The Ultimate Singapore Travel Guide
Singapore is an island city-state bordering Malaysia that has become a major travel hub of Southeast Asia. Gaining its independence from Britain not too long ago, Singapore has grown immensely over the past 30 years to the likes of other international cities like London and Dubai. They are in the works of expanding their airport to be the biggest in the world, but that’s not all Singapore impressed us with.
Singapore was not originally in our travel plans, but due to it having no some of the cheapest flights to Europe and being a short trip from where we were staying in Bali, we gladly snuck it into the que. We had heard good things about the city from fellow travelers, but what we experienced greatly exceeded our expectations.
While this city is much more expensive than the surrounding areas, it is still cheaper than most U.S. or European cities. It is possible to have an amazing experience in this city on any type of budget!
The first thing we noticed about Singapore was the ease of getting around. The systematic public transportation makes exploring simple and stress free. Upon arrival in Singapore, we breezed through the efficient immigration process and then followed signs for the underground train, called the “MRT” to take us into the city. You have the option of buying a regular MRT card that you can load with money and use at your discretion, or buy the tourist pass which allows for unlimited travel for S$10/day (even less if you buy multiple days). The great thing about these passes is that the same card works for both the train AND the public bus system. We paid S$5 for the card and loaded it with S$7 to get around, which lasted us three days (we did walk a decent amount as well though).
What To Do:
We asked a local couple who had been living in Singapore for 40 years what their favorite thing to do in the city was, and they responded “eat”. But besides the amazing food scene, there are plenty of things to keep you entertained between the more important business of finding you next meal. If you visit this city around the holidays, Orchard street is decorated with impressive lights and exhibits and is definitely worth strolling through. Other activities avaoilible year round include:
1. Art science Museum
This museum brings together both art and science/technology to expand your mind and give you a truly unique digital experience. We attended the Future exhibit which explored ideas of creation, the expanding galaxy and human-space interaction through a variety of mixed-media pieces and interactive shows. If there are multiple exhibits going on you can get a discounted ticket for the two, or pay S$19/exhibit (we still carry around our old student IDs and swing the discount when applicable, which saved us $5 each here).
2. Marina Bay
The Bay Area has fantastic views of the city along with water front dining and shopping. It is also home to the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the Gardens By The Bay attraction. While we did not do the full gardens by the Bay experience of the “cloud dome” oand “flower dome”, said to be some of the best enclosed gardens in the world, we did enjoy the light show that happens every night at 7:45pm under the “super trees”. You can pay (approximately $8) to go up into the Supertree walkway and there is also a bar in the tallest of the trees. Another amazing bar experience can be found 57 stories up on the rooftop of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, and even if you aren’t looking for a drink you can take in this amazing view of the city in their observation deck (around $23).
A relic of the rich and diverse culture in Singapore, Chinatown, where Chinese immigrants first settled in the city, is home to a large street market, plentiful food stalls, temples and my favorite, Dim Sum!
4. Singapore Zoo and Night Safari
While we are typically not too fond of zoos, this particular zoo is cage free and offers night safaris which heard from multiple sources is a great experience.
5. Tree Top Walk:
If you are looking for some nature or want a good hike, this option is for you. Just 15-20 minutes out of town is the MacRitchie nature park, which offers a variety of different length trails, along with one that leads to a suspension bridge over the treetops that is 7 stories high at its tallest point. Just watch out for the monkeys, one of them thought my pigtails were monkey tails and I narrowly escaped with my life…
Where To Eat:
1. Tim Ho Wan
Dim Sum street stand turned Michelin Star experience, now with over 6 locations in Singapore, should be any foodie’s top priority while in town. This restaurant, while not your typical fine dining experience, provided some of the best food we’ve yet to taste since we started traveling. Must tries include: the infamous BBQ pork buns (we had to order seconds), the spinach and shrimp dumplings and the sweet and sour pork dumplings.
2. Strangers Reunion
A hip coffee shop serving up artisanal brews and espresso drinks along with a variety of waffles, smoothie bowls, smashed avocado toast and an incredible beetroot and duck breast salad (that I had two days in a row).For my fellow coffee connoisseurs, their “Magic” latte is a must.
3. Kitchen, by Food Rebel
This was one of the top results when I searched “healthy food in Singapore”, and man was excited about their menu. They stand behind the message of local organic ingredients as well as grass fed/free range meat. With vegan and paleo options alike, I only wished there were more meals in the day so that I could try the lot. I was very happy with my chicken nourish bowl, which consisted of steamed pulled chicken, shredded red cabbage, carrots, cherry tomatoes, roasted pumpkin and other veggies, topped with hummus and tahini dressing.
4. Maxwells Hawker Center
You may be wondering what a “hawker center” is…well I am just now learning after researching it myself for this article that it is is an open air street food market, similar to a food court but with mom and pop recipes from a vast array of diverse cultures instead of the non-food stuffs that you typically find in ma lols I The U.S. Besides having traditional Singaporean food, there was Japanese, Chinese, Indian and Indonesian cuisine options. We indulged in homemade roti with different chutneys and sauces for dipping and robert tried the Maggie Goreng, a spicy fried noodle dish.
5. Tiong Bahru Hawker Center
This is another open air pavilion in the downtown area with rows upon rows of individually owned street food stalls. This time we opted for a large Dosa (thin crispy rice pancake) filled with spices potatoes and surrounded by dipping sauce options, which we paid $4.50 for.
Where To Stay:
There are options for any budget in this city; ranging from dorm or capsule style hostels starting at $13/night to world renown luxury hotels. We opted for the lower end, staying in a cheap hostel just outside China Town called the Happy Snail Hostel, which met all of our needs and had unlimited free PB and Nutella sandwiches. If you are looking for a unique luxury experience I would recommend staying at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, which has the worlds largest rooftop infinity pool and bar/restaurants 57 stories up with arguably the most spectacular view of the city. For cheap hotel rooms I recommend the app Hotel Tonight, where all the hotel rooms that aren’t booked for the night get discounted by up to 75%.