What travelers to Singapore are saying
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Despite being tiny and freakishly clean, Singapore is one of the most festive, thriving hubs of business, recreation and killer bargains in Southeast Asia. Shopping havens like Suntec City Mall will have you selling the contents of your suitcase (and your travelling buddy’s) just so you can bag some more wares.
But it’s not just about the shopping. No, really. Stop laughing. Singapore’s history and culture will keep you busy, too. War buffs should hit the Battle Box, the underground command centre from the Battle of Singapore in WWII. Temple aficionados (that’s a thing, right?) should check out the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, a colourful and soulful place of worship dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy. For a culture-hit with a bit more pizzazz, the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay constantly hosts a bevy of plays, musicals and concerts. And if that doesn’t float your boat… well, there’s always the pretty flowers at the National Orchid Garden.
And foodies? Don’t fret. From Michelin-starred dining to thriving, street-food strips like the Bugis Food Village, there’s enough variety – on every budget – to turn any Skinny Minnie into a Chunky Monkey. Just don’t forget to down a Singapore Sling (or three) while you’re at it.
Singapore's Top 10
For such a miniscule dot on the map, Singapore has loads on offer. Including…
10. Asian Civilisations Museum You’ll learn more here than in any book (plus you’ll have a lot more fun). Books are so last century. The stuff in here is even older.
5. Singapore Zoo Spend hours discovering all the animals, including the world’s largest captive colony of orangutans. They won’t let you take one home, though.
9. Raffles Statue A larger version of ‘X marks the spot’, this is the place where Sir Stamford Raffles (founder of Singapore) landed in 1819. And the rest, as they say, is history.
4. Singapore Flyer A giant Ferris wheel that gives you a million-dollar view of Singapore. Upload pics on Facebook and watch the envious posts roll in.
8. Singapore Botanic Gardens Wind down with pretty flowers and cool, unique plants in a peaceful setting.
3. National Museum of Singapore Palatial and filled with stories and remnants from Singapore’s extensive culture and history.
7. Raffles Hotel Named after Sir Stamford, it’s stunning to look at and ridiculously expensive. If you’re not staying there yourself, it’s worth a visit if only to feel jealous and throw stuff at the people who can afford it.
2. Sentosa Island A gob smacking playground for kids and adults alike. You get there by cable car. Talk about making an entrance!
6. Vivo City The biggest shopping plaza in Singapore and home to stacks of local and worldwide brands and stores. If shopping is your religion, welcome to heaven.
1. Night Safari An open-air zoo set in a tropical forest. Watch animals at night. Those creatures get up to some seriously freaky stuff.
- Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple – This free-admission temple is Little India’s oldest and most popular.
- Raffles Statue – A popular place to take a photo, this replicated statue of Sir Stamford Raffles, founder of Singapore, is supposedly set in the spot where he first landed.
- Sultan Mosque – Adorned by golden domes, this is Singapore’s most important mosque, and admission is free to those modestly dressed.
- Thian Hock Keng Temple – This colourful structure is Singapore’s oldest Hokkien temple.
- Clarke Quay – This historic quay still displays Chinese junks, some of which have been converted into floating restaurants and pubs.
Singapore Art & Culture
- Singapore Art Museum – Home to Singapore’s expansive national art collection.
- Science Centre – Featuring exhibits on modern and ancient science and technology and suitable for all ages.
- National Museum of Singapore – Singapore’s oldest museum featuring exhibits and collections on history and stunning architecture.
- Chinese New Year – Streets in Chinatown are festive and alive in the month leading up to this annual holiday (January – February).
- Asian Civilisations Museum – This impressive-looking palatial museum houses exhibits spanning Asia with a focus on Singapore.
- Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery – This national monument draws the devout who come to light incense and make prayers.
- Orchard Road – Crowded with the likes of Gucci and Louis Vuitton, the shops here offer late night shopping the last Friday of every month.
- Mustafa – There are bargains galore at this 24-hour discount department store in Little India.
- Suntec City – Singapore’s second-largest shopping mall, conveniently located in Marina Bay.
- Jason’s Supermarket – Located in the basement of Raffles City, this should be on top of every gourmand’s list.
- Yue Hwa – This six-story Chinatown emporium sells Chinese medicines, teas and other products.
Gay & Lesbian Singapore
- Backstage Bar - One of the most popular gay nightspots in Singapore.
- Zouk – Dance the night away at this hotspot featuring guest DJs.
- Taboo – A long-standing, friendly bar with a mixed crowd and DJs.
- Tantric Bar – Featuring hot dance beats and a courtyard with its own bar.
- ébar – Sing the night away at this classy karaoke bar.
- Tanjong Beach – A popular beach on Sentosa to soak up the sun or partake in fun, water-based sporting activities.
- Queen Elizabeth Walk – Take a stroll along the Esplanade to soak up the views of the river.
- Singapore Zoo – Get close to wildlife while on holiday in Singapore.
- Singapore Botanic Gardens – Open from 5 am to midnight, this free park has a variety of flora and structures to explore.
