Famous for the Marina Bay Sands, Singapore is a top destination in Southeast Asia. Once a cluster of small villages, this ultra-modern destination has become a global financial hub and has seen a massive boom in tourism thanks to the bestselling book and subsequent movie, Crazy Rich Asians.
With depictions of Singapore projected across the world, tourists are now eager to explore the exotic tastes of the street food, walk in the famous botanic gardens, and explore the dynamic city streets.
Livin’ La Vida Singapore
Selamat Datang – Welcome to Singapore!
Singapore is unique because it has no capital. In fact, the capital of Singapore is Singapore. Home to 5.4 million people (as of 2021), the country is also unique because it’s also an island and its own state. While located off Malaysia‘s southern coast, Singapore is technically a sovereign island nation, so it tends to act as its own country.
While the main island of Singapore is where most of the tourists visit, the territory actually consists of 62 smaller islets as well. The popularity of Singapore also means that man-made islands are created for real estate purposes every year.
- Culture and Language
- Spending Budget
- How to Get Around
- Top Places to Visit
Culture and Language
Most of Singapore’s history dates back to the 14th century when it was ruled by a man named Parameswara. The island started as a trade settlement and expanded as an important colony for the British.
In World War II, Japan occupied the island until the end of the war when Britain took power. It wasn’t until 1965, when it was expelled from Malaysia, that Singapore began the unique nation it is today. Since separating from Malaysia, it’s become a great success in both business and economic sectors.
Along with the growth of the city, the housing sector greatly expanded with new high rises and apartment blocks being rapidly developed. By the 2010s, Singapore was becoming a popular tourist destination, and amongst the offices and apartments, large resorts were being constructed.
The Marina Bay Sands is an iconic resort that features double towers connected by a bridge and is often featured in photographs of the city. Now, the city is stable, and they voted into power their first female president in 2017.
With the unique past and blend of countries in power, Singaporean culture is a combination of cultures with influences from Asia and Europe. Harmony is a large part of Singaporean culture, where the people want a balance between peace, justice, and religion.
Even in the urban environment, nature has a huge cultural significance. From the garden-scaped architecture, botanic gardens, city parks, and nature reserves, Singapore is working towards being the world’s greenest city.
Malay is the national language of Singapore, however, other languages are used throughout the country, including English, Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil. The majority of the people will speak English alongside Malay because its taught in schools and considered a de facto language. English is also commonly used in business, alongside Mandarin Chinese.
Though most Mandarin Chinese is spoken within private homes, the minority language spoken is Tamil and, like Mandarin Chinese, is often spoken within private homes. For English-speaking tourists, Singapore is popular because of its use of the English language, which means that there is less of a barrier on the streets and between people.
It’s crucial that you consider your spending budget while you are planning your trip. Singapore is a moderately affordable country if you compare it to European prices. However, it is considered more expensive than its nearby neighbors like Vietnam and Thailand.
Still, you can travel to Singapore on a backpacker’s budget. The most important parts of your budget will include airfare, accommodation, food, drink, and transportation.
Flying to Asia is expensive, and Singapore is no exception. The flights are long and, depending on where you live in the United States, will likely include multiple connections. The more connections you make, the less expensive your ticket will be.
If you are willing to take the time for layovers, you may find one-way tickets costing a few hundred, though it will take almost 18 hours and multiple connections to get there. Other airlines may have special deals, and as always, when you travel and how far in advance you book your ticket can affect the price.
Singapore is unique because it tends to be quite popular all year round. You will find that airline tickets are more expensive around the winter months and holidays, with November through January being very busy.
June and July are also peak months for tourism, so expect tickets to go up in price. The further in advance you book, the more likely you’ll be able to save a little money.
While plane tickets are expensive, you can save on your budget by staying in affordable accommodation. Hostels are quite popular throughout Singapore, it’s just recommended that you check reviews before booking. A poorly reviewed establishment, no matter how cheap, is not worth it.
