Travel Planner: Singapore

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It has a worldwide reputation as a shoppers’ paradise, and when Singaporeans tell you shopping is a national sport in their country, they’re not joking. Modern air-conditioned shopping malls and traditional markets are literally everywhere, and the Singapore experience is very much a “soft landing” into Asia. From the efficient underground train system and regulated and inexpensive taxis, to its tree-lined streets and overall cleanliness for a busy city (there really is no litter anywhere), it is the model of efficiency which has earned it the nickname “the Switzerland of Asia”. But that’s not to say it lacks charm and diversity. 

Need to Know: 

Location: South East Asia.

Language: English, Mandarin, Tamil and Malay.

Money: Singapore dollar. There are plenty of ATM’s as you arrive at Changi Airport and throughout the city. If you need to change money, banks tend to offer better exchange rates than currency exchange bureaus, but you may need to have your passport on hand. Credit cards are widely accepted but check for any surcharges especially on American Exprress.  

Time Difference: GMT +8 hours. 

Getting around: The Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) stations are cheap and efficient and should get you to within walking distance of most major attractions, however, taxis are plentiful and fairly inexpensive.  

When To Go: It’s hot and humid in Singapore year round and temperatures rarely drop below 31C during the day. December and January tend to be a little cooler, with the hottest months being April and May. 

Tipping: You’re not obliged to tip in Singapore and usually only upmarket restaurants leave an option to add a gratuity. If you feel the need because of outstanding service, 10% is plenty. 

Where To Stay: 

Hotels are pricey in Singapore and if you’re looking for a bargain, you’ll have to really search around. If you want the quintessential Singapore experience, the iconic Raffles Hotel is hard to beat, while the Marina Bay Sands will hit you with the ultimate ‘wow’ factor. There's also a slew of established five star hotels like the Marina Mandarin, which has the bonus of views back towards the Marina Bay Sands, also The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore, which has floor to ceiling windows offering unobstructed views of the city skyline and Marina Bay.

Sightseeing Essentials 

* Tuck into noodles in Chinatown 

Although European, Malay and Indian culture remain an integral part of Singapore, its heart and soul is undoubtedly Chinese, and a visit to Chinatown is the best way to get acquainted with the dominant culture of Singapore. Street vendors hawk everything from fruit and vegetables to slabs of meat, fast food, Bhuddist symbols, lucky charms, shoe repairs, hair cuts, massages, and fortune telling. It’s also where the locals meet and eat, which is an essential part of Singaporean life, and a meal at one of Chinatown’s busy food halls is an experience which is uplifting for the soul, and very easy on the wallet. In the chaos, clattering and confusion ordering the food may seem a little tricky but a simple point-at-the-food-you-want strategy works perfectly well. 

* Explore Little India

A great escape from the rampant consumerism is the tiny enclave known as Little India. As you emerge from the train station, it’s like arriving in the centre of Mumbai and it’s a vibrant and intoxicating slice of a culture that has not just survived, but thrived, in the heart of modern Asia. Little India has become one of Singapore’s major attractions thanks to the fact that it’s not only an authentic snapshot of the sub-Continent, but it’s also the island nation’s finest example of a preserved historical district. From the main drag of Serangoon Road, which stretches for almost a kilometre, there is a complex network of smaller streets and alleyways. Here, the sari and gold shops provide an explosion of colour, the aromas of the spice shops and perfume shops compete, the smell of vat-cooked curries hang in the air, and the sounds of shrill Indian pop music blaring from shop fronts becomes a soundtrack. 

* The Raffles Experience 

Whatever you do during the day, this is the quintessential Singapore experience and the Raffles sums up the city’s vibrant colonial history. Named after Singapore’s founder, Sir Stamford Raffles, the hotel opened in 1887 with 10 rooms spread across two wings. With its garden setting and classical architecture, the hotel has since morphed into an icon where famous names in literature such as Somerset Maugham, Herman Hesse and Rudyard Kipling have stayed in one of its many rooms that come complete with public verandas for inspiration – one of the first in Singapore back then. Raffles Hotel’s The Long Bar is also home to the legendary Singapore Sling, originally concocted by Ngiam Tong Boon, one of its bartenders. 


