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Singapore

4.8 /5 111 votes
Sub-Region: Southeast Asia

Weather:

Best Time: January - November Read More

Ideal duration: 3 days

Nearest Airport: Singapore Check Flights

"The Quintessential Cosmopolitan"

Singapore Tourism

Best described as a microcosm of modern Asia, Singapore is a melting pot of culture and history, and an extravaganza of culinary delights. Officially known as the Republic of Singapore, it is both a city and a country located in Southeast Asia. One of Asia's most visited destinations, Singapore is best described as an amalgam of a fast-paced life and an off-the-back-street inheritance.

Singapore is the quintessential cosmopolitan, having the highest religious diversity in any country. Spread 42 km (26 miles) east to west and 23 km (14 miles) north to south, today it boasts of the world's busiest port. Singapore has climbed to be one of Asia's hit-list destinations with its efficient and widespread transport system - whizzing in this country is just a matter of minutes! The national pastime of Singaporeans is eating, followed closely by shopping. This 'City in a Garden' is a blend of cultures, combining different ideas, cuisines, new architectures going well with the gleaming hint of the old school.

The incredible shopping malls, classy boutiques, departmental stores on Orchard Road, the exotic elements of Chinatown and Little India and the world-class nightlife span across the spotless land of Singapore. Expensive with respect to South-eastern standards, the city offers a plethora of other options for entertainment such as Sentosa Island, Singapore Zoo, Botanic Garden, Marina Bay Sands, Tiger Balm Garden, and the Night Safari. With picture-perfect skyline and city centre bustling with crowds of people, Singapore is one of the most popular travel destinations for a lot of reasons.

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Language of Singapore

There are four official languages of Singapore: English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese and Tamil. Yes, Singapore language is as diverse and multi-cultural as its people! English is the most widely spoken language (primarily by the population below the age of 50), and the medium of instructions in school. English is also the language of business and government in Singapore, based on British English. 

A unique and widely spoken language in Singapore is the Singlish. It is primarily the colloquial form of English, having a distinct accent, and ignoring the basic standards of English grammar. Having a jumble of local slang and expressions of various languages and dialects of Singapore, speaking in Singlish is seen as a mark of being truly local! 

The major portion of the literate population in Singapore is bilingual, with English and Mandarin being most commonly spoken. Interestingly, all the schools in the city teach the language of the child's parentage, along with English, to ensure the child stay in touch with the traditional roots.

Read More About Singapore Languages

History of Singapore

According to the historical records, the story of Singapore goes as back as the third century, then referred to as 'island at the end'. It was between 1298 and 1299 AD that the first settlement was established when the city came to be known as Tumasik or Sea Town. According to a legend, the current name of the country came into being during the 14th century when a prince of Palembang (capital of Srivijaya) saw an animal he had never seen before while on his hunting trip. Taking it as a good omen, he named the city as 'Singapura' or the 'lion city' derived from the Sanskrit words 'Simha' meaning 'lion' and 'pura' meaning.

Soon, the city located at the tip of the Malay Peninsula (natural meeting point of various sea routes) became the major trading hub for Arabs dhows, Chinese junk, Portuguese battleships and Buginese schooners. However, the modern city of Singapore was founded in the 19th century by Sir Thomas Stanford Raffles. After passing from various hands of power, the island was handed over to British in 1946 as its crown colony. The revolution for independence came about in 1959 when the country's first general elections were held and Lee Kuan Yew became first Prime Minister of Singapore. One can witness the imprints of the island's rich past and struggle at various museums, monuments and memorials.

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Nightlife in Singapore

Speakeasy cocktail bars, boutique beer stalls and artisan coffee artists - Singapore Nightlife has unearthed the gems of fine drinking. The clubbing scene in Singapore is fast developing, with futuristic clubs coming up on every corner. The beer scene is not far behind with more bars, cafes and restaurants jumping on the craft beer-bandwagon. While coffee is Singapore is not new, its speciality coffee scene is definitely a recent phenomenon. Inspired by artisanal coffee culture, the voguish cafes are brewing ethically sourced beans.