If hostels are not your style, you can try staying in a capsule hotel. Moderately priced per night, capsule hotels are better suited for individuals because you will be quite literally staying in your own personal capsule.
Those looking for mid-range options need to boost their budgets. There may be lower priced options in the tourist off-season, but they still average pretty high.
Guesthouses are another option, however, you’ll have to look at various booking sites. Airbnb is not legal in Singapore, and choosing to rent any listing could get you into trouble with local law enforcement. Finally, resorts have become a major staple in the tourism industry in Singapore, with the Marina Sands Bay being the most famous accommodation.
Boasting a stunning view of the city, with pristine pools and luxury rooms make this a top accommodation for many tourists. If you’re hoping to spend a few nights here be prepared to pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
Once you’ve determined your flight and accommodation, the next important portions of your budget will be once you are in Singapore – food and drink. Singapore is known for having a crazy delicious and affordable food scene. Some street food stalls have even earned the prestigious cuisine award of a Michelin star.
Most Singaporean food is divided into five different categories: meat, seafood, noodles, rice, desserts, and snacks. Crab is a common seafood dish that is cooked in a few different ways. Chili crab and black pepper crab are staples within the cuisine.
Laksa is another favorite dish, which combines Malay and Chinese flavors with rice noodles, vegetables, and curry. Chicken rice or khao man gai is a simpler dish but a favorite amongst locals and tourists. For sweets, you can try what CNN called “Singapore’s National Cake,” Pandan chiffon cake.
Street food is the most affordable way to eat, and many dishes will cost a few dollars. Don’t let the cheap prices fool you because you’ll step into a world of rich flavors.
Street food is famous in Singapore, as we’ve mentioned, and it has become so well renowned that two small stalls have previously gained a Michelin star. Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle, as well as Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle both, gained their star in 2016, although the first lost theirs in 2021.
However, street food isn’t the only famous dining. Restaurants are bountiful in Singapore, and there are multiple one-star, two-star, and three-star Michelin-awarded establishments to try.
If a Michelin-star restaurant is out of your price range, besides the two street food stalls, you should expect to pay a decent amount for a nice meal.
Singapore is also known for having a thriving nightlife, and there are plenty of bars for you to explore. However, don’t expect to drink cheaply. Alcohol is expensive in bars, and you will likely pay US prices for a single cocktail. Even beer and wine are expensive compared to other Asian counties.
One famous cocktail that you can try is the Singapore Sling, which is available at the Raffles Hotel. Madam Fan Bar is famous for its unique cocktails made by Davide Boncimino, while The Old Man is a unique bar that derives its name from the classic tale, The Old Man and the Sea.
Attractions throughout the city may also cost money, so you should be prepared to pay different entrance fees, depending on where you’re headed. Tours are also a great way to see the city but can be costly.
How to Get Around
Singapore is a small island, so it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort or money to move around from location to location. You have a few options available to you when it comes to transportation.
Buses and Trains
The MRT or Mass Rapid Transit is the rail system used throughout the main island. It’s the most efficient way to travel and costs minimal per ride. There are also passes you can buy that save you on each ticket used as well as a refundable deposit.
The Singapore Tourist Pass is a great option for those trying to use public transportation for a few days as it provides you with unlimited rides. For people who are traveling around Singapore to see all the tourist spots, this is the best pass to purchase. If you are walking a lot or not sightseeing, the cost may not be worth buying a few single tickets.
There also isn’t much price difference between the bus and MRT tickets, so you don’t have to worry about saving money in that aspect. Most people prefer the MRT over a bus, however, in case of emergency or you are only left with one option, know that there are plenty of trains and buses available on the main island.
Taxis and Boats
Taxis are also available and can be affordable. Uber is not in Singapore, but they have a similar app called Grab.
Walking is also a great and free way to explore the city. Just be sure you are aware of your surroundings and have a secure hold on your belongings. You should also avoid walking alone at night.
Finally, day trips to the islands may also be part of your transportation budget. Sentosa Island is a popular destination, which has a cable car to a location where you can then walk to the island.
