As an Asian destination, Singapore can often be over-looked or dismissed for its perceived slightly sterile, super clean and shiny exterior. But there is so much to offer in this sweet little city that makes a perfect stepping stone for a soft-landing into the chaos of the East, or a welcoming haven for the well-travelled coming off the beaten track.
Beyond the skyscrapers and cashed up business districts are remnants of the colonial old-word charm. The cultural quarters of Little India, Chinatown and Arab Street provide a rich fabric to contrast against the super high-tech city. A shopping extravaganza of electronics and fashion, art and antiques, washed down with fantastic food and drinks at the many bars, clubs and restaurants this destination is well worth the stop.
Temperatures are hot and humid throughout the year, with the wettest months between November and January and the hottest April and May. Between June and September air pollution can be high from the neighbouring forest fires in Indonesia. Seasons are more dictated by events than the weather, so take note of the festival and sporting calendars if you’re looking to avoid high prices and early bookings,
Singapore Airport about 14 miles (23km) from the city centre and transport options are well connected making getting into and out of the city easy and accessible. The MRT train service connects the airport to the city centre, as well as buses, taxi cabs and shared airport shuttle buses which offer a reliable door-to-door service. The MRT train subway system is easy and inexpensive to get your way around the city. You’ll find the public buses and taxis are also reliable and efficient and there is a range of passes and tickets available. For passengers of Singapore Airlines there is a hop on hop off bus service. Transport options aside – one of the best ways to see Singapore is to wander on foot - if you can handle the heat and humidity.
Compared to other Asian destinations, you will find Singapore quite expensive, but don’t worry; there are always options for travellers on a budget. The city is clustered into different neighbourhoods and quarters and your budget will often determine where you end up staying, but since the city is so compact, as long as you’re close to an MRT station, you’ll never find yourself far from the main sights and landmarks.
If you’re on a tight budget, you’re best to look for accommodation in Chinatown, Little India and Bugis which have the cheapest options. Here you’ll experience a colourful slice of Singaporean cultural life and some great night markets. The Singapore River area is made up of Marina Bay and Clarke Quay which are home to a cluster of 5 star luxury options with amazing harbour, river and waterfront views. Stay in Clark Quay if you want to be close to an exciting nightlife. Orchard Road is centrally located and home to the shopping malls and it’s most known for midrange and top-end hotels due to its prime location.
Raffles Hotel - admire the old colonial elegance of one of the most luxurious and expensive hotels in Singapore. Even better - you don’t need to be staying here to have a look around this grandiose hotel and get a peek into Singapore’s colourful, colonial past.
Raffles was built in 1887 and quickly established a reputation for luxurious decadence. It remains to this day one of the best known hotels anywhere in the world. Check out the grand lobby and enjoy the tranquil inner courtyard, surrounded by tropical plants. On the second floor, you’ll find the Raffles Museum with its pictures and memorabilia of the hotel and city in bygone days. The hotel’s famous Long Bar is the home of the original Singapore Sling. If you do visit this iconic Singapore landmark, smart attire is recommended.
Marina Bay Sands water & light show - known as ‘Wonder Full’, features a dazzling array of water fountains, lights, images and fire, set against the backdrop of the soaring city skyline. The light show lasts for 13 mesmerising minutes and is set to a soundtrack of rousing classical music. You can catch this spectacular event every night at 2000 and 2130, with an additional showing at 2300 on Friday and Saturday nights. To see it, hear to The Marina Bay Sands hotel (far more than a hotel – it’s a vast, luxurious shopping and casino complex!)
Little India – here you can experience the tastes of authentic India but in Singapore; renowned for its rich ethnic diversity, tale a stroll through Little India and you’ll experience an intense assault on all your senses! It’s so authentic that people say it’s like it’s seeing the real India experience without the hassle, so definitely somewhere to visit! The atmosphere in Little India is best described as controlled chaos. It’s an intoxicating mix of loud Hindi music, fragrant spices, delicious food and brilliant colours. Shops and stalls jostle for space, full of bright saris, sparkling bangles and Hindi sculptures and posters. Make sure you check out the famous Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple, also known as The Temple of Lights, which features a 15m sitting Buddha and 2 rather fierce looking tiger statues guarding the entrance.
Sentosa Island - if you’re here for a while and want a break from the sultry city, you can head to Sentosa Island, Singapore’s favourite theme park beach destination. If you just want to flake out in the sun or take a dip in the warm sea, there are three golden sandy beaches on the southern shores of the island, Palawan, Siloso and Tanjong. If you fancy something a little more active, follow the 1.8km Nature Trail that takes you along a boardwalk through lush rainforest. There’s plenty of wildlife too - look out for long tailed macaques, geckos and more than 20 species of birds.
Singapore Zoo and Night Safari is home to more than 2,000 animals, over 240 species and offers an insight into South East Asian, African, Nepalese, Burmese and South American habitats and its animals. The Night Safari, which is next door to the Zoo, is a unique way to see the nocturnal species (who you’d normally miss!) in their replicated natural environment, by visiting at night rather than in the day time.
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is around 15 minutes’ drive from Singapore. It’s a 164 hectare reserve of primary rainforest which is home to almost 900 plant species and countless insect species. You can wander among majestic ancient trees on the look-out for long tailed macaque monkeys, lemurs and anteaters. It’s a great place to head to if you enjoy hiking nature trails and seeing some tropical eco-system action after the big city lights!
Pulau Ubin is just a short boat ride from Singapore and is another welcome escape from the hustle and the bustle of the city.
In stark contrast to the urban city sprawl, this small pristine island is a gentle wilderness of mangroves, gardens, rustic roads and secluded beaches. In essence, it’s the last ‘kampung’ (village) in Singapore, where you’ll see stilt houses and tranquillity that will transport you back to traditional Singapore before the 1960s. Head here for the only real off-road mountain biking available in Singapore.
Bintan Island is a 45 minute boat ride from Singapore, crossing into the South China Sea and into Indonesian territory. It’s a haven for golf lovers and luxury expensive resorts, but it also has local, traditional fishing villages, farmer’s houses and places to stay. There are clusters of huts sell local snacks and handicrafts offering a glimpse into the ways of the Malay people. Head here for something a little different.
Singapore's convenient location and excellent transport network made up of trains, planes, buses and ferries makes getting further afield a piece of cake. Trains and buses are reliable and inexpensive to get to you to Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru which open up further connections to the pristine Malaysian islands or into Thailand.
If you feel adventurous there are plenty of ferries connecting Indonesia and Borneo from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, or you could take the Jungle Line Train from Singapore to Kota Bharu in Malaysia that heads east towards the Thailand border through some great thick rainforest. It's well worth comparing the costs of travel from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur as it may be much cheaper to pay in Malaysian Ringgit than Singapore Dollars - or just contact us for advice and we'll be able to make some recommendations!
Singapore is a convenient stop on round the world tickets so if you want to include it in your trip, we can certainly make it happen. We can find you hotels or tours in and around Singapore and build any itinerary to suit your style and budget, before sending you on to other destinations in Asia and around the world.
Here are some flight ideas to get you started - any itinerary is possible though, give us a call or request a quote by email for more information.
An example multi-stop flight ticket that include Singapore:
London - Cape Town - Sydney - Singapore - Dubai - London Flights from £1,295 pp including taxes
An example round the world ticket with surface travel between Singapore and Thailand:
London - New York // Los Angeles - Brisbane // Perth - Singapore // Bangkok - London Flights from £1,183 pp including taxes