If I had to sum up Singapore in one word it would be – efficient. Everything just seems to work, it’s a city that is highly developed in technology and infrastructure due to it’s position as a major shipping/exporting hub of the world. Yet, at the same time it’s not unlike it’s neighbors in South East Asia in that it’s still a place where you can find the most authentic cuisine for next to nothing in price.
For the most part, Singaporeans speak excellent English and all the signs are in English too which makes navigating around super easy! It’s also not a huge place so it’s very achievable to see most of what the city has to offer in only a few days – I traveled there with one of my best friends, here’s a guide based on our experiences!
In managing to secure a 2 -for- 1 deal on our flights to Singapore with Jetstar my friend and I decided to therefore splurge a little more of the budget on accommodation since we only were away for four nights. Paired with a great deal we took the plunge and splashed out for two nights at Marina Bay Sands – SO WORTH IT.
Whether you stay at the hotel or not it is arguably the most amazing structure in the country and anyone can pay around SG $20 (around $19 AUD) to go to the top and experience the view – and in my opinion it’s well worth the money. Unfortunately, only guests can use the pool however you can still visit the roof top bar and enjoy the view for a little longer this way.
A beach on Sentosa
Sentosa Island is a popular place for families to stay as it’s where you will find all of Singapore’s amusement parks under the veil of ‘Resorts World’. The island is reached by either cable car or a monorail. We took the monorail which was around SG $5 (around $4 AUD). There are also man made beaches with cute little cafes along side but to be perfectly honest I wouldn’t go out of my way to see the ‘beaches’ as they’re nothing too special in themselves, it’s really more about the theme parks here.
As it was close to October 31st, Universal Studios each year holds a special event called Halloween Horror Nights which runs for a few weeks and the park is open from 7pm – 1am specially for this. It was AMAZINGLY worth going to in the end since of course not many families are around at this time which means the lines are much shorterl! On top of this the staff are dressed FRIGHTENINGLY well and jump out at you from the dark whenever and wherever they please as you walk around all night, it really is scary!! There are drinks available for sale in the shape of blood bags and syringes and one of the highlights is the four specially made haunted houses, each themed to some eery storyline too. Tickets are around SG $28 per person.
The only other theme park we decided to visit was Adventure Cove Water Park on our last day before heading to the airport. There are a couple of pretty fun water slides and if you’ve ever wanted to swim with dolphins you can do this here for a pretty hefty price. Overall I didn’t rate this park too highly, it’s definitely more entertaining for the younger crowd but I did enjoy two aspects – there was a ‘river’ around the park and you could chill out in a floaty and see the entire place pretty comfortably this way as it does take about 20 mins to go all the way round. The other is that there is a tank in the middle of the park in which you can go snorkeling and see a lot of marine life and fantastic colored fish too which almost makes you feel like you’re in the ocean!
Singapore has a large cultural mix and two of the largest are represented in Chinatown & Little India. We only spent half a day seeing the two areas in total and decided to have lunch at this restaurant in Little India after a man dressed like Nigel Thornberry convinced us to check it out. Inside we found a dark room jazzed up seriously well to mimic the jungle and it came complete with real life safari animal figurines and greenery everywhere. I still have no idea what this place was called but to their credit the Indian food was pretty good!
On a related note Singapore Zoo is worth a visit if you love animals as their night safari is said to be amazing! Whenever I visit a new city, seeing a zoo is usually not on my list as personally they don’t interest me a great deal. I’m also not the biggest fan of enclosed spaces while traveling at great heights so I did sit a ride on the Singapore Flyer out however if you want a great view of the city Singapore’s answer to the London Eye is a perfect way to do this and you can even dine in the carriages!
If you came to shop Orchard Road is basically where it’s at and has stores to suit all budget ranges. Comprised of multi-level shopping centres all lined up which interconnect underground means essentially you can walk for hours, never seeing the sunlight while you’re absoutely spoiled for retail choice. Personally though, I actually preferred the layout and stores at Ion Shopping Centre, which is closer to Sentosa Island.
The Shoppes at Marina Bay is a luxury shopping centre next to/adjoining Marina Bay Sands. The labels you can expect are only of a high standard, think Chanel, Louis Vuitton etc. It’s still worth a look at though since there’s gondola rides going through the middle of the centre and when we were there an ice skating rink too! This is definitely a beautiful shopping centre that always seems to have a lot happening.
