Singapore,in Malay, means “Lion City,” but it could also be called “Asia light.” There’snowhere else where you can experience Chinese, Malay, and Indian cultures insuch clean surroundings with an excellent public transportation system andhotels that meet Western standards. In addition, English is on the tongues ofthe locals and in the text of public notices and signs. It’s a convenientconsequence of having once been part of the British Empire. For those reasonsand many others, Singaporewas declared the top travel destination of 2015.
After youdeplane, you’ll understand why Changi International Airport often receivesaccolades as the best airport in the world.
Need to relax after your long airlinetrip? Lie down at one of the many of the full-body massage loungers availablein the airport, or watch satellite programming from a video stations.
Get started on your shopping or catcha bite at over 300 retailers and restaurants.
Commune with nature by visitinggardens showcasing orchids, cacti, sunflowers, and more.
Watch films at a movie theatre, playvideo games on the entertainment deck, or let the kids loose on one of severalplaygrounds on-site.
Theseamenities are yours to enjoy even before you pass through immigration andcustoms. More fun awaits in the public areas, including the city’s tallestindoor slide and an aviation gallery with interactive displays.
The quickestway into town from Changi is on the Singapore MRT (Mass Rapid Transit). Ifyou’re part of a group or toting lots of luggage, a taxi can be moreconvenient. Yet a third, and inexpensive, alternative is public bus 36. Also,if you have no luggage, you can take a free shuttle to the Changi BusinessPark.
BecauseSingapore rises from an island on the southern tip of the Malay peninsula, mostland travellers arrive through the Woodlands checkpoint at the Causeway in thenorth. Another entry point is through Tuas in the west.
Long-distance buses are readilyavailable, although no central bus terminal exists. In general, more moneymeans a faster and more luxurious ride.
If a train is your preferredtransport, you can disembark at the Woodlands for immigration checks.
The city’sisland location makes it a popular cruise stop for major internationalcruise lines. Star Cruises offers several itineraries to points acrossSoutheast Asia.
Ferries toand from Malaysia and Indonesia dock at five ferry terminals, all of which haveMRT or bus access to the city.
Thefollowing lists some essential information you can use on your visit. If youhave additional questions, find answers either on-line or in-person at theSingapore Tourism Board. Its visitors centres at Changi and several locationsin town can help with Singapore hotel room reservations, attraction tickets,and tour bookings. They also offer free Wi-Fi.
Although theisland was familiar to sailors as early as the third century A.D., legend hasit that a local prince on a hunting trip founded the city in the 14th centuryafter he encountered a lion-like animal. The less-romantic tale has the citybeing established as a trading port by Sir Stamford Raffles, thenLieutenant-Governor of what is now Bengkulu in western Sumatra.
The cityprospered until 1942 when it fell to the Japanese, who remained in power until1945. In 1946, Singapore became a Crown Colony that then merged with Malaysiain 1962. In 1965, the city separated from Malaysia to become an independentnation.
Located nearthe equator, Singapore basks in a tropical climate. Temperatures do not changemuch throughout the year, averaging 31 degrees Centigrade with a dip to 23degrees at night. Expect rainfall nearly every afternoon and evening. Novemberis the wettest month of the year, and February, the driest.
The monsoonseasons run from December to March and June to September, bringing with itthunderstorms that usually last under half-an-hour. However, the humidity canget so high that it can steam up your sunglasses when you walk from anair-conditioned bus to the sidewalk.
You’ll getaround easily using the city’s public transportation system.
Theextensive MRT puts most popular destinations within easy reach. You can buy aticket for each trip, a top-up EZ-Link card that you swipe at entry gates, or aTourist Pass that grants unlimited travel for one to three days. The trains areaccessible to those in wheelchairs, dragging rolling luggage, or pushingstrollers.
Taxis, whichare scrupulously regulated, can take you where the subway doesn’t. Drivers mustbe Singaporeans who are at least 30 years old, speak basic English, and hold avocational license. The meters tally a standard fare, but drivers can addsurcharges, such as for travel during peak hours or after midnight, coming fromthe airport or travelling within the Central Business District, or using acredit card. You can ask the driver for an estimate of the cost before startingyour trip. Then, get a receipt when you reach your destination.
Theextensive bus system also accepts the EZ-Link card and, in many cases, theTourist Pass. Otherwise, provide exact change to obtain a ticket when youboard. You need a separate ticket for any of the private Hop-On/Hop-Offdouble-decker buses that ply the main tourist attractions, providing drivingtours.
Twocompanies handle commuting down the Singapore River. Their open-air bumboatsrun at 15-minute intervals during rush hour and 30-minute intervals at othertimes. Singapore River Cruise accepts EZ-Link and also has 40-minute cruises.With River Explorer, you can pay by the trip or spring for a day pass.
What to See
Each ofSingapore’s neighbourhoods provides accommodations, eateries, shops, and sightsof interest to any tourist. Pick any community to use as a home base, knowingthat the rest of the city is within easy reach.
