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Home » Singapore Travel Guide: The Cityscape and Beyond

Singapore Travel Guide: The Cityscape and Beyond

A Global Hub of Excellence, Where Skyscrapers Meet Lush Greenery and UNESCO-Heralded Street Cuisine

An unusual microstate with strict laws, green skyscrapers, huge urban gardens, diverse street food, and a mix of cultures.

Singapore — synonymous with a technologically advanced and successful state. Many countries look up to Singapore, creating similar development programs, and every politician dreams of becoming the next Lee Kuan Yew.

Singapore impresses travelers right upon arrival at Changi Airport. Here lies the world’s largest indoor artificial waterfall and a garden of exotic plants from all over the world. The city itself, despite its dense development, is abundant in greenery. Plants adorn the facades of skyscrapers, immense metal sculptures mimic gigantic trees, and the botanical garden houses the world’s largest collection of orchids. Thus, despite its high level of urbanization, the city does not feel oppressive.

In Singapore, you can have breakfast at a Michelin-starred food court stall and dine in the bar of the famous Marina Bay hotel with a view of the night city. You can travel throughout the center on a double-decker bus or spend the whole day wandering through green parks, shopping in luxury boutiques, or haggling in the shops of Chinatown. We detail how to spend time in this incredible city-state and garden.

A Brief History

Singapore is a city-state in Southeast Asia, located between Malaysia and Indonesia on several dozen islands. Singapore’s area is 734 square kilometers, which is three and a half times smaller than the area of Moscow. However, it is home to 5.8 million people, making it one of the most densely populated and highly urbanized states in the world. 75% of Singapore’s residents are Chinese, 13% are Malay, and 9% are of Indian descent.

Singapore is located on several dozen islands. Photo: Meriç Dağlı / Unsplash.com
Singapore is located on several dozen islands. Photo: Meriç Dağlı / Unsplash.com

In 1867, Singapore was colonized by Britain, which considered the territory strategically important for developing trade relations with China. The island is located on the sea route from Europe to Asia. In 1963, Singapore joined Malaysia, and in 1965, it gained full independence. Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was one of the main inspirers and implementers of the “Singapore economic miracle”. Over 30 years, thanks to a special economic strategy and the attraction of investors, Singapore transformed from a poor Asian country into a global financial and trading center. It ranks second in the world in terms of GDP per capita.

The main principles followed by Lee Kuan Yew were the supremacy and adherence to the law and equality of all strata of the population, regardless of status. The strictness of the laws has been preserved to this day. Everyone has heard about the harsh fines for smoking — 200 Singapore dollars (137.14 euros), or littering on the street — 2000 Singapore dollars (1,371.44 euros). Singapore is even called the Fine City, which can be translated as “the city of fines,” but also as “a good city.

Singapore: The Garden City

Singapore is often referred to as a “garden city”. Here, there are numerous parks, botanical gardens, nature conservation areas, extensive vertical greening of buildings, and green spaces on rooftops. Due to the limited land in Singapore, urban agriculture is actively developing. For instance, growing greenery on the roofs of buildings and car parks, or creating hydroponic farms.

As the metropolis is practically on the equator and the average annual temperature is about 30 degrees Celsius, temperature regulation is a very relevant issue. In 1967, Lee Kuan Yew started a large-scale campaign to plant various plants that help mitigate the heating effect of asphalt, skyscraper surfaces, and transportation. Thanks to the half-century development of policies for mass greening in the center of Singapore, there has been a decrease in temperature (by about one and a half degrees), an improvement in air quality, and an increase in the area of comfortable urban space. Green zones and recreational facilities (playgrounds, benches, cafes, rain shelters) have significantly increased, allowing residents to feel safe and serene.

Singapore is often called a "garden city." Here, there are many parks, botanical gardens, nature reserves, widespread vertical greening of buildings, and green spaces on rooftops
Singapore is often called a “garden city.” Here, there are many parks, botanical gardens, nature reserves, widespread vertical greening of buildings, and green spaces on rooftops

Due to land scarcity, new trees and shrubs have gradually moved from the ground to the facades and roofs of buildings. Now, “vertical greening” is one of the city’s hallmarks. While similar buildings exist in every major Western city (usually a few), nowhere in the world is there such a concentration of “green” skyscrapers.

A unique feature of Singapore’s multi-apartment residential buildings (not necessarily greened) is the Void Decks space or “empty deck” at the lower floors. Residential apartments start from the second or third floor, and at the bottom, between the columns, there are tables, benches, storage areas for bicycles and strollers, and vending machines. This creates a sense of space and additional sheltered space, in addition to the numerous awnings and umbrellas on the adjacent streets. These awnings protect not only from the sun’s rays but also from frequent rains. They also help residents get to know each other, making the space even more convenient and friendly.

In many residential buildings, apartments start from the second or third floor, and at the bottom, between the support columns, there are tables, benches, bicycle and stroller storage areas, and vending machines
In many residential buildings, apartments start from the second or third floor, and at the bottom, between the support columns, there are tables, benches, bicycle and stroller storage areas, and vending machines

What to See

Singapore is very comfortable for long walks. There are many walking zones, parks, gardens, convenient and wide sidewalks, equipped pedestrian crossings, and polite drivers.

