My Singapore travel guide, where to eat, what to see and more!
I have never booked a trip so last minute or be so unorganised as for this visit to Singapore. I’m the person that packs a suitcase a week (minimum) before departure, makes lists of things to do and essential locations and it is actually quite refreshing to let go of my “I wanna go everything” attitude. I did, however, ask the lovely Tara (check out her adventures – on sillylittlekiwi.com) on her top tips. Also, this was my first time in Asia! I’ve published the Top Instagram spots to visit in Singapore, which you can check out here.
I’m sure you’ve seen the newly opened Jewel Changi Airport in Singapore and let me tell you this is the most incredible airport I’ve been to. The waterfalls are insane, the greenery and the sunlight coming through the glass top dome. If you arrive or are flying off during the daytime, walk around to see the world’s tallest indoor waterfall at 40 meters tall, and also named ‘Rain Vortex’.
It’s so so humid you feel like you can’t breathe! My first day was difficult to get used to the weather as it’s such a different climate. I highly recommend getting electric scooter as due to the heat walking for long distances can get uncomfortable. Download the Neuron app and scan to use. You have to leave them at specific locations though otherwise you will be charged. Also, download Grab which is the local Uber (also delivers food). If you’re visiting from the UK, and have a 3 mobile network you can use your phone as normal. I’m with O2 so bought a SIM card for $30 that gives you 100GB of data and 90 minutes of calls and is valid for 10 days.
The heat and humidity are quite exhausting. Getting hair and makeup to stay in place is pretty difficult. It gets quite sticky and sweaty pretty quick. Have a bottle of water for sure as well as SPF, you will need both! I’ve never experienced so much humidity, and it makes sense that people mostly go out after 17:00 and spent so much time shopping in malls.
I’m sure you’ve heard but in case you haven’t: chewing gum isn’t allowed and you shouldn’t even bring any with you! There’s a reason Singapore is so clean. For smoking, there are few areas, and usually, it’s only next to an ashtray that you can smoke, and not walk around!
Where to Eat
Jumbo Seafood is one of the best in town. We had dinner and it was amazing. About £50 pp but we left really really full and has to wash our hands about 5 times! The whole chilly crab and scallops were THE best. Be prepared to get your hands dirty!
Jew Kit is a local fave with proper Singaporean cuisine. Try the Hainanese chicken rice which is a local dish, that originally came from the south of China (in Hainan), and has been adopted by Singapore and Malaysia as their national dish. The chicken is actually cold as they make them in the morning. This place is so cheap, for half a chicken, some greens and two appetisers we paid £25!
Singapore is the only place you can eat the Impossible burger. This is a plant-based patty created by scientists in LA who found the heme molecule was the one giving meat its flavour and created a meat-free plant-based alternative. This is available in many places around town, we had it at Three Buns, which is a burger and milkshake place, the patty itself was amazing, though a bit bland but as a concept it was incredible. The burger all together was okay, so might have been better in a different restaurant.
A note on food, they have a typical ‘fruit’ in the region called Durian. Looks like a mango with little spikes and is actually banned in many hotels and taxis. The reason is this absolutely stinks; though interestingly it smells sweet to some people. We ended up trying it, I had the tiniest bite and found it to be really gross, like a rotten garlic taste, but if you’re interested to try for yourself. Proceed with caution!! We had to bring a weird ‘ozone’ cleaner we found in the hotel corridor to remove the smell from the room – fun!
Of course, a Hawker centre is a classic. The Crazy Rich Asians film even showed the Michelin star hawker centre.
What to See
Walk along the bridge and go to the Merlion where you can get the perfect view of Marina bay sands hotel (and its boat appearance) and the rest of the Singapore skyline. The Merlion is Singapore’s mascot and a major tourist attraction.
Visit the Gardens by the Bay at Marina Bay Sands during the day as well as night to see the Grove Trees all lit up. We had our scooters and went all around and then visited the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome with many plants and flowers from around the globe. Combined tickets cost S$28. There was also another floral exhibit that we didn’t have time to visit, called Floral Fantasy.
