Travelling can be a daunting task, especially if you're going to a new place that you haven't been to before. There may be many issues you're worried about. Being a 'woke' traveller is extremely important so that you can make the bests out of your experience without letting anything hamper your time. Singapore is a very exciting place to travel to, with its eclectic mix of people from diverse communities. While its many cultures, traditions, practices and laws may seem alien to you, we're here to help! If this is your first time in Singapore and you're worried about safety and other rules that tourists are expected to follow, you've come to the right place. Go through our comprehensive guide for safety and other handy tips for Singapore, and make your trip to the Lion City memorable!
Is Singapore Safe?
Firstly, relax. Singapore is very welcoming to tourists, as the tourism industry is one of the most booming sectors in the country. The locals are amiable to travellers and are helpful. Singapore has been ranked the safest country in the world, in a 2018 survey by the World Justice Report. This means that the country has a very low crime rate, and citizens feel very safe. This is also one of the cleanest cities in the world, and most people feel absolutely safe to venture out on the streets at night. The laws are strictly enforced, but you will not find policemen in many locations, especially when compared to countries like the USA or in the Middle East. Nevertheless, law enforcement is pretty strict here. The strict and court enforcement of rules makes Singapore one of the safest places for tourists. However, with every tourist hub, there always exists a possibility of petty crimes, so it is always better to be aware of your surroundings.
Almost all Singaporean locals speak English, as it is a medium of education. The city is very developed, and the infrastructure is sound. Singapore is squeaky clean as well, so rethink littering!
Locals are very approachable - they may appear very busy but will still help you out if you approach them. Tourists may sometimes not find them very amiable, especially in public transport, but that is because Singaporeans are always in a hurry - it's a busy city!
Public transportation is easy, inexpensive and safe, which makes it an economical bet for tourists and locals alike.
Public washrooms are very clean, and rarely dysfunctional. Restaurants and hotels are of good standards too. Safe and pure drinking water is commonly available. Wi-Fi connectivity is stellar.
It is illegal to carry or chew gum in the entire city, except for medical purposes. So, prepare to have all your gum dumped in the trash! If you do need to chew gum for medical purposes, carry the prescription with you at all times, and dispose of the gum responsibly.
Avoid visiting lesser known areas that are not frequented by tourists, as you mind be accosted by anti-social elements.
As Singapore is an Asian country, certain illnesses prevalent among the masses may be a concern for tourists. Before you visit the Lion City, make sure that your health insurance is valid. Singaporean laws do not cover medical expenses for tourists, which means that there may be hefty bills to pay if you fall sick. Health insurance is a safe bet here. There are a few diseases to watch out for in Singapore, as you may be susceptible to them.
Mosquito-borne diseases: These include chikungunya, dengue, malaria and the Zika virus. Singapore is susceptible to occasional outbreaks of these diseases as it is a tropical country with a dense floating population. Tourists are at a moderate risk to these maladies as they may frequent crowded spots. The best way to prevent these illnesses is to vaccinate yourself and invest in bug repellents. This especially applies if you plan on travelling to places with a lot of vegetation. Wearing long-sleeved clothes can also help, but this may get uncomfortable due to the tropical weather. Remember to put on a generous layer of bug repellant before you venture out, and you ought to be golden! Report any adverse symptoms to a GP immediately.
Haze and pollution: Pollution is another risk factor in Singapore, especially between October and February. During this time, forest fires in Indonesia cause a dense haze to cloud the entire city, which may cause respiratory illnesses. Tourists with asthma and other respiratory issues are advised to keep track of the Singapore Government's warnings and notices before venturing to the city. It is also better to have filtering masks handy so that you can combat the effects of haze. Do not attempt to drive in the haze, as it reduces visibility as well.
Sunburn and fatigue: As Singapore is a tropical country, its average temperature is around 32 degrees Celcius or 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The weather is quite humid as well. You can expect brief rainfall all around the year. Never forget to wear sunscreen with appropriate SPF before you step out in the sun, as some travellers - especially from temperate countries - may be susceptible to sunburn. It is better to carry an umbrella as well, in case it rains. Remember to stay hydrated, as the humidity may make you sweaty and dehydrated.
Smoking and Drinking Laws
Singapore has very strict smoking and drinking laws. The city aims to be smoke-free and thus has enforced strict regulations on smoking. It is forbidden to smoke in public spaces or near public establishments. Restaurants and hotels have designated smoking rooms. Some pubs and restaurants may allow smoking in common premises, during a stipulated time. Cigarettes are also expensive in the city. These measures are in place for safety reasons.
If you do want to smoke, look for a yellow smoking sign. Refrain from smoking in prohibited places, as the punishments range from spot fines to caning. Fines can range from SGD 200 to SGD 1000. E-cigarettes and vapes are banned, and taxes are imposed on bringing cigarettes as well. Drinking and driving is a serious offence in the country. Traffic policemen conduct routine Breathalyzer tests, and the offence can lead to long-drawn prison sentences.
Littering and Graffiti Laws
It is explicitly forbidden to litter in Singapore, and it attracts punishments like fines, caning and imprisonment. Vandalism and graffiti are also serious offences, which attract penalties. Besides, the Garden City is so beautiful that one doesn't feel like littering at all! But in all seriousness, do not litter - take along a bag so that you can put your waste in it. People who litter can be charged anywhere between SGD 400 to SGD 1000, even if it is a first-time offence.
