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Welcome to Singapore


Beguiling Singapore is a modern city-state embracing economic progress against the backdrop of age-old tradition. The customs that underpin community life are created out of a cultural mix that includes predominantly Chinese, Indian and Malay ethnic groups.

Singapore is an island off the southern tip of Malaysia, linked to it by a causeway. It evolved from a sleepy fishing village in the early 1900s to become one of Asia's economic tigers. Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles landed on Singapore's northern bank in 1819 and felt that its location made it ideal as a trading station. From here Singapore's landscape was transformed by British colonial rule, Japanese occupation, Communist insurrection and finally, independence. Since becoming a republic in 1965 the island has experienced increased prosperity and exponential economic growth. Shimmering skyscrapers tower above the slick financial districts and elegant colonial buildings preserve a lingering old-world charm.

Singapore's full calendar of events showcases a spectrum of cultural celebrations and shopping activities. The early summer months bustle in anticipation of the Singapore Sale - a time when tourists can cash in on the competitive prices of electronic equipment, jewellery and other merchandise. The business activity thrives amidst the celebration of Chinese, Hindu and Muslim festivals that punctuate the year with their colourful representations. These include the Chinese New Year, Ramadan, Hari Raya Puasa, Vesak Day, the Dragon Boat Festival, Festival of the Hungry Ghosts and Thaipusam.

The core of downtown Singapore is formed by the Colonial District, embellished by cathedrals and cricket lawns. The notable sites of the area include the Empress Place Building and the luxurious Raffles Hotel. Although most of old Singapore has been demolished to make way for the modern city, many major landmarks within the Colonial district have been preserved. The surrounding ethnic enclaves of Little India, Chinatown and the Arab Quarters also provide glimpses into the traditions that have sustained their respective communities through the centuries.

Information & Facts


Singapore experiences a tropical climate with hot, humid weather all year round. Temperatures remain high with daytime averages of 86°F (30°C). Humidity is usually above 75%. Singapore has two distinct monsoon seasons, the North Eastern season being from December to March and the South Western season from June to September. November to December is the rainy season. June to August is the best time to travel to Singapore, although it is still rainy and humid and travellers should pack accordingly.

Eating Out

With heavy influences of Malay, Chinese, Indonesian, Indian and British, the cuisine in Singapore is far from dull and fusion food is the order of the day. Street vendors are common in this bustling city for a tasty meal on the go, and most specialise in one dish with favourites including fish head curry or Mee Goreng (yellow egg noodles stir fried with ghee, tomato sauce, chilli, egg, vegetables and various meats or seafood). Seafood such as prawns, oysters, crabs and lobsters are also popular dishes on most Singapore menus and traditional dishes such as laksa (soup), popiah (spring rolls), and satay (barbecued meat skewers) are worth trying. Those with a sweet tooth will enjoy the sugary desserts like kuih (steamed cakes), bubur cha-cha (coconut milk soup), and ice kachang (shaved ice with sweet red beans).

Hawker centres are the cheapest places to eat, and come with their own unique atmosphere, which is somewhere between a market and a food court. Prices are low and the food is very good, so it's a great way to try a lot of dishes. Find a table first, and many stalls will deliver your food to you. Popular hawker centres include Newton Circus, Glutton's Bay, and Lau Pa Sat, as well as several options in Chinatown.

Singapore has its share of international fast food chains, but local takeaway options worth trying include Bengawan Solo's Chinese pastries, Old Chang Lee's deep-fried curry puffs, and the traditional Singaporean breakfast at Ya Kun Kaya Toast.

Singapore's more upmarket restaurants have a lot to offer as well, with plenty of variety. A special focus is on Chinese cuisine and seafood, however. Head to the Orchard Road area and the historic district for eateries of every nationality, or for a trendy night out then a trip to Boat Quay or Clarke Quay along the riverfront is a must.

Restaurants will often display the prices with plus signs: $19.99++ indicates that service charges and sales tax are not included and will be added to the bill. Tipping is not practised in Singapore, and is officially discouraged by the government.

Getting Around

Because of government-induced deterrents towards drivers to combat traffic congestion and air pollution, hiring a car is very expensive, but getting around Singapore is easy without one due to efficient, modern and inexpensive public transport. An extensive bus network and the reliable MRT train subway system are both cheap and user-friendly and service all parts of Singapore. Electronic ez-linkpasses cover trains and buses and save carrying loose change for fares as well as giving a slight discount on standard ticket prices. There is also a Tourist Day Ticketthat is valid for 12 rides of any length. The city also has thousands of metered taxis, which are safe, air-conditioned and surprisingly affordable, driven by helpful and honest drivers. The only drawback is the long taxi queues during rush hour. There are services offered to travellers that include the Singapore Explorer shuttles, which stop at most tourist destinations, and the SIA Hop-on bus, which offers passes for unlimited rides for a day and is free for visitors who travelled to Singapore on Singapore Airlines.

