8

City Guide: Singapore

Nobody in Singapore drinks Singapore Slings. It’s one of the first things you find out there. What they do in Singapore is eat. 
It’s a really food-crazy culture, where all of this great food is available in a kind of hawker-stand environment.”

– Anthony Bourdain

For such a diverse and interesting country, Singapore is often given a bad rap. Most people rush in and  “do Singapore” before declaring it a “boring” or “sterile” country, but I think the city needs a little more time. If you take the time to look under the surface you’ll find a place filled with cultural diversity, gardens that transport you out of the city, and plenty of activities to keep any type of person busy.
While in Singapore, be sure to eat everything! From Hawkers Stalls to Michelin-starred dining, cool cocktail bars and the blossoming coffee scene, this country is made for hungry people!

Supertree Grove in Singapore.

Fast Facts

Language: The official languages are English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. “Singlish” (a mix of Standard English and Standard Mandarin) is often spoken amongst friends.

Currency: Singapore uses the Singapore dollar (SGD)

Credit Cards and Banks: Most restaurants and hotels will accept credit/debit cards. Be sure to bring plenty of cash for small purchases, especially at food courts, and for public transportation.

Climate: Singapore has a tropical rainforest climate with no distinct seasons. Temperatures usually range between 22 to 35 °C (72 to 95 °F) with 70% humidity common.
April and May are the hottest months of the year while monsoon season is observed from November to January.

Getting to/from the Airport: Singapore is served by Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) and Singapore Airlines is the national carrier.

To get to/from Changi Airport, there are a number of options including S$9 shuttles that run 24-hours to most downtown hotels from the Ground Transport Desk. The airport is served by an MRT Station in the basement of Terminals 2 and 3 (COST) and taxis are available on the Arrivals level or Uber’s can be ordered. 

Getting around Singapore: The MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) is probably the most convenient way to get around Singapore. Ticket prices vary, as they are based on the distance travelled, but tickets around the city centre cost SGD$4.

Buses and taxis are also readily available throughout the city.

An island oasis just minutes from the city on Palau Ubin, Singapore.

What to see and do

  • Explore each of Singapore’s neighbourhoods – Kampong Glam, Little India, Chinatown, and more! Singapore is home to a diverse array of people hailing from all backgrounds, and each neighbourhood has something distinct to offer both locals and visitors.
    To find out more about the cities neighbourhoods, check the YourSingapore website.
  • See the Merlions – The Merlion is Singapore’s mascot and has the head of a lion and the body of a fish. The original statue (and most impressive Merlion) can be found in Merlion Park along the waterfront overlooking Marina Bay Sands Bay. The 37-meter tall replica on Sentosa also being worth a visit.
  • Explore the (free!) Singapore Botanic Gardens – A piece of nature in the heart of the city, the Singapore Botanic Gardens is a tranquil oasis amongst the concrete jungle. The highlight? The National Orchid Garden that houses thousands of species of orchid, including specially bred versions that have been presented to foreign dignitaries and celebrities. Read more about the National Orchid Garden.
  • See the other side of Singapore – Often labelled bland, Singapore is anything but if you take the time to truly explore the city. One fast way to do so is to see Geylang, a suburb just a short drive from Downtown. Tourists rarely venture here because of its bad reputation – there’s an area that is the countries dedicated Red Light District – but there is so much more. Join Cai from Gaylang Adventures‘s on an evening walk to uncover some of the secrets to Geylang (like even more AMAZING food).
  • Take a walk along the Treetop walk at MacRitchie Reservoir Park – A favourite among nature and fitness enthusiasts, MacRitchie Reservoir offers a peaceful oasis just a short drive from downtown. The real highlight for visitors is a 250-metre free-standing bridge that crosses the two highest points in MacRitchie and offers you a panoramic view of the rainforest and Upper Reservoir. If you do want to take the TreeTop Walk come early to avoid queue Read more about the MacRitchie Reservoir Treetop Walk.
  • Have Afternoon Tea on the Singapore Flyer – you’ve probably heard of the Singapore Flyer, one of the biggest observation wheels in the world, but did you know you can have a meal, cocktails or even afternoon tea on board? The 30-minute service (or one revolution) comes complete with access to the Flyer lounge, bar service, and tiffins piled high of tasty treats to enjoy while watching the ever-changing view.
  • Get in touch with nature – Singapore may be known as a concrete jungle, but anywhere you look you’ll see plants and flowers growing. Get in touch with nature, and relax away from the bustle, at any of the places listed in this article, but my favourite has to be Kebun Baru Bird Singing Corner, where locals will bring their prized possession to enjoy the sun and relax with friends.
  • Take a trip to Pulau Ubin – The island, just off the northeastern coast of Singapore, is considered one of the last remaining “kampongs” (traditional villages), and is a throwback to the 1960’s. Most of the island is a nature reserve, so rent a bike It only costs a few dollars to get to the island by bumboat but be warned – the drivers won’t leave until the boat is full!
  • Learn about Singapore’s History – With the countries 50th-anniversary celebrations in full swing NOW is a great time to discover more about Singapore’s colourful history. From ancient kings to Japanese invasion; British colonisation and the Peranakan history, there is so much to learn!
    For Peranakan history, visit the Peranakan Museum behind Fort Canning Park or pay a visit to the Kantong Antique Shop for an insight into the life and traditions of the Peranakan people. If you do stop at the Kantong Antique Shop, be sure to visit Rumah Bebe, just a short walk down the road, to see the delicate bead work and traditional clothing that are still worn.
  • Hang out on Sentosa  – From Universal Studios theme park to the Senotsa Cable Car. Climb the Tiger Sky Tower – Singapore’s tallest viewing tower – or visit the incredible Underwater World; there is so much to do on Sentosa.
    If you’re looking for a fun night out, Senotsa has some great options. Check out Woo Bar at W Singapore for a funky lounge bar and good list of cocktails.
  • Visit Singapore Zoo – One of the biggest attractions in the country, Singapore Zoo. See Giant Panda’s while on the river safari or, for something a little different, why not have breakfast with the Orangutans! Not a morning person? Take the Night Safari and have dinner amongst the chorus of animal sounds!
  • Pay homage at Changi Prison Museum – Changi Prison was used by Japanese soldiers in WWII to hold prisoners of war. Today, this place is a museum honouring those people who died. Pick up an audio guide which includes interviews with survivors from the prison, or join a guided tour.
  • Spend time at Changi Airport – okay, hear me out here. Changi Airport has to be one of the coolest airports in the world. A swimming pool, indoor slide, fish spas, butterfly garden, and more. Read more about what you can do at Changi Airport experience.

