Top Singapore Hotels
A pleasant way to take in some of the river sights and to get your bearings is by taking one of the half-hour cruises along the Singapore River. Tickets can be bought from booths beside the departure points at the Raffles Landing Site opposite Boat Quay and from the jetty at Clarke Quay. Sentosa is a small tropical island and a nice little place to visit. there are often events happening throughout the year, From beach foam parties to spectacular sand castle displays. Singaporeans often joke that SENTOSA is an acronym for "So Expensive Nothing To See Actually" and to a certain extent that's true. For the most part, the people who know it only visit for a bit of beach volleyball on Siloso Beach. Still it's not a bad place and the site of the Merlion, the half lion, half fish symbol of Singapore, plus some other diversions.
Other Sentosa sites include Images of Singapore, an educational chronicle of Singapore's growth and Fort Siloso, the old British hillside fort which, with its underground passages, is great for kids. Underwater World isn't among the world's best but still worth seeing. The musical fountains are fun. Volcanoland however is dreadful and your visit may last only seconds. Cinemania is also watered down to embarrassing levels. If you think it is going to be some kind of spectacular I-max cinema, skip it.
The colourful conservation area of Chinatown with its quaint, traditional architecture feels like a movie set nestled amongst the modern buildings. Old shop houses have been converted into boutiques and eateries creating an air of times-gone-by.
Another conservation area worth a visit is the bright and cultural Little India, where it is possible to try an authentic Indian meal or shop for traditional foodstuff and clothing. To experience the real buzz of Little India, visit on a Sunday when the area is mobbed with thousands of locals shopping, eating and milling around on their day off.
Of course, no trip to Singapore is complete without a visit to the famed Raffles Hotel. Established in 1887, the curious are allowed to only glimpse the grandeur of the main entrance. Then visit the Raffles Museum, a large shopping arcade and a host of food and beverage outlets, including the world famous Long Bar where you can sip a Singapore Sling and follow tradition by tossing empty peanut shells onto the floor.
As the name implies, East Coast Park is situated on the east coast of the island and boasts walking/cycling tracks and a water theme park called Splash. A multitude of water-related activities are available from the beach, which is not the most ideal swimming environment given its location on one of the busiest tanker routes in Asia!
For an alternative to city life take a 15-minute bumboat ride from Changi Point to the island of Pulau Ubin. Here you can rent bikes from one of the numerous stands or hire one of the dilapidated taxis to drive you round. Roads pass through tropical wooded areas, although sadly, many places are in a state of neglect and beaches are dirty and spoiled. Still, this is a pleasant day trip and an opportunity to glimpse aspects of rural life.
Amongst the many museums, the National Museum on Stamford Road is definitely worth a visit. Housed in a lovely colonial style mansion, displays include a visual history of Singapore, a beautiful selection of jade carvings and an old-style Peranakan house. There are also art galleries in the area and another old colonial building just off Bras Basah Road has been converted to house the Singapore Art Museum displaying works from both local and regional artists.
Another museum popular with those interested in World War II history is the Changi Prison Chapel and Museum. Situated next door to the current Changi Prison, this provides an overview of the war along with some personal reminders from those held captive during the Japanese occupation.
Nicknamed the "Garden City," Singapore is strewn with parks. The popular Haw Par Villa, or more commonly known Tiger Balm Gardens, contains statues and sculptures based on Chinese legends and myths. Located about 20-minutes from Orchard Road. Situated nearer to the city are the Botanical Gardens, which also contain the beautiful National Orchid Garden.
Slightly further out of town is the popular Jurong Bird Park. Sample a unique experience by walking through the elaborate aviaries - the Southeast Asian Birds Aviary even simulates a rainforest thunderstorm each day at noon! Other attractions include bird shows, a monorail tour of the park and a spectacular waterfall area. Restaurants are available where visitors can enjoy a bite to eat surrounded by the wonderful sounds of birdsong.
The famed, innovative "open" Zoo uses natural landscaping to form the animal enclosures. Situated outside the main town it can be reached by taking the MRT to Choa Chu Kang Station and then catching TIBS bus 927. This journey takes about an hour, however the less budget conscious may wish to take a taxi, which only takes around 15 minutes.
Located beside the zoo is the fantastic Night Safari. Open every evening at 7.30pm, visitors can either walk or ride the tram through the grounds to experience the wonders of a safari in safety! The tram gives an informative guided tour but it is worthwhile doing at least part of the safari on foot for a truly unique experience.
Nightlife and Eating Out
Eating would appear to be the national pastime in Singapore! Restaurants abound and the choice appears to be limitless wherever you are, whatever your budget and whatever your taste. Restaurants, bars and general entertainment areas are dotted all over the city. Many free publications, such as "Where Singapore" and "This Week Singapore."
Hawker Stalls and Food Courts offer a host of cheap, local fare which can be enjoyed whilst mingling with the locals. Many of the hawker stalls have been converted to food courts and moved to air-conditioned buildings. However, for a slice of authentic charm, old style stalls can still be found, more notably the Lau Pa Sat hawkers centre near to Raffles MRT and at Newton Circus close to Newton MRT.
