This article has been written for the travelers planning a 2-3 days stopover in the (Mer)Lion City or the expat’s family & friends visiting Singapore. Although we originally designed Tripinasia with the Singapore-based travelers in mind, we realized that a lot of our visitors actually live far from Singapore and are looking for things to do and see in Singapore as many transfer through Singapore and would like to stop over for a few days. There you go.

Getting from the airport to Singapore city center

Singapore Changi Airport has been awarded many awards. It deserves all of them.  Changi is probably one of the best airports in the world. It offers a wide range of amenities and enables you to get your flight in a very efficient way, hence limiting the time you need to spend in the airport. Free internet, shopping, garden, swimming pool, you name it. Don’t forget to get out of the airport to visit the city!

Unless you are really short on cash, taxi is the best way to get to the city from the airport (around 20km), but it’s not the only one.

  • By taxi
    The taxi ride will cost you around SGD 25 to get to the city center. Surcharges apply at night, during peak hours and on Sundays. You will have to pay an extra airport surcharge: SGD 5 (Fri – Sun: 5PM to midnight) or SGD 3 (all other times). Note that these fares are for regular city cabs, Black Chrysler Limo taxis will charge you 25% extra. Also, there are peak-hour additional charges from 6AM to 9:30 AM & 6PM to midnight : + 25% of metered fare and past midnight to 6AM : + 50% of metered fare.
  • By MRT (Singapore subway)
    To get to the city center, you will need to take the East-West Line – Green line and transfer at Tanah Merah MRT station. On your way back to the airport, note that the first train service arrives at Changi Airport station at 5.26 AM on Mondays to Saturdays and at 5.54 AM on Sundays and public holidays.
  • By bus
    In case you want to save some money and have some time, there is a public bus that operates from Changi. It’s bus 36. The fare is SGD 2, but the journey will take you one hour.
  • By shuttle bus
    There are some free shuttles services running to Bedok MRT, Sengkang MRT, and Changi Business park. You can get the timetable here.

Where to stay in Singapore

Accommodation in Singapore can be very costly.  Most of the hotels charge around SGD 180-250 / night, regardless of the location (city center or in the outskirts). However, you can find some backpacker guesthouses in Little India area for around SGD 25/ night / pax in dormitory.

The best areas to stay are: Orchard, Bugis, Little India, Riverside, Chinatown as you will be nearby the main attractions. Have look at Agoda’s best offers using the box below and select the area you want to stay in and the price range you want to spend.

or, if you prefer, book with

To see & to do in Singapore

By order of priority this is what we recommend to visit, depending on how long you will be staying in Singapore.

1. Marina Bay, Central Business District & Riverside (3-4h)

When you visit Singapore  you cannot miss the 2 emblems of Singapore: the Merlion and the Marina Bay Sands building!

  • The Merlion is the emblem of the city, 50% lion, 50% mermaid (some will say 100% ugly).
  • Take a look at the legendary Fullerton Hotel and its colonial architecture behind the Merlion
  • Walk among the business skyscrapers and / or the riverside
  • Have a drink at one a of the many bars & restaurant overlooking the impressive Marina Bay Sands boat shape building. You can either have a drink on top of the Marina Bay Sands (at the Ku De Ta for instance) or in front of it (that’s what we recommend – try the Lantern on top of the Fullerton Bay Hotel or the Kinki). There are 2 sounds and lights shows at 8PM and 9:30 PM, daily. There are extra shows at 11PM on Fridays and Saturdays. Don’t worry if you miss the shows, they are not very good.
  • Walk on the Marina bay waterfront or enjoy the freshness of the air con luxury mall under the Marina Bay Sand Hotel. Shopping addicts will find heaven in the mall with most of the luxury brands there.

12. Chinatown (3-4h)

Stroll around Temple street, Pagoda street and Mosque street. This will give you an insight of Singapore’s diverse cultures.

  • Visit the Chinatown Heritage Centre located at 48 Pagoda Street in traditional & colorful shop houses. After this visit you will know more on the Chinese migrants to the promised land of  Singapore. Opening hours: 9AM to 8PM daily, SGD 10/adult
  • Walk in the Hindu temple called Sri Mariamman Temple, from the outside you’ll see colorful towers and getting inside you might  be lucky to witness a ceremony.
  • Visit the BuddhaTooth temple (you won’t be able to see the relic but you can visit the red and gold temple)
  • Behind the Buddha tooth temple you can see Old Chinese men playing mahjong, enter the Chinatown complex where there is a wet market in the morning on the ground floor (local market selling veggies, meat, frogs,…) and walk around in the pedestrian streets.
  • Take a walk in Club Street (opposite the Buddha Tooth temple) to see nice shop houses which used to gather community clubs – at night it becomes lively, many western restaurants. It’s a good area to have a drink if you fancy some western drinks and food.

