Singapore is a city-state in Southeast Asia known for its strict rules, vibrant food scene, and green spaces. While some visitors stop in Singapore on their way to somewhere else in Southeast Asia, I highly recommend making Singapore a destination to specifically visit, spending 3-5 days in Singapore to fully explore everything that the city has to offer. Here are the best things to do in Singapore along with Singapore travel tips and Singapore transport tips.
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As a multicultural society, Singapore is really impressive. It has achieved incredible success since gaining independence in 1965 and now boasts the strongest economy in Southeast Asia along with world-class attractions. With its cultural enclaves, amazing restaurants, and vibrant colors throughout the city Singapore packs in plenty of attractions.
#1 THING TO DO
How to get around Singapore
You will most likely arrive at Changi Airport located about 24 kilometers (15 miles) from downtown Singapore. If you want to get around Singapore, you have several options: public transportation, regular taxis, and Grab (a ride-sharing app that is an equivalent of Uber) that you will also find in other Southeast Asian countries.
Public transportation in Singapore
The city is very compact and you can easily get to most tourist landmarks in Singapore on the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit), the city’s subway system. From the city to the surrounding suburbs, it will take you from 30-40 minutes to get to most places including Changi Airport.
When you arrive at Changi Airport, purchase a Singapore Tourist Pass for unlimited travel on public transport for between one and three days. It can be purchased at one of the vending machines at the train stop. You can save time and buy it online in advance here. A three-day pass costs 30 SGD ( Singapore dollars).
The pass provides access to trains and buses around Singapore and is super handy if you want to get around quickly and inexpensively. Trains in Singapore are much faster than buses, while buses go to some destinations in suburban parts of Singapore that trains don’t serve.
The Grab app is Southeast Asia’s version of Uber. If you want to get around, you need to download the app and request a ride. Grab is especially handy when you are traveling during the wee hours when other forms of transportation are unavailable. Unfortunately, you have to pay cash if you take Grab as it doesn’t allow credit cards.
Taxis in Singapore
Regular taxis in Singapore often have inflated prices, especially if you take them on the spot. Try to use taxis in Singapore only when you are in a rush and don’t have any other options available.
The currency in Singapore is Singapore Dollar abbreviated SGD. Several foreign currencies including the U.S. dollar are widely circulated in many major shopping malls in Singapore.
As a side note, I recommend you always carry cash while traveling in Singapore. While major restaurants and stores accept credit cards, small shops and stalls at ethnic markets often only take cash.
The country has four official languages: Mandarin Chinese, English, Malay, and Tamil. English is widely spoken in Singapore, so don’t assume people don’t understand English just because it’s Southeast Asia. It sort of reminds me of Belize where everyone speaks English although it is surrounded by Spanish speaking countries.
Don’t leave Singapore without visiting these places:
There’s certainly a lot packed into this small city-state – and you’ll be spoiled for choice as to what to do and what to see. Here are 10 favorite things to do in Singapore for the first-time visitor.
Gardens by The Bay is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Singapore and it’s easy to see why. The majestic trees populating this venue that are covered by orchids, ferns, and other vegetation look like they were taken straight from a sci-fi movie. (rather like the scenes that we saw in Zhangjiajie, China!)
Gardens by The Bay has several parts: The Supertree Grove which has trees towering over the rest of the venue. This part of the Gardens by The Bay doesn’t require a paid entrance. Two of the trees are linked by the OSBC Skyway which provides a magnificent view of the Gardens by the Bay and the surrounding areas. The ticket to OSBC costs about 5 USD.
Other parts, Cloud Forest and Flower Dome do require a fee. You can pick up skip-the-line tickets here Walking through a Cloud Forest, almost feels like walking through a tropical rainforest in Belize, with its mist, greenery, and the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. Covered by a huge glass dome, this forest boasts an impressive Cloud Walk and Treetop Walk that take visitors through lush vegetation and several interactive exhibits.
Flower Dome is home to an impressive collection of exotic plants from all over the world that are organized in themed exhibits. Spend no less than 1.5 hours at Gardens the Bay. If you want to take photos, arrive by 9 am when the venue opens, as it quickly gets crowded.
Every night, the Supertree Grove puts on a colorful light show accompanied by retro music. It’s a truly amazing sight, and if you visit Singapore, you should watch this show at least once.
