Singapore (Chinese: 新加坡; Malay: Singapura; Tamil: சிங்கப்பூர்) is a city-state in Southeast Asia. Founded as a British trading colony in 1819, since independence it has become one of the world's most prosperous countries and boasts one of the world's busiest ports. The food is legendary, with bustling hawker centres and 24-hour coffee shops offering affordable food from all parts of Asia. Combining the skyscrapers and subways of a modern, affluent city with a medley of Chinese, Malay and Indian influences and a tropical climate, with tasty food, good shopping and a vibrant nightlife scene, this Garden City makes a great stopover or springboard into the region.
The country has a partly deserved reputation for sterile predictability that has earned it descriptions like William Gibson's "Disneyland with the death penalty" or the "world's only shopping mall with a seat in the United Nations". Nevertheless, the Switzerland of Asia is for many a welcome respite from the poverty, dirt and corruption of much of the Asian mainland. If you scratch below the squeaky clean surface and get away from the tourist trail you'll soon find more than meets the eye.
Singapore is a small country on a small island, but with just over five million people it is a fairly crowded city and in fact second only to Monaco as the world's most densely populated country. However, unlike many other densely populated countries, Singapore has over 50% of its area covered by greenery and with over 50 major parks and 4 nature reserves, it is an enchanting garden city. Large self-contained residential towns mushroomed all over the island, around the clean and modern city centre. The centre of the city is located in the south and consists roughly of the Orchard Road shopping area, the Riverside, the new Marina Bay area and also the skyscraper-filled Shenton Way financial district. All of this is known in acronym-loving Singapore as the CBD (Central Business District) or, more simply, just town.
There's more to see outside the main city centre of Singapore, from the HDB heartlands where hawker food is king, to the Singapore Zoo. Or chill out in the parks and beaches of the East Coast and Sentosa.
In the centre, Singapore's addressing system is fairly similar to Western countries (such as 17 Orchard Road), but the new housing developments on the outskirts may appear more intimidating: a typical address might be "Blk 505 Jurong West St 51 #01-186". Here, "Blk 505" is the housing block number (Blk = Block), "Jurong West St 51" is the street name/number, and "#01-186" means floor 1 unit number 186, stall or shop 186. The first digit of both housing block and street number is the neighbourhood's number (in this case 5), making it easier to narrow down the right location. There are also 6-digit postal codes, which generally correspond to exactly one building. For example, "Blk 9 Bedok South Ave 2" is "Singapore 460009". Finally, you will also encounter Malay terms in addresses: the most common are Jalan (Jln) for "Road", Lorong (Lor) for "Lane", Bukit (Bt) for "Hill" and Kampong (Kg) for "Village".
Useful tools for hunting down addresses include StreetDirectory.com, GoThere.sg and OneMap.sg. The "Blk" and unit number can and should be omitted when entering addresses into these sites: "505 Jurong West St 51" will do.
Singapore is a microcosm of Asia, populated by Chinese, Malays, Indians and a large group of workers and expatriates from all across the globe, in a country that can be crossed in barely an hour. Having recently celebrated its 50th birthday, Singapore has more often than not chosen economic practicality over social concerns, encouraging constant reuse and redevelopment of land with huge projects like the Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa integrated resorts as well as becoming a significant Asian financial hub, but there has also been a growing push back to preserve local heritage in Balestier and elsewhere; just one of the many decisions to balance for the country's future.
The first mentions of Singapore in written historical records date back to the second and third centuries where a vague reference to its location was found in Greek and Chinese texts, under the names of Sabana and Pu Luo Chung respectively. According to legend, Srivijayan prince Sang Nila Utama landed on the island in the 13th century and, catching sight of a strange creature that he thought was a lion, decided to found a new city he called Singapura, Sanskrit for Lion City. Alas, there have never been any lions anywhere near Singapore or elsewhere on Malaya, so the mysterious beast was more probably a tiger or wild boar.
More historical records indicate that the island was settled at least two centuries earlier and was known as Temasek, Javanese for "Sea Town", and an important port for the Sumatran Srivijaya kingdom. However, Srivijaya fell around 1400 and Temasek, battered by the feuding kingdoms of Siam and the Javanese Majapahit, fell into obscurity. As Singapura, it then briefly regained importance as a trading centre for the Melaka Sultanate and later, the Johor Sultanate. However, Portuguese raiders then destroyed the settlement and Singapura faded into obscurity once more.
The story of Singapore as we know it today thus began in 1819, when Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles made a deal with a claimant to the throne of the Sultanate of Johor: the British would support his claim in exchange for the right to set up a trading post on the island. Though the Dutch initially protested, an Anglo-Dutch treaty was signed in 1824 separating the Malay world into British and Dutch spheres of influence (resulting in the current Malaysia-Indonesia and Singapore-Indonesia borders). This treaty ended the conflict. The Dutch renounced their claim to Singapore and ceded their colony in Malacca to the British, in exchange for the British ceding their colonies on Sumatra to the Dutch.
Well-placed at the entrance to the Straits of Malacca, straddling the trade routes between China, India, Europe, and Australia, Raffles' master stroke was to declare Singapore a free port, with no duties charged on trade. As traders flocked to escape onerous Dutch taxes, the trading post soon grew into one of Asia's busiest, drawing people from far and wide. Along with Penang and Malacca, Singapore became one of the Straits Settlements and a jewel in the British colonial crown. Its economic fortunes received a further boost when palm oil and rubber from neighbouring Malaya were processed and shipped out via Singapore. In 1867, Singapore was formally split off from British India and made into a directly ruled Crown Colony.
When World War II broke out, Fortress Singapore was seen as a formidable British base, with massive naval fortifications guarding against assault by sea. However, not only did the fortress lack a fleet - as all ships were tied up defending Britain from the Germans - but the Japanese wisely chose to cross Malaya by bicycle instead. Despite hastily turning their artillery around, this was something the British had not prepared for, and on 15 February 1942, with supplies critically low after less than a week of fighting, Singapore ignominiously surrendered and the colony's erstwhile rulers were packed off to Changi Prison. Although tens of thousands perished in the subsequent brutal occupation, the return of the British in 1945 was triumphalist.
Granted self-rule in 1955, Singapore briefly joined the Malaysian Federation in 1963 when the British left, but was expelled in the aftermath of two bloody racial riots in 1964, because the Chinese-majority city was seen as a threat to Malay dominance. Consequently, when the island became independent on 9 August 1965, Singapore became the only country in the history of the modern world to gain independence against its own will! The subsequent 31 years of iron-fisted rule by the late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew saw Singapore's economy boom, with the country rapidly becoming one of the wealthiest and most developed in Asia despite its lack of natural resources, earning it a place as one of the four East Asian Tigers. Now led by Lee's son Lee Hsien Loong, the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) continues to dominate the political scene with 83 out of 89 seats in Parliament. Societal restrictions have been loosened up in recent years though, with the government trying to shake off its staid image, and it remains to be seen how the delicate balancing act between political control and social freedom will play out.
Singapore prides itself on being a multi-racial country and has diverse cultures despite its small size. Singaporeans make up two-thirds of the population. The largest group are the Chinese (about 75%), in which the largest subgroups are the Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese speakers, with Mandarin acting as the lingua franca of the community. Other notable dialect groups among the Chinese include the Hakkas, Hainanese and Foochows. Malays, who are comprised of descendants of Singapore's original inhabitants as well as migrants from present day Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, form about 14% of all Singaporeans. Indians form about 9% of residents. Among the Indians, Tamils form the largest group by far, though there are also significant numbers of speakers of other Indian languages such as Hindi, Malayalam and Punjabi. The remainder are a mix of many other cultures, most notably the Eurasians who are of mixed European and Asian descent, and also the Peranakans or Straits Chinese, who are of mixed Chinese and Malay descent.
Singapore has always been an open country and at least a third of its total population has arrived from elsewhere. They range from Burmese to Japanese to Thais and many others. There's also a large number of Filipinos, many of them working in the service industry or as domestic helpers, and throngs of happily smiling and chattering Filipinas may be seen in public spaces on Sundays when they take their only day off. However, a marked increase in migration from China and India has led to some simmering discontent and larger pockets of Mandarin-only speakers.
Singapore is religiously diverse with no religious group forming a majority and religious freedom guaranteed by the constitution. Buddhism is the largest religion with about one-third of the population declaring themselves Buddhist. Other religions which exist in significant numbers include Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Taoism. In addition to the "big five", there are also much smaller numbers of Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Jews, Baha'is and Jains. Some 17% of Singaporeans claim no religious affiliation.
As Singapore is located a mere 1.5 degrees north of the Equator, its weather is usually sunny with no distinct seasons. Rain falls almost daily throughout the year, usually in sudden, heavy showers that rarely last longer than an hour. However, most rainfall occurs during the northeast monsoon (November to January), occasionally featuring lengthy spells of continuous rain. Spectacular thunderstorms can occur throughout the year, any time during the day, so it's wise to carry an umbrella at all times, both as a shade from the sun or cover from the rain.
Between May and October, forest fires in neighbouring Sumatra can also cause dense haze, although this is unpredictable and comes and goes rapidly: check with the National Environment Agency for up-to-date conditions.
The temperature averages around:
Singapore's lowest temperature ever was 19.4°C, recorded in 1934.
The high temperature and humidity, combined with the lack of wind and the fact that temperatures stay high during the night, can take its toll on visitors from colder parts of the world. Bear in mind that spending more than about one hour outdoors can be very exhausting, especially if combined with moderate exercise. Singaporeans themselves shun the heat, and for a good reason. Many live in air-conditioned flats, work in air-conditioned offices, take the air-conditioned metro to air-conditioned shopping malls connected to each other by underground tunnels where they shop, eat, and exercise in air-conditioned fitness clubs. Follow their example if you want to avoid discomfort in the searing heat and humidity of Singapore.
Singapore is a parliamentary republic modelled on the British Westminster system, though unlike the bicameral British parliament, Singapore's parliament has only one popularly elected house of 89 seats.
The President serves as Singapore's head of state and is popularly elected every six years, though the constitution requires that presidential candidates have served as a government minister, or as a CEO or chairman of the board of directors in a large company for a significant amount of time before being allowed to stand for election, effectively limiting the number of people who are qualified to be presidential candidates. The President's role is largely ceremonial, with the Prime Minister wielding the most authority in government.
The Prime Minister is the head of government, and is typically the leader of the party with the most seats in parliament. The current Prime Minister is Lee Hsien Loong, leader of the People's Action Party (PAP), the only party that has governed since independence. Parliamentary elections are held every five years and are regularly contested by opposition parties. Press control and restrictions on freedom of speech are a contributing factor against making any significant headway in unseating the ruling party. Nevertheless, Singapore's elections are generally free from corruption and electoral fraud. As of the last election, the only opposition party that has representation in parliament is the Workers' Party (WP).
The year kicks off with a bang on 1 January and New Year, celebrated in Singapore just as in the West with a fireworks show and parties at every nightspot in town. Particularly famous are the wet and wild foam parties on the beaches of resort island Sentosa — at least those years when the authorities deign to permit such relative debauchery.
Due to the influence of the Chinese majority, the largest event by far is Chinese New Year (农历新年) or, more politically correctly, Lunar New Year, usually held in late January or early February. While this might seem to be an ideal time to visit, many smaller shops and eateries are closed for 2–3 days during the period, though convenience stores like 7-Eleven, supermarkets, department stores, cinemas, fast-food restaurants and high end restaurants will remain open. The whole festival stretches out for no less than 42 days, but the frenzied build-up to the peak occurs just before the night of the new moon, with exhortations of gong xi fa cai (恭喜发财 "congratulations and prosper"), red tinsel, mandarin oranges and the year's zodiac animal emblazoned everywhere and crowds of shoppers queuing in Chinatown, where there are also extensive street decorations to add spice to the festive mood. The two following days are spent with family and most of the island comes to a standstill, and then life returns to normal ... except for the final burst of Chingay, a colourful parade near the Singapore Flyer, held about ten days later.
On the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar, the Dragon Boat Festival (端午节) is celebrated to commemorate a Chinese folk hero. As part of the celebrations, rice dumplings, which in Singapore are sometimes wrapped in pandan leaves instead of the original bamboo leaves, are usually eaten. In addition, dragon boat races are often held at the Singapore River on this day. The seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar — usually August — starts off with a puff of smoke, as "hell money" is burned and food offerings are made to please the spirits of ancestors who are said to return to earth at this time. The climax on the 15th day of the lunar calendar is the Hungry Ghost Festival (中元节), when the living get together to stuff themselves and watch plays and Chinese opera performances. Following soon afterwards, the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节) on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month (Sep/Oct) is also a major event, with elaborate lantern decorations — particularly at Gardens by the Bay and Jurong's Chinese Garden — and moon cakes filled with red bean paste, nuts, and more consumed merrily.
The Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, known locally as Deepavali, is celebrated around October or November and Little India is brightly decorated for the occasion. At around January–February, one may witness the celebration of Thaipusam, a Tamil Hindu festival in which male devotees would carry a kavadi, an elaborate structure which pierces through various parts of his body, and join a procession from the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Little India to the Sri Thandayuthapani Temple in Tank Road. Female devotees usually join the procession carrying pots of milk instead. About one week before Deepavali is Thimithi, the fire-walking festival where one can see male devotees walking on burning coals at the Sri Mariamman Temple in Chinatown.
The Islamic month of Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr or Hari Raya Puasa as it is called here, is a major occasion in Malay parts of town, particularly Geylang Serai on the East Coast, which is lit up with extensive decorations during the period. Another festival celebrated by the Malays is Eid-ul-Adha, known locally as Hari Raya Haji, which is the period when Muslims make the trip to Mecca to perform in Hajj. In local mosques, lambs contributed by the faithful are sacrificed and their meat is used to feed the poor.
The Buddhist Vesak Day, celebrating the birthday of the Buddha Sakyamuni, plus the Christian holidays of Christmas Day, for which Orchard road is extensively decorated, and Good Friday round out the list of holidays.
A more secular celebration occurs on 9 August, National Day, when fluttering flags fill Singapore and spectacular National Day parades are held to celebrate independence.
Singapore holds numerous events each year. Some of its famous festivals and events include the Singapore Food Festival, the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix, the Singapore Arts Festival, the Chingay Parade, the World Gourmet Summit and ZoukOut.
Christmas is also widely celebrated in Singapore, a season where the city streets and shopping malls along its famous shopping belt, Orchard Road, are lit up and decorated in vibrant colours. In addition, the Singapore Jewel Festival attracts numerous tourists every year, and is a display of precious gems, famous jewels and masterpieces from international jewellers and designers.
