Do and don’ts for traveling in Singapore
In a city known for its safety, efficiency and adherence to laws, it’s especially important to educate yourself on local customs and regulations before your arrival. Check out these important dos and don’ts of Singapore travel:
- Do show respect and conservatism. Avoid conversations about politics or religion. As, for permission before taking a photo of people, mosques or temples. Remove your shoes before entering someone’s home. Do not tip (it is considered disrespectful).
- Don’t smoke in public. Smoking is illegal in most public areas in Singapore, so don’t even think about lighting up or you may be fined up to SGD$100.
- Don’t chew gum. In fact, chewing gam is banned in Singapore and chewing or carrying it can land you a find of up to SGD$1,000! This law speaks to the fact that Singapore values its cleanliness and seeks to avoid the time-consuming practice of removing gum from seats, elevators, on pavement, etc.
- Don’t jaywalk. Another fineable offense in Singapore, jaywalking is the act of crossing the road where it is not marked safe to do so. Instead, always cross in pedestrian lanes or crosswalks.
- Don’t litter. Again, Singapore values its cleanliness so help the city stay impeccable by taking care of your trash in appropriately marked receptacles. If you don’t, you may be fined SGD$300, land in court or be charged with cleaning up a specific area under a Corrective Work Order.
- Do dress for the weather. Singapore has a tropical climate and high humidity, so be sure to pack sunscreen, a hat and a pair of sunglasses. Pack an umbrella, too, for the occasional rainstorm.
- Do stand on the correct side. This unwritten rule will help you fit in with the Singaporean crowd. Stand on the left side of an escalator and walk up steps on the right side. Walk only on paths designated for such and do not walk on paths with yellow bike signs.
- Do queue. Stand in line with the locals and under no circumstances, cut the line.
- Do carry cash. Don’t bring loads of fresh bills, but do keep a modest amount in your wallet for a hawker center or street market.
- Do respect your elders. It’s considered respectful and courteous to refer to elders as “uncle” and “auntie,” so give it a try.
What is famous to buy in Singapore
- Miniature Merlion Sculpture: This is the iconic symbol of Singapore, a half lion, half merman. Singapore’s original name was Singapura, which translates to “lion city.” Look for it in every iteration, from key chains to magnets to chocolates. It’s especially to find this souvenir in Chinatown.
- Orchid Perfume: The national flower of Singapore, the orchid, is the quintessential fragrance for you souvenir perfume. You’ll find some in just about every supermarket and shopping mall.
- Bak-kwa (Barbecue Meat): This edible souvenir will go over well with family and friends. It’s a sliced pork or beef snack, marinated with sugar and grilled over charcoal. Singaporeans typically eat and gift bak-kwa during Chinese New Year and other festive times of year.
- Ya-Kun Kaya (Coconut Jam): Spread this on toast, eat it along with a soft-boiled egg and you’ve got a traditional Singaporean breakfast. The ya-kun kaya jam is made from coconut milk, eggs, sugar and pandan leaves.
- Tiger Balm: The tiger balm business was started by a Chinese herbalist (it was originally used by ancient Chinese emperors) and quickly gained popularity globally as a healing ointment.
- Laksa Paste: Sensing a trend? Singaporean souvenirs often take the form of an edible gift and laksa paste is one of the best. Bring home the paste to make a traditional Peranakan noodle soup – make of laksa leaves, prawn paste, lemongrass and coconut milk – once you return home. It’s readily available in supermarkets.
- Singapore Sling: Bring home the national drink, the Singapore Sling, which was created by a bartender in the 1930s at Raffles Hotel Long Bar. It consists of orange juice, lime juice, pineapple juice, cherry brandy and gin.
- White Rabbit Candy: This was a classic childhood candy for most Singaporeans – you might find it in white rabbit bubble tea and white rabbit cake rolls throughout your visit. Pick up a few of the milky, creamy sweets at the supermarket.
