Singapore Fast Facts
Small in size but superior in leisure experiences, Singapore has abundant attractions on a territory of just 720 sq-km.Founded as a British colony in 1819 because of its prime location on shipping routes , trade conducted from the world’s second largest seaport has propelled Singapore into a super league of affluence. Visitors will find superb shopping, diverse dining and a thriving nightlife.
The country’s only international airport, Changi International Airport, is located east of Singapore and is one of the leading gateways for South-East Asia. With a multitude of international and regional connections, Changi International Airport has become an important hub for intraregional flight connections. The award-winning airport serves both regular and low-cost airlines, divided through separate terminals.
Over the past years, more international airlines from airports in East and South-East Asia and the Middle East have opened routes to Singapore in particular, giving visitors more flight options into Asia. Customers coming from North America, Australia and Europe can make use an increased amount of flight options via Changi to other Asian destinations.
Arrival and Departure information
All the above information may change without prior notice. It remains the traveller’s responsibility to check visa requirements before traveling.
Government offices are open from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday but are closed Saturday and Sunday. Department stores and retail shops have extended opening and closing hours (from 10:00am until 10:00pm) throughout the week, including Saturdays, Sundays and various public holidays.
Most banks are open from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. Currency can be changed at banks and hotels, but visitors will get a more favourable rate at one of the moneychangers in shopping centres and stores. ATMs are found throughout the city and are available 24/7.
Debit and credit cards from MasterCard, Visa or American Express are accepted at all major banks in Singapore, such as DBS, United Overseas Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, and OCBC Bank. Cash is dispensed in Singapore Dollar and calculated at the daily international exchange rate.
Comfortable lightweight fabric such as cotton is the most suitable clothing for traveling in Singapore. Year-round, Singapore’s tropical climate allow visitors to dress leisurely by wearing shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops / sandals and are acceptable around the city-state. Indoor dining venues, bars and clubs uphold a stricter dress code; it is wise to pack one evening dress or trousers, long-sleeved shirt and decent shoes.
Most of the Singaporeans dress formally to work, although the unofficially, the daily dress code is quite casual. If going to Singapore for business, it is recommendable to bring proper business attire.
Visitors should not wear shorts, short skirts or similar clothing when visiting religious sites. Asian Trails recommends bringing a light jacket or thin sweater with you when entering air-conditioned places such as shopping malls and public transport.
Singapore’s currency is the Singapore Dollar (SGD). Prices are marked as S$ or SGD$. Notes are issued in denominations of S$2, S$5, S$10, S$50, S$100, S$1,000, and S$10,000. One S$1 is equal to 100 cents. Coins come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50 cents, and 1 Dollar.
The following goods may be imported into Singapore without incurring a customs duty:
- Two litres of alcohol (maximum one litre of spirit and one litre of wine or beer).
Visitors can bring in as many foreign currency notes as they like, but amounts exceeding S$20,000 or its equivalent in foreign currency has to be declared.
To adhere to local customs, it is highly recommended not to bring tobacco, chewing gum, or any health-hazard products into the country.
Do’s and Don’ts
Dos in Singapore
- Carrying some cash with you is a good recommendation when heading out to visit hawker centres, food halls, and street markets. Although cashless payment options are on the rise, it’s always good to have some Singapore Dollars on hand;
- Although handshakes are generally acceptable for both men and women, some Muslim women may acknowledge introductions to men by merely nodding and smiling. A handshake should only be initiated by ladies;
- Shoes must be removed when entering places of worship such as mosques and temples. Some mosques provide robes and scarves for female visitors.
- Taking photographs at places of worship is usually permitted but always ask permission beforehand.
- Do mind your manners. A kind word, not shouting in public, and respecting the elderly will result in receiving a smile in return. The same as when queuing up at any place.
Don’ts in Singapore
- Don’t litter and/or smoke in public. Singapore has some of the strictest regulations (linked to hefty fines) in the world in regards to littering and lighting up a cigarette in public places and on the streets. The reason why Singapore is relatively one of the cleanest city is connected to these rules;
- Don’t jaywalk in Singapore. In line with its hefty fines for littering, Singapore’s law enforcement can slap a huge fine when not respecting official crossings and traffic lights.
- Avoid public transportation during weekday peak hours. Singapore is notorious for seeing jam-packed subways, extended queues for grabbing a taxi, and buses during work days.
- Singaporeans have a philosophy of keeping their cool and not losing their temper. To raise one’s voice and lose one’s temper is considered bad form and confrontation is to be avoided. Even if you experience some form of minor trouble, it is better to smile and not show aggression;
- Don’t openly criticise the government of Singapore or through social media;
- Smoke outside designated smoking zones; smoking indoors, on patios, or outside designated smoking areas (this includes using vapours, electronic cigarettes, and chewing tobacco) is illegal.
