TRAVEL GUIDE TO SINGAPORE

Last updated on 10-Jan-2020


CONTENT -  Formalities / Travel Itineraries / Places To See / Basics / Accommodation / Getting Around / Food / Cultural Sense & Safety / Shopping / Budget Tips 



As one of the finest examples of a modern city, Singapore has always been an exciting tourist destination for Indians. This global financial capital is only 725 km2 in area and consists of a main island and 62 islets. One of the interesting things about Singapore is that there are always new attractions coming up to keep the tourists engaged and wanting to return. Want to plan a trip? Let us get started!




Formalities 

Indians do need a visa to enter Singapore. Many countries however, have a visa free entry. Check this link to verify if you need a visa.

In India, it is required to apply for an e-visa and provide the necessary documents to an authorised visa agent. Refer this link for further details.


Travel Itineraries 

Depending on your interest and time, you could choose to spend 4 to 12 days in Singapore. Though most popular tourist attractions can be covered within 4-5 days, a longer duration would allow you to explore the offbeat locations, away from the crowd. Here are my recommendations -

4 Days (Rapid) – Universal Studio at Sentosa Island, Gardens by the bay, Marina bay sands, Singapore Zoo, Little India, Central Business District.

6 Days (Moderate) – To the above itinerary, you could include Singapore Botanical Garden, China Town, East Singapore. Alternatively, you could choose to spend another day at Sentosa Island to visit another theme park.

10-12 Days (Relaxed) – Explore also the islands and go trekking in the cities well preserved national parks. With extra days and money, you can cover all the attractions in Sentosa Island.


Places to See 



Sentosa Island – Home to exciting theme parks and loads of fun events, Sentosa island is undoubtedly the most popular place in Singapore. Universal studio, SEA Aquarium, Adventure Cove Waterpark, Madame Tussauds museum, you name it and they are all there. Even if you do not have time to explore all the attractions, you cannot afford to miss spending a day at the Universal studio. All attractions in the island are listed here.

Marina bay Sands – This luxury casino hotel overlooking the Mairna bay, is a popular destination in Singapore. Buy a ticket to go to the rooftop and view the spectacular skyline of the city. There is also a free light and water show every evening at the following timings -> Sun – Thu: 8pm & 9pm, Fri & Sat: 8pm, 9pm & 10pm.

Art Science Museum – This museum in Marina Bay Sands is a must-see. Discover creativity at its best in this complex, showcasing some fantastic light and sound displays. Do not miss the Future World, a show that blends art and Science.

Gardens by the Bay – This 100 hectare Nature Park is popular for its Supertrees that have now become an iconic symbol of this incredible country. Cloud forest is another popular attraction within the park. The Supertrees are connected through an elevated walkway. Every night at 7:45 and 8:45, a coordinated light and music show called Garden Rhapdosy lit up the Supertree grove.

Singapore Zoo – This is one of the few “open-concept” zoos in the world. Animals live in a spacious environment that resembles their habitat. They are separated from the viewers through moats. There are no cages. After spending an entire day at this incredible place, ensure to take the Night Safari, which is a major highlight of the place.

Little India – Experience India in Singapore! This would be the best place to try some Indian cuisine. The main street is filled with Indian restaurants. Visit Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple and Veeramkaliamman temple to experience the culture. Mustafa Centre, a crowded mall in the area would be an interesting place to shop. Veer Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple, Leong San See Temple, Graffitii art on Serangoon road are some other attractions in the region.

Chinatown – It is always interesting to visit a bustling street of China town in any part of the world. A lot of activities happen here. Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is one of the main attractions in this region. Also, visit the Telok Ayer Street which is known for its interesting colonial architecture. Siang Cho Keong Temple, Thian Hock Keng Temple, Nagore Durgha and Wak Hai Cheng Bio Temple are other attractions in the area.

Singapore Botanical Garden – More than 150 years old, the botanical garden is a house to thousands of species of tropical flora. The entry is free.

Orchard Road – Orchard road is a shopper’s paradise. The street is filled with high-end boutiques and retail stores. It is also a good place to shop for souvenirs. The street comes alive in the evenings with many local artists busking.