Closest MRT to Gardens by the Bay: Bayfront
It’s really hard to imagine Singapore’s skyline without Marina Bay Sands. The world-famous hotel features a high-end resort, a large shopping area, integrated public transportation, and countless amenities on its premises. And yet, it was completed only in 2010.
If you are not staying at Marina Bay Sands, purchase a ticket to Marina Bay Sands SkyPark, an observation deck on the top floor of the hotel that is also open to the general public. It’s really hard to beat the view, especially at night when the city’s skyline is lit by a myriad of lights.
The famous Marina Bay Sands Light and Water Show plays at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. every night and is spectacular from above.
However, if you don’t want to spend money on tickets, you can also watch the show from the deck in front of the Shops. Due to the popularity of this show, you should arrive early to get a good spot, especially if you plan on filming or taking photos.
PRO TIP: After watching Marina Bay Sands Light and Water Show at 8 p.m., head over to Gardens by the Bay. The show at Supertree Grove starts at 8:45 p.m. and the distance between the two venues is about 15-20 minutes, so you will arrive right in time for the second show.
Located within Marina Bay Sands complex, ArtScience Museum is really hard to miss because of its lotus-like shape. Inside the museum, visitors enjoy exhibits, educational activities, and many events that are focused on bridging creativity and technology.
While some exhibits at ArtScience Museum are temporary, others are permanent. Perhaps the most popular exhibit is Future World, an interactive high-tech display that features amazing visual effects.
Tickets to ArtScience Museum can be purchased at the ticket office or online here.
4. Head to Merlion Park, Singapore
On the opposite side of Marina Bay Sands sits the waterfront Merlion Park, a major Singapore landmark named after the Merlion, a mythical creature with a body of a fish and the head of a lion.
According to the legend, the founder of Singapore, a Malay prince who founded the city first saw a half-lion and half-fish when he stepped on the soil that later became Singapore. The word “Sinapore” takes its origin from Sanskrit words “Singa” – lion and “Pura” – city. Hence Singapore’s nickname, lion city.
The Merlion is used as Singapore’s mascot and you will find it on many souvenir goods sold throughout the city.
How to get there: Take the East West Line and get off at Raffles Place in the middle of the Central Business District.
5. Visit Singapore’s Botanical Gardens
Conveniently located next to a train stop, Singapore Botanical Gardens is an absolute must-stop in Singapore. Not many visitors know that besides being a popular tourist attraction, this place also serves as Southeast Asia’s leading center for plant science and conservation. It is also Singapore’s first UNESCO heritage site.
Within Singapore Botanic Gardens, there are numerous portions including themed gardens that aim to educate visitors about plants and scientific research.
The National Orchid Garden is arguably the most popular part of the Botanical Gardens which features the largest collection of orchids in the world. While entrance to the Singapore Botanical Gardens is free, you will have to pay a fee to enter the National Orchid Garden.
Closest MRT: Botanical Gardens
6. Go to China Town in Singapore
A visit to Chinatown is a must for anybody who comes to Singapore. After all, there is nowhere that represents Singapore’s large Chinese community better, than here. Take a walk through Chinatown and enjoy cheap street food, buy some souvenirs from street vendors, and visit a few temples in the area.
Chinatown’s Maxwell Food Centre is the most popular hawker center in Chinatown that attracts both locals and tourists. Due to the popularity of this place, it’s not uncommon to have to wait in line, but if you don’t feel like standing in line, there are tons of other options available.
Prevalent throughout Southeast Asia, hawker centers are large open-air complexes that sell inexpensive food. Singapore is known around the world for its delicious food and its hawker centers are considered some of the best places to get authentic food throughout the city.
Take a walk along South Bridge Road. Here you will find Sri Mariamman Temple, the oldest Hindu Temple in Singapore that dates back to 1827. And if you walk down the road, you will see the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, an ornate complex that boasts ancient artifacts and Buddhist relics.
Admission to the temple is free of charge. The temple also offers free weekly guided tours. Register online for a tour here.
Another prominent part of Chinatown that has less than a stellar history is Keong Saik Road. Formerly a red-light district, this place has gradually transformed into a hipster neighborhood with trendy coffee shops, authentic eateries, and residential apartment buildings.
How to get to Chinatown: China Town MTR
7. Explore Singapore’s Little India
Another ethnic neighborhood of Singapore, Little India packs in plenty. It’s one of the most colorful and lively neighborhoods in the whole city thanks to its authentic restaurants, temples, and countless stalls with cheap street food, vegetables, and other produce.
