Home to the world’s best airport, the island city-state of Singapore has made a name for itself as the stopover of choice for many travellers. Yet, as the formerly concrete jungle speeds towards tomorrow with its futuristic architecture and living ecosystems, this City in a Garden is proving to be a destination of its own. We’ve put together a quick guide to help you plan your Singapore getaway, perfect for your first time in this magical Asian metropolis.
Getting to Singapore
As one of the largest transportation hubs in Southeast Asia, Changi airport is the primary airport in Singapore, located at its eastern end. As far as airports go, you’ll be hard pressed to find another so inviting. For the budding lepidopterist, you’ll feel right at home in the Butterfly Garden, or if social media is #life, the Social Tree’s photo booths in Terminal 1 will archive your photo memories for years to come. It’s almost a shame to leave, but when you finally drag yourself away from the swimming baubles and free massages, taxis aplenty will shuttle you off to your hotel for around SGD25-35 (around $US18 or $AUD23).
Where to Stay in Singapore
Whether its glitzy luxury or quirky boutique that you crave, there is a hotel for everyone in Singapore; from the luxury of Marina Bay to the entertainment enclave of Clarke Quay.
Park Hotel Clarke Quay | Check Prices and Availability
For our six-day sojourn we opted for the Park Hotel Clarke Quay, conveniently located in central downtown and just minutes from the entertainment precinct of Clarke Quay. As a fish in a former life, the 25m award-winning pool and jacuzzi had me hook, line and sinker. The poolside bar and cabanas allow you to throw back as many Singapore Slings as you can handle without fear of judgement or sunburn (not that the two are in any way related).
The rooms are comfortable and the shower is the stuff of dreams, but the best gift the Park Hotel gives you is the complimentary smart phone with free, unlimited local data. Say goodbye to damaging data charges after a day out on the town without Starbucks or McDonalds. When a taxi driver dropped us off on a long road promising our destination was just up ahead (it wasn’t, it was a 20-minute walk) our special phone was there to save the day. It will also come in handy when you need to book a restaurant or meet up with the new friend you met at that hidden speakeasy.
The Park Hotel Clarke Quay is a 10-minute walk to the train station so you can be in Little India or Chinatown chowing down on local delicacies in no time at all.
Marina Bay Sands | Check Prices and Availability
If snapping a photo in the most Instagrammable spot in Singapore is more your thing, Marina Bay Sands has an infinity pool with your name on it. With floor-to-ceiling windows offering a view of the iconic Gardens by the Bay and the world’s highest and longest infinity pool, you’ll find luxury in spades at this 5-star hotel.
Getting Around Singapore
Singapore is only 719.1km2 so if you have some comfortable walking shoes and plenty of deodorant, the city is very walkable. Street signs are a stark contrast to much of Europe; they actually match the map and they are large enough to see even when you’re squinting through the sunshine. If walking is not your thing, however, there are easy alternatives:
The MRT, or Mass Rapid Transit, is the metro system in Singapore and transports around 3 million people each day. It’s also likely the cleanest public transport you’ll ever see. With 106 stations in operation, you’re never too far from a stop. Tickets are also very affordable and will rarely cost more than SGD5 for a return trip.
Taxi and Uber
Taxis are much more affordable than Australia, for example, so you won’t have to take out a small loan to fund a trip to the city. Your friendly hotel concierge will usually be able to call a taxi for you, but it’s always a good idea to ask for a fare estimate just in case. Since Singapore is more tech-savvy than Mark Zuckerberg himself, Uber is also a viable option. Besides, you can always use your special Park Hotel phone to request your ride.
Things to Do in Singapore
Cultural Districts | Multiple Locations
Kampong Glam, meaning “village”, is a neighbourhood in Singapore located north of the Singapore River. Known as the Muslim Quarter, the area is marked by the iconic Sultan Mosque, but you’ll also find art galleries, craft shops, restaurants and Malaysian coffee shops lining the streets.
Chinatown is another world within the boundaries of this thriving island. The colour and the culture have a way of pulling you in from the hustle and bustle of the streets. The beautifully intricate designs of the Sri Mariamman and Buddha Tooth Relic temples are worth removing your sandals for and if you’re *understandably* dressed for the rising temperatures, you can borrow a shawl or sarong to wander through. If you’re lucky, a wedding might just be taking place next door!
Another culture hub, Little India will fill you up on the smells and tastes of South Asia without ever having to board a plane. Serangoon Road is the main thoroughfare in Little India, where fresh fruit lines the streets and Bollywood music sings out of every shopfront.
The districts are easily accessible by foot or MRT; so travelling between Singapore, China and India has never been easier.
Singapore Botanic Gardens | 1 Cluny Rd, Singapore
Located at the fringe of Singapore’s famous Orchard Road, the Botanic Gardens is the country’s first UNESCO site and home to over 10,000 different plants. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, the gardens are a beautiful spot for a picnic, scenic walk or simply an escape from the city buzz.
Gardens by the Bay | 18 Marina Gardens Drive, Singapore
Gardens by the Bay, initially a project of the National Parks Board, is an initiative that seeks to improve the quality of life in Singapore and transform the island city-state from a “Garden City” to a “City in a Garden”. It will eventually occupy 101 hectares of land as part of Marina Bay and is home to the innovative Supertree Grove, Flower Dome and Cloud Forest. The Supertrees stand between 25 and 50 metres, with the vertical gardens coming to life at night with a vibrant light show. To enter the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest is to “enter a world of perpetual spring, where unique plants bloom.” Gaze up at the indoor waterfall and lose yourself amidst the ever-changing flora in the largest glass greenhouse. Spectacular and innovative, Singapore has truly established itself as the green city.
Sentosa Island | South Singapore
Sentosa, meaning peace and tranquillity in Malay, is located on the fringe of Singapore’s city centre. The island was once a fishing village and later a British military base; before being developed into a holiday resort. Fondly known as the State of Fun, Sentosa is Singapore’s premier island resort getaway and Asia’s leading leisure destination.
Easily accessible from the CBD via the Sentosa Express, famous Cable Car Sky Network, shuttle bus, road link or Sentosa Boardwalk, the 500-hectare resort island is home to award-winning spa retreats, activities for the adrenaline junkie, golden sandy beaches and Southeast Asia’s first Universal Studios theme park.
As part of our thrills and adventure itinerary, we navigated our way down the winding roads on the Skyline Luge, zip lined 450m across the lush forest canopy at speeds of over 60km/h and earned our wings at iFly Singapore, the world’s largest themed wind tunnel for indoor skydiving. With more than 30 attractions offering myriad experiences, Sentosa is a fascinating fusion of nature, culture and heritage.
Where to Shop in Singapore
As most holidays are incomplete without a splash of retail therapy, Singapore offers a world-class shopping experience to its visitors. From the iconic Orchard Road and The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands to the colourful Bugis and Haji Lane, the discerning shopper will find everything from luxe brands to vintage fashion and local labels.
Where to Eat in Singapore
Food in Singapore is a serious matter. For the discerning foodie, you’ll find plenty of tasty treats that are “die, die, must try” – Singlish slang for “to die for”. From cheap eats at the myriad hawker stalls to rooftop fine dining, Singapore is a cultural melting pot of deliciousness. For some of our best foodie finds, feast your eyes on our Foodie Guide to Singapore.