Singapore is very comfortable for long walks — there are many walking areas, parks, gardens, and wide, convenient sidewalks. Photo: Jeremy Julian / Unsplash.com
Singapore is very comfortable for long walks — there are many walking areas, parks, gardens, and wide, convenient sidewalks. Photo: Jeremy Julian / Unsplash.com

The city-state’s center is focused around Marina Bay and consists of eleven sub-districts: Central Business District, Orchard, Singapore River, Marina East, Marina South, and others. Most of the attractions, which we will talk about further, are concentrated in the bay area. This area is predominantly office buildings, with many administrative and cultural institutions, shopping centers, a botanical garden, but very few residential buildings. The boundaries of the Central Region can roughly be outlined by the Singapore Strait to the south, the Windsor Nature Reserve to the north, the Queenstown area to the west, and Bedok to the east.

The city-state's center is focused around Marina Bay — this is where most of the attractions are located. Photo: Hu Chen / Unsplash.com
The city-state’s center is focused around Marina Bay — this is where most of the attractions are located. Photo: Hu Chen / Unsplash.com

Residential sleeping areas are predominantly located on the periphery. About 80% of the houses belong to the state construction company HDB, which has been massively developing Singapore since 1960. Interestingly, the numbering of houses is uniform throughout the country, and does not reset on each new street. All residential areas, like the city center, are interwoven with a network of parks, connected by squares stretched along roads, greened canopies, and promenades with planted trees.

Ethnic Districts

Singapore is a blend of many cultures, with some districts within the city distinguished by ethnic characteristics. Historically, due to territorial ownership, the cultures of China and Malaysia have mixed here.

Chinatown

The boundaries of modern Chinatown approximately follow the outlines of Chinese settlement since 1822 when the first immigrants from Southern China arrived here with their families to develop trade. Chinatown is located in the very center of Singapore. It is quite large in area, with four metro stations: Chinatown, Maxwell, Telok Ayer, and Tanjong Pagar. Therefore, even a brief walk through Chinatown can take several hours. And if you visit several museums, temple complexes, and hawker centers (open-air food courts), you could spend half a day here.

Singapore is a mix of many cultures, with some areas within the city distinguished by their ethnic characteristics. Historically, due to territorial ownership, the cultures of China and Malaysia have mixed here.
Singapore is a mix of many cultures, with some areas within the city distinguished by their ethnic characteristics. Historically, due to territorial ownership, the cultures of China and Malaysia have mixed here

Landmarks of the area:

  • Shopping rows where you can buy souvenirs for friends or fruits for yourself. For example, try the durian fruit with its specific strong smell, due to which the fruit is forbidden to be transported in public transport and brought into hotels.
  • The Buddhist Temple of the Tooth Relic with a museum-garden on the roof. Anyone can freely enter the temple and visit the roof, as well as participate in sacred Buddhist rituals, make donations, and pet the temple cats.
The Buddhist Temple of the Tooth Relic, with a museum-garden on the roof, is open to all visitors for free. Photo: Melvin Tan / Unsplash.com
The Buddhist Temple of the Tooth Relic, with a museum-garden on the roof, is open to all visitors for free. Photo: Melvin Tan / Unsplash.com
  • The Hindu Temple of Sri Mariamman, the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, was built in the early 19th century during the East India Company era. The first laid streets in Singapore, Pagoda Street and Temple Street, run right next to this temple. The temple is dedicated to the mother goddess.
  • The Singapore Gallery, where on three floors you can find models of the city-state in various scales, with free entry.
  • Hawker centers Maxwell and Lau Pa Sat — more details in the “Food” section.

Arab Quarter

A small quarter of several streets to the east of downtown. Here is the photogenic Sultan Hussein Mosque, surrounded by many colorful low-rise houses with painted front doors and graffiti, as well as Turkish and Lebanese restaurants. Here, you can buy Middle Eastern sweets, find a vintage lamp or carpet, and feel like you’re in Istanbul or Cairo.

Arab Quarter: A small quarter consisting of a few streets to the east of downtown. Here is the photogenic Sultan Hussein Mosque, surrounded by many colorful low-rise buildings with painted doors and graffiti

Arab Quarter: A small quarter consisting of a few streets to the east of downtown. Here is the photogenic Sultan Hussein Mosque, surrounded by many colorful low-rise buildings with painted doors and graffiti
Arab Quarter: A small quarter consisting of a few streets to the east of downtown. Here is the photogenic Sultan Hussein Mosque, surrounded by many colorful low-rise buildings with painted doors and graffiti

Little India

Little India – less popular among tourists but still rich in attractions, this district is populated by Indians. It features low-rise and diverse buildings, which do not look as modern as the main part of Singapore. The area is located just ten minutes by metro or bus from the city center. Unlike the Arab and Chinese quarters, there are fewer tours and sightseeing tours here, and the streets are mostly populated by locals.