We spent most of the day walking around that area, saw the Marina Bay Sands hotel from afar, and also the glass Louis Vuitton store. You can have a stroll within the huge Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands or use it as a safe space/oasis and hide away from the heat!
The ArtScience Museum is also in the area, with many interactive exhibitions, we visited the Future World exhibition and released our inner child. The last and most popular part is the one with the lights called Celestial Space, they keep changing colours and it’s a magical spectacle. The museum is really nice architecturally even if you don’t visit the exhibitions.
A short walk next to the shopping centre is the world-famous Marina Bay Sands hotel. You can grab a coffee and enjoy the view from the top. The pool is only open to guests of the hotel so unfortunately, we didn’t it get to go in, but to be completely honest it looks really crowded at sunset, which is the best time, so not sure it’s worth the room rate. Instead, see the sunset from the 57th floor of Marina Bay Sands hotel from the Cé La Vi bar. The outside space is on a first come first serve basis, on a weekday it’s the perfect time to go as it won’t be as busy as on a weekend. There is also the option of the Observation Deck which is S$23 but I think the bar is a far better option as you can sit and have a drink. Enter the hotel from the Tower 3 entrance, pay the S$22 per person for the entrance, which can be redeemed against drinks or food. A glass of wine is 26/28 so it’s the perfect choice. I read the food isn’t even that good and quite expensive at S$200 per person. Once you’re up on the 57th floor, go left and get a space as close to the glass as possible. The bar on the right side is slightly higher than the observation deck but you see mostly the sea, the Wheel and a bit of the grove trees. We had a quick look as we were leaving and it wasn’t as impressive as the left side with the huge glass buildings as the view.
A half-day can be spent walking around and seeing the street art at Haji lane and small stores – the original alternative/hipster neighbourhood and then see the Sultan Mosque, with many stores to look at located on Arab street. The mosque was closed as we went on a Sunday. Then go to Bugis market and walk around the street market. Little India isn’t too far away and can be combined with the other neighbourhoods on one same day. We also had a walk on Mount Emily Park which was relaxing but nothing special.
Chinatown is a must-see as well as the two temples next to it, the Buddhist; Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Hindu; Sri Mariamman Temple. Be dressed decently. There are skirts to borrow to cover your legs up if you’re wearing a short skirt or shorts. For the Sri Mariamman Temple, you have to remove your shoes too and leave them outside the door.
Then have a stroll on the main Chinatown road. Before or after you can visit the colourful houses of Joo Chiat road. It’s the only thing to see in that neighbourhood but it was a 10-15 minute drive from Chinatown. If you decide not to go there, Blair Road which is nearer Chinatown is very similar, although I personally found beauty in both of them and happy I visited both.
If you are around Orchard the Library@Orchard is nice to see, it’s located within Orchard Gateway on Level 03.
The Chinese and Japanese Garden (also known as Jurong Garden) is incredible and very peaceful. If you have half a day extra you should visit. The 7 storey Pagoda and the Twin Pagodas as well as the Bonsai garden that features bonsai trees that over 200 years old. We went during the day which was probably a mistake as it was incredibly hot but I’m guessing during the end of the end it might be more crowded. It’s open until 19:00 and it’s a bit further out, 20/25 minutes by car. Sadly they are apparently closed for renovation until 2021, but when they do open up again they are a must visit!
Fort Canning is another spot of nature and calmness within the city. On the 27th of May, they opened 9 new gardens that you can walk around in, as well as explore the history of Singapore. Fort Canning is home to the military base and there was also a bunker that was used for military purposes and has now been abandoned and now operates as a museum, called The Battle Box. Next to Fort Canning is the Old Hill Police Station, that also operates as a museum, though we didn’t go in. Its special feature is the hundreds of colourful shutters.
Chijmes is a national heritage building, that has been turned to a multi-functioning centre for restaurants and bars. It’s not a must-visit for me, but I found it on many lists so thought I’d mention it. It was nice for a dinner out and drinks though!
