Singapore Travel Guide

Singapore - Around Town

General Observations

  1. Singapore is a clean, green and modern city. I had already expected that, but it was still impressive to witness in person.
  2. Good skyscraper architecture
  3. Unlike most of SE Asia—and most still developing countries—tap water in Singapore is perfectly safe to drink.
  4. The electrical outlets are of the UK variety so you will probably need an adapter. My hostel had some on hand to lend but you should probably plan to bring your own.
  5. Singapore has a reputation for strictly enforcing laws like jaywalking eating on public transportation, littering, chewing gum, etc. and fines can be substantial.

How Long Do You Need in Singapore?

As a single city destination, you might guess the number of things to see and do in Singapore would be somewhat limited, but that is not true. You can easily spend a couple of weeks exploring the city, especially if you have the budget for some of the many more expensive activities. I spent 5 nights there but as I arrived and departed in the afternoon I ended up with four full days to explore. I was able to see everything on my list but I had to really hustle to do so and my list didn’t even include some of the more popular attractions (e.g., Universal Studios, zoo) and I would have preferred to take a more relaxed approach. So, for my itinerary a full week would have been better and I think that is a good amount of time for a visit, though if you have the time and budget, ten days or even two weeks would be great.

Money and Budget

If you are a backpacker touring SE Asia, you will be unpleasantly surprised by how expensive Singapore is. If you are visiting from a more expensive country in the West, expect similar prices. I traveled cheaply, staying in a hostel, eating at hawker centers, and avoiding most of the paid attractions (not so much because I was overly concerned about my budget but because there were free alternatives I wanted to do). Given that, for five nights I spent S$200 for everything. I also walked a lot because that is my preferred way to explore a place and get some exercise not because I wanted to save money. So, I think my expenses should probably serve as a lower baseline (~S$40 per day).

Most ticket and tour prices are fairly expensive, so if you plan to do many of those you should expect to spend much more. I didn’t see many discounts advertised but some are available. My hostel didn’t promote any (and I neglected to ask) but as I walked by another hostel in Chinatown I saw a sign advertising discounts and was able to buy entry to the cloud forest dome at Gardens by the Bay for 25% off (S$12 vs. the normal $S16) though they told me the OCBC Skywalk doesn’t offer any discount.

I am not a drinker alcohol in Singapore is expensive thanks to high taxes. If tying one on is a big part of your travel style or even if you just want to try the famous Singapore Sling, prepare to increase your budget.

I read that credit cards are widely accepted by restaurants, supermarkets, and shopping centers, but a minimum purchase of $20 often applies. I used only cash so I cannot speak from personal experience. Tipping is also not common in Singapore, but sometimes a service charge is automatically added to your bill, though not at the hawker centers.

Weather

Being very close to the equator, the weather is pretty similar all year, though some months are rainier than others. I visited in February, which is said to be the driest month and indeed I only experienced about 10 minutes of light rain, though I have read elsewhere that you should plan for rain all year so perhaps I just had good luck. I carried a small umbrella at all times to be safe. While it is indeed hot and humid, it wasn’t quite as bad as I expected and I found the evenings to be comfortable, though I am used to warm weather living so your experience may differ. Also note that another result of its geographical location is that sunrise and sunset are about the same time (07:30/19:30) all year. I never saw a good sunset during my trip but I don’t know if that was unique to my stay, common for February or due to some other circumstances. Perhaps it was because I didn’t get any rain.

Transportation

Everyone says Singapore’s public transportation is excellent and I agree. You can go most places you want to visit via the MRT, and I had no problem catching a bus to and from MacRitchie Reservoir for the nature trail. Both MRT and buses are clean, comfortable and air-conditioned and during my visit I never failed to get a seat nor did I ever have to wait more than a few minutes.

Train and Bus Options

To use Singapore’s public transportation, there are four options:

  1. Cash. You can only pay cash to ride the bus, though doing so is not recommended due to the inconvenience involved (the driver will have to make change and calculate your fare based on distance to your destination).
  2. Standard ticket. A standard ticket can only be used on MRT and LRT but it can be used up to six times within 30 days. The purchase price includes a deposit of 10 cents and this is automatically refunded on the travel fare of the third trip. A user also enjoys a 10-cent discount on the sixth trip. Note that at some popular stations during high traffic times buying a single ticket can mean a long wait to use the automated machines.
  3. EZ-Link Card. This is a rechargeable card that lets you easily swipe to access and pay for MRT, Bus, and LRT. There is a non-refundable S$5 fee to purchase that card, though you can return it at the end of your visit and get your balance refunded. You also get cheaper per-ride fares using the card, so if you use it enough (I think about a dozen times or so) it ends up saving you at least the cost of purchase. Note that the minimum top-up is S$10 and you need a minimum balance of S$3.50 to use the card.
  4. Singapore Tourist Pass. You can buy a 1-day (S$10), 2-day ($16) or 3-day ($20) pass that gives you unlimited travel on MRT, Bus and LRT. There is a S$10 deposit as well, which you get back when you return the card, though you must do so within six days from the date it was first issued. The tourist pass can be a great option, but note that a day ends at midnight rather than 24 hours after activating so if you fly in late in the afternoon or evening, it might be better to buy a single trip ticket to your hotel and then start using the tourist pass the next day. Also note that you can either buy another pass using the same card if you need more than three days or you can choose to use it as an EZ-Link card after your days have expired by topping up.

However you pay for your trips, having a mobile app to help you get from one place to another is a good idea. The best app available is Gothere, though it won’t work offline and is only available on iOS or on the Web. Singapore MRT LRT Offline (iOS) is another option, but it doesn’t work with GPS so you will need to know starting and ending stations. Google Maps is always a good option, but even though you can download the Singapore map for offline use, you cannot use the directions feature offline. Other general purpose public transport apps worth trying include Citymapper, Moovit, or MétrO (only the latter works offline for route creation).

Walking

Depending on how much you like to walk and your tolerance of the heat and humidity, walking is a great way to see the sights and architecture of the city. You can easily hop on the MRT when there are just a few things you want to see, but sometimes the distance between things is such that walking is about as convenient as the distance to and from the relevant MRT stations. There are also some great walks/hikes worth doing if you are up for the extra punishment on your feet.

Cycling

One thing I noticed everywhere I went were the bicycle sharing bikes. I never used one myself and this is probably the one thing I would do differently and recommend to you since zipping around on a bicycle would be a good way not to miss anything whi