Singapore At a Glance
Singapore Quick Information
Visa: For travelers from most countries, a visa is not required to visit Singapore unless you are staying more than 90 days. Just make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from when you go. For residents of certain countries in the Middle East, Africa, and parts of Asia, a visa might be required. The information and country specifics, as well as a downloadable visa application, are available online.
Safety: Singapore is one of the safest places you can visit in Asia. This is due in part to some very harsh laws in place there. Drug offenses can carry the death penalty and even shoplifting can result in a few months in prison. This isn’t the best place to try out your criminal side! But for travelers, even solo women, you can feel safe and comfortable during your visit.
Occasionally theft and other smaller crimes occur, so just be careful to keep an eye on your belongings when you travel. Don’t leave your bag on the beach when you go for a swim, and be careful if you’re out drinking or partying.
Agree on prices for taxis beforehand or use metered taxis only to avoid getting overcharged. It’s not very common, but taxi drivers do sometimes overcharge foreigners. Keep your receipts in case you need to dispute any charges, just in case.
At certain times of the year, the air quality can get pretty bad as the city fills with haze and smog. If the air is hazy, wear a mask or opt to exercise indoors instead of running outside.
Chinese New Year: This is probably Singapore’s biggest celebration and one of the most-loved holidays of the year. While celebrations will pop up all over, the best and biggest are in Chinatown. If you’re in Singapore in January or February, you won’t want to miss this event. You’ll see parades, festivals, street vendors, and performances everywhere in the city.
Vesak Day: An important holiday for the Buddhist community in Singapore, Vesak Day occurs in May and celebrates the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha. While this is definitely a more solemn holiday than the New Year, temples and shrines will still be brightly adorned, and other events like vegetarian food fairs and talks will be happening, too.
Deepavali: Deepavali, or the Festival of Lights, celebrates the triumph of light over dark and good over evil in the Hindu tradition. During this celebration (usually in October or November), Little India comes alive with bright lights, vibrant colors, and high-energy festivities.
Thaipusam: This Hindu festival in January is not for the faint of heart. As a tribute to Lord Subramanium, a procession of followers can be seen carrying spiked alters that actually pierce their bodies. Witnessing this is definitely a memorable experience, but might also make you feel a little squeamish!
Singapore Trip Planning
Best Time to Go
The weather in Singapore is pretty perfect (as long as you like warm weather). The tropical climate means heat and humidity year-round, but it’s not as bad as in some places like Thailand, where the summer temperatures can reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit. In Singapore, the wetter season runs from November to January, but there’s really not much of a difference in the temperatures. Year round, temps stay roughly between 75 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keep in mind though, that Singapore can be expensive, especially around big holidays like the Chinese New Year, so you may want to plan your trip on off times when prices might be lower.
What to Pack for Traveling Singapore
Singapore is a city-state, so you won’t need your trekking clothes or tents here. Bring clothes appropriate for warm weather, as well as a dressier outfit or two if you want to go out and look the part! Swimsuits, sunscreen, and mosquito spray are musts. If you’re visiting between November and January, it’s a good idea to bring a rain jacket or umbrella as well as a sweater or light jacket as the evenings can be cool and rain can be expected at any time. Generally, though, there’s nothing you need to buy items specific to Singapore. It’s a very modern island with all the amenities you could ask for.
Best Things to Do in Singapore
Although Singapore is a relatively small city, there are heaps of things to do. From enjoying their many rooftop bars (and pools) to enjoying their many cultural highlights within the city. Listed below are a few of our top picks on the best things to do in Singapore.
Visit Gardens by the Bay
This is perhaps one of the most well-known landmarks in Singapore. Beautifully melding the urban and natural, the Gardens house the world’s largest greenhouse, the world’s largest indoor waterfall, and a collection of giant “supertrees.” This is an absolute must-see during your visit.
Go to the Asian Civilizations Museum
Singapore is a melting pot of different cultures and identities. It’s a unique place with a rich history that’s definitely worth exploring. The Asian Civilizations Museum offers a broad history of Asian art and culture. There’s even an exhibit on the Tang Shipwreck, which is pretty cool.
Wander Around the Singapore Botanic Gardens
In a city as big as Singapore, you’d think there wouldn’t be much room for natural wonders. But the Botanic Gardens are a truly impressive sight. The 60-acre garden complex was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is full of a vast variety of amazing plants. It’s huge, so if you want to explore most of it you should block off at least a couple of hours.
Eat Your Way Through Chinatown and Little India
Singapore is a rich tapestry of different cultures woven together. While you’ll see elements of China and India (as well as other countries) throughout the city, there’s no better place to experience it than in Chinatown and Little India. Take in the beauty of the Sultan Mosque in the Arab Quarter, or check out the Chinese Heritage Center and a plethora of mom and pop shops. Afterwards, indulge in the many incredible food markets in these neighborhoods, offering the best hawker stall meals imaginable!
Ride the Singapore Flyer
While not at all unique to Singapore, the Ferris Wheel is an attraction that continues to lure visitors of all ages. As long as you’re not bothered by heights, this is a great way to take in some incredible panoramic views of the city from high above. Supposedly, you can even see Malaysia and Indonesia from the top!
What to Eat in Singapore
Singapore is a unique place that combines the tastes and cultures of several nearby countries. Chinese and Malay flavors blend perfectly into innovative new dishes, while Indian spices and curries are prominent in their own dishes as well. The food in Singapore is fantastic and varied, and whether you’re spending $5 at a street stall or $100 at a restaurant, it’ll be hard not to fall in love with these dishes.
Hainanese Chicken Rice
Often touted as the national dish of Singapore, this simple meal combines boiled chicken with rice cooked in chicken broth. You’ll find this in hundreds of restaurants and street stalls, each with a slightly varied recipe. The dish is served with a flavorful sauce and a side of cooked greens.
This Malay dish consists of a noodle base combined with a gravy or sauce, meat, and vegetables. The exact recipe will vary depending on where you go. Some have coconut milk bases, while others feature thinner broths. I’d recommend trying it at a few different spots to see which you like the best!
Char Kway Teow
This fried noodle dish is a local favorite. Wide rice noodles are stir-fried in a wok with dark soy sauce, egg, chilis, and other spices, and usually topped with Chinese sausage. The result is more sweet than spicy with a soft texture.
Bak Chor Mee
Bar Chor Mee is a simple noodle dish that, although authentically Singaporean, has similar iterations throughout Southeast Asia. Egg noodles are topped with minced pork and pork balls, chilis spices, and a thin sauce. It’s usually served with a broth soup on the side.
This is definitely not what I think of when I think of Asian food. But there’s a wealth of variety in Singaporean cuisine (lest you think it’s all noodles and rice)! Kaya toast is popular for breakfast or for an afternoon snack. Thick slices of toast are topped with Kaya jam–a combination of coconut, sugar, egg and served with butter. Perfect with your morning coffee or an afternoon cup of tea!