As soon as I knew I’d be flying to New Zealand, I realised this could be an excellent opportunity to add in a stopover – and 3 days in Singapore sounded just perfect! It’s just enough time to see the city’s sights, pack in a street food tour and explore some of the attractions like Sentosa Island and Gardens by the Bay. Singapore makes an ideal city break on route to Australasia – so here’s how to spend three days in the city.
Singapore is an island nation-state, and Changi International airport is to the east of the city. You can book a private transfer from the airport to your hotel which is what we chose. It took about 20-30 minutes to get from the airport to our hotel in Little India which is in central Singapore – so you can hit the ground running if you’re short on time.
We stayed at One Farrer Hotel and Spa which is close to the Farrer Park MRT (Metropolitan Rail Transit) station. If you’re arriving on an early overnight flight like us and want to get out and explore, it’s a good idea to try and arrange an early check in at your hotel so you can freshen up and get straight on with the exploring. You can buy a 3 day MRT pass which is SGD $20 (2018), which is useful for zipping around the city.
My favourite way to get to know a city quickly is always to book on to a local food tour. Singapore had been tempting me with thoughts of spicy noodles, curries, wantons and chilli crab and I thought the best way to eat my way through Singapore was to tour some eateries with a local!
So the day we arrived (we had an early flight in), we headed straight out on our Urban Adventures food tour. Our tour had six people, but we can also book this as a private tour if you prefer.
The tour cost £60 per person and includes stops at three food markets and a cultural centre. In the cultural centre, we also learned a bit more about Singapore – from looking at a scaled down map of the entire city to hearing some interesting facts. For example, we heard that most of Singapore’s tube stations were also built to double up as air raid shelters!
We met our local guide, Renee at the MRT station in China Town, ready to embark on our 3.5-hour walking tour. Renee was incredibly knowledgeable and combined explanations about the local food with some insights into Singapore’s roots, culture and history - so it was a delightful tour that I’d highly recommend.
We stopped off at 2 ‘hawkers markets’ which are large, outdoor food markets with big seating areas. In Singapore it’s to eat out, so hawker centres are where you’ll find an authentic, local taste of what they’re eating and they’re also a really affordable place to eat out. Eating in restaurants in Singapore can get a bit pricey if you’re on a small budget, so the food markets are a perfect alternative.
We tasted a few different local delicacies, including the Singaporean favourite ‘Hainanese chicken and rice’. We also tried several different spring rolls (veggie and meat varieties), as well as wontons (Steamed dumplings) and a lovely freshly squeezed lemon and sugar cane drink.
If you’d like to include a street food tour in your trip – ask us to add this in – either as a private tour or with a group if you’d like to meet other foodies!
Every good day of city exploration has to start with a good breakfast! Our hotel served all manner of Asian and European breakfast options, anything from noodle soup to curry, to toast, bacon, scrambled eggs, so there’s something for everyone.
Sentosa Island is separated from the mainland by a causeway, and it’s all about entertainment. There’s a sheltered beach, several hotels and restaurants. It’s about a 30 minutes’ drive from Little India are, and on the way, we passed the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel which is one of the top sights in Singapore.
It’s quite compact, so getting from attraction to attraction is easy. Families can enjoy the rides and thrills at Universal Studios (beware of long queues for rides at weekends!), an inside theme park for kids called Kidzania and the Adventures Cove Waterpark to name a few attractions.
We made the most of the shopping malls and restaurants during our visit. There’s a vast variety of restaurants from Dim Sum to the Hard Rock Café.
After Sentosa, we spend the rest of the afternoon at Underwater World, Singapore’s aquarium, which is also great for kids, with its underwater tunnel that surrounded by sharks and stingrays swimming above you!
Later that evening we stayed in the hotel, as we’d heard that they put on the most incredible Seafood feast once a week.
In contrast to the street food who tried on our tour, we enjoyed more delicate fare; unlimited oysters, prawns and almost every other shellfish including half a lobster each! There was also a wide variety of fish dishes including seafood linguine, fish pie, pizzas, curries and more! We paid £60 each which includes a glass of wine and I would certainly say our meal was worth the price!
On our final day, we booked a private tour of the ‘Gardens by the Bay’ is another remarkable city sight that should be on every visitor’s list. It’s a park and recreation are built on an area of reclaimed land that’s home to some striking, 25m high sculptures called ‘Supertree Grove’ which work in harmony with the rest of the gardens.
The gardens offer unrivalled views of the Singapore skyline, and we visited both of the conservatories. The Flower Dome replicates a Mediterranean –type temperature and houses flowers that flourish in that climate, while the Cloud Forest is cooler climate and even houses a ‘Cloud mountain’ and a waterfall, within the glass house!
After visiting both glasshouses, we took a walk over the Skyway which is an elevated walkway between the trees that gives you panoramic views for miles - it was incredible!
Every evening there’s a spectacular light show projected from into the night sky from the top of the Marina Bay Sands hotel which takes place three times a night at 8 pm, 9 pm and 10 pm.
So after our visit to the gardens, we crossed back over the water to the roof garden at The Fullerton Hotel from where you can have unspoilt views over the light show and enjoy a few cocktails while you watch. The light show is accompanied by music so if you prefer to get the full experience and hear the music – you need to head down to the walkway by the marina.
Singapore’s Changi airport is voted the world’s best airport – and right away you’ll find it’s incredibly easy to navigate. On the way in, we were pleased to see there were minimal queues at immigration and you won’t be short of ideas to kill time while you’re here; relax before your flight in the orchid garden or the butterfly garden, or enjoy some last rays of sunshine at the swimming pool. If you’re transiting through Singapore with a layover of more than 4 hours, you get a complimentary city tour!
If you’re interested in visiting Singapore, the great news is that it’s a natural stopover destination for lots of places, including Australia and New Zealand – so check out some of our multi-stop flight ideas that include Singapore. It's also a great starting or finishing point for a journey along the Malay Peninsula if you want to explore Malaysia and Thailand. From Singapore, you can easily access the islands of Indonesia including Bali. To start planning your trip – contact Charlie.