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Singapore

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Pan Pacific Singapore
Pan Pacific Singapore - dream vacation

7 Raffles Boulevard, Singapore

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Marina Mandarin Singapore - dream vacation

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V Hotel Lavender - dream vacation

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Singapore (Chinese: ???; Malay: Singapura; Tamil: ???????????) 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.

Districts

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.

City centre

Outer Singapore

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.

Addresses

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.

Understand

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.

History

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.

People

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.

Climate

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:

  • 32°C (86°F) daytime, 25°C (76°F) at night in December and January.
  • 33°C (90°F) daytime, 26°C (81°F) at night for the rest of the year.

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.

Politics

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).

Holidays

Singapore is a secular city state but due to its multicultural population, Singapore celebrates Chinese, Muslim, Indian, and Christian holidays.

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 (????) 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 (???? "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 (???) 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 (???), when the living get together to stuff themselves and watch plays and Chinese opera performances. Following soon afterwards, the Mid-Autumn Festival (???) 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.

Events

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.

Get in

Entry requirements

Citizens of the European Union, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland and the United States do not need a visa for stays of 90 days or less.

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, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, North Korea, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Citizens of Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kosovo, 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 [1] 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.

By plane

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 AfricaSingapore is particularly popular on the "Kangaroo Route" between Australia and Europe, with airlines like British Airways using Singapore as the main stopover point.

Changi Airport

Main article: Singapore Changi Airport

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

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.

By road

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.

By bus

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:

  • Aeroline, ? +65 6258 8800. Luxury buses with meal on-board, power sockets, lounge area etc, to Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya. Departures from HarbourFront Centre. From $47 one-way.
  • First Coach, ? +65 6822 2111. No frills, but the buses have good legroom and use the Second Link. Another selling point is convenient public transport: buses depart from Novena Square (Novena MRT) in Singapore and arrive right next to (KJ 16) Bangsar LRT in Kuala Lumpur. $33/55 single/return.
  • NiCE, ? +65 6256 5755. Over 20 daily departures from Kuala Lumpur's old railway station. Double-decker NiCE 2 buses (27 seats) RM80, luxury NiCE++ buses (18 seats) RM88. Departures from Copthorne Orchid Hotel on Dunearn Rd.
  • Transnasional, ? +60 2 6294 7034 (Malaysia). Malaysia's largest bus operator, offers direct buses from Singapore through the peninsula. Departures from Lavender St. Executive/economy buses RM80/35.
  • Transtar, ? +65 6299 9009. Transtar's sleeper-equipped Solitaire ($63) and leather-seated First Class ($49) coaches are currently the best around with frills like massaging chairs, onboard attendants, video on demand and even Wi-Fi. More plebeian SuperVIP/Executive buses are $25/39, direct service to Malacca and Genting also available. Departures from Golden Mile Complex, Beach Rd (near Lavender MRT).

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.

  • redbus, ? +65 3158 2888, e-mail: (support@redbus.sg). redBus singapore includes many destinations bus tickets.
  • Easibook, ? +65 6444 0745. Six bus companies including major budget operator Konsortium.
  • Bus Online Ticket. Another six companies, including major operator Fivestars Express, Hasry Express and AirAsia-affiliated StarMart.

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.

By train

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.

In addition, Singapore is also the terminus for the Eastern & Oriental Express, a luxury train that makes the trip all the way from Bangkok in four days. Needless to say, it is very expensive, costing US$6358 one-way, making even business class flights look cheap.

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).

By taxi

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.

By boat

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:

  • HarbourFront FT: Located inside HarbourFront Shopping Mall (alight at HarbourFront MRT station).
  • Marina Bay Cruise Centre: Alight at Marina South Pier MRT station. Or take bus number 402 from Tanjong Pagar MRT station, Exit C.
  • Tanah Merah FT: Alight at Bedok MRT station and take bus No. 35 to ferry terminal.
  • Changi FT: No bus stop nearby, take a taxi from Tanah Merah MRT station to Changi Village.
  • Changi Point FT: Take bus No. 2, 29 or 59 to Changi Village Bus Terminal and walk to the ferry terminal.

To/from Indonesia

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:

  • Penguin, ? +65 6271 4866 in HarbourFront ? +62 778 467574 in Batam Centre ? +62 778 321636 in Sekupang ? +62 778 381280 in Waterfront City . Virtually hourly ferries to/from Batam Centre and Sekupang, fewer ferries to/from Waterfront City. $16/20 one-way/return before taxes and fuel surcharge.
  • Indo Falcon, ? +65 6278 3167, Hourly ferries to Batam Centre, fewer to Waterfront City. This company does not operate to/from Sekupang. Similar fares.
  • Berlian/Wave Master, ? +65 6546 8830. Operates 16 trips to/from Batu Ampar. Fares are similar to the other companies.
  • Dino/Batam Fast, ? +65 6270 0311 in Harbourfront ? +62 778 467793, +62 778 470344 in Batam Centre ? +62 778 325085, +62 778 3250856 in Sekupang ? +62 778 381150 in Waterfront City. Also hourly ferries to/from Batam Centre, fewer ferries to/from Sekupang and Waterfront City. $14/20 one-way/return before taxes and surcharges.

At Tanah Merah:

  • Dino/Batam Fast, ? +65 6270 0311 in Singapore ? +62 778 761071 in Nongsa. Around 8 ferries daily to/from Nongsa, the resort area on the northeastern tip of Batam. $16/22 one-way/return before taxes and surcharges.

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:

  • Dino/Batam Fast, ? +65 6542 6310 in Tanah Merah.
  • Penguin, ? +65 6542 7105 in Tanah Merah ?+62 771 315143 in Tanjung Pinang ? +62 770 696120 in Lobam.
  • Indo Falcon, ? +65 6542 6786 in Tanah Merah.
  • Berlian/Wave Master, ? +65 6546 8830 in Tanah Merah.

For Bintan Resorts (Bandar Bentan Telani), Bintan Resort Ferries, ? +65 6542 4369, [2] 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.

To/From Malaysia

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.

  • Pengerang: Bumboats shuttle between Changi Point Ferry Terminal at Changi Village, 51 Lorong Bekukong, ? +65 6545 2305, +65 6545 1616, and Pengerang, a village at the southeastern tip of Johor. Boats ($10 per person, $2 per bicycle one-way) operate 07:00-19:00 and leave when they reach the 12-passenger quota.
  • Sebana Cove Resort, Desaru: Ferries to/from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal operated by Indo Falcon, ? +65 6542 6786 in Tanah Merah, . Three ferries daily except Tuesday. $48 for adults, $38 for children return including taxes and fuel surcharge.
  • Tanjung Belungkor, Desaru: Limbongan Maju Ferry Services ? +60 7 827-6418 or +60 7 827-6419, operates passenger ferries from Changi Ferry Terminal daily. The previous car ferry service has been suspended.

Cruises

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.

Get around

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, LRT 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. The cost of MRT, LRT and non-premium buses are different based on the distance, but usually average is $1 per trip. Please calculate first before buy it, due to the service end at midnight and if you arrive in Changi Airport in the night, buy the Singapore Tourist Pass and use it, relatively you loss one day of the ticket (from your 1st usage of the pass to the end of public transport service for that day is one day).

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.

By rail

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.

By bus

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.

By taxi

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".

Via ride sharing

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.

By trishaw

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.

By boat

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.

By car

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 90 km/h (56 mph) on major expressways (with the exception of the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) being 80 km/h (50 mph) ) and typically 50 km/h (31 mph) on most medium-sized 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 very rarely free, with rates varying depending on time, day of week, and location, 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.

By bicycle

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 the "Park Connector Network" (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. Note that not all routes in the website are segregated cycling lanes, some routes merge with pedestrian walkways or involve crossing of roads (requiring dismounting of one's bicycle)

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.

On foot

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.

Classic walks in Singapore include walking down the river from the Merlion through the Quays, trekking along the Southern Ridges Walk or just strolling around Chinatown, Little India or Bugis.

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. Also, afternoon thunderstorms are fairly common during the monsoon season. It's best to get an early start, pop into air-conditioned shops, cafes and museums to cool off or take shelter from rain, 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 and shaded by trees and greenery along roads means that you won't get as easily sunburnt as otherwise at these latitudes.

Talk

See also: Chinese phrasebook, Malay phrasebook, Tamil phrasebook

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, resulting in most Singlish sentences having Chinese grammar. 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:

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. However, some elderly Singaporeans may not recognise the proper pronunciations of certain complex words, so if it is necessary to speak to them, it would be better to use simple, unambiguously-pronounced words.

Singapore's other official languages are Mandarin Chinese, Malay, and Tamil, mostly spoken by the Singaporean Chinese, Malay and Indian ethnic groups respectively. 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 standard 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.

See

Sights in Singapore are covered in more detail under the various districts. Broadly speaking:

  • Beaches and tourist resorts: Head to one of the three beaches on Sentosa or its southern islands. Other beaches can be found on the East Coast.
  • Culture and cuisine: See Chinatown for Chinese treats, Little India for Indian flavours, Kampong Glam (Arab St) for a Malay/Arab experience or the East Coast for delicious seafood, including the famous chilli and black pepper crab.
  • History and museums: The Bras Basah area east of Orchard and north of the Singapore River is Singapore's colonial core, with historical buildings and museums.
  • Nature and wildlife: Popular tourist attractions Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, Jurong Bird Park and the Botanical Gardens are all in the North and West. Finding "real" nature is a little harder, but the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (located in the same district as the zoo) has more plant species than that in the whole of North America. Pulau Ubin, an island off the Changi Village in the east, is a flashback to the rural Singapore of yesteryear. City parks full of locals jogging or doing tai chi can be found everywhere. Also check out the tortoise and turtle sanctuary in the Chinese Gardens on the west side of town for a great afternoon with these wonderful creatures. $5 for adult admission and $2 for leafy vegetables and food pellets.
  • Skyscrapers and shopping: The heaviest shopping mall concentration is in Orchard Road, while skyscrapers are clustered around the Singapore River, but also check out Bugis and Marina Bay to see where Singaporeans shop.
  • Places of worship: Don't miss this aspect of Singapore, where Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Baha'i faith, Christianity, Islam and Judaism all exist in sizeable numbers. Religious sites can be easily visited and welcome non-followers outside of service times. Particularly worth visiting include: the vast Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery near Ang Mo Kio/Bishan, the colourful Sri Mariamman Hindu temple in Chinatown, the psychedelic Burmese Buddhist Temple in Balestier and the stately Masjid Sultan in Arab Street.

Itineraries

  • Three days in Singapore — A three-day sampler set of food, culture and shopping in Singapore, easily divisible into bite-size chunks.
  • Southern Ridges Walk — An easy scenic 9 km stroll through the hills and jungles of southern Singapore. Highlights of the trail includes a 36 m high Henderson Waves pedestrian bridge providing a stunning view of the sea beyond the jungle.

Do

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.

Culture

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 "M18" (age 18 and above only) or "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.

Gambling

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 as the operation of gambling dens is illegal.

Avoid gambling in public (e.g. playing poker cards at a park) as it is prohibited by law, by the Common Gaming Houses Act.

Golf

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.

Races

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 rooms with views 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 at the periphery of 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.

Spas

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 and shady "health centres" have mostly been shut down, although be cautioned that some may still exist in the heartland areas. 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.

Swimming

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 recreational 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.

Water sports

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.

Snow sports

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.

Buy

Money

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 $0.01 (bronze; rarely used), $0.05 (2nd series: bronze; 3rd series: gold), $0.10 (silver), $0.20 (silver), $0.50 (silver) and $1 (2nd series: gold; 3rd series: silver with gold rim).Notes are in denominations 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). It ceased 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.

Banking

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

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 and hotel porters 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 the fare down by that amount 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.

Costs

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 per meal 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.

As rough rules of thumb, prices in Singapore are about twice as high as in Malaysia and Thailand and 3-5 times as high as in Indonesia and the Philippines.

Shopping

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.