For first timers, a City Sightseeing Hop-on-Hop-off Tour is a great way to get to know Singapore. It costs around A$40 and features two routes with 37 stops which take in most of the city’s major attractions. 

Best Happy Snap 

From the top of Marina Bay Sands you’ll get a stunning panorama of Singapore at the Sands SkyPark Observation Deck and the best time is just before sunset when the landscape transforms into a glittering sea of lights.  

Eating And Drinking 

It’s a city renowned as a shoppers’ paradise but the Lion City is also gaining a reputation as one of the world’s great food destinations. Eating out seems like a full time occupation for the locals in Singapore and for good reason. It doesn’t take much to sniff out an inexpensive gem, be it on a main street, a back street or in the middle of a shopping mall. For an authentic hawker centre try the Lau Pau Sat Festival Market (18 Raffles Quay) which is Singapore’s first food centre situated right in the centre of the CBD and is open 24 hours, and Gluttons Bay Food Centre (8 Raffles Avenue, Esplanade) is a good spot and it’s popular with both locals and tourists and has stunning views of the Singapore skyline.  

Shopping And Souvenirs 

The undisputed epicentre of Singapore’s shopping world is Orchard Road. Named after the many nutmeg and pepper plantations which lined the streets in the 1840’s, it’s a leafy boulevard which stretches from Plaza Singapura in the east to Tanglin Mall in the west. Singaporeans will tell you that everyone shops on Orchard Road, especially if they’re in the market for clothes or shoes, but here you can just as easily find Chinese calligraphy and Thai silk, along with a Prada handbag or an iPod. Orchard Road can be a daunting prospect to an untrained shopper. It stretches for more than a kilometre-and-a-half and has three train (MRT) stations covering two-thirds of it; if you have the energy - not to mention deep pockets - you could easily spend a couple of days here exploring. Air-conditioned, underground walkways run almost the entire length of Orchard Road, providing respite from the tropical heat and humidity. 

Hot Tip 

Singapore also offers a slice of beach life to escape the city on Sentosa, just off the southern tip of Singapore. It’s a tropical island with rainforests, white sand beaches and wildlife and after a sightseeing/shopping frenzy on the mainland, it’s a welcome relief to be overlooking the South China Sea with tropical birds cartwheeling above. Rainforest covers 70% of the 500-hectare island and is home to monkeys, peacocks, monitor lizards, parrots and other native flora and fauna. But it’s actually part-wildnerness/part-theme park and set in amongst the natural beauty are more than 30 man-made tourist attractions such as the revolving cabin of the Sky Tower which offers a 360 degree view of Singapore and the southern islands. And there’s Asia’s first Universal Studios, the Wave House which has wave pools for learners and experienced surfers, Dolphin Lagoon, Underwater World, Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom, and a range of top hotels and restaurants.

Ben Hall


  • 4
    I love Singapore

    Posted by Mauvehaze on 22nd Jan 2019

    After checking in at my hotel I head off to the MRT for a ticket that will cover me for my time there, if you go to Singapore often enough it doesn't expire, you just top it up again. I nip off to Chinatown for the shopping, a cool beer and food. I'm usually there for at least three hours. A visit to The Singapore Sling Boutique on Clarke Quay takes care of the afternoon and I wander off for food on either Clarke or Boat Quay or a cruise along the river. Little India, Bugis Street, Gardens by the Bay, the Lotus-Shaped Singapore ArtScience Museum, Suntec Convention & Exhibition Centre, Theatres on the Bay, Singapore Flyer, Helix Bridge and the Merlion Statue are all worth a visit and always on my itinerary. The Singapore ArtScience Museum is always worth a visit, prices are reasonable, I've seen the Harry Potter exhibtion and Andy Warhol exhibition there. Christmas on Orchard road is a wonderful sight if you're there in December. Whenever I'm in transit through Singapore I stop for four days at least as there is always something new to see there. I'm eating my way along both Clarke Quay and Boat Quay often returning to where I've eaten before to try something else on their menu. Relax and enjoy your visit. This article is inspiring, Hawker Centres/ Food Centres are great for food and atmosphere.

  • 4
    Going There At Christmas

    Posted by Julia on 17th Sep 2018

    We're stopping over there for a few days at Christmas and I can't wait. First time travellers to there. Staying at a resort on Sentosa Island and cant wait to explore!