For more ideas about what to do in Singapore check out some of my recommended tours!

A Deluxe Room at the Parkroyal on Pickering, Singapore.

Luxe-any-any-Budget Accommodation

Parkroyal on Pickering

Singaporeans love nature and the Parkroyal on Pickering embrace this with this hotel inside a garden… or is it a garden inside a hotel? This four-star hotel has walls of plants and flowing waters, plus of natural light and a modern design. While there, I chose to stay in a Deluxe Room.
With an incredible infinity pool among the sky garden, delicious restaurant (even if you aren’t a guest, stop by Lime for a great meal!), and chic room designs made me want to stay in and enjoy the property.

Best of all, Chinatown is on your doorstep and the CBD is within walking distance.

Oasia Downtown

A landmark in Chinatown with its bright red structure and vertical garden growing, the Oasia Downtown Singapore is one incredibly cool hotel! The functional modern design and large rooms, coupled with an Infinity Pool exclusively for Club Guests, two rooftop pools, and a well appointed 24h gym will leave guests wanting to come back for more.

While there, I chose to stay in a comfortable and functional Club Room which also gave me access to Far More Perks, like a free hop-on-hop-off tour of Singapore and Lounge Access at Singapore’s Changi Airport.

The culture and heritage of Singapore is literally on your doorstep with the hotel having been built opposite Seng Wong Beo temple and just a few minutes walk from Chinatown. If you want to enjoy all the property has to offer, enjoy a meal at The Marmalade Pantry and finish with a drink at the stunning art deco inspired CIN CIN Bar.

Hotel Clover 33 Jalan Sultan

Located on the edge of Kampong Glam and surrounded by nightlife and great eats, Hotel Clover 33 Jalan Sultan may be one of my favourite mid-range hotel properties.
I chose to stay in a two-storey Loft Suite, with a (tiny!) downstairs bathroom and living room/study and the spacious upstairs bedroom. Despite its size, the rooms were well maintained, the beds incredibly comfortable, and staff give each guest independent attention. The hotel offers free WiFi, satellite TV, a gym and a small restaurant on site.
If you want to visit Chinatown or downtown the hotel is a little removed, but it’s Singapore! Everything is a short taxi ride away.

Find more suggestions on great boutique hotels in Singapore here! (Coming on Monday)

The Pod, Singapore

Singapore’s accommodation is pretty expensive but The Pod is a great option for those who want a bit of luxury on a budget.
Based on Japanese capsule hotels, The Pod offers guests functional accommodation for both business and leisure. 