- Durian Candy: Another local favorite sweet, look for durian candy and decide whether you love it or hate it. It’s one or the other!
- Salted Egg Fish Skin: The salted egg is supremely popular in Singapore and you’ll find countless snacks in this flavor. Look for salted-egg fish skin, salted-egg potato chips and salted-egg cassava chips.
- TWG Tea: If you’re a tea drinker, bring home some of the 800 TWG tea varieties, which have been sold here for years. You might also try Ette Tea if you have brave tastebuds – there are locally flavored blends, from chicken rice to pineapple tart.
- Gold-Plated Orchid: Real orchids are used in the creation of this jewelry, which comes in the form of necklaces, earrings, pendants and brooches. Each piece is uniquely crafted using Singapore’s national flower.
- Pei Pa Koa: Like tiger balm, pei pa koa has amassed a loyal following when it comes to pain relief. This one is a cough syrup that is also touted as a cure-all for sore throats. Grab a bottle and give it a try during your next cold.
- Pandan Cake: Satisfy your sweet tooth with a pandan chiffon cake from a local bakery.
How many days is enough to visit Singapore?
Three days is ideal for seeing the top sights in Singapore. With this time, you could get your bearings at Merlion Park; stroll through Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam; visit the Singapore Botanical Garden; marvel at The Gardens by the Bay; explore cool neighborhoods like Tiong Bahru and Joo Chiat; get a culture lesson at the renowned Peranakan Museum; go on a night safari at the Wildlife Reserves of Singapore; take a night cruise on a bumboat along the Singapore River to Clarke Quay and Boat Quay; and go shopping at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.
What Singapore is famous for?
If we need to cull all of Singapore’s incredible attractions into a must-see list (a tough task!), here is what the city is most famous for and what you should definitely try to experience:
- Orchard Road
- The Singapore Zoo
- The Raffles Hotel
- The Night Market
- The Botanic Garden
- Tiger Balm Garden
- The Marina Bay Sands
- Little India
Is Singapore safe at night?
In general, Singapore is known to be a very safe, clean city. Use caution when traveling within the city after dark and try to move about in groups. As with any dark street, standard safety precautions are prudent. Be aware of pickpockets and purse snatchers in popular and crowded tourist areas. Keep you valuable close by your body and be vigilant at all times.
Singapore travel guide to top Singapore sights
Gardens By the Bay
A wonderful green space within the concrete jungle, Gardens By the Bay, in Marina Bay, offers the Supertree Grove, the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest, among other enticing activities. At the Supertree Grove, see the 18 “supertrees” that hold up the OCBC Skyway. The Skyway alone is a fantastic experience – walk along the 419-foot-long aerial walkway for the best views of the gardens below and Marina Bay. Within the Flower Dome – the world’s largest greenhouse – find a huge collection of flora from all over the world. And in the Cloud Forest, marvel at the 114-foot-tall mountain where you’ll find the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.
Worth is own mention, this futuristic attraction in Gardens By the Bay features a nearly 100-foot waterfall down a human-made mountain. As you explore, you’ll feel vapor and waterfalls spray that emulate the climate of a tropical rain forest.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
For more peaceful, green space, head to the Singapore Botanic Gardens, the country’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area the garden sits on is a former plantation and today boasts varied flora, the National Orchid Garden and a stunning array of diverse botany that attracts the casual and scholarly green thumb.
For visitors, this is the epicenter of Singapore sightseeing. Look for the ArtScience Museum, The Float at Marina Bay, the Singapore Flyer, Gardens By the Bay, Merlion Park, a world-class casino, nightclubs, shops, luxury hotels and Sands SkyPark.
Chinatown is the largest of Singapore’s many enclaves, and itself is broken into five districts. You could easily spend all day here, exploring the food stalls and shops. If it’s souvenirs you’re seeking, look no further than Pagoda Street. The best street food is found along Smith Street and New Bridge Road. The Tangong Pagar district is known for its vibrant nightlife, whereas the Telor Ayer district offers a quieter scene. For a bit of culture, visit the Thian Hock Keng Temple and the Sri Mariamman Temple.
