The vibrant island country of Singapore off the southern coast of Malaysia is one of Southeast Asia’s most interesting and diverse destinations. It is a dazzling, futuristic city-state, with a rich and fascinating culture lying just hidden beneath the steel-and-glass facade of the high-rise buildings and top-of-the-range hotels.
For first-time visitors to Singapore, the city can be overwhelming, a modern metropolis that can be hard to figure out, and harder still to go beyond the obvious experiences. But getting under the skin of the city is a hugely worthwhile experience. You’ll discover an amazing array of things to see and do, not to mention world-class cuisine and food culture.
So if you are planning to sail to Singapore for the first time and need an insider guide, keep reading for everything you need to know about your first trip to Singapore.
Singapore is safe…
Singapore is one of the safest cities in the world. Unlike many other cities around the world, there is nothing to worry about here when it comes to walking home, even after dark. Law enforcement is incredibly tough, so crime (particularly involving tourists) is really rare. As a result, it is one of the best places to be a solo traveler.
…but stick to the rules
The flipside to this is that if you break the rules, you can face some pretty severe punishment. Chewing gum is banned, for example. You can even be fined up to $100,000 for importing it! Even more seriously, illegal drugs can come with serious fines, jail time, or even the death penalty. Singapore is one place to really say no to drugs.
The weather can be hot…
The climate is hot, humid, and sticky for most of the year. Average temperatures around 90 F and 90% humidity makes for some heavy weather. Come prepared, pack lots of light, breathable fabrics, and high SPF sunblock. And always know where your next burst of air-conditioned relief is coming from!
Rain in Singapore can be an intense experience, coming down hard, fast, and with little warning. The monsoon seasons are particularly wet, between December and March and again between June and September. Make sure you pack a small umbrella, and plenty of stashable raingear, so that if a downpour hits out of the blue you are well prepared.
Singapore is not cheap…
Singapore is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Be aware on your first trip to Singapore that alcohol and nightlife, in particular, will set you back a pretty penny. But almost everything, from museum entry to accommodation, will be the same or pricier than even the most expensive Western destinations like New York and London.
…but you can eat well for almost nothing
The exception to this rule is food. You can explore Singapore’s exceptional foodie culture on a budget on your first trip to Singapore without sacrificing on quality with ease. Check out the wonderful hawker centers. These energetic outdoor food markets are home to the best food vendors in the city, and showcase the remarkable variety and influences that make up Singapore’s cuisine. Some of these stalls are so delicious, they even have Michelin stars!
Getting around is simple
Taxis are inexpensive (particularly the Uber alternative, Grab). But Singapore’s public transport is where the city really shines. They have one of the world’s best mass transit systems, a fast, reliable, cheap way of getting around the whole city, as well as seeing how locals really live. Grab a Singapore Tourist Pass for $10SGD a day (or $20SGD for 3 days) and see more of the city.
Some of the best things to see
Singapore Botanic Gardens
A gorgeous haven of beautiful, exotic plants and flowers, Singapore’s Botanic Gardens were founded way back in 1859, and have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2015. Don’t miss the exquisite orchid garden or the friendly resident terrapins!
Sri Mariamman Temple
Tucked away in Singapore’s lively Chinatown neighborhood, the Sri Mariamman Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in the city. It’s an absolutely stunning sight. With fascinating statues and bright, vibrant colors it is about as photogenic a spot as you’ll find in the city.
St John’s Island/Pulau Sakijang Bendera
A few kilometers away from the center by ferry, these gorgeous islands with stunning beaches are the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of daily life in Singapore. A great option for a day on the beach and some space to breathe and relax.
Marina Bay Sands
One of Singapore’s most famous luxury hotels, Marina Bay Sands boasts the highest infinity pool in the world! A fantastic spot to spend an evening drinking in the best view of the city.
Gardens By the Bay
Singapore’s remarkable nature park, with its biodomes, cloud mountain, and supertrees, is a stunning feat of manmade ingenuity, and well worth a visit.