  • Antiques: The second floor of the Tanglin Shopping Centre on Orchard and the shops on South Bridge Rd in Chinatown are good options if looking for the real thing (or high-quality reproductions).
  • Books: Borders at Wheelock Place has since closed down. However, Kinokuniya is at Ngee Ann City, on Orchard is the largest bookstore in Singapore. It also has two other branches located at Liang Court (near Robertson Walk) and Bugis Junction (a shopping complex located directly above Bugis MRT station). Many second-hand book stores are located in Far East Plaza and Bras Basah Complex, where you may attempt to bargain if you are buying a lot. For university textbooks, the bookshops at the National University of Singapore have the best prices on the island, up to 80% off compared to prices in the West.
  • Cameras: Peninsula Plaza near City Hall has Singapore's widest selection of camera shops. However, there are no great bargains to be had, and many camera stores in Singapore (particularly those in Lucky Plaza and Sim Lim Square) have a reputation for fleecing even the most careful tourists. The best way is to know exactly what you are looking for and then when you arrive, drop by the shops at the airport's transit area and take a look at the price and check with them whether they have any promotions. Then go to the downtown shops and compare prices/packages to see which shop will give you value for money. To be safe, always check prices and packages for everything you're interested in at large retailers like Courts, Harvey Norman and Best Denki first. Be very careful when shop staff attempt to promote brands or models other than the one you have in mind; a few stores at Sim Lim Square, Lucky Plaza, and elsewhere are known to use this tactic and sell products at two to four times their actual list prices. Also watch for the bait-and-switches. Inspect the model number and condition of the item, then do not let it out of your sight when you pay. (In Lucky Plaza, the most common scam is doubling the charge without your agreement.)
  • Clothes, high-street: Ion, Ngee Ann City (Takashimaya) and Paragon on Orchard have the heaviest concentration of branded boutiques. There are another malls such as Raffles City located at City Hall MRT that also hosts a variety of brands for instance, Kate Spade, Timberland.
  • Clothes, tailored: Virtually all hotels have a tailor shop attached, and touting tailors are a bit of a nuisance in Chinatown. As elsewhere, you'll get what you pay for and will get poor quality if you don't have the time for multiple fittings or the skill to check what you're getting. Prices vary widely: a local shop using cheap fabrics can do a shirt for $40, while Singapore's best-known tailor, CYC the Custom Shop at the Raffles Hotel, will charge at least $120. You can also check Brazil Tailor shop.
  • Clothes, youth: Most of Bugis is dedicated to the young, hip and cost-conscious. Bugis St (opposite Bugis MRT) is the most popular in the Bugis area, consisting of 3 levels of shops. Some spots of Orchard, notably Far East Plaza not to be confused with Far East Shopping Centre and the top floor of the Heeren, also target the same market but prices are generally higher.
  • Computers: Sim Lim Square (near Little India) is great for the hardcore geek who really knows what he's after - parts price lists are available on HardwareZone.com and are given out in Sim Lim itself, making price comparison easy. Lesser mortals (namely, who have failed to do their price-checking homework) stand a risk of getting ripped off when purchasing, but this is generally not a problem with the price lists offered by most shops. Some Singaporeans purchase their electronic gadgets during the quarterly "IT shows" usually held at Suntec City Convention Centre or at the Expo, at which prices on gadgets are sometimes slashed (but often only to Sim Lim levels). Another possibility is to shop at Funan IT Mall, the stores of which may be more honest on average (according to some). Do not be attracted by side gifts/sweeteners of thumbdrives, mice and so on; these only tend to hide inflated prices.
  • Consumer electronics: Singapore used to be known for good prices, but nowadays electronics here are generally more expensive than from US and international online vendors. Funan IT Mall (Riverside#Buy|Riverside) and Mustafa (Little India) are good choices. Avoid the tourist-oriented shops on Orchard Road, particularly the notorious Lucky Plaza, or risk getting ripped off. Also take great care to avoid shops on the 1st and 2nd levels of Sim Lim Square, some of which tend to rip off tourists and locals alike by overcharging by 100% or more, adding on ludicrous charges beyond what was agreed on, swapping items for used ones, leaving out cases and batteries, and a host of other practices that should be (or are) criminal. Please do your research before buying electronics from any store in Singapore; online research and multi-shop price comparison (and bargaining, occasionally) are essential. Mustafa has fixed, fair prices and is a good option, and so are Challenger and other large fixed-price retailers. For any purchases, remember that Singapore uses 230V voltage at 50Hz with a British-style, three-pin plug.
  • Electronic components: For do-it-yourself people and engineers, a wide variety of electronic components and associated tools can be found at Sim Lim Tower (opposite Sim Lim Square), near Little India. You can find most common electronic components (such as breadboards, transistors, various ICs, etc.) and bargain prices for larger quantities as well.
  • Ethnic knick-knacks: Chinatown has Singapore's heaviest concentration of glow-in-the-dark Merlion soap dispensers and ethnic souvenirs, mostly but not entirely Chinese and nearly all imported from somewhere else. For Malay and Indian stuff, the best places to shop are Geylang Serai and Little India respectively.
  • Fabrics: Arab Street and Little India have a good selection of imported and local fabrics like batik. Chinatown does sell rather reasonable and cheap fabrics, bargaining is allowed so do know your stuff on what fabric to buy. Fabrics in Singapore may not be as cheap as overseas, for most fabrics are imported to Singapore.
  • Fakes: Unlike most Southeast Asian countries, pirated goods are not openly on sale and importing them to the city-state carries heavy fines. Fake goods are nevertheless not difficult to find in Little India, Bugis, or even in the underpasses of Orchard Road.
  • Food: Local supermarkets Cold Storage, Prime Mart, Shop 'n' Save and NTUC Fairprice are ubiquitous, but for specialities, Jason's Marketplace in the basement of Raffles City and Tanglin Market Place at Tanglin Mall (both on Orchard) are some of Singapore's best-stocked gourmet supermarkets, with a vast array of imported products. Takashimaya's basement (Orchard) has lots of small quirky shops and makes for a more interesting browse. For a more Singaporean (and much cheaper) shopping experience, seek out any neighbourhood wet market, like Little India's Tekka Market. For eating out, most shopping centres offer a range of small snack stands and eateries in their basements, as well as a food court or two.
  • Games: Video and PC games are widely available in Singapore, but prices may not be cheaper than in the West. Games sold for the local market are generally in English, though some games imported from Hong Kong or Taiwan will be in Chinese. Note, Singapore's official region code is NTSC-J (together with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, etc.), which means that games sold may not be compatible with consoles in mainland China, North America, Europe or Australia. During the four times in a year IT Shows, PC, Xbox, Wii, PlayStation games prices may drop at such IT shows, if not the games will be bundled with others (Example: Buy 2 at $49.90). Search for reputable shops online and avoid Sim Lim Square's first two floors, as always.
  • Hi-fi stereos: The Adelphi (Riverside) has Singapore's best selection of audiophile shops.
  • Marine sports: Many of the shophouses opposite The Concourse on Beach Rd in Bugis sell fishing and scuba diving gear.
  • Mobile phones: Very competitively priced in Singapore due to high consumer volume, available throughout the country both used and new. Phones are never SIM locked, so they can be used anywhere, and many shops will allow you to "trade in" an older phone to offset the cost of a new one. Do not purchase phones at Lucky Plaza, because there's a significant risk you'll be almost literally robbed, if tourist reports are anything to go by.
  • Music: The HMV at Marina Square is Singapore's largest music store. Because of widespread digital piracy, many local CD stores have liquidated. CD Rama in local bookstores Popular remains the best bet for those game enough to try Asian music fare.
  • Peranakan goods: The Peranakan, or Malay-Chinese, may be fading but their colourful clothing and artwork, especially the distinctive pastel-coloured ceramics, are still widely available. Antiques are expensive, but modern replicas are quite affordable. The largest selection and best prices can be found in Katong on the East Coast.
  • Sporting goods: Queensway Shopping Centre, off Alexandra Rd and rather off the beaten track (take a taxi), seems to consist of nothing but sporting goods shops. You can also find foreigner-sized sporty clothing and shoes here. Do bargain! Expect to get 40-50% off the price from the shops in Orchard for the same items. Velocity in Novena is also devoted to sports goods, but is rather more upmarket. Martial arts equipment is surprisingly hard to find, although most of the clothing shops around Pagoda Street in Chinatown sell basic silk taiji/wushu uniforms. Note that if you plan to buy weapons such as swords, you have to apply for a permit from the police (around $10) to get your weaponry out of the country.
  • Tea: Chinatown's Yue Hwa (2nd floor) is unbeatable for both price and variety, but Time for Tea in Lucky Plaza (Orchard) is also a good option. English tea is also widely available around Orchard Road. For those who are looking for high-end luxury tea blends, local brand TWG has branches throughout the island to cater to this market.
  • Watches: High-end watches are very competitively priced. Ngee Ann City (Orchard) has dedicated stores from the likes of Piaget and Cartier, while Millenia Walk (Marina Bay) features the Cortina Watch Espace retailing 30 brands from Audemars Piguet to Patek Philippe, as well as several other standalone shops.

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.

Souvenirs

Even with her young age, Singapore has a wide range of souvenirs available for tourists due to the rich multi-cultural history. While you can find Merlion Keychains, Chocolates, T-shirts & Postcards around Chinatown & Little India, there are plenty of unique souvenirs that are homegrown labels & represent Singapore.

Fashion label Charles & Keith (started out as Shoe Heaven), has got you covered if you're looking for a pair of perfect shoes & has evolved into handbags & accessories. Grab the mini Singapore sling cocktail set at Raffles Hotel and Changi Airport for the true heritage flavour. With their luxurious gold plating technology, RISIS provides beautiful gifts like gold-plated Orchids and brooches.

One of the popular snack souvenirs - Bak Kwa from Bee Cheng Hiang (Smoked Barbecue Pork) is a well-loved snack especially popular during Lunar New Year. Kaya is a savoury coconut milk, eggs, and sugar, usually spread on toast where locals consume for their breakfast. Depending on the brand, it can taste rich & sweet to having a light pandan flavour. Ya Kun Kaya is readily available in their nationwide outlets and Changi Airport.

For those who will miss Singapore's rice dishes, you can get Instant rice meals from Yamie, where local favourites like Chicken Rice & Briyani Rice are pre-made, easy to prepare. A must-get, Chilli crab & Laksa sauce kits from Prima Taste are also saliva-inducing souvenirs available to purchase at supermarkets. These are Halal.

Bak Kut Teh (literally translated as Meat Bone Tea) Spices are also a fine choice to bring back a taste of Singapore, and one can choose from ranges like A1 Bak Kut Teh to celebrity-favourite Outram Park Ya Hua Bak Kut Teh. Speaking about Tea, Singapore also has her own luxury tea collection from TWG which offers an impressive selection of over 800 teas, specially harvested from all around the world.

Local Designers like SUPERMAMA have also came up with Singaporean omiyage (contemporary giftware) ranging from procelain tableware to quirky socks. Most of these souvenirs can be found in their own store outlets, Changi Airport or Singapore Souvenir curator - SG Style, who does same-day delivery to your hotel.

Eat

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.

Local delicacies

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.

Peranakan/Nonya cuisine

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).

  • Chilli crab is a whole crab ladled with oodles of sticky, tangy chilli sauce. It's spicy at first, but the more you eat, the better it gets. Notoriously difficult to eat, so don't wear a white shirt: just dig in with your hands and ignore the mess. The seafood restaurants of the East Coast are famous for this. For a less messy but equally tasty alternative, ask for black pepper crab.
  • Kaya is a jam-like spread made from egg and coconut, an odd-sounding but tasty combination. Served on toast for breakfast, canonically accompanied by runny eggs and strong, sweet coffee (kopi). Exists in two distinctive styles; the greenish Nonya version, coloured with pandan leaf, and the brownish Hainanese version.
  • Laksa, in particular the Katong laksa or laksa lemak style, is probably the best-known Singaporean dish: white noodles in a creamy, immensely rich coconut-based curry broth, topped with cockles or shrimp. The common style found in hawker centres is very spicy, although you can ask for less/no chilli to dial down the heat. The Katong style is much less spicy and is generally found only in Katong itself (see the East Coast page). Despite sharing the same name, the dish bears almost no resemblance to the varieties found in neighbouring Malaysia.
  • Mee siam is rice flour noodles served in a sweet-sour soup (made from tamarind, dried shrimp and fermented beans), bean curd cubes, and hard boiled eggs. Though the Chinese, Malays and Indians all have their own versions, it is the Peranakan version that is most popular with Singaporeans. You will largely find this at Malay stalls.
  • Popiah (??), or spring rolls, come fresh or fried. They consist of a filling of boiled turnip, fried tofu, pork, shrimp with a slew of condiments, wrapped in a thin crepe smeared with sweet dark soy sauce and eaten like a fajita. They are related to the lumpia and runbing of other Chinese communities in Asia.
  • Rojak means a mixture of everything in Malay, and there are two very different types. Chinese rojak is a salad of pineapple, white turnip, cucumber, tau pok (fried bean curd) with thin tiny slices of bunga kantan (torch ginger flower buds), tossed in shrimp paste sauce and sugar, then sprinkled with crushed peanuts. Indian rojak consists of mainly fried fritters made from flour and various pulses with cucumber and tofu, with sweet & spicy sauces.
  • Satay bee hoon is rice vermicelli (bee hoon) served with the same peanut and chilli sauce used for satay, hence the name. Usually cockles, dried squid and pork slices are added.
  • Ice cream is just as it is in Western countries. However, in Singapore, there are various local flavours such as durian and red bean which are not available outside the region and are certainly worth a try. To impress the locals, try asking for ice cream in roti (bread).

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.

Malay cuisine

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.

  • Mee rebus is a dish of egg noodles with spicy, slightly sweet gravy, a slice of hard boiled egg and lime.
  • Mee soto is Malay-style chicken soup, with a clear broth, shredded chicken breast and egg noodles.
  • Nasi lemak is the definitive Malay breakfast, consisting at its simplest of rice cooked in light coconut milk, some ikan bilis (anchovies), peanuts, a slice of cucumber and a dab of chilli on the side. A larger ikan kuning (fried fish) or chicken wing are common accompaniments. More often than not, also combined with a variety of curries and/or sambal (see below).
  • Otah/Otak is a type of fish cake made of minced fish (usually mackerel), coconut milk, chilli and various other spices, and grilled in a banana or coconut leaf, usually served to accompany other dishes like nasi lemak.
  • Rendang, originally from Indonesia and occasionally dubbed "dry curry", is meat stewed for hours on end in a spicy (but rarely fiery) coconut-based curry paste until almost all water is absorbed. Beef rendang is the most common, although chicken and mutton are spotted sometimes.
  • Sambal is the generic term for chilli sauces of many kinds. Sambal belacan is a common condiment made by mixing chilli with the shrimp paste belacan, while the popular dish sambal sotong consists of squid (sotong) cooked in red chilli sauce.
  • Satay are barbecued skewers of meat, typically chicken, mutton or beef. What separates satay from your ordinary kebab is the spices used to season the meat and the slightly spicy peanut-based dipping sauce. The Satay Club at Lau Pa Sat near Raffles Place is one popular location for this delicacy.

