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Singapore Travel Information, Tips and More

 

Singapore, an island city-state off southern Malaysia, is a global financial center with a tropical climate and multicultural population. Its colonial core centers on the Padang, a cricket field since the 1830s and now flanked by grand buildings such as City Hall, with its 18 Corinthian columns. In Singapore's circa-1820 Chinatown stands the red-and-gold Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, said to house one of Buddha's teeth.

While it's true that the two favourite Singaporean pastimes are eating and shopping, sports is also an integral part of the Singaporean lifestyle. Whether it's diving, dirt biking, water-skiing and rock climbing, weekends see throngs of Singaporeans and expatriates working up a sweat.

Neighborhoods

Little India is traditionally the home of Singapore's Indian community, Serangoon Road and its neighbouring side streets are still today a bustling hive of sights, sounds and intriguing aromas. A rainbow of colours greets you as you wind your way through the streets. Here, where the locals shop, you can buy almost anything that's Indian, from handicrafts and Kashmir silk to peacock feathers and flower garlands. Glittering silk-threaded saris, brassware and Indian-designed jewellery are particularly good buys.

Singapore’s historic Chinatown is a bustling mix of old and new, filled with traditional shops and markets as well as cool stores and cafes. The cramped five-foot-ways, dingy alleys and raucous street hawkers are relics of Chinatown’s past. Yet pockets of history remain in Chinatown, along with more modern sights. You could easily spend a few days wandering through these still-narrow streets. Family-run goldsmiths, medicinal halls and teahouses ply their trades next to sleeker neighbours such as hipster bars and lifestyle shops

Discover Kampong Glam's rich history, living traditions, excellent eateries and trendy shops in this vibrant neighbourhood. The area has an eclectic blend of history, culture and a super-trendy lifestyle scene. Start from the landmark Sultan Mosque, and wander through the many side streets.

Your Singapore trip isn’t complete without a visit to the Civic District, where modern Singapore began. Started as a master plan in 1822 by founder of Singapore Sir Stamford Raffles, the Civic District was urban planning at its best, with sections along the Singapore River marked for use and new buildings erected for the needs of a thriving trade post.

Currency

The local currency is Singapore dollars and cents. Notes come in denominations of SGD 2, SGD 5, SGD 10, SGD 20, SGD 50, SGD 100, SGD 500, SGD 1,000, and SGD 10,000.

Coins come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents and SGD 1.

1 SGD = 75 cents USD  (divide by 3/4)

Banking hours are Monday to Friday: 10 am to 3 pm, and Saturday: 9.30 am to 1 pm (some banks are open until 3 pm). Sunday, 9.30 am to 3 pm (some banks in Orchard Road). Most banks handle travellers' cheques and change foreign currencies. However, some banks do not have foreign exchange dealings on Saturday. Passports are required when cashing travellers' cheques. A nominal commission may be charged.

Major cards are widely accepted by establishments in Singapore. Should any shop insist on adding a surcharge, contact the respective card company to report the errant shop-owner.

Apart from banks and hotels, money can be changed wherever the sign "Licensed Money Changer" is displayed. Most shopping complexes have a licensed money changer. Visitors are discouraged from changing money with unlicensed money changers.

Drinking Water

It is perfectly safe to drink water straight from the tap in Singapore. However, for those who prefer bottled mineral water, local supermarkets and grocers always have ample stocks.

Electric

Singapore voltage is 220-240 volts AC, 50 cycles per second. When shopping for electrical appliances, do remember to check the voltage of the item against the acceptable voltage in your home country. The power plugs used in Singapore are of the three-pin, square-shaped type.

Smoking

Smoking is not permitted in public service vehicles, museums, libraries, lifts, theatres, cinemas, air-conditioned restaurants, hair salons, supermarkets, department stores and government offices. Offenders can be fined up to SGD 1,000. While it is an offence to smoke in air-conditioned eating places, smoking is permitted in air-conditioned pubs, discos, karaoke bars and nightspots.

Spitting and Littering

Spitting and littering in public places is an offence.

Weather

Singapore is hot and humid all year-round, with temperatures usually reaching over 86°F. You should be prepared for rain at any time, which can be torrential but usually brief.

What to Wear

Singapore has a warm and humid climate throughout the year with a daily average temperature range of 75 degrees Fahrenheit to 90 degrees. Light and summer clothing made from natural fabrics like cotton is best for everyday wear. Casual dress is acceptable for most situations and occasions but some establishments may require a more formal dress code. It is always advisable to check beforehand on dress regulations, if any.