What to see: the Indian Heritage Museum, the colorful two-story Tan Teng Niah Villa — a Chinese businessman’s house that attracts photographers, and several dozen Indian restaurants.

The colorful two-story villa of the Chinese businessman Tan Teng Niah attracts photographers from all over the world. Photo: K8, Nick Fewings / Unsplash.com

The colorful two-story villa of the Chinese businessman Tan Teng Niah attracts photographers from all over the world. Photo: K8, Nick Fewings / Unsplash.com
The colorful two-story villa of the Chinese businessman Tan Teng Niah attracts photographers from all over the world. Photo: K8, Nick Fewings / Unsplash.com

Walking Areas

Gardens by the Bay is one of the most impressive and unusual places in Singapore. It is a large park the size of one and a half hundred football fields, located between the Marina Bay Sands hotel and the Singapore Strait. They were the main project of the “city-garden” strategy. The most remarkable part of the gardens consists of artificial trees, whose upper parts are connected by a walking path. The architect designed these objects to become one of the symbols of Singapore. The high crowns of the super trees, resembling tentacles, partially consist of solar panels, and the trunks are entwined with vines, forming a kind of vertical gardens. With the onset of darkness, a light and music show begins: classical music plays in a modern arrangement, the super trees start to glow — lights are installed on the crowns and trunks, spotlights illuminate the air above the park. Entrance to the gardens is free, but tickets are needed to visit the observation deck on the path and the greenhouses.

Gardens by the Bay is a large park the size of one and a half hundred football fields located between the Marina Bay Sands hotel and the Singapore Strait
Gardens by the Bay is a large park the size of one and a half hundred football fields located between the Marina Bay Sands hotel and the Singapore Strait

The Botanic Gardens are located at the eponymous metro station, 25 minutes from the city center. This is the only botanical garden in the world listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It features over ten thousand plant species, with monitor lizards roaming freely, and birds swimming and flying around. The garden recreates mangrove and rainforests, includes a ginger garden, and the National Orchid Garden, which houses the world’s most extensive collection of hundreds of species. Orchids are considered a symbol of Singapore. Once, rubber was extracted and processed in this area, and the rubber industry became one of the drivers of Singapore’s development.

The Bayfront Promenade is a circular walking area. In a few hours, you can walk past the three-section Marina Bay Sands hotel, the Lotus Museum, and visit the Merlion Park with its fountain-statue in the form of Singapore’s symbol—a mythical creature with the body of a fish and the head of a lion, the Merlion. This symbol was created in 1964 during the development of the city-state’s emblem.

The Merlion is the symbol of Singapore. It is a mythical creature with the body of a fish and the head of a lion. The symbol was created in 1964 during the development of the city-state's emblem. Photo: Jay Ang / Unsplash.com
The Merlion is the symbol of Singapore. It is a mythical creature with the body of a fish and the head of a lion. The symbol was created in 1964 during the development of the city-state’s emblem. Photo: Jay Ang / Unsplash.com

Next, pass by the Esplanade concert hall, the floating stadium, the Youth Olympic Park, view the bay from an unusual pedestrian bridge in the shape of a large spiral, and finish the walk at the Sands shopping center with its food court. As darkness falls, a light show of fountains begins in the bay from the side of the Gardens, with the main goal being to secure a spot near the railing at the water’s edge. The view of the light show from below is not much worse than from the upper floors of the skyscrapers, only you need to buy tickets for the observation decks, while it’s free below.

Wandering among the downtown skyscrapers is pleasant both during the day and at night when the buildings are lit up. During the day, the numerous green facades are clearly visible, but after sunset, the air temperature becomes more comfortable, and the city looks completely different in the light of the lanterns.

Wandering among the skyscrapers is pleasant both during the day and in the dark when the building lights are turned on
Wandering among the skyscrapers is pleasant both during the day and in the dark when the building lights are turned on

Sentosa Island

Sentosa is a separate island in the southern part of Singapore, home to Universal Studios park, an aquarium, a resort area with sandy beaches open to all, hotels, villas, and a casino. It’s worth setting aside a whole day for a visit, and you can get there on the Sentosa Express from the Harbour Front metro station (a separate ticket is required).

Universal Studios Park has been operating since 2010 and is considered one of the best amusement parks in the world, with tickets starting from 77 Singapore dollars (52.80 euros). After visiting the park, you can head to one of the man-made beaches with white sand and artificial rocks. Reach Fort Siloso, the only surviving coastal fortification from World War II, visit the aquarium, and end the day with the nighttime show at Wings of Time.

