I’ve been to Singapore about 20 times in my life but until about a month ago I’d never even left the airport. That’s not too surprising though because Changi Airport is like Disneyland for grown ups. You can get your feet eaten by fish, visit the pretty butterflies, shop until it hurts and there’s sushi EVERYWHERE. However on the recommendation of everyone who’s actually been there, I finally left the airport and visited one of the most culturally, visually and economically spectacular places I’ve ever been.
Tips for Travelling In Singapore
How to Buy Things
The national currency in Singapore is the Singapore Dollar and the current exchange rate is about $1.14 to the Aussie dollar. When I travel I tend to avoid carrying lots of cash. I simply take my VISA card and withdraw money as needed from ATMs. Most VISA cards will work overseas and it’s very safe to use ATMs in Singapore. If you’re still feeling a little funny about it just make sure you use ATMs that are in malls or shopping centres so you have a solid point of reference if anything goes wrong. For currency conversion I use Currency for iPhone. It’s really simple and works without an internet connection which is great if you’ve just arrived in the country.
How to Make Your Internet and Phone Work
Honestly, we had a bit of a struggle getting data for our phones. We tried to get sims for our phones from Singtel but they were really expensive – around $30 just for the sim with no data, a total rip off. What we ended up doing was buying a Starhub sim card for one of our iPads (it cost around $15 with some data) and tethered our phones to the iPad. Lots of malls, hotels and restaurants have WIFI though so it was never a huge issue getting internet. Both the hotels I stayed at had free WIFI and most hotels provide similar services.
What to Wear
It’s pretty much always humid in Singapore but the best thing about the weather is that it’s consistent. It almost always rains a little in the afternoon/evening and is humid and warm for most of the day. Wear natural fibres as much as possible, so your skin can breathe and wear comfortable walking shoes. You need to be aware of chafing too. There’s something about humidity that just makes all the wrong parts of your body have a rubbing party. Get some Prantal Powder or 3B Cream and carry it with you during the day. Adventure clothing stores also sell shirts and pants that are designed to breathe and prevent chafing so you can also look into that option. It’s highly unlikely you’ll need more than a cardigan in Singapore so pack as light as you can. You will need that cardigan though because they air condition the shit out of every building in Singapore and it can get unexpectedly chilly indoors.
Where to Stay
I was invited as a guest to stay at The Rendezvous Art Hotel and also The Quincy Hotel on our final night. I had an official tour of the Rendezvous Hotel with the hilarious manager who is a very serious German man. He told me that it’s ‘like a knife in his heart‘ when he reads a review on Trip Advisor saying that the hotel was in a great location. The hotel is in fact, in an excellent location but the manager said that if that’s the best thing about a guests stay then he hasn’t done his job. A touch dramatic but fair enough. The Rendezvous is a great, affordable hotel that’s walking distance to the hub of Orchard Road (sorry but it’s true!). It’s fastidiously clean and the staff are delightful. It’s also an art hotel that has interesting installations and designer furniture. They have mini croissants in the buffet breakfast too. Just saying. The Quincy is a touch on the funkier and fancier side. They have a roof top outdoor cinema that is next to the pool and the day we stayed there they had a cupcake cooking class that afternoon. Could they get cuter? They also offer airport transfers when you leave the hotel and the mini bar is complimentary. There are heaps of places to stay in Singapore and next time I’ll definitely give Marina Bay Sands a go and obviously Raffles. Luxury hotels are a touch cheaper in Singapore than they are in Australia so I’d take advantage of any fancy digs you can afford over there.
How to Get Around
Cabs or walking, although walking in Singapore is not really the done thing. We watched locals line up for 30 minutes in a cab line only to be taken on a 2 minute drive to an apartment block down the road. The weather is a little stickier than perfect walking conditions would dictate but I say if you’re traveling you should suck it up and walk as much as possible. You never know what you might find and it’s the perfect way to explore a new place. If we were traveling a little further out of the city, we’d grab a cab. They’re cheap – from the centre of Singapore to the airport is about $20 and that’s about as far as you’ll go in Singapore. Cabs are also really safe. You can also catch trains (MRT) for about $3.