If shoppingfor global brands is high on your To-Do list, then stay along the 2.2kilometres of Orchard Road, the city’s most famous shopping thoroughfare. Thetemples, markets, and shop houses of the past have long-disappeared from to bereplaced by glitzy hotels, cavernous eating complexes, and modern shoppingcentres. Choose the right accommodations and you’ll never have to venture intothe heat of the sun. Just take underground passages to go from your room todifferent malls.
ION Orchardis one of the area’s prime commercial meccas. The undulating glass facade anddedicated MRT stop easily distinguish it from competitors. Inside, you canbrowse through eight levels of luxury brands, including the largest Sephorastore outside of France.
Take a breakwith Ion Sky, a viewing deck that’s 218 metres above street level. Its BEHOLDtelescopes augment what you’re seeing with day and night views, historicalpictures, and explanatory text. You can also descend to the basement level fora place at the 700-seat Food Opera, featuring a cast of 22 food stalls and fourmini restaurants.
For moreformal dining, Les Amis satisfies with classical French cuisine and over 2,000wines, mostly from the Burgundy and Bordeaux regions. The restaurant hasreceived numerous awards from the Forbes Travel Guide, San Pellegrino, and TheMiele Guide. At Crystal Jade Golden Palace, you’ll most likely encounter aqueue for its Hong Kong-inspired dim sum, while the Basilico Restaurantemphasises seasonal Italian fare either a la carte or in a buffet.
Mosttourists remain within the confines of the Colonial District because itcontains many of the city’s primary attractions.
The NationalMuseum of Singapore, which is the city’s oldest museum, is a must-seeintroduction to local history and culture. About six minutes on foot to thenortheast lies the Singapore Art Museum, which collects modern and contemporaryworks from around the region. Nearby, stop for a drink at the Long Bar atRaffles, where the Singapore Sling was invented. Continue about a kilometresouth to the Asian Civilisations Museum, a repository for materials from China,Southeast Asia, South Asia and West Asia.
Shadowingthe riverbank is Clarke Quay, where historical warehouses have transformed intotrendy restaurants and dance spots. Coriander Leaf Bistro, for example,delights patrons with dishes from India, Japan, Thailand, and the Middle East.Among nightclubs, Zouk tops the list by showcasing international DJs, as wellas themed rooms. Other riverside haunts include the more laid back RobertsonQuay to the west and Boat Quay across the river, known for its traditionalChinese shop houses, which have become pubs and eateries.
Anotherwaterside locale is Marina Bay, which takes pride in the futuristicarchitecture of its buildings. The Sands Skypark towers over other skyscrapersand features an infinity pool and unmatched views of the city. Blossoming beloware the 101 hectares of Gardens by the Bay. This centre for plant life hostsMediterranean and subtropical flowers, as well as a cloud forest under giganticglass atrium domes. If you’re not afraid of heights, walk among the 50-metrehigh steel treetops of the Supertree Grove. For even higher views of the cityand the bay, Level 33 calls itself the world’s highest urban craft brewery fromits perch atop the Marina Bay Financial Centre.
If you lookbeyond the hipster bars and fashion boutiques of Chinatown, you can still findtea houses and apothecaries in the historic shop houses remaining there.
The MaxwellRoad Hawker Centre is considered by many to be the best food court in the city.Locals know that of its 100 stalls, the ones with the longest lines serve thebest dishes. You can wait up to 45 minutes for some Tian Tian Hainanese ChickenRice or the thick and satisfying Zhen Zhen Porridge, made from rice and yourchoice of meat.
If you’drather feed your spirit, visit the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, whereornate and colourful statues guard its revered treasure. The website featureslive streaming of services for those who’d like a look before making the trip.
To sootheyour body, try some traditional balms, ointments, and oils produced at Chop WahOn, which was established in 1916.
Tea Chapter,which was once visited by Queen Elizabeth II, can educate you on the finer pointsof Chinese tea appreciation and sell you teas online or at its store.
Little Indiastarted in the 1840s as a horse race course. The pastime eventually gave way tothe cattle and dairy trade, which was managed by Indian workers. When the animaltrade declined, the workers remained to build commercial establishments,residences, and temples.
The ornateSri Veeramakaliamman Temple, the most famous place of worship, is dedicated tothe Destroyer of Evil. Although built in 1881, it’s surprisingly not the oldestHindu place of worship in the city. That distinction belongs to the SriMariamman Temple, which came up in 1827 and is located in Chinatown.
If jet lagis keeping you awake at midnight, search for bargains at the Mustafa Centre,which is open 24 hours a day and sells jewellery, household appliances,clothing, electronics, and supermarket goods.
The BananaLeaf Apollo is only open for 12 hours a day. It serves favourites like FishHead Curry, Chicken Masala, and Garlic Naan (a flat bread) and serves meals onbanana leaves instead of plates.
The Malayword for village is kampong, which clues you in that Kampong Glam was the oldMalay district. The Gelam(Paperbark) tree, which was important to shipping,once grew here in abundance. The neighbourhood attracts the followers of Islamfrom such national origins as Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Middle East as wellas tourists of every religion.
For anoverview of the area’s history and culture, visit the Malay Heritage Centre,which displays interactive exhibits in the former residence of a sultan.