Sentosa is a separate island in the southern part of Singapore, home to Universal Studios park, an aquarium, a resort area with sandy beaches accessible to all, hotels, villas, and a casino. Photo: Annie Spratt, Nauris Pūķis / Unsplash.com
Sentosa is a separate island in the southern part of Singapore, home to Universal Studios park, an aquarium, a resort area with sandy beaches accessible to all, hotels, villas, and a casino. Photo: Annie Spratt, Nauris Pūķis / Unsplash.com

Museums

The ArtScience Museum is housed in a building that looks like a huge lotus flower. The exhibition is interactive: you can animate your own drawings and release digitized images of flowers, fish, and anything else that comes to mind, onto screens on the walls and ceiling. Visitors can walk through glowing, shimmering labyrinths, visit various mirror rooms, and follow routes with virtual reality. Tickets at the box office sell out quickly, so it’s better to buy them in advance on aggregator websites. Prices start from 16 dollars (10.97 euros) depending on the number of exhibitions and the time of visit.

The ArtScience Museum is housed in a building that resembles a huge lotus flower
The ArtScience Museum is housed in a building that resembles a huge lotus flower

The National Gallery houses artworks from Southeast Asia. Throughout the year, various exhibitions are held, and their visit, along with an audio guide, is included in the price of the ticket for the permanent exhibition. The cheapest ticket costs 10 Singapore dollars (6.86 euros).

The National Gallery houses artworks from Southeast Asia. Photo: National Gallery
The National Gallery houses artworks from Southeast Asia. Photo: National Gallery

The Asian Civilisations Museum‘s exhibition is dedicated to the history and culture of Asian peoples living in Singapore. The museum displays artworks, national costumes, archaeological artifacts, interior items, and detailed historical objects. Tickets start from ten Singapore dollars (6.86 euros).

At the Asian Civilisations Museum, artworks, national costumes, archaeological artifacts, interior items, and detailed historical objects are collected. Photo: Asian Civilisations Museum
At the Asian Civilisations Museum, artworks, national costumes, archaeological artifacts, interior items, and detailed historical objects are collected. Photo: Asian Civilisations Museum

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, built in 2007 in the architectural style of the Tang dynasty, was created to house a relic, but only monks can see it. Entrance to the temple and museum grounds is free, and monks conduct free tours on Saturdays.

Food

Dining in Singapore can be quite budget-friendly if you have breakfast at local chain cafes and lunch and dinner with street food. European restaurants and bars here are more expensive than in the rest of Southeast Asia: a dinner with wine for two costs from 100 Singapore dollars (68.57 euros).

Please note that in many establishments, the menu price is listed without taxes and service charges, which vary from place to place and are indicated in small print at the bottom of the page (7–20 percent of the bill amount).

The most popular and characteristic Singaporean dishes include:

  • Laksa – a spicy, rich soup with noodles, seafood (shrimp and shellfish), fish, or chicken. The dish is also common in Malaysia and Indonesia. Laksa is part of the Peranakan cuisine – a legacy of Chinese settlers of the Malacca Peninsula and the Sundra Islands.
  • Chili Crab – whole crab or individual claws cooked in a thick tomato sauce with chili and onion. The dish, like laksa, is very spicy, so steamed buns are always served with the crab to soften the heat.
  • Traditional Kaya Toast breakfast – toast with sweet-salty butter, kaya jam (a sweet mixture of sugar, eggs, and coconut oil), an omelet or ham of your choice, two soft-boiled eggs with soy sauce, and a cup of coffee.
Kaya Toast - toast with sweet-salty butter and kaya jam (a sweet mix of sugar, eggs, and coconut oil)
Kaya Toast – toast with sweet-salty butter and kaya jam (a sweet mix of sugar, eggs, and coconut oil)

Hawker Centers

In 2020, Singapore’s street food culture was added to UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Its main component is hawker style food. It’s something like the familiar food courts with a wide assortment of different cuisines and dishes, sold at dozens of stalls, concentrated under one roof or in a limited open space. Hawker centers are self-service: you have to queue up, order and pay for food and drinks, wait (sometimes 20-30 minutes if it’s a popular place), and then collect your order.

Maxwell is a hawker center consisting of several covered rows of stalls, located near Maxwell MRT station and Chinatown. All Asian cuisine dishes are represented here; you can find breakfast, lunch, or dinner to suit any taste. The prices are quite low: dining for two with drinks can cost 12-17 Singapore dollars (8.23 – 11.66 euros). A few tested recommendations: Tian Tian Chicken Rice, Special Shanghai Dim-sum (very tasty dim sums) and Rojak, Popiah & Cockle (included in the Michelin guide).

A few tested street food spots: Tian Tian Chicken Rice, Special Shanghai Dim-sum (very tasty dim sums), and Rojak, Popiah & Cockle (included in the Michelin guide)
A few tested street food spots: Tian Tian Chicken Rice, Special Shanghai Dim-sum (very tasty dim sums), and Rojak, Popiah & Cockle (included in the Michelin guide)

Lau Pa Sat is a round food court located right in downtown among skyscrapers. Many tables are set outdoors, offering a great view of the towering high-rises. The variety of dishes and prices are roughly the same as in Maxwell. If you can’t decide on your own, first check out Ming Yen BBQ, Duck Rice & Kway Chap, and the stalls preparing satay (small skewers of meat and seafood) on the street near the entrance to the hawker center.