Other ways to get to the islands may be to hire boats to find tours, which can be more expensive. Tours will be more costly and could have a hefty price tag for a full day’s itinerary. Short boat rides will be more moderately priced.
Top Places to Visit in Singapore
Due to Singapore being one large city, you don’t have the option to hop from one city to the other like other destinations. Instead, there are many attractions and landmarks that visitors plan their itineraries around. To help you narrow down your list, here is a brief overview of the best sights and top tourist locations in Singapore.
Marina Bay is a popular area within Singapore, which houses the infamous Marina Bay Sands resort and sky park, Gardens by the Bay, Merlion, Singapore Flyer, and a host of other attractions. While many attractions have made it onto our list, the area is central to Singapore and is featured in many pictures of the skyline.
A huge resort location in itself, Sentosa Island is just off the mainland’s southern coast. The island has become hugely popular for its beaches, views of Indonesia, food stalls, suspensions bridge, and boardwalk. You can reach the island by cable car, road, or walking.
The Civic District is the most historical part of Singapore that is filled with government buildings, museums, galleries, parks, the city hall, and the Raffles Hotel.
Though small in size, the Civic District is the heart of Singapore and where you can explore the past and remember those who have passed. With huge significance to Singapore, the Civic District is a top tourist destination.
Many cities have bustling retail businesses, and Orchard Road is the Rodeo Drive of Singapore. This area is filled with luxurious boutiques, brands, and hotels. You can shop for everything and explore the colorful nooks and crannies. The unique architecture makes Orchard Road visually stunning too.
Clarke Quay is a historic location on the riverside in Singapore, which has now become known for its nightlife. The quay at night is lit up with neon lights, and you can get out on the water with a boat tour. With plenty of bars and clubs, you can dance the night away in Singapore’s top party district.
Singapore is known for its amazing zoo, which has many animals roaming freely in an enclosure. Guests can get up close and personal with some animals and take a walk through 11 different zones. With a fully immersive experience, the zoo is a top attraction for families.
Chinatown is a dazzling place in Singapore, which is known for its ornate architecture and street food. The Chinatown Food Street is packed with restaurants serving traditional dishes while shops and boutiques are scattered in between. At night, the lights of the streets are sure to draw you in with their warm glow.
Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay is often considered to be the green heart of Singapore, and it is the most well-known botanical location due to the three waterfront gardens. Unique environmental technology trees and stunning architecture are mixed with the greenery, which only makes the gardens more breathtaking.
While vastly different from the Gardens by the Bay, the Botanic Gardens are another beautiful place located in Singapore. It is also the only tropical garden that has made it onto the list of World Heritage Sites.
With a 160-year-old history, you can step away from the busy Orchard Road and escape into a little bit of nature.
Built as a large observation Ferris wheel, the Singapore Flyer gives you a bird’s eye view of the city. The wheel is located in the Marina Bay area and features 28 air-conditioned capsules. Riders can sip champagne and look through the glass windows to see the beauty of Singapore.
Universal Studios Singapore
In 2011, Universal Studios opened a park on Sentosa Island in Singapore, which has become a major theme park attraction for the city. With 28 rides, multiple shows, and various zones, families can explore the magic of Universal and dive into a behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood blockbusters.
Merlion Park is named for the half-fish and half-lion fountain statue, which spouts its water into the bay. The waterfront park is an icon of the city and a place where tourists can sit back and observe the city.
Siloso Beach is one of the most popular locations on Sentosa Island because of its white sand coves. However, don’t be fooled, the beach is not natural, and it was actually man-made for locals and visitors to relax. Being on Sentosa Island, there is plenty to do, and you can stay in beachfront accommodations.
While the island life is certainly unique in Singapore, the hustle and bustle of this modern city are sure to draw you in for an adventure. The collision of old and new fill the streets with excitement – not to mention all of the delicious dishes.
Whether you’re intrigued by the skyline or drawn to the culture, Singapore will be a destination you won’t soon forget.