Pro-Tips
  • Singapore is a lavish city to drink in, owing to the 25% alcohol tax hike in 2014. While beer at most bars in the city costs around SGD 10 to SGD 18, the cocktails commonly set you back between SGD 20 and SGD 30.
  • For the cheaper option, explore the plastic-table-fluorescent-light-vibe at the local hawker centres and coffee shops, guzzling bottles of the famous Tiger Beer for SGD 7.
  • Most of the bars have happy hours between 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM. 
  • Ladies' Night often runs on Wednesday at most places with promotions offering cheaper drinks to women.
  • All regular bars add a 10% service charge and 7% GST to the bill.
  • Be ready to queue up at most of the bars, especially on weekends and holidays.
Read More About Singapore Nightlife

Shopping in Singapore

Shopping in Singapore is second only to eating as a national pastime. From iconic malls in all shapes and sizes to the curated local boutiques and local shopping centres, the Lion City is known for its burgeoning shopping scene. While there are many shopping belts here, Orchard Road proudly stands as the queen of shopping malls with high-street brands, fashion houses and few discount outlets thrown into the mix. To hit city's independent boutiques - home to lesser known and emerging fashion labels - visit Tiong Bahru, Jalan Besar, or Haji Lane in Kampong Glam.

For the lovers of art and antiques, the best places to head are Dempsey Road, Chinatown, Tanglin Shopping Centre and Gillman Barracks. Shopping in Singapore is incomplete without picking up spices, decorative items and saris from Little India, especially for the touch of Indian hospitality in the Lion City. Being the quintessential cosmopolitan city, Singapore also houses one of the best markets for Persian Rugs and Aromatics (Kampong Glam), while offering a slice of Peranakan culture through the traditional batik garments available at Katong.

Pro-Tips
  • Some stores in the bigger malls offer a discount of 10 to 15 percent for the bigger spends, so it's always worth asking
  • While shopping at the local markets, it's good to know the price of the items, then browse and compare
  • Prices at most of the places are usually fixed, except at local markets. If looking to bargain, do so good-humouredly
  • Returns are generally not accepted
  • The returning visitors often a 7% GST refund on the purchases under these conditions:
    1. A minimum spend of $100 at the same shop in one day for no more than 3 purchases
    2. Have a copy of eTRS ticket (Electronic Tourist Refund Scheme) issues by the shop of purchase
    3. Scan the eTRS ticket at self-help kiosks at the airport or cruise terminal to know if inspection of goods is required. In such cases, present the items with the original receipt and the boarding pass at Custom Inspection Counter
Read More About Best Markets for Shopping in Singapore

Currency in Singapore

Singapore's unit of currency is the Singapore Dollar (SGD), locally referred to as the 'Singdollar'. It is made up of 100 cents using coins of 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents, along with notes in the denomination of SGD 2, 5, 10 and 50, 100, 500 and 1000. 

Cards: Almost all the major credit card brands are widely accepted in Singapore including Visa and MasterCard (although a 3 % surcharge may be charged by some shops, taxis may charge up to 15 %).
Traveller's cheques are usually not accepted, however, can be cashed at most of the exchange booths.
EZ-Link and Nets Flash Pay cards are valid in case of some convenience stores and fast-food chains.

ATMs: ATMs are widely available at banks, malls, MRT stations and commercial areas.

Exchanging Money in Singapore

  • Currency exchange in Singapore is done in banks as well as currency exchange booths found in almost every shopping mall. Generally, these booths offer better rates, opening hours and much faster service than banks.
  • The Mustafa Mall, which is open 24 hours, accepts almost any currency at a very good rate with equal competitiveness as the small shops located at Change Alley next to Raffles Place MRT.
  • Rates at the airport are not as good as in the city, so avoid exchanging there.
  • The ATMs are easily available throughout Singapore in large numbers.

Daily Budget for Singapore

Singapore, in general, is an expensive country by the standards of the Asian countries. Although the city caters to the taste and interest of each kind of tourist, the minimum budget for backpackers, mid-rangers and luxury travellers are higher in comparison to the neighbouring countries. The cost of travelling in Singapore per day and per person (excluding hotel expense) is:
Budget Travel: Less than SGD 200
Comfortable Travel: SGD 200 - 400
Luxury Travel: SGD 400 plus

Religion of Singapore

Being a multi-religious country, Singapore does not have a state-regulated religion which the citizens are supposed to follow. It is home to 10 religions, out of which Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity are the primary religions, while Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Sikhism, Jainism and others form the minority cluster. The Lion City is the ultimate melting pot, with the locals celebrating all festivals pompously, irrespective of the religion they follow. 