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:

  • Bubur cha-cha consists of cubed yam, sweet potato and sago added into coconut milk soup. This can be served warm or cold.
  • Chendol is made with green pea noodles, kidney beans, palm sugar and coconut milk.
  • Durian is not exactly a dish, but a local fruit with distinctive odor you can smell a mile away and a sharp thorny husk. Both smell and taste defy description, but eating garlic ice cream next to an open sewer comes to mind. If you are game enough you should try it, but be warned beforehand — you will either love it or hate it. The rich creamy yellow flesh is often sold in places like Geylang and Bugis and elsewhere conveniently in pre-packaged packs, for anywhere from $1 for a small fruit all the way up to $18/kg depending on the season and type of durian. This 'king of fruits' is also made into ice cream, cakes, sweets, puddings and other decadent desserts. Note: You're not allowed to carry durians on the MRT and buses and they're banned from many hotels.
  • Ice kachang literally means "ice bean" in Malay, a good clue to the two major ingredients: shaved ice and sweet red beans. However, more often than not you'll also get gula melaka (palm sugar), grass jelly, sweet corn, attap palm seeds and anything else on hand thrown in, and the whole thing is then drizzled with canned evaporated milk or coconut cream and coloured syrups. The end result tastes very interesting — and refreshing.
  • Kuih (or kueh) refer to a plethora of steamed or baked "cakes", mostly made with coconut milk, grated coconut flesh, glutinous rice or tapioca. They are often very colourful and cut into fanciful shapes, but despite their wildly varying appearance tend to taste rather similar.
  • Pisang goreng is a batter-dipped and deep-fried banana.

Chinese cuisine

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 (? tang), but also "dry" (? 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.

  • Bak chor mee ????? is essentially noodles with minced pork, tossed in a chilli-based sauce with lard, ikan bilis (fried anchovies), vegetables and mushrooms. Black vinegar may also be added.
  • Bak kut teh (???), lit. "pork bone tea", is a simple-sounding soup of pork ribs simmered for hours in broth until they're ready to fall off the bone. Singaporeans prefer the light and peppery Teochew style ("white"), but a few shops offer the original dark and aromatic Fujian kind ("black"). Bak kut teh is typically eaten with white rice, mui choy (pickled vegetables) and a pot of strong Chinese tea, hence the name — the broth itself doesn't contain any tea. To impress the locals, order some you tiao fritters from a nearby stall and cut them up into bite-sized chunks to dip into your soup.
  • Char kway teow (???) is the quintessential Singapore-style fried noodle dish, consisting of several types of noodles in thick brown sauce with strips of fishcake, Chinese sausage, a token veggie or two and either cockles and shrimp. It's cheap ($2–3/serve), filling and has nothing to do with the dish known as "Singapore fried noodles" elsewhere. (And which actually doesn't exist in Singapore.)
  • Chee cheong fun (???) is a favourite breakfast consisting of lasagna-type rice noodles rolled up and various types of fried meats including fishballs and fried tofu. The dish is usually topped with a generous amount of sauce.
  • Chwee kway ???? is a breakfast dish consisting of rice cakes topped with chai po (salted fermented turnips), usually served with some chilli sauce.
  • Fishball noodles?(???) come in many forms, but the noodle variety most often seen is mee pok, which are flat egg noodles. The noodles are tossed in chilli sauce and accompanied by a side bowl of fishballs in soup.
  • Hainanese chicken rice (????) is steamed ("white") or roasted ("red") chicken flavoured with soy sauce and sesame oil served on a bed of fragrant rice that has been cooked in chicken broth and flavoured with ginger and garlic. Accompanied by chilli sauce made from crushed fresh chillis, ginger, garlic and thick dark soy sauce as well as some cucumber and a small bowl of chicken broth. Despite its name, only the method of preparing the chicken originated in Hainan, while the method of cooking the rice was actually invented by the Hainanese immigrants in what is today Singapore and Malaysia.
  • Hokkien mee (???) is a style of soupy fried noodles in light, fragrant stock with prawns and other seafood. Oddly, it bears little resemblance to the Kuala Lumpur dish of the same name, which uses thick noodles in dark soy, or even the Penang version, which is served in very spicy soup.
  • Kway chap (??) is essentially sheets made of rice flour served in a brown stock, accompanied by a plate of braised pork and pig organs (tongue, ear and intestines).
  • Prawn noodles (??, hae mee in Hokkien) is a dark-brown prawn broth served with egg noodles and a giant tiger prawn or two on top. Some stalls serve it with boiled pork ribs as well. The best versions are highly addictive and will leave you slurping up the last MSG-laden (probably from the shrimp heads) drops.
  • Steamboat (??), also known as hot pot, is do-it-yourself soup Chinese style. You get a pot of broth bubbling on a tabletop burner, pick meat, fish and veggies to your liking from a menu or buffet table, then cook it to your liking. When finished, add in noodles or ask for rice to fill you up. This usually requires a minimum of two people, and the more the merrier.
  • Tau huay (??), also known as beancurd, is probably the most common traditional Chinese dessert, a bowl of tofu curds in syrup, served either hot or cold. A recent innovation that has swept the island is a delicious custard-like version ("soft tau huay") which includes no syrup and is extremely soft despite being solid.
  • Wonton mee (???) is thin noodles topped with wantan dumplings of seasoned minced pork. Unlike the soupy Hong Kong version, it is usually served 'dry' in soy sauce and chilli.
  • Yong tau foo (???) literally means "stuffed tofu", but it's more exciting than it sounds. The diner selects their favourites from a vast assortment of tofu, fish paste, assorted seafood and vegetables, and they are then sliced into bite-size pieces, cooked briefly in boiling water and then served either in broth as soup or "dry" with the broth in a separate bowl. The dish can be eaten by itself or with any choice of noodles. Essential accompaniments are spicy chili sauce and sweet sauce for dipping.

Indian cuisine

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:

  • Fish head curry is, true to the name, a gigantic curried fish head cooked whole until it's ready to fall apart. Singapore's Little India is the place to sample this. Note that there are two distinct styles, the fiery Indian and the milder Chinese kind.
  • Nasi briyani is rice cooked in turmeric, giving it an orange colour. Unlike the Hyderabadi original, it's usually rather bland, although specialist shops do turn out more flavourful versions. It is usually served with curry chicken and some Indian crackers.
  • Roti prata is the local version of paratha, flat bread tossed in the air like pizza, rapidly cooked in oil, and eaten dipped in curry. Modern-day variations can incorporate unorthodox ingredients like cheese, chocolate and even ice cream, but some canonical versions include roti kosong (plain), roti telur (with egg) and murtabak (layered with chicken, mutton or fish). Vegans beware: unlike Indian roti, roti prata batter is usually made with eggs.
  • Putu mayam is a sweet dessert composed of vermicelli-like noodles topped with shredded coconut and orange sugar.

Hawker centres

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, if you wish to experience authentic local food culture in the heartlands themselves. 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 at the table, or do what the locals do: place a packet of tissue paper on the table. Note and remember 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, you need not deliver your own food to your table. At almost every stall you can also opt for take-away/ take-out (called "packet" or ta pao (??) 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, or if you are particularly thoughtful, return your food tray by yourself to designated collection points.

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.

Coffee shops

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 (??) 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.

Food courts

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.

Fast food

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:

  • Bengawan Solo. Singapore version of Indonesian cakes, Chinese pastries and everything in between. The name is taken from the name of a famous river in Java.
  • BreadTalk. This self-proclaimed "designer bread" chain has taken not just Singapore but much of South-East Asia by storm. Everything is jazzily shaped, funkily named (e.g. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Bacon) and baked on premises. To the Western palate, almost everything is rather sweet.
  • Jollibean. Fresh soy drinks, beancurd and tasty mee chiang kueh Chinese pancakes.
  • Killiney Kopitiam. Serves kaya toast, kopi and ginger tea (with ice or without); waiters at the original Somerset location shout your order towards the back with gusto.
  • Mr Bean. Offers a variety of soya bean drinks, ice-creams and pastries snacks.
  • Old Chang Kee. Famous for their curry puffs, but their range now covers anything and everything deep-fried. Take-away only.
  • Ya Kun Kaya Toast. Serves the classic Singaporean breakfast all day long: kaya toast, runny eggs and strong, sweet coffee (plus some other drinks). Arguably one of the more successful chains with branches as far away as South Korea and Japan.

Restaurants

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.

Fine dining

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.

Dietary restrictions

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.

Drink

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

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

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

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.

Sleep

Individual listings can be found in Singapore's district articles

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.

Budget

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:

  • Fragrance Hotel, ? +65 6345 6116. Chain of 13 hotels and one backpackers' hostel. Rooms from $58, discounts on weekends and for ISIC holders.
  • Hotel 81, ? +65 6767 8181. A chain of over 20 functional hotels with rates starting at $49 for two.

Mid-range

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.

Splurge

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.

Long-term

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.

Learn

Singapore's universities are generally well-regarded and draw exchange students from near and far.

  • National University of Singapore (NUS). Singapore's oldest university, strong in law, medicine, computing and science. One of the premier universities in Asia.
  • Nanyang Technological University (NTU). The second university in this island state, more geared towards engineering, media and business studies. Host for the Youth Olympics 2010
  • Singapore Management University (SMU). The third, and the only publicly-funded private university in Singapore. Geared towards finance and business.
  • Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). The fourth autonomous university in Singapore, established in collaboration with MIT. Teaches engineering and architecture with a special focus on design.
  • Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS). Previously known as Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) Singapore's private university with a number of international degree courses. The school offers a wide range of first degrees, from the arts to business to technology studies.

As of 17 March 2017, SUSS is restructuring to become Singapore's newest autonomous university.

A number of foreign universities, business schools and specialized institutes have also set up their Asian campuses in Singapore.

  • SP Jain School of Global Management (SPJ). International campus of the business school in Mumbai.
  • INSEAD. The Asian campus of European business school, INSEAD.
  • University of Chicago Booth School of Business. The Asian campus of the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, offering one of the most expensive MBAs in the world.
  • DigiPen Institute of Technology. The Asian campus of the DigiPen Institute of Technology, Redmond, Seattle, Washington.
  • ESSEC. International campus of the business school in Paris.

Cooking

  • at-Sunrice, Fort Canning Park, ? +65 6336 3307. A professional cooking academy that also does day classes for the public. The crowd-pleaser is the "Spice Garden Walk" ($40) at Fort Canning, where a chef introduces you to local herbs and spices and their uses in cuisine and medicine, and then guides you in the fine art of making your own curry paste. Reservations essential.
  • Cookery Magic, 179 Haig Rd, ? +65 6348 9667, e-mail: info@cookerymagic.com. Cooking classes in an old colonial black-and-white home, with themes varying by day and cuisines from all over the continent. 8 students maximum. From $65.
  • Palate Sensations, 1 Westbourne Road #03-05, ? +65 6479 9025, e-mail: info@palatesensations.com. Hands-on cooking classes in both European and Asian styles, held in a colonial black and white bungalow in rural western Singapore. 12 students maximum. From $100.

Work

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 $3,600 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 $5,000 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.

Stay safe

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.

Bribery

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.

Racial and Religious Discrimination

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.

Firearms

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.

Emergency numbers

  • Police (main number for Emergency Services) ? 999
  • Ambulance/ Fire ? 995
  • Non-emergency ambulance ? 1777 (Note that a $274 charge is paid for a non-emergency ferry to a hospital)
  • Singapore General Hospital ? +65 6222 3322
  • Drug & Poison Information Centre ? +65 6423 9119

Stay healthy

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.

Medical care

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.

  • Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Mount Elizabeth (near Orchard MRT station), ? +65 6737 2666. A&E Operates 24/7. Singapore's largest private hospital and a popular destination for medical tourists. Also features a special suite originally built for the Sultan of Brunei, but now available to anybody with the means to pay when not in use by the Brunei royal family, with prices starting from an eye-watering $5043 per night. Consultations with specialists start from $100.
  • Singapore General Hospital, College Rd, 1st-3rd Hospital Ave (next to Outram Park MRT station). Singapore's oldest and largest public hospital.
  • Outram Polyclinic offers doctor's consultations for $20.30 and can refer patients to specialists at the hospital, although waiting times can be long; afternoons are better than mornings. Opens Mon~Fri 08:00-16:30.
  • Tan Tock Seng Hospital, 11 Jalan Tan Tock Seng (next to Novena MRT station), ? +65 6256 6011. M-F 08:00-13:00 & 14:00-17:00; Sa 08:00-12:00, no appointment needed. One of Singapore's largest public hospitals, fully equipped to handle most anything. Specialist departments here include a one-stop Travellers' Health & Vaccination Centre for immunizations, malaria prophylaxis, pre-trip and post-trip evaluations and general advice. $80 fee for doctor's consultation, vaccines for $10 plus cost (consultation unnecessary).

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.

Toilets

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.

Respect

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.

Business

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.

Connect

By phone

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

Most Singapore toll-free numbers can not be called from outside Singapore and have the following formats: 1800-185-0165 or 800-185-0165.

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).

By net

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.

By mail

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.

Cope

Electricity

Singapore uses the British BS1363 three-pin rectangular socket (230V/50 Hz). Plug adaptors are available at any hardware store.

Embassies and High Commissions

Singapore is a good place to obtain regional visas. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintains a complete searchable database of diplomatic institutions.

Hair cuts

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.

Laundry

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:,

  • Systematic Laundromat, ? +65 6754 0277. 11:00-late. Laundry service with 16 outlets around Singapore. $6 for 4 kg of laundry, either self-service or returned the next day depending on the outlet. Central branches include Centrepoint Orchard (MRT Somerset) and Robertson Walk (near Gallery Hotel).
  • Wonder Wash Self-service Laundromat, ? +65 9786 2038. 24 hrs. Totally self-service laundromat with no attendants, Various sizes of machines from 8 kg to 20 kg. Price starts from $4 per 8 kg, modern and clean.
  • Singapore Laundry, ? +65 6844 0554, e-mail: sales@singaporelaundry.com. 24 hrs. Laundry pickup delivery. Free delivery with $35 and above.

Photo processing

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.

Sports

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.

Weather

If you are travelling to Singapore, be sure to carry the following:

  • Sun glasses - Singapore is usually bright and sunny.
  • Umbrella - Be sure to carry an umbrella in your luggage, as there is some precipitation throughout the year. However, the rain usually does not last long.
  • Sun block/sun screen - If you plan to go out during the day, it is advisable to apply sun block as it is mostly sunny throughout the year. The ultraviolet index (UVI) is usually very high in the afternoon when it is sunny. Please see NEA's website on ultraviolet index for more information.
  • Shorts/Half Pants - Singapore can get real warm. Although air-conditioning is available in all public transports and almost all internal areas, it is advisable to carry some light clothing. Do note that some places of worship may require visitors to dress conservatively.
  • Cotton or dri-fit shirts - Wear comfortable shirts that can let the air flow through.
  • Flip-flops - Singaporeans love to wear flip-flops. Be sure to carry a pair, just to blend in. Try sandals if you're not used to flip flops, but beware that in some formal establishments (e.g. catching a show at Esplanade), no flip flops, sandals, or shorts are allowed.
  • Sweater - the cinemas', shopping malls' and museums' air conditioning can get cold, though usually this is a welcome relief from the heat.