Colonial District – A walking tour would be ideal to explore the colonial district. National Museum, Peranakan Museum, St Andrew’s Cathedral Victoria theatre and Raffles Hotel are some of the popular sites in the district.

Quays – Clarke Quay and Boat Quay are popular for its high-end restaurants. Walk into one the restaurants and enjoy a few drinks and a good meal while also enjoying a beautiful view by the bay.

Merlion – This iconic image of Singapore, a half-lion, half-fish sculpture finds itself in Merlion Park. The visit is free. The park also houses several caf├ęs, restaurants, souvenir shops, and restrooms.

East Singapore - Explore the quiet streets of East Singapore. Head first to Joo Chiat road to view the impressive Perkanan terrace houses. Peranakans are descendants of Chinese immigrants who settled in SE Asia. Next, walk around to view the murals on Ernest Zacharevic and visit Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple. Finally, end the day in one of the cozy pubs of Geylong.

The islands – Take a break from the skyscrapers and busy roads, and take a boat ride to Pulau Ubin. Rent a bicycle for about S$8 and explore the island. Take a boat from Changi Point ferry terminal (Attention - Not Changi ferry terminal). You could also choose to take a day trip to Sister Islands.

Trekking in Singapore – Singapore is not all about skyscrapers and modern technology, it also has some well preserved natural parks in the middle of the city where trekking enthusiasts could find solace. Three trekking spots that I highly recommend are - Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Bukit Timah Summit and MacRitchie Reservoir.

Kuan IM Thong Hood Cho Temple – Watch an array of fortune-tellers on your way to this Buddhist temple in Bencoolen. The temple is dedicated to Kuan Yin or Avalokitesvara, the Goddess of Mercy.

Among other attractions are Esplanade (Performing arts centre), Punggol (Residential area in the North east of the city).


 

The Basics 

Credit card is acceptable in most places. You could also carry travel checks with best offers. For currency, you could use an ATM or get an exchange at the Airport. It is always advisable to carry US dollars so that there is no issue with exchange.

The best place to buy the SIM card would also be at the airport. The rates are standard. There are a lot of traveller packages available. Singtel or Star Hub are some service providers with comparable rates. As always, make sure to get a package with descent Mobile Data.

When it comes to connectivity, the SIM cards work perfectly fine. Almost all hotels and hostels will have WiFi connection. You could use Google maps to navigate around the city. The maps also list the bus or metro timings therefore making it easy to travel around the city.

As soon as you are set with the currency and SIM card, it is time to get your local transport set. At the airport, walk to the MRT metro station and buy a EZ-link card. They also offer tourist passes. Check the website to see if this suits your itinerary. The card is valid for both Metro rails and buses. You could recharge the card at any Metro station in the city. A non-refundable charge of S$ 5 is applicable on this purchase. You could top it up with about S$10 or S$ 15 for your travel of few days. To get to the city from the airport, take the Metro for S$ 2.5 or book a taxi for S$ 25.


Accommodation 

It is important to choose a right location for your stay to minimise travel time around the city. I think Bencoolen Street is a perfect location. It is only a Kilometer away from Little India, Downtown and Arab Street. Hotel Ibis is a good option to pick at a mid range price. Hotel rooms could cost you anywhere from S$ 150-200 per day.

If you wish to find cheaper accommodation, you could find several hostel/hotel options in Little India and Chinatown. Dormitories could cost you around S$ 25-30. You could also look for cheaper lodges in these areas for about S$ 80-120.

No matter which place you pick, ensure that you have a metro station at a walkable distance from the accommodation. To walk several miles every day would be time consuming.


Getting Around

Singapore is well connected by road, rail and ferry system. Undoubtedly, the cheapest and the most convenient way to get around the city is by bus. Road network in Singapore is excellent and the EZ-link card will make your journey comfortable and hassle free.

If you want to save time, then MRT metro rail is your alternative.

Bumboats and ferries run between the Main Island and Pulau Ubin or Sister islands.

Some hotels also offer free bicycles for guests to travel around the city. You could also rent a bicycle at Pulau Ubin to explore the island.

Taxis are not very expensive as compared to other modern cities. Of course, they are much more expensive than Metro or bus. Check the prices here.