- Bukit Timah Nature Reserve – Featuring mountain biking and hiking, this is one of the world’s few remaining areas of primary rainforest
- Watch professional golfers compete in the Singapore Open at the Sentosa Golf Club.
- Catch a horse race at the Singapore Turf Club on most Fridays throughout the year.
- See cars zip by during the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix.
- Dive with sharks at Sentosa’s Underwater World.
- Swim or cycle along the East Coast Park.
Singapore LocalCentral Business District
The heart of the city and its hustle and bustle. Manhattan, eat your heart out! Absolute must-sees include the main street and luxe shopping and dining destination, Orchard Road. Fatten yourself up by demolishing a delicious meal and then rack up a shopping bill that’ll cause post-holiday trauma.
Marina Bay's progressive flair is another must, featuring the iconic Helix Bridge that makes science look plain pretty (especially at night). Also, notorious tourist hotspot, Clarke Quay is the place to bag a souvenir for those annoying loved ones back home, then jump on a big ol’ boat for a nice harbour cruise.
A slither of this area officially belongs to the CBD, but Chinatown definitely needs its own mention. A colourful, tourist-friendly neighbourhood where you’ll not only find traditional wet-markets and fab eats but also a bargain or 10 to boot. Snap the Sri Mariamman Temple (a structure begging to be photographed) and ingest some education at the Chinatown Heritage Centre. The oldest Hokkien structure in the whole of Singapore, the Thian Hock Kheng Temple will make you feel all gooey and spiritual inside.
You’ll have no issues finding Little India… just follow your nose! An exotic combination of spices and incense fills the air and instantly transports you to the streets of Delhi. Expect bargain markets selling fine silks and other handicrafts at prices that’ll make you spit out your curry. The Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is a necessary stop, as is the Mustafa Centre, one of Singapore’s biggest discount department stores with storey after storey of bargains. If you’re after cheap electronics, Sim Lim Square is the stuff you dream about, but definitely won’t break the bank.
Also known as the Arab Quarter and Muslim District, it’s the friendly locals who make this place. Sure, they want you to give them as much of your money as possible in the Arabia-inspired bazaars and markets, but it’s hard not to get caught up in the sense of fun and their welcoming nature. It’s a great sales pitch!
Once you’ve worked up an appetite shopping, the masses of restaurants, cafes and street-food vendors on Arab Street won’t let you go hungry. For reflection amidst the hustle and bustle, try the Sultan Mosque.
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but frankly you’d be a crazy to skip out on Sentosa. Jump on the Mount Faber Cable Car from the CBD and be transported to this island resort in just 10 minutes. Animal parks, including the ever-popular Underwater World, golf courses, swimming pools, theme parks, shopping and more – literally something for everyone. But if it doesn’t appeal, then you can always look down on the world in more ways than one from the top of the Carlsberg Sky Tower, Asia’s tallest observation tower.
Singapore Eat & Drink
From fine dining to street vendors peddling food that will keep you coming back for more (and more), Singapore has it all. The drinking holes ain’t too shabby, either.
Chin Mee Chin Confectionery Get yourself high on the (legal) white stuff with the delicious sweets at this long-standing icon.
Zouk If you’re into dance music, hit this iconic spot. Expect pretty young things, great drinks and a hell of a hangover.
Brasserie WOLF French cuisine and an epic array of wines by the Singapore River. Down French fare and get tipsy on great plonk!
No Signboard Seafood Odd name, great food. For the love of GOD, get the chilli crab!
Lei Garden A top-tier Chinese restaurant that looks like an English mansion. Weird yet cool.
Brazil Churrasco Multiple award-winning Brazilian BBQ. Mmm, ribs.
East Coast Lagoon Food Village A crazy-popular restaurant by the beach with a tropical theme and seafood (duh) as its specialty.
Iggy’s Its modern-Euro cuisine makes it a constant in the World’s Best Restaurants list. Go. Take $. Lots of them.
Jumbo Seafood A local and tourist fave. Not pricey or overly fancy but impeccable in the seafood department.
Long Bar A must! Even just for a Singapore Sling. Despite its glam HQ and snooty residents, the dress code is casual. In your face, snobs!
Chinese New Year in Singapore is a right party, particular in Chinatown. People flock to cheer like crazies and witness the spectacular celebrations, including an array of parades, firework displays and other cool stuff. The dates vary depending on the Chinese calendar, but tend to be around the late-January to mid-February mark.
The Huayi Festival (aka Chinese Festival of Arts) comes after the New Year, a series of eye-opening performances and events celebrating the Chinese culture. Check out what’s on offer at the and then feel all superior – and ever so slightly inscrutable – with your new Eastern cultural boost.
March welcomes music lovers to the annual Mosaic Music Festival at Esplanade Music Hall. It spans 10 days and showcases both local and international acts from a massive variety of genres. We’re talking everything from pop to dubstep to folk. Cool, young hipsters and dorks (aka regular peeps) are welcome.
The World Gourmet Summit is an annual food orgy where local and international gastronomy stars get down and dirty all over Singapore during mid-April to early May. Expect amazing food and wine, master-classes and workshops and all-round food sex.