The goldendomes of the Sultan Mosque beckon the Muslim faithful to prayer five times aday. You’re welcome to take a tour with multilingual docents, but you mustremove your shoes and, if you’re not properly attired, borrow a robe at thecounter.
One of thelocal specialities is murtabak, a doughy flat bread filled with mutton orchicken, egg, and onion, and served with a side of curry sauce. Watch it beingmade on the ground floor of Singapore Zam Zam, or eat an order on theair-conditioned second floor. The long waits match the eatery’s longevity. It’sbeen around since 1908.
The greennature preserves of Northern Singapore offer respite from the centre’s steamyconcrete sidewalks and crowded shiny skyscrapers. The Central Catchment NatureReserve is the largest in the country, ranging over 2,000 hectares of forest.Forest trails, boardwalks, and a Treetop Walk let you experience the flora andfauna with minimal impact.
Mosttravellers to the area end up at one or more of these three animal parks.
TheSingapore Zoo allows rain-forest creatures to wander their natural habitats butremain safely separated from visitors by ravines and moats.
The RiverSafari focuses on animals from six world rivers, including the Ganges, Congo,and Mississippi. Two giant pandas, gifted by China, make their home here.
The NightSafari is open only in the evenings so you can marvel at nocturnal creatures fromAsia and
Publictransportation in Northern Singapore is spotty and time-consuming. The mostefficient way to travel is by taxi. If you’re only heading for the zoos, SafariGate offers dedicated bus service from several city hotels.
Deserving aweekend on its own, Sentosa Island is a resort island featuring attractions,hotels, restaurants, and a casino. Although you can reach it on foot, by bus,or by light rail, the most unique method is to take the Singapore Cable Car,which balances on a cable held up by high towers. Getting around the islandmeans taking a bus that plies circular routes, or the beach tram that travelson the sandy shores.
Three attractionswill please admirers of the life aquatic. The S.E.A. Aquarium displays over100,000 marine animals in 49 different habitats. Adventure Cove is a water parkthat immerses you in a coral reef or tropical grotto. To personally interactwith Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, participate in one of the programs atDolphin Island.
The island’slargest attraction is Universal Studios Singapore, the Southeast Asian versionof theme parks located in Hollywood and Orlando in the USA and Osaka, Japan.One ticket gets you into all the rides and shows in seven zones, includingHollywood, Ancient Egypt, and Sci-Fi City.
Other sightson the island include a 24-hour casino, beaches, historical forts, a trapezeschool, and an evening water and light show. To avoid having to take out yourpurse at each point, buy a day pass to save time and money.
Singapore’smany cultures promise a year full of varied festivals and activities. If youplan on visiting during these events, you’ll score the best accommodations onlyif you book far in advance.
Traditionalfestivals crowd January through March, but because their timing depends onlunar or non-Western calendars, their dates are never fixed.
Chinese NewYear brings out parades, fire crackers, and family feasting. Homes and officesburst with lanterns, ribbons, and symbols based on the Chinese zodiac animalthat’s being honoured for the year.
Thaipusam ismarked by a large and colourful procession to honour Lord Subramaniam, theever-merciful god. Celebrants spend the month before consuming a strictvegetarian diet to help free the mind of material need and release the bodyfrom physical pleasures.
Art Weekcelebrates the visual arts with nine days of fairs, exhibitions, and galleryopenings, which are attended by artists from 29 countries. The festivalcommissions special projects designed to explore local art.
April toJune sees the number of visitors soar as they attend international events setin Singapore.
During theDragon Boat Festival, teams of 22 rowers from around the world paddle furiouslyin long, narrow boats that are beautifully decorated with dragon heads.Mesmerising drumbeats spur their path to ultimate victory.
The GreatSingapore Sale offers two months of deals on every imaginable consumer product.Check out the website for a list of participating merchants and theirofferings.
The WorldStreet Food Congress brings up to 40 street food masters, and thousands ofaficionados, to a gathering of treats from hawker stalls, street carts, andfood trucks. A panel of speakers present on topics, such as the importance ofstreet food and the challenges of operating a hawker stall.
The secularand the sacred get their due from July to September.
National Daycelebrates the country’s independence with a major parade, flags, performances,and a fireworks display.
TheSingapore Grand Prix thrills crowds with nightly races of Formula 1 cars on thestreets of the city. Spectator packages can include grandstand seats, pitpasses, and hotel suites.
Feasting andnew fashions highlight Hari Raya Aidilfitri, the end of Ramadan and itsdawn-to-dusk fasting. Among the special dishes brought out for the festivitiesare rice cakes, spicy beef stew, and chili paste.
October toDecember is not just about Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Deepavali isthe Hindu celebration of good over evil, heralded by the lighting of oil lamps.Residential doorways receive colourful pictures that are painstakingly createdwith rice, flour, or petals.
ZoukOut isthe world’s only sunrise beach festival and is held at Sentosa Island’s SilosoBeach. An expected crowd of 40,000 dances to the electronic music performed byover 20 international and local artists.
Frommid-November to the end of December, Christmas On A Great Street decks OrchardRoad with decorated trees and thousands of lights. Staged areas encouragephotography with visitors who can then share their efforts on social media.