Click here to read my full review on The POD

Crowne Plaza Changi Airport

Singapore’s a great city for a stopover and, unlike most airports, Singapore’s Changi Airport has an amazing hotel onsite. Crowne Plaza Changi Airport offers spacious, light-filled rooms with many overlooking the runway; don’t worry about sound, very little can be heard. If you want to be sure, the hotel offers a ‘quiet area’ to ensure you have a peaceful stay. The large bathroom features a bathtub and separate shower with rainforest shower head.
The hotel has a fitness centre, indoor and outdoor pools (the outdoor one overlooking the runway!) and four dining options in the hotel.
With easy access to the MRT from the hotel, you can explore the city and sleep peacefully knowing you can sleep in.

The famed Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice found in Maxwell Road Food Court, Singapore.

Where to eat

One of the first greetings locals may ask you, particularly if you speak Chinese, is “have you eaten?” Yes, Singaporeans love to eat!
Best of all, Singapore offers food choices for people at every price point. From fine dining, Michelin stars and waiting lists that are months long, to the cheap Hawker Stalls where you can buy a feast for less than SGD$10!

Average Cost of Food: With so many restaurants you can find something to fit into any price range.
There’s an abundance of low-cost eats, like street stalls or Hawker Centres that sell food for less than SGD$6 a plate.
Most casual restaurants charge around SGD$20 for a meal and the prices go up from there.

Maxwell Road Hawker Centre – Hawker Centres, or food courts, reign supreme in Singapore where you can find cheap eats and tasty treats that won’t blow your budget. At Maxwell Road Hawker Centre, you need to try the Haianaese Chicken Rice.
The champions of the dish have to be Tian Tian Hainaese Chicken Rice or Ah Tai Chicken Rice, with something of a rivalry between the shops located just two stalls away from each other.  In my opinion, Tian Tian wins hands down with their  juicy meat, punchy sauces, and a flavoursome rice. But get in quick! Since Anthony Bourdain mentioned them during his Singapore Smackdown the lines can be looong especially during peak periods.

Read a guide to the best foods to eat in Singapore’s Chinatown!

The Refinery – Based on the Japanese style Isakaya bar, The Refinery is a uber cool restaurant, grill bar and work space. Yes, it’s a little hipster but the food and drinks won’t disappoint; with old school chunky onion rings, tasty skewers (be sure to try the Wagyu Rib-eye!) and bowls of ramen.
It’s a little out-of-the-way in Jalan Basar but you won’t be disappointed for making the journey!

2am:dessert bar – MUST VISIT! – Janice Wong has been making waves in the Singapore Food scene since opening her “fine dining” dessert bar in 2007. This edible art is now known worldwide.
Her most famous dessert has to be The Cassis Plum, a cassis bomb filled with elderflower yoghurt foam and bamboo shoots. This cold treat almost tastes slightly sherbet-like but with so many different textures, including crunchy rice krispies and a thin jelly covering the opening.
Have a drink along Holland Road and then come to 2:am Dessert Bar… or just skip the drink and head straight to dessert!

Portico – It’s a place you will immediately fall in love with, like a back garden (Portico means ‘porch’ in Italian) that can seat 100 people and framed photos of the staff on the walls. Headed up by Executive Chef Leandros Stagogiannis (formally from the UK’s The Fat Duck and Singapore’s St Pierre), you know the food is going to be something special.
Try the Fish and Chips if you aren’t feeling too adventurous, their crispy exterior offers a nice crunch and the side of curly fries are a lot of fun!

Man Fu Yuan – I didn’t have the chance to try but a few people have told me than Man Fu Yuan is the best Chinese steamboat in the city.
Located inside the InterContinental Hotel, a meal here is a little on the pricey side but it’s one of those ‘must try’ list any foodie will have when visiting the country, especially if you love fresh seafood!

Boon Tat Street – Each night as the sun sets a busy street called Boon Tat comes alive, almost like a street party. Dozens on stalls line the road as hungry people come out to eat and eat and eat.
Cheap and delicious, Boon Tat is perfect for everyone. The street is most well-known for their BBQ satays, generally with 10 pieces per serve. Grab a beer and you have yourself a great meal on the cheap!

Check out this list of Singaporean Eats from other bloggers!

Is this the BEST coffee in Singapore? I think so. Visit Coast & Company for your caffeine and bicycle repair needs!

Cafes

Singapore’s coffee scene is blossoming. From the local kopi to freshly roasted beans in hip cafes that you could find at

Common Man Coffee Roasters – One of the founders of Singapore’s coffee revolution, Common Man Coffee Roasters offers a cool industrial vibe and fantastic coffee. Not just coffee, though, be sure to stop by for brunch as they have creative dishes that are beautifully presented.