Lau Pa Sat is a round food court located right downtown among skyscrapers. Many tables are placed outside, so it offers a great view of the towering high-rises. Photo: Lau Pa Sat
Lau Pa Sat is a round food court located right downtown among skyscrapers. Many tables are placed outside, so it offers a great view of the towering high-rises. Photo: Lau Pa Sat

Adam Road Food Centre is a food court near the Singapore National Stadium, where you can eat for as little as 5 Singapore dollars (3.43 euros) per person. You should try the shrimp noodles at Nam Sing Hokkien Mee, shellfish at Lau Pa Sat Cooked Food, and chicken at Chong Pang Huat.

Cafes and Restaurants

Ya Kun Kaya Toast is a self-service coffee shop chain with nearly a century-old history, having 76 outlets spread across all districts of Singapore and present in all terminals of Changi Airport. They serve traditional Singaporean breakfast, so most coffee shops will be busy in the morning hours, as the chain is popular with both locals and tourists. Breakfast costs 4-8 Singapore dollars (2.74 – 5.49 euros).

Jumbo Seafood is a chain restaurant (six locations in Singapore) specializing in the famous chili crab. The most picturesque restaurant is located on the Singapore River waterfront, with tables right by the water. A whole crab costs 50-100 Singapore dollars (34.29 – 68.57 euros) depending on the weight. Portions are likely enough for two, and the crab is served with rice and steamed buns.

Jumbo Seafood is a chain restaurant (with six locations in Singapore) that specializes in preparing the famous chili crab. Photo: Jumbo Seafood
Jumbo Seafood is a chain restaurant (with six locations in Singapore) that specializes in preparing the famous chili crab. Photo: Jumbo Seafood

Heap Seng Leong is an authentic coffee shop on the ground floor of a residential building near the Arab Quarter. This family-run café serves traditional non-chain breakfasts, the staff speaks Chinese better than English, and there are few European visitors. A full breakfast for two will cost less than ten Singapore dollars (6.86 euros).

Heap Seng Leong is a family-run café serving traditional non-chain breakfasts. The staff is more proficient in Chinese than English, and there are few European visitors
Heap Seng Leong is a family-run café serving traditional non-chain breakfasts. The staff is more proficient in Chinese than English, and there are few European visitors

Merci Marcel is a small chain of French cuisine restaurants. Three of the locations are near downtown, and one is in the Botanic Gardens area, all boasting a high rating of 4.7. They offer delicious breakfasts, brunches, and dinners for those who want a break from spicy Asian cuisine.

Merci Marcel is a small chain of French cuisine restaurants. Photo: Merci Marcel
Merci Marcel is a small chain of French cuisine restaurants. Photo: Merci Marcel

Museum Cafe is a cozy café hidden in the courtyard of the Music Box Museum. Nearby is also the Daoist Thian Hock Keng temple, one of the oldest in Singapore. It’s a quiet place with delicious food, a good option to try laksa soup under the shade of trees.

Bars

Apart from hawker centers, be sure to visit at least one Singaporean bar – it’s a great opportunity to enjoy a drink with a beautiful view of the city. Many bars are not on the ground floors of buildings but high up in skyscrapers.

Mr. Stork is a rooftop bar at the Hyatt hotel. From the 41st floor, there’s a stunning view of all four sides of the city. Advance reservations are required on the website, strictly according to time slots due to dense seating, especially in the evenings and on weekends. Cocktails start at 27 Singapore dollars (18.51 euros).

Mr. Stork is a rooftop bar at the Hyatt hotel. From the 41st floor, it offers a stunning view of all four sides of the city
Mr. Stork is a rooftop bar at the Hyatt hotel. From the 41st floor, it offers a stunning view of all four sides of the city

Atlas is a cocktail bar in the Parkview Square skyscraper, notable not for its panoramic views, but for its luxurious Art Deco interior with an abundance of gold details. Its three-tier bar counter houses one of the world’s most extensive gin collections. Tasting tables should be booked in advance. Cocktails start from 20 Singapore dollars (13.71 euros).

Atlas is a cocktail bar in the Parkview Square skyscraper, notable not for its panoramic views, but for its luxurious Art Deco interior with an abundance of gold details
Atlas is a cocktail bar in the Parkview Square skyscraper, notable not for its panoramic views, but for its luxurious Art Deco interior with an abundance of gold details

Celavi is a restaurant, bar, and lounge area on the rooftop of the famous Marina Bay Sands hotel. From there, you can see the entire center of Singapore and the bay, especially picturesque is the view of the illuminated city at night. Tables should be booked in advance, a few days ahead.

Celavi is a restaurant, bar, and lounge area on the rooftop of the famous Marina Bay Sands hotel. From there, you can see the entire center of Singapore and the bay, especially picturesque is the view of the illuminated city at night
Celavi is a restaurant, bar, and lounge area on the rooftop of the famous Marina Bay Sands hotel. From there, you can see the entire center of Singapore and the bay, especially picturesque is the view of the illuminated city at night

Where to Stay

According to various media sources (such as BBC), Singapore has consistently been ranked among the most expensive cities in the world in recent years. In 2022, it was ranked second in the ratings, between New York and Tel Aviv.