In the end, exploring an area by foot is always interesting. You get to stop at various places of interest. You will probably find that easy to explore the Central Business District, Little India etc.

 

Food 



Singapore cuisine has varied influences from China to India and other Southeast Asian countries. Moreover, you will not have any trouble finding the world cuisine. From high-end restaurants to mid range pubs and food joints the options are unlimited. However, Hawker centres are more popular with office goers.

Hawker centre is an open-air complex that are available all around the cities. There are lots of options, including vegetarian, to try from and the food is inexpensive.

If you want to try Indian cuisine, then take a walk in little India. There are plenty of options here. Almost every location in Singpaore, will have an Indian restaurant. However, to find a pure vegetarian restaurant could be a challenge.

Another must while you are in Singapore is to try Kaya toasts. These Malay jam made of egg and coconut are simply delicious. You can find several Kaya toast joints on the streets. Also, make sure to try some Kopi, the local coffee. Ice-cream sandwiches and sesame balls in ginger soup are some of the food items to try.


Culture And Saftey 

Singaporeans are very friendly. Since most of them speak English, it is not difficult to get around the country. Since Tourism is one of the most important contributors to the Economy, the travellers are treated well.

Safety wise, Singapore is by far, one of the safest cities I have been to.

While entering a Buddhist, Taoist or Indian temple, ensure to dress modestly, covering most of your body.


Where To Buy And Where? 

I personally found Singapore extremely expensive as compared to other cities in SE Asia. Daiso and IKEA are two major shopping locations for you in the country. Another interesting location to shop at is Orchard road. I found some good deals at the shops in the first level of Lucky Plaza. Local market on Bugis Street is another option.

Regarding things to buy, try not to return without a few bottles of Kaya jam. They are the tastiest bread spreads I have ever had. Also, buy a packet of Kopi powder, which is brilliant in taste and most importantly, isn't acidic.


Budget And Travel Tips 

An approximate daily expense is listed below. All costs are in Singapore Dollar.

*Depends really on what activities you want to do. I have considered some of the top activities that you must try. This could vary as per your interest.


Optimise your itinerary – Most attractions in Singapore are paid. Experiencing every attraction (Specially on Sentosa Island) would not be practical under a limited time and budget. Moreover, as there are plenty of options, it might get confusing. Therefore, it would be required to make a list of things you want to view and dedicate time to those. That way, you could avoid unnecessary spend on other attractions that may not interest you.

Find out about free things to do – Despite most attractions being paid, there are a few that are absolutely free. Take a walk along the Marina bay sands and enjoy the laser and music show at night. Explore the Botanical garden. Find out about the free visiting days at the museums.

Most people stick to the major attractions and ignore some of the interesting parts of the country. Hike up the Bukit Timah summit or go trekking in MacRitchie Reservoir or Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. And visit the islands and explore them on a bicycle.

Eat at Hawker centres – The most inexpensive food is found at Hawker centres. Hawker centre is an open-air complex that are available all around the cities. The food is both tasty and cheap. This place is popular among office goers. Though not many, there are some vegetarian options here.

Carry a water bottle – I never forget to mention this tip in any of my travel guides. It is important to carry a water bottle that can be easily refilled in hotels/hostels or restaurants. Do not spend unnecessarily on bottles of mineral water.

Make most of your visit to Marina bay sands – The view from the top floor of Marina bay Sands is spectacular. Plan your visit such that you reach there just before twilight. You can capture the skyline during daytime and also when it is dark.

Take a bus or walk around – Buses are the least expensive ways to get around the country. With the eZ-Link card, the whole process becomes easy. Swipe in as you enter, ensure to track your stop that is often displayed in the bus and swipe back to deduct a predetermined ticket price.

Kaya toast – If you have too many restrictions on the kind of food you eat, then finding that suitable food could turn out to be expensive. I understand that it is important to try local food but sometimes they can be expensive. Therefore, it would be a great idea to pack at least one meal per day. Kaya toasts are one of the amazing things to pack while traveling. You can walk into any grocery store and buy some bread and Bottles of jam or Kaya (A bread spread made of coconut, egg and palm leaves). However, please note that they contain egg whites.


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