3. Orchard & Botanic Garden (4h+)

You’ll experience 2 opposite atmospheres between Orchard and Botanic Garden.

  • Botanic Garden: This is a flagship park in Singapore, centrally located but away from the city hustle. We recommend to go either early morning or late afternoon when it is not too hot. You’ll then enjoy a heaven of quietness, take a look at local doing their martial arts as the sun rises, visit the Orchid garden, wonder around tropical flora,… Botanic Garden:  Open Daily 5AM – 12AM, Free admission. You can also visit the Orchid Garden in the Botanic garden: open daily 8:30 AM – 7PM, SGD 5/pax.
  • Orchard Road:  This is Singapore’s cosmopolitan lifestyle, malls, malls, and malls… featuring international luxury brands and also some affordable ones. This shopper’s paradise is busy from 11AM to 10PM, especially on Saturdays and Sundays… If you want to get away from the shopping frenzy of Orchard, walk in Emerald Hill street (opposite Sommerset 313 Mall), nice shop houses and from late afternoon bars open their terraces to enjoy a refreshing drink.

4. Little India & Arab Street  (2-3h)

In the Little India district we recommend a late afternoon / evening visit as it gets more lively at night. This might be the only place in Singapore where you might see people Jaywalking, feel the crowd, see people watching movies in the street on an small outdoor TV set with maximum volume on,…

  • There is a Hindu temple on Serangoon road, you might see Brahmans celebrating a ceremony.
  • There is no skyscrapers in this area but many colorful shop houses to admire, just get lost in the small street off Serangoon.
  • Gold sellers, jasmin flowers stalls,… you’ll feel like in India.
  • Mustafa center supermarket. As crazy as it might seem, this supermarket is open 24/7 & there will always be shoppers even at 3AM.

Around Arab Street you can visit:

  • The Sultan Mosque. If you are wearing short leaves/pants, no worry, you can get robes at the entrance counter. Open Sat to Thur 9AM-12AM, 2PM-4PM and Fri 2:30 PM – 4PM.
  • Enjoy a Shisha or tea in the street around the Mosque.
  • Go window shopping in nice and trendy boutiques in Haji Lane.

 

5. Civic District (3-4h)

  • The Asian Civilizations Museum. Good museum to get a feeling of the various cultures and arts in the region. Open Mon 1PM – 7PM, Tues to Sun 9AM – 7PM, SGD 8/pax. Free English tours Monday at 2PM and Tues to Friday at 11AM and 2PM.
  • The Old Parliament House which is now a multi-disciplinary arts centre, Victorian house style.
  • St Andrews Anglican Church at City Hall, interesting to see the architectural contrast of this church compared to the modern skyscrapers you can see in the background.
  • Raffles hotel: Nice and quiet place, in the very center of Singapore. This is Singapore’s most  famous heritage building. You might be lucky to sneak in the high end hotel lobby.
  • Chijmes which  is a Neo-Classical style building, housing some restaurants and bars (we personally find it quite touristy and pricey)
  • National Museum, iconic architectural building presenting Singapore living galleries and history and special exhibitions. Worth visiting or at least getting inside to see the architecture. Audio guides. Open daily 10AM to 6PM, SGD 10/adult.

 

6. The Zoo & the Night Safari (2h+) 

You’ve probably heard of the renowned Zoo and Night Safari of Singapore. If you are not afraid of the heat we would recommend the Zoo rather than the Night Safari. Visiting this Zoo is a must do, with its ‘open concept’ setting, you can observe around 300 species living in lush surroundings. Orangutans, white tigers, elephants, mouse deers,… feeding shows are worth stopping-by. Many entertainment for kids, especially a splashing water area, don’t forget to bring their swim suits. Located North-East of Singapore Island, approx 20min from the city center in taxi. Zoo: Open daily  8:30 AM – 6PM, SGD 20/adult & SGD 13/child. More info: www.zoo.com.sg

 

7. Sentosa (2h+)

Don’t expect paradisiacal beaches but it is a nice place to feel like in holidays (in case you are not…), walk on the sand, enjoy a drink in one of the Siloso beach bars, surf on an artificial wave at the Wave House bar, experience one of the theme park attraction ( luge, zip wires,…). More details on the attractions and things to do on the Sentosa page.

More info to prepare your trip

Wifi is available in hotels, restaurant and bars.

What to pack for Singapore

Your main bag

That’s the one you leave at the hotel. Ideally you want to avoid checking in your luggage when flying. So check the weight and dimensions for hand carry luggage with your airlines (some airlines will allow only 7kg, some will allow up to 10kg). From head to toes.