Tipping

Tipping is encouraged when you experience good service, and this would be above the standard 10 percent gratuity to your bill added by some restaurants and hotels.

Wireless@SG

This is a free public Wi-Fi service across Singapore, with hotspots available at many locations, including malls, museums, public libraries, community centres, MRT stations, Changi Airport and Sentosa island. You can also look out for the Wireless@SG decal on display wherever this network is available, as well as the SSID Wireless@SG on your device. To get connected, register for an account with your foreign mobile number at any Wireless@SG hotspot and you will receive your login details via an SMS message (Overseas charges may apply for text.).

Shopping

Shopping is one of the greatest pleasures in Singapore. Part of the fun is the excellent buys and great variety of shops all over the island. This is where world-class shopping abounds. A day spent browsing and buying turns into an unforgettable experience as theme designer boutiques, local and international department stores, speciality shops and bargain counters compete with outdoor cafes and gourmet restaurants for your attention.

You can find almost anything you want at most large shopping centres which sell everything from cosmetics to jewellery to sportswear.

The range of Singapore shopping malls is so vast that some visitors to this tiny island state book their plane tickets purely for one reason: to shop til they drop! In fact, Singapore has more high-end shopping malls per capita than anywhere else in Asia, and visitors are simply spoilt for choice in terms of both quality and quantity of the many retail options. The shopping hub of the country, Orchard Road, with mega malls such as ION Orchard and Ngee Ann City Mall both firm favourites with tourists and locals. Singapore shopping malls are diverse too; a trip to Little India'a 24-hour Mustafa Centre certainly makes for a memorable experience, and VivoCity, near Sentosa, is so big you could spend a whole week shopping, dining and exploring its various entertainment facilities.

Goods and Services Tax (GST)

A 5% GST is levied in Singapore.

Under the Global Refund GST Scheme, visit any store that displays the "TAX FREE SHOPPING" logo and follow these simple steps: -

  1. Spend a minimum of SGD 300 at a single participating shop or at least SGD 100 at each different participating shops to accumulate a total purchase of SGD 300
  2. Present your passport to the retailer to obtain a completed Global Refund Cheque
  3. Get the cheques validated at the Customs of Changi Airport Terminal 1 or 2 as proof of export. The goods purchased, along with the receipts, must be presented for verification.
  4. Claim your GST refund in the form of cash, credit card, bank cheques or airport shopping vouchers at Global Refund counters in the airport. A small handling fee will be deducted from the GST amount due to you.

The minimum purchase amount to qualify for a refund ranges between SGD 300 and SGD 500. More details may be obtained from the Global Refund counters located at both terminals of the Changi Airport.

You may also visit Global Refund's GST cash refund counter located at level 2 of Scotts Shopping Centre. The counter is open from 11am to 8pm daily.

Retailers that are not affiliates of the Global Refund scheme administer their own GST refund schemes. You are advised to check with these retailers on the minimum purchase amount to qualify for GST refund, as it varies from retailer to retailer.

Shopping Malls

A good number of department stores and some smaller shops are open daily from 10am to about 9pm, or even 10pm. Singapore is one of the few countries in the world where you feel safe staying out in the streets till late at night. As long as basic precautions are taken, you can have peace of mind to shop and walk around.

Mustafa Centre in Little India is the only department store in Singapore that is open 24 hours, everyday!

In department stores, all items price-tagged and prices are fixed. Many small retailers also practice price tagging but are often flexible when approached for a discount. Ask the retailer for his "best price" and then counter-offer with realistic prices until both of you reach an agreement.

A stylish architectural wonder, ION Orchard glows like a futuristic beacon at the end of Orchard Road enticing fashionistas and luxury shoppers inside. Welcome to Singapore’s most glamorous shopping complex a glass, marble and steel work of art where there are even extra special toilets for high spending customers and celebrities. Superior services include butler style concierge and a celebrity chef fine dining establishment. Luxury couture, the hottest names fresh from the world’s runways, art exhibitions and even cloud viewing attract an in-vogue shopping crowd at ION Orchard. Louis Vuitton is present on a grand scale alongside the other fashion greats including Bling King Harry Winston, Miu Miu, Cartier, Prada and YSL. Glittery, swanky and unashamedly lavish, ION Orchard takes Singapore shopping malls to a whole new level.

