Singapore is a mesmerising city, there’s absolutely no denying it. From the moment you get a glimpse out of the plane window you’re bombarded with green foliage and once you set foot in the airport it continues to amaze by being modern, clean and efficient. All this pretty much carries over to the rest of the city too, making it an unforgettable experience that merges the old and the new ALMOST seamlessly, however, there are a few things we need to get out of the way first.
- It’s an expensive city – There’s absolutely no getting away from that and although we’ll help you enjoy it in the most affordable way possible, it still costs way more than the rest of South East Asia. If you’re extremely picky with your accommodation, have specific restaurants in mind, don’t plan your route well or if you want to visit for the theme parks and shopping centres, you might just get a shock and end up going home penniless.
- It takes ages to get anywhere – Singapore is a tiny country and even a small island by most accounts, however, walking takes forever, mainly because you have to zig zag endlessly around busy roads and shopping centres that seem to want you to go off route. This isn’t too much of a problem if you’re staying for a while, but if you’re on a budget and can only afford to stay in the city a few nights it can become quite a tiring experience trying to fit everything in.
- It feels like Europe or America – This might seem like a bit of an odd one and might not even be too noticeable if you’re heading straight here from either Europe, Canada or America, but if you’ve already been travelling to other countries in S.E. Asia walking around Singapore can be a bit of a culture shock, maybe even a tad depressing. We’d come straight from Thailand; also known as “the land of a thousand smiles”, where strangers will nod and say hello as you walk past and where you purposefully have to go out of your way to get a dose of western culture. Singapore is not like that, the way people interact on the streets, the cars that go past and the endless sea of shopping centres (and every chain you can think of) make it feel extremely Western. That’s not to say Singaporeans are at all unfriendly, far from it, as soon as we arrived the people we dealt were courteous and service at every single establishment we went to was polite and in excellent English, you just won’t leave feeling warm and fuzzy and wanting to be kinder towards random strangers on the street.
The first hurdle – Transport in Singapore
Singapore airport is incredible, by far the smoothest service I have ever witnessed and that absolutely carries over when trying to get transport into the city. As soon as you exit passport control (where they scan your fingerprints like in some futuristic movie) you are given clear travel options and directions to buses, the metro and taxis. We’d planned on catching the metro as it was an affordable option that left us a 15 minute walk from our hotel, however, we were tired from the flight, were carrying our heavy backpacks and only had two days to see the city so we decided to splurge and catch a taxi.
The price for a taxi into the city is around 20 SGD (€12.50), by no means cheap when compared to the surrounding countries, but we got an incredibly friendly driver who gave us lots of advice about the city. It was actually the best and only conversation we managed to spark up with locals, it also meant we got to see the clean and green streets of Singapore en route and were directly outside our hotel within 20 minutes, so, although it kind of ate into our budget, I’d consider it a bargain. You don’t have to worry about taxi drivers ripping you off, they know where they’re going or have satnav and you don’t have to haggle a price or remind them to put the meter on, which makes the whole experience extremely stress free, just don’t make catching them a habit or you’ll not have any money left over for food!
We were lucky enough to arrive in Bangkok on National Day, not only was the weather perfect for taking some photos, but the whole atmosphere was absolutely buzzing! We walked quite a long way to get to Gardens By The Bay and I loved every second, especially getting to grab this snap. So many things getting ticked of my bucket list on this trip <3 . . . . . . . . . . . . #killyourcity #citykillerz #illgramers #way2ill #agameoftones #urbex #createexplore #exploretocreate #streetactivityteam #streetdreamsmag #neverstopexploring #featuremeinstagood #igersone #shoot2kill #streetshared #streetmobs #urbanphotography #streetphotography #streetexploration #urbanandstreet #imaginatones #streettogether #streetmagazine #streetmobs #peopleinsquare #moodygrams #illgrammers #instamagazine #twgrammers #shotaroundmag
Metros are the best way to get around the city without absolutely rinsing your wallet, journeys are priced based how far you go and roughly come to 1.40 – 2 SGD (€1ish) per single journey, this puts it right alongside Barcelona metro prices which I think is completely acceptable considering the type of city and how well the service works, but it can start adding up if you want to see a lot of things and especially if you’re a couple so a bit of planning and a shit load of walking can cut down on costs and mean you fit more into a short trip. When purchasing your first train ticket you will pay 10 cents extra, this means you get a ticket you can top up multiple times, but don’t fret, you actually get that 10 cents discounted once you purchase three separate journeys and on your sixth journey you actually get an extra 10 cent discount, making it completely worthwhile. There are various other tourist cards you can purchase, these might be worthwhile if you’re taking a slightly longer trip or plan on catching a whole load of metro journeys. You can purchases these from the kiosks as opposed to the automatic machines, so someone will be able to advise you on what will fit your needs best. Everything is available in English as well (it’s one of the national languages in Singapore so shouldn’t be a problem in most cases) as many other languages, so that simplifies things too.
Odd Tip – The automatic metro machines often don’t accept any bills larger than 5 SGD, so you may need change ready or head to a kiosk to get a note broken down, no problem.