The best time of the year to shop is June – July which is when the ‘Great Singapore Sale‘ is on and pretty much EVERYTHING is on special. As I was there in November I didn’t feel like the selection or pricing in most stores was all that competitive to be honest and staple brands such as Forever 21 and H&M (super exciting when they don’t exist in your home town!) all seemed to have the same assortment of stock. Which brings me to my next point of…
Entrance to Haji Lane
Haji Lane – where not a shopping centre is in sight, a welcome relief sometimes! This is a street where you can find unique clothing and quite often in vintage styling – much more my scene. Think retro bicycles and gramophones, these are the decorations in the shops here and you will find the sweetest leather bags, clutches and belts. The only time during our entire stay that it rained heavily was when we were out exploring this area of town so we ended up taking refuge in a cafe for an hour on the corner of Haji Lane that served amazing cakes so it wasn’t all bad in the end!
Next to Haji Lane my other favorite place to shop was at the Bugis Markets an outdoor/under cover marketplace which is great for really cheap souvenirs. As with markets everywhere, vendors here sell absolutely everything so if you’ve got the urge to shop or want to kill a couple hours it’s easy to get lost in the maze of stalls here!
Panorama of Clarke Quay
Finally, Clarke Quay is a cool area made up of lovely pastel coloured buildings with shopping close by. However, the main attribute it has is the hundreds of dining options available. I’d definitely recommend checking this area out later in the day and sticking around for dinner as it’s pretty quiet during the day otherwise.
My absolute favorite dish in Singapore has to be Hainese Chicken Rice. I think the most I ever paid was about SG $6 (which is around $5 AUD). This picture was taken my first night there at Rasapura – which is the food court opposite Marina Bay Sands offering massive amounts of food choice – as it was literally next door to our hotel and coming straight from a Jetstar flight with no meal service I was about to eat whatever I could get my hands on – luckily what I got my hands on was amazing from the start!
Those who have a sweet tooth definitely want to give Kaya a try- it’s a spread made of coconut milk, eggs and sugar. My experience was eating it in dumpling form and it was really nice but just too sweet for me to have more than one. Some of my friends prefer to eat kaya on toast with butter (I know it sounds like a heart attack waiting to happen but it’s apparently great) and there is a Singaporean chain restaurant called Toast Box that specalises in this.
For the most authentic and cheapest food options ‘hawkers centres’ are a popular choice. The other famed dish of Singapore is chili crab and this is also definitely worth a try!
In regards to beverages, a lot of places will serve the famous Singapore Sling from a pre-mixed bottle and it tastes pretty average as it’s way too sweet. So while in the country it seemed wrong not to take advantage of an authentic recipe should I be able to find one. We spent our next two nights at the Pan Pacific and their Club Lounge was my answer…
As it was the Club Lounge all drinks were included so be warned that when you are purchasing alcohol in Singapore, it is much more expensive than elsewhere in Asia. Most cocktails will set you back SG $15-20 (around $14-19 AUD) but I’d definitely recommend having at least one freshly made Singapore Sling if you can!
I have never seen a public train as clean as those in Singapore. There are signs inside warning of fines for carrying food and drink- and the penalty is often thousands of dollars so needless to say there is never a piece of rubbish lying around! The MRT (underground train) network is pretty extensive and you can get anywhere you need to go on this. Tickets are relatively cheap, from memory the most I spent on one journey was perhaps SG $5 (around $4 AUD). As I was there for only four days I did just opt to buy individual tickets if I took the train but you can reload the train cards should you wish.
Taxi’s are also quite a cost effective method to get around, from the airport to most central hotels you can expect it to cost around SG $20 each way. The only time I really utilised a taxi was to get back to the hotel from Sentosa late at night due to sheer laziness of not wanting to catch the train in heels!
You can walk around fairly easily in Singapore and a lot of the main central sites are close by, however the weather is usually very humid so as long as you don’t mind the heat too much you’ll be fine, otherwise if you prefer your air conditioning consider the other two methods of transport!
If you have the time and want a bit more of a beach break away from the city itself you can easily catch a ferry to Bintan Island which takes less than an hour. Next time I go back to Singapore I’d love to do this for a couple days, however Bintan is actually part of Indonesia so Australians need a visa on arrival which costs $25 USD plus there is an exit tax to pay also.