In this article I share the 10 best things to in Singapore. So you do not waste time if visiting!
I like Singapore. A lot. I’ve been lucky enough to visit this city and country rolled into one multiple times, and every time I go I like it even more. While some travellers describe it as sterile compared to other large Asian cities, this has never been my experience. I find it a modern city that is incredibly efficient, smart, tidy, safe – and full of fun things to do. You just need to know the right things to see and do. This is the purpose of this tip for travellers article!
My 5 Main Observations of Singapore
- Modern. The city is jammed full of modern buildings reaching high into the sky. Its vibe is contemporary. In the past there was a cavalier approach to protecting and treasuring the colonial and historic, but this has changed. Today many glorious old buildings have been carefully restored and repurposed into new and exciting venues. For example, the old Supreme Court and City Hall have been transformed into the magnificent National Gallery.
- Green. The government is obsessed about making Singapore a city that is covered with greenery at every possible opportunity. There is an aggressive program to plant and cultivate nature throughout the city. This has a practical purpose (to make sure the city is less polluted) but also creates a pleasant-looking environment to live and work in.
- Efficient. Singapore is a well-oiled machine. Things work with a slick efficiency and without fuss. Everything seems reliable and there is attention to detail. Moving around the city is simple and public transport reliable.
- Clean. If there is city cleaner and neater than Singapore then I have not been there! The residents are extremely tidy and adhere to a philosophy of an intolerant attitude to messy habits. For example, the fines for consuming food and drink on the Metro system are breathtakingly large.
- Welcoming. With a long history of being a major trading port, the city and residents are used to having many visitors and expats. All seem to be welcome and I find people to be friendly and welcoming. It is a safe city with an expectation for everyone to follow rules and rigid penalties for those that break them.
4 Key Facts and Need to Knows
- Singapore is made up of 63 islands, with one main island that most residents live on and visitors spend their time on.
- Singapore has expanded by building up through skyscrapers and outwards with extensive land reclamation. It increased in size by 100 square kilometers in the 1960s, and it plans to add another about another 100 square kilometers by 2030.
- It has four official languages, although everybody speaks English incredibly well. The official languages are: English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil.
- Singapore is rated as the one of the most business friendly countries in the world. It’s the site of many multinational head offices for the Asia region. It has low tax, and because people speak English, it makes it very easy for foreigners to settle in.
4 Key History Points of Note
- Many places across Singapore are associated with the name of Raffles. While most people outside Singapore have heard of the world-renowned Raffles Hotel, few understand the background to the name. Sir Thomas Stanford Raffles was a British national who arrived in 1819 and signed a treaty for the British East India Company to establish Singapore as a trading port. When he signed the treaty there were very few locals living on the islands that made up Singapore, and he soon attracted Chinese, Indians and Malays to come and work here and help develop the territory.
- Sir Thomas Raffles, in the typical British separatist mindset of the time, decided he needed to keep the cultures and races apart to avoid trouble. He established separate areas for each around the city. But despite these views, which seem more foreign to many today, he is universally admired as the grandfather of Singapore and respected for taking an uninspiring group of islands and creating a cohesive, strong state, which eventually became the power that it is. These separate areas have flourished as dynamic and vibrant cultural focal points around the city.
- The Japanese occupied Singapore during World War II. It was a traumatic and brutal period in its history. There are tunnels in Fort Canning Park, which you can still visit today, that formed an underground command centre for the British and where many locals hid.
- After the World War, the British ran Singapore until 1959. Singapore briefly formed into one state with Malaysia, but it was a not a success, and they separated.
Overall Tips For Travellers
- Best time to visit. Pretty much, any time of the year is fine to visit because it doesn’t really have seasons. The temperature ranges between 24 and 30 degrees Celsius all year round. It has a tropical climate, as it’s close to the equator. There’s little fluctuation in temperature and the length of the day is pretty much the same all across the year.
a. It can be humid and sticky with June and July the warmest months of the year. November and December is the monsoon period, so there is a lot of rain.
b. There’s also a strange phenomenon, around August and October, in large parts of Asia, including Singapore, where a seasonal haze caused by bush fires in the region blown across the city.
