Singapore

Singapore

Overview

Singapore, founded as a British trading colony in 1819, is a city-state in Southeast Asia. Since its independence in 1963 from Malaysia, it has become one of the world's most prosperous countries and boasts the world's busiest port. Second only to Monaco as the world's most densely populated country, Singapore is a medley of Chinese, Malay and Indian influences. With multiple tourist attractions, wide range of dining options, a vibrant shopping culture and happening nightlife scene this Garden City is definitely worth a visit or two!

Things to do in Singapore!

Hotels

Booking.com

Guide

Neighborhood


Some of the major neighborhoods in Singapore are:

 

Civic District:

  • The Civic District by the Singapore River was the seat of British government chosen by Singapore founder Sir Stamford Raffles in 1822.
  • Major attractions and landmarks in the Civic District include:

 

Orchard Road:  

  • Over 150 years ago, Orchard Road was just a small lane lined with fruit orchards, nutmeg plantations and pepper farms. Today, Orchard Road, arguably Asia’s most famous shopping street, is home to fashion favorites, specialist stores and loads of other lifestyle choices.
  • Opera Gallery features works by leading contemporary artists.

 

Chinatown:

  • Known by local Chinese as “niu che shui” (water bullock cart), after the animal-powered barrows common on these streets in the 19th century, Chinatown is a culturally diverse enclave.
  • Today, you’ll find fascinating Chinese heritage sites like the sacred Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and the Hokkien landmark Thian Hock Keng Temple, old-school street markets as well as an assortment of restaurants and bars.

 

Little India:  

  • Established in colonial times, Little India which is located near the Serangoon River, has stunning temples such as Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, boasting ornate facades with intricate cravings of Hindu deities, and 24-hour shopping mall Mustafa Centre, which has just about everything under the sun.
  • Plus, you’ll also find quirky art galleries and boutique hotels alongside historic sites. Another contribution to Singapore by the Indian community that is worthy of mention is that the name 'Singapore' was coined from the Sanskrit words 'Singha Pura' meaning 'Lion City'.

 

Harbour Front:  

  • Harbour Front is a bustling precinct where Singaporeans and visitors alike come to eat, shop, work and play, thanks to Singapore's largest mall, VivoCity, and its neighbor Harbour Front Centre.
  • Hop on to a cable car and enjoy 360-degree views of the Singapore skyline. St. James Power Station, converted from a 1920s power station, is packed with nightlife and entertainment options from dance clubs to karaoke bars.

 

Kampong Glam

  • Kampong Glam has its origins as a fishing village at the mouth of Rochor River. 
  • Home to the Malay aristocracy in 1819, this area remains a stronghold among the Malay-Muslim community with the majestic Sultan Mosque at its centre.
  • Tengku Ali, recognized as Sultan of Singapore by the British in 1855, built Istana Kampong Glam in 1840 at Sultan Gate. Today, the grounds of the 'Istana' ('palace'), is home to the Malay Heritage Centre, where you can get to know Malay history and culture better.
  • With shops hawking Malay-Arab wares like rugs, bohemian crafts and shisha tobacco as well as trendy cafés, boutiques and drinking establishments, the combination of modern and historic truly makes this place one of a kind.

 

Bras Basah Bugis:

  • Bras Basah Bugis (BBB) is one of Singapore’s oldest districts.
  • The Bras Basah Bugis precinct is the arts and heritage district in Singapore's civic centre, and home to museums and monuments.
  • The BBB is home to museums such as the National Museum of Singapore and Peranakan Museum, and national monuments like the Armenian Church which is the oldest Christian church in Singapore (built in 1835) and the Central Fire Station, Singapore’s oldest fire station which has the Civil Defence Heritage Gallery tracing fire fighting and civil defense developments in Singapore since the 1800s.

 

Joo Chiat/Katong:

  • Sitting adjacent to the Geylang district is the Joo Chiat/Katong enclave, which traditionally has been the preserve of the Peranakans descendants of 17th century Chinese and Indian immigrants who married non-Muslim natives from the Malay Archipelago.
  • Once filled with coconut plantations and used as a weekend retreat by wealthy city dwellers, Katong developed into a residential suburb by the early 20th century. The neighboring Joo Chiat area is named after Chew Joo Chiat, a wealthy Chinese landowner in the early 20th-century.
  • The area’s identity is especially shaped by its unique pre-war architecture – colorful two-storey shop-houses and terrace houses with ornate facades, intricate motifs and ceramic tiles.
  • Katong Antique House is a fully restored Peranakan family home displaying antiques and heirlooms worthy of any museum collection.