Kids Attractions

Singapore is a great city for kids on holiday, compact and brimming with varied and excited attractions, some uniquely Asian. For a great day with the family head to the Singapore Zoological Gardens where the kids can bond with animals such as Komodo dragons, polar bears and orangutans, or head to the Jurong Bird Park to marvel at the hundreds of pink flamingoes. For a more relaxed day, pack a picnic and visit the Singapore Botanical Gardens where kids will have plenty of room to stretch their legs and let off a bit of steam. The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is a wonderful place to spend the day and children will be guaranteed to be amazed by this verdant wonderland. On rainy or cold days when outdoor activities with kids are not an option, head to an indoor playground like eXplorerkid in downtown east, the Fun Maze at Tampines Mall, or Fidgets, Singapore's largest indoor playground which also includes baby and toddler play areas. With all these options and more, kids will have a great time exploring the city of Singapore.

Singapores official languages are English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. A patois called Singlish, or Singaporean English is widely spoken. It is the by-product of mixing English, Chinese and Malay syntax and idiom.

Singapore's currency is the Singapore Dollar (SGD), which is divided into 100 cents. The US and Australian Dollars, Yen and British Pound are also accepted in the larger shopping centres. Major credit cards are accepted in hotels, shops and restaurants. ATMs are widely distributed and banks advance cash against the major credit cards. Travellers cheques can be cashed at banks or licensed moneychangers and at selected hotels. Banks are open daily, but some do not do foreign exchange on Saturdays.


With so many choices on offer, it's a difficult task deciding what to do for an evening out in Singapore and to experience its nightlife best. From cultural performances and traditional dancing and music to nightclubs, bars and partying it up amongst hardcore revellers, Singapore is a city that never sleeps.

Start an evening out at one of the many international touring Broadway shows or head to the nightlife hub of the city such as Boat Quay where a variety of bars, karaoke bars, clubs, discos and lounges can be found, as well as some of the city's glitterati, who can be seen hanging out and mingling with the who's who. Muhammad Sultan Road is another key area where clubs and bars are scattered as well as the Zouk complex, where many gay and lesbian clubs and bars can be found.

A night out in Singapore isn't complete without a visit to the Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel, where the infamous cocktail the Singapore Sling was invented sometime between 1910 and 1915. Drinking in Singapore is an expensive pastime however, as the country's heavy sin taxes push the price of drinks up to $15-25 in most clubs.

Clarke Quay is the place for hardcore clubbers, where the Ministry of Sound is based as well as a handful of hip new dance clubs. There are other areas of the city that have become eclectic in their entertainment choices and live jazz, acid jazz, international guest DJs and live music is easy to come by. Sentosa has a number of cocktail bars on the beach, and the Central Business District has plenty of chic nightclubs. One of the largest and longest-running clubs is the sprawling Zouk in Jiak Kim Street, which hosts visiting international artists and has a variety of floors ranging from house to hip hop, pop and even a dinner-dance area.

Singapore is a relatively safe place at night, even for women alone. Many clubs stay open until very late, closing 1 or 2am on weekdays and 3 or 4am on weekends. Taxis can be found fairly easily, but be prepared for a rush of people, and an increase of fares, after midnight when the clubs start to close.


In Singapore, shopping is said to be the national sport, strongly supported by numerous shopping areas, malls and markets; at the mid-year Great Singapore Sale, the whole island offers fantastic shopping discounts. Despite its reputation as an international shopping destination however, everything sold in Singapore is made somewhere else, so don't expect to find local goods or handmade treasures.

If ethnic goods are what you're after, however, Chinatown sells Chinese items like seals and painted fans, and Geylang Serai and Little India offer a range of Malay and Indian goods. Colourful Peranakan clothing and artwork is available in Katong.

Low import taxes mean there are bargains to be had, but if you've come to Singapore in search of bargain electronics or computers, it pays to do some research ahead of time so you don't end up paying more than you could have. Singapore's consumer protection laws are good though, so most shops are honest and fakes are not openly sold.

