arriving from Malaysia.
4. Don’t bring in chewing gums
The sale of chewing gum in Singapore is illegal. Bringing it into the country is out of the question. This might seem a very harsh measure but chewing gums at one point were prevalent in Singapore and it was an annoyance because they were stuck on park chairs, metro doors and other places. It was considered a menace and banned.
That being said, not all chewing gums are banned. Chewing gums that help a person in terms of betterment of their health is allowed. But you need to carry an official prescription from a doctor.
5. Do not carry any pornographic material
Possession of pornography is illegal in Singapore. That includes both physical copies and digital copies of pornography.
Do not carry any magazines with scantily clad people because that falls under the gamut of pornography.
Even if you don’t have pornography on your smartphone or hard drive, your devices can be seized for pirated copies of movies. Piracy laws in Singapore are tight and attract penalties.
Things not to do in Singapore.
We’ve covered all the things you are prohibited from bringing into Singapore,but there are a few rules you need to follow while you are in the country.
Although, there is a lot of information around laws in Singapore, some tourists don’t pay heed to the rules and regulations and go about their trip in an unsafe manner.
There is no reprieve from the law just because you are a tourist and the below mentioned points are a few rules that a lot of tourists break and get into trouble for.
1. Don’t litter and spit
Littering is a big no no in Singapore. If you have anything to throw, keep it in your pockets or your bag and look for a bin to throw your waste.
The National Environment Agency is responsible for the cleanliness and upkeep of Singapore and if an officer from the agency spots you throwing rubbish on the ground, you are sure to be fined. In most cases you will also be shown a video on environmental cleanliness and the efforts it takes to keep a city clean.
Spitting is also as bad as littering and its considered unhygienic and a hazard to the environment. If you are in the streets, keep your bodily fluids within you!
2. Don’t drink in public places
Under the Singapore’s Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Act, drinking is banned in all public places* from 10.30pm to 7am. Retail shops are also not allowed to sell takeaway alcohol from 10.30pm to 7am. Consumption of alcohol in public places* is a crime and if you are caught drinking, you will be fined about S$1000.
You are allowed to drink in restaurants, bars and pubs. But keep those shots in check because causing nuisance in an inebriated state is sure to land you in jail.
*Public places refer to anywhere a person has free access like HDB void decks, parks or beaches.
3. Don’t buy alcohol if you are under 18
The legal drinking age in Singapore is 18. This means that the legal age to buy liquor or alcoholic beverages and drink liquor in any licensed premises (which will include bars, restaurants and any place selling liquor legally) is 18.
4. Don’t overly engage in public displays of affection
Singapore is a country with Asian sensibilities and it’s a tad conservative compared to western nations. You will find people on the roads holding hands and going about their day, but you wouldn’t find them doing more.
While some displays of affection is alright, do respect the culture and keep your hands to yourself and you won’t be considered a public nuisance.
5. Don’t vandalize
Most tourists don’t have the intention of vandalising public property in the countries they visit, but what constitutes vandalising is a topic of contention.
Don’t draw, paint or carve any message, symbol or text on any property in Singapore. Some tourists have the habit of carving their initials in public monuments, this is a dangerous action in Singapore, because the laws for vandalizing public property are strict.
You can be jailed for up to 3 years in prison, or a $2,000 fine and 3 to 8 strokes of the cane.
6. Don’t Jaywalk
You are out and about in the country, enjoying the tall buildings and clean roads. You want to cross the road to a 7/11, you look to the left and to the right, see no vehicles coming and you dash across the road!
You might have broken a law in Singapore which is jaywalking. Jaywalking may not be enforced in many countries, but it is enforced in Singapore. There is a spot fine of $20 for jaywalking.
So how do you define jaywalking? If a crossing zone is 50 m away from you and you don’t use it while crossing the road, It’s jaywalking!
7. Don’t overstay your visa!
Overstaying your visa by 90 days can be detrimental to your physical and financial well being. You can be jailed for up to 6 months, or caned up to 3 times or fined $6,000.
8. Don’t drink and drive
If you drive while under the influence of alcohol, you can be fined anywhere from $1000 to $5000 or spend up to 6 months in prison. Even if you aren’t under the influence, don’t drive recklessly, that can lead to a $3000 fine or 12 months in jail or both.
9. Don’t shoplift
You can face up to 7 years in prison for shoplifting and up to 3 years for theft. Both these offences include a fine on top of the prison sentence.
10. Don’t smoke in non designated smoking areas
Smokers need to tread carefully when in Singapore. A single puff in the wrong place can attract a slew of penalties. Don’t dispose a cigarette butt on the road, if you are found throwing a cigarette butt in a non smoking zone, you’ll be fined.
If you wish to smoke, find dedicated smoking zones and have a puff there, if not, enjoy a smoke free holiday!
Singapore is the safest tourist destination you can find.
Don’t let these rules scare you or let you think Singapore is too strict to travel.
In fact, Singapore is one of the safest and best countries to travel. You can walk alone at midnight in a quiet street without a hint of worry.
You can have ample fun while in Singapore and if you are a model citizen in your country, you will be fine as a tourist in Singapore.
Just understanding the laws of Singapore can keep you out of trouble!