Once a modest fishing village, Singapore is now a bustling, multi-cultural city-state. Travelers will find a wealth of things to do, see and eat. From historic temples to top-notch street fare and bustling shopping districts, there’s something for everyone.
Although it may be one of the smallest countries in the world, Singapore’s thriving free-trade economy and highly efficient workforce garner attention and respect. It’s considered a global financial hub and center for wealth management. Singapore’s stable political environment, access to global markets and well developed business infrastructure make it very attractive to investors. Export-oriented trade and business in the technology and pharmaceutical sectors drive the economy.
Getting to and from the airport
Singapore’s international Changi Airport offers wireless Internet, gaming kiosks and plenty of places to relax. To get to your destination, hop on the MRT subway between terminals 1 and 2. A one-way trip to the central Tanah Merah Station costs S$1 (US$0.71 using the exchange rate US$1 = S$1.40). The journey takes 30 minutes. Stop by the ground transportation desk in the arrival hall to arrange a one-way airport shuttle service to hotels in the city center. A ticket costs S$9 (US$6.41). Taxi fare to the city center costs between S$55 and $60 (US$38.96 and $42.51).
Getting around Singapore
Singapore’s efficient transportation system of buses, rail and taxis ensures most journeys are hassle-free. Fares vary by destination, but average about S$2 (US$1.42). If you’re staying in Singapore awhile, consider picking up an EZ-Link pass. This contactless card offers quick and cash-free transactions on the MRT (subway), LRT (light rail) and buses. The card costs S$12 (US$8.51), inclusive of a S$5 (US$3.54) non-refundable card cost and a s$7 (US$4.96) card value.
Alternatively, you can opt for the Singapore Tourist Pass which offers unlimited train and bus rides for S$10 (US$7.08) a day. You must pay an additional S$10 deposit which is refunded when you return the pass within five days of purchasing.
Taxis are fairly inexpensive and Singapore’s compactness helps keep trips short. Fares are metered. Note that if you’re traveling between midnight and 6 a.m., your fare will be 50 percent higher.
Where to stay
If you’re looking for luxury, full service accommodation, consider the Pan Pacific Serviced Suites Beach Road (7500b Beach Road, Singapore 199592; Ph: 65-66788888), the Shangri-La Singapore (22 Orange Grove Road, Singapore 258350; Ph: +65 6737 3644), the Raffles Hotel Singapore (1 Beach Road, Singapore 189673; Ph: +65 6337 1886), or the Westin Singapore (Asia Square Tower 1, Singapore 018961; Ph: +65-69226888).
For an upscale option, try the Crowne Plaza Hotel (75 Airport Blvd., Singapore 819664; Ph: +65 6823 5300). Two midscale options are the Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel (50 East Coast Road, Singapore 428769; Ph: +65-62680719) and Ramada Singapore at Zhongshan Park (16 AH Hood Road, Singapore 329982; Ph: +65-68086888).
Things to see and do
Whether you’d like to get a feel for Singapore’s history and culture, pick up some souvenirs, or just spend your time wandering the city and checking out its people, there’s plenty to do. If you’re visiting early in the year, look for the New Year festivities, which range from parties at the foam pool on Sentosa Island to Lunar New Year celebrations in Chinatown.
Some of the prettiest sites in Singapore are religious temples and churches such as Little India’s Sri Veeramakaliamman temple and Chinatown’s Thian Hock Keng temple. Though beautiful examples of local architecture and design can be found in just about every district, the area around centrally located Balestier Road offers some of the city’s best.
Explore Singapore’s flora with a stop at the 101-hectare super park, Gardens by the Bay, near Marina Bay. This attraction houses more than 250,000 rare plants in domed conservatories.
Embark on an exciting adventure at one of the attractions operated by Wildlife Reserves Singapore. Choose from the Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park (billed as the world’s largest bird park), Night Safari or River Safari.
Head to Orchard Road, where you’ll find plenty of shops, plazas and gallerias, including the large and popular Centrepoint shopping center.
In Little India, you’ll find a heady scent of spices and jasmine garlands in some shops, and treasure troves of silverware, ethnic jewelry and colorful silk saris in others. Or stroll through Chinatown’s medicinal halls to check out potions made of snake skin, herbs, spices and other exotic ingredients.
Only 15 minutes from the city is the resort island of Sentosa, where you will find pristine beaches, world-class attractions (like Universal Studios Singapore), water sports, golf courses and spas. The Sentosa Rider bus picks up passengers at Orchard Road, Chinatown and Marina Bay for S$5 (US$3.54) one way or S$8 (US$5.67) for a day pass.
Where to eat
Famous for its street food, stalls in Singapore’s shopping and business districts serve up steaming portions of seafood, fried vegetables and all manner of treats. You might find yourself counting just how many snacks can be served on a stick.
Singapore Food Trail is a 1960s-style indoor market with plenty of booths. Sample delicious local dishes such as tai wah pork noodle and barbecue seafood. You’ll find them at Singapore Flyer, 30 Raffles Avenue, Singapore 039803; Ph: +65-63381328.
The Makansutra Gluttons Bay offers a range of open-air eateries. Here you can find well-loved street food options such as gado gado salad; mee goreng, a local creation of spicy sambal fried noodles; roti john, egg and minced lamb loaf; barbecue stingray; sotong or sambal mussels; and fried hokkien prawn noodles. Wash this down with a cold glass of sugar cane juice, a cup of hot teh tarek (pulled tea) or a refreshing beer. You can find it at 8 Raffles Avenue, Singapore 039802; Ph: +65-63367025.
Lau Pat Sat dates back 150 years. It’s regarded as a national monument and foodie paradise. Here you can try laksa, rice noodles in spicy gravy, fragrant with herbs and coconut milk; curry fish head in a tamarind curry with tomato, okra and eggplant; roti prata, flaky Indian bread eaten either with curry or a sprinkling of sugar; and char kway teow, flat rice noodles fried with chili, garlic and dark sweet sauce, finished off with egg, fish cakes and bean sprouts. You’ll find it at 18 Raffles Quay, Singapore 048582; Ph: +65-62202138.
If you’re a seafood fan, you must try chili crab. To enjoy this dish with a water view, head to East Coast Seafood Center’s selection of restaurants. If you can’t take the heat of chili, ask the chef to whip up the dish using black pepper. You’ll find the center at Block 1206 East Coast Parkway, Singapore 449883.