First Timer’s Guide to Singapore

Singapore
The famous Gardens by the Bay.

Inspired by LaughTravelEat’s blog post, I have decide to post one for my country. Many people who come to South East Asia have skipped past Singapore as they have heard how expensive and westernised it is. It’s hard to compare Singapore to the rest of South East Asia; politically and economically, we are at different levels and therefore can not have the same price range.
For those who has never been to Asia, I also tell them Singapore is the best place to start as it wouldn’t be much of a culture shock. Singapore is still as asian, the people, culture, food, etc. However, everyone speaks English, there are many restaurants that would remind you of home, and everything is clean and organised. From here, the rest of Asia is at your fingertips. Planes fly from the world’s best airport to anywhere you want for a cheap fare.
So give Singapore a chance, either at the start of your South East Asia trip or at the end of it, or even on your stopover to head to the down under. All you need is 3-4 days.

Now that I’ve convinced you to stop by, here are some useful information for you while in Singapore.

Singapore
Singapore Transportation Photo Courtesy of theonlinecitizen.com

Transportation

In Singapore, we have arguably one of the best transportation system in the world. It’s fast, efficient and very well connected. Here we use a NFC card Tap-n-Go system, called EZ link. As tourist you can get one from the airport or various locations. Since most tourists are only here for 3 days, they offer unlimited rides for 1,2 or 3 days. Plus you can refund your card deposit at the end of your trip. If you are here for more than 5 days, you can purchase a card from any 711 or Passenger Service counter at any train station.
The price difference between having a card and paying up front is a significant one. With your EZ link card, you can purchase items from any convenient stores, vending machines and many many or stores.

MRT

The train system connects most of the island together conveniently. It stops at all the major attractions and important regions of the island. It’s incredibly intuitive and easy to navigate thanks to its coloured-coded lines and aptly names, such as East-West and North-South.

Buses

These are slightly more difficult to navigate, though most bus stops in the city centre would have maps of attractions listed and which buses to take.
Hired Charters – From Singapore, many people head up to Malaysia. Though you could take the public buses, it only takes you up to Johor and the bus station. The most convenient and not so expensive way is to get a chartered bus. These wait for you at the customs and take you to your destination. The best website to buy it from is easybook.com.

Ferries

You could go North towards Malaysia or South towards Indonesia. From Singapore, you can fly but taking the ferry is much cooler. Either go to Bintan or Batam for less than 20SGD each way, cheaper if round trip. Use Easybook.com or Mozaic Ferry for the schedules and fares. Definitely check if you need Visa On Arrival (VOA).
The best part is that there are duty free shops in the terminals of ferry so you can stock up on cheap booze! (especially on the Singaporean side).

Singapore
The crazy hustle and bustle of rush hour.
Photo Courtesy of singapore.coconuts.co

Communication

In Singapore, there are 3 major telecom companies to provide you with communication options.
At the airport, you can choose between M1 , Starhub  or Singtel to get a local number.
One of my new favourite reason for people to make Singapore their first stop is that the telecom companies have stepped up and provide overseas roaming for no extra cost. For M1, you can travel to Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong, and roam for free! Yes that’s right, you can use data roaming for no extra cost, just ensure you have a prepaid data package purchased ($10 for 1GB, 30days).  If you want coverage in more countries, Singtel offers 1GB, 30 days, 11 destinations, for $20. 

Free Wifi 

There are free wifi all through the island. Every fastfood chains (McD, KFC, Starbucks, etc), shopping malls, museums, many MRT stations and airport would have it. There is a government provided one called Wireless@SG. You can either download the app, which allows you locate nearby hotspots, or simply log in everytime you log on to it. Having a pre-paid sim card and a local number makes it much easier sign on for one.

Climate

Singapore lies very close to the Equator, therefore the climate here is extremely temperate. Almost every day of the year, the temperature is about 31-34C and the nights are typically 26-29C. However, because it’s also between 60-90% humidity, those temperatures feel much higher. It’s highly adviceable to put on sunblock and drink lots of liquids.
Temperate climates also mean that there are practically no 4 seasons. Instead, we have 2 monsoon seasons when it would be summer and winter, June to September and November to March. During these periods it rains significantly more and the winds are stronger.

Singapore
Backpacker Hostels of Singapore.
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

Accomodation

Most of the hostels are located in Chinatown or Little India region. They should range from S$17 upwards for a dorm. Personally I can’t recommend any because I’ve never stayed in any before. Regardless, they are all centrally located and very accessible to public transportation. The dorms are all clean as they must meet a health code. Most of them have a special happy hour deal for their patrons. Be sure to ask for it!

If you need some thing with more comfort after spending all your time in grimmy hostels and dirty countries, here are some suggestions for boutique hotels. They are not your conventional white sheets, white walls kind of hotel. Many of them are themed and very unique. They will set you back from $100 upwards.  However, there are countless of hotel options in Singapore to meet the needs of anyone!