We didn’t actually get any buses on our trip, but the bus stops were easy to spot and none of them seemed uncomfortable or crazy full. A quick Google search shows that they often cost less than a dollar and that routes are incredibly convenient. If you’ve personally had any experience with them we’d love to hear about it!
Odd Tip – If you are struggling to plan a trip a great website to use is www.mytransport.sg, it helps you calculate routes, mode of transport and fare cost, not just for buses but also for the metro.
Where to eat in Singapore
Singapore is bustling with good food, eye-catching restaurants and good food hygiene, so it definitely seems like a foodie’s paradise. Unfortunately, if you don’t know where you’re heading it can once again become an expensive outing which in itself can throw a damper on the whole trip, especially if you’ve been eating like a king in one of the surrounding countries previously. That being said, it 100% doesn’t have to be this way! Hawker centres are the go-to to place for affordable eating, although, bizarrely enough I didn’t come across a single place that used that phrasing. Instead, just look out for food courts, they’re pretty much in every single shopping centre and as you will soon notice, there’s no lack of those in Singapore. This might not seem like the most luxurious meal option, but once you’ve given them a visit you will be spoilt for choice and your taste buds will be going bonkers! They offer pretty much every option conceivable for between 5 – 10 SGD, which compared to any of the sit down restaurants you’re likely to come across is pretty freaking cheap, not to mention the portions are huge and the food is delicious! I ate a lot of noodles and ramen whilst there and there’s no chance you will hear me complaining!
If that’s not what you fancy you can always head to Chinatown, there’s a whole street dedicated to affordable eats which will leave you drooling and wanting more. Or you could take a trip down to Little India and get some curry for half the price you’d be paying in Europe, although, if you’re heading to Malaysia next you may want to wait a while and get it for a fraction of the cost (blog post coming up)! If you get really stuck and want some European food, you’ll be spoilt for choice, pretty much every European and American chain conceivable is available, we actually gave in and had a McDonalds on one night because Jayne wasn’t feeling well, we were tired and it seemed like a good option at the time… although I can’t really recommend that because, well, there’s so much better food around and you’re in Asia silly!
What to see and do in Singapore
There’s really no lack of things to do and see in this city, the only thing that will determine how much fun you have are the dollars in your pocket, but even if you’re on a tight budget that doesn’t allow for paid attractions, you’ll have an incredible time and will be spoilt for things to snap with your camera and capture your imagination.
The first thing we wanted to see was Gardens by the Bay so we headed straight there, fortunately this involved getting a metro to a huge shopping center where we ate the before mentioned ramen, walking through a built up part of the city with incredible architecture and catching a load of shots of the incredible Marina Sands Bay building which I’d really been looking forward to. If your budget allows you could even go get a cocktail at the top of Marina Sands and overlook the city, but that would definitely have bankrupted us, so we decided to walk through the gardens instead! It’s by far the most impressive park I’ve ever been to, the electric trees they’ve build are breathtaking, but the whole park in general will leave your head spinning! It’s absolutely huge and you could definitely spend half a day getting great photos, exploring the beautiful surrounding and maybe even having a picnic (which would absolutely save you some pennies in the long run). At 7:45pm and 8:45pm the trees light up and you get a free light show, it’s pretty mesmerising, although the music of choice also gives it a bit of a gloomy feel, still absolutely worthwhile! We actually got really lucky and arrived on Singapore’s National Day which meant we saw all sorts of cool stuff going on, including an arena full of people singing the national anthem, fighter planes flying over, a helicopter carrying a huge Singapore flag and fireworks that illuminated the night sky on our walk out of the park, if you want to catch that too, it was on July the 14th, although it might be worth checking if it’s the same date every year!
Odd Tip – We’d planned on doing the skywalk, but in all honesty, it didn’t seem worthwhile as the queue was horrendous and we arrived a tad late so there’s a chance we’d be queuing for hours just to have it close on us! The majority of the gardens are free entry, so there’s no need to pay extra unless you have the budget and the desire.
Bizzare and beautiful temple in Singapore that holds Buddha’s tooth. Definitely not what I expected to find in a built up city like this. We had an awesome time visiting Singapore and will definitely be back to do Sentosa Island and all the other bits we missed once we’ve saved up a small fortune … it’s rather expensive 😗 . . . . . . . . . . . #streetmobs #urbanphotography #streetphotography #streetexploration #urbanandstreet #imaginatones #streettogether #streetmagazine #streetmobs #peopleinsquare #moodygrams #illgrammers #instamagazine #twgrammers #shotaroundmag #illkillers #killergrams #superhubs #urbanromantix #livefolk #shotaward #_heater #yngkillers #shotzdelight #1stinstinct #heatercentral #workfromanywhere #remotework #freelancelife
From Gardens By The Bay it’s probably worth the short trip to Chinatown, here you can eat amazing food for dead cheap as previously mentioned, but there’s also a bunch of temples to visit that are absolutely gorgeous, including the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple which holds, you guessed it Buddha’s tooth! On that same road there’s the breathtaking Sri Mariamman Temple with it’s incredible decorations, all this makes going to Chinatown unforgettable, but also a real cheap way of seeing some cool stuff without having to splash out on entrance fees or lots of transport.