Citizens of most other countries can stay without a visa for 30 days or less, so that's the case if your country is not named here.
An exception is in place for citizens of the following countries who have to apply for an advance, online visa: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, Georgia, India, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Citizens of Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen have to apply for an advance visa at a Singaporean embassy or consulate.
Most citizens of African and South American countries require a yellow fever vaccination certificate for entry into Singapore.
Males who enter Singapore illegally or who overstay their permits by more than 14 days face a mandatory sentence of three strokes of the cane.
Singapore has very strict drug laws, and drug trafficking carries a mandatory death penalty — which is also applied to foreigners. Even if you technically haven't entered Singapore and are merely transiting (i.e. changing flights without the need to clear passport control and customs) while in possession of drugs, you would still be subject to capital punishment. The paranoid might also like to note that in Singapore, it is an offense even to have any drug metabolites in your system, even if they were consumed outside Singapore, and Customs occasionally does spot urine tests at the airport! In addition, bringing in explosives or firearms without a permit is also a capital offense in Singapore.
Bring prescriptions for any medicines you may have with you, and obtain prior permission from the Singapore Health Sciences Authority (HSA: new main page at  before bringing in any sedatives (e.g. Valium/diazepam) or strong painkillers (e.g. codeine ingredients). (If you can scan and attach all required documents to an e-mail note called for by the website, you may receive written permission in as little as 10 days, at least in 3–4 weeks. By regular mail from any great distance, allow a few months.) Hippie types may expect a little extra attention from Customs, but getting a shave and a haircut is no longer a condition for entry.
Duty free allowances for alcohol are one litre each of wine, beer and spirits, though the 1 L of spirits may be replaced with 1 L of wine or beer, unless you are entering from Malaysia. Travellers entering from Malaysia are not entitled to any duty free allowance. Alcohol may not be brought in by persons under the age of 18. There is no duty free allowance for cigarettes: all cigarettes legally sold in Singapore are stamped "SDPC", and smokers caught with unmarked cigarettes may be fined $500 per pack. (In practice, though, bringing in one opened pack is usually tolerated.) If you declare your cigarettes or excess booze at customs, you can opt to pay the tax or let the customs officers keep the cigarettes until your departure. Importing non-medical chewing gum is technically illegal, but in practice customs officers would usually not bother with a few sticks for personal consumption.
There is no restriction on the amount of money that can be brought in or out of Singapore. However, Singapore customs requires you to declare if you are bringing in or out anything more than $20,000 or its equivalent in foreign currency, and you'll be asked to complete some paperwork. Not declaring exposes to you to arrest, heavy fines and possible imprisonment.
Pornography, pirated goods and publications by the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Unification Church may not be imported to Singapore, and all baggage is scanned at land and sea entry points. In theory, all entertainment media including movies and video games must be sent to the Board of Censors for approval before they can be brought into Singapore, but that is rarely if ever enforced for original (non-pirated) goods. Pirated CDs or DVDs, on the other hand, can land you fines of up to $1000 per disc.
Singapore is one of Southeast Asia's largest aviation hubs, so unless you're coming from Peninsular Malaysia or Batam/Bintan in Indonesia, the easiest way to enter Singapore is by air. In addition to flag-carrier Singapore Airlines, regarded by many as one of the world's best airlines in terms of customer service, and its regional subsidiary SilkAir, Singapore is also home to low-cost carriers Tiger Airways, Jetstar Asia and Scoot.
In addition to the locals, every carrier of any size in Asia offers flights to Singapore, with pan-Asian discount carrier AirAsia and Malaysian regional operator Firefly operating dense networks from Singapore. There are also direct services to Europe, the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand, North America, and even South Africa. Singapore is particularly popular on the "Kangaroo Route" between Australia and Europe, with airlines like British Airways using Singapore as the main stopover point.
As befits the country's main airport and major regional hub status, Changi Airport (IATA: SIN) is officially the 'best airport in the world' (see Skytrax). It's big, pleasant, well-organised, and immigration and baggage distribution is remarkably fast. The airport is split into three main terminals (T1, T2 and T3).
There's an easy 45 mins journey to the town area on the MRT for less than $2, with trains running from 05:31 to 23:18. Taxis are the fastest way to the city, and will cost about $20–30 including a $3–5 airport surcharge. An additional 50% surcharge applies 00:01-06:00.
Seletar Airport (IATA: XSP), completed in 1928 and first used for civil aviation in 1930, is Singapore's first airport. While the Paya Lebar airport has been converted into a military airbase, Seletar is still in use to this day.
Currently, Seletar Airport is only used for general aviation, so if you're flying your own aircraft to Singapore, you'll most probably land here. The only practical means of access to Seletar is taxi, and trips from the airport incur a $3 surcharge.
Singapore is linked by two land crossings to Peninsular Malaysia:
The Causeway is a very popular and thus terminally congested entry point connecting Woodlands in the north of Singapore directly into the heart of Johor Bahru. While congestion isn't as bad as it once was, the Causeway is still jam-packed on Friday evenings (towards Malaysia) and Sunday evenings (towards Singapore). The Causeway can be crossed by bus, train, taxi or car, but it is no longer feasible to cross on foot after Malaysia shifted their customs and immigration complex 2 km inland.
A second crossing between Malaysia and Singapore, known as the Second Link, was built between Tuas in western Singapore and Tanjung Kupang in the western part of Johor state. Much faster and less congested than the Causeway, it is used by some of the luxury bus services to Kuala Lumpur and is strongly recommended if you have your own car. There is only one infrequent bus across the Second Link, and only Malaysian "limousine" taxis are allowed to cross it (and charge RM150 and up for the privilege). Walking across is also not allowed, not that there would be any practical means to continue the journey from either end if you did.
Driving into Singapore with a foreign-registered car is rather complicated and expensive; see the Land Transport Authority's Driving Into & Out of Singapore guide for the administrative details. Peninsular Malaysia-registered cars need to show that they have valid road tax and Malaysian insurance coverage. Other foreign cars need a Vehicle Registration Certificate, Customs Document (Carnet), Vehicle Insurance purchased from a Singapore-based insurance company and an International Circulation Permit. All foreign registered cars and motorcycles can be driven in Singapore for a maximum of 10 days in each calendar year without paying Vehicle Entry Permit (VEP) fees, but after the 10 free days have been used, you will need to pay a VEP fee of up to $20/day.
Go through immigration first and get your passport stamped. Then follow the Red Lane to buy the AutoPass ($10) from the LTA office. At the parking area, an LTA officer will verify your car, road tax and insurance cover note and issue you a small chit of paper which you take to the LTA counter to buy your AutoPass and rent an In-vehicle Unit (IU) for road pricing charges (or opt to pay a flat $5/day fee instead). Once that is done, proceed to customs where you will have to open the boot for inspection. After that, you are free to go anywhere in Singapore. Any VEP fees, road pricing charges and tolls will be deducted from your AutoPass when you exit Singapore. This is done by slotting the AutoPass into the reader at the immigration counter while you get your passport stamped.
Driving into Malaysia from Singapore is relatively uncomplicated, although small tolls are charged for both crossing and (for the Second Link) the adjoining expressway. In addition, Singapore-registered vehicles are required to have their fuel tanks at least 3/4 full before leaving Singapore. Do be sure to change some ringgit before crossing, as Singapore dollars are accepted only at the unfavourable rate of one-to-one. Moreover, be prepared for longer queues as Malaysia introduced a biometric system for foreigners wishing to enter that country (see Malaysia article).
In both directions, note that rental car agencies will frequently prohibit their cars from crossing the border or charge extra.
Direct to/from Malaysian destinations There are buses to/from Kuala Lumpur (KL) and many other destinations in Malaysia through the Woodlands Checkpoint and the Second Link at Tuas. Unfortunately, there is no central bus terminal and different companies leave from all over the city. Major operators include:
Most other operators have banded together in three shared booking portals. Many, but by no means all, use the Golden Mile Complex shopping mall near Bugis as their Singapore terminal.
In general, the more you pay, the faster and more comfortable your trip. More expensive buses leave on time, use the Second Link, and don't stop along the way; while the cheapest buses leave late if at all, use the perpetually jammed Causeway and make more stops. Book early for popular departure times like Friday and Sunday evening, Chinese New Year, etc., and factor in some extra time for congestion at the border.
An alternative to taking a direct "international bus" is to make the short hop to Johor Bahru to catch domestic Malaysian long-distance express buses to various Malaysian destinations from the Larkin Bus Terminal. Besides having more options, fares may also be lower because you will be paying in Malaysian ringgit rather than Singaporean dollars. The downside is the time-consuming hassle of first getting to Johor Bahru and then getting to Larkin terminal on the outskirts of town.
To/from Johor Bahru
The most popular options to get to/from Johor Bahru are the buses listed in the table. There's a pattern to the madness: Singaporean-operated buses (SBS, SMRT, SJE) can only stop at one destination in Malaysia, while the Malaysian-operated Causeway Link buses can only stop at one destination in Singapore. Terminals aside, all buses make two stops at Singapore immigration and at Malaysian immigration. At both immigration points, you must disembark with all your luggage and pass through passport control and customs, then board the next bus by showing your ticket. Figure on one hour for the whole rigmarole from end to end, more during rush hour.
From July 2015 onwards, Singapore is no longer the main southern terminus of Malaysia's Keretapi Tanah Melayu (Malayan Railway or KTMB) network, with trains mostly terminating at the JB Sentral railway station in Johor Bahru, Malaysia instead. A new shuttle service has been started between the Woodlands Train Checkpoint (in the north of Singapore) and Johor Bahru Sentral. It's a mere 5 minute trip, but one-way tickets originating in Singapore will cost $5 while the reverse will cost MYR5. From Woodlands, immigration formalities for both countries are carried out before boarding. From Johor Bahru, Malaysia immigration stamps you out before boarding, and Singapore immigration stamps you in upon arrival at Woodlands. Taking immigration clearance time into account, the journey from Johor Bahru to Woodlands takes 30-60 minutes, while the reverse direction takes about 30 minutes.
Shuttle trains will leave JB Sentral for Woodlands at 05:30, 06:00, 06:30, 07:00, 08:30, 09:00, 11:00, 12:30, 15:30, 17:00, 19:00, 21:00, 22:15 and leave Woodlands for JB Sentral at 08:00, 10:00, 12:00, 13:30, 16:30, 18:00, 18:45, 20:00, 20:45, 22:00, 23:15. Gate opens 30 minutes before departure and closes 10 minutes before departure. On weekdays, the early morning departures from JB Sentral and evening departures from Woodlands cater to commuters working in Singapore, and sell out as soon as tickets are released for sale 30 days in advance. On weekends, morning departures from Woodlands and evening departures from JB Sentral are popular among day trippers to Johor Bahru, and sell out a few days before.
For trains beyond Johor Bahru, see Johor Bahru#By train and Malaysia#By train for details.
The Woodlands Train Checkpoint is unrelated to the Woodlands MRT station. From the Woodlands Train Checkpoint, you can take a bus to the Kranji, Marsiling or Woodlands MRT stations. Fortunately, the bus numbers to each MRT station are clearly signposted. To get to Woodlands Train Checkpoint from the MRT stations, however, you'll have to make sure the bus passes by "Woodlands Train Checkpoint", and not "Woodlands Checkpoint" which is the checkpoint facility for buses and other road vehicles without through access to the train checkpoint. Buses which pass by Woodlands Train Checkpoint include 170 (from Kranji MRT station), 903, 911 and 913 (from Woodlands MRT Station).
While normal Singaporean taxis are not allowed to cross into Malaysia and vice versa, specially licensed Singaporean taxis permitted to go to Larkin bus terminal (only) can be booked from Johor Taxi Service ☎ +65 6296 7054, $45 one way), while Malaysian taxis, which can go anywhere in Malaysia, can be taken from the taxi terminal at Ban San St ($32 to charter, or $8/person if you share with others). In the reverse direction, towards Singapore, you can take Singaporean taxis from Larkin to any point in central Singapore ($30) or Changi Airport ($40), while Malaysian taxis can only bring you to Ban San St (MYR80). The main advantage here is that you do not need to lug your stuff (or yourself) through Customs at both ends; you can just sit in the car.
A combination journey from anywhere in Singapore to anywhere in Malaysia can also be arranged, but you'll need to swap taxis halfway through: this will cost $50 and up, paid to the Singaporean driver. The most expensive option is to take a limousine taxi specially licensed to take passengers from any point to any destination, but only a few are available and they charge a steep RM150 per trip. Advance booking is highly recommended, ☎ +60 7 599-1622.
Ferries link Singapore with the neighbouring Indonesian province of Riau Islands, and the Malaysian state of Johor. Singapore has five ferry terminals which handle international ferries: HarbourFront (formerly World Trade Centre) near Sentosa, Marina Bay Cruise Centre in Marina Bay, Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal on the East Coast, as well as Changi Ferry Terminal and Changi Point Ferry Terminal, at the eastern extremity of the island.
Getting to/away from the ferry terminals:
To/from Batam: Ferries to/from Batam Centre, Batu Ampar (Harbour Bay), Sekupang and Waterfront City (Teluk Senimba) use HarbourFront FT, while ferries to/from Nongsapura use Tanah Merah FT. Operators at Harbourfront include:
At Tanah Merah:
To/from Bintan: All ferries for Bintan use Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. For Tanjung Pinang, there is a total of 6 ferries a day, increasing to 9 during weekends. $25/35 one-way/return before taxes and surcharges. Operators include:
For Bintan Resorts (Bandar Bentan Telani), Bintan Resort Ferries, ☎ +65 6542 4369,  operates five ferries from Tanah Merah FT on weekdays, increasing to 7 during weekends. $34.60/50.20 one-way/return peak period, $26.60/39.20 one-way/return off-peak including taxes and fuel surcharge.
To/from Karimun: Tanjung Balai is served by Penguin and IndoFalcon from Harbourfront, with six ferries total on weekdays, increasing to 8 during weekends. $24/33 one-way/return including taxes and fuel surcharge.
Ferries shuttle from Singapore to southeastern Johor and are handy for access to the beach resort of Desaru. The scheduled ferry service to Tioman was discontinued in 2003.