Far East Plaza on Orchard Road is one of Singapore’s older shopping complexes attracting a young cool crowd looking for one-off bargain buys from unknown designers. Around 800 retail outlets occupy the six level mall catering to a mix of young students and tourists looking for something different. At Far East Plaza, you can find a myriad of shops selling fashionable and trendy clothing, footwear and accessories. They are offering all the latest and trendiest fashion items with a good mix of Korean-style, Hong Kong-style, vintage and retro apparel. Visit for the discounts available on items such as cameras and CD’s.

Lucky Plaza is the place to buy cheap stuff on Singapore's most luxurious street: While most of the shopping centres on Orchard road sell high-end products to wealthy customers, Lucky Plaza is the only mall catering to budget shoppers. Casual clothing, simple accessories, sunglasses, low-end watches, sweet and chocolate, souvenirs, used books and medicated oil products are always on sale. You may not be pleased with its "messy-floor-plan" and low quality facilities, but these things will give you an experience about Singapore shopping centres in old days. Its fun to explore and find stores in unusual locations in this 30+ year old building.

Suntec City Mall, Marina Bay, is a vast complex boasting a shopping mall, an exhibition and conference centre and office tower blocks. Due to its sheer size there are a few flagship stores including a Carrefour hypermarket, and electronics specialist Harvey Norman. There’s a movie theatre, video arcades and almost always a fair being held in addition to the odd sporting tournament. It’s worth checking out what else is on for you to see when you’ve finished shopping.

Ngee Ann City is something of a shopping centre landmark on Orchard Road, having delivered brand names, book stores, beauty parlours and restaurants to well-heeled shoppers since the last century. The mall also boasts an art and creativity section and the Takashimaya department store over seven levels. Designer labels are aplenty including Cartier, Hugo Boss, Dior and Gucci.

Bugis Junction is one of the more vibrant shopping malls in Singapore; part indoor department store, part open-air shopping street, this modern retail space feels like a combination of the Bugis Street Market and Bugis+ mall that both sit across the road. The mall also benefits from the direct access of Bugis Street MRT Station, and is just a few stops away from the centre of Singapore. The standout feature here really is the huge glass roof that provides a handsome shelter, as well as the cute colonial (but imitation) shop houses and hawker-style carts that line the main shopping avenue.

Formerly known as the Meritus Mandarin Shopping Arcade, the sparkling Mandarin Gallery brings the very best international designers and personalised tailored shopping to Orchard road. Situated adjoined to the prestigious Mandarin Orchard hotel, the mall is compact but very couture with brands such as Marc Jacobs and Just Cavalli showcasing high-end merchandise.

Open 24 hours, the Mustafa Centre offers a unique market style shopping experience. Designer products are in abundance at low prices with everything from textiles to watches and electronics on sale. The mall is actually two department stores joined together with goods sold under the Mustafa name and streamlined by type.

Knightsbridge Mall forms part of the trendsetting Grand Park Orchard Hotel. The mall is very cutting edge in design allowing retail outlets to completely customise their space via double façade frontages and direct street access. Flagship stores dominate this four level shopping centre which focuses solely on fashion and jewellers. Dining is offered at the five-star hotel next door which, like the mall, is a dazzling creation of glass chic.

Multi award-winning Paragon Shopping Centre is a high-end mall housing luxury consumer goods and sought after in-trend brands from across the world. Spread across six levels are fashion stores, eateries, designer department outlets and sports boutiques including Jimmy Choo, Canale Patisserie Chocolatier, Muji and Nike. Parents will find plenty of choice in brand name kids clothing such as Armani Kids, Petit Bateau and Guess Kids.

Singapore is renowned for having some of the best shopping malls in Asia and they don’t come any bigger or brighter than VivoCity. Situated on the HarbourFront and billed as a shopping, entertainment and lifestyle destination rolled into one, VivoCity is home to Singapore’s largest cinema, biggest toy store, an amphitheatre, wade pool and four food courts - it might more appropriately be referred to as a mega mall given its sheer size and facilities.