 

Marina Bay                                                            

  • A visit to Marina Bay is guaranteed to bombard your senses.
  • Sands SkyPark at Marina Bay Sands offers some of the best views in the world. Gardens by the Bay offers waterfront views over 101 hectares of green spaces with Supertrees’ ranging from 9 to 16 story.
  • ArtScience Museum houses a constantly changing line-up of major international touring exhibitions and the Fuk Tak Chi Museum was once the oldest Chinese temple in Singapore.

Getting around


General info

Getting to the city from the airport 

  • The Changi Airport is approximately 18.4 Km to 19.7 Km (depending on route) from Downtown Singapore.
  • You can use the following services to reach the city from the airport:
    • Bus:
      • Public bus service 36 goes to the city. The first bus arrives at around 6.00 am and the last leaves just before 11:00 pm. A single fare costs below SGD 2.00 and takes about an hour.
      • Bus stops are located at the basement bus bays of Terminals 1, 2 and 3. Please prepare the exact fare as no change will be given.
      • For more information, please visit the respective bus companies' websites: SBS Transit and SMRT Buses.
    • Train:
      • The Changi Airport MRT Station is located at the basement of Terminals 2 and 3, accessible from the Arrival and Departure Halls through escalators and lifts.
      • To get to the city, passengers need to transfer to the west bound train at Tanah Merah train station.
      • The last train service leaving Changi Airport station which would allow a transfer to the last west bound train at Tanah Merah station is scheduled at 11.18 pm.
      • Refer here for details
    • Shuttle:
      • Airport Shuttle Bus to most downtown hotels is available at the Ground Transport Desk located in the Arrival Hall of each terminal.
      • Refer here for details. 
    • Taxi:
      • Taxis are available at the taxi stands at the Arrival levels of each Terminal.  
      • The journey to the city is estimated to cost between SGD 18.00 and SGD 38.00 and takes approximately 30 minutes.
      • Fares are metered and there is additional airport surcharge for all trips originating from the airport:
        • SGD 5.00: 5.00 pm to 12.00 am (Fridays to Sundays)
        • SGD 3.00:  all other times
        • Midnight surcharge of 50% of final metered fare - 12.00 am to 6.00 am (daily)
      • There are multiple companies providing taxi services from the Changi Airport:
    • Car Rental: 
      • The car rental counters are located at the Arrival Halls of Terminal 1, 2 and 3.
      • The counter operating hours are from 7.00 am to 11.00 pm.
      • You can find multiple car rental agencies at the Changi Airport:
        • Avis - (65) 6545 0800 (Terminal 1)/ (65) 6542 8855 (Terminal 2)/ (65) 6447 9011 (Terminal 3)
        • Budget - (65) 6214 9057(Terminal 1)/ (65) 6543 9114 (Terminal 2)/ (65) 6441 0764 (Terminal 3)
        • Hertz - (65) 6542 5300 (Terminal 2)/ (65) 6446 7211 (Terminal 3)

Travelling within the city 

  • The Singapore Tourist Pass is a special ez-link card that offers tourist unlimited travel on Singapore's basic bus services, MRT and LRT trains for the duration that it is valid.
  • The Singapore Tourist Pass comes in 3 options: 1-day, 2-day or 3-day UNLIMITED travel passes for buses and train. Refer here for details. 

Train

  • The Singapore Mass Rapid Transit coordinates the operation of the train service.
  • SMRT rail network comprises three MRT lines (North-South, East-West & Circle Lines) and one LRT line (Bukit Panjang LRT).
  • Refer here for the schedules and fare information. 

Bus

Taxi

  • Taxis are readily available across Singapore at bus stations, airport, city centre and on the road.
  • As of January 2015, the minimum taxi fare is SGD 5.00 for first 1 Km and increases by SGD 0.55 per Km until 10 Km and by SGD 0.628 per Km above 10 Km. Booking fee is SGD 2.30.
  • Some of the major taxi agencies in Singapore are: 

Tipping


Tipping is usually not customary in Singapore, however in some areas tipping may be allowed.