Singapore uses 230V and a mixture of flat two-pin, round two-pin, or three-pin plugs (so-called G plug). It is recommended to bring a universal plug adaptor. Power outages hardly occur; in the unlikely events of this occurring, most hotels have their own generators to provide an emergency power source.
Entertainment and Nightlife
It comes as no surprise that Singapore offers a plethora of excellent nightclubs and music venues. Areas such as Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and around Marina Bay / One Fullerton are some of the liveliest nightlife spot and offer a good selection of alfresco bars and coffee shops.
Districts around downtown Singapore, such as Ann Siang Hill and Club Street, are also lively at night; smaller venues offer cocktail lounges, dancing venues and speakeasy bars. Up-and-coming districts such as Dempsey Hill and Holland Village are becoming more and more popular with an ever-growing selection of upmarket restaurants, bars and clubs. There are also excellent lively night markets in most hotels within Singapore’s country borders.
Singapore’s culinary tradition reflects the waves of immigration, settlement and assimilation that brought uniquely delicious flavours from its multicultural Malay, Indian, Chinese and Eurasian population. Primarily consisting of Malay, Chinese and Indian influences, the actual Singaporean cuisine is a hybrid, derived from cross cultural influences such as Mamak (Indian-Muslim) and Nyonya (the Malay-Chinese mix). For a broad selection of various styles of food, head over to one of the hawker centres across the city; cheap, delicious, fresh, and an excellent way to mingle with the locals.
Due to its culinary diversity, there is always something to the visitor’s taste around every corner. Many Singaporean dishes revolves around rice or noodles, accompanied by curries, fried chicken or fish, and vegetable dishes. Probably one of the most famous dishes is Singapore chicken rice; well-prepared braised or roasted chicken, served with a special sauce and rice. Another culinary favourite is chilli crab; freshly caught crab with a somewhat spicy gravy once has to eat with their fingers. Other local favourites are Char Kuay Teow (fried noodles in soy sauce with meat, shrimps and condiments) or Hokkien Prawn Mee (a rich noodle soup with prawns and vegetables).
No inoculations or vaccinations are required unless traveling from, or passing through, areas infected with yellow fever. Yellow fever certificates are required for those coming from African and South American countries. Malaria and dengue fever are present and it is advisable to take precautions against mosquito bites especially if traveling off the beaten track. The standard of medical facilities at hospitals and clinics is world class and Singapore has a growing medical tourism industry.
The standards of accommodation are excellent with categories to fit all budgets. Singapore has an abundance of luxury properties. The larger hotels offer a wide variety of restaurants, bars, swimming pools and other recreational facilities. Most of the staff at key positions (front office, reception, restaurants etc.,) speak excellent English and understand the western mentality well. During check-in you will be asked to complete a registration card. The hotel will also ask for an imprint of your credit card as a guarantee for incidentals such as meals, drinks, etc. Ask the front office to return this slip upon checkout. Please check that you receive meal coupons (where applicable) when given the room key. General check-in is from 2pm and check out time is 12-noon, although variations apply. If you require a late check-out (potentially at extra cost) check with reception beforehand.
It is advisable to take out a medical insurance policy before traveling as treatment will not be administered without proof of payment, or evidence of a comprehensive travel insurance policy. Do be careful if you hire a car or a motorbike and make sure the rental is covered by the appropriate motor insurance and you are in possession of a valid international driver’s license. Singapore is a destination where scams for non-existent damage are not prevalent and thus, it is very likely insurance policies will cover motorized and non-motorized activities.
Singapore’s internet connectivity is growing at a rapid pace with many places offering free Wi-Fi and/or broadband internet connections. Users can also purchase pre-paid international phone cards to make international calls. Wi-Fi hotspots are widespread in hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and food outlets and cafes. Most hotels have business centres with PCs connected to the Internet or in-room broadband and Wi-Fi access. Convenience stores sell local pre-paid and top-up SIM cards that offer cheaper rates.
Being a multi-cultural destination, visitors will be presented with a multitude of languages, ranging from Cantonese, Hokkien, and Mandarin as the main dialects of the Chinese community and Tamil are widely spoken by the Indian sector of the population. Although the country counts Malay as one of its official languages, English is generally understood and spoken throughout the country.
Singapore’s unique ‘wow’ factor is its diversity; Chinese Taoists, Christians, Malay Muslims, Buddhists, Indian Hindus, cross-culture Peranakans and Eurasians, plus other races and religions proudly call themselves Singaporean. The country’s trading history is the story of how original Singapura accepted newcomers from the Middle East, India, China and further afield and fused differing cultures into a strong national identity.
The closure of tourist sites can occur at short notice on public holidays and our Asian Trails’ guides and representatives will give guests advice about this. Some of the dates of national holidays may change every year.
Most religious Singaporean festivals have no fixed dates but change annually according to the lunar calendar. Prominent among these is Chinese New Year in January-February which is celebrated with hong bao (red packets filled with lucky money), fire crackers and the exchange of mandarin oranges.