One of the most renowned zoos in the world, the Singapore Zoo boasts 11 animal zones and 12 exhibits. Within the Primate Kingdom alone, you’ll find 39 species of primate represented. Get to know the five female elephants at the Elephants of Asia exhibit, go on a night safari, feed the animals and attend animal shows.
Even if you’re not an avid shopper, you’ve likely heard of Orchard Road. This commercial extravaganza boasts 47 shopping malls along a one-mile-long street. There are plenty of restaurants to fuel you as you peruse international brand stores, the centerpiece ION Orchard shopping complex and high-end boutiques. There are art galleries, movie theaters, nightclubs and more packed along the thoroughfare, as well.
Visit the famous Merlion statue at its namesake park, a short walk from the Raffles Place MRT station. The 28-foot-tall statue illustrates the city-state’s history, when it was called Singapura, or “Lion City” in Malay. The head, the lion, represents the lion, while the fish tail and body on the bottom half represents the region’s history as a fishing town. From the park, you’ll get an panoramic view of Marina Bay.
Take the whole family to Sentosa Island, where you’ll find Universal Studios Singapore, Adventure Cove Waterpark, the S.E.A. Aquarium., iFly Singapore, Mega Adventure and The Flying Trapeze. There are golf links, miles of beaches (Palawan Beach is a fun visit and not only because it’s the southernmost point of continental Asia). Plus, the island is easy to get to. The Sentosa Gateway connects the island to Singapore via the HarbourFront MRT station.
Two miles northwest of Marina Bay, you’ll find the cultural wonderland of Little India. Lose yourself in the winding streets and tiny shops full of fabric, flowers and spices. Don’t miss the boutiques along Serangoon Road, the 24-hour Mustafa Centre, the open-air Tekka Centre and the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple.
From atop the 42-story-tall Singapore Flyer, you’ll capture some of the most striking views of the city and Marina Bay – it is said that you can even see Malaysia and Indonesia. Your ride will last a half-hour and the air-conditioned pods are a nice break from the humidity. The Flyer is just over a half-mile from the Promenade MRT station.
Take an insightful walking tour of the Colonial District, set along the Singapore River and brimming with lovely neo-Palladian architecture. This is the very heart of the city-state. If you start your walk from the Raffles Place MRT station, you’ll see the merge from shiny skyscrapers to colonial-era buildings. Along your walk, you’ll pass by the Asian Civilizations Museum, home to more than 13,000 artifacts representing Singapore’s ancestral groups, as well as the historic Cavenaugh Bridge and the Raffles Landing Site, where Sir Stamford Raffles first stepped ashore in January 1819.
Cable Car Sky Network
Soar through the sky on one of the two lines of the Singapore Cable Car Sky Network, which takes guests from Mount Faber and Sentosa Island and back.
National Gallery Singapore
Spend a day in the vast National Gallery Singapore, where you can see artwork from the 1800s to present day. The museum is housed within the former City Hall and Supreme Court and offers restaurants, lounges and cafes in addition to its rotating exhibitions.
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
Stretch your legs in this peaceful nature reserve just eight miles from the city center. Hike to the top of the highest hill in the city-state – Bukit Timah Hill. Take photos of the resident monkeys and birds. Or, go mountain biking on the network of well-maintained trails.
Asian Civilizations Museum
Dive into Singaporean culture at the Asian Civilizations Museum, where you’ll find a massive amount of information on Pan-Asian civilizations. Peruse artwork and artifacts from China, Southeast Asia, West Asia and other areas of the continent – from Tang shipwreck remains to ornate furnishings. Further your cultural education by following your museum day with a visit to Little India, Chinatown and the Malay district of Kampong Glam.