Situated on the edge of the Financial District, the popular Boat Quay is a vibrant, bustling area with tables spilling out onto the riverside walk. A choice of foods from Indian to sizzling seafood can be enjoyed in this great Mediterranean atmosphere. Nights are lively and as the eating crowds disperse, the bars take over and music fills the air late into the night.
Further down the river is Clarke Quay, which is similar to Boat Quay, although more family-oriented. A range of riverside restaurants and a host of food stalls offering the chance to sample local/Asian delicacies are available. There is an abundance of choice from the relatively cheap to the expensive, from Western to Asian.
Once the location of a convent, Chijmes is now a national heritage site with the restored gothic church - complete with nightclub below - towering over quaint boutiques, craft shops and a variety of dining opportunities.
East Coast Park has some very popular local seafood restaurants. Meals can prove expensive and it must be said that cheaper options can be found elsewhere in Singapore, however the seaside location does make for a great atmosphere. If you like spicy food then the famed black pepper crab or chilli crab an absolute must!
Popular with locals, although a little bit out of town, is the picturesque Pasir Ris. Thatched open structures house bars/restaurants and seating is arranged alongside the small beach creating a seaside resort feel.
One of the largest entertainment areas is Mohammed Sultan Road, where original shop houses have been converted into trendy bars and clubs to party the night away.
Singapore was once a bargain-hunters paradise, particularly for electronic goods and there are still bargains to be found but the hunt may take a little longer! A vast range of goods is available in an array of shopping environments. Choose from the multitude of outlets on the bustling Orchard Road or visit one of the numerous malls around the city. Pick up a free copy of "Where Singapore" for a directory of shops and malls.
One event worth noting is the annual Great Singapore Sale. This normally takes place during the entire month of June with many shops marking down their prices.
Markets selling traditional clothes, souvenirs, crafts and local foodstuff can be found in the conservation areas of Chinatown, Little India and Mosque Street. Another popular market is at Bugis Junction, which offers everything from fake designer gear, tacky souvenirs to ethnic carvings along with a selection of local eateries, pubs and clubs. Polish up on your bartering skills as haggling is a must here.
Internet access isn't perhaps as widespread as one might expect as many Singaporeans surf the net at home; Cheap surfing can be found behind the entrance to Bugis Market, Orchard Road and at Changi Airport.
A wide range of tours is available both in and around Singapore and leaflets can be found in most hotels. Singapore is connected to Malaysia by a causeway bridge and a short bus or taxi journey can transport you to another country. Remember to take your passport, as you will need it to enter Malaysia! The same applies should you decide to visit the popular Indonesian Island destinations of Bintan and Batam, a short ferry ride away from the World Trade Centre or Tenah Merahti Ferry Terminal.
Note: If taking a taxi to Malaysia, go to the bus station and negotiate with one of the drivers - be aware that taxis are not the same as the ones which go around town.
Trains to Kuala Lumpur depart three times daily from Keppel Station in Singapore.
Getting from A to B
Nothing could be easier than getting around in Singapore. Transport on the whole is relatively cheap, reliable and extremely easy to use.
The MRT underground is extensive, as is the bus service, which is both frequent and far-reaching. Passengers should have the correct change to purchase a ticket upon boarding the bus or can use one of the Transit Link Farecards which can be purchased from any Transit Link Ticket Sales Office and are valid on both SBS and TIBS buses and MRT routes. Standard Farecards are purchased, the value of which can be increased if necessary.
Taxis - All taxis use meters and Singapore has a system of automatic road charges (ERP Tolls) which vary according to location and time. These are government-controlled tolls, so do not be alarmed if you are asked to pay more than the amount shown on the meter. If you are concerned ask the taxi driver to explain the extra charges to you.
Other surcharges may be incurred, such as between midnight and 6am when the meter fare is increased by 50%.
Booking a taxi in advance incurs additional charges but is sometimes easier as taxis can be hard to come by on the street, particularly during peak periods.
Some taxis may display cards in their windscreens signifying that they are going off duty and will only accept passengers who are travelling in the direction noted on the card. The signs say 'ON CALL' or have a destination name, the taxi light will still be on though, a pain if you don't understand the system.
Taxi share - many taxi ranks offer the option of sharing a cab - look for the boards and key in your destination.
Taxis are available from the airport - passengers should note that there is a surcharge on fares from the airport which increases at the weekend. Alternatively, an airport shuttle bus departs frequently for passenger specified hotels within the city and SBS bus No36 goes to Orchard Road.
Owing to the mix of cultures in Singapore, numerous events and festivals are celebrated throughout the year.
January hosts Thaipusam when Hindu devotees walk the streets with shrines pierced to their bodies using spikes and poles to cleanse them of their sins.
Chinese Lunar New Year is celebrated in January/February each year. Chinatown lights up with a host of parades and firework displays. Also during this period is the large and colourful Chingay Parade with floats and lion dancers.
Deepavali, the Hindu Festival of Lights is celebrated at various times each year and Little India comes to life with decorations and street lights.
Muslims then celebrate the end of Ramadan (a month of fasting) in December with the Hari Raya Light Up which can be witnessed around the Gelang Serai area. This can be anytime from December through March depending on the lunar calendar.
Also given the large Christian community, Christmas is celebrated with extensive light displays and decorations along all of Orchard Road and some of its cross streets. This lasts from early December until after New Year.