What to Eat
Anything and everything! I’d avoid drinking litres of the tap water in Singapore but you don’t need to go nuts and avoid ice or vegetables and fruit that have touched water. You can eat at little sidewalk restaurants and get a plate of noodles for about $5 or you can eat at super fancy places and pay hundreds of dollars for a meal. There’s also hawker centres where you can get signature Singaporean dishes like Hainese Chicken Rice very cheaply. If you’re ever in Singapore though, you simply MUST go to Marche. It’s almost indescribable. It’s one restaurant but it’s kind of like a food court with different stations. You can get smoothies, rosti, stirfrys, fresh fish, salads and desserts. You get given a card and you go around to the different stations ordering food and they swipe it onto your card and you pay at the end. It’s a Swedish restaurant so the decor is very Heidi-esque with slightly terrifying mechanical lambs that baaa at you as you walk past but they have the best damn seafood paella I’ve ever tasted. It’s totally weird and totally worth it. There’s also an amazing restaurant called Banana Leaf Apollo that has the best Indian food I’ve tasted outside of India. I’m really fussy about my Indian food and I’d WALK back to Singapore for another bowl of their saag and papadums. So good. Awesome coffee places include CAD Cafe, 40 Hands and Maison Ikkoku. Maison Ikkoku does an amazing iced coffee which is perfect for a steamy afternoon walk around Haji Lane. We also went tohttp://www.rendezvous-hlk.com.sg which has no relation to the hotel but they recommended it. Awesome traditional Singaporean and Malay food with the most amazing shredded ice palate cleansers. Definitely worth a visit.
Awesome Places To Visit
This place is extraordinary – it’s a boat on a building. Ridiculous but totally spectacular. You can book a table and eat at their rooftop (deck?) bar or you can grab a drink and hang out on the viewing platform. The air is just delicious up there so it’s the perfect way to end a sticky day of walking around the city.
There are different areas you can visit in the centre and we went to the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. The Flower Dome is an architecturally spectacular green house that mimics the climate of different regions in the world and show cases the types of flowers that grow there. The Cloud Forest is like a misty, magical wonderland with a giant purple waterfall so obviously you need to go there. Gardens By The Bay also has, without a doubt, the tackiest gift shop I’ve ever seen. It’s like Dame Edna Everage curated it. Fabulous.
This is a sweet little art cafe that holds painting classes on the weekends. We went on a Saturday morning and had sweet potato lattes (amazing, they were purple and looked like they were made of a magic elixir) and spent the morning painting in their hip little studio. Definitely worth a visit if you’re ever around, it’s right up the road from the Rendezvous Hotel and they recommended we try it and it did not disappoint.
Where to Shop
Haji Lane and Orchard Road. Orchard Road is massive and boasts mall after mall of international stores. Be warned though that if you’re Australian you won’t find many bargains in Singapore – most things are about the same price if not a little more expensive. Local brands are slightly cheaper though and of course you’ve got Uniqlo and Muji which are always worth a visit. If you’re looking for unique gifts and funky clothing head to Haji Lane. It’s like the Surry Hills or the Fitzroy of Singapore.
General Stuff and Observations
* You don’t need a Visa if you’re traveling from Australia but you need to have at least 6 months validity on your passport.
* No one gets drunk and rowdy in Singapore (publicly at least). We were walking around at 1am on a Saturday night (the malls are open really late there) and the streets were full of people and no one was behaving like a drunken fool. Being Australian I found this fascinating and to be honest, slightly embarrassing.
* Chewing gum is illegal because it makes a mess of the footpaths. True story.
* Singapore has one of the strongest economies of any country in the world with most banks, Apple, Google and Facebook all basing their financial headquarters there.
* Doing/possessing/selling drugs is an offense punishable by death. So don’t be doing any of that nonsense.
* Singapore has 4 official languages. English, Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil.
My main piece of advice is to not treat Singapore like a stop over. Get out of the airport and explore the place. It’s really unique, very beautiful and has some of the most extraordinary architecture and tourist attractions of any country I’ve ever visited.
Have you ever been to Singapore? What’s on your must do list?
I was a guest of Stay Far East during my stay in Singapore but if it was a crap experience I would totally tell you… but it wasn’t. Singapore rocks.