Booking hostels and hotels is most convenient on websites like Booking and Agoda, while apartments are best found on Airbnb.

If you are staying for just one or two days, it’s most convenient to stay downtown (in the city center around Marina Bay) to save on transportation. All the main attractions are within walking distance, so there’s no need to spend on taxis, metro, or buses. For longer trips, staying in the Queenstown area or any other area near metro stations is convenient. Accommodation will be cheaper, and the journey to the center won’t be too long.

Hostels. Atelier is a hostel in Chinatown, near the eponymous metro station. The design of the common areas is done with references to China. A bed in a dormitory room costs 47 euros, with a good breakfast included. The Bohemian is another hostel in Chinatown. A night in a dorm plus breakfast costs 35 euros. Rad Zone is located near the pedestrian promenade Boat Quay in downtown. A place in a dorm costs from 67 euros per night. The hostel is brand new, and all attractions are within walking distance.

Hotels. Lyf One-North is a chain hotel located half an hour’s drive from the city center in a quiet office area. Living bonuses include an outdoor pool, round windows in the rooms, a panoramic roof, and interesting interior items, such as a replica of the famous Up5 chair. A standard room costs from 230 euros per night. Lyf Funan is another hotel of this chain, located 100 meters from the National Gallery, near the City Hall metro station. A double studio room starts from 154 euros.

Living perks at Lyf One-North include an outdoor pool, round windows in rooms, an observatory roof, and interesting interior items, for example, a replica of the famous Up5 chair
Living perks at Lyf One-North include an outdoor pool, round windows in rooms, an observatory roof, and interesting interior items, for example, a replica of the famous Up5 chair

Marina Bay Sands is an iconic hotel consisting of three sections, connected by a rooftop pool. The view from the rooms on one side overlooks the famous gardens, and on the other, the bay. The price for the simplest room starts from 634 euros per night.

Marina Bay Sands is an iconic hotel consisting of three sections, connected by a rooftop pool
Marina Bay Sands is an iconic hotel consisting of three sections, connected by a rooftop pool

MET is a capsule hotel with a truly cosmic atmosphere in the Arab quarter. The interiors feature a lot of white, futuristic steps, mirrors, and electronic displays, with neon lighting. A double capsule costs 62 euros. Ibis is a classic chain option near the Singapore University campus. Double rooms start from 99 euros. There are plenty of places nearby where you can eat inexpensively.

Apartments. Singapore offers very comfortable apartments with spacious kitchens, good decor, a gym, or a pool in the buildings. However, there are not many options for tourists, and it’s only cost-effective to rent if you plan a visit for several weeks or more. The most convenient way to find apartment and apartment options is on Agoda, Airbnb, Facebook Marketplace.

Singapore offers very comfortable apartments with spacious kitchens, good renovations, a gym, or a pool in the buildings. However, there are not many options for tourists, and it would be cost-effective only if you plan to stay for several weeks or more
Singapore offers very comfortable apartments with spacious kitchens, good renovations, a gym, or a pool in the buildings. However, there are not many options for tourists, and it would be cost-effective only if you plan to stay for several weeks or more

What to Bring Home

Edible souvenirs: sweet coconut jam kaya (coconut milk, eggs, and sugar), bak kwa – dried meat slices with the unique Singaporean flavor of “salted egg”, dried durian or sweets with durian (make sure it’s vacuum-packed), and the sauce used for cooking the famous chili crab – all of these can be found in any major supermarket.

The elite tea from TWG is sold in specialized stores or at duty-free before departure. Since 2008, this company has been producing packaged and loose tea, as well as accessories and utensils for tea ceremonies. Despite the relative youth of the brand, its products are indeed of very high quality: they select the best tea varieties from around the world, single-use bags are handmade from cotton, they don’t use crushed tea leaves, and only natural flavorings are added.

The elite tea from the TWG brand is sold in specialized stores or at duty-free shops before departure
The elite tea from the TWG brand is sold in specialized stores or at duty-free shops before departure

In addition to food and drinks, consider the following souvenirs:

  • Jewelry, figurines, tapestries with orchids (one of Singapore’s national symbols).
  • Fans – popular due to the heat and a part of Chinese culture.
  • Tiger Balm – used for spot massages and rub-ins, relieves swelling and inflammation.
  • Figurines and other symbols featuring the Merlion.
  • Jewelry made from purple or amethyst gold. This unusual metal color is achieved by adding an alloy of aluminum and palladium to regular gold – a technology invented by scientist Lo Peng Cham, with the production license valid only in Singapore.
  • Batik – silk fabric painted with heated wax. A textile art that originated in Malaysia.

Money

The national currency of the country is the Singapore dollar (SGD). One Singapore dollar is equivalent to 0.69 euros.

Despite the image of total modernization in all areas of life, not everywhere in Singapore accepts cards, and even less so Apple Pay. Therefore, cash will be useful for more convenient payment of metro and surface transport fares, as well as for visiting local cafes or grabbing some street food.