Shopping Markets

From classic vintage markets to trendy bazaars, flea markets in Singapore offer something for everyone and, of course the best bargains. Really getting busy in the evening, Chinatown Street Market is one of the most popular of its type in Singapore, offering a range of fashion items, antiques, souvenirs and electronics. There is a wealth of street food and cheap restaurants all crammed into a relatively small space. Also known as ‘Chinatown Food Street’, this outside hawker-style area is where you’ll find all the Singaporean classics such as stingray, satay, roast duck, chicken over rice, kway teow, dim sum and laksa, with most dishes going for around S$5-10.  Find the market on Pagoda Street, Trengganu Street, Sago Lane, Smith Street and Temple Street near Chinatown MRT Station. Opening Hours: 10:00am until 10:00pm

Bugis Street Market is one of the biggest, cheapest and hottest places to come shopping in the whole of Singapore. Many of the little trinkets here such as souvenir key chains, postcards and stationary are available from as little as S$1, and there is a whole range of clothes on offer, too. Although not exactly Singapore’s most cutting-edge fashion hotspot, quality items for all tastes can be found if you look hard enough. A pair of jeans can set you back just S$10, shirts and t-shirts from S$5, sunglasses and hats from S$2 and shoes from S$15. To find it, look for the red-roofed entrance near Bugis MRT Station or just follow the crowds.
Opening Hours: 11:00 - 10:00 Location: Bugis Street, Singapore

Little India’s Tekka Centre may not be the most glamorous place to do shopping in Singapore, but it does offer an authentic taste of Singapore’s market scene. The multi-purpose centre, doubles up as fresh seafood and vegetables on the ground floor, while you’ll find some clothing and hardware stores upstairs. There’s also plenty of hawker stalls spread across the complex; come here for the $8 Biryani sets and you won’t leave disappointed.  Opening Hours: Daily 06:30 - 21:00 Address: 665 Buffalo & Serangoon Roads, Little India,

Things to Do

Sentosa Island is a veritable playground of theme parks, water parks, natural attractions, and resort. Ocean lovers won't be disappointed with the S.E.A. Aquarium and Dolphin Lagoon, while the culturally savvy enjoy the Images of Singapore museum, the Madame Tussauds wax museum, and the immersive 4D experience of Mysterious Island. You can opt for a one-day pass or skip-the-line VIP ticket for the ever-popular Universal Studios Singapore, or indulge in surreal photo ops in the Trickeye Museum (Alive Museum). Adventurous travelers can ride the waves at the Adventure Cove Waterpark, then soar through the air on the MegaZip Adventure Park zipline. Those looking to relax can head to the resorts at Siloso Beach or Tanjong Beach or visit the island's sights on a leisurely Segway tour. Kids love the Butterfly Park, Merlion Tower, Tiger Sky Tower, and Insect Kingdom, while foodies and shopping fanatics frequent the island's restaurants and shopping centers.

Designed to simulate natural habitats, the Singapore Zoo is divided into zones, housing more than 2,800 animals from some 300 different species in free-roaming enclosures. Here you can spot Asian elephants, white tigers, orangutans, proboscis monkeys, pygmy hippos and many, many more animals from around the world.  Animal lovers visiting the Singapore Zoo often opt for the jungle breakfast with orangutans experience, and may also check out the after-dark Night Safari tram ride or expansive River Safari attraction, the latter of which houses an additional 5,000 animals from across the world's rivers.

Sipping a Singapore Sling cocktail in the wicker and palm ambiance of Raffles Hotel is a Singapore must-do experience. With its tropical garden courtyard and elegant galleried architecture, the terracotta-roofed white hotel has been a byword for colonial elegance since 1887. It was named after the founder of Singapore, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. Swags of famous names from Noël Coward to Somerset Maugham have stayed here, along with more recent stars like Michael Jackson and Beyoncé. You can learn more about the building’s history and see fascinating ephemera at the on-site Raffles Museum.  If you’re not staying here, dress up to experience high tea in the Tiffin Room, or order that Singapore Sling in the Long Bar. The hotel has a swag of other upmarket restaurants, cafes and watering holes.

If you have time to visit only one place to learn about the history and culture of Singapore, this is probably it. The National Museum of Singapore tells you the intriguing story of this country in a manner that is both fun and rewarding. Imagine standing in the midst of a vast darkened space surrounded by a massive video montage showing everyday life in Singapore while a rousing symphony plays in the background. That’s just a taste of the immersive experience you can expect here.

Art Lover? Top of your list should be the region’s newest and largest museum, the National Gallery Singapore, which oversees the largest collection of modern art in Singapore and Southeast Asia. Smack in the heart of the Civic District, the Gallery is also an architectural gem, as it is housed in two beautifully restored and transformed national monuments – the former Supreme Court and City Hall.

The Singapore Art Museum, which has one of the world’s largest public collections of contemporary Southeast Asian artworks, is also a must-visit

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