Coast & Company – Best coffee in Singapore! – Combining a cool warehouse style cafe and bicycle store & repair centre, Coast & Company is well worth the trip out of the city to try their coffee and their delicious brioche topped with almond butter and honey. Yum!

Spruce at Phoenix Park – Something of an expat hangout, and incredibly popular with families, Spruce at Phoenix Park offers big tasty American-style breakfasts in a cool jungle oasis.

Good Morning Nanyang Cafe – A chain of coffee houses across Singapore, Good Morning Nanyang Cafe offers traditional-styled kopi and local treats, like kaya on toast!

The Orange Thimble – A cosy cafe in Tiong Bahru, the cafe has tasty British bites and great coffee.

PS. Cafe – While they have outlets around the city, their Dempsey Hill cafe is by far the prettiest. Floor-to-ceiling windows and outdoor seating surrounding by lush gardens. A nice change from Singapore’s hectic pace.

Forty Hands – They say the process of growing and creating the perfect cup of coffee sees the beans go through forty pairs of hands, and I’m sure any bean would be happy to find itself in this charming artisan cafe, with delicious bakery on-site.

Check out this list of Singaporean Coffee spots from other bloggers!

Just one of the many delicious cocktails you'll encounter in Singapore. This one at the Mars Bar inside The Duxton Hotel.

Bars and other nightlife

This is just a small selection of the many New York City bars and clubs. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of great places to go out for a drink in the city.

Mars Bar at The Duxton Hotel – Normally I’d say skip the lobby bars in hotels but the Mars Bar at The Duxton Hotel will excite you with their cool cocktails (think a cocktail served with Nutella toast, milo-based or a chilli crab cocktail) and cosy atmosphere.

Mr Punch Rooftop Bar – Skip the overpriced Singapore Sling at Raffles and head across the road to Mr Punch Rooftop Bar. Set on the rooftop of the Mint Museum of Toys (a walk down memory lane) the bar is decorated with vintage enamel advertising signs. Best of all, there are some great deals on gin and tonics, tequila shots and lychee martinis.

Lantern – This stylish bar at The Fullerton Bay Hotel is set poolside and offers panoramic views of the Marina Bay waterfront and the famous laser light show. Featuring vintage and modern cocktails inspired by yesteryear. Try a spicy Merlion cocktail with tequila, young ginger, honey, lime & soda.

Ku Dé Ta – Situated at the top of the Marina Bay Sands, Ku Dé Ta offers a stunning rooftop bar and both indoor or alfresco dining options. Try the Treat of Kings or #1 Tonic, complete with house-made bitters.

SuperTree by IndoChine – The SuperTree grove is one of Singapore’s most famous sights, but did you know you can dine in one? Better still, head straight to the top to enjoy the view from the top of the Supertree at the rooftop bar. Sit back, relax, and drink in the view.

Check out this list of Singaporean drinking spots from other bloggers!

Shop Til You Drop

Escape the heat and head into any one of Singapore’s many malls. Bargains are a little harder to come by at the big malls (unless you come during the summer), but if you’re into boutique clothing then there are plenty of options. Here’s a few more of the best places to shop in Singapore.

(Note: Be sure to keep your receipts as the 7% Goods and Services Tax (GST) can be claimed back at the airport! Click here for more information on the Tax Refund)

  • Synonymous with shopping, Orchard Road has 20 shopping malls and counting. From high-end designer brands to chain store favourites like Topshop and H&M.
  • Bugis Street is Singapore’s largest street shopping district where you can hunt for bargains on anything you can think of – from bags and shoes to odd souvenirs.
  • If you’ve been exploring Singapore’s Peranakan heritage you may have heard of Joo Chiat. Alongside the brightly coloured housing, you can buy Peranakan food and fashion. Be sure to stop at Kim Choo for their famed salty rice dumplings!
  • For gadget lovers, go to Sim Lim Square or the 24/7 Mustafa Center in Little India.
  • Located in Kampong Glam, Haji Lane is full of hip boutiques, colourful buildings, and art – both creative artists and street art!
  • For more boutiques visit Tiong Bahru. Along Yong Siak Street are a number of independent boutique stores alongside quaint cafes, bakeries and bookshops.
  • Visit Singapore during the Great Singapore Sale in summer where you’ll find every store in every mall with massive discounts.

The best way to stay connected in Singapore is with Rentafi MiFi.