Go next

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:

  • Batam — The nearest Indonesian island to Singapore, just a short ferry trip away. Mainly industrial and infamous for its vice trade, but has some resorts.
  • Bintan — Indonesian island just 55 min away by ferry, offering both high-end resorts and the "real Indonesia" experience.
  • Johor Bahru — Malaysian city just across the Causeway. Just 20 min by bus 950 from Woodlands Bus Interchange. Not much to look at, but popular for cheap eats and shopping plus the newly opened Legoland Malaysia.
  • Kuala Lumpur — Malaysia's vibrant capital. 35 min by plane, 4–5 hr by bus or overnight by train.
  • Malacca — Once one of the three Straits Settlements, now a sleepy colonial town. 3–4 hr by bus.
  • Tioman — The nearest of Malaysia's East Coast paradise islands, reachable by bus & ferry or plane.

For those who can afford more time to travel, here are several destinations popular among Singaporeans:

  • Bali — One of Indonesia's biggest tourist draws with its nice beaches and good food. About 2.5 hr away by plane.
  • Bangkok — Thailand's capital and considered a food,shopping and clubbing paradise by many Singaporeans. It is less than 2 hr flight away, or 2 nights by train, assuming you don't stop off in Kuala Lumpur or Butterworth (for Penang).
  • Phuket — One of the largest islands in Thailand, is another popular destination for Singaporeans. It offers a great weekend getaway and is less than 2 hr flight away. Relatively cheaper than Singapore, it is a great destination to hang around.
  • Ipoh — The capital of the Malaysian state of Perak, it is famous among Singaporeans for its food. 7–8 hr away by coach, or 1 hr by turboprop flight.
  • Langkawi — An island in the Malaysian state of Kedah, just south of the Thai border, famed for endless beaches. Just over an hour by plane.
  • Penang — One of the Straits Settlements, with a rich history and fabulous food. About 12 hr away by coach, or 1 hr if you choose to fly. Also popular for its medical tourism.

The Derawan islands in Indonesia offer spectacular diving, golden beaches and tranquility, but with ambitious plans for tourism they may not stay sleepy for long

The steering wheel spins frantically, the engine graunches and the tiny speedboat slews side-on to the swell, centimetres from a mess of floating timber. Luckily our captain, a Bajo “sea gypsy” from the fishing people who first settled Borneo’s Derawan archipelago, is a master of the marine handbrake turn. He grins and guns the engine; the white sands, tall palms and stilt houses of Derawan island come into focus.

My teenage son and I have travelled through the coal mine-scarred landscape beyond Berau, a riverside town in Kalimantan on mainland Indonesian Borneo (and reached via two flights from Singapore), to take a boat out to spend a week exploring a few of the archipelago’s scores of islands. Only two are officially inhabited, though 30-odd others have names and some are home to scientists and sea-dwelling boat people. By the end of this year the islands will be better connected to the mainland, with the completion of a small airport on Maratua island, which will handle short-haul flights.

Continue reading...

Kate in Senggigi

What does budget travel mean to you?

For some of my friends, it means downgrading to a three-star hotel instead of a luxury property. For others, it’s giving up their private rooms for hostel dorms.

Budget travel is unique to everyone. The broadest definition of budget travel is being financially conscious during your travels.

I asked my Facebook fans a question: how low-budget would you go? Hostel dorms? Couchsurfing? Never eating in a restaurant, ever? They had a lot of great answers and I’ve included them throughout this post.

Leon Nicaragua

Extreme Budget Travel

I define extreme budget travel — or what I like to call traveling “on the hobo” — as traveling while spending the least amount of money possible.

“I had some Couchsurfers come stay with me that are doing a long term trip with a $0 budget for accommodation. If they can’t find CS hosts they camp. One was sleeping in temples in Myanmar. He said his average is $5/day but oftentimes only spends $3. They also only hitchhike everywhere.” –Nathan

Accommodation? Free only. Couchsurfing or camping in their own tent or van. Possibly sleeping in churches, temples or mosques. Free lodging via working gigs. Hostel dorms if there’s no other option.

Transportation? Free or very cheap only. Hitchhiking or traveling in their own vehicle. If anything, an occasional bus ride or public transit.

Food? Cheap only. Supermarket fare or cheap street food. No restaurants, ever. Maybe an occasional takeaway kebab.

Attractions? Free only. In cities, walking around and taking photos, enjoying free museums and attractions. In the countryside, hiking and exploring. Forget about paying for a ticket.

How to get by? Working from time to time. WWOOFing, Workaway gigs, working in hostels or bars, busking, random gigs along the way.

And while there are occasional exceptions, the above is largely how extreme budget travelers spend their time on the road.

Here are some examples:

We Visited Over 50 Countries In Our Van Spending Just $8 Per Day

This is How a Guy Traveled Through Southeast Asia On Just $10 Per Day

I just came back from a 5-months travel. I’ve done hitch-hiked over 15 000km, and have been living as a homeless for pretty much 4 months.

Amman Skyline

The Pros of Extreme Budget Travel

Travel longer. See more. The less you spend, the more time you have to see everything the world has to offer. The price you would pay for a midrange two-week trip could grow into a multi-month extravaganza when traveling on the hobo.

Enjoying the same sights at a fraction of the price. Nobody charges you to walk through the piazzas of Florence, nor do you pay anything to enjoy the white sand beaches of Boracay. It feels awesome to look around and know that you paid far less than everyone else!

Expensive destinations aren’t off-limits. One thing I noticed was that extreme budget travelers don’t shy away from expensive countries. You find just as many extreme budget travelers in Norway and Australia as you do in Laos and India.

“Curiously enough it’s easier to spend less in expensive countries. It’s easier to say no to a $25 hotel room and camp, than to say no to a $5 hotel room and camp. In Europe I’d go camping and couchsurfing all the time out of necessity, but here in Asia I’d happily pay for accommodation, because it’s cheaper. But of course that adds up and in the end I pay more. I remember spending 6 months in the US and Canada and I spend $0 on accommodation. :D” –Meph248 on Reddit

Having more local experience. You’ll get to know locals more intimately, whether it means couchsurfing in locals’ homes, working with locals, hitchhiking with locals, or shopping at the local markets. Plenty of travelers will pass through the same town without having a conversation with someone who wasn’t a waiter or hostel employee.

The time of your life — on very little cash. You’ll have great stories to tell your kids someday!

“I did $5 a day while touring the Balkans for a month. I managed! -Free lodging and food by volunteering at a hostel (even had my own room at the top floor) -Free private beach access through a guy I was seeing -Free drinks every night at the bar across the street because the owner swore I was Serena Williams

That about covers all bases! Lol” –Gloria, The Blog Abroad

The possibility of extending your trip indefinitely. If you pick up enough paid gigs in between, you can keep on traveling forever. This especially works well if you pick up gigs, either officially or under the table, in high-paying countries like Australia.

Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

The Pitfalls of Extreme Budget Travel

Reduced safety. If you don’t have funds allocated for accommodation or private transportation, what happens when none of the Couchsurfing hosts in town appeal to you? What happens if your bus is delayed, you show up in Tegucigalpa late at night, and you can’t afford a cab to your accommodation?

Not having money for instances like these sacrifices your safety.

“I would never want to absolutely rely on couchsurfing for the whole of my trip. I couchsurf where I can but when I can’t find a decent host I book a hostel. I think when you get too desperate to couchsurf you end up pushing the safety limit a bit and staying with dubious people.” –Britt, Adventure Lies in Front

Just how bad can the result be? Read this heartbreaking post by Trish on Free Candie.

Missing cool activities and social events. You meet a cool group of fellow travelers and they’re all going whitewater rafting. They want you to join — but you can’t do that. And sure, you can walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge if the $300 Bridgeclimb is out of your price range, but would you go to Leon, Nicaragua, and skip $30 volcano boarding? What about a $5 wine tasting in a Tuscan town? And even if it’s just a $4 hostel shuttle to the beach, which all your friends from the hostel are taking, you’re stuck on the much longer 25-cent local bus.

Less exposure to local cuisine. Yes, there’s fresh produce and markets and supermarkets can be their own adventure, but if you’re making pasta in the hostel every night, you’re missing out on one of the best parts of traveling — the food.

“As a student in EU having a long-term schengen visa on a third-world passport, I think I have hit the bottom after sleeping at airports, night buses, railway stations, common areas of hostels. taking pictures of food in local markets and then coming back to cook pasta in hostel kitchen :-(” –Anshul

No backup savings. In the event of an emergency — say, you need to fly home for the funeral of a dear friend — you don’t have the cash to do so. Most of the time, travel insurance will only reimburse you if it’s a member of your immediate family.

Isolation and discomfort. If you’re not comfortable in your accommodation, you have fewer options and may be far from the city center or tourist zone. If you’re limited with money, you can’t just pick up and leave — you might need to stick it out for at least a night.

“Ive couchsurfed once and they tried to convert me to their religion so i just left.” –Christipede

No alone time. If you’re a natural extrovert, this probably won’t be an issue, but traveling on the hobo requires you to socialize with lots of people on a daily basis, especially if you’re couchsurfing. If you’re an introvert, you’ll have difficulties carving out alone time to relax your mind. (Camping solo is one way around this, however.)

Mooching off others. Conversely, depending on others day after day can wear away at you. Sure, you can help cook and clean, or play music, and you know you’ll pay it back to other travelers someday, but you might get uncomfortable having strangers host and feed you for free on a regular basis.

“It’s funny. I’m open to going extremely low budget. As long as I can be self-reliant about it. Meaning I’d rather sleep (legally or semi-legally) on an abandoned beach or in a corner of a park than ask for someone’s couch. This is strange, I know, since the spirit of travel is tied so intrinsically into the good will of others. I guess I’d rather rely on others for their company (and their rum!) and then slip off to my tent for the night.” –Bring Limes

Resentment. Is this the trip you had in mind? Is this even the kind of trip you’d want? Wouldn’t you rather be in a nice hotel room, eating in restaurants, doing cool activities, and not having to work every now and then? After weeks of depriving yourself, over and over, you could end up feeling resentful. It might not be worth the savings.

“I feel like [extreme budget travel] would detract from the travel experience itself. If I was wrapped up in my head worrying about money and a budget the whole time it would take away from experiences. I certainly don’t travel luxuriously, but I choose to travel within my means without missing out on things.” –Megan, Forks and Footprints

Blue Night Shadows

A Lot of People Think They Can Do This

I’m an avid Redditor but don’t comment often. What makes me comments are posts like these:

“Me and my cousin are going on a trip in 2015 for 16 months around SE Asia. we plan on visiting 19 countries in that time: Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri lanka, Tawain, Thailand, Vietnam, Bhutan

We dont really know what months to go to the different countries and theres not much info online about it, so im asking you we kind of want summer all the time around. Also what places should we see in different countries? Im thinking that 12k USD will be enough for this trip? no including air fare, is that close to accurate?”

Oh God.

First of all, no, $12K will not be nearly enough. I really hope he meant $12K each, because even $24k for two would not be enough for a trip like that, especially with countries like Bhutan and Japan on the list. The only way it would be possible would be through extreme budget travel, and just the idea of traveling that way for 16 months makes me want to curl into a ball and hide.

I get emails all the time from travelers who want to travel as long and as much as possible, so they squish their budget down to the bare minimum. They tell me that yeah, they really want to see as much as possible, so they’re going to couchsurf and camp and they’ll be able to stretch their trip to as long as possible. I give them advice, wish them luck, tell them to buy travel insurance.

Some of them end up traveling this way — and have a fabulous, life-changing trip. Others end up miserable and return home much sooner than planned.

My worry about these travelers is that they won’t end up enjoying themselves on what should be the trip of a lifetime. I believe that far more people think they can handle long-term extreme budget travel than can actually handle this style of travel on a long-term basis.

It doesn’t help that traveling on the hobo is romanticized in popular culture, complete with scenes of waking up on a farm in Provence, harvesting olives all day, then having huge dinners with wine every night before hopping on a train to the next idyllic destination.

In short, it’s fun to travel on the hobo if you’re doing it for fun. It’s not so fun if you’re doing it because you can’t afford anything else.

Bike Lady in Ferrara

Special Concerns for Women Travelers

I feel like there needs to be an asterisk when talking about extreme budget travel as a woman. Just like there needs to be an asterisk with almost every kind of travel.

If you haven’t read Why Travel Safety Is Different For Women, please read it now.

In that piece, I talk about how women are attuned to the risk of sexual assault every minute of every day. It never leaves our minds, and each day we make dozens of micro-decisions for the sake of self-protection. For that reason, we need to be extra careful when it comes to extreme budget travel.

“extreme budget travel is a luxury that men can have I think. as a woman, I always need to have a little extra to get myself out of a bad guesthouse or take taxis rather than walk. I’m sure some women have managed it, but i wouldn’t feel safe on a low low budget. I usually budget $50/day with an extra $500/month of travel, although I rarely use it all. it gives me enough cushion to get a single room rather than share a dorm with just one man, etc.” –Lily

Camping alone or sleeping outside leaves us vulnerable to sexual assault.

Staying in a sketchy guesthouse with a badly locking door leaves us vulnerable to sexual assault.

Hitchhiking with strangers leaves us vulnerable to sexual assault.

Taking public transportation in a rough city at night leaves us vulnerable to sexual assault.

Accepting food and drinks prepared by Couchsurfing hosts leaves us vulnerable to sexual assault.