  • Short sleeves tops: your main outfit. Everybody will see them on all your pictures. You really want to take that old Mickey Mouse T-shirt? Be mindful that you will be in a different environment so it might be a good idea to adjust your wardrobe.
  • Long sleeves tops: to protect yourself from the sun (if you’ve stayed for 5 hours on a motorbike with short sleeves you know what I mean) or to enter religious buildings or to protect yourself from mosquitoes in the evening.
  • Pullover. Yes I know, you’re going to a country where the temperature never goes down below 25 degrees and you need to pack a pullover? You will thank us when you’re back. Remember that flight during which  you were freezing? Or this museum where the aircon is set to the “polar bear” temperature?
  • Short/skirt (you should be able to chose the appropriate one by yourself).
  • Trousers for the same reasons you need to take long sleeves tops. Jeans are usually not a good option. They are heavy and keep you too warm.
  • Underwear: well, you know. If you plan to walk or ride motorbikes for long hours, take something comfortable as the combination heat + friction can make you regret this sophisticated silk underwear. Cotton is good.
  • Shoes: one pair of flip flap and one pair of confortable shoes. Remember that you are going to spend most of the time on your feet. Forget about high heels and leave your Westons at home.
  • Swimsuit: even if you don’t plan to go to the beach, you never know. A nice river, a swimming pool, a heavy rain? Always have one with you.
  • Raincoat and protection for your bag. Even if you are visiting the country during the “best season”, you never know what the sky will be like.
  • Torch: take a pocket torch with you if you visit countries where the power is not reliable… Can come very handy when stuck in the dark in your room.
  • Toilet bag: Shampoo, soap, toothbrush & toothpath, deodorant, sun screen, tiger balm. Ideally, all these in miniature formats.
  • Sleeping bag liner (if you plan to stay in very cheap or dirty places, not required if you are staying in a 5-star hotel…)
  • Your IT stuff: iPad, eBook, laptop, chargers, memory card, batteries, etc.
  • Dryer sheets: they will help keep a fresh smell in your bag.

Your small bag

That’s the one you keep with you, all the time. Hence, a backpack is the best option.

  • Your passportcashcredit cards and other life saving items like your insurance card with emergency contact details. Not a bad idea to put them in a zip-lock bag  in case it rains. It will keep your documents dry.
  • Your driver’s licence if you plan to rent a car or a motorbike (some countries are quite particular about this so take it with you in case you are not sure, even for a motorbike rental).
  • Your emergency medical kit: painkillers, mosquitoes repellent, dressing/plaster, disinfectant, anti diarrhea, eyewash
  • Tissues and toilet paper (you will thank me later). Remember that in a lot of countries, you will not be provided napkins when having a meal.
  • Water – plastic bottles are a good option as they are lighter than a gourd/flask.
  • Biscuits (always buy some before you go when you are not sure what you will find. Always have “emergency” biscuit  and water in case you cannot find food around and need to recharge batteries)
  • Sunglasses: you’ll need them. Take them even if it’s raining. Weather can change very fast in the region.
  • Scarf (krama, or any kind of fabric that you can use to put around your neck, put on your head to protect it from the sun, cover your shoulders in temples, dry your sweat, etc). Can come very handy in some situation. It will not stay clean for long so it’s wise to pick a dark color…
  • Camera and its protection.

Singapore

Singapore

  • Language: English
  • Time zone: GMT + 8 across the (small) country
  • Currency: Singapore Dollar (SGD)
  • Phone: + 65
  • Electricity: 220V 60 Hz

Immigration and airport taxes on arrival

Visitors holding a European or a US/Canadian passport do not need to apply to enter Singapore.

For other nationalities, you should check the list of “countries requiring visa” apply for a Visa here or  liaise with the Singapore Embassy in your country.

National Public Holidays in Singapore

Day Date Holiday Comments
Thursday January 01 New Years Day
Thursday February 19 Chinese New Year 1st 2 days of Chinese Lunar New Year
Friday February 20 Chinese New Year 1st 2 days of Chinese Lunar New Year
Friday April 03 Good Friday Friday before Easter Sunday
Friday May 01 Labour Day
Monday June 01 Vesak Day Birth of Buddha
Friday July 17 Hari Raya Puasa
Sunday August 09 National Day
Monday August 10 Public Holiday Holiday as National Day falls on a Sunday
Thursday September 24 Hari Raya Haji Feast of the sacrifice
Tuesday November 10 Deepavali Dewali
Friday December 25 Christmas Day

* check the exact date on this website as it varies from one year to another. When a Public Holiday falls on a Sunday, the following day will be Public Holiday.