- Getting there and getting around. Getting there is easy because Singapore is a key hub for Asia. It’s also a stopover on the route to and from Australia. Over 80 airlines pass through the huge Changi Airport, which is about 25 minutes from the center of Singapore. Once you’re in Singapore, it’s compact and so easy to commute around. Taxis are inexpensive but can take a while to find one especially when it’s raining. I recommend using the Metro as it is is easy to use and inexpensive. It runs from about 5:30 in the morning until about half past midnight.
- Pick up the Tourist Board brochures. They produce a series of excellent leaflets that you can pick up at the airport, hotels and their Information Offices. They have brochures covering Chinatown, Little India, Shopping, Walk along the river and so on. There is also a very good SmartPhone App. Find out more on these in their website: http://www.yoursingapore.com/travel-guide-tips/getting-around/tourist-guide-maps-apps.html
10 Must-see and Must-Do Sights and Attractions
Watch my video of 10 Best Things to do in Singapore
- Gardens By the Bay. 250 acres reclaimed land with incredible SuperTrees, the OCBC Walkway and two huge glass conservatories: Flower Dome and Cloud Forest.
- Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Complex. This is spread across three 55-storey high towers. It is a 2500-room hotel with a SkyPark connecting the three with an infinity pool and amazing views. Head up for a drink and take in the stunning views.
- ArtScience Museum. This is part of the Marina Bay complex, with a design based on a Lotus Flower. It hosts permanent and visiting exhibitions.
- Merlion. Based on a mythical creature allegedly spotted by a prince in 11th century when he discovered the islands and lent the name to the city: Singa (lion) and pure (city). It is one of the most iconic symbols of the city and also in the Marina Bay area.
- Take a “Bum Boat” trip along Singapore River to Clarke Quay. These are converted from old cargo boats that now cruise along the river giving you great views of old and modern Singapore. It ends at the party centre of the city in Clarke Quay, which is full of bars, restaurants and nightclubs.
- Chinatown. The highlights here include the Heritage Centre, which is spread across three old shop houses, the large multi-level market selling fish, live frogs and other delicacies. Also in the area is the Sri Mariamman Temple, with its dramatic and distinctive carved tower entrance and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum. This is full of stunning Buddha statues and is an essential stop.
- Eat at the Cheapest Michelin Star Restaurant in the World. This is just opposite the market and started as a stall in there before earning its Michelin star and opening a restaurant to deal with the huge demand. Expect to line up to buy the tasty Dim Sum and Dumplings.
- Kampong Glam. In 1822, Sir Stamford Raffles allocated the area to the Malay. It grew into a vibrant and trendy part of town. The highlights include the narrow Haji Lane, which is full of quirky shops, bars and coffee ships. There is also the Gold-domed Sultan Mosque, which is impressive and striking and also the Malay Heritage Centre.
- National Gallery. This is a new visual arts institution, which oversees the largest public collection of modern art in Singapore and Southeast Asia. The Gallery is housed in two national monuments: the former Supreme Court and City Hall. It has been innovatively developed to merge old and new and has one of the best views across Singapore from up on the restaurant deck.
- Sentosa Island. A short ride by either monorail or cable car is the resort island of Sentosa. There is a vast and remarkable Aquarium, a huge Water Park and Universal Studios Theme Park. This was the fourth on opened in world and although the smallest has 24 attractions and 30 places to eat.
If you are looking for things to do in the evening, I recommend the following:
- Singapore Zoo and the Night Safari.
- Raffles Hotel Long Bar to have a Singapore Sling
- Official tourist site: http://www.yoursingapore.com/en.html
- My videos:
Watch all my Singapore Tips For Travellers Videos (playlist)
This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.
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