Although Singapore is one of the safest and most easy-to-travel countries in the world, there are a few things you should know before you go, in order to make the most of your trip, so I thought I should share some travel tips with you.
How to get there
Changi Airport is one of the best connected airports in the world, so you will find a flight from all parts of the globe. Singapore Airlines, the national carrier, flies to more than 50 international destinations in 30 countries on 5 continents, so you can fly from all these destinations directly to the Lion City.
But you also have the option of a one-stop flight with many other carriers. If you fly from Europe, I would recommend you Qatar Airways, Emirates or Etihad Airlines. These are all premium airlines with very good in-flight services and convenient fares. The standard fares for a flight Europe-Singapore with one of these carriers are around €500-€600, but if you find a promotion, you could fly with less than €450.
If you plan to visit multiple destinations in south-east Asia, you can fly between them with local low-cost airlines, such as Scoot (Singapore’s low cost carrier), AirAsia (largest Asian low-cost airline), Tiger Air or JetStar.
When to go
As the country is situated just 1.5 degrees north of Equator in a tropical climate, all days and nights are very warm and there aren’t really distinct seasons. So, based on weather, you can plan your trip to Singapore anytime. Even if rain falls almost every day, it doesn’t usually last more than an hour; except between November and January, when northeast monsoon reaches the country and brings heavy rain pours.
Normally, high season is from November to June, so accommodation will be more expensive during these months. Also, keep in mind that the main school holidays are in June and December, and therefore in these periods the tourist attractions will be more crowded.
Getting around Singapore
The majority of travelers arrive in Singapore by plane. From the airport the fastest and most economical way to get to the city is by MRT (Mass Rapid Transit). The train normally operates from 5:30 a.m. to 23:18 p.m. and costs less than €1,7 for the longest ride. From Terminals 2 and 3 you can walk to the station, take the train to Tanah Merah Station and then commute to East West Line (green line).
Before you board the train, I recommend you to purchase an EZ-Link card from SMRT Passenger Service Centre located within the airport. The sale price of the card is €8, €4,7 being the stored value and €3,3 the cost of it. When the stored value is less than the highest fare possible, you will have to top it in order to continue using it. You can do this in every 7Eleven store, MRT station and many other places. At the end of your trip, just give back the card to one of the authorized SMRT sale points. You will be refunded the remaining stored value, but not the cost of the card. Although it will cost you €3,3 to purchase this card, considering that for each journey you will have a 30% discount from the standard fare, if you intent to use it intensively during your trip, I would say that it is well worth getting it. And you can even use it to purchase goods or pay for services in many stores and restaurants.
Bus trips can also be paid with this card, so if your hotel is not near a metro station, you can either take a bus directly from the airport or from the nearest metro station.
If you arrive late in the night when neither the bus, nor the train operate, take a taxi. To get to the city center will take around half an hour and will cost between €13 and €26.
Although there are car hire companies at Changi Airport, the hire rates and parking prices (€1,5-2,5/30 minutes during the day) are considerable high, plus you must pay road toll on some motorways or major boulevards. As the country is small and very well connected through different means of transport, I wouldn’t recommend you to rent a car, but to use public transport instead.
If you still want to drive, just remind that being a former British colony, Singapore has followed the example of the United Kingdom and they drive on the left side of the road.
Where to stay
Singapore is the most expensive city in south-east Asia, so don’t expect accommodation to be very cheap. Depending on your preferences, accommodation can cost you from €10 (for a dorm bed in a hostel or guesthouse) to more than €350 per night (in a 5-star hotel like Marina Bay Sands).
In comparison with West Europe, I would say that in Singapore the accommodation is a bit more expensive. For example, when I search for accommodation on booking.com, I look for a hotel or guesthouse that has 3 stars, the review score above 7, is near a metro or bus station and offers rooms with private bathroom and free WIFI. If in West Europe I can find a room to meet these requirements starting from €35-€40 depending on the country, in Singapore will start from at least €50.
Where to eat
If you want to eat cheap and delicious food in Singapore, go to a Hawker Center, the place where the locals eat. There you can find Singaporean dishes mixed with culinary delights from all over the world, including Chinese, Vietnamese or Western. Here you can find a meal course for as little as €3.
One hawker center you should not miss is Maxwell Road Food Center with its varied and affordable food. Be sure to try the Hainanese Chicken Rice from Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice stall, where even food experts like Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsay have eaten. The stall became known worldwide after its owner won a cooking competition against Gordon Ramsay and now people from all over the world go there to try the famous dish.
If you find yourself nearby a shopping center when you’re hungry, just search for its food court (every mall will have one) and go have lunch or dinner there. The dishes are similar with those from the hawkers and the prices are still affordable.
For fruits lovers like me, Singapore is a paradise. In each hawker center, food court or market you will find fresh sliced exotic fruits and the most delicious smoothies one could ever taste.
And as a fun fact, the premium water in Singapore is the Romanian Borsec water, which costs S$3,1 (€2,1), about 5 times more than a normal water.
The official currency in Singapore is the Singaporean Dollar (S$). Although the exchange offices in Singapore accept a vast majority of currencies, take US Dollars with you as for this currency you will find the best rates. However, Euro has also good rates.
I would recommend you to exchange in the airport a small amount of money to have enough for the EZ-Link card and other small expenses and search for an exchange office in the city, as the rate will be better than the one from the airport. If you stay in Chinatown, go to Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market and near the entrance, you will find an office, which is used by the locals and that has a very good rate. Of course, every mall has at least one exchange office, but the rates are not as good as here.
The citizens of a vast majority of countries (all from North America, South America, Europe and Australia, some from Africa and Asia) do not require a visa to enter Singapore for travelling purposes and are allowed to remain in the country up to 30 or even 90 days.
They must have a valid travel document for at least 6 months from the departure date and may be asked by the border officers to prove they have an onward or return ticket and sufficient funds for the period of stay.
In Singapore the power sockets are of type G (three pin, square shaped, as in UK ). The voltage is 220-240 V and frequency 50 Hz.
Tourists may reclaim the 7% Goods and Services Tax (GST) for purchases above S$100 (€67) from participating retailers in the Tourist Refund Scheme. More details about this can be found here.
Laws and regulations
Singapore may be the cleanest city in the world and this is due to the strict regulations made by its government. The city is also called „the fine city“, because if you are caught bending the rules, you are subject to big fines.
For example, you are not allowed to eat, smoke, drink or chew gum (except for therapeutic reasons) on the streets, or in the public means of transport, as all these could litter the city. The fines for breaking these rules start from €335. Also durian fruits are banned from public places, because of their strong odor.
Keep in mind that you could also be fined for connecting to another person’s Wi-Fi, feeding pigeons or not flushing a public toilet.
I tried to summarize here all the important information you should know before going to Singapore, but if you still have questions, you can write me a comment here, or on Facebook and I will try to answer as quickly as I can.