Travel guide to Singapore

Singapore, founded as a British colony in 1819, it has become since its independence one of the most prosperous country and the expat destination by excellence where East meets West. This multi-cultural spot is a combination of European and Asian cultures influenced by Malay, South Asian, East Asian and Eurasian cultures. Being there for work purposes for a small week, I seized the opportunity to visit this city every single evening during my stay.

Quick facts

Singapore has 4 official languages: English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil

Singapore is also known as "the Fine City", a double meaning highlighting the great condition of living in the country but also refers to the rules and regulations imposed. I recommend getting familiar with some of these laws before heading there. For instance chewing gum is banned in Singapore, even importation of chewing gums into the country is illegal. So make sure to leave it at home.

There's only three city-states in the world, Monaco, the Vatican City and Singapore!

Singapore is also the name of Michigan's famous ghost town.

best time to go: Singapore is tropical and humid year-round. School holidays fall in June and July, the hottest (and haziest) time, so try to avoid traveling in these months if possible.

the currency in Singapore is the Singapore dollar. 1euro = 1,5 SGD  or 1 USD = 1,41 SGD

Things to do?

Visit China town

It is mandatory to visit China town when you visit a city. Especially in Singapore, from temples to street food stalls and cheap souvenir shops, you won't regret passing by it.

Visit little India 

As soon as you reach little India, you will be welcomed by an arch with peacocks on both sides. Everything is very colorful and like China town, it feels like you are in a different city. From shops to restaurants and temples it is a delight to walk around this area. You can also find some tourists and gadgets shops selling items for cheap, perfect for souvenirs. 

Stroll around the garden by the bay

Garden by the Bay is definitely a MUST do. I only managed to go there by night, but it was like walking in another world. The lights, the size of the trees, the music, you feel really immerse in this Avatar-like environment. Such a unique place to visit. 

See the famous Merlion

The story behind it is that Singapore was originally known as Temasek, meaning 'sea town' in Javanese. But in 1299, an Indonesia King who visited the island mistook an unknown creature for a lion and named it Singapura, which is Sanskrit for Lion City. Hence the Merlion being Singapore's mascot today. There is a mini version not too far away from it.

Watch the laser show at the Marina Bay Sands

I spent most of my evenings eating pad Thai noodles looking at the Marina Bay Sands laser show and admiring the skyscrapers from the Financial District. The buildings are really impressive pieces of architecture. And the laser show, one of a kind projecting 3D images looking like holograms.

If you feel like gambling, you can access the Casino in the basement of the Marina Bay Sand hotel. Do not forget to bring your passport with you as it is FREE access for foreigners but not for Singaporeans who have to pay a fee to get in.

Also, if you want to get your Instagram worth photo at the Marina Bay Sand famous infinity pool, make sure to book a room at the hotel as the access is strictly restricted to resident only. Trust me I tried!

Go to raffles hotel and enjoy a Singapore sling

The Raffles hotel has kept its colonial look and feel. It is worth a visit if you are interested in History. Once you are there, stop by the Long bar. It is a bit touristic and pricey but there is an excellent atmosphere with beautiful colonial interior. If you are fan of cocktails like I am, the drinks here are historic as far as the birthplace of the famous Sling cocktail goes. 

The fun fact about this place is that you will find nutshells everywhere on the floor. Do not worry, it's meant to be this way. Although I did not find out the origin of this custom, I found this note written by the bar saying: "Quite possible the one place in Singapore where littering is actually encouraged. Never would we suggest you break the law. But at the Long Bar at Raffles, feel free to brush your peanut shells onto the floor…". 

It might feel awkward in the beginning, but after a couple drinks, you won't even bother anymore! 

How to get around?

There are taxis but as a Millennial that I am, I used Uber, it is the safest way to get around and also you know how much each travel will cost you.

What to eat?

Now let's get down to business. I always say and encourage people who travel to avoid restaurants and eat the street food as it is the best way to experience a culture in a country and eat like a local. And oh man, if you love Asian food you will be served in Singapore. It is the spot where East meets West, so you can imagine all the delicious meals you can find.

First, start at Lau Pa sat, an architectural gem but also a food market where there is a cuisine for every taste and budget. If you are a food lover, it is definitely the place to go. Try out some satay and the famous chicken rice.

Then don't forget to try the crab at the well-known No-Sign Board seafood restaurant in Geylang.

And if you feel adventurous, why not try the famous Durian fruit well known for its unbearable smell. Now I understand why it is forbidden to carry it in public transports in Singapore! It tastes a bit sweet and gooey. It is not something I would recommend considering the price but as a tourist I could not leave Singapore without trying it out.

Shopping?

There are many shopping centers with most of the famous retail brands you can find in western countries. You will find couple shopping malls like:

Marina Square

Raffles city

Suntec city

But for souvenirs, I would recommend to go to China town or little India.

Nightlife

I was only able to experience the nightlife during my stay, so I tried to make the most out of my evenings.

If you are a fan of Jazz music, go check out Sing Jazz Club. It is a small bar on the first floor of a hotel with great live music. Perfect spot for a chill session and a drink after a long day.

If you are a beer lover, go check out LeVel33 in the financial district. Not only you will be able to enjoy a Panoramic view over the Bay but also try out the local brewed beer.  

Go if you can to Swissôtel The Stamford where there is a bar/restaurant at the last level that offers you a panoramic view of the bay under another angle. And the cocktails are also great!

Overall, I can understand why so many expats can enjoy living in Singapore. It is so westernised that you do not realise you live in Asia unless you go to specific areas in town. But it is also well located, well connected with Changi international airport,  one of the largest transportation hubs in Southeast Asia. It is very easy to go for a weekend in a nearby country like Thailand or Indonesia for instance. The streets are very clean, it is safe to browse around the city as a tourist but no wonder considering the strict regulation.

It is definitely a country worth to visit, but it can be quite expensive to stay at, so I would not recommend it for budget travelers. But if you are a food lover and travel for the first time to Asia, it is a great spot to get a foretaste considering all the different cultures and nationalities living there.