  • Restaurants: In Singapore there is often a 10% service charge added to the bill. You don’t need to tip extra, but be aware that the person serving you will probably not receive this money, it goes to the restaurant. Tip what you are comfortable with, depending on the situation (small restaurant Vs high end restaurant), and your budget.  Do not tip at airport restaurants (or any other airport facility) it usually isn’t allowed and do not tip at Hawker stalls (food stalls).
  • Bars: There is no need to tip at cafes or bars.
  • Taxis: Tipping isn’t expected. You can round-up the fare for convenience and this will not be refused.
  • Hotel Porters/Concierge: Tipping isn’t customary and discouraged, except for the bellhops. You can tip around SGD 1.00 – 2.00 per bag.

Staying connected


  • Singapore uses GSM 900 and 1800 frequency bands. The phone must be “unlocked” to accept the (Country’s) SIM card. For 3G, carriers use the 2100 and 900/2100 frequency band. SingTel, M1 Limited and StarHub are providing 4G services in the country now.
  • You can buy the SIM card at airport, online, coffee shops, tabacs, super markets, post office etc.).
  • You can recharge the SIM online, super markets, tabacs, coffee shops, etc.
  • The following are service providers in Singapore for Prepaid SIM cards and Other Pay As You Go Options:

Eat / Drink


Local

With its rich multicultural heritage, Singapore serves up a true melting pot of flavors and foods. You can see a reflection of Singapore’s cultural diversity in the array of local cuisines on the menu – Chinese, Malay, Indian and Peranakan among others.

Some of the popular dishes that you should try in Singapore are:

  • Chicken rice - Chicken rice is often called the “national dish” of Singapore. Steamed or boiled chicken is served atop fragrant oily rice, with sliced cucumber as the token vegetable. Variants include roasted chicken or soy sauce chicken.
  • Char kway teow - Flat rice noodles stir-fried with lard (for best flavor), dark and light soy sauce, chili, de-shelled cockles, sliced Chinese sausage, bean sprouts, Chinese chives and sometimes prawns and egg.
  • Fried Carrot cake (chai tow kuay) - Rice flour and grated radish is mixed and steamed into large slabs or cakes. These are cut up into little pieces and fried with preserved turnip, soy sauce, fish sauce, eggs, garlic and spring onions.
  • Chili crab - Another national signature, chili crab with the spicy chili-tomato gravy is one of the most requested dishes for anyone who comes to Singapore.
  • Bak Kut (meat bone tea/ pork ribs soup) - Meaty pork ribs are lovingly boiled for hours with lots of garlic, pepper, medicinal herbs and spices. There are two styles -- the clear, peppery Teochew broth and the darker, more herbal Hokkien stew. You tiao (fried crullers) are the perfect croutons for soaking up the soup.
  • Wanton Mee - The Singapore Wanton noodles was probably influenced by Hong Kong cuisine. The Singapore version is typically eaten ‘dry’, drenched with some light sweet sauce, slices of pork char siew and wanton dumplings filled with pork, with a small bowl of soup on the side.
  • Kaya toast and soft-boiled eggs - The one and only traditional Singaporean breakfast- Kaya is a coconut custard jam, sweet and fragrant. When slathered onto thin slices of warm toast with ample butter, the sandwich it makes is simply divine. Many locals have this for breakfast supplemented by two soft-boiled eggs with soy sauce and pepper.
  • Laksa - Traditional Singapore curry Laksa uses vermicelli, coconut milk, tau pok (bean-curd puffs), fish slices, shrimp and cockles (hum).
  • Rojak - This is a traditional fruit and vegetable salad dish. There are two main variations of the way rojak are prepared. One variation is adapted from the Malay and Chinese cuisines, which is commonly a toss of bean-sprouts, greens, tau pok (or deep-fried soybean cake), you tiao (a crispy long strip of fried flour) pineapple, cucumber, and a generous sprinkle of finely chopped roasted peanuts (which gives it ample texture and a lovely crunchy bite) well-tossed with a spicy fermented prawn paste sauce. The other is the Indian version, which is also tossed in peanut sauce, although this version has an added red flavoring and color for that tinge of spiciness.
  • Roti Prata - Roti means “bread”, and prata means “flat”, but it is actually closer to a pancake with a lightly flavored and subtle sweet dough that makes for a gratifying meal, especially in the mornings. While commonly served plain with dhal or curry, local menus now feature a variety of eccentric variations such as durian, ice-cream, cheese, chocolate and banana, all worth a try for the adventurous diner.
  • Hokkien Prawn Mee - The Singapore Hokkien Mee fries a combination of egg noodles and rice noodles in a rich prawn stock with cubes of fried pork fat, prawns, fish cake and squid. Some vendors add pork strips as well to add more flavor.
  • BBQ Sambal Sting Ray - Sambal is a versatile chili paste blended with spices, shallots, candlenuts and often belachan (fermented shrimp paste). Sambal-coated cuts of stingray are wrapped in cleaned banana leaves and grilled to smoky perfection.
  • Oyster omelet - Known as “or luak” or “hao jian” locally, this Southern Chinese dish is another grease-laden supper favorite. Potato starch is mixed into the egg batter to give it a thicker and semi-gooey consistency. Oysters are added just a few seconds before serving, so that they are not overcooked.