Orchard Road is the main shopping area and features mall after mall of fashion, furniture and cosmetic shops. There are countless stores offering every imaginable form of electronic device shoppers might require, and the street markets and smaller shops sell Chinese seals and painted fans - good souvenirs. There is also late night shopping on Orchard Road every Saturday till 11pm.

Exhibitions, fairs and garage sales take place often and offer many discounted goods. Wet Markets smell bad but sell well-priced fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, spices and flowers. The general opening hours for shops are from about 9am to 10pm, but many shops (especially those in Suntec City and Funan IT Mall) do not open before 11am. A 7% GST is charged in Singapore, refundable to international visitors.


Teeming with sightseeing opportunities, Singapore is a great city for any traveller to explore. With historical sites such as Kampong Gelam and Arab Street and the Jurong Birdpark, the largest of its kind in Southeast Asia, Singapore has a wide range of attractions on offer. Take a stroll around Little India where the smells of spices and incense fill the air, have a picnic in the Singapore Botanical Gardens and enjoy the peace and quiet, or take the kids to the Singapore Zoological Gardens where animals from all over the world can be viewed. Those with an eye for art and design will love the red dot design museum, which showcases some of the most innovative and exciting designs, and art lovers should visit the Singapore Art Museum. Visitors wanting to see the sights should buy a Singapore Tourist Pass, which is an all-day travel pass that allows unlimited travel of Singapore's public buses and MRT trains and can be bought for 1, 2 or 3-days. The starting cost of the pass is S$8 and it can be bought from and SMRT office around the city.

Local time is GMT +8.

The Asian Civilisations Museum is one of Singapore's finest, certainly the most comprehensive. Its collections of furniture, jade, porcelain, fine arts, and other artefacts from the region's history, including Chinese, Islamic, and South Indian culture. Aural guides are available, with headphones provided. The museum includes a gift shop, and is free to visitors on Friday evenings from 7-9pm when there are no special exhibitions on. Free guided tours in English are available Mondays at 2pm, Tuesdays to Fridays at 11am and 2pm, and weekends at 3:30pm. There is a pleasant restaurant next door, perfect for a drink or a bite after your visit.

Singapore and Rio de Janeiro are the world's only two cities to contain primary rainforest within their boundaries. Bukit Timah is located seven miles (12km) from Singapore's centre. It is a 164-hectare (405-acre) reserve preserving a variety of tree and animal species including flying lemurs, long-tailed macaque monkeys and anteaters. Designated walking and cycle trails undulate through the dense jungle and its highest point is marked by Bukit Timah at 538ft (164m).

It was here, during WW II, that Allied POW soldiers were subjected to harsh treatment at the hands of their Japanese captors. Changi Prison is still in use as a correctional facility and it is the place of execution for convicted drug offenders. Half a mile (1km) from the old site, next to the prison, is the new Changi Chapel and Museum. The display of photographs, letters and drawings in the museum are a moving tribute to the legacy of the Japanese occupation. During this period that spanned three and a half years more than 50,000 civilians and soldiers were captured and imprisoned. Visitors have access to a variety of videos and literature relating to the war years.

Chinatown is set against the backdrop of Singapore's modern infrastructure and the prosperous financial district. It is a crowded and colourful network of streets and alleyways contained by Upper Pickering Street, Cantonment Road, New Bridge and South Bridge Road. The area is a receptacle of traditional Chinese customs that were carried by the communities in Chinese Junks from the provinces of Guangdong and Fujian to Singapore in the early 19th century. Temples, terraces, markets and shops still provide a glimpse of the old ways but much of its original character has been lost in the redevelopment of the past 30 years. Yixing Xuan's Teahouse provides a fascinating insight into the ancient, ritualistic art of tea-making while a visit to the Thian Hock Keng Temple leaves one in awe of Chinese traditions of worship and symbolism. The streets of the district offer traditional healing practices. Here snake skins are blended with herbs and spices to produce powerful potions for various ailments. Brightly coloured exotic fruit interject the marketplace with lively displays of Rambutan, Durian and Mangosteen. The streets are a delight for bargain hunters looking to buy kimonos, jewellery, t-shirts, pottery and traditional crafts. Tanjong Pagar is the area best known for its traditional crafts such as painted masks, paper umbrellas, clogs and kites. Electronic goods, luggage, textiles and other more conventional products can be found in Chinatown's modern section located at the intersection of Cross, New Bridge Road and Eu Tong Street.