Singapore
The Crazy Rules of Singapore.
Photo Courtersy of businesstalk.sg

 

Rules

Singapore is notorious for its rules. The most famous one would be the “no chewing gum” law. To clarify this, chewing gum is allowed in Singapore as long as it’s in personal consumption amounts and that you don’t litter. Here are some of the more relevant laws for you!
Smoking: Over the last 5 years or so, Singapore has been restricting public smoking areas. The common ones are a few metres from bus stops, MRT stations, sheltered areas and shopping centres. The safest thing to do is to find locals smoking and join them.
Drinking in Public: In general being in public with an open container is allowed in Singapore. Though since 2015, they have put in a curfew from 10.30pm to 7am. Therefore, retail stores such as 711 stops selling alcohol after 10.30pm.
Drugs: This is extremely prohibited. On the plane they even tell you that any possession of drugs will result in deportation or capital punishment. Pretty conservative country =/.
Littering: This rule is the same anywhere in the world. Singapore prides itself to be the cleanest country in the world and it would like to keep it that way.

Singapore
Hawker Centers. The local life of Singapore.
Photo Courtesy of northsights.net

Food Culture

Hawker Centers

This is by far the most local you can eat while in Singapore. It’s the cheapest and most authentic option. There are an incredible variety of options and the best part is that every stall has pictures and English names that you can point at and order. The only thing you have to look out for is whether the store is “self-service”, pay and collect at the stall; or “table-service”, inform table number, they will bring food to you and collect the money then. If you can’t forgo a little hygenie, there are many food courts in shopping malls that serve the same purpose. Just expect to pay a couple of dollars more.

Restaurants 

If you crave food from home, there are many restaurants in Singapore that can serve your needs. You can find anything from Thai to Nepalese to French to Argentinean. They range anywhere from $20 a person to $XXX. If you are reading this, you probably won’t want to spend more than that. 

Mamak Restaurants 

These are an entity of their own. Popular in Malaysia and Singapore, this Indian Muslim restaurants serve both the late night crowds and those who want some incredibly good Halal indian food. Most of the signs are neon green in colour and serve the likes of prata, fried noodles, rice and curry. Definitely a must try.

If you are looking for suggestion to eat or just want to learn more about Singapore Cuisine, come through here

Singapore
Mamak Stalls. Good Anytime of the day.
Photo Courtesy of Capucine Dousse

ATMs

In every corner, shopping malls, big hawker centres and major areas, there is bound to be ATM kiosks. The most common ones are OCBC, HSBC, Citibank and DBS. The less common ones are Standard Chartered, Maybank, ANZ and the specific country banks. All of which are international and will accept any international cards for withdrawal of money. Most of the banks in Singapore do not charge a withdrawal fee but it depends on your bank.

Emergency Numbers

Police – 999
Fire & Ambulance – 995
Non-Emergency Ambulance – 1777
Police Hotline – 1800 255 0000

Singapore
The great shopping malls of Singapore.

Culture

Shopping Malls – Retail Therapy
One of the biggest industries and pastimes is shopping. The number of shopping malls in Singapore is staggering and honestly a little frightening. The famous Orchard Road is where the bulk concentration of malls are. In the summer is when the Great Singapore Sale happens and every store in town is at its cheapest.

Friendly – Singaporeans are generally very friendly. If you ask them for directions or recommendations, they will stop and help you without a doubt.
Fast Paced – Singapore is still a Metropolitan city. People have places to go and things to do almost every hour of their day. This is especially evident during rush hour as most Singaporeans take the public transportation. However, at the end of the day, some still go out for drinks to unwind.

Singapore
Drinking in Singapore.

Advice

Expensive Drinking 

Singapore is by far one of the most expensive cities I’ve been to for drinking due to its high taxation. In the bar centric areas, expect a pint to be upwards of S$16. Many times there will be happy hour deals, 1-for-1 or dinner deals. Drinking at the hawker centres are much cheaper. A bottle of 750ml beer will cost abour S$7. There is a wine store called Wine Connections that sells cheap bottles of wine. And of course, 7-11 sells cheaper booze.

There is a place near Chinatown and Clarke Quay that has amazing deals for drinks. Stickies Bar charges according to the time. Example: If it’s 3pm, it’s S$3 for a pint or a shot. If it’s 4pm, it’s S$4, and so on. Definitely the place for day drinking! After that you can stumble to Chinatown for some food or Clarke Quay for more drinks! There are many special deals every day of the week. The cheapest place to drink in town.

Clean Water 

Singapore is one of the very few countries around the region to provide clean water for everyone to drink. Most of our water comes from reservoirs and recycled water that has been treated 6 times over. So fill them up before you leave your hostel!

Singapore
Gardens by the Bay at night.

Do you have anything to add to this list that everyone should know about Singapore?

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