This post is part of the series Singapore
Other posts in this series:
- Singapore Travel Guide for First-Time Visitors (Current)
- Gardens by the Bay ~ Singapore
After visiting Malaysia, there was no chance to fly straight back home before exploring one of the most controversial cities on this Planet – Singapore! Singapore is a cosmopolitan city-state that became independent from the British in the year of 1965. Nowadays it is famous for being one of the most powerful economic centres of the World when it comes to shipping and banking.
Without any doubt, Singapore is the most prosperous and developed city in South East Asia and may be in the World too. One thing is for sure – Singapore is by far the cleanest and most modern city I’ve ever seen! We stayed in Singapore for three days. The time appeared to be not enough to fully discover all attractions, but it was definitely enough to visit the most significant city highlights.
But what is Singapore all about?
Multiculturality! Here you’ll meet people from all over the World, all races, all religions. In Singapore, everybody is welcomed. And everybody feels like home (meaning not feeling as a foreigner). Singapore is a good mix of people and a good mix of architectural styles too! From colonial-style buildings, ultra-modern skyscrapers, architectural marvels (Marina Bay Sands), Feng-Shui-Green office towers, Buddhist Temples, Hindu Temples, Churches and Mosques – Singapore has a lot to offer!
If I had to choose only one word to describe the cosmopolitan state, it will be “expensive”! Singapore, together with London and New York City, is in the top three for the most expensive cities in the world. Just to be honest, I’ve been to New York and London too, but I have never paid 10 EUR for the cheapest beer and 20 EUR for a cocktail or glass of wine. So yes, this city is damn expensive! This is the reason why this area is often avoided by travellers who aim to visit the countries of South East Asia – Singapore is way more expensive than its neighbours.
If you still want to visit this country, there are numerous budget-friendly or even free activities in Singapore which you can do without breaking the bank. Choosing the best highlights of Singapore was no easy task. Quite honestly – the best attractions are for free, e.g.: Merlions Park, Marina Bay Sands Boardwalk, Sentosa Island, Gardens by the Bay, China Town, Little India, the Botanic Garden. So don’t panic and visit Singapore!
Fast facts about Singapore
Meaning: Singapore = “Siṃhapura” = Siṃha means “lion” and Pura means “city = Lion City
Symbol: A mythical creature with a lion’s head and the body of a fish called Merlion
Spoken Languages: English, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, Malay, Tamil
Religion: Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, Hinduism
Electrical: 230 Volts, 50 Hertz
Currency: 1 SGD = 0.62 EUR
Tourist Pass: 10 SGD per day on public transport
Taxi: Taxis are very expensive! Take UBER or Grab-ber instead
Sim Card: Buy a Traveller SIM Card Valid for 5 days (4GB 4G local data, 500 minutes local calls, 100 local SMS, 30 minutes international calls)
Happy-hour: As I already said above, alcohol is very expensive in Singapore! If you’re planning on having some party, stick to the happy-hours (e.g. Clarke Quay’) where you can find good “Buy one, get one” deals.
Save Alcohol, Drink Water: Good news! Singapore’s water is drinkable – you can drink water straight from the tap.
Eat Cheap: Save a lot of money on food by eating in China Town and Little India, where some meals cost only a few dollars.
Tax Refund: Save 7% on Goods and Services if you spend more than S$100 at any participating shops.
Weather: Well, since Singapore lies near the equatorial line (144 km distance) it is very obvious that the average temperatures will be above 30°. But no weather forecast will tell you that when the temperature is around 35°, the actual temperature will be closer to 45° thanks to the humidity. The humidity in Singapore is a killer!
There is something in Chinatowns that attracts me like a magnet! It is not enough to say that I love shopping, eating, strolling, searching for the best small presents on the streets of Chinatown. Yes, we spent a lot of hours in the hand-made China Shops for souvenirs and I would do it again! The streets of Chinatown are filled with craft shops restaurants and stalls – so many opportunities to pick up your bargains! And not to forget the temples! Two of the most famous temples in Singapore are located in the Chinese Heritage – the beautiful Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.
Chinatown is also famous for being the best place to eat something good and (relative) cheap. Smith Street is the right place where you’ll find the Chinatown Food Street! The Food Street is a place where you can taste all different types of Asian food – from the small mom-and-pop food stores and an excellent selection of hawker stalls to some authentic and more high-end Chinese restaurants!
My recommendation is “Don’t Be Afraid to Eat at Hawker Stalls”! The food is cheap and delicious. Don’t miss the Hawker Chan Stall – Singapore’s Michelin-starred street food stall! The Hawker Chan is food stall famous for its Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle. The stall received One-Michelin star in the Singapore Michelin Guide 2016 and it has been recognized as the cheapest Michelin-starred meal in the World! And I can only say – the food was Yammi!
Visit Little India! Little India is one of the most colourful and exciting areas in Singapore. Singapore is a great mix of cultures and one of the most significant communities for its history is the Indian community. The name of Singapore actually comes from the Sanskrit word = “Siṃhapura” where” Siṃha” means “lion” and “Pura” means “city”. Nowadays the neighbourhood of Little India is a colourful place where you can get some cheap, but amazing Indian food, great souvenirs, spices, textiles and anything you can wish for!!! If you are brave enough – visit the Mustafa Centre which is the biggest shopping centre in Singapore. We got lost here while searching for (only!) Safran and it took about 2 hours till we found it and got out of this monster building! Mustafa Centre is open 24 hours and here you can buy literally anything! It is a sensory overload place – screaming colours, ethnic sounds and unknown exotic scents. So you definitely need to go there and get lost too!