Chinese and Japanese landscape designs are embodied in these neighbouring gardens. The Imperial Sung Dynasty style is clipped to perfection within the13-hectare (33-acre) Chinese Garden. It boasts the world's largest Suzhou-style Bonsai garden outside of China, containing over 1,000 plants. The symmetry and simplicity of Zen aesthetics is the motif of the Japanese Gardens with its peaceful rock gardens and summerhouses.

Located along Pasir Panjang Road, Haw Par Villa was previously known as Tiger Balm Gardens and subsequently renamed after its original owners. The Aw brothers, Boon Haw and Boon Par (who made their fortune from the well-known Tiger Balm ointment) opened the park in 1937. It is inspired by Chinese legend and mythology as represented by the display of grotesque and gaudy statues, the coup de grâce of which are depicted in The Ten Courts of Hell.

The park is contained within a 20-hectare (49-acre) stretch of land in the Jurong Lake area. It is one of the world's most extensive bird collections and the largest in South East Asia. Eight thousand birds comprising 600 different species inhabit the park and range from Antarctic penguins to New Zealand kiwis. Walking trails cut through the tropical landscape. Incredible sights to look out for include the Waterfall Aviary, which at 98ft (30m) it is the world's highest manmade waterfall. The Penguin Parade has a large pool set against a landscape of rocks, cliffs, nesting alcoves and burrows; it has a viewing gallery where visitors can see penguins 'flying' underwater through a 98ft (30m) wide window. The South East Asian Bird Aviary is a breathtaking spectacle that includes the experience of a simulated thunderstorm. Other bird shows feature flamingos, macaws, hornbills and cockatoos. The park also includes facilities for young children to enjoy including the new Splash 'n Slide Station.

Kampong Gelam is said to have taken its name from the Gelam tribe of sea gypsies who lived in the original Malay village southwest of the Rochor River. Sir Stamford Raffles allotted the area as an ethnic enclave to the Muslim population and it became the focal point for Arab trade and traditional Malay culture. Baghdad, Muscat Street and Haji Lane resonate with tradition as cane, straw, rattan and pandan leaf goods spill out onto the streets. The spectrum of fabrics flowing onto the pavements of Arab Street comprise chiffon, silk, cotton georgette and include the batiks of Indonesia and Malaysia. Located between Kandahar and Aliwal streets is the Istana Kampong Gelam. It was built as the royal palace of Sultan Ali Iskandar Shah, the son of Sultan Hussein who negotiated the handover of Singapore to Britain. The government recently took possession of the building with plans to transform it into a Malay heritage museum. Another significant building in the area is the Sultan Mosque (open daily 9am to 1pm and 2pm to 4pm). The glistening necks of the domes are decorated with the bases of thousands of glass bottles.

The first Indian settlers arrived with Sir Stamford Raffles in the early 19th century, bringing with them colourful silks, aromatic spices, incense and other accoutrements of Indian culture. They worked on the roads and helped build the infrastructure of the city, settling within the ethnic enclave that has become known as Little India. The area is delineated by the north-south Serangoon Road, which runs parallel to Race Course Road. Its eastern end stretches to Jalan Besar. Temples, fortune-tellers, busy restaurants, stirring curry spices, jasmine garlands and the exotic hues of silk saris fill the vibrant streets to create a colourful ensemble. Little India is at its best during the Hindu Festival of Lights when the area is festooned with decorative lighting displays.

The island of Ubin provides a peaceful interlude to the city's bustle and can be reached by boat from Changi Point. The boat docks at Ubin village, a Malay settlement where houses perch quietly on stilts above the beach sand and mangrove. Beyond this point one can explore the island by mountain bike and enjoy its pristine beaches fringed with coconut palms, its variety of seafood restaurants and restful Buddhist temples scattered here and there.

The Raffles Hotel is a grand Victorian edifice rising from the pavements of the colonial district. Its elegant charm has enticed writers and entertainers such as Somerset Maugham, Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad and Charlie Chaplin. Singapore Slings have become the hallmark of the Long Bar. Here ceiling fans whirr above the heads of expatriates and tourists as they sip smart cocktails in superb comfort. The Tiffin Room is best known for its afternoon teas and sumptuous Saturday night buffets. Gin and tonics alongside the odd game of snooker can be enjoyed at the Bar & Billiard. Other distractions include an upper-level museum containing vignettes and photographs on the lives of Charlie Chaplin, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Noel Coward, as well as a Victorian-style playhouse and numerous specialty shops and restaurants.