Read more about Religion in Singapore

Singapore Customs

  • While meeting a Singaporean formally or informally, make sure to shake hands firmly with all, even when departing. A slight bow while shaking hands is considered respectful.
  • Take off the shoes before entering any one's house. Also, remember to take them off before visiting any temple or mosque.
  • Make sure never to pinpoint someone or something with a finger, just raise your hand for indication.
  • Gender discrimination is a legal offence in Singapore; thus, take care not to disrespect anyone.
  • Tipping is not customary in Singapore. Most of the restaurants add a 10% service charge in the bill, in which case, tipping is generally discouraged. Avoid tipping at hawker centres and food courts. Tipping is also completely prohibited at the Changi Airport.
  • Refer to the middle-aged and elderly people as 'Uncle' or 'Auntie', as it is seen as a sign of respect in Singapore.
  • While eating with chopsticks, do not stick them upright in the bowl. It is reminiscent of funeral rites and considered bad luck.
  • Do not touch anyone's head, as it is considered sacred by many. On the contrary, the feet are regarded as dirty, so do not point them directly at someone.
  • Casual clothes (shorts, t-shirts, flip-flops) are acceptable in most places in Singapore. Pack formal outfit and dress shoes for higher-end restaurants.

Restaurants and Local Food in Singapore

The national pastime of the people of Singapore is eating! From Michelin-starred restaurants to cheap hawker centres, Singaporeans are obsessive gourmands who love to makan ("eat" in Malay). Being a true cosmopolitan, the cuisine of the Lion City is one of the world's most diverse and piquant. Hawker centres, coffee shops (kopitiams) and food court dominate the scene, serving palatable food at pocket-friendly prices. For the lovers of luxury, there is no dearth of celebrated restaurants in Singapore. One will find quality Chinese, Malay, Indian, Japanese, Thai, Italian, French, American and other food in this city-state.

The most identifiable cuisine in Singapore is Peranakan or Nonya cuisine, a unique fusion of Chinese and Malay cooking styles prepared by the Peranakan community. Chilli crab; Satay with peanut sauce, onions and cucumber; Katong laksa (white noodles in a creamy, immensely rich coconut-based curry broth, topped with cockles or shrimp) with chilli paste and chopped laksa leaf in a spoon are some of the most popular local delicacies of Singapore.

Read more about must-try food in Singapore

Vegetarian Food in Singapore
For the best vegetarian food, head to Little India. The food stalls and hawker centres teeming the area offer decent vegetarian options. However, while ordering vegetarian food (anywhere in Singapore), be specific about the preferences (say "no meat, no seafood"). This is because the interpretation of vegetarian food varies at places with prawn and chicken served as vegetarian at some food stalls.  
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Singapore Reviews

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Ken Chiramel 7 months ago
A melting pot of cultures from around the world, Singapore has long been heralded as a utopian blend of technology and culture. Having its foundational roots in the British empire, Singapore has flourished into one the most economically advanced countries in the world. A smorgasbord of culinary experiences that draws influence from Indian, Chinese, Malay, and European heritage, Singapore?s food scene is bustling. From food courts where people can have meals for less that SGD 2 to the most lavish Michelin-starred restaurants, there is something to ensure nobody goes hungry there. With a vibrant nightlife that thrives along the Clarke Quay river, revellers can party long into the night. Sentosa beach offers lazy days by the sea and the thrill of water park rides as well. Gardens by the Bay is an artificial garden right in the CBD area of Singapore that has towering man-made trees, called Supertrees, that measure up to 50 m in height, and looks straight out of a sci-fi movie. Spread out over a sprawling 101 acres, it also includes the world?s largest indoor waterfall.
Justin 99M 11 months ago
Be it the education system or the Merlion figure head that drew you to Singapore, you'll agree that Singapore is a fine and expensive city. With plush roads, clean environment, and hardworking people; I loved taking a shot at Jurong bird park and Gardens by the bay. Be careful not to litter! These are 2 reasons why Singapore is called a 'fine' city.
Joysurjya Hagjer 1 year ago
I visited Singapore in 2008. Back then this tiny island nation was still growing in terms of population and area. The thing I will always cherish about Singapore is its people. It is harder to find a nicer and more friendlier country than this one. Our guide, the hotel staff and even the taxi and bus drivers were so warm and polite all the time. They are always ready for a conversation when you need one. This city nation is an amalgamation of different cultures. It was heartwarming to see people from various communities living harmoniously with each other. Apart from the people, I really enjoyed the night safari and the various attractions and events at Sentosa Island. I will always remember the water laser show at Sentosa Island as it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Do take care to not litter!! The city is kept very clean under strict rules. Chewing gums are not allowed and any sort of careless dirtying is heavy imposable.
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