Star Cruises offers multi-day cruises from Singapore to points throughout Southeast Asia, departing from HarbourFront FT. Itineraries vary widely and change from year to year, but common destinations include Malacca, Klang (Kuala Lumpur), Penang, Langkawi, Redang and Tioman in Malaysia, as well as Phuket, Krabi, Ko Samui and Bangkok in Thailand. There are also several cruises every year to Borneo (Malaysia), Sihanoukville (Cambodia), Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) and even some 10 night long hauls to Hong Kong. An all-inclusive 2 night cruise may cost as little as $400 per person in the cheapest cabin class if you book early, but beware the numerous surcharges and note that non-residents may be charged significantly higher rates.
Singapore is also a popular stop for round-the-world and major regional cruises including those originating from as far as Japan, China, Australia, Europe and North America. Many of those cruises embark/disembark passengers here, while others pay port visits, docking at the convenient Marina Bay Cruise Centre. Check with cruise companies and sellers for details.
Getting around Singapore is easy: the public transportation system is extremely easy to use and taxis are reasonably priced - when you can get one. Very few visitors rent cars. Gothere.sg does a pretty good job of figuring out the fastest route by MRT and bus and even estimating taxi fares between any two points. Public transit apps like Citymapper support Singapore.
If you are staying in Singapore for some time or are planning to return to Singapore several times in the future, the EZ-link contactless RFID farecard or a NETS Flash Pay card might be a worthwhile purchase. NETS Flash Pay is more widely accepted. Those who are familiar with Hong Kong's Octopus card, London Underground's Oyster card, Washington DC's SmarTrip card, Melbourne's myki card, Vancouver's Compass card, Stockholm's SL Access Card or Japan Railways' IC cards already know how to use the EZ-link and Nets Flash Pay card. You store value on it and use it on the MRT trains as well as all city buses at a 15% discount. The card costs $12, including $7 stored value, and the card can be "topped up" in increments of at least $10 at any ticketing machine or 7-Eleven stores (the latter will allow a top-up for a service fee). You can also set up automatic top off for NETS Flash Pay. You can use the same card for 5 years. The card technology was changed in 2009, but if you have any old cards lying around, they can be exchanged for free with value intact at TransitLink ticket offices in all MRT stations. Attention, the $5 card fee will not be refunded and is lost. If you are leaving Singapore and you have some money on your card, you can go to any TransitLink ticket office for a refund, but then your card will be invalidated and the $5 is lost again.
Alternatively, the Singapore Tourist Pass available at selected TransitLink ticket offices (including Changi Airport and Orchard MRT stations) also includes ez-link card functionality and a variety of discounts for attractions. The pass includes unlimited travel on MRT and non-premium buses, and costs $10 for 1 day, $16 for 2 days, or $20 for 3 days (together with a $10 rental deposit refunded if this card is returned within 5 days after purchase). The passes are valid until the end of operating hours on the day they expire.
Single tickets can be purchased for both MRT and buses, but it's a hassle and, in the case of buses, it delays everyone else because the driver has to count fare stages to tell you how much you need to pay. In addition, no change is given for the bus and you will need to buy a separate ticket if you intend to transfer to another bus later in your journey.
Distance based fares were introduced in July 2010 to further integrate Singapore's public transport fare structure. All commuters are charged a fare according to the total distance travelled, on the bus, LRT and MRT, and make transfers without incurring additional costs. Fares are now computed on a journey basis, without a boarding charge being imposed for every transfer trip that makes up the journey. The fares may look complicated, but there are fare look-up tables at every bus stop and MRT station.
If you have a used single-trip ticket you can use the same ticket again for up to five more times. Go to the ticketing machine, place the ticket on the reading field, choose your destination and pay the fare. Now the same piece of ticket can be used to tap in and tap out for your next trip. At the sixth time you will get a small discount on the fare.
$5 is the largest note that can be used for buying a single-trip ticket from the ticketing machine.
The MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) and LRT (Light Rail Transit) are trains that are the main trunk of Singapore's transit system. They are a cheap and very reliable mode of transportation, and the network covers most points of interest for the visitor. All train lines use contactless RFID tickets. Just tap the reader to validate your train ticket at the ticket gate when entering and exiting paid areas of stations. Since 2012, single-trip tickets have been replaced with new standard tickets which can be used up to six times within 30 days. A trip costs between $0.80 and $2, and a $0.10 deposit is incurred on first purchase. The deposit is refunded on the third top-up of the ticket and a $0.10 discount is automatically given on the last (sixth) top-up. The ticket can thereafter be discarded or kept as a souvenir. EZ-Link or NETS FlashPay farecards (described above) are the easiest and most popular ways to use on the MRT. All lines are seamlessly integrated, even if the lines are operated by different transport companies, so you do not need to buy a new ticket or go through multiple gates to transfer between different operators' lines.
The MRT stations are clean and equipped with free toilets. All stations have screen doors, so there is no risk of falling onto the tracks. The North-East Line, Circle Line, Downtown Line, LRT and all upcoming lines are operated automatically without a driver.
Buses connect various corners of Singapore, but are slower and harder to use than the MRT. Their advantage is you get to see the sights rather than a dark underground tunnel at a low price. Be aware when planning to take the bus a long distance that frequent stops and slow speeds may mean your bus journey could take two to three times as long as the same trip via MRT. You can pay cash (coins) in buses, but the fare stage system is quite complex (it's easiest to ask the driver for the price to your destination), you are charged marginally more and there is no provision for getting change. Payment with EZ-Link or NETS Flashpay card is thus the easiest method: tap your card against the reader at the front entrance of the bus when boarding, and a maximum fare is deducted from the card. When you alight, tap your card again at the exit, and the difference is refunded. Make sure you tap out, or you'll end up paying the maximum fare. Inspectors occasionally prowl buses to check that everybody has paid or tapped, so those who are on tourist day passes should tap before sitting down. Dishonest bus commuters risk getting fined $20 for not paying or underpaying fares (by premature tapping-out) and $50 for improper use of concession cards. Another advantage of ez-link or Nets Flashpay cards is that you will be able to enjoy distance-based fares and avoid the boarding fee.
After midnight on Fridays, Saturdays and eve of public holidays, the NightRider and Nite Owl bus services are a fairly convenient way of getting around, with 13 lines running every 20 to 30 mins. All services drive past the major nightlife city districts of Boat Quay, Clarke Quay, Mohamed Sultan and Orchard before splintering off. The fare is between $4.00 to $4.40, the EZ-link card and Nets Flashpay cards are accepted but the Singapore Tourist Pass is not valid on this line.
As mentioned earlier, Gothere.sg will give you options as to which buses will take you from your origin or destination.
Taxicabs use meters and are reasonably priced and honest. Outside weekday peak hours, trips within the city centre should not cost you more than $10 and even a trip right across the island from Changi to Jurong will not break the $35 mark. If you are in a group of 3 or 4, it's sometimes cheaper and faster to take a taxi than the MRT. However, at peak periods and when it rains, demand often exceeds supply, so if there's a long queue at a taxi stand, you'll want to call a taxi from the unified booking system at ☎ +65 6342 5222 (6-DIAL-CAB) or take the MRT instead.
Taxi pricing is largely identical across all companies at $3.00-3.90 as a flag down rate (depending on the type of vehicle used), which lasts you 1 km before increments of $0.22 per 400 m (for the first 10 km) or $0.22 per 350 m (after the first 10 km). (The sole exception is SMRT's giant black Chryslers, which charge $5 and then $0.30 per 385 m.) Watch out for surprises though: there are a myriad of peak hour (25%), late night (50%), central business district ($3), trips from airport or the casinos ($3–5 during peak hours), phone booking ($3.00 and up) and Electronic Road Pricing surcharges, which may add a substantial amount to your taxi fare. All such charges are shown on the bottom right-hard corner of the meter, recorded in the printed receipt and explained in tedious detail in a sticker on the window; if you suspect the cabbie is trying to pull a fast one, call the company and ask for an explanation. There is no surcharge for trips to the airport. While all taxis are equipped to handle (and are required to accept) credit cards, in practice many cabbies do not accept electronic payment. Always ask before getting in. Paying by credit card will incur an additional surcharge of 17%. As usual in Singapore, tips are not expected.
In the Central Business District, taxis may pick up passengers only at taxi stands (found outside any shopping mall) or buildings with their own driveways (including virtually all hotels). Outside the centre, you're free to hail taxis on the street or call one to your doorstep. At night spots featuring long queues, such as Clarke Quay, you may on occasion be approached by touts offering a quick flat fare to your destination. This is illegal and very expensive but reasonably safe for you. (Drivers, on the other hand, will probably lose their job if caught.)
Some Singapore taxi drivers have very poor geographical knowledge and may expect you to know where they should go, so it may be helpful to bring a map of your destination area or directions on finding where you wish to go. Some cabbies may also ask you which route you want to take; most are satisfied with "whichever way is faster".
Uber has service in Singapore. Lyft has partnered with local ride share service Grab, so you can use the Lyft app to grab a car. Other ride sharing apps include Ryde and SWAT.
Trishaws, three-wheeled bicycle taxis, haunt the area around the Singapore River and Chinatown. Geared purely for tourists, they should be avoided for serious travel as locals do not use them. There is little room for bargaining: short journeys cost $10–20 and an hour's sightseeing charter about $50 per person.
Tourist-oriented bumboats cruise the Singapore River, offering point-to-point rides starting from $3 and cruises with nice views of the CBD skyscraper skyline starting from $13.
Bumboats also shuttle passengers from Changi Village to Pulau Ubin ($2.50 one-way), a small island off Singapore's northeast coast which is about as close as Singapore gets to unhurried rural living.
Car rental is not a popular option for visitors to Singapore, as public transport covers virtually the entire island and it's generally cheaper to take taxis all day than to rent. You will usually be looking at upwards for $100 per day for the smallest vehicle from the major rental companies, although local ones can be cheaper and there are sometimes good weekend prices available. This does not include petrol at around $2/litre or electronic road pricing (ERP) fees, and you'll usually need to pay extra to drive to Malaysia. If planning on touring Malaysia by car, it makes much more sense to head across the border to Johor Bahru, where both rentals and petrol are half price, and you have the option of dropping your car off elsewhere in the country. This also avoids the unwelcome extra attention that Singapore cars tend to get from thieves and greedy cops.
Foreign licences in English or from other ASEAN member countries are valid in Singapore for up to a year from your date of entry, after which you will have to convert your foreign licence to a Singapore version. Other foreign licences must be accompanied by an International Driving Permit (IDP) or an official English translation (usually available from your embassy) to be valid.
Singaporeans drive on the left (like their Indonesian, Malaysian & Thai neighbours) and the legal driving age is 18. Roads in Singapore are in excellent condition and driving habits are generally good compared to other countries in the region, with most people following the traffic rules due to stringent enforcement, although road courtesy tends to be sorely lacking. The speed limit is only 90 km/h on expressways and 60 km/h on other roads. While signs are usually good, expressways are almost universally referred to only by acronym, so the Pan Island Expressway is "PIE", the East Coast Parkway is "ECP", etc. Parking is tolerably easy to find but rarely free, with rates varying from around $3/hour at private CBD carparks to $1/hour at public carparks, usually payable with the CashCard.
ERP payments require a stored-value CashCard, which is usually arranged by the rental agency, but it's your responsibility to ensure it has enough value. ERP gantries are activated at different times, usually in the expected direction of most cars. As a rule of thumb, gantries found in roads leading to the CBD are activated during the morning rush hour while gantries found in roads exiting the CBD are activated during the evening rush hour. Passing through an active ERP gantry with insufficient value will mean that an alert is sent to your registered address. You will need to pay an administrative fee in addition to the difference between the remaining amount and the actual charge. You have a limited time to settle this, or the penalty becomes harsher.
All passengers must wear seat belts and using a phone while driving is banned. Drink-driving is not tolerated: the maximum blood alcohol content is 0.08%, with roadblocks set up at night to catch offenders, who are heavily fined and possibly jailed. Even if your blood alcohol level does not exceed the legal limit, you can still be charged with drink driving if the police are convinced that your ability to control the vehicle has been compromised by the presence of alcohol (e.g., if you are involved in a collision). The police conduct periodic roadblocks and speed cameras are omnipresent. Fines will be sent by mail to you or your rental agency, who will then pass on the cost with a surcharge. If stopped for a traffic offence, don't even think about trying to bribe your way out.
Using bicycles as a substitute for public transportation is possible. While the city is small and its landscape is flat, it can be difficult to predict how ridable a route will be without scoping it out first. Buses, taxis, and motorists stopping to drop off or pick up passengers rarely check for cyclists before merging back onto the roadway, which makes certain routes especially treacherous. The ubiquitous road works around Singapore can also make cycling more hazardous when temporary road surfaces are not kept safe for biking, portable traffic barriers make it hard for vehicles to see cyclists, and construction teams directing traffic are unsure of how to deal with cyclists on the roadway.
Air quality can also be a problem. According to Singapore's LTA, Singapore has more than 178,000 diesel powered cars, taxis, buses, and trucks, which can make biking on Singapore's crowded roads very unpleasant. When the thick smoke from Indonesian forest fires descends on Singapore, air quality plummets even further. The 2010 campaign, "1.5m Matters" seemed to have little effect on the driving habits of Singaporeans, who often pass uncomfortably close to cyclists. But that may be because of the lack of a bicycle lane on the roads and motorists are very often forced to swerve into the adjacent lane in order to avoid hitting a cyclist. 22 cyclists were killed on Singapore roadways in 2008 and 19 in 2009. According to the Singapore "Ride of Silence" two cyclists are hit by motor vehicles every day in Singapore. Cycling on the pavement is technically illegal in most parts of Singapore, although enforcement is practically non-existent except in areas with high flux of people, such as the CBD or town centers.
Singapore has an expanding infrastructure of segregated bike lanes, named "park connectors" (PCN) as they are primarily intended for leisure and not transportation. An up-to-date cycling route map can be found in the Park Connector Network website, but note that not all routes in the website are segregated cycling lanes, some are only recommended routes. There are no PCNs in the CBD area.
Small folding bicycles may be taken on the MRT during certain times of the day, but large bicycles are a no-no. Bicycles may cross the causeway to Malaysia (on motorbike lanes), but are not allowed on expressways.
Singapore is generally fairly 'pedestrian-friendly'. In the main business district and on main roadways, pavements and pedestrian crossings are in good shape and plentiful. Drivers are mindful of marked crossing zones, but are less likely to be aware or respectful of pedestrians crossing at street corners on less busy streets where crossings are not marked, even though by law any accident between a pedestrian and a vehicle is presumed to be the driver's fault. Jaywalking is illegal and punished with fines of $25 and up to three months in jail.