On the fringe of the Arts Belt and close to several art museums, the 2nd red dot design museum was established in Singapore in November 2005. It is the host of the red dot design awards, where products and brands communicate their design distinction. The museum intrigues, inspires and entices visitors with interactive installations and remarkable exhibitions. It is the heart of design and creative activities including conferences, exhibitions and parties. The museum is the venue for the annual red dot design award celebrations, the most significant event in the design calendar. The red dot design museum supports MAAD, a market for original creative works in fashion, art, craft and design.

The theme-park island is a popular weekend spot and one of the most visited attractions in Singapore. A day's excursion could turn into an overnight stay in any one of the hotels or camping sites. The island is enveloped by a high-speed monorail and linked to downtown Singapore by a 1,640ft (500m) causeway and cable car system. Entertainment ranges from soaking up the sun on the imported-sand beaches to visiting a variety of entertainment areas. From a moving walkway one can experience the sea life of The Underwater World and Dolphin Lagoon. The Images of Singapore Exhibition explores Singapore's history in life-size dioramas. On the furthest western point of the island lies Fort Siloso from which Singapore guarded its territory against invading Japanese forces. Other attractions include the Merlion, the Musical Fountain and the Sentosa Luge. A distinctive landmark is the Carlsberg Sky Tower, Asia's tallest free-standing observation tower, which affords the best views of Singapore as well as breathtaking vistas across Sentosa and the Southern Islands, and even Malaysia and Indonesia on clear days.

The beautifully restored building (formerly St Joseph's School for boys) rests serenely on Bras Basah Road. The museum has 14 galleries that showcase the national art collection and plays host to a range of special exhibitions and outreach programmes. More than 7,000 permanent artworks represent the largest collection of 20th century Southeast Asian art. Tours are available in English, Japanese and Mandarin.

The Botanical Gardens sweep across an area of 52 hectares (128 acres) constituted by primary forest and specialty gardens in close proximity to the city centre. The National Orchid Garden is the world's largest orchid garden featuring more than 20,000 varieties set amongst water features and an exotic bromeliad collection from South and Central America. The park also contains many rare plant specimens in addition to the specialty gardens decorated with frangipanis, roses, ferns and desert plants. Outdoor concerts in the gardens can be enjoyed on the Symphony Lake or French cuisine can be savoured at the Au Jardin restaurant.

The perfect place for active and inquiring young minds, the Singapore Discovery Centre is a great place to bring the kids for the day. Children will love the colourful exhibits which will teach them all about Singapore's past, present and history in fun and informative ways. With permanent exhibitions and constantly changing ones too, visitors will have a hard time deciding where to start, from 4D movies to exhibits you can touch, children will love the Singapore Discovery Centre.

The Singapore Zoo has been thoughtfully created to simulate the natural habitats of its resident animals. Eight zones recreate the geographic regions of the animals indigenous to it and include the South East Asian rainforest, African savannah, Nepalese river valley, Burmese jungle and South American pampas. These vistas can also be explored after daytime during the famous Night Safari, billed as the first of its kind. The zoo can be explored along its meandering walking trails or from the comfort of a tram that winds its way along a circular route. It is home to more than 2,000 animals representing over 240 species, the highlights of which include the Komodo dragons, polar bears and primate kingdom. Animal shows are held daily, and children can enjoy camel rides or share food with an orang-utan in the zoo's Children's World section. A Guide to the Zoo is available on arrival with details of feeding times and other activities. It includes a map and suggested itineraries incorporating the major shows and attractions.

The 'Temple of Heavenly Bliss, the Thian Hock Keng Temple is the oldest of the Chinese Hokkien temples in Singapore. Built in 1839 in a traditional southern Chinese architectural style, not a single nail was used in its construction. The temple itself contains many beautiful statues and altars (visit the website for detailed information about the various deities the altars are dedicated to), and a centre for the creative arts that hosts dance, acting, and music lessons. There is a pagoda behind the temple gate that makes a perfect spot for a cool drink in the shade.

Animal lovers of all ages shouldn't miss a trip to Underwater World where kids can learn about all things aquatic as well as get the opportunity to swim with dolphins, dive with dugongs and even sharks. This oceanarium showcases around 2500 marine animals of 250 species from around the area and the rest of the world. For little tots, the 'touch pool' offers a hands-on experience with a friendly ray, starfish and baby sharks. Visitors can enjoy watching feeding of the animals, both on the surface and by divers throughout the day at the Turtle Pool, Vertical Tube, Reef Colony, Ocean Colony and Cuttlefish areas.

Looking for something a bit different?  Check out our selection of cultural & adventure holidays or if you're looking to go it alone then see our selection of solo holidays.

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