Singapore continues to rank as the most expensive city in the world, but that shouldn’t stop you from visiting. Fly into Changi Airport and you’ll be submerged into a world of lush greenery at every turn in a concrete jungle of ultra-modern style. While it is a city-state that does sparkle with wealth, there’s much more to it that can be enjoyed by all travellers.
With a public transportation system that is cheap and efficient plus the predominance of English everywhere, getting around and exploring Singapore is easy and comfortable. Here’s how to enjoy your visit all the more!
Singapore’s Top 5 Most Famous Attractions
With so much to do in Singapore, choosing what to see and do can be tough. After all, the Marina Bay Sands is something you MUST see but everyone seems to know that. It’s our unofficial top pick over these 5 listings, but it’s expensive, so we’ve kept our list down to the types of famed attractions everyone can enjoy in Singapore.
- Singapore Flyer
High tea is big in Singapore, but one of the best ways to enjoy it is from the vantage point of the Singapore Flyer. It’s the largest giant observation wheel in the world. You can go for a pampering package or something more simplistic but you’re going to love seeing the city from a birds’ eye view. It runs early in the morning onward to late in the night. If you can, try to ride it once during daylight and once under the twinkle of the stars!
- Singapore Zoo
With an array of rainforest animals, the Singapore Zoo is one of the best zoos in the world. It’s clean and the animals have stunning, large habits where they are treated well. See zebras, white tigers, meerkats, chimpanzees, and plenty more. You can also feed some of the animals, like the giraffes. The zoo also has special safari packages to make for an even more adventurous experience.
- Sentosa Island
While Singapore isn’t a beach place, you can get in plenty of sun and fun on Sentosa Island. Siloso Beach is most popular with free volleyball courts or the option to rent kayaks. Here is also where you’ll find the aquarium, Underwater World, where you can sign up to swim with the dolphins. Another notable sight on the island is the Merlion, the famed statue that symbolizes Singapore.
Because Singapore is a gorgeous melting pot of cultures, it has a phenomenal Chinatown. It might be a bit on the touristy side, but it’s an amazing place to explore for unique gifts, some of the best dim sums you’ll ever eat, and a slice of authentic Chinese culture.
- Little India
Like Chinatown, Little India is another piece of the Singaporean culture. The Indian food you’ll find here is spectacular, plus shopping for those colourful tapestries and gifts in the surrounding shops is a fun way to spend an afternoon.
Best Hotels in Singapore
Singapore’s Top 5 Local Things to Do
What do the locals do in Singapore? It’s no wonder people love living in Singapore. This is how they typically spend a day!
- Eating at a Hawker Center
One of the best ways to taste all the amazing foods of Singapore without blowing your budget on one meal is to visit one of the many hawker centers. These are basically food courts with different and amazing foods from jumbo garlic shrimp to grilled stingray. Fried carrot cake and oyster omelets are others you really should try too.
- Shopping at Orchard Road
Singapore is home to Orchard Road, one of the best shopping destinations anywhere. It has 6 department stores and roughly 22 shopping malls all intertwined with air conditioning to link them all. If you’re tired of the oppressive heat (Singapore is hot year-round), even a little window shopping in this luxurious place is a perfect way to feel like a local.
- Drink a Singapore Sling at Raffles
Raffles Hotel is the original place where the famed Singapore Sling was created. Go to the Long Bar and you’ll get the chance to drink among the locals and tourists too who all come together to unwind in style with the iconic red and tropical drink.
- Get a Freebie at Haw Par Villa
As Singapore is so intensely expensive, one thing you should take advantage of is a free way to enjoy your stay. There’s a free park on Pasir Panjang Road called Haw Par Villa. There are thousands of statues, vivid dioramas of Chinese folklore, and plenty of fascinating things to snap selfies within the background.
- Explore the Museums
While museums might sound like a touristy thing to do, the locals are pretty cultured and love their museums. There’s the National Gallery and National Museum of Art, plus the Musical Box Museum, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, and the Former Ford Factory. If you’ve got time to see them all, go for it!
Singapore’s Top 5 Foods to Try
If the mention of Chinatown, Little India, or the hawker centres didn’t get you salivating, these top 5 foods of Singapore most certainly will. Whatever you do, don’t leave without having these 5 famed dishes!
- Chili or Pepper Crabs
The most famous dish in all of Singapore is the crabs. You’ll find them chili style with a sweet and spicy sauce or with a black pepper sauce. Ideally, you’ll try both styles and try to decide which one you love best. They are usually served with fried Chinese buns (called ‘mantou’) which you can use to dip into the sauce. What makes these crabs so amazing is how they are boiled first and then fried. This keeps the meat from sticking in the shell.