The Great Singapore Sale (end of May to end of July) will see you grabbing bargains you never thought possible and getting a tad manic. This annual summer event also includes late night opening hours as well as shopping challenges and competitions (those crazy Singaporeans and their shopping!). Orchard Road is the place to be for this one.
When To Go
Because it’s so close to the equator, Singapore enjoys hot weather all year round, but also suffers from evil humidity. The humidity is unavoidable, but you can bypass its peak intensity and heavy rainfall if you visit during February to May or October to early November.
- Average maximum temperature: 31°C
- Average minimum: 26°C
- Humidity average: 84% (yuck!)
What To Miss
There are a bunch of kooky laws in Singapore. Avoid being thrown in the slammer and paying hefty fines by leaving the smokes, chewing gum and porn at home, not littering the pristine streets and never, ever spitting or jaywalking. Don’t trawl the streets like a drunken fool, either. Weird and a little annoying, but necessary in this town.
While Singapore is pretty safe, you should avoid unlicensed retailers and other sketchy randoms who look for naïve tourists to swindle. If anyone stops you in the street to tell you about their ‘amazing wares’, keep on movin’. Also, hold on to your belongings and never leave them unattended. Despite the deterrents, petty crimes such as pick-pocketing and bag snatching still happen.
Geylang and Orchard Towers are home to many, er, ‘ladies of the night’ and some dangerous peeps. It would be best to avoid these parts at night. Unless, of course, it’s your thing… *wink wink*
One of Singapore’s main transportation systems, SMRT, hosts an extensive bus and rail network as well as a plethora of taxis zooming around the streets. Rest assured you’ll have no issues getting from A to B or find yourself crying in a heap because you’re lost.
Train and bus fare prices vary on the length of the trip, but budget-friendly tourist passes and smartcards are available.
Singapore has a multicultural society due to the variety of foreign colonizers who set foot on its soil. This has enriched this small island's diversity, making it a melting pot of ethnicities.
True enough, you can see colorful facets of life in Singapore in different sections of the city. Quaint shop houses still stand in Chinatown reminiscent of how the Chinese made the Straits one of their trading posts in the region.
It is wonderful to see then how Singapore has retained its identity despite the rush brought on by the modern times. The efficient planning of streets, sleek office buildings and intricately designed shopping malls have put Singapore on the map and make this city-state one of the highly urbanized cities in Asia.
On the tourism front, there are lots to see, taste, feel and travel to in Singapore, just be careful of the stifling heat all year round!
The interesting pockets of culture are the first ones to include in your itinerary to Singapore.
Chinatown has traditional shophouses that have been converted into hawker centres. In Little India, you can smell an array of foodstuff being sold in spice shops and find lots of personable merchants, whose jobs are to sell you anything ranging from exquisite silks, gold and silver jewelry. Take in an authentic Indian meal while you're here too.
Founded in 1887, the grand dame Raffles Hotel is not to be missed. Though visitors are only given a view of the magnificent entrance, a leisurely time can be spent in the Raffles Museum, a huge shopping arcade featuring a bevy of restaurants and watering holes. One of which is the legendary Long Bar, home of the famed Singapore Sling.
To see more museums, the National Museum is worth a peek. Apart from learning about Singapore's history, the museum also has an exquisite collection of jade carvings and the charming old Peranakan house. Art galleries nearby and the Singapore Art Museum, a restored colonial building, along Bras Basah Road show masterpieces from local and foreign artists.
To enjoy the fine outdoors and breathe in that fresh, open air — parks abound in Singapore! Haw Par Villa or Tiger Balm gardens contains Chinese mythical figures and statues.
The Botanical Gardens also holds the National Orchid Garden and has tall trees and lush greenery to soothe away the aches and pains of city living. Further afield is the popular Jurong Bird Park. It features creatures in an open zoo setting.
Right beside the Botanical Gardens is the famed Night Safari. Open every evening at 7.30pm, the long ride through the tram lets you see all the animals, big and small, in their natural habitat.
For an amusement theme park that's more like a tropical retreat, head for Sentosa. Locals head for beach parties or foam soirees here as most of the attractions are catering for the tourist crowd. Still it's a good chance to see the Merlion, a half-lion half-fish which is the undying symbol of Singapore.
Lastly, what would a trip to Singapore be without dropping by the shopping haven of Orchard Road? This bustling street is lined with glitzy department stores housing designer labels or smaller boutiques with funky more affordable brands.
More Info On Events & Climate
Singapore's events are as diverse as its demographics: Hindu devotees observe Thaipusam walking the streets with their cheeks pierced with long, shiny rods and small needles sticking out of their backs as a form of penance during January; Around the same time, Chinese New Year brings out firecrackers and families hold reunions. The Chingay Parade ushers colourful floats and lion dancers; and sometime between October to November, Deepavali lights up Indian areas with decorations and street lights. And the Muslims celebrate Hari Raya Puasa to mark the end of Ramadan, a month of feasting.
Hot (January & mdash December) 22ºC - 31ºC located just 137 km north of the equator, Singapore is both hot and very humid all year around. Rain is a daily occurrence but tends to fall in short tropical showers during the afternoon.
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