Can’t even imagine how long this took to finish, it’s so incredibly detailed. Walking along China Town in Singapore was one of my favourite bits of the city, theirs great street food, the atmosphere is buzzing and you get to see some incredible looking temples. It’s pretty difficult to take a good snap of this though as it’s right by a main and very busy street. . . . . . . . . . . . . . #hindutemple #backpacking #traveltheworld #workfromanywhere #main_vision #master_shots #exclusive_shots #hubs_united #jaw_dropping_shotz #worldshotz #theworldshotz #pixel_ig #photographyislifee #photographyislife #photographysouls #photographyeveryday #photographylover #worldbestgram #iglobal_photographers #ig_great_pics #ig_myshot #shotwithlove #justgoshoot #xposuremag #icatching #collectivelycreate #wanderlust #heatercentral #highsnobiety #shotzdelight
Odd Tip – If you want to take in your DSLR and grab some snaps at Sri Mariamman Temple it requires purchasing a camera pass, but this didn’t seem to apply to taking photos on your phone; either that, or we just got away with it!
Sentosa Island is another one of Singapore’s main attractions and one I’m sure lots of people plan their trip around. It’s a bizarre island off Singapore that seems to have been built up with only fun and big spending in mind, in fact it’s also known as “The State of Fun”, which kind of made me cringe and for some reason it reminds me of Pleasure Island from Pinocchio. Although there’s lots of things that appeal to me on the island, I was rather put off the idea of travelling half way across the world to experience something that seems extremely Western and available elsewhere. That being said, if theme park rides, sea life centers, trampoline parks and thrill filled days out are the reason you go on holiday, this may just be the perfect fit for you, as long as you have the bank balance to handle it. I won’t go into prices of things there because there would just be way too much to cover, fortunately, you can get all the info you need of the official Sentosa Island website.
Getting to the island is pretty simple, there’s a ton of access routes from a shopping centre called VivoCity which is right across from it, meaning if you don’t actually want to go, you can still see it from afar. As we didn’t venture onto it I can give much detail on how to get around and what the best attractions to visit are, but the previously mentioned websites will help you determine a route, fair, attraction prices and itinerary. We would love to visit on another trip, with a bigger budget!
We actually spent a fair amount of time in VivoCity as it had great food, an awesome rooftop garden and the best arcade we’ve ever visited (so far), we spent quite a bit of time playing arcade games, winning tokens and swapping them in for sweets, so if that’s your kind of thing, we’d definitely recommend checking it out! The prices aren’t cheap, but they’re also not extortionate and if you go during a quiet period you can get an hours unlimited play for around 30 SGD, which might seem a bit much, but once you realise how many of the games give tokens that you can swap in for goodies it becomes pretty worthwhile. Right next door to the arcade is also a great sweet shop, so we kind of made up for not going to Sentosa Island by getting our sugar rush on.
Singapore is also famous for its Zoo which apparently has won a shit ton of awards and if Gardens By The Bay is anything to go on, it will be absolutely stunning. I’m generally very against zoos and get pretty uncomfortable the times I’ve been pressured into going to them as an adult, but rumour has it that this particular zoo treats animals well, gives them plenty of space and is generally well regarded. Still, I’m not sure how I’d feel once I was actually there. Either way, we were there on a weekend which means it would have been absolutely rammed, plus, we didn’t have the time or budget to get there anyway, so I wasn’t put in an uncomfortable situation, although I know Jayne would have loved to see some Pandas and there was part of me that liked the idea of the photo opportunities that would have come up.
There is obviously way more to see in Singapore, but those are the bits that stood out to us on our short trip, if there’s anything we missed, let us know, I’m sure we’ll head back once we’ve saved some extra cash, ideally enough for a cocktail at Marina Sands, although, that might take a while!
Where to Stay in Singapore
Accommodation in Singapore is expensive and prices go up pretty quickly if you leave it till last minute, although we could have been affected by National Day happening that weekend, so it’s probably not the best representation of prices and availability. We stayed at Champion Hotel, it was clean and tidy, the staff were nice and it was affordable compared to other parts of the city. It was also on a road where the buildings have been protected so that they keep their traditional look, all in all we had a great stay, although, the room (and the bed) were a tad smaller than what we’d become accustomed to in the rest of South East Asia. If you’re on a medium budget we would absolutely recommend staying there, but it’s always worth having a look at Agoda for some comparison.
Odd Tip – Singapore has cracked down heavily on Airbnb listings, if you search on the app we noticed that a lot of the accommodation that comes up is not in Singapore at all, rather, across the border in Malaysia, which would absolutely ruin any plans you had, add a load of travel time and probably cause some issues having to go back and forth through the border and the accompanying security checks.
Anything we’d missed or anything you would add? Send us an email, we’d love to hear from you! If you want to help us along exist in Asia for a little longer, you can purchase something from the CMK or Food Scouts shop or watch out for our upcoming Patreon scheme. For more Sout East Asia blog posts, browse our Odd Odyssey category and stay tuned to find out about our YouTube channel which is coming soon!
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