An unavoidable downside, though, is the tropical heat and humidity, which leaves many visitors sweaty and exhausted, so do as the locals do and bring along a little towel and a bottle of water. It's best to get an early start, pop into air-conditioned shops, cafes and museums to cool off, and plan on heading back to the shopping mall or hotel pool before noon. Alternatively, after sundown, evenings can also be comparatively cool. On the upside, the fact that the sun is often covered in clouds means that you won't get as easily sunburnt as otherwise at these latitudes.
Malay may be enshrined in the constitution as the "national" language, but in practice the most common language is English, spoken by almost every Singaporean under the age of 50 with varying degrees of fluency. English is spoken much better here than in most Asian neighbours. Standard British English is also the medium of instruction in schools, except for mother tongue subjects, e.g., Malay, Mandarin and Tamil, which are also required to be learned in school by Singaporeans. It is not uncommon to find that the younger Singaporeans tend to view English as their first language. In addition, all official signs and documents are written in English, usually using British terminology and spelling. Some elderly people may not speak English, although you will almost always be able to find somebody nearby who does. Although the English spoken in Singapore is largely based on British English, American English is also widely understood due to the popularity of American pop culture.
However, the distinctive local patois Singlish may be hard to understand at times, as it incorporates slang words and phrases from other languages, including various Chinese dialects, Malay, and Tamil as well as English words whose pronunciation or meaning have been changed. Additionally, it has an odd way of structuring sentences, due to the original speakers being mostly Chinese. Complex consonant clusters are simplified, articles and plurals disappear, verb tenses are replaced by adverbs, questions are altered to fit the Chinese syntax and non-English particles (especially the infamous "lah") appear:
Singlish: You wan beer or not? -- Dunwan lah, dring five bottle oreddi.
English: Do you want a beer? -- No, thanks; I've already had five bottles.
Thanks to nationwide language education campaigns, most younger Singaporeans are, however, capable of speaking what the government calls "good English" when necessary. To avoid unintentional offence, it's best to start off with standard English and shift to simplified pidgin only if it becomes evident that the other person cannot follow you. Try to resist the temptation to sprinkle your speech with unnecessary Singlishisms. You'll get a laugh if you do it right, but it sounds patronising if you do it wrong. And most Singaporeans, especially the younger and the better educated, can comfortably use proper English in most situations, so it is not essential to learn Singlish even for long stays.
Singapore's other official languages are Mandarin Chinese and Tamil. Mandarin is spoken by most younger Singaporean Chinese while Tamil is spoken by most Indians. Like English, the Mandarin spoken in Singapore has also evolved into a distinctive creole and often incorporates words from other Chinese dialects, Malay, and English, though all Singaporean Chinese are taught standard Mandarin in school. Various Chinese dialects (mostly Hokkien, though significant numbers also speak Teochew and Cantonese) are also spoken between ethnic Chinese of the same dialect group, though their use has been declining in the younger generation since the 1980s due to government policies discouraging the use of dialects in favour of Mandarin. Other Indian languages, such as Punjabi among the Sikhs, are also spoken.
The official Chinese script used in Singapore is the simplified script used in mainland China. As such, all official publications (including local newspapers) and signs are in simplified Chinese and is taught in schools. Some of the older generation still prefer traditional script, and the popularity of Hong Kong and Taiwanese pop culture means that younger people can also be familiar with it.
Governmental offices are required by law to provide all services in all four official languages.
Sights in Singapore are covered in more detail under the various districts. Broadly speaking:
While you can find a place to practice nearly any sport in Singapore — golfing, surfing, scuba diving, even ice skating and snow skiing — due to the country's small size your options are rather limited and prices are relatively high. For watersports in particular, the busy shipping lanes and sheer population pressure mean that the sea around Singapore is murky, and most locals head up to Tioman (Malaysia) or Bintan (Indonesia) instead. On the upside, there is an abundance of dive shops in Singapore, and they often arrange weekend trips to good dive sites off the East Coast of Malaysia, so they are a good option for accessing some of Malaysia's not-so touristy dive sites.
On the cultural side of things, Singapore has been trying to shake off its boring, buttoned-down reputation and attract more artists and performances, with mixed success. The star in Singapore's cultural sky is the Esplanade theatre in Marina Bay, a world-class facility for performing arts and a frequent stage for the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. Pop culture options are more limited and Singapore's home-grown arts scene remains rather moribund, although local starlets Stefanie Sun and JJ Lin have had some success in the Chinese pop scene. On the upside, any bands and DJs touring Asia are pretty much guaranteed to perform in Singapore.
Going to the movies is a popular Singaporean pastime, but look for "R21" ratings (age 21 and above only) if you like your movies with fewer cuts. The big three theatre chains are Cathay, Golden Village and Shaw Brothers. Censorship continues to throttle the local film scene, but Jack Neo's popular comedies showcase the foibles of Singaporean life.
In May or June, don't miss the yearly Singapore Arts Festival. Advance tickets for almost any cultural event can be purchased from SISTIC, either on-line or from any of their numerous ticketing outlets, including the Singapore Visitor Centre on Orchard Rd.
Singapore has two massive casinos, always referred to with the euphemism "integrated resort", which pull in nearly as much revenue as the entirety of Las Vegas. Marina Bay Sands at Marina Bay is the larger and swankier of the two, while Resorts World Sentosa at Sentosa aims for a more family-friendly experience (but offers No Limit Holdem from $5/$10). While locals (citizens and permanent residents) have to pay $100/day to get in, foreign visitors can enter for free after presenting their passport.
Besides the casino, there are other forms of legalised betting which are more accessible to the locals. This includes horse racing, which is run by the Singapore Turf Club on weekends, as well as football (soccer) betting and several lotteries run by the Singapore Pools.
Mahjong is also a popular pastime in Singapore. The version played in Singapore is similar to the Cantonese version, but it also has extra "animal tiles" not present in the original Cantonese version. However, this remains pretty much a family and friends affair, and there are no (legal) mahjong parlours.
Despite its small size, Singapore has a surprisingly large number of golf courses, but most of the best ones are run by private clubs and open to members and their guests only. The main exceptions are the Sentosa Golf Club, the famously challenging home of the Barclays Singapore Open, and the Marina Bay Golf Course, the only 18-hole public course. See the Singapore Golf Association for the full list; alternatively, head to the nearby Indonesian islands of Batam or Bintan or up north to the Malaysian town of Malacca for cheaper rounds.
The inaugural Singapore Formula One Grand Prix was held at night in September 2008, and the organisers have confirmed that the night race will be a fixture until 2017. Held on a street circuit in the heart of Singapore and raced at night, all but race fans will probably wish to avoid this time, as hotel prices especially room with view of the F1 tracks are through the roof. Tickets start from $150 but the thrilling experience of night race is definitely unforgettable for all F1 fans and photo buffs. Besides being a uniquely night race, the carnival atmosphere and pop concert held around the race ground as well as the convenience of hotels and restaurants round the corner, distinguish the race from other F1 races held in remote spots away from urban centres.
The Singapore Turf Club in Kranji hosts horse races most Fridays, including a number of international cups, and is popular with local gamblers. The Singapore Polo Club near Balestier is also open to the public on competition days.
Singapore has recently been experiencing a 'spa boom', and there is now plenty of choice for everything from holistic Ayurveda to green tea hydrotherapy. However, prices aren't as rock-bottom as in neighbours Indonesia and Thailand, and you'll generally be looking at upwards of $50 even for a plain one-hour massage. Premium spas can be found in most 5 star hotels and on Orchard, and Sentosa's Spa Botanica also has a good reputation. There are also numerous shops offering traditional Chinese massage, which are mostly legitimate. The less legitimate "health centres" have been shut down. Traditional Asian-style public baths are non-existent.
When looking for beauty salons on Orchard Road, try out the ones on the fourth floor of Lucky Plaza. They offer most salon services like manicures, pedicures, facials, waxing and hair services. A favourite of flight crews and repeat tourists due to the lower costs as compared to the sky high prices of other salons along the shopping belt. Shop around for prices, some of the better looking ones actually charge less.
Forget your tiny hotel pool if you are into competitive or recreational swimming: Singapore is paradise for swimmers with arguably the highest density of public pools in the world. They are all open-air 50 m pools (some facilities even feature up to three 50 m pools), accessible for an entrance fee of $1–1.50. Some of the visitors don't swim at all. They just come from nearby housing complexes for a few hours to chill out, read and relax in the sun. Most are open daily 08:00-21:00 and all feature a small cafe. Just imagine swimming your lanes in the tropical night with lit up palm trees surrounding the pool.
The Singapore Sports Council maintains a list of pools, most of which are part of a larger sports complex with gym, tennis courts etc., and are located near the MRT station they're named after. Perhaps the best is in Katong (111 Wilkinson Road, on the East Coast): after the swim, stroll through the villa neighbourhood directly in front of the pool entrance and have at look at the luxurious, original architecture of the houses that really rich Singaporeans live in. If you get bored with regular swimming pools, head to the Jurong East Swimming Complex where you get the wave pool, water slides and Jacuzzi at an insanely affordable entrance fee of $1.50 on weekdays and $2 on weekends. For those who feel richer, visit the Wild Wild Wet water theme park or the Adventure Cove Waterpark and get yourself wet with various exciting water slides and tidal wave pools.
For those who don't like pools, head out to the beaches. The East Coast Park has a scenic coastline that stretches over 15 km. It's a popular getaway spot for Singaporeans to swim, cycle, barbeque and engage in various other sports and activities. Sentosa island also has three white, sandy beaches - Siloso Beach, Palawan Beach and Tanjong Beach - each with its own distinct characteristics, and also very popular with locals.
Besides more regular water sports such as water skiing, wake boarding, windsurfing and canoeing, Singapore also offers water sports fans trendy activities such as cable-skiing and wave surfing in specially created environments.
While obviously not the best place on earth for skiing, sunny Singapore still has a permanent indoor snow centre. Snow City offers visitors a chance to experience winter. Visitors can escape from the hot and humid tropical weather to play in snow or even learn to ski and snowboard with certified professional instructors.
The Singaporean currency is the Singapore dollar, denoted by the symbol S$ or $ (ISO code: SGD ). (This guide uses "$" to denote the Singapore dollar.) It is divided into 100 cents. There are coins of $0.05 (gold), $0.10 (silver), $0.20 (silver), $0.50 (silver) and $1 (gold), plus notes of $2 (purple), $5 (green), $10 (red), $50 (blue), $100 (orange), $1,000 (purple) and $10,000 (gold).
Along with its Brunei counterpart, the $10,000 banknote has the largest intrinsic value of any banknote in current circulation (valued at US$7,840 in September 2014). Although Singapore is squeaky clean, it will cease to be printed in October 2014 because it facilitates bribery and corruption in neighbouring countries such as Indonesia.
The Brunei dollar is pegged at par with the Singapore dollar and the two currencies can be used interchangeably in both countries, so don't be too surprised if you get a Brunei note as change. You can safely assume that the "$" sign used in the island-nation refers to Singapore dollars unless it includes other initials (e.g., US$ or USD to stand for US dollar).
Currency exchange booths can be found in every shopping mall and usually offer better rates, better opening hours, and much faster service than banks. The huge 24 hr operation at Mustafa in Little India accepts almost any currency at very good rates, as do the fiercely competitive small shops at the aptly named Change Alley next to Raffles Place MRT. For large amounts, ask for a quote, as it will often get you a better rate than displayed on the board. Rates at the airport are not as good as in the city, and while many department stores accept major foreign currencies, their rates are often terrible.
Singapore is one of the largest financial centres in the region, so there are numerous banks to choose from. Partly due to strong banking secrecy laws and the fact that interest paid on bank deposits is not taxable in Singapore, Singaporean banks are increasingly seen as an alternative to Swiss banks for the world's richest people to stash their assets. Opening a bank account is a straightforward process and there are no restrictions on foreigners owning a bank account in Singapore. The largest local banks in Singapore are United Overseas Bank (UOB), DBS Bank and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC Bank). Major foreign banks that have a large presence in Singapore include HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank and Citibank.
ATMs are ubiquitous in Singapore and credit cards are widely accepted. The most widely accepted credit cards in Singapore are Visa and MasterCard, and many shops also accept American Express. Discover, JCB and China UnionPay cards are also accepted in most shops that primarily cater to tourists, though they are typically not accepted in shops catering to a more local clientele. Although credit card surcharges are not allowed in Singapore, many merchants get around this rule by offering discounts over the listed price if you pay in cash. Travellers cheques are generally not accepted by retailers, but can be cashed at most exchange booths and banks. EZ-Link and NETS Flash Pay cards are accepted in some convenience stores and fast food chains.
Tipping is generally not practised in Singapore, and is officially frowned upon by the government; however, it is common for restaurants to levy a 10% service charge before GST, the local goods and services tax. Restaurants often display prices like $19.99++, which means that service charge (10%) and sales tax (7%) are not included and will be added to your bill; in most restaurants the employees never actually receive this service charge. When you see NETT, it means it includes all taxes and service charges.
Bellhops still expect $2 or so per bag. Tipping is not expected in taxis, who usually return your change to the last 5 cents, or round in your favour if they can't be bothered to dig for change; congestion or Electronic Road Pricing charges are often already included in the final fare. All taxis must advertise a hotline to call if the customer feels dissatisfied. Tipping is prohibited at the airport.
Do not under any circumstances offer a tip to any government employee, especially police officers, as this is regarded as bribery, and would most likely get you arrested and pressed with criminal charges.
Singapore is expensive by Asian standards, but affordable compared with OECD countries: $50 is a perfectly serviceable daily backpacker budget if you are willing to cut some corners, though you would probably wish to double that for comfort. Food in particular is a steal, with excellent hawker food available for under $5 for a generous serving. Accommodation is a little pricier, but a bed in a hostel can cost less than $20, an average mid-range hotel in the city centre would typically cost anywhere from $100–300 per night for a basic room, and the most luxurious hotels (e.g. Raffles Hotel, and most hotels in Sentosa) can cost $300 after discounts during the off-peak season.
Shopping is second only to eating as a national pastime, which means that Singapore has an abundance of shopping malls, and low taxes and tariffs on imports coupled with huge volume mean that prices are usually very competitive. While you won't find any bazaars with dirt-cheap local handicrafts (in fact, virtually everything sold in Singapore is made elsewhere), goods are generally of reasonably good quality and shopkeepers are generally quite honest due to strong consumer protection laws. Most stores are open daily 10:00-22:00, although smaller operations (particularly those outside shopping malls) close earlier — 19:00 is common — and perhaps on Sundays as well. Mustafa in Little India is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Many stores along the shopping belt of Orchard Road and Scotts Road now offer late night shopping on the last Friday of every month with over 250 retailers staying open until midnight.