 

Some notable restaurants serving the local specialties include: 

Gourmet

  • Iggy’s 
    • Cuisine: Continental, Japanese
    • Awards: Highest Three Star Rating 2014 (The World of Fine Wine), The first and only Five Star Rating 2014 (Forbes Travel Guide), Number One Restaurant in Asia 2008/9, 2010/11 and 2011/12 (The Miele Guide), The S.Pellegrino World’s 100 Best Restaurant (2006-2014).

 

  • Waku Ghin
    • Cuisine: European, Japanese
    • Awards: Singapore’s Best Restaurants 2014 by Singapore Tatler – Hall of Fame Award, S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2012 and 2013, Second on The Miele Guide to Asia's Top 20 Restaurants 2013, Vismark Asian Restaurant of the Year Award— World Gourmet Series Awards of Excellence 2013.

 

  • Gunther’s
    • Cuisine: French
    • Awards:, The Miele Guide to Asia's Top 20 Restaurants 2011/2012, S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna Asia’s 50 Restaurants 2013, World Gourmet Summit Awards of Excellence 2009 Sommelier of the Year, S.Pellegrino World’s Best 100 Restaurants 2010, World Gourmet Summit Awards of Excellence 2012 Restaurant of the Year.

 

  • Jaan
    • Cuisine: Asian
    • Awards: World Gourmet Series Awards of Excellence 2014, S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2014.

 

  • Shinji
    • Cuisine: Japanese.
    • Awards: The Peak, G Restaurant Awards 2012: Restaurant Of The Year, Singapore Tatler: Singapore’s Best Restaurants 2011, The Straits Times Top Restaurant 2012, 2011, S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

Vegetarian

 

 

 

 

Drink

Major breweries in Singapore include:

Some drinks that you should try in Singapore are:

  • Teh tarik- Teh tarik or pulled tea is tea with showmanship. Indian tea-makers pour a stream of hot milk tea back and forth between two vessels held as far apart as possible. It looks a lot easier than it is. The result is a frothy drink that’s well-mixed. You can request for teh halia (milk tea with ginger) as well.
  • Choco-nut Chendol cocktail - This dessert-like drink has familiar chendol flavors, like red bean paste and green starch noodles, mixed with white and brown crème de cacao and coconut cream for a twist.
  • Laksa cocktail - The Laksa cocktail is Ketel One vodka infused with dried shrimp oil (the shrimp is deep-fried), muddled with fresh laksa leaves, lemongrass, chili padi, coconut milk and sugar.
  • Kaya Toast cocktail - One of Singapore’s quintessential breakfast items gets a boozy makeover. The Kaya Toast is kaya (sweet coconut custard spread) mixed with earl grey tea, fresh lemon juice, honey, Mount Gay rum, garnished with two slices of white toast and a dollop of kaya – in case you wanted the spread unadulterated.
  • Kueh Blanco – Traditional Perankan snack cocktail with its kueh salat-inspired (two-layered coconut dessert with glutinous rice at the bottom and green pandan custard on top). Coconut tequila is infused with glutinous rice, topped with coconut cream and pandan foam.
  • Singapore Sling - Initially called the Straits Sling, the original consists of gin, cherry liqueur, Benedictine, pomegranate juice and pineapple juice from Sarawak pineapples, to create the foamy top. The updated one is made with distilled-in-Scotland Hendrick’s gin, Cointreau triple sec, cherry brandy, pineapple juice, grenadine syrup and Benedictine DOM.
  • Singapore Sawa - The Singapore Sawa is made with umeshu infused with Southeast Asian spices, and has intense ripe fruits and spice flavors, lengthened with sparkling prosecco. Aperol and ginger liqueur add certain sharpness to the taste, making the drink delightful and perky. 

Some of the  popular pubs and bars in Singapore are:

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Banner image credits: Randy Tan