As an extra activity, we went to a doggie cafe, We Are Furballs, and though the dogs were really cute, I wouldn’t exactly recommend. I don’t think it’s good for the dogs to snack all day – they won’t come to you unless you give them snacks. In case you want to go, you pay for entrance and get a 2-hour slot to sit and play.
Where to Shop
ION Orchard has the best selection in terms of stores, by far as it has every shop from Gucci to Zara. From local brands the shoe and accessories brand Charles & Keith is worth a look as they have great prices for nice styles (about S$50 per pair of shoes). It was definitely my favourite out of all the shopping centres we visited.
On Orchard road, there is the largest amount of shopping centres I’ve seen! Bigger than 5th Avenue even as the stores are within huge malls. Robinsons, Ngee Ann City, Orchard Plaza, Takashimaya and ION Orchard are some of the biggest on this road. There are also a few standalone stores like Zara, Swarovski, H&M but nothing you can’t find elsewhere in the world. The road is really nice at night with all the lights on (and less hot!). Most stores close at 22:00.
If you like checking out stores with all sorts of random items have a look at Daiso the local equivalent to Poundland/Poundshop where everything costs S$2.
For clothing there are many local high street brands that carry minimalistic clothing, most of them quite similar, but I found The Editor’s Market to be really nice and got a lovely linen dress for S$49. Most of these shops have large as the biggest size, which is the one I went for and I am a UK10, so that’s something to keep in mind. Also, all products have three prices on them depending on how many items you buy. If you buy one, two or three pieces of clothing; the more you buy the cheaper it is.
Where to Shop for beauty
Other brands worth checking out if you’re into beauty brands are Skin Inc; where you can mix your own single ingredient serums, you can get one serum for each concern (at S$68 each) or get three in a box as well as an empty bottle to mix together for S$165. And Himalaya Herbals (available at Watsons) an Indian brand based on Ayurveda.
You should absolutely get a Tiger Balm and Axe oil, both of which contain eucalyptus and other ingredients for sore muscles, headaches and more. Tiger balm is available in the UK but here it is very cheap and available in all different sizes.
I went to Laneige and Shu Uemura to get some beauty bits as you can’t get these easily in the UK. I also had a look at Sephora, which was huge and found a US sunscreen brand that I’ve wanted to try out, Supergoop. Also at Sephora, you must try out Allies of Skin – a wonderful skincare brand from Singapore that works and is actually perfect for acne-prone skin. I had the chance to meet the founder, Nicolas Travis who was very lovely.
Watsons is the local pharmacy and you can find many Asian beauty brands as well as European. I got a few sheet masks, some amazing eye masks that warm-up and are perfect if you need an extra boost to fall asleep, and a Biore sunscreen. You can find Watson’s in many places but ION Orchard had the biggest one I came across.
For more Japanese products check out Tokyu Hands that has loads of beauty, about 30 different sheet masks as well as all sorts of kitchen and home utensils and tools, or Don Don Donki a supermarket with a big beauty selection, that’s open 24hrs. The selection of Tokyu is much larger though.
If you have an extra day
Go and explore the southern islands that are within close reach of Singapore, Sentosa Island in specific.
There are a few more islands in the wider Singapore area, but a ferry ride is required, which complicates things. We took a taxi to Sentosa, climbed the Pirates of the Caribbean style suspension bridge of Palawan Beach, and relaxed for a few hours at Tanjong Beach. We rented one of the beds at Tanjong Beach Club and took in the exotic views. FYI there is music there so if you prefer a quieter space, go further down the beach. Also on a weekday, they charge S$100 minimum spend per bed, and on weekends S$400 for a 5-hour rent. They also do events on the weekend so I imagine the atmosphere is completely different then. The sea and beach are actually man-made and the water was a bit warm for my liking but the environment overall was really nice. On Sentosa, there is also a Universal Studios, which we didn’t visit but could be a good activity if you like theme parks.
Have you visited? Feel free to ask any questions!