For purchases of over $100 per day per participating shop, you may be able to get a refund of your 7% GST if departing by air or sea, but the process is a bit of a bureaucratic hassle. At the shop you need to ask for a tax refund cheque. Before checking in at the airport or at the cruise terminal, present this cheque together with the items purchased and your passport at the GST customs counter. Get the receipt stamped there. Then proceed with check-in and go through security. After clearing departure immigration, bring the stamped cheque to the refund counter to cash it in or get the GST back on your credit card. See Singapore Customs for the full scoop.
During the annual Great Singapore Sale many shops reduce prices 50-80% or more. This means that locals go crazy as most of them save up for a whole year just for the sale, and so almost all shopping centres, especially those in the vicinity of Orchard Road, become very crowded on weekends. If you prefer not to shop in crowded malls, it is advisable to take advantage of the sales on weekdays when most locals are at work.
Singapore is a melting pot of cuisines from around the world, and many Singaporeans are obsessive gourmands who love to makan ("eat" in Malay). You will find quality Chinese, Malay, Indian, Japanese, Thai, Italian, French, American and other food in this city-state.
Eating habits run the gamut, but most foods are eaten by fork and spoon: push and cut with the fork in the left hand, and eat with the spoon in the right. Noodles and Chinese dishes typically come with chopsticks, while Malay and Indian food can be eaten by hand, but nobody will blink an eye if you ask for a fork and spoon instead. If eating by hand, always use your right hand to pick your food, as Malays and Indians traditionally use their left hand to handle dirty things. Take note of the usual traditional Chinese etiquette when using chopsticks, and most importantly, do not stick your chopsticks vertically into a bowl of rice. If eating in a group, serving dishes are always shared, but you'll get your own bowl of rice and soup. It's common to use your own chopsticks to pick up food from communal plates, but serving spoons can be provided on request.
Keep an eye out for the Singapore Food Festival, held every year in July.
Singapore is justly famous for its food, a unique mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian and Western elements. The following is only a brief sampler of the most popular dishes.
The most identifiable cuisine in the region is Peranakan or Nonya cuisine, born from the mixed Malay and Chinese communities of what were once the British colonies of the Straits Settlements (modern-day Singapore, Penang and Malacca).
Besides these dishes, the Peranakans are also known for their kueh or snacks, which are somewhat different from the Malay versions due to stronger Chinese influences.
The Malays were Singapore's original inhabitants and despite now being outnumbered by the Chinese, their distinctive cuisine is popular to this day. Characterised by heavy use of spices, most Malay dishes are curries, stews or dips of one kind or another and nasi padang restaurants, offering a wide variety of these to ladle onto your rice, are very popular.
Malay desserts, especially the sweet pastries and jellies (kuih or kueh) made largely from coconut and palm sugar (gula melaka), bear a distinct resemblance to those of Thailand. But in the sweltering tropical heat, try one of many concoctions made with ice instead:
Chinese food as eaten in Singapore commonly originates from southern China, particularly Fujian and Guangdong. While "authentic" fare is certainly available, especially in fancier restaurants, the daily fare served in hawker centres has absorbed a number of tropical touches, most notably the fairly heavy use of chilli and the Malay fermented shrimp paste belacan as condiments. Noodles can also be served not just in soup (湯 tang), but also "dry" (干 gan), meaning that your noodles will be served tossed with chilli and spices in one bowl, and the soup will come in a separate bowl.
The smallest of Singapore's big three ethnic groups, Indians have had proportionally the smallest impact on the local culinary scene, but there is no shortage of Indian food even at many hawker centres. Delicious and authentic Indian food can be had at Little India, including south Indian typical meals such as dosa (thosai) crepes, idli lentil-rice cakes and sambar soup, as well as north Indian meals including various curries, naan bread, tandoori chicken and more. In addition, however, a number of Indian dishes have been "Singaporeanised" and adopted by the entire population, including:
The cheapest and most popular places to eat in Singapore are hawker centres, essentially former pushcart vendors directed into giant complexes by government fiat. Prices are low ($2.50–5 for most dishes), hygiene standards are high (every stall is required to prominently display a hygiene certificate grading it from A to D) and the food can be excellent. Ambience tends to be a little lacking though and there is no air-conditioning either, but a visit to a hawker centre is a must when in Singapore. However, be leery of overzealous pushers-cum-salesmen, especially at the Satay Club in Lau Pa Sat and Newton Food Centre at Newton Circus: the tastiest stalls don't need high-pressure tactics to find customers. Touting for business is illegal, and occasionally a reminder of this can result in people backing off a bit.
To order, first chope (reserve) a table by parking a friend by the table, note the table's number, then place your order at your stall of choice. Employees deliver to your table, and you pay when you get the food. Note that some stalls (particularly very popular ones) are "self-service", and this is indicated by a sign, but if it is quiet or you are sitting nearby they will usually deliver. At almost every stall you can also opt to take away (called "packet" or ta pao (打包) in Hokkien dialect), in which case employees pack up your order in a plastic box/bag and even throw in disposable utensils. Once you are finished, just get up and go, as tables are cleared by hired cleaners.
Every district in Singapore has its own hawker centres and prices decrease as you move out into the boonies. For tourists, centrally located Newton Circus near (Newton MRT Exit B), Gluttons Bay (near Esplanade MRT Exit D) and Lau Pa Sat (near Raffles Place MRT Exit I, the River), are the most popular options — but this does not make them the cheapest or the tastiest, and the demanding gourmand would do well to head to Chinatown or the heartlands instead. A dizzying array of food stalls with a large South Indian representation can be found in the bustling Tekka Centre at the edge of Little India. Many of the best food stalls are located in residential districts off the tourist trail and do not advertise in the media, so the best way to find them is to ask locals for their recommendations. Good examples closer to the city centre include Old Airport Road Food Centre (near Dakota MRT Exit B) and Tiong Bahru Market (near Tiong Bahru MRT), both of which are sprawling and home to a number of much-loved stalls. Botak Jones in several hawker centres offers reasonably authentic and fairly sized American-restaurant style meals at hawker prices.
Despite the name, coffee shops or kopitiam sell much more than coffee — they are effectively mini-hawker centres with perhaps only half a dozen stalls (one of which will, however, sell coffee and other drinks). The Singaporean equivalent of pubs, this is where folks come for the canonical Singaporean breakfast of kopi (strong, sugary coffee), some kaya (egg-coconut jam) toast and runny eggs, and this is also where they come to down a beer or two and chat away in the evenings. English proficiency can sometimes be limited, but most stall owners know enough to communicate the basics, and even if they don't, nearby locals will usually help you out if you ask. Many coffee shops offer zi char/cze cha (煮炒) for dinner, meaning a menu of local dishes, mostly Chinese-style seafood, served at your table at mid-range prices.
The usual Starbucks and other local cafe chains such as Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf can be found in any shopping mall but an iced coffee or tea can set you back $5 or more, whereas a teh tarik ("pulled" milky tea) or kopi coffee runs closer to $1 at any hawker centre. While exploring, you're also likely to come across a good number of independent cafes offering gourmet coffee, pastries and cakes, which have mushroomed across the city centre over the last decade.
Found in the basement or top floor of nearly every shopping mall, food courts are the air-conditioned version of hawker centres. The variety of food on offer is almost identical, but prices are on average $1–3 higher than prices in hawker centres and coffee shops (depending on the area, it is slightly more expensive in tourist intensive areas) and the quality of food is good but not necessarily value-for-money.
International fast food chains like McDonald's, Carl's Jr., Burger King, KFC, MOS Burger, Dairy Queen, Orange Julius, Subway etc. are commonly found in various shopping malls. Prices range from $2 for a basic burger to upwards of $5 for a set meal. All restaurants are self-service and clearing your table after your meal is optional. In addition to the usual suspects, look out for these uniquely Singaporean brands:
Singapore offers a wide variety of full-service restaurants as well, catering to every taste and budget.
As the majority of Singapore's population is ethnic Chinese, there is an abundance of Chinese restaurants in Singapore, mainly serving southern Chinese (mostly Hokkien, Teochew, or Cantonese) cuisines, though with the large number of expatriates and foreign workers from China these days, cuisine originating from Shanghai and further north is also not hard to find. True local Chinese restaurants generally serve dishes little seen in Chinese restaurants internationally and in Mainland China, due to the combination of their southern Chinese roots and local influences.
Depending on where you go and what you order, prices can vary greatly. In ordinary restaurants, prices usually range from $15 ~ $35 per person, while in top-end restaurants in luxury hotels, meals can cost $300 per person when they involve delicacies such as abalone, suckling pig and lobster. As with Chinese restaurants anywhere, food is eaten with chopsticks and served with Chinese tea.
Being a maritime city, one common speciality is seafood restaurants, offering Chinese-influenced Singaporean classics like chilli crabs. These are much more fun to visit in a group, but be careful about what you order: gourmet items like Sri Lankan giant crab can easily push your bill up to hundreds of dollars. Menus typically say "market price", and if you ask they'll quote you the price per 100g, but a big crab can easily top 2kg. The best-known seafood spots are clustered on the East Coast, but for ambience, the riverside restaurants at Boat Quay and Clarke Quay can't be beat. Again, always enquire about the prices when they aren't stated in full, and be wary of touts.
Singapore also has its share of good Western restaurants, with British- and American-influenced food being a clear favourite among locals. Most of the more affordable chains can be found in various shopping centres throughout the island, and prices for main courses range from $14 ~ 22. For a more localised variant of Western food, one should try Hainanese Western food, which traces its origins to the Hainanese migrants who worked as cooks for Western employers during the colonial period. French, Italian, Japanese and Korean food is also readily available, though prices tend to be on the expensive side, while Thai and Indonesian restaurants tend to be more affordable.
One British import much loved by Singaporeans is high tea. In the classical form, as served up by finer hotels across the island, this is a light afternoon meal consisting of tea and a wide array of British-style savoury snacks and sweet pastries like finger sandwiches and scones. However, the term is increasingly used for afternoon buffets of any kind, and Chinese dim sum and various Singaporean dishes are common additions. Prices vary, but you'll usually be looking at $35–80 per head. Note that many restaurants only serve high tea on weekends, and hours may be very limited: the famous spread at the Raffles Hotel's Tiffin Room, for example, is only available from 15:30-17:00.
Singaporeans are big on buffets, especially international buffets offering a wide variety of dishes including Western, Chinese and Japanese as well as some local dishes at a fixed price. Popular chains include Sakura, Vienna and Todai.
Most hotels also offer lunch and dinner buffets. Champagne brunches on Sundays are particularly popular, but you can expect to pay over $100 per head and popular spots, like Mezza9 at the Hyatt on Orchard, will require reservations.
While Singapore was previously known to offer excellent casual dining but to lack fine dining options, the opening of the two casinos in Marina Bay and Sentosa has led to several of the world's top chefs opening local branches of their restaurants, including Santi, Waku Ghin and Guy Savoy. Prices are generally what you would expect for eating at a fine dining restaurant in the West, with $400+ per person not unheard of for a tasting menu with drinks.
Singapore is an easy place to eat for almost everybody. Some Indians and small groups of Chinese Buddhists are vegetarian, so Indian stalls may have a number of veggie options and some hawker centres will have a Chinese vegetarian stall or two, often serving up amazing meat imitations made from gluten. Chinese vegetarian food traditionally does not use eggs or dairy products and is thus almost always vegan; Indian vegetarian food, however, often employs cheese and other milk products. Be on your guard in ordinary Chinese restaurants though, as even dishes that appear vegetarian on the menu may contain seafood products like oyster sauce or salted fish — check with the waiter if in doubt. Some restaurants can be found that use "no garlic, no onions".
Muslims should look out for halal certificates issued by MUIS, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore. This is found at practically every Malay stall and many Indian Muslim operations too, but more rarely on outlets run by the Chinese, few of whom are Muslims. However, there are a few halal food courts around, which are an excellent choice for safely sampling halal Chinese food. Many Western fast-food chains in Singapore use halal meat: look for a certificate around the ordering area, or ask a manager if in doubt. A few restaurants skimp on the formal certification and simply put up "no pork, no lard" signs; it's your call if this is good enough for you.
Kosher-observant Jews, on the other hand, will have a harder time as kosher food is nearly unknown in Singapore, except near Singapore's two synagogues at Oxley Rise and Waterloo Street in the Central Business District; check with the Jewish Welfare Board for details.
Coeliac disease is relatively unheard of in Singapore, so don't expect to find information on menus about whether dishes contain gluten or not. A few exceptions to this include Cedele, Barracks @ House and Jones the Grocer. Gluten awareness is spreading in Singapore as well, and many upmarket restaurants will have internationally trained chefs who can cater to your needs. Gluten-free products are available in most Cold Storage and Marketplace supermarkets, as well as specialist shops such as Brown Rice Paradise. You can also treat yourself to many naturally gluten-free regional specialities, such as Hainanese chicken rice (be sure to ask for chicken without sauce) and Masala dosa.
Singapore's nightlife isn't quite a match for Patpong, but it's no slouch either. Some clubs have 24 hr licences and few places close before 03:00. Any artists touring Asia are pretty much guaranteed to stop in Singapore, with superclub Zouk in particular regularly clocking high on lists of the world's best nightclubs. Singapore's nightlife is largely concentrated along the three Quays — Boat, Clarke and Robertson — of the Riverside, with the clubs of Sentosa and nearby St James Power Station giving party animals even more reason to dance the night away and the casino on Marina Bay also entering the fray. Gay bars are mostly found around Chinatown. The legal drinking age is 18, and while this is surprisingly loosely enforced, some clubs have higher age limits.
Friday is generally the biggest night of the week for going out, with Saturday a close second. Sunday is gay night in many bars and clubs, while Wednesday or Thursday is ladies' night, often meaning not just free entrance but free drinks for women. Most clubs are closed on Monday and Tuesday, while bars generally stay open but tend to be very quiet.
For a night out Singapore style, gather a group of friends and head for the nearest karaoke box — major chains include K-Box and Party World. Room rental ranges from $30/hour and up. Beware that the non-chain, glitzy (or dodgy) looking, neon-covered KTV lounges may charge much higher rates and the short-skirted hostesses may offer more services than just pouring your drinks. In Singapore, the pronunciation of karaoke follows the Japanese "karah-oh-kay" instead of the Western "carry-oh-key".