That doesn’t mean that women can’t do extreme budget travel — I know women who do it and love it. I know that some take extra precautions, like carrying pepper spray and a knife. And even then, many of them have done so safely; most of them have only had a few scary but ultimately non-dangerous incidents, like I have.

But it doesn’t mean that the risk isn’t there. You need to evaluate that risk closely.

Kyoto Apartment

It’s Not For Everyone

If you want to try out extreme budget travel and you think you would enjoy it, go for it! I’m happy for people to travel in any way they’d like, as long as it’s not harmful to others.

There are plenty of people for whom extreme budget travel is a great choice. And they’re a surprisingly diverse group of people.

My issue with it is that I think a lot of people underestimate how difficult it is to live this way on a long-term basis. In short, it’s not for as many people who think it’s for them. So many people attempt it, burn out, and leave their trip with regrets.

Costa Brava Mountains

Short-Term Extreme Budget Travel

What if you only did the extreme budget travel thing for a shorter time? Say, for a two-week trip or just for a month or two out of a yearlong RTW trip? What if you just did it when you traveled in Australia and went back to spending more money in Southeast Asia?

I think that’s actually a very smart idea. This way, you get to try it out, reduce costs in the most expensive destinations, and see if you are interested in doing it long-term.

“I don’t mind dorms for cheap travel, although a few weeks is the max I could do that without at least a few nights in a private. I’m planning to couch surf and WWOOFing a lot in Japan, since I want to go for a while without spending thousands and thousands. I can’t live on that low though- it’s boring to only have enough to eat and stay in the hostel!” –Alexandria

Marigolds in Pienza

How to Maintain Your Sanity While Traveling on the Hobo

Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Walking a mile out of the way for loaves of bread that cost 20 cents less is the definition of insanity. Instead, reduce your big expenses like accommodation and transportation, or stick to cheap countries.

Travel slower. Spending more time in fewer destinations will majorly cut down your costs. When you spend longer in a destination, you’ll get to know the cheaper places, you’ll spend less time sightseeing, and your transportation costs will be lower.

Stick to cheaper regions — not just cheaper countries. Most people consider Thailand a cheap country but don’t take into account that the beach resorts in the south are MUCH more expensive than the rest of the country. Stick to rural, less-visited areas for lower costs. In Thailand, you’ll find the cheapest prices in the north.

Set up a separate bank account for splurges. Use it for special activities like seeing Angkor Wat, getting scuba certified, or having a restaurant meal in a fabulous food region.

Plan on getting private accommodation every few weeks or so. Just a few days in a room to yourself will make you feel so much better, especially if you’re an introvert.

Have a re-entry fund saved up and don’t touch it. This is money to cushion your return home. How much do you need? Depends on your situation. Some people like to have enough to secure a new apartment and pay for a few months of frugal expenses; others just need a thousand dollars or so. The choice is yours.

Don’t scrimp on travel insurance. Even if you’re committed to spending as little as possible, you don’t want to put yourself in a position where you weigh your health against saving money. Not to mention that it will save your ass financially in the event that you get severely injured and need an air ambulance to another country. I use and recommend World Nomads.

Leaving the Generalife

One Last Tip: Check Your Privilege

When you’ve been traveling on the hobo for awhile, there will be dark days. You’ll be down to your last few dollars and unable to eat anything but rice and pasta. You’ll be tired. You’ll be lonely. You’ll be treading water and you won’t know when you’ll earn enough to leave town.

This happens to all travelers. We all go through tough times, but extreme budget travelers are additionally vulnerable because of their lack of money.

Even when you’re at your lowest, it’s important to remember that you hold enormous privilege. You’re living this lifestyle by choice, and you’ve experienced far more than the vast majority of the world will ever be able to.

Don’t refer to yourself as poor. Don’t take food donations meant for the needy. And for the love of God, don’t compare yourself to the homeless.

Instead, practice gratitude each day. Be kind. Use what you’ve learned to create a better life for everyone you meet, both on the road and at home.

And if you choose to settle down for some time — whether it’s just for a few weeks or something more permanent — open up your home to vagabonds like yourself. Feed them, give them a place to sleep, show them your favorite spots in town. It’s time to repay the kindness that you’ve been gifted on your journey.

Have you ever tried extreme budget travel? Did you enjoy it?The truth about extreme budget travel

travel advice for students

Travel Advice for Students

Travel Tips

World travel is possible at any age. However the best time to travel is when you’re young. Here are some tips for students who want to start traveling as soon as possible.

The other day I received an email from a young reader. Like many high-school and college students who reach out to me, she was asking for advice about how and when to start traveling.

Here’s her message (shared with permission):

“My name is Almaries, I’m 19 years old from Puerto Rico. I have a dream but I don’t know where to start. I want to explore every corner of the Earth. I want to travel, live adventurously, be nomadic. I know there are ways to save money, but how much is enough? When is the perfect time? Do I need to get my university degree or could I just start tomorrow?”

She’s not alone. I receive a few of these messages each week, which tells me that many of you have similar questions. Hence this article.

It’s not something I’ve been able to answer well in a simple email.

For high-school and college students, thinking about the future can be confusing. I remember what it was like. Society is telling you to get a degree, get a career, get married, pump out some kids, then retire.

Some of us just aren’t ready for those milestones right now.

So today I wanted to share some travel advice for students who would like to travel more, but don’t know where to begin.

Student Travel Advice

Me at 19 years old, with hair!

My Personal Experience

I didn’t start traveling around the world until I was 29 years old. It wasn’t until I was well out of college and working in the real world that I became interested in the budget backpacking lifestyle.

However 11 years earlier, when I graduated high-school, I packed up and drove across the country from New Hampshire to Montana and became a ski-bum for a year.

I told my parents it was to claim residence and take advantage of cheap in-state tuition before starting college… but really, I just wanted some time off after the previous 13 years of school!

It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

My “year off” was both difficult and rewarding. Working multiple jobs (cooking, roofing, landscaping), playing in my free time (snowboarding, hiking, parties) and learning how to be a responsible adult.

When it was over, I enrolled in college the next year with in-state tuition feeling focused and ready to learn.

Travel During School

Should You Go To School?

I’m not comfortable answering this question. I don’t know you. I don’t know your background. These kinds of decisions are extremely personal. What works for one person might not work for someone else.

However I can share my personal experience and a few suggestions.

If someone else is paying for your education, then yes I think you should go to school. Don’t waste that opportunity. You can always travel after school like I did. Or even during, which I’ll explain more a bit later.

If you don’t know what you want to do with your life, and must finance your own education, I don’t think paying for school just because “that’s what you’re supposed to do” will help. You’ll probably end up in debt with a degree in something you don’t enjoy.

Maybe take a year off. Figure some shit out. Travel. You can always enroll in school next year. Or look into other forms of education, there are plenty of free options available.

In my opinion, going to college with no direction is a waste of money. The US education system is far too expensive and screwed up these days. A university degree no longer guarantees a good job.

Travel While You’re Young

I’m glad I went to college. I had fun, learned a lot about business, and I firmly believe it’s one of the reasons my travel blog has become so successful over the years. Business & marketing skills I learned in school.

But I’m also happy I took a year off before starting college. While I didn’t use my year-off to travel around the world, looking back I wish I had.

All of us dream of traveling extensively one day, but sadly many people can’t drum up the courage or drive to attempt it. We procrastinate and make excuses because it’s easier. For me, I thought international travel was too expensive. Of course now I know that’s not the case.

The best time to travel the world is now, not later. Even if you are currently a student. Travel now, while you’re young, fit, healthy, and comfortable with a lower standard of living — willing to backpack on a budget.

Because it only gets MORE complicated in the future, not less.

OK, you may also be broke, unemployed, and secretly reluctant to give up the security of familiar surroundings, but don’t let these fears ruin your dreams. Think of them as challenges to overcome.

Follow these guidelines if you want to start traveling sooner.

Traveling in Hostels

Start Saving Money

As a student, it’s a lot easier to travel on a budget than when you’re older. Young people are generally more comfortable traveling cheaply and open to things like sleeping in hostels, eating street food, etc.

However you can’t count on winning the lottery to pay for your trip, so that means you need to tighten your belt. Take an extra evening job. Work over the weekends. Move into a cheaper apartment, or even back home.

Cook your own meals instead of eating out. Stop spending money on alcohol/cigarettes/coffee/video games/iPhones. Sell your car. Use public transportation.

Saving money isn’t rocket-science, but it’s going to take sacrifice!

How much should you save? That depends on your travel plans. In cheaper destinations like Asia, it’s possible to get by on $30 per day. I recommend aiming to save $1000-$2000 per month of planned travel.

So if you want to travel for 6 months in countries that cost an average of $50 per day, you’ll need to save $9000. Plus enough for a plane ticket home, travel insurance, and other miscellaneous expenses.

Enroll In Classes

Are you in school right now? One of the benefits of being a student is that you have access to professionals that can help on your path towards a life of travel. So if you aren’t quite ready to take off around the world, you can start preparing for the future.

For example, learn a new language. It’s not necessary to learn the languages of every country you visit, but your travel experiences are far more rewarding when you’re able to speak the native tongue.

How about signing up for courses on photography, videography, writing, graphic design, computer programming, social media, online business, or tourism marketing? You can enroll through the school, or learn using online courses, podcasts, and video tutorials.

You never know, you could stumble upon your dream career this way. Start learning skills that can help you make your travel dreams come true.

Read Books

Education by other means is a viable step you can take right now if you would like to travel more in the future. Even if you’re busy with high-school or college, everyone can still find time to read!

Read books about budget travel. Read books about online entrepreneurship. Read books about marketing. Read books about writing. Read books about saving money.

Here are some of my top recommendations:

Working Holidays

Are you currently in school but want to travel over the summer? Did you just graduate but are low on funds? Why not consider a working holiday visa, which lets you visit a foreign country and work for a few months.

There are plenty of opportunities for students to work abroad doing things like sheering sheep, picking grapes, teaching kids to ski, working as a bartender, teaching English, or starting a corporate internship.

Popular destinations for working holidays include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France, Ireland, and Singapore. The travel & international work experience from a working holiday can help boost the power of your resume to future employers too!

Working Holiday Application Information:

Study Abroad

Most universities offer an option to work or study abroad and gain valuable experience as part of your degree. It’s a wonderful way to start traveling, arranged and approved by your school.

Study Abroad programs offer the chance to study in a new country, often in English, although you’ll certainly pick up some of the local language just by living in a new culture and surroundings too.

These programs provide a crash-course in self-confidence and self-reliance within a structured study environment, and you may even be eligible for scholarships or grants.

This is probably one of the easiest ways to convince your parents to let you travel. Yes you’re traveling, but it’s for school! How can they say no to furthering your education with international experience?

Traveling with Friends

Take A GAP Year

If you’ve finished college and want to explore the world, you could plan a GAP year and make the most of the time between college and a career. Or, take a year off after high-school before starting college.

The GAP year (or Bridge year) is very popular in countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, and Germany. It’s practically a right of passage. Students save money and travel before starting college or a career.

While not so popular in the United States, it’s definitely an option, and growing in recognition. In fact, even Malia Obama is taking a GAP year! I hope more students follow her lead.

Many colleges will postpone admission for a year allowing you to travel without losing your hard-earned place. Higher education experts agree that students who take GAP years do better than those who don’t.

Teaching English

In addition to a working holiday visa, one popular option is to work abroad as an English teacher. At one time I was looking into this myself, planning to teach English in Japan for a year.

It never happened, but many travel addicts have decided to make money this way. Basically you move overseas and teach children or company employees how to speak better English.

The job is in high demand, and can often pay well.

Most positions require a college degree first, and there’s a certification process too. But once you have all that sorted, it’s a wonderful way to see the world and make some income.

For more employment options that let you travel, read my post highlighting some of the best travel jobs.

Student Travel Volunteering

Volunteering Abroad

Many students dream of volunteering abroad and helping solve problems in the developing world. I understand. I did some volunteering when I first started traveling. It makes you feel like you’re making a difference.

This can be a good thing. But I’ve also learned over the years that not all volunteer organizations are doing good work. Some are downright scams to steal your money. Many others are doing more harm than good.

While international volunteering is certainly an option for students, I suggest you tread carefully. Please read this article before you start any kind of international volunteer project.

One organization that I think is making a difference is the United States Peace Corp. But again, it is important to know what you’re getting yourself into. You probably won’t change the world.

Convincing Your Parents

So, you’ve decided you want to travel more. But your parents don’t like the idea, or your friends think you’re crazy. How do you convince them? With scientific facts and testimonials of course!

If you want to take a GAP year, you can share this study showing that students who take GAP years end up doing better than students who don’t. Plus, if it’s good for Malia Obama, it’s good for you too.

If you want to study abroad, explain how foreign schools provide better value than those in the Untied States. Tell them that the US State Department provides resources for students to study abroad.

If you want to volunteer in other countries, let your parents read this long list of famous Peace Corp Alumni. Remind them that volunteer experience is highly regarded by top universities & companies.

If you want to spend some time working abroad, explain to your parents how the best companies in the world prefer to hire employees with international work experience.

Do you know any adults who took time off from school to travel? Relatives? Friends? Teachers? Ask them to have a chat with your parents and help calm their fears.

Travel As Education

You know why the US State Department is actively trying to get more students to study abroad? Because it actually makes America stronger.

International travel experience is helping students get ahead in life. It’s good for business, good for government, and produces an intelligent, empathetic, and well-rounded society.

No, travel by itself is not better than a formal education.

But travel is a type of education. You learn about cultural differences, discover universal truths, gain personal independence, and figure out what’s going on beyond the curtain of media propaganda.

Combined with a formal education, students who travel are going to do better than those who don’t.

So yes, make it a point to travel more while you’re young, even if it’s just for a few months. It might not be easy, and it might take some planning, but I’m confident you won’t regret the experience.

Student Travel Resources

Here’s a list of resources for students who would like to find a way to travel more while they’re young.