Singapore is widely regarded as one of the best connected countries in Asia when it comes to public transportation. Public buses do local runs and a number of privately operated bus companies handle longer trips, including travel into neighbouring Malaysia. Local and regional buses often operate from one station and long-distance buses from another. Aside from Singapore’s extensive bus connections, the MRT (Mass Rapid Transport) network reaches the far corners of the city-state, including direct connections between Changi International Airport and the downtown area. Value passes and travel cards allow visitors to travel on either bus or the MRT on the same card and these passes are widely available at numerous sales points.
Driving in Singapore is easy compared to many other Asian countries as the roads are of a very high quality and the standard of driving is careful and considerate. However, motorists should be constantly aware when driving in a new country. Fees to enter the city centre are levied during peak hours and are automatically charged to the driver. Car rental companies within Singapore will advise drivers about fees and conditions attached to these surcharges.
Due to its compact size, Singapore does not require an internal railway system. However, it does have a major link to a world-renowned railway network, as it is the start and end point of the famous Eastern and Oriental Express. This luxury line departs from Singapore’s Woodland Railway station for the journey to Bangkok, Thailand, via Kuala Lumpur and Butterworth, Malaysia.
Within Singapore, a large amount of taxis are operational 24/7 and these are metered. Please note; supplementary charges may apply for rides after 10 pm and before 6 am. Special heritage destinations within Singapore still have rickshaws for hire and these are a great way to get around the capital’s narrow streets.
Singapore is a multicultural society with Buddhism as the dominant religion, with 33 per cent of the population followers of this faith. The constitution guarantees religious freedom and relations between different religious groups are harmonious and tolerant. Christmas, Chinese New Year and Deepavali have all been declared national holidays alongside Islamic holidays. The large Chinese population practices a mixture of beliefs, with influences from traditional religions followed in China such as Taoism. Hinduism is followed by many Indian communities and a colonial past created followers of Christianity.
Serious crimes against foreigners are very rare but travellers should remain vigilant for petty theft, especially in crowded areas such as local markets and shopping areas. As a global rule, never leave belongings unattended and always maintain a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags. Leave expensive valuables at home and always use hotel safety deposits boxes, or in-room safes for valuables.
Particularly in downtown areas, bag snatching is unfortunately a common issue. Asian Trails highly recommends staying alert and keeping bags and purses close by when walking through markets and streets and at crowded places during excursions. Reports of bag snatchers have been on the rise.
Singapore is a shopper’s paradise with over 20 large malls, most of them concentrated within the downtown region and within walking distance of the major hotels. Best buys include the latest designer brands, electronic products, elegant garments and meticulously hand-crafted souvenirs.
The best places for high street shopping are around Orchard Road, Marina Bay and near the Harbour, while those after cultural handicrafts should visit Little India, the street markets in Chinatown and Bugis, especially the renowned Haji Lane. Haggling may not be the norm when going on a shopping spree as there are ample bargains and good deals to be had.
Like many countries in South-East Asia, Singapore is home to a burgeoning artisan market scene, as well as traditional markets. Also known as ‘wet markets’, these are a great source of fresh meats, fruits and vegetables, spices and other basic local ingredients. The Tekka Centre is the place to see old-fashioned trading in abundance. It is best to shop here in the morning – the earlier the fresher and this is also a dining landmark to enjoy varied cuisines.
The ‘local market ambiance’ is best observed during the weekend and evenings. Many districts in Singapore, such as Little India, Chinatown and certain Peranakan areas, organise regular street markets where a collection of indigenous artefacts and souvenirs are for sale. This experience is enhanced with great local food and night time entertainment. For handicrafts and souvenirs, the best buys are batik, oriental decorative items, traditional handicrafts and brassware.
All hotels have IDD phones but for a more inexpensive option head to the abundance of (free) Wi-Fi connections points, including bars, restaurants, shopping centres, popular landmarks and tourist attractions. For cheaper calling rates, pre-paid international calling cards are available at convenience stores (Please note: Travel ID is required for registration).
Singapore is GMT +8 and does not operate on a daylight-saving system.
Tipping for good service is not expected but always appreciated. Tipping the guide and driver on your transfers and tours should depend on how satisfied you are with the excursion. Hotel porters should be tipped for carrying bags to the room. In other cases, it is totally up to the individual when and how much to tip.
Water in Singapore is potable, but most locals drink either bottled or filtered water. Most hotels provide complimentary bottles, or there are refill stations for reverse osmosis purified water. Ice cubes are generally okay in hotels and restaurants but it is best to avoid at street stalls. Twenty- four-hour convenience stores are everywhere in major areas, with a selection of water and soft drinks for sale.
The climate is tropical, with high humidity. Temperatures remain around 30C (86F) throughout the year. The rainy season, which affects all of Singapore, generally lasts from November to February.
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