Alcohol is widely available but expensive due to Singapore's heavy sin taxes. On the other hand, tax-free at Changi Airport has some of the best prices in the world. You can bring in up to one litre of liquor and two litres of wine and beer if you arrive from countries other than Malaysia. Careful shopping at major supermarkets will also throw up common basic Australian wine labels for under $20.
Alcohol is haram (forbidden) to Muslims, and most Muslim Singaporeans duly avoid it. While most non-Muslim Singaporeans are not puritanical and enjoy a drink every now and then, do not expect to find the binge-drinking culture that you will find in most Western countries. Unlike in many Western countries, public drunkenness is socially frowned upon in Singapore, and misbehaving yourself under the influence of alcohol will certainly not gain you any respect from Singaporean friends. Do not allow any confrontations to escalate into fights, as the police will be called in, and you may face prison and possibly caning.
Prices when drinking out vary. You can enjoy a large bottle of beer of your choice at a coffee shop or hawker centre for less than $6 (and the local colour comes thrown in for free). On the other hand, drinks in any bar, club or fancy restaurant remain pricey, with a basic drink clocking in at $10–15 while fancy cocktails would usually be in the $15–25 range. On the upside, happy hours and two-for-one promotions are common, and the entry price for clubs usually includes several drink tickets. Almost all restaurants in Singapore allow bringing your own (BYO) wine and cheaper restaurants without a wine menu usually don't even charge corkage, although in these places you'll need to bring your own bottle opener and glasses. Fancier places charge $20–50, although many offer free corkage days on Monday or Tuesday.
Tourists flock to the Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel to sample the original Singapore Sling, a sickly sweet pink mix of pineapple juice, gin and more, but locals (almost) never touch the stuff. The tipple of choice in Singapore is the local beer, Tiger, a rather ordinary lager, but there's been a recent microbrewery boom with Archipelago (Boat Quay), Brewerkz (Riverside Point), Paulaner Brauhaus (Millenia Walk) and Pump Room (Clarke Quay) all offering interesting alternatives.
Tobacco is heavily taxed, and you are not allowed to bring more than one opened pack (not carton, but a single pack!) of cigarettes into the country. This is particularly strictly enforced on the land borders with Malaysia, where all baggage is regularly X-rayed. Most public places including hawker centres have restrictions on smoking, and it is prohibited in public transport as well. There is a total ban on smoking in all air-conditioned places (including pubs and discos), and strict limitations on where you can smoke outside as well (e.g.,within 5 metres of bus stops and building entrances, parks, covered walkways and shelters, playgrounds and all except the designated sections of hawker centres are off limits). The designated zone should be marked with a yellow outline, and may have a sign reading "smoking zone". The list of places where smoking is prohibited and the (much shorter) list of where it is allowed is published on a government website.
Prostitution is tolerated in six designated districts, most notably Geylang, which — not coincidentally — also offers some of the cheapest lodging and best food in the city. While the age of consent in Singapore is 16, a higher minimum age of 18 applies to prostitutes. The industry maintains a low profile (no go-go bars here) and is not a tourist attraction by any stretch of the word. Legally practising commercial sex workers are required to register with the authorities and attend special clinics for regular sexually transmitted disease screening. However, please be prudent and practice safe sex—although most legally practising sex workers will insist on it anyway.
Orchard Towers, on Orchard Road, has been famously summarised as "four floors of whores" and, despite occasional crackdowns by the authorities, continues to live up to its name. Beware that the prostitutes working here are usually not registered, so the risk of theft and STDs is significantly higher, and note a few of the women are transsexuals.
Accommodation in Singapore is expensive by South-East Asian standards. Particularly in the higher price brackets, demand has been outstripping supply recently and during big events like the F1 race or some of the larger conventions it's not uncommon for pretty much everything to sell out. Lower-end hotels and hostels, though, remain affordable and available throughout the year.
Singapore's laws that ban late night and early morning construction only apply to residential areas and not the city centre. You can expect to hear loud piling from sites such as the new Downtown MRT Line tunnels late into the night or early morning. Keep this in mind and listen out for any loud construction work near your hotel choice before making your final decision; work will be unlikely to stop just because you want to sleep.
Unless you're a shopping maven intent on maximizing time in Orchard Road's shopping malls, the Riverside is probably the best place to stay in Singapore.
Backpackers' hostels can be found primarily in Little India, Bugis, Clarke Quay and the East Coast. backpacker hostel cost from $12–40 for a dorm bed.
Cheap hotels are clustered in the Geylang, Balestier and Little India districts, where they service mostly the type of customer who rents rooms by the hour. Rooms are generally small and not fancy, but are still clean and provide basic facilities such as a bathroom and television. Prices start as low as $15 for a "transit" of a few hours and $40 for a full night's stay. The two major local chains, with hotels throughout the island, are:
Much of Singapore's mid-range accommodation is in rather featureless but functional older hotels, with a notable cluster near the western end of the Singapore River. There has, however, been a recent surge of "boutique" hotels in renovated shophouses here and in Chinatown and these can be pretty good value, with rates starting from $100/night.
Singapore has a wide selection of luxury accommodation, including the famed Raffles Hotel. You will generally be looking at upwards of $300 per night for a room in a five-star hotel, which is still a pretty good deal by most standards. Hotel rates fluctuate quite a bit: a large conference can double prices, while on weekends in the off-peak season heavy discounts are often available. The largest hotel clusters can be found at Marina Bay (good for sightseeing) and around Orchard Road (good for shopping).
For securing possibly cheaper rates for luxury hotels, one can consider using the HotelQuickly app (available for free in GooglePlay and iTunes); note though only stays for the present day and immediate tomorrow are currently made available.
Being spoilt for choice in the lion city as far as luxurious accommodation is concerned is quite an understatement.
Housing in Singapore is expensive, as the high population density and sheer scarcity of land drives real estate prices through the roof. As a result, you would generally be looking at rentals on par with the likes of New York and London.
Apartment hotels in Singapore include Ascott, which also operates under the Somerset and Citadines brands. Prices are competitive with hotels but quite expensive compared to apartments.
Renting an apartment in Singapore will generally require a working visa. While over 80% of Singaporeans live in government-subsidised Housing Development Board (HDB) flats, their availability to visitors is limited, although JTC's SHiFT scheme makes some available with monthly rents in the $1700–2,800 range.
Most expats, however, turn to private housing blocks known as condos, where an average three-bedroom apartment will cost you anything from $3,200 per month for an older apartment in the suburbs to $20,000 for a top-of-the-line deluxe one on Orchard Road. Most condos have facilities like pools, gyms, tennis court, carpark and 24 hr security. As the supply of studio and one-bedroom apartments is very limited, most people on a budget share an apartment with friends or colleagues, or just sublet a single room. Landed houses, known as bungalows, are incredibly expensive near the city centre (rents are commonly tens of thousands) but can drop if you're willing to settle outside the city centre — and remember that you can drive across the country in 30 minutes.
One or two-month security deposits are standard practice and for monthly rents of under $3,000 you need to pay the agent a commission of 2 weeks per year of lease. Leases are usually for two years, with a "diplomatic clause" that allows you to terminate after 1 year. Singapore Expats is the largest real estate agency geared for expats and their free classifieds are a popular choice for hunting for rooms or apartment-mates. You might also want to check the classified ads in the local newspapers.
Singapore's universities are generally well-regarded and draw exchange students from near and far.
A number of foreign universities, business schools and specialized institutes have also set up their Asian campuses in Singapore.
You must have a work permit (WP) or an employment pass (EP) to work in Singapore. In practice, receiving either requires that you have a firm job offer and the sponsoring company applies on your behalf. There is also a Working Holiday Programme for recent university graduates who want to live in Singapore for up to 6 months.
Work permits are mostly intended for menial, low-skilled labourers. To be eligible for an employment pass, you will generally need to have a minimum salary of at least $3,300 per month and hold at least a bachelor's degree from a reasonably reputable university. There is also an intermediate known as the S pass, which is usually granted to mid-skilled workers who have been promoted to positions of junior leadership such as a work site supervisor, and would require you to have a minimum salary of at least $2,200 per month as well as your employer's recommendation. Employment pass and S pass holders with a monthly salary of at least $4,000 are allowed to bring in their family members on a dependent pass.
If your employment is terminated, you will get a social visit pass (a visitors visa with no employment rights) which allows you to stay for no longer than 14 days. You can look for another job during this time, but don't overstay your visa, and do not think about working without the right papers, this will result in a short stay in the local prison, with added fines, possibly caning, certain deportation and being banned from re-entering. In addition, your employer will also face hefty fines and imprisonment. For more information, contact the Ministry of Manpower.
Once you have been working in Singapore for a year or so on an employment pass or S pass, applying for permanent residence (PR) is fairly straightforward. If granted — and the rule of thumb is, the higher your salary, the more likely you are to get it — you can stay in Singapore indefinitely (as long as you can show some income every 5 years) and can change jobs freely. Work permit holders are generally not eligible to apply for permanent residency.
As one of the most vibrant economies in South-east Asia, supported by a highly-educated population of locals and foreign talents, as well as one of the lowest personal and corporate income tax rates in the world, Singapore is a natural choice for multinational companies who wish to have a presence in the region. The government is also highly supportive of entrepreneurship in the country, offering a 3-year tax exemption on profit for new companies (for the first S$100,000) and having one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the world at 17% a year. Even the company incorporation process is done entirely online these days and can be completed as quickly as within one day. In addition, there are various governmental schemes which allow foreigners to obtain permanent residency by investing large sums of money in local businesses.
Singapore is one of the safest major cities in the world by virtually any measure. Most people, including single female travellers, will not face any problems walking along the streets alone at night. But as the local police say, "low crime does not mean no crime" — beware of pickpockets in crowded areas and don't forget your common sense entirely.
The Singapore Police Force is responsible for law enforcement throughout the country, and you can recognise police officers by their distinctive dark blue uniforms. Most visitors will find the majority of Singaporean police officers to be professional and helpful, and you should report any crimes that you encounter to them as soon as possible. If you are arrested, keep in mind that the Singaporean police have broader powers that what you might be used to in Western countries. In particular, while you are entitled to have a lawyer represent you at trial, the police have the right to restrict your access to a lawyer during your interrogation if they believe it could interfere with their investigation. In addition, while you have the right against self-incrimination, you do not have the right to silence and are required to answer the police's questions truthfully unless it contravenes the former. You should always make all statements in your defence during your interrogation, as failure to do so could result in the judge not believing you should you raise them for the first time at your trial.
Singapore's squeaky cleanliness is achieved in part by strict rules against activities that are tolerated in other countries. For example, jay-walking, spitting, littering and drinking and eating on public transport are prohibited. Locals joke about Singapore being a fine city because heavy fines are levied if you're caught committing an offence. Look around for sign boards detailing the "Don'ts" and the fines associated with these offences and heed them. Avoid littering, as offenders are not only subject to fines, but also to a "Corrective Work Order", in which offenders are made to wear a bright yellow jacket and pick up rubbish in public places. Enforcement is however, sporadic at best and it's not uncommon to see people openly litter, spit, smoke in non-smoking zones, etc. Chewing gum, famously long banned, is now available at pharmacies for medical purposes (e.g., nicotine gum) if you ask for it directly, show your ID and sign the register. While importing gum is still officially an offence, you can usually bring in a few packs for personal consumption without any problem.
For some crimes, most notably illegal entry and overstaying your visa for over 30 or 90 days, Singapore imposes caning as a punishment. Other offences which have caning as a punishment include vandalism, robbery, molestation and rape. Having sex with a girl under the age of 16 is considered to be rape under Singapore law, regardless of whether the girl consents to it, and would land you a few strokes of the cane. This is no slap on the wrist. Strokes from the thick rattan cane are excruciatingly painful, take weeks to heal and scar for life. Corruption is also punishable by caning, so under no circumstances should you try to offer a bribe or gratuity to a police officer. Crimes such as murder, kidnapping, unauthorised possession of firearms and drug trafficking are punished with death.
Oral and anal sex, long banned under colonial-era sodomy statutes, were legalized for heterosexuals in October 2007. Homosexual contact, however, remains illegal, with a theoretical punishment of two years in prison and/or caning. However, this law is generally not enforced and there is a fairly vibrant gay community, though gay people should still expect legalised discrimination and censorious attitudes from locals and government officials. Despite the above, unprovoked violence against homosexuals is almost unheard of, and you are unlikely to get anything beyond drawing stares and whispers.
Begging is illegal in Singapore, but you'll occasionally see beggars on the streets. Most are not Singaporean — even the "monks" dressed in robes, who occasionally pester tourists for donations, are usually bogus.
While jaywalking is illegal, it is still a common thing and occurs quite often around the city. Beware though that if a police officer catches you, you might end up with a small fine; even more serious, if you get hit by a bicycle rider or car, it is considered the pedestrian's fault when it isn't their right of way, and they might have to pay damage costs. Put simply, the cars are for the roads and the footpaths are for people.
Singapore's constitution pledges "freedom of expression", but in practice this right is severely curtailed, as a glance at the neutered domestic press will show. Police will not arrest you for expressing anti-government opinions in casual conversation with your friends, but be aware that foreigners in Singapore are not allowed to engage in any sort of political activity, including attending rallies or protests, regardless of the subject.
Singapore is virtually immune to natural disasters: there are no fault lines nearby, although Indonesia's earthquakes can sometimes be barely felt, and other landmasses shield it from typhoons, tornadoes and tsunamis. Flooding in the November–January monsoon season is an occasional hazard, especially in low-lying parts of the East Coast, but any water usually drains off within a day and life continues as normal.
Singapore is generally considered to be relatively free from corruption in both public and private life. Bribery is a very serious offence penalised with long jail terms together with fines and caning for men. Do not, under any circumstances, offer a bribe to a police officer or any other government employee since this will most likely result in your immediate arrest.
Singapore has made great efforts to ensure a peaceful integrated society; making disparaging remarks against any ethnicity or religion is a crime in Singapore that carries a prison term. Bloggers have been arrested and sentenced to imprisonment for making racist remarks on their blogs, and charismatic pastors have also gotten into trouble with the law for insulting other religions in their sermons.
The Jehovah's Witnesses sect is banned for locals in Singapore (due to their avoidance of military service) but this does not affect tourists in any way.
Singapore has very strict firearms laws, and unauthorized possession of firearms is punishable by long jail terms at best, and at worst could even result in the death penalty.
Licences to purchase and own firearms are generally only granted for sporting purposes (i.e. for target shooting), and would generally require you to be a member of a registered shooting club. Firearms must be stored securely at a shooting range, and bringing one out of the shooting range is generally illegal unless you have received special permission in advance.