READ NEXT: 9 Reasons To Study Abroad

Have any questions about how to travel as a student? What about other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

TURKEY CARVES KATE

This is a hard recap to write. This was a hard month in a hard year. I finally feel like joining everyone in declaring that 2016 was THE WORST, THE WORST, THE ABSOLUTE WORST.

That and I took almost no photographs this month. Oh, and the fact that this is a week late, when I am usually ON IT with the monthly recaps.

But as bad as this month was, there was a lot of good, too. Perhaps even some life-changing good. We shall see how it all pans out.

I’m going to be brief this month so we can put this nightmare behind us.

Iced Coffee Broome

Destinations Visited

Broome and Perth, Australia

Reading and Lynn, Massachusetts

New York, New York

Allentown, Pennsylvania

Stamford, Connecticut

Favorite Destinations

Perth is a really cool city — and getting time to wander on my own made it better.

Kate and Beth Canvasing in Allentown

Highlights

Honestly, I had a hard time finding joy this month. But there were a few moments that I really enjoyed: going to Parks and Rec trivia at Videology in Williamsburg (my team came in fourth, no thanks to me who was THE WOOOOOOOOOOORST), going out in Chinatown with my buds Jessie and Anna, and experiencing early voting in Massachusetts (where I’m still registered but won’t be for much longer) for the first time ever.

From a travel perspective, I enjoyed my last days in Broome and Perth before embarking on a very long economy class journey home (Broome-Perth-Singapore-London-Boston — and I do not recommend flying for that long!). And I had three seats in a row free from London to Boston, so I actually got to lie flat and slept FIVE AND A HALF HOURS on a flight!

I was home for my first Thanksgiving since 2009! I spent 2010 in Koh Lanta, 2011 in Istanbul, 2012 in Glasgow and London, 2013 in Chiang Mai, 2014 in Unawatuna, Sri Lanka, and 2015 in Koh Lanta again. Turns out I actually do like Thanksgiving food after all.

Pretty much every conversation I had at home this month somehow came back to the topic of newly legalized marijuana in my home state of Massachusetts, which goes into effect December 15. I’m about to know a LOT of newbie pot farmers.

I Voted

Challenges

The election. I went into it with such high hopes. I worked so hard for Hillary — donating and calling and volunteering, even more than I did for Obama in 2008. My friend Beth and I went canvassing in Allentown on the day of the election and we ended up working with the local community mostly in Spanish (a huge thrill and one I’m happy to say we pulled off!).

Jet lag from Australia hit me on a severe delay, so I had slept from 5:30-11:30 PM the night before the election and just stayed up all night into morning, then went out to canvas. We had tickets to Hillary’s event at the Javits Center, but the crowds were so crazy we left and went to a bar decked out in Hillary signs in Hell’s Kitchen.

And Hell’s Kitchen quickly turned into Hell on Earth.

I couldn’t take it. Feeling like a zombie, I went home and fell into bed at 11, missing the worst of it. Then woke up at 4:30. I didn’t leave my bed for the next ten hours. Later that day, my heart raced for several minutes and I panicked, gulping air as hard as I could and feeling like I was drowning. I’m fairly certain this was the first panic attack I’ve ever experienced. Another followed a day later.

I didn’t eat anything for three days. Then spent the next three days eating nothing but junk: Easy Mac topped with crushed tortilla chips and Frank’s Red Hot. Triple chocolate donuts from Dunkin Donuts. Those so-bad-for-you soft sugar cookies with pink frosting and sprinkles from C-Town.

Then the recovery began. I wrote this post. I donated money to the ACLU and NAACP (I donate monthly to Planned Parenthood). I joined an anti-racism group in my neighborhood. I started following my local politicians, made call after call to Congress, and planned for political action privately.

For the record — my reaction was not just because my candidate lost. My reaction was borne out of genuine fear for our country’s most vulnerable: for blacks, for Muslims, for Latinos, for LGBT individuals, for women, for immigrants. For the wave of hate crimes that has hit our country. For our environment. For having a reckless president who doesn’t understand the job requirements and has already put our safety and security at risk.

I watched Bush get reelected in 2004 while studying in Florence, a pit in my stomach. Four more years of frustration and anger. But I didn’t feel a fraction of the fear I feel today.

This election was not normal.

Kate Wardrobe Text

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My Favorite Experiences in Western Australia — The best of WA, distilled into one monster post.

Rottnest Island

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

Look at that amazing beach on Rottnest Island in Western Australia! Even more amazing? That was taken through a window. (Don’t take the bus tour on Rottnest Island like I did. It killed me that we had to take almost all of our photos through glass.)

Reading in the Fall

What I Read This Month

Narrative of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass — I haven’t read about Frederick Douglass since I was a kid, and today I live in a neighborhood where one of the main streets bears his name. It was time to dive into this memoir. To my surprise, this memoir is solely about his years in slavery; he didn’t write about his post-freedom life until much later.

And the accounts are heartbreaking. This is probably the single best account of enslavement, not least because Douglass lived slavery in so many different forms and different environments, all of them evil. From the mistress who taught him how to read then disowned him to him getting caught building a plan for escape as an adult, I found this to be one of the most difficult to read yet important accounts of this year.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson — I love Mark Manson’s writing (my favorite essay of his: Love is Not Enough), so I was looking forward to his book. This collection of essays is like an anti-self-help book, going against much conventional advice. The contrarian in me enjoyed that and much of the book had me thinking differently.

That said, like a lot of books I’ve read by celebrities and internet personalities this year, I found the book to be quite uneven. (As an internet personality myself, this is something that scares me about my own writing.) Some chapters were very good, especially the one about accepting death; others fell flat and the book took a long time to find its rhythm. I loved the vivid stories about actual people that illustrated some chapters; I wish there were more of them. Overall? Not life-changing, but thought-provoking and definitely worth the read.

Palm Trees in Broome

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance — This was my first book from the “trying to understand Trump voters” collection. Vance grew up a self-described hillbilly (a term he uses with pride) in Ohio with family roots in Kentucky. This memoir is a searing account of growing up in poverty amid substance abuse, physical abuse, and a rotating series of father figures, set in a mostly white working class town in decline. Vance escaped and went on to the Marines, Ohio State, and Yale Law, an anomaly to his peers.

I knew nothing about this segment of Americans, who are too often ignored, and reading about them gave me so much empathy for their struggles. That alone made it worth a read, and I’m grateful I understand more. It’s not a hardcore political read, so don’t go in expecting to read what explicitly drove people to vote for Trump.

Vance himself is a Republican. His conclusion is that the government can’t do much of anything to help people like his family because so much of their problems originate in the family structure. I don’t completely agree with him. I’ve heard of Family Intervention Projects in the UK where case workers regularly visit a family on a long-term basis, teaching everything from from how to cook simple meals to getting kids bathed, to bed, and to school on time. Years later, kids in this program had lower rates of anti-social behavior, truancy and substance abuse. There aren’t enough resources to provide this to every needy family in America, but I think a program like this would be worth exploring.

Hillbilly Elegy is a good companion to Jeannette Walls’s The Glass Castle, one of my all-time favorite memoirs, which also tells the story of growing up poor in America. It’s becoming a movie soon.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi — Even though this book got so much buzz, I admit I had subdued expectations for another slavery read, thinking it couldn’t compare to Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. Was I ever wrong. Homegoing is one of the most epic novels I’ve read in quite some time, and I can’t believe something this rich was written by a first-time author in her twenties.

Two half-sisters in what is now Ghana are torn apart: one is captured and sold into slavery, and the other is married to a British slaver, remaining in Africa. Seven generations on each side of the family have their stories told in vignettes, one side in Africa and one side in America, bringing in topics from British colonialism and mental illness to living as an escaped slave and heroin addiction. The stories end in the present day.

More than any other novel I’ve read, Homegoing encapsulates how slavery may have technically ended but whites have found different ways to keep African-Americans enslaved in various horrifying forms ever since. Sadly, the people who need to realize this are the ones who won’t pick this book up in the first place.

What I Listened To This Month

Back in 2008, I went on my first solo trip ever — to Buenos Aires. While there, I hung out with an American guy named Louis. And while I always knew he was into music, Louis now is Kind Of A Big Deal in the music world — he’s part of the band Autograf. (Oh, and fun fact, loyal readers, he’s in one of those ten stories you loved so much…)

I hadn’t checked out his music until this month, but I watched the above video and fell in love with that song “Dream.” I kept listening — and now I seriously love all of their music. What a find!

Nuremberg Christmas Markets

Image: charley1965

Coming Up in December 2016

German Christmas markets, here I come! I’ve visited Germany around ten times or so, but I’ve actually never been during the Christmas season!

I’ll be spending just over a week in the Bavaria region, visiting Munich, Nuremberg, Regensburg, and Passau. (I’m now in Munich as this is being published.)

That’s it for travel this month. I still feel exhausted from my six-week adventure this fall and I need to seriously stick to my goal of cutting travel down to 25% of the time! I’ll be spending Christmas with my family in Massachusetts and I hope to spend New Year’s in New York.

What are your plans for December? Share away!

Photo: Philippe Put

Photo: Philippe Put

A trip to Singapore typically includes the latest tourist attractions such as the infinity pool on top of Marina Bay Sands, man-made Gardens by the Bay to re-dressing Sentosa island and Orchard Road over and over again and the UNESCO site of the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Yet for those who live here, there are other spots that we go to again and again. They are the familiar sights and tastes of what we know as truly local.

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

1. The Projector

 The ProjectorSingapore, SingaporeThe Projector is an old-time cinema that showcases indie movies and other eclectic titles. Due to the obscurity of its location and the niche movies it shows, this place is not within the radar of most except for the local arts and movie enthusiasts. Judging from the regular turnout for most screenings, this place is doing a decent job of providing an alternative entertainment option for the locals. #history #movietheater

The Projector is housed within Golden Mile Tower which, together with Golden Mile Complex, is thought of as “Little Thailand” in Singapore. Thai eateries abound and even a Thai supermarket can be found here.

2. Beach Road Prawn Mee Eating House

 Beach Road Prawn Mee Eating HouseSingapore, SingaporeThere may be many prawn mee (local slang for “noodles”) stalls scatter around this island but this eastern stall stands out from the ordinary. Simply put, big prawns, savoury pink stock that oozes sweetness from the prawns, tangy noodles with the right amount of springiness. This is quintessential local fare. #cheap-eats #localfood #localculture

This place holds special memories for many of us who used to grow up in this area. A typical lunch affair includes a hearty bowl of noodles and then an espresso at Penny University next door. While the architectural landscape has changed much, this eatery seems untouched.

3. Old School Delights

 Old School DelightsSingapore, SingaporeOn days when I just want some comfort food that reminds me of my mum’s cooking, I head down to this joint. Here, I can find my childhood dishes like Nasi Lemak or Kway Pie Ti served consistently in their fullest flavour. A little fact bite: the dishes hold a faint Peranakan tinge that pays homage to the owners’ heritage! #localfood

This venue has games like five stones and Old maid playing cards. With communal seating available in the bistro, it makes it easy for family and friends, young and old, to gather together for a good meal and fun on a weekend.

4. Mustafa Centre

 Mustafa CentreSingapore, SingaporeMustafa is a mega store wonderland. It carries anything and everything under the sun at a bargain, from stationeries, clothes, watches, electronics, toiletries, desserts to fruits, vegetables and meat. And best of all, it’s opened 24/7! I come here to run my errands when I can only get off the hook after 9pm. #bargains #nightlife #nightmarket #localculture #food

This place can be a lifesaver for many of us who work late at night and still need to run errands or buy last-minute groceries.

5. Queensway Shopping Centre

 Queensway Shopping CentreSingapore, SingaporeThis nondescript shopping centre has always been a regular bargain haunt for sporting and racket wares by the locals. Prices here are competitive so you may want to check out a few stores before plodding your money down. Best things are the little stalls tucked in various corners that sell local delectables to satisfy your tummy after a long day of shopping! #bargains #sports #localculture

Built in 1976 for the purpose of providing an outlet for recreational goods, the baby boomers grew up in this mall and judging from the regular crowd there, it is still serving the later generations well.

6. IMM

 IMMSingapore, SingaporeIMM is located at Jurong East, the western part of Singapore. Best time to visit this place is during off peak hours like weekdays, unless you want to soak in the crowded atmosphere. This shopping mall is within walking distance from Jurong East Interchange. #clothes #bargins

Orchard Road is not synonymous with shopping in Singapore. If you want to stretch that dollar and are looking for mid to high-end range of products, head down to IMM in the west. There are also other shopping malls in the vicinity to satisfy your shopping needs like Westgate, JCube and JEM, if IMM is not enough for you.

7. Ministry of Durian

 Ministry of DurianSingapore, SingaporeMinistry of Durian is located at Upper Paya Lebar Road, best to call prior visit just to ensure the Syrians are not sold out! There are buses from Serangoon MRT Station to reach here. #localculture #localfood

When it comes to durians, it can either be a love or hate affair. For many locals (and even some foreigners), this is a taste worth lining up. Ministry of Durian at Upper Paya Lebar Road attempts to demystify the various sub-species of durians with an introductory chart prior your order. This place can be a great entry point for those clueless in their first foray of durian tasting.

8. Dairy Farm Nature Park

 Dairy Farm Nature ParkSingapore, SingaporeSingapore may be better known for its water sports though there are still oasis of greenery on this small island. One of the regular hiking spots by the local community is the Dairy Farm Nature Park. There are many small hiking trails left by volunteers and it is always refreshing to discover new trails on each visit! #hiking #cityhike

It is not unusual to see couples, young children, joggers, cyclists and hikers sharing the same space on weekends. Be sure to pack sunscreen and mosquito repellant!