Currency exchange offices readily accept not only US dollars and euros but also the currencies of neighboring countries – Thai baht, Malaysian ringgit, Indonesian rupiah. As in most other countries, there’s a rule of unfavorable exchange rates at airport currency exchanges, so it’s better to exchange larger sums in the city.

The national currency of the country is the Singapore dollar (SGD)
The national currency of the country is the Singapore dollar (SGD)

Transportation in the City

How to Pay. For travel on the Singapore metro or bus, you’ll need a single-use ticket, an Ez-link multi-use card, or a Singapore Tourist Pass. Single-use tickets are sold at machines that accept only cash in Singapore dollars. The cost of a trip depends on the duration and averages 1.5–2.5 Singapore dollars (1.03 – 1.71 euros).

With the Ez-link card, you can pay for metro and bus rides, the monorail to Sentosa Island, and even for purchases in shops and cafes and tickets to museums and other attractions. The card costs 12 Singapore dollars, of which five is the non-refundable cost of the card and seven goes to the balance. The card can be topped up at the counter or in machines. One trip costs between 0.8 and 3 Singapore dollars (0.55 – 2.06 euros), depending on the type of transport and distance.

The Tourist Pass is cost-effective if you’re visiting Singapore for a few days. It offers unlimited travel on the metro and buses for one, two, or three days. The cost is 22, 29, and 34 Singapore dollars (15.09, 19.89, 23.31 euros), respectively. Ten dollars are refunded upon the return of the card. The card also offers discounts for visiting museums, cafes, and other tourist spots. They are sold at all metro stations, in machines and at counters.

Metro and Buses. The Singapore metro operates from 5:30 AM to 00:30 AM, and on holidays from 6:00 AM to 1:00 AM. The carriages are modern and comfortable, with free toilets at all stations. Some metro lines (green, yellow) are fully automated and trains run without a driver. Bus routes almost duplicate the metro map and complement it, even the operating hours are the same. Buses in Singapore are modern and double-decker; if you manage to sit at the front seats of the upper deck, you can enjoy a tour-like experience with a fantastic view.

Some lines of the Singapore metro (green, yellow) are fully automated, and trains operate without a driver. Photo: Euan Cameron / Unsplash.com
Some lines of the Singapore metro (green, yellow) are fully automated, and trains operate without a driver. Photo: Euan Cameron / Unsplash.com

Taxi. Taxis can be ordered through apps like Grab, Gojek, or Uber. The fare for an ‘economy’ ride starts from four Singapore dollars (23.31 euros) – the cost of the pick-up. After that, 50 cents (3.43 euros) are added to the price per kilometer traveled. Surcharges for peak hours or nighttime, toll road fees, and a service charge – about 10%. In total, a half-hour ride will cost 25-30 Singapore dollars (17.14 – 20.57 euros).

Bike-sharing. Bicycles are a popular mode of transport among locals in Singapore. Not every middle-class individual can afford a car due to high prices and taxes. There are seven main players in the bike-sharing market, with two services offering 24-hour rentals – Anywheel and SG Bike. Rates start from one dollar for half an hour up to 35 dollars (24.00 euros) for a full day.

There are no kick-scooter sharing services in Singapore, as since 2019 it has been officially prohibited to ride scooters in all pedestrian areas. Movement is only possible on bicycle lanes, but Singaporeans prefer bicycles, so scooter rentals are not available here.

Bicycles are a common mode of transport among locals in Singapore. Not every middle-class individual can afford a car due to high prices and taxes. Photo: Korie Cull / Unsplash.com
Bicycles are a common mode of transport among locals in Singapore. Not every middle-class individual can afford a car due to high prices and taxes. Photo: Korie Cull / Unsplash.com

Getting There

Airplane. Singapore is one of the world’s largest hubs, and Changi International Airport is a destination in itself.

From London, direct flights are frequently available with Singapore Airlines, one of the most reputable carriers operating this route. A round-trip economy ticket typically ranges from £500 to £700, depending on the season. British Airways also offers direct flights, with similar pricing.

From Frankfurt, Lufthansa provides direct services to Singapore, with prices for a round-trip economy ticket usually falling between €600 and €800. Singapore Airlines also operates on this route, offering competitive pricing and services.

For travelers departing from Paris, Air France and Singapore Airlines offer direct flights. Prices generally start around €550 for a round-trip economy ticket, but can increase during peak travel seasons.

From Madrid, while direct flights are less common, airlines like KLM and Qatar Airways offer convenient one-stop connections via their respective hubs in Amsterdam and Doha. Prices for these connecting flights tend to start around €500 for a round-trip in economy class.

From the airport to the city. The most convenient way to reach most areas is by metro. The Changi Airport station can be directly accessed from Terminals 2 and 3. From Terminal 1, you’ll need to take a free train, and from Terminal 4, a free bus. There is also shuttle bus No. 36, which stops near all four terminals.