Visitors who wish to bring firearms in are required to apply for a permit in advance, though in practice these permits are only granted for official shooting competitions. You will also be required to travel under police escort from the port of entry to the shooting range, where you will have to securely store your firearm until you leave the country.
Tap water is safe for drinking with very high sanitation standards. The hot and humid climate means that drinking plenty of water is advisable.
Malaria is not an issue, but dengue fever is endemic to the region. Singapore maintains strict mosquito control (leaving standing water around will get you fined), but the government's reach does not extend into the island's nature reserves, so if you're planning on hiking bring along mosquito repellent.
In August and September 2016, Singapore experienced a Zika virus outbreak, with several countries issuing travel warnings. At worst, hundreds of people were infected but as of early November, there are just a handful of new infections every week. The website of the National Environment Agency provides information about the current Zika situation.
The standard of medical care in Singapore is uniformly excellent and Singapore is a popular destination for medical tourism (and medical evacuations) in the region. Despite the lower prices, standards are usually as good as those in the West at both public and private clinics and hospitals, making this a good place to get your jabs and tabs if heading off into the jungle elsewhere. You'll still want to make sure your insurance is in order before a prolonged hospitalisation and/or major surgery.
For minor ailments, head down to the nearest suburban shopping mall or HDB shopping district and look for a general practitioner (GP). They usually receive patients without appointment and can prescribe drugs on the spot, and the total cost of a consultation, medicine included, rarely exceeds $30. For larger problems, head to a hospital. Public hospital services in Singapore are not free, though they are subsidised by the government for Singapore citizens and permanent residents. However, these subsidies are generally not available to visitors and expatriates, the exception being emergency medical treatment, so you will have to meet the full cost either by yourself, or through your insurance policy. Public hospitals are legally required to provide emergency medical care regardless of your ability to pay, but you will be billed at a later date. As mentioned above, 995 is the emergency number if you only require an ambulance, though if your case requires police attention as well, you should call 999; the police will arrange for the ambulance and you do not need to call for an ambulance separately. The ambulance service is free in the event of a genuine medical emergency, but expect to pay a hefty sum if your case is judged as minor by the emergency department doctor.
Alternatively, practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) are widespread in Singapore. Eu Yan Sang runs a chain of over 20 clinics, while the Singapore Chinese Physicians' Association offers a directory of TCM physicians.
Nearly all shopping centres, hotels, MRT stations, bus interchanges and hawker centres are likely to have clean public toilet facilities available. Some public toilets may charge 10 or 20 cents per entry, and a packet of tissue may come in handy if the toilet paper has run out. Most toilets have bowls, but there is usually one squatting cubicle in every public toilet. Being free, McDonald's toilets are popular and the staff do not make a fuss.
Singaporeans care little about formal politeness. What would be decent behaviour at home, wherever home might be, is unlikely to offend anyone in Singapore. In Singapore, unlike much of southeast Asia, women wearing revealing clothing or men wearing shorts and slippers are perfectly acceptable. That said, upmarket bars and restaurants may enforce dress codes and Singaporeans tend to be more socially conservative than Westerners, meaning that public display of affection is still frowned upon (holding hands is fine, but making out in public is considered to be impolite) and toplessness for women is not acceptable anywhere, even on the beach. Most Buddhist and Hindu temples, as well as mosques, require women to be conservatively dressed - no bare shoulders, and no skirts above the knee-cap. The major touristy temples will have shawls and sarongs so visitors can cover up before entering.
People are generally friendlier in the heartlands, and it is not uncommon to see shopkeepers and customers of multiple races bantering. However, Singaporeans, while not hostile towards foreigners, are generally not overly receptive to any overbearing friendliness from them. Furthermore, the local dialect with its heavy Chinese influences may appear brusque or even rude, but saying "You want beer or not?" is in fact more polite in Chinese than asking if you want beer; after all, the person asking you the question is offering you a choice, not making a demand.
If invited to somebody's house, always remove your shoes before you enter as most Singaporeans do not wear their shoes at home. Socks are perfectly acceptable though, as long as they are not excessively soiled. Many places of worship also require you to remove your shoes before you enter.
During rush hours, get ready for a lot of pushing and shoving on the MRT (even just to alight) as everybody races for the empty seat, though in a somewhat orderly manner. This is a common sight daily, despite signs asking people to be a little more courteous. Also try to gently push others when attempting to board trains in rush hours to minimise the risk of being left behind and waiting for the next MRT train.
Beware of taboos if bringing gifts. Any products (food or otherwise) involving animals may cause offence and are best avoided, as are white flowers (usually reserved for funerals). Knives and clocks are also symbols of cutting ties and death, respectively, and some Chinese are superstitious about the number four. Also note that in Singapore, it is considered rude to open a gift in front of the person who gave it to you. Instead, wait until the person has left and open it in private. Many Singaporean Muslims and some Hindus abstain from alcohol.
Swastikas are commonly seen in Buddhist and Hindu temples, as well as among the possessions of Buddhists and Hindus. They are regarded as religious symbols and do not represent Nazism or anti-Semitism. As such, Western visitors should not feel offended on seeing a swastika in the homes of their hosts, and many locals will wonder what the fuss is all about. Nazi swastikas will also occasionally be seen as fashion statements, but without an awareness of the ideology.
Take dietary restrictions into account when inviting Singaporean friends for a meal. Many Indians, and a few Chinese, are vegetarian. Most Malays, being Muslims, eat only halal food, while most Hindus (and a few Chinese) abstain from beef.
Sensitive issues in Singapore include immigration, politics, race / religion, LGBT rights, and Singaporean males' liability for National Service (1 year and 10 months + yearly reservist obligations). When having conversations with the locals, these topics shall be best avoided unless you are talking to your close friends. In particular, the immigration issue is particularly sensitive - note that only 60% of the population of Singapore have Singaporean citizenship, and an even smaller number have being born and raised in the country. While explicit xenophobia is rare, many Singaporeans resent foreign residents for (in their view) taking the best jobs, not integrating into society, not performing National Service, or discriminating against Singaporeans.
Singaporeans are punctual, so show up on time. The standard greeting is a firm handshake. However, conservative Muslims avoid touching the opposite sex, so a man meeting a Malay woman should let her offer her hand first and a woman meeting a Malay man should wait for him to offer his hand. If they opt to place their hand on the heart and bow slightly instead, just follow suit. Singaporeans generally do not hug, especially if it is someone they have just met, and doing so would probably make your host feel awkward, though the other person will probably be too polite to say anything as saving face is a major Asian value.
For men, standard business attire is a long-sleeved shirt and a tie, although the tie is often omitted, the shirt's collar button opened instead. Jackets are rarely worn because it is too hot most of the time. Women usually wear Western business attire, but a few prefer Malay-style kebaya and sarong.
Business cards are always exchanged when people meet for business for the first time: hold yours with both hands by the top corners, so the text faces the recipient, while simultaneously receiving theirs. (This sounds more complicated than it is.) Study the cards you receive and feel free to ask questions; when you are finished, place them on the table in front of you, not in a shirt pocket or wallet, and do not write on them (some may find it disrespectful).
Business gifts are generally frowned on as they smell of bribery. Small talk and bringing up the subject indirectly are neither necessary nor expected. Most meetings get straight down to business.
The international telephone country code for Singapore is 65. There are three main telecommunication providers in Singapore: SingTel, StarHub and MobileOne (M1) .
Phone numbers in Singapore have the format +65 6396 0605 where "65" is the country code for Singapore. Due to the small area of Singapore, there are no area codes, with the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), Radio Network and IP Telephony all belonging to one numbering area with an 8 digit numbering format.
The first digit of this 8 digit number denotes the type of service: 3nnn-nnnn - Voice Over IP services 6nnn-nnnn - Fixed Line services inclusive of Fixed Line Voice Over IP services 8nnn-nnnn - Mobile phone services 9nnn-nnnn - Mobile phone services including Paging Services
Mobile phones are carried by almost everyone in Singapore, including many young children, and coverage is generally excellent throughout the country. All 3 service providers have both GSM 900/1800 and 3G (W-CDMA) networks, and international roaming onto them may be possible; check with your operator before you leave to be sure. Prepaid SIM cards are sold in 7-Eleven convenience stores, phone shops and currency exchange counters, just bring your own GSM/3G phone or buy a cheap used handset in Singapore. You will need to show an international passport or Singapore ID to sign up.
A local phone call costs between $0.05-$0.25 per min, whereas each local text message (SMS) costs about $0.05, with international SMS about $0.15–$0.25 (but a few dozen local SMS are usually thrown in for free when you top up). You may also be charged for incoming calls. Most prepaid cards expire within 6 mth unless you top-up (which can be done outside Singapore). The carriers also offer special top up cards that will give a higher number of minutes for the price at the downside of expiring more quickly. As in many places, mobile data with on prepaid voice SIM cards can be ridiculously expensive. StarHub offers a 1GB package (valid for 30 days). It costs $25 and is aimed at BlackBerries but works with any phone. Using the StarHub SIM, call *122# and follow the menu to activate. Data-only SIMs can be more affordable. For short stays, StarHub has 2Mbit/s unlimited service at S$15 per week. For longer stays, bring a MicroSIM adapter and you can get StarHub's 2GB package (good for 60 days) for $37.
In northern Singapore near Malaysia (e.g. Woodlands, Sungei Buloh, Pulau Ubin), your phone may automatically switch to a Malaysian network, making a local call an international one or worse: having data charges go through the roof. Check the operating network (or switch to manual network selection) before you call or browse.
Public phones are an increasingly endangered species, but you can find them in some MRT stations. They are either coin-operated pay phones (10 cents for a three-minute local call), card phones operated by phone cards in denominations of $3, $5, $10, $20 and $50, or credit card phones. Phone cards are available at all post offices and from phonecard agents. Most coin-operated pay phones are for local calls only, there are some which accept coins of larger denominations and can be used for overseas calls. Credit card phones are usually found at the airport or in some major hotels.
To make an international call from Singapore, dial the access code 001 (for SingTel), 002 (for M1) and 008 (for StarHub), followed by the country code, area code and party's number. Recently the providers have started offering cheaper rates for calls using Internet telephony routes. The access codes for this cheaper service are 019 and 013 for SingTel and 018 for StarHub, make sure you input these codes instead of the "+" sign at the beginning of the number if you wish to use these services.
Calling cards are also available for specific international destinations and are usually cheaper. Hello Card from Singtel offers a very cheap rate to 8 countries (Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand).
Internet cafes charging around $2/hr are scattered about the island, but are not particularly common since almost all locals have broadband Internet access at home, work, and/or school. Head to Chinatown or Little India if you need to get on-line, or check out the top floors of many suburban malls, which feature Internet cafes doubling as on-line gaming parlours. Alternatively, all public libraries offer cheap Internet access ($0.03/min or $1.80/hr), but you need to jump through registration hoops to get access.
The first phase of the nationwide free Wireless@SG system is now operating and visitors are free to use the system, although you must register and receive a password via e-mail or a mobile phone first. See the Infocomm Development Authority website for a current list of hotspots. Commercial alternatives include McDonalds, which offers free Wi-Fi at most outlets; StarHub, a member of the Wireless Broadband Alliance with hotspots at Coffee Bean cafes; and SingTel, which has hotspots at most Starbucks cafes. Roaming or prepaid rates are on the order of $0.10/min.
There are several options for prepaid 3G/HSPA internet. Starhub MaxMobile has different plans from S$2/hour to S$25 for 5 days unlimited 7.2Mbit/s internet. SIM costs S$12. M1 Prepaid Broadband offers unlimited Internet access for three days/five days at S$18/S$30.
Mobile internet access is also available from the different telecoms which offer hundreds of megabytes good for several days. However do try using the free Wi-Fi access if possible; not only will it save you money but also precious battery life.
Internet censorship in Singapore is not as strict as that of the Middle East or China; foreign news sites such as the BBC and CNN, as well as a number of politically dissident sites are freely accessible from Singapore. The Media Development Authority (MDA) is responsible for enforcing laws on internet content and have banned around a hundred, mostly pornographic, sites. They've also asked bloggers to apologise or close, with others arrested and charged with defamation. In October 2014, a law called the “Remote Gambling Act” was passed to control on-line gambling.
SingPost has offices throughout the island, generally open 08:30-17:00 weekdays, 08:30-13;00 Saturdays, closed Sundays. The Changi Airport T2 (transit side) Post Office is open daily 06:00-23:59, while the 1 Killeney Rd branch is open until 21:00 weekdays and 10:00-16:00 Sundays. Service is fast and reliable. A postcard to anywhere in the world costs 50 cents, and postage labels can also be purchased from the self-service SAM machines found in many MRT stations.
Small packets up to 2 kg cost $3.50/100g for airmail, or $1/100g for surface mail. For larger packages, DHL may offer competitive rates.
Singapore uses the British BS1363 three-pin rectangular socket (230V/50 Hz). Plug adaptors are available at any hardware store.
Singapore is a good place to obtain regional visas. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintains a complete searchable database of diplomatic institutions.
Singaporeans are particular about their hair and there is no shortage of fancy hair salons charging from $20 up for the latest Chinese popstar look. If you are willing to splurge, there is Passion Hair Salon at Palais Renaissance with celebrity hairstylist David Gan (hairstylist of Zhang Ziyi and other famous celebrities) doing the haircut. Le Salon at Ngee Ann City offers haircuts up to $2000. The middle range hair salons located in town or in the heartlands, offer haircuts with hair wash as well as other frills. Chains include Reds Hairdressing, Supercuts, Toni & Guy salons that are located all over Singapore. For a more backpacker-friendly price, almost every shopping mall in Singapore has a branch of EC House or one of its many imitators, offering fuss-free 10 min haircuts for $10, although the hairdressers are mostly happy to spend as long as necessary on your hair, within reasonable limits. Most HDB estates have barbershops which charge $5 to $10 for adults and less for students and children.
Hotels can provide a one-day laundry service (at a price), whereas hostels often have communal self-service washing machines. Full-service laundry and dry cleaning shops can be found in every shopping mall; unfortunately turnaround times are usually upwards of three days unless you opt for express service. Laundromats are few and far between in Singapore so here are the locations of a few in the CBD:,
Practically every shopping mall has a photo shop that will process film, print digital pictures and take passport photos. Many pharmacies and supermarkets also have self-service kiosks which print digital photos from CD, SD-card, USB drive, etc.