9. Geylang nightlife

 GeylangSingapore, SingaporeGeylang nightlife may be infamous for its red light district activities but it holds a lot more. Most notably, the locals come here for supper with its many choices. The buzz at night here can be quite a sight too! #localculture #food #casual #open-late #cheap-eats #nightlife

Many shops cater late in the night selling grocery, sundry and telco stuff to foreign workers. A visit to Geylang in the late hours can be an entertainment by itself. More like this: 15 perfect Instagram shots of Singapore

Photo: Philippe Put

Photo: Philippe Put

A trip to Singapore typically includes the latest tourist attractions such as the infinity pool on top of Marina Bay Sands, man-made Gardens by the Bay to re-dressing Sentosa island and Orchard Road over and over again and the UNESCO site of the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Yet for those who live here, there are other spots that we go to again and again. They are the familiar sights and tastes of what we know as truly local.

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

1. The Projector

 The ProjectorSingapore, SingaporeThe Projector is an old-time cinema that showcases indie movies and other eclectic titles. Due to the obscurity of its location and the niche movies it shows, this place is not within the radar of most except for the local arts and movie enthusiasts. Judging from the regular turnout for most screenings, this place is doing a decent job of providing an alternative entertainment option for the locals. #history #movietheater

The Projector is housed within Golden Mile Tower which, together with Golden Mile Complex, is thought of as “Little Thailand” in Singapore. Thai eateries abound and even a Thai supermarket can be found here.

2. Beach Road Prawn Mee Eating House

 Beach Road Prawn Mee Eating HouseSingapore, SingaporeThere may be many prawn mee (local slang for “noodles”) stalls scatter around this island but this eastern stall stands out from the ordinary. Simply put, big prawns, savoury pink stock that oozes sweetness from the prawns, tangy noodles with the right amount of springiness. This is quintessential local fare. #cheap-eats #localfood #localculture

This place holds special memories for many of us who used to grow up in this area. A typical lunch affair includes a hearty bowl of noodles and then an espresso at Penny University next door. While the architectural landscape has changed much, this eatery seems untouched.

3. Old School Delights

 Old School DelightsSingapore, SingaporeOn days when I just want some comfort food that reminds me of my mum’s cooking, I head down to this joint. Here, I can find my childhood dishes like Nasi Lemak or Kway Pie Ti served consistently in their fullest flavour. A little fact bite: the dishes hold a faint Peranakan tinge that pays homage to the owners’ heritage! #localfood

This venue has games like five stones and Old maid playing cards. With communal seating available in the bistro, it makes it easy for family and friends, young and old, to gather together for a good meal and fun on a weekend.

4. Mustafa Centre

 Mustafa CentreSingapore, SingaporeMustafa is a mega store wonderland. It carries anything and everything under the sun at a bargain, from stationeries, clothes, watches, electronics, toiletries, desserts to fruits, vegetables and meat. And best of all, it’s opened 24/7! I come here to run my errands when I can only get off the hook after 9pm. #bargains #nightlife #nightmarket #localculture #food

This place can be a lifesaver for many of us who work late at night and still need to run errands or buy last-minute groceries.

5. Queensway Shopping Centre

 Queensway Shopping CentreSingapore, SingaporeThis nondescript shopping centre has always been a regular bargain haunt for sporting and racket wares by the locals. Prices here are competitive so you may want to check out a few stores before plodding your money down. Best things are the little stalls tucked in various corners that sell local delectables to satisfy your tummy after a long day of shopping! #bargains #sports #localculture

Built in 1976 for the purpose of providing an outlet for recreational goods, the baby boomers grew up in this mall and judging from the regular crowd there, it is still serving the later generations well.

6. IMM

 IMMSingapore, SingaporeIMM is located at Jurong East, the western part of Singapore. Best time to visit this place is during off peak hours like weekdays, unless you want to soak in the crowded atmosphere. This shopping mall is within walking distance from Jurong East Interchange. #clothes #bargins

Orchard Road is not synonymous with shopping in Singapore. If you want to stretch that dollar and are looking for mid to high-end range of products, head down to IMM in the west. There are also other shopping malls in the vicinity to satisfy your shopping needs like Westgate, JCube and JEM, if IMM is not enough for you.

7. Ministry of Durian

 Ministry of DurianSingapore, SingaporeMinistry of Durian is located at Upper Paya Lebar Road, best to call prior visit just to ensure the Syrians are not sold out! There are buses from Serangoon MRT Station to reach here. #localculture #localfood

When it comes to durians, it can either be a love or hate affair. For many locals (and even some foreigners), this is a taste worth lining up. Ministry of Durian at Upper Paya Lebar Road attempts to demystify the various sub-species of durians with an introductory chart prior your order. This place can be a great entry point for those clueless in their first foray of durian tasting.

8. Dairy Farm Nature Park

 Dairy Farm Nature ParkSingapore, SingaporeSingapore may be better known for its water sports though there are still oasis of greenery on this small island. One of the regular hiking spots by the local community is the Dairy Farm Nature Park. There are many small hiking trails left by volunteers and it is always refreshing to discover new trails on each visit! #hiking #cityhike

It is not unusual to see couples, young children, joggers, cyclists and hikers sharing the same space on weekends. Be sure to pack sunscreen and mosquito repellant!

9. Geylang nightlife

 GeylangSingapore, SingaporeGeylang nightlife may be infamous for its red light district activities but it holds a lot more. Most notably, the locals come here for supper with its many choices. The buzz at night here can be quite a sight too! #localculture #food #casual #open-late #cheap-eats #nightlife

Many shops cater late in the night selling grocery, sundry and telco stuff to foreign workers. A visit to Geylang in the late hours can be an entertainment by itself. More like this: 15 perfect Instagram shots of Singapore

Photo: Michael  McCullough

Photo: Michael McCullough

There’s more reasons to get outdoors in Oregon than we can count, but here’s our top 18 locations in Oregon to get you out into nature when you’re craving some peace of mind.

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

Powell Butte Nature Park

 Powell Butte Nature ParkPortland, United StatesA beautiful, family friendly nature park with miles of scenic hiking trails and stunning views of downtown Portland and The Cascades. #hiking #portlandoregon #outdoors #nature #pacificnorthwest

Walk among mountains and wildlife at Powell Butte Nature Park, an extinct cinder cone volcano outside Southeast Portland. The park features 8 miles of trails for all experience levels, as well as stunning views of Mount Hood, Mount Saint Helens, The Cascades, and downtown Portland.

Tryon Creek State Natural Area

 Tryon Creek State Natural AreaPortland, United StatesA peaceful and beautiful place to hike, trail run, or ride within Portland city limits. The trails are well taken care of and it’s a great place to spend the day outside with four-legged friends. #hiking

Make your time in nature educational at Tryon Creek State Natural Area. The park’s Nature Center hosts weekly guided nature walks every Saturday. A hike through Tryon Creek includes several miles of trails, bridges, and wetland board walks.

Gorton Creek Falls

 Gorton Creek FallsCascade Locks, United StatesA short 1.2 mile out and back trail with 150 feet of elevation gain leads up to this beautiful waterfall. Best during the winter or spring as the water level is higher. #oregon

The Grotto

 The GrottoPortland, United StatesThe Grotto is a great place to escape the bustle of the city and wander through beautiful rose gardens and view statues, fountains, labyrinths, and take a quiet moment in the meditation center.

Breathe in serenity at The Grotto, a Catholic shrine and nature retreat in Northeast Portland. The Grotto’s upper and lower levels feature incredible gardens, a meditation centre, fountains, a labyrinth, and paved paths for leisurely strolls away from the bustle of the city.

Tryon Creek State Natural Area

 Tryon Creek State Natural AreaPortland, United StatesA peaceful and beautiful place to hike, trail run, or ride within Portland city limits. The trails are well taken care of and it’s a great place to spend the day outside with four-legged friends. #hiking

Mt. Hood Skibowl

 Mt. Hood SkibowlGovernment Camp, United StatesGreat for night skiing but even better during the summer. The alpine slide is a blast and the mountain biking trails are great for action junkies of all ages #mountainbiking #skiing #zipline #hiking #sledding #playground #funforteens #activekids #extreme #familyfriendly

Wahclella Falls

 Wahclella FallsCascade Locks, United StatesThis popular two mile roundtrip hike leads to this beautiful waterfall. The trail is well maintained and doesn’t have much elevation gain. #oregon #hiking

Powell Butte Nature Park

 Powell Butte Nature ParkPortland, United StatesA beautiful, family friendly nature park with miles of scenic hiking trails and stunning views of downtown Portland and The Cascades. #hiking #portlandoregon #outdoors #nature #pacificnorthwest

Sauvie Island

 Portland Japanese GardenPortland, United StatesLegendary American/Japanese Garden that blends traditional structure and style with native plants. Absolutely worth the price, if only to spend an hour listening to bamboo fountains while admiring the view of Mt Hood #outdoor #meditation #naturalambiance #japaneseculture #treasure #garden

Lost Lake Resort

 Lost Lake ResortCascade Locks, United StatesA sweet view of Mount Hood reflecting on the lake? Check. Tent sites, cabins and a general store? Yup, it’s all here. I’ll be back… #mountain #lakes #camping #hiking #photoop

Elowah Falls

 Elowah FallsCascade Locks, United StatesOne of my favorite places to visit in the Columbia River Gorge. It’s best in the winter or spring when the water level is highest, like in this photo. #hiking

Portland Japanese Garden

 Portland Japanese GardenPortland, United StatesLegendary American/Japanese Garden that blends traditional structure and style with native plants. Absolutely worth the price, if only to spend an hour listening to bamboo fountains while admiring the view of Mt Hood #outdoor #meditation #naturalambiance #japaneseculture #treasure #garden

Ponytail Falls

 Ponytail FallsCascade Locks, United StatesAs I hiked along the Horsetail Falls Loop, the terrain led me behind an 80ft waterfall without much of a fuss. Ponytail Falls was the second waterfall on the trail where I could photograph from a variety of angles and have direct access to getting refreshed by the waterfall’s mist. The cavern below the volcanic rock provides a unique viewpoint behind Ponytail Falls. #hiking #oregon #waterfalls #horsetailfallsloop

Eastbank Esplanade

 Eastbank EsplanadePortland, United StatesOne of Portland’s biggest quality-of-life successes is also one of the best ways to enjoy the Willamette River- the heart of Portland. Good for kids, especially if you rent the frilly quad bikes at the end of Salmon Street #hiking #playground #biking #waterfront #touristspots #parks

Tom McCall Waterfront Park

 Tom McCall Waterfront ParkPortland, United StatesA lovely, short walk along the Willamette River with views of the city and skyline. #portlandoregon #pacificnorthwest #waterfront #nature #outdoors

Find nature right in downtown Portland at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Walk along the banks of the Willamette River and take in the view of Portland’s bridges and cityscape, and even spot Mount Hood on a clear day.

Oneonta Gorge

 Oneonta GorgeCascade Locks, United StatesOneonta Gorge is one of the most unique places in the Columbia River Gorge. The short hike to a waterfall takes you over a log jam and up a stream in a tight gorge. The water is really cold and you do have to wade through a small section of it but the experience and view of the waterfall at the end makes it worth it.

Multnomah Falls

 Multnomah FallsCascade Locks, United StatesThis beautiful waterfall is just the tip of the Columbia Gorge. Be sure to check it the Historic Columbia Highway and Punchbowl Falls in the summer! #waterfall #scenicviews #naturewalk #familyfriendly #camping #hiking #funforteens

Mt. Hood National Forest

 Mt. Hood National ForestSandy, United StatesOregon is home to some of the most scenic forests I have ever driven through. SR 35 is part of the Mount Hood Scenic Loop where I stood staring up at the towering 11,000 plus feet face of Mount Hood. #hiking #snow #camping #oregon #pnw #scenicdrive

More like this: 15 perfect Instagram shots of Singapore

Let me show you a world that is too often misunderstood.

Women gossiping in a park.

Istanbul, 2013.

Soft sand, palm trees, and some of the bluest waters you’ve ever seen.

Senggigi, Indonesia, 2011.

Bikes and bread and girls in matching dresses.

Prizren, Kosovo, 2013.

Camel rides at sunrise.

Wadi Rum, Jordan, 2011.

Chilled out beach resorts.

Ksamil, Albania, 2015.

Opulence.

Dubai, 2013

New friends who are dressed a million times better than you.

Amman, 2011.

 

Bridges across the divide.

Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2012.

Best friends forever.

Brunei Darussalam, 2014.

Desert dunes.

Wadi Rum, Jordan, 2013.

Graffitied pyramids dwarfing cities.

Tirana, Albania, 2015.

Whirling dervishes.

Istanbul, 2013.

Women with style.

Kuala Lumpur, 2010.

Reverence for American leaders.

Prishtina, Kosovo, 2013.

Mocktails made with gold leaf and camel milk.

Dubai, 2013.

Ruins that could rival anything in Rome.

Jerash, Jordan, 2011.

The call to prayer beautifully punctuating the day.

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam, 2014.

Bazaars packed with traditional goods.

Istanbul, 2013.

Bridges, mosques, minarets, and fortresses.

Prizren, Kosovo, 2013.

World wonders.

Petra, Jordan, 2011.

Daredevils showing off for the camera.

Koh Lanta, Thailand, 2014.

Olives. Lots and lots of olives.

Istanbul, 2013.

Fiery curries, not a bite of pork in sight.

Koh Lanta, Thailand, 2015.

Cevapciki with pita, sausages, and the only time you’ll ever willingly eat raw onions.

Sarajevo, 2012.

Pink sunsets over the Mediterranean.

Fethiye, Turkey, 2011.

Pink sunsets over Lombok.

Lombok, Indonesia, 2011.

Pink sunsets over the Bosphorus.

Istanbul, 2013.

Pink sunsets over the Andaman.

Koh Lanta, Thailand, 2015.

Spellbinding traditional architecture.

Istanbul, 2013.

UNESCO World Heritage-listed architecture.

Berat, Albania, 2015.

Avant-garde architecture.

Prishtina, Kosovo, 2013.

Gold-domed mosques that bring together colorful streets.

Singapore, 2011.

And the tallest building in the world.

Dubai, 2013.

Not to mention the largest flag in the world.

Amman, 2011.

Tea served in tulip-shaped glasses.

Istanbul, 2011.

Tea cooked over an open fire.

Petra, Jordan, 2011.