Bus. Buses run from Kuala Lumpur (the capital of Malaysia). The journey takes about five to six hours. A one-way ticket costs 16,09 Singapore dollars. It’s important to remember the rules for visa-free transit or to obtain a Singapore visa.

Ferry. Ferries run from Johor state in Malaysia to Singapore, with a ticket costing 43-70 Singapore dollars. From Batam Island in Indonesia, it’s 43 Singapore dollars. Many cruise ships that travel around Asia stop in Singapore. The cost of such cruises starts from 1000 euros.

Entry requirments

As of 2023, European citizens planning to visit Singapore should be aware of the specific entry requirements regarding visas and migration cards. These requirements can vary based on the country of origin and the purpose of the visit.

For most European citizens, including those from Schengen Area countries, the United Kingdom, and others, Singapore offers a visa-free entry for short-term visits, typically up to 90 days. This visa exemption is ideal for tourists, business travelers, or those in transit. Upon arrival, visitors are generally issued a visit pass at immigration, which details the duration of their stay. It’s crucial to check the specific visa-free arrangement between one’s home country and Singapore, as conditions may change and some countries may have different agreements.

Disembarkation/embarkation card, is usually filled out upon arrival. This card requires basic personal and travel information. As of recent years, Singapore has moved towards digitalization of this process, and visitors might need to fill out this information online prior to their arrival.

In addition to these documents, it’s important for visitors to have a passport with at least six months’ validity from the date of entry into Singapore. Proof of onward or return travel may also be requested by immigration officials, along with proof of sufficient funds to cover the stay in Singapore.

Travelers planning to work, study, or stay for longer periods in Singapore will need to apply for the appropriate visas and permits before their travel.

Many also visit Singapore during border runs from Thailand or Indonesia. However, there is a rule that one must fly out of Singapore to a third country within 96 hours. A route like Bali – Singapore – Malaysia – Bali would be suitable. But for a route like Bali – Singapore – Bali, a tourist visa must be obtained, even if the stay in Singapore is less than 96 hours.

A great option for a short layover is visiting the entertainment complex Jewel right at the airport. Here, you can see the world’s tallest indoor waterfall (40 meters high), spend time in the walking area of an oasis garden with plants from around the world, admire art installations by Asian artists, and grab a bite to eat.

Singapore is one of the largest global hubs, and Changi International Airport is a destination in itself
Singapore is one of the largest global hubs, and Changi International Airport is a destination in itself

Tips

  • Carefully check the conditions for visa-free transit entry or arrange a visa in advance through agencies.
  • An umbrella and SPF 50+ sunscreen will be useful at any time of the year.
  • Read up on the rules and laws of Singapore. They have very high fines for some violations.
  • A type G adapter for sockets will come in handy.
  • Tap water is safe to drink.
  • It’s better to buy online tickets for popular museums and observation decks a few days before your planned visit, and it’s also better to use aggregator websites (Klook, Trip.com, Trillophilia), where it’s cheaper than the official prices.
  • Don’t shy away from street food, in Singapore it’s safe, cheap, delicious, and one of the country’s highlights.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • A unique combination of concrete and natural jungles.
  • Changi – one of the best airports in the world.
  • Can be used for border runs from neighboring Asian countries.
  • A large number of green spaces in all parts of the city.
  • High level of safety.
  • Temples, parks, botanical gardens, and some city museums are free for all visitors.
  • Well-developed urban infrastructure: pedestrian zones, convenient crossings, public transport.
  • Everyone speaks English.

Cons:

  • Not a cheap destination, from flights to accommodation.
  • Hot and humid equatorial climate year-round.
  • Strict laws and regulations.
  • Need to book good hotels and purchase museum tickets in advance.

When to Visit

In Singapore, there is no pronounced seasonality throughout the year, so the weather will be more or less the same whether in autumn or winter. The average temperature year-round is around 27–28 degrees Celsius, slightly cooler in winter and a bit hotter in summer. Due to its equatorial location, torrential rains can occur any day. They are slightly more frequent in winter. However, there is no distinctly dry season or rainy season as in neighboring Thailand. Therefore, when choosing the time to visit, you can base your decision on the cost of tickets and accommodation and try to avoid mass Asian holidays (such as Chinese New Year), and also consider the weather in neighboring countries if you’re planning a larger Asian trip.

Due to the abundant cloud cover, many travelers might think that sun protection is not necessary in Singapore. However, a glance at the UV index in a weather app makes it clear that SPF protection is necessary. It is recommended to apply sunscreen with SPF 50+ on exposed skin areas when the UV index is above 3.

Locals always carry umbrellas, which can be used both during rain and in the midday heat for sun protection. Upon entering shopping and business centers, there are stands with bags for wet umbrellas.

In Singapore, there is no pronounced seasonality throughout the year, so the weather will be more or less the same whether in autumn or winter. Photo: Jason Rost / Unsplash.com
In Singapore, there is no pronounced seasonality throughout the year, so the weather will be more or less the same whether in autumn or winter. Photo: Jason Rost / Unsplash.com

Text and photo: Anastasia Yurlova

Cover: Annie Spratt

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