This is a dish that comes from Chinese and Malay cuisines blended together. They call it ‘Peranakan culture.’ You’ll find laksa as curry or asam. Curry is the most predominant one. Traditionally, it’s made with vermicelli, coconut milk, fish slices, shrimp, bean curd puffs, and cockles.
- Hokkien Prawn Mee
A post-war creation from the Hokkien noodle factory workers, this simple dish will steal your heart. It’s made with fried egg noodles and rice noodles. These are mixed together with a rich prawn stock along with hefty cubes of fried pork fat, fish cakes, squid, and prawns. You can also opt to try Hokkien Char Mee which is different in that it features a thick dark signature sauce and only uses egg noodles.
Skewered, marinated meat is grilled atop open flames. If charred meat is your favourite thing, then make sure you have Singapore satay. You’ll find it in the hawker centres with all kinds of meats – beef, chicken, mutton, and pork. Most serve it with a rice cake known as ‘ketupat’ with onions and cucumbers. Don’t forget the spicy peanut dip that truly elevates this dish to extraordinary heights!
- BBQ Sambal Stingray
Barbecuing was always popular in Singapore because of the lack of refrigeration ages ago. It was seen as the way to correct fishy odours from being left out in the open. Today though, even with plenty of refrigeration to go around, it is still one of the most favoured methods of cooking. Barbecued stingray is one of the most heavenly choices you can make.
Topped with chilli paste (called ‘sambal’) it is unlike anything you’ve ever had. It’s usually wrapped in banana leaves before barbecuing and then topped with the sambal. A hit of fresh-squeezed lime is recommended to squeeze over the top before digging in.
Singapore’s 5 Quick Tips for Visitors
While Singapore is an amazing destination, there are a few things to know about it that will help make your trip even better. Here are a few quick tips to help you out!
- Know the weather
Because Singapore is so close to the equator, it’s hot year-round, like summer. Most of the time, the temperatures will hover between 78 and 93F. But it’s not just that Singapore is astoundingly hot. It’s also humid beyond belief. If you’ve ever been to Florida, Singapore has it beat with that humidity. Pack your bags accordingly so you won’t look like a sweaty mess.
Also, it’s wise to plan outdoor activities earlier before the sun gets too intense. Walks at night are nicer when the sun sets plus you can see the lights. And an umbrella can help you combat the sunshine and be ready when it rains.
- Be prepared to spend money
It’s not cheap in Singapore. There are definitely ways to have an inexpensive time, but for the most part, dining, shopping, and activities are pricey. You can balance this out by planning ahead. You don’t need to eat at all the fanciest restaurants in town and you can get by with walking around and exploring which doesn’t cost a dime.
- Plan meals at the hawker centres
Tying into the above point, you can eat like a king at the hawker centres without going broke. If you’re on a tight budget, this is the best way to taste all of Singapore. And even if you do have plenty of money to throw around, some of the best meals you’ll have will be in these food courts of stalls. It gives you the chance to try a bunch of different types of food in one convenient place. Unfortunately, these are all outdoors though so be prepared to be in the heat.
And one more quick tip: look at the placards on the stalls. They’re rated from A to D to tell you about how they rank in hygiene. Always buy from the A-rated stalls.
- Know the rules
Before you arrive in Singapore, you’d be wise to know the laws and regulations. If you haven’t heard of the famous caning incident back in the 1990s, then you should give yourself a quick history lesson. Most of the rules and laws in Singapore are common sense, however, there are some things that are very strict. For example, spitting in the street, throwing cigarette butts into drains or not disposing of them properly, or chewing gum and putting it on public property can all incur a fine.
Also, while you certainly shouldn’t do drugs, please be advised that drug-related offences can come with a death penalty. While some of the laws here do seem rather harsh though, Singapore is an incredibly safe country where you’ll feel very comfortable.
- Tipping isn’t expected
Like most places in Asia, tipping is not customary in Singapore either. Service staff don’t expect it, though unlike Japan, it’s not considered an insult. If you received outstanding service, you can certainly add an additional tip on top of your payment.
In smaller shops and those hawker centres, they include a net fee and, in the shops, there’s a 7% service tax on goods. Dining at restaurants, cafes and bars often add a 10% service charge on your bill for you. You’ll usually see it with a “++” or sometimes written as “plus-plus” on the menu.
Final Singapore Thoughts
Yes, Singapore is expensive. But it’s so clean, bright, friendly, and interesting, it’s worth the trip. It’s a place you can feel safe in and an ideal choice if you want to go abroad but are worried about not speaking other languages.
Because Singaporeans speak English and the public transit is so easy to use, you’ll be able to hit the ground running as soon as you arrive. All you have to do is endure the heat, but all that sublime food makes it worth every minute of it.