High tea overlooking a luxurious city.

Dubai, 2013.

Young men who live on the edge.

Istanbul, 2013.

Young men who died far too young.

Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2013.

Feeling at home. And welcomed.

Ajloun, Jordan, 2011.

Did I ever feel in danger?

Not once.

Beauty, joy, friendship, and the best hospitality in the world — this is just a fraction of what the Islamic world has to offer. And this doesn’t even count western countries with sizable Muslim populations, like London and Paris, nor places where I interact with Muslims daily, like my home city of New York.

Looking back, I thought that Islamophobia would slowly decrease in the years following 9/11. Now, it seems to be worse than ever. Considering how Islamophobia is ricocheting across America and the globe right now, I think it’s vital to change perceptions by sharing the truth about these beautiful, welcoming destinations.

I’m adding another priority of 2017: to visit at least one new Islamic region or country, and hopefully more. That could be Uzbekistan or Tunisia, Oman or Azerbaijan, Western China or Northern India or Turkish Cyprus.

In the seven years that I’ve been publishing this site, my goal has been to show women that they shouldn’t let fear stop them from traveling the world. Now I want to change perceptions about this oft-misunderstood region.

Have you traveled in the Islamic world? What did you enjoy the most?

In China’s southern Guangxi province, Yangshuo sits between karst peaks near the confluence of the Li and Yulong Rivers. From top to bottom, West Street (西街) is lined with handicraft gift shops and laid back eateries and bars. Be sure to haggle with local vendors and don’t be too surprised if local Chinese, including seniors, have some command of English.

Yangshuo has become a go-to spot for backpackers, party-goers, sightseers, and climbers but only a short distance outside the township, Yangshuo County remains rural and idyllic. Here are five reasons why despite growing crowds Yangshuo remains China’s ultimate backpacker retreat.

1. Climbing

With its thousands of karst peaks, Guilin has world class crags and climbing routes. The first local peaks were pioneered by German climbers in the mid-1980s. Then routes were opened up by American and Chinese climbers in the early 1990s. Now there are over 800 sport climbing routes. Guilin’s popularity is based upon the many and varied routes, the quality of the rock, the accessibility of the peaks and its low cost.

Rent equipment at one of the many downtown climbing clubs. Popular local routes include the aptly named Swiss Cheese, a pockmarked karst cliff excellent for lower to intermediate climbers with its thirteen different routes varying from 10 to 35 meters in height, plus another eight routes on another face.

2. Cycling

With flat winding country paths along rivers and ancient villages, cycling is by far the best way to explore the region, especially Yangshuo and the Li and Yulong river valleys. Bicycle hire is near ubiquitous in Yangshuo.

Most Yangshuo guesthouses offer bike rental service of some description. At the low end expect to pay around RMB20 for a rusty roadster, whereas RMB120 at the other end of the scale will get you a serious mountain bike.

3. Hiking

With thousands of limestone peaks in Yangshuo, there are abundant hikes up the karst hills, as well as countryside trails that take in rural life of the Yulong Valley. There are many established parks with pagodas or pavilions adorning the peak, as well as some untouched summits to scale.

It is possible to engage a local guide to help navigate the fields and peaks of Yangshuo and price is negotiable. All trails are not necessarily clearly marked and the assistance of a local guide can assist in finding the right path.

4. Caving

Yangshuo’s karst topography not only extends to the spectacular pinnacles above ground, but also under the surface of the earth. Below ground Yangshuo also has a vast array of sinkholes, dolines (a depression, where the surface crust has collapsed), underground streams and rivers; as well as caves (the most in Guangxi). Yangshuo has an abundance of caves riddling the limestone mountains and the more thrill-seeking spelunkeans pursuing an adventure sports experience should seek the assistance of one of the rock climbing clubs.

Some caves are unregulated and you need to take responsibility for your own safety and avail yourself of an experienced guide. The most popular of these caves are the Buddha Cave and the Longmen Water Cave.

5. Boating

Whether you wish to go darting up and down the Li River in a faux bamboo plastic speedboat, or take a bamboo raft up and down the dykes of the Yulong, or perhaps go white-water rafting north of Xingping, options abound. It’s popular to rent real chauffeured bamboo raft-punts on the Yulong River. These either take you on a lap of a section of the Yulong or for the more intrepid, they can take you across one of the dykes for a splash.

Days out tubing on the river can be arranged at Monkey Jane’s guest house on West Beach, or tubes can be hired on the Secret Beach, 1km west of Yangshuo Wharf.

Getting there

Most visitors to Yangshuo will arrive first in the provincial capital of Guilin. The Guilin scenic area is served by Guilin Liangjiang International Airport, a two-hour drive from Yangshuo. More than 60 international airlines connect Guilin with 30 international cities, including Hong Kong and Singapore. High speed rail is also an excellent way to arrive in Guilin, with several daily services from Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

Where to stay

Da Huwai 大户外 5-1,Mushanzha,Dongling Rd, Yangshuo County.

Courtyard hotel in the Yanshuo countryside on the road to Fuli, which under the tutelage of its idealistic owner Simon is far more than a guesthouse but a centre for international exchange where guests can learn about Chinese culture, language, and cooking.

Where to dine

Le Votre 乐得法式餐厅 79 West street, Yangshuo County Prestigious French run hotel and restaurant in central West Street, offering French classics suchas Escargots a la Francaise (RMB50), while other specialties include stewed chicken (RMB45). The restaurant also hits the spot with its bacon and eggs breakfast.

Remote CEO

Photo: Tranmautritam

I’m the kind of person who believes in the magical life-enhancing properties of travel. Whether it’s for business or pleasure (the two, as far as I’m concerned, aren’t mutually exclusive anyway, but that’s a whole other story), traveling encourages the movement of ideas and helps us all see the world from new perspectives. That mission — spreading ideas and innovation beyond borders — is what I’m working on with Jobbatical, the global hiring platform I co-founded a bit more than two years ago.

My most hardcore travel extravaganza of recent years — or perhaps of all time )) happened in September 2016, when over a one-month period my travel trajectory went like this: Estonia-Singapore-Malaysia-Singapore-Malaysia-Australia-Malaysia-Japan-Malaysia-Singapore-Estonia. What looks like a serious accident with a typewriter is, in fact, just par for the course when you’re the founder of a startup with global reach.

My most recent absence from the Jobbatical office was also precisely one month long. Enough time, apparently, for my desk to be reassigned to a new team member. Now I’m a digital nomad in my own office, with no desk to call home. It’s a small price to pay for the privilege of getting to see so much of the world — and there are plenty of comfy beanbags to choose from (as required by startup law), so my loss isn’t that great.

Over the course of that fateful month, I did my work from the USA, Costa Rica, Panama, and the USA again. For me, working on the go is the new normal. We humans tend to get used to situations pretty easily if they repeat often enough. As soon as I open my computer or my smartphone, it’s like I’m entering my office virtually. In many ways, it doesn’t feel that different from being in the same room with the rest of the team.

In reality, of course, working remotely requires a different structure of communication and I’m still learning how to be present for the team even when I’m on the other side of the planet. Our team as a whole has learned countless lessons over the past year. Getting a constantly growing startup team to work as a unit when people are distributed all across the globe has been the learning experience of a lifetime. Managing expectations, wrangling time zones, and keeping communication flowing freely — all the while remembering that people are just people, wherever they are )) is a balancing act for all of us. With the use of tools like Slack, Asana, Timetastic, and the art of common sense, I think we’re getting close to uncovering the secrets of efficient remote work.

To stay connected while I’m away, I like to carry my team in my pocket (in smartphone form) and share snippets of my travel experiences. In Costa Rica, while I was interviewing a senior sales candidate for Jobbatical via video call, I suddenly spotted a huge iguana. I cut our discussion off, ran to the iguana and showed my interviewee the tiny monster via our video call. Team Jobbatical knows me well enough not to be surprised when this sort of thing happens. They’ve all seen footage of me being chased by monkeys on a morning run in Malaysia. In the same vein, my regular announcements of “I almost missed my flight because this crazy thing happened” don’t even raise an eyebrow anymore. But the candidate was rendered quite speechless by my little adventure with the iguana.

I’m not afraid to declare that I love the world and its creatures in all their weirdness, and I believe that sharing such moments of genuine emotion helps shape a culture of openness. And beyond that, it’s just fun!

It’s not just the work aspect of remote work that can be challenging. I myself am lucky enough to be highly adaptable to time differences, and my 4-year-old is also already a master of traveling, having accompanied me on so many of these trips. My personal struggle is the fact that I have Restless Legs Syndrome, which becomes quite torturous on long flights. That’s one reason I’m crazy about collecting frequent flyer miles and bargaining possible upgrades to Business Class (for the bed). Another thing I’ve found is it is essential to be well prepared for in frequent flying are the effects it has on your skin. On long flights, I always have to wear the most moisturizing face masks, even if it means my fellow passengers see me as the lady with the scary face for the rest of the flight.

On balance, it’s obvious that these are minor inconveniences. What’s a patch of dry skin compared to the extraordinary privilege of being able to build and lead a startup team from the lush jungles of Costa Rica? What could be more rewarding and eye-opening than meeting clients from NYC to Singapore, hearing their stories, and working with them to build a more open world? Restless legs or not, I can’t think of anything I would rather do with my life. More like this: How are the digital nomads changing the World's cities

Lonely Planet Singapore (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

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

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Singapore, our most comprehensive guide to Singapore, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less travelled.

Looking for just the highlights of Singapore? Check out Pocket  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 MalaysiaSingapore & Brunei guide for a comprehensive look at all the region has to offer, or check out our Discover MalaysiaSingapore & 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.

Top 10 Singapore (Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guide)

Jennifer Eveland

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Top 10 Singapore is your pocket guide to the very best of Singapore.

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 

Singapore Travel Guide 2017: Singapore in a Nutshell

Jennifer Trump

Singapore Travel Guide 2017 - Singapore in a Nutshell  Singapore Travel Guide 2017 is the Ultimate Book for people who want to see the most of Singapore in minimal Time. So you don’t need a week to read it. Use your free time to explore Singapore and not for reading a endless Travel Guide or a Singapore Map. Just read this book and Enjoy your Time in Singapore. Full-colour Picture to get a Overview what you get Highlights to find only the hottest Spots Cultural Singapore will give you a overview of the capital city you travel to You find all Areas like 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 much more to visit

Singapore 55 Secrets - The Locals Travel Guide For Your Trip to Singapore 2016: Skip the tourist traps and explore like a local : Where to Go, Eat & Party in Singapore

55 Secrets

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 SingaporeSingapore , things to do in SingaporeSingapore map, Singapore lonely planet, Singapore fc, its always sunny in SingaporeSingapore trip, Victoria , Visit , Singapore , Singapore guide,craigslist Singapore, city of Singapore , singapore airlines

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Malaysia & Singapore

DK

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Malaysia and Singapore is your in-depth guide to the very best of this region.

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.

Discover DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Malaysia and Singapore

   • Detailed itineraries and "don't-miss" destination highlights at a glance.    • Illustrated cutaway 3-D drawings of important sights.    • Floor plans and guided visitor information for major museums.    • Guided walking tours, local drink and dining specialties to try, things to do, and places to eat, drink, and shop by area.    • Area maps marked with sights and restaurants.    • Detailed city map of 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.

Singapore in 3 Days: The Definitive Tourist Guide Book That Helps You Travel Smart and Save Time

Finest City Guides

There are likely hundreds of tourist guides about Singapore available to travelers, but we have created a specialized e-book that will be helpful for people who, due to time constrictions or business connections, may only be spending a few days here. There is plenty to see and do, and we’ve gathered the best for you, so you won’t miss anything during your stay. Even if you will be spending more than several days in this exciting locale, this book will help you determine what sites you should definitely make time to see, and how to get around without problems in this city-state. It will save you time and money. Here is a quick preview of what you will learn in this tourist guide: • Basic information about Singapore  • Flying into town • Transportation tips in town • Why Singapore is such an attractive tourist spot and what you will find most remarkable about it • Information on luxury, mid-grade and budget accommodations and what you’ll get for your money • The currency used in Singapore  • Tourist attractions you should make time to see • Other attractions for entertainment and culture • Events that may be running during your stay • Tips on the best places to eat & drink for all price points, whether you want simple fare or dishes from the world over Within this guide, you will find up-to-date information about the most important things you’ll want to see and do in Singapore. They include the city’s historical buildings, examples of early Malaysian architecture and other types of attractions. If you are interested in the culture of the area, Singapore hosts festivals and other events that you’ll definitely want to attend. You’ll be able to easily plan your trip without spending extra money. This guide is perfect for single travelers, couples or families traveling in Singapore. We’ll also recommend some basic facts to keep in mind during your vacation or business trip to Singapore. They include tipping habits, travel tips and more.

Lonely Planet Pocket Singapore (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

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 MalaysiaSingapore & 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.

Singapore: Then and Now®

Grylls Vaughan

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.

Exercise normal security precautions

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.

Crime

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.

Transportation

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.

Piracy

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.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

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

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

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.

Influenza

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

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

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

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 Vaccination

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.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

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!


Insects

Insects and Illness

In Southeastern Asia, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, lymphatic filariasis, and malaria.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Dengue fever
  • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.

Malaria

Malaria

There is no risk of malaria in this country.


Animals

Animals and Illness

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.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

Hand, foot and mouth disease

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.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Excellent medical care is available. Medical services are costly, and payment is required up front.

Health tip

Unrestricted burning in Sumatra and Kalimantan, in Indonesia, periodically causes atmospheric pollution (haze) to rise to unhealthy levels, especially from June to October. Levels change quickly and should be closely monitored. For more information on the air pollution in Singapore and daily health advisories on the haze situation, refer to the Ministry of Health and the National Environment Agency.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Laws

For more information on the legal system in Singapore, consult the High Commission of Canada in Singapore.

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.

An International Driving Permit is recommended. For information about conversion of a foreign driver’s licence, contact the Singapore Police Force.

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.

Money

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.

Climate

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.