Food and Allergies
Singaporean cuisine is an eclectic mix of Thai, Malay, Indian, Chinese and Japanese food. The street food in Singapore is very famous for its taste, quality and price. If you find restaurants too expensive, you can always opt for street food in places like Little India and Chinatown. However, before you eat there, make sure the food is hygienically prepared as sometimes the place may get dirty. Stalls have rankings ranging from A to D, with respect to cleanliness. Stick to A, B and C stalls. Ask for allergen information as well, because the cuisine is predominantly of seafood, dairy, nuts and gluten.
Crime rates are very low in Singapore, as law enforcement is very strict. Terrorism is also very low in the Lion City, as law enforcement officials are on the constant lookout for suspicious behaviour, especially after terror attacks in neighbouring Indonesia. The most common crimes include pickpocketing, scams and drug-related offences. Petty thefts may also be common. As long as you keep your belongings safe and do not blindly trust someone you don't know, you will be fine. Avoid shady salespersons who approach you and ask you to visit their shops or massage parlours.
Jaywalking is an offence which attracts a spot penalty of SGD 20 for first-time offenders. Repeat offenders may be charged up to SGD 1000, or even imprisoned. Follow traffic rules and abide by the regulations. You may approach locals or guides for information regarding the city. As it is a cosmopolitan city, all information is also available online.
Public transport is very economical, safe and accessible. It is preferred by locals and tourists alike because it connects the entire city with ease. People have no qualms about using public transport even late at night. Buses, taxis and the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) are preferred modes of public transport.
Buses: Buses are the cheapest mode of public transport in Singapore, and by far, the most exciting. They offer the luxury of being able to explore the city in all its glory. Most buses are air-conditioned and comfortable. They work round the clock and can be availed at all times. Tourists who are keen on using public transport can avail a Singapore Tourist Pass which offers discounted rates.
Taxis: Taxis are comfortable for families or for tourists who want to visit lesser-known attractions. Most taxi drivers do not charge above a meter - the price is fixed beforehand and the meter is law. In case the driver demands extra, you can always complain to a police officer about it. Taxis are usually safe at night as well. Women travelling alone can even hail a taxi at night and sleep till the destination, as you can rest assured that the driver will take you safely. However, it is always better to exercise caution. Always get into taxis only after identifying the employer and noting down the driver's details, so that you can inform loved ones about your whereabouts.
MRT: The MRT is the fastest mode of transport in Singapore, and it connects all important parts of the city. Most tourist attractions are covered as well. Tourists can avail passes in case of prolonged stay, or opt for daily tickets. The MRT is extremely safe to travel at night, and crimes rarely occur. Pickpockets may lurk in stations or crowded trains, so it is important that you safeguard your valuables.
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) takes the safety at sea very seriously and works to ensure that your experiences in the ocean are safe and enjoyable. Lifeguards are available at every beach, and coast guard boats also patrol the ocean. Routine checks are conducted at ferries and pleasure boats, to make sure that all vessels comply with safety measures. Well-equipped disaster management teams ensure that emergency situations are handled with care and caution. As a tourist, it is also your responsibility to familiarize yourself with basic safety procedure, like learning how to use a life vest. If you spot any issue while at the beach, you can inform lifeguards nearby, or call the police. During the monsoon (June to September and December to March), the sea may get a little choppy and hard to manoeuvre. Follow all safety instructions and do not venture out to the sea if it is very rough.
Safety for Women
Singapore is one of the safest places for women and solo travellers, as the laws are very strict. Singaporeans are courteous to women, and there are no restrictions on what to wear, except in religious institutions. Molestation laws always favour the victim - you can report any incidents of molestation and harassment immediately, and watch justice being served. If you are a man, make sure that you do not indulge in acts that may be perceived as an outrage of modesty - this includes hugging, kissing or touching a woman you do not know. Public transport is also safe for women, even at night.
Information for LGBTQ+ travellers
Singapore does not support homosexuality per se, but LGBTQ+ tourists will not have an issue unless they blatantly engage in PDA. This applies to heterosexual couples as well. As long as there is no PDA or any parade or demonstration, you will be fine. Remember that impromptu parades and gatherings are illegal in the city.
Recreational drug use is punishable by death. Avoid carrying drugs to Singapore, as the law is very strict. In the unlikely event that someone approaches you with the intent of selling drugs, inform authorities immediately.
Emergency ambulance and fire services of the Singapore Civil Defence Force can be reached at 995. The police can be reached at 999. Public hospitals like Singapore General Hospital and Tan Tock Seng Hospital offer trustworthy healthcare services.
Tips to Keep in Mind While in Singapore
Do not litter - carry a bag with you to dispose of waste when you're outdoors, and throw the waste in designated bins
Always carry your passport on your person but make sure it is safe
Take gloves and a mask, in case the haze gets to you
Always ask for allergen information while getting food, as conventional Singaporean cuisine incorporates gluten, dairy and nuts
Carry pepper spray with you at all times, just in case
Store your wallet and other essentials in a place that is hard to reach, like your front pockets
Use handbags with comfortable straps, that you can hold on to
Avoid carrying multiple things in your hands - your attention may be divided, making you a possible victim of pickpocketing or theft
Use your discretion while venturing alone, at night or to desolate places
A vacation must be a memorable experience, without any glitches. Safety must be your prime concern, wherever you go. In that regard, Singapore is a relatively very safe place to visit, but your discretion is of utmost importance too. Use your sense to gauge situations. What were your experiences in Singapore like? Do you think it is a safe city? Do you have any suggestions for tourists? Comment below, and let us know!