The Singapore Sports Council runs a chain of affordable sports facilities, often featuring fantastic outdoor 50 m pools (see Swimming for a list). Facilities are somewhat sparse but the prices are unbeatable, with e.g. swimming pools charging $1 for entry and access to ClubFITT gyms only $2.50. The main downside is the inconvenient location of most facilities out in the suburbs, although most are located close to an MRT station and can be reached within 10-20 min from downtown. The gyms also have a total ban on bringing in any reading material (aimed at students but enforced blindly), although MP3 players are OK.
Major private gym chains include Fitness First, Gold's Gym and True Fitness. Facilities are better and locations more central, but the prices are also much higher as non-members have to fork out steep day pass fees (around $40).
Some of the parks offer rental of bicycles and inline skates ($3–6/hr, open until 20:00). You can either rent skates, attend a skate class or send the children off to a skate camp at major parks like West Coast and East Coast Park. Especially rewarding for skaters and cyclists is the 10 km long stretch along East Coast Park with a paved track and lots of rental shops, bars and cafes around the McDonalds. There are toilets and showers along the track. Furthermore every park has a couple of fitness stations.
If you are travelling to Singapore, be sure to carry the following:
Singapore makes a good base for exploring South-East Asia, with nearly all of the region's countries and their main tourist destinations — Bangkok, Phuket, Angkor Wat, Ho Chi Minh City and Bali, just to name a few — under 2 hr away by plane. The advent of budget carriers in recent times means that Singapore is an excellent place for catching cheap flights to China and India, as well. In addition, Singapore has direct flights to many of the smaller cities in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, which can be convenient points of entry if you wish to skip the ever-present queues and touts at their main airports.
For day or weekend trips from Singapore, the followings are popular:
For those who can afford more time to travel, here are several destinations popular among Singaporeans:
Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher
Lonely Planet Singapore is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Visit a hawker centre for Hainanese chicken rice and nasi goreng, marvel at the futuristic Gardens by the Bay, or shop 'til you drop on Orchard Road; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Singapore and begin your journey now!
Inside Lonely Planet's Singapore Travel Guide:Full-colour maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - food, history, architecture, politics, people, language Free, convenient pull-out Singapore map (included in print version), plus over 20 colour maps Covers Chinatown, the CBD, Sentosa Island, Colonial District, Marina Bay, the Quays, Orchard Road, Holland Village, Dempsey Hill, Botanic Gardens, Little India, Kampong Glam, Pulau Ubin and more Singapore, a handy-sized guide focused on the can't-miss sights for a quick trip. Looking for more extensive coverage? Check out Lonely Planet's Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei guide for a comprehensive look at all the region has to offer, or check out our Discover Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei, a photo-rich guide to the region's most popular attractions.
Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet and Cristian Bonetto.
About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.
Make your trip to Singapore an unforgettable cultural experience with our Top 10 Travel Guide. Find stunning places of worship, or stroll through lovely parks and gardens. Visit must-see museums and galleries, or explore the best restaurants in each area. From delicious local dishes to fantastic places to shop, our guide has everything you'll need to plan a memorable trip to Singapore. We have the best hotels for every budget, plus fun activities for families with children or for the solitary traveler.
Discover DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Top 10 Singapore
True to its name, this Top 10 guidebook covers all major sights and attractions in easy-to-use "top 10" lists that help you plan the vacation that's right for you."Don't miss" destination highlights. Things to do and places to eat, drink, and shop by area. Free, color pull-out map (print edition), plus maps and photographs throughout. Walking tours and day-trip itineraries. Traveler tips and recommendations. Local drink and dining specialties to try. Museums, festivals, outdoor activities. Creative and quirky best-of lists and more.
The perfect pocket-size travel companion: DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Top 10 Singapore
Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher
Lonely Planet Pocket Singapore is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Try the local grub at one of the many hawker centres, join in the national sport and go shopping at Orchard Road, or have breakfast with orang-utans at the Singapore Zoo; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Singapore and begin your journey now!
Inside Lonely Planet's Pocket Singapore:Full-colour maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Free, convenient pull-out Singapore map (included in print version), plus over 17 colour neighbourhood maps User-friendly layout with helpful icons, and organised by neighbourhood to help you pick the best spots to spend your time Covers Holland Village, Tanglin Village, Orchard Road, Sentosa, Southwest Singapore, Little India, Kampong Glam, Chinatown, CBD, Tanjong Pagar, Marina Bay, the Quays, the Colonial District, and more
The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet's Pocket Singapore, a colorful, easy-to-use, and handy guide that literally fits in your pocket, provides on-the-go assistance for those seeking only the can't-miss experiences to maximize a quick trip experience.Looking for a comprehensive guide that recommends both popular and offbeat experiences, and extensively covers all of Singapore's neighbourhoods? Check out Lonely Planet's Singapore guide. Looking for more extensive coverage? Check out Lonely Planet's Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei guide for a comprehensive look at all the region has to offer or Lonely Planet's Discover Malaysia & Singapore for a photo-rich guide to the region's most popular attractions.
Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet and Cristian Bonetto
About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.
Whether you want to discover the best places to spot colorful fish and jungle-dwelling animals like orangutans, or are looking to sample the incredible food in the ultra-modern metropolises of Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, this region offers an astounding range of experiences.Singapore includes street finder index for easy navigation. • Insights into history and culture to help you understand the stories behind the sights. • Suggested day trips and itineraries to explore beyond the city of Singapore. • Hotel and restaurant listings highlight DK Choice special recommendations.
With hundreds of full-color photographs, hand-drawn illustrations, and custom maps that illuminate every page, DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Malaysia and Singapore truly shows you this region as no one else can.
Recommended: For a pocket guidebook to Singapore, check out DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Top 10 Singapore, which is packed with dozens of top 10 lists, ensuring you make the most of your time in the city.
Series Overview: For more than two decades, DK Eyewitness Travel Guides have helped travelers experience the world through the history, art, architecture, and culture of their destinations. Expert travel writers and researchers provide independent editorial advice, recommendations, and reviews. With guidebooks to hundreds of places around the globe available in print and digital formats, DK Eyewitness Travel Guides show travelers how they can discover more.
DK Eyewitness Travel Guides: the most maps, photographs, and illustrations of any guide.
Do you have Wander Lust? Really want to see something different?Imagine how Cool it would be if you know exactly the BEST places to go in Singapore? This guide will be YOUR passport to the most up to day and relevant advice on where to go, what to see, what to do Singapore! I want YOU to really Absorb Singapore to its Fullest. With the help of this guide I Promise this Singapore Trip will be one you will remember with Nostalgia and a big Grin! Don’t waste your time on free Internet Singapore travel guides that lead nowhere expect a headache. Sure they are Free, but is it worth the hassle? Save yourself the time and effort and get a REAL Singapore travel guide that will HELP YOU, and make YOUR Thailand vacation PERFECT!IF YOU ARE READY TO HAVE THE MOST MEMORABLE TRIP TO SINGAPORE… SCROLL UP, GRAB THIS BOOK, AND TAKE YOUR FIRST STEP TO A PERFECT TRIP!
With stunning photographs and insightful commentary this travel pictorial and Singapore travel guide captures the dynamism of a remarkable Pacific nation.In just a few short decades, Singapore has transformed itself from a tiny island off the coast of mainland Asia into a global superpower in banking, IT, education, biotech, transportation and many other fields. The fascinating story of how this tiny city-state which has no hinterland, no natural resources, and a relatively small population has achieved success is told in this book. Singapore's history as a British colonial port, its dynamic multi-ethnic population, and its innovative governmental and social structures, are a part of the story. But there are others as well. How Singapore became a regional hub for finance, shipping and air travel, and now also for the arts, sport and leisure—are all showcased in dynamic detail, with over 300 full-color photographs to illustrate graphically how this small island functions like a well-tuned racing machine. Author Kim Inglis, a journalist and long-time local resident, leads the reader on a series of explorations through Singapore's most notable districts and neighborhoods, explaining the growth and importance, and showcasing what they have to offer the visitor. Included are many lesser-known corners of the island which very few visitors ever get to see!
Singapore: Then and Now brings together rare archival images of this global city-state and matches them with specially commissioned photos of the same sites as they appear today. Vaughan Grylls has rounded up all of the key sites that make up this fascinating and diverse place, from gleaming new skyscrapers and shopping malls to magnificent temples and ancient rainforests. The breathtaking contrast between past and present make this a fascinating addition to the long-running Then and Now series. Sites include: Elgin Bridge, Empress Place Building, Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, Fullerton Hotel, Johnston’s Pier, Singapore Cricket Club, the Supreme Court, Capitol Theatre, Raffles Hotel, Masjid Sultan Mosque, Ellison Building, Coleman Bridge, Fort Canning, National Museum, YMCA Building, Cathay Building, Thian Hock Keng Temple, Sri Mariamman Temple, Tanjong Pagar Dock, Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Johor–Singapore Causeway, Ford Factory, and Changi Village.
55 Secrets you’d never find out about SINGAPORE!Welcome to the most Complete Singapore Travel Guide for Tourists made by locals! Here Is a Preview of What You'll Learn Inside...♥55 Unique activities to do when you are in town♥Best places to eat in town♥Best local Markets♥Best Parks and Good Views♥Best Museums♥Best Bars ♥Best things to do in Singapore ♥ Much, much more!* * *FREE GIFT INSIDE * * * If you are heading to the wonderful city/country of Singapore anytime soon this book will give you an insight of the best places and most unique places to see where you will mingle with the locals and get to see and do the activities as one of them.We have prepared a unique BUCKET LIST with the 55 most unique experiences you can have in Singapore Most people don't even take the time to prepare themselves in advance, and just wish for the best once they have arrived! Most people aren't aware of some of the most amazing places Singapore can offer... And it'd be such a pity to miss them! That's precisely why we desperately need the RIGHT travel guide first. Don’t arrive to Singapore and follow the crowds of Tourists. With this exclusive travel guide made by locals you will be finding about the places that don’t come on Lonely Planet’s or are listed on Trip Advisor where thousands of tourists head daily. It took lots of time to incorporate the tips and hacks that ended up shaping this travel guide! And now, we are willing to share those secrets with you! We will tell you where you should go, eat, sleep, and of course, party! We know you won't just settle for average boring travel guides! We know you are looking for something better; something unique that will truly help you down the road: a book with real life tips, recommendations, useful travel hacks and data... everything you may need in your trip. You've just found what you were looking for! Our goal is simple. we will give you a complete and detailed Bucket list with MAPS to all the locations to make sure you won’t get lost in the amazing city of Singapore transforming your trip into absolutely amazing experience. We will help you simplify your path, showing you exactly where the best places are. ♥ Download Your Copy Right Now! ♥Just Scroll to the top of the page and select the Buy Button. TAGS: travel to Singapore, travel guide Singapore, adventure in Singapore , trip to Singapore , Singapore hotels, Singapore market, guide, holidays in Singapore, day trip to Singapore, Singapore , things to do in Singapore, Singapore map, Singapore lonely planet, Singapore fc, its always sunny in Singapore, Singapore trip, Victoria , Visit , Singapore , Singapore guide,craigslist Singapore, city of Singapore , singapore airlines
The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.
The crime rate is relatively low, and violent crime against foreigners is rare. However, there have been some reports of robberies and sexual assaults. Petty crime such as pickpocketing and purse snatching occurs, especially at the airport, hotels, public transportation facilities and other areas frequented by tourists. Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times. Crimes, including passport theft, should be reported to the local police and the High Commission of Canada.
Traffic drives on the left. Traffic regulations are strictly enforced.
Public transportation is widely available and considered safe.
Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.
Pirate attacks and armed robberies occur against ships in and around Singapore, in the Strait of Malacca, and between Riau Province in Indonesia and Singapore. Mariners should take appropriate precautions. For additional information, consult the Live Piracy Report published by the International Maritime Bureau.
Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.
Japanese encephalitis is a viral infection that can cause swelling of the brain. It is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Risk is low for most travellers. Vaccination should be considered for those who may be exposed to mosquito bites (e.g., spending time outdoors in rural areas) while travelling in regions with risk of Japanese encephalitis.
Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.
Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
|* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.|
|Country Entry Requirement*|
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in Southeast Asia, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, leptospirosis, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Southeast Asia. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
There is no risk of malaria in this country.
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in some areas in Southeastern Asia, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a common viral illness that mainly affects infants and children. Travellers are at increased risk if visiting or living in overcrowded conditions. There is no vaccine for this disease.
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are very strict and can include the death penalty.
A permit is required to carry certain medications (prescription and over-the-counter). For more information, consult Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority.
Unauthorized demonstrations are illegal, even when only one person is involved. Under Singaporean law, an assembly of five or more people requires a permit, and the police can arrest, without warrant, any person involved or suspected of being involved in disrupting the public order. Convicted offenders may face imprisonment. Avoid protest sites and large gatherings, and follow the advice of local authorities.
Singapore has strict laws and penalties against a variety of actions that may not be illegal or may be considered minor offences in Canada, including jaywalking, littering, spitting, smoking in public places, and importing and selling chewing gum. Chewing gum, eating and drinking on the Mass Rapid Transit system are illegal.
Vandalism offences carry a mandatory sentence of corporal punishment.
Shoplifting is considered a serious offence.
Lesser offences such as “outrages of modesty” (inappropriate behaviour by men toward women) carry a sentence of corporal punishment.
The legal age for drinking and smoking is 18 years old. Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offence. Sentences can be up to 10 years in prison.
Singapore customs authorities enforce strict regulations on import and export of items such as weapons, illegal drugs, certain religious materials, pornographic materials, videotapes, CDs and DVDs, and software. Carrying any of these items without permission may result in immediate arrest. All luggage is X-rayed at ports of entry, and checked luggage may be inspected for regulated items.
Common-law relationships are not recognized. Individuals in common-law relationships may be requested to provide a certificate of non-impediment to marriage by the local immigration authorities. The High Commission of Canada may provide a certificate stating that the common-law relationship is recognized in Canada, but it cannot certify your common-law relationship.
Homosexual activity, including kissing, is illegal.
The currency is the Singaporean dollar (SGD). Credit cards are accepted at most hotels, restaurants and shops. Foreign exchange bureaus are available at the airport, hotels and some shopping centres. Automated banking machines (ABMs) are widely available.
Singapore is located in an active seismic zone.
There are two monsoon seasons per year. The northeast monsoon season extends from December to March, and the southeast monsoon season extends from June to September. Severe rainstorms can cause flooding and landslides. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts, avoid disaster areas and follow the advice of local authorities.
Consult our Typhoons and monsoons page for more information.