Clarke Quay’ is the favourite place of locals when it comes to a good party and after-work drinks. Actually, Clarke Quay’ is the largest night spot in Singapore. Basically, the place is over-crowded on Wednesday and Weekends, and during the happy-hours too! It is not necessarily the cheapest place in Singapore, but definitely a very lively area with many nigh-out opportunities, restaurant and shops. The party place wasn’t packed with drunken idiots, probably because of the time that we went there or because the prices of alcohol that we saw…
Botanic Gardens and National Orchid Gardens
I love gardens! Especially when visiting a buzzing city, gardens can be a great place to get away from everything. The next good news is that Singapore has some of the best gardens in the World – and they are for free! The Botanic Gardens is such a beautiful park where you can wander through exotics alleys and get happily lost in the tropical flora. Since 2015 the Botanic Gardens of Singapore are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another good option is getting to the National Orchid Garden which will cost you the symbolic S$5 for a ticket. There are so many different types of orchids to be discovered with thousands of colours and scents around! So if you are a flower lover – the National Orchid Garden is definitely something for you.
From flower lover to animal lovers – visit the Singapore Zoo! The Singapore Zoo covers an area of 70 acres and is the home of more than 3600 animals among which mandrills, white tigers, hamadryas baboons, cotton-top tamarins and many other species that are classified as threatened. The zoo is mostly famous for its open captivity models, which means that many of the animals are kept in very large enclosures with nature very close to the original one. The Singapore Zoo is famous for being the best Rainforest Zoo in the World. Another interesting thing to do here is the Night Safari! The combi ticket (Zoo and Safari) cost around S$70.
For those who think that Singapore is not a tropical beach destination – you’re definitely not right! Despite the fact that Sentosa is a man-made island, it still offers 3 great beaches – Palawan, Siloso and Tanjong. And to be honest – they are an absolutely beautiful place to be! The white sand beaches are spread over a stretch of 2 km where you will find a lot of luxury resorts, bars, food corners and shops.
The Island of Sentosa is very popular among locals and tourists and it is meant to be Asia’s favourite playground! Why? Here you can visit the Universal Studios Singapore, Tiger Sky Tower, Adventure Cove Waterpark, Sarawak Sentosa Theme Park, Madame Tussauds and many others.
How to get here?
Sentosa Island is located in just 15 minutes from the city centre of Singapore! There are 3 ways to get to Sentosa:
By cable car: I can only recommend it! Open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and the price is S$29 for both directions.
By train: Open from 7 a.m. to midnight and the price is S$4.
By foot: Open 24 hours and it is for free. You can walk from the Harbour and it will take about 20 minutes to get to the island.
Another Keyword for Singapore is “Shopping”! The best place for this activity is Orchard Road which offers 22 shopping malls and six large department stores! It is not cheap, but if you’re lucky enough you can find some great designer bargains. Orchard Road is not only about shopping – there are many movie theatres, IMAX Cinema, KTV karaokes located here. And of course, if you get hungry while strolling around, there are numerous (high–end) restaurant and Hawker Stalls where you can enjoy your meal.
Marina Bay Sands Boardwalk
I love this Boardwalk! Compared to Dubai’s most famous Marina Board Walk (you can find more info here), Singapore’s Boardwalks is very agile, green and pleasant to experience! From here you can enjoy the best views over the famous Central Business Skyline of Singapore, visit some of the free City Concerts, search for a Martinitsa tied on a tree (especially when you’re visiting Singapore during March or April :D), and of course – make some great photos!
Another very famous thing to discover is the Merlion Park! Merlion is the symbol of Singapore – it has the head of a lion and the body of a fish. While walking through Singapore you will spot Merlion pretty everywhere but the original and most impressive statute (37 m high) of the “Water Lion” can be found in Merlion Park.
Another worth your visit attraction in Singapore is the Singapore Flyer which is the largest observation wheel in the World (165 m high)! Of course, this attraction is very touristy but it still offers one of the best panoramic views over the Lion’s City! From here you’ll be able to spot the most iconic landmark in Singapore and on a clear sunny day you will be even able to see neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia! The ticket will cost you about S$30 which is also about S$1 per minute as the full ride takes about 30 minutes.
Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay is one of Singapore’s largest eco-friendly project from the recent years. The gardens are located behind the Marina Bay Sands complex and their main attraction is the Supertrees Grove Forest which is a fully self-sustainable ecosystem. The Supertrees (25 m to 50 m high) are home of more than 300 species of plants. The Gardens by the Bay are opened 24 hours and are one of my favourite must-visit attractions in Singapore!
Marina Bay Sands Resort
If you want to visit Singapore’s most prominent site, the Marina Bay area is the place to be! Marina Bay Sands Resort is a huge complex which includes the most famous building in the city “Marina Bay Sands” Hotel, the “Marina Bay Sands” Skypark, the “ArtScience” Museum, as well as the Marina Casino and many high-end shopping centres. Although this place has a lot to offer, Marina Bay Sands is best known for its unique and a bit loony architecture! The Skypark’s viewing deck, which reminds me of a surfboard, is actually a real ship that tops the hotel and hosts Marina Bay’s infinity pool (which only hotel guests are allowed to use…unfortunately).
My absolutely favourite part of this complex is the spectacular „Spectra” – a Light and Water Show which takes place every day at 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.! The Marina Bay Sands Light and Water Show is one of these great attractions which you can watch for free every night. Both shows start at the same time, but you cannot watch them at the same time. For the Water Show you have to be at the Marina Bay Sands, and for the Light Show, you have to be at Merlion’s park. We saw the shows three times and every time was something different to experience.
Have you been to Singapore? Which is your favourite place to visit and eat in this stunning city? I’m so curious about it!
Enjoy your day!
Continue reading this series:
Gardens by the Bay ~ Singapore