Travel tips

  • Singlish – Singlish (Singaporean English) is the English-based creole spoken and written colloquially in Singapore. You’ll probably hear it when you’re around groups of Singaporean people chatting or for more casual situations, but not in business or formal settings.
    If you want to know more about Singlish, I suggest you watch this video by Benny Lewis from Fluent in 3 Months.
  • Hawker Centres – Put anything from a tissue pack to an umbrella on a chair to reserve your seat while you hunt down delicious food in the Hawker Centre.
  • The cheapest sweet treat – You’ve heard of an ice cream sandwich but Singaporean’s take this to another level! For just SGD$1.20, you can find an ice cream sandwich served in pink and yellow sweet bread, choose your favourite flavour of ice cream for a treat you can’t beat!
    You’ll find these small vendors around Chinatown and popular tourist areas (including Bugis Street) during the warm weather.
  • Take public transport to save money – It costs just SGD$10 per day for tourists to travel on public transport with a Singapore Tourist Pass. This will get you unlimited rides on buses and MRT.
  • Stay connected wherever you are in Singapore with Rentafi – The best MiFi (pocket WiFi) I’ve used during my travels in Singapore, Rentafi took me from downtown to saving my butt when I got lost in MacRitchie Reservoir. By having a MiFi, I don’t need to worry about buying a new SIM card, never had to worry about if my hotel Internet was going to good, and it’s reasonably priced – perfect! Read my full review on Rentafi.

Popiah makers in the Chinatown Food Court, Singapore.

A Locals Perspective

  • The Occasional Traveller – Follow Jaclynn’s adventures both in Singapore and around the world.  Check out her Singapore Shorts series for some hyperlocal reading.
  • Ladyironchef – One of, if not the most, popular blogs in Singapore; Brad scopes out the best food from his home and abroad!
  • Yina Goh – Yina is a stylish lifestyle blogger focusing on food, fashion, beauty and travel. She takes some seriously gorgeous photos!
  • Moonberry – This award-winning lifestyle blog covers everything lifestyle in Singapore and further abroad.
  • DanielFoodDiary.com – If you want to eat then Daniel Ang’s blog is where to go to satisfy your appetite!
  • Cheekie Monkie – From a family with three kids, their site is perfect for parents wanting to know where to go and what to do in Singapore and surrounds.
  • Miss Tam Chiak – This gorgeous food and travel blog makes my mouth water! Maureen also runs Singapore food tours.

Helpful Guides & Location-Based Reads

51VumZX3utL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Lonely Planet Singapore51k0gJdmTrL._SX344_BO1,204,203,200_Lonely Planet
Pocket Singapore
82e44fe5d9a841988fa50aadce90bbcdDK Eyewitness Singapore
Crazy-Rich-Asians_0
Crazy Rich Asians
Kevin Kwan
51yfNpkXJpL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_
Diary of an Expat in Singapore
Jennifer Gargiulo
18598342
My name is not Konichiwa
Rodney Ee

horizontal line

See my other city guides from around the world.

horizontal line

For such a small size Singapore sure knows how to pack a punch! Here's my guide to get your started planning your trip. From what to see, where to stay, and most importantly, where to eat!! ;) | #YourSingapore #Singapore #Asia #TravelTip

You Might Also Like

8 Comments

  • Reply
    Anne
    July 15, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    There are so many cool things to do in Singapore and it is always changing!

    • Reply
      Nicole
      July 22, 2015 at 12:44 am

      I agree with you, Anne! What did I miss? Any favourite things?

  • Reply
    Henry Perazo
    July 21, 2015 at 1:00 am

    It’s very awesome country! Thank you for sharing the article. Hope to hear more from you.

  • Reply
    Katie
    July 26, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    This is such a comprehensive guide! I’ve visited Singapore the past two years for Laneway and I’m always excited to dig in and explore more — there’s seriously so much to see. I had to skip out on my planned trip to Palau Ubin last time thanks to food poisoning (ugh), but it’s my top priority next time! So far, my favorites of its green spaces are the Gardens by the Bay and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

    • Reply
      Nicole
      September 3, 2015 at 10:34 am

      Oh, I didn’t know they had a St Jerome’s Laneway festival in Singapore! I thought it was an Aussie event!!

      People seriously underestimate just how much there is to do in Singapore! I will have to check out Sungei next time I’m there. 🙂

      Hope you visit the country again (and no food poisoning this time *touch wood*) and check out Palau Ubin. It’s really very beautiful!

  • Reply
    Bali Tour
    April 17, 2016 at 8:33 am

    Thank you for the information 🙂

  • Reply
    #YourSingapore - Strange & Wonderful Singapore - Bitten by the Travel Bug
    June 15, 2016 at 8:21 pm

    […] City Guide: Singapore […]

  • Leave a Reply