If you need to shop, stop at Mustafa Centre, a 24-hour shopping mall that sells everything that you can think of at very good prices.
While Little India is a great place to take photos, perhaps one of its most photographed features is the House of Tan Teng Niah.
The house is popular because of its bright colors and you can’t miss it as there are almost always tourists around it. Few people know that this is one of the last remaining Chinese villas in Little India that was constructed by a Chinese businessman Tan Teng Niah for his wife.
How to get there: Little India MRT
8. Head to Kampong Glam in Singapore
Kampong Glam is the center of Muslim culture in Singapore. Here you will find shops selling traditional Middle Eastern goods such as lamps and Persian carpets along with multiple restaurants that serve Middle Eastern food.
If you want to do some shopping head over to Arab Street or Bussorah Street where you will find tons of souvenirs. The most prominent feature of Kampong Glam is the Masjid Sultan, a colorful mosque that can be seen from any part of the neighborhood thanks to its large golden dome.
I happened to visit Kampong Glam during Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month, and had a chance to see the vibrant bazaar right in front of Masjid Sultan.
If you are in the mood for sightseeing, check out the colorful Haji Lane, a narrow street that is home to many vintage stores, boutiques, restaurants, bars, and cafes.
It’s also a very popular location for taking photos thanks to numerous bright murals that adorn the street’s walls.
How to get there: Bugis MRT
9. Explore Singapore’s Koon Seng Road
While the name of this place is not likely to ring a bell, there’s a good chance that you have seen it at least once on social media. This road is home to a row of pretty pastel houses that were built between the 1920s and 1930s.
Until the 70’s the area was populated by Perankans, descendants of Peranakan Chinese who immigrated to the Malay archipelago. Peranakans left the area in later years after violence in the 70s. There’s more on Peranakan history in Georgetown, Penang
Today this place is a popular location for tourists looking to take photos against a colorful backdrop. If you come here in the middle of the day, you are unlikely to be alone. The place has become a popular location for professional photographers and it’s not uncommon to see a photoshoot here.
The Peranakan Houses are located in a residential area away from downtown Singapore and requires some commuting, so make sure to have a map with you when you go on your adventure. There’s also a lot of Peranakan history in Melaka in Malaysia.
How to get there: The easiest and fastest way to get to Koon Seng Road is to take a taxi. However, if you travel on a budget, there are plenty of options available. There are several buses that will take you to this place or nearby areas, depending on what your departure point is.
10. Get Away from the City at MacRitchie Reservoir Park
If you need to get away from the city, visit McRitchie Reservoir Park, a popular spot for sports enthusiasts and nature lovers.
Here you can take an 11 kilometer (6.8 mile) walk along the area known as the MacRitchie Nature Trail. If you don’t feel up to the task, the park also offers several shorter trails. You can check a map of all the trips here.
As you walk around, you will probably encounter some wildlife including monkeys, lizards, and squirrels. Be sure to keep your distance and respect the animals’ territory.
The most prominent feature of this park is the Treetop Walk, a suspension bridge that links the two highest points of MacRitchie. Located within a tropical rainforest, this park has amazing greenery and also very high humidity. If you plan on taking a walk, make sure to bring plenty of water and some snacks. There are some water fountains throughout the park, and tap water is perfectly safe to drink in Singapore.
How to get there: Unfortunately, there are no nearby MRT stations, but luckily, there is a bus station on Thompson Road right near the entrance of the park. Two other bus stops are located along Upper Thomson Road.
BONUS: When you leave Singapore, don’t forget to stop at Changi Jewel adjacent to the international terminal to take in its magnificent view. Located within a mixed-use complex, this indoor waterfall opened in 2019 and has already gained a lot of attention thanks to its spectacular features.
It also features an impressive light show and is surrounded by a lush rainforest-like area. Grab a snack at one of the nearby restaurants and sit down for a short break!
Singapore Travel Tips
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- Book accommodation in Singapore with Booking
Final Words on the Best Things to Do in Singapore
Singapore is a spectacular blast of all the senses. There are stunning views to be had here, world-class experiences, and a host of amazing places to eat. You’ll want to immerse yourself fully while here, and jump in and see, and taste it all!
Stock images in this article are courtesy Deposit Photos.
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