If you are visiting Singapore for the first time, then be prepared for the heat and in particular the humidity. However, most hotels, shops and public transport are air conditioned.
The variety of food in Singapore is enormous but it seems over the past few years to be more South East Asian dishes on offer. There are of course McDonald’s and KFC but do your research before you go if you are interested in trying out menus from specific regions such as South Korea and China. Many of the food courts provide a range of options from a lot of regions.
If you are using the underground, retain your ticket when you first purchase it as this can be powered up with up to six journeys. Just put the ticket on the machine face upwards and add your next trip. If you buy a new ticket each time you will pay extra, it is only a few cents, but this can add up. Travel using the MRT is really easy, just look for the line number and final station. Announcements are in English.
Using the buses, then try to have the correct fare. The bus drivers are extremely helpful as are the passengers in helping you locate your final destination.
Taxis from the airport are cheap. Ask the dispatcher for a Comfort Cab. The drivers are very friendly, and they take cards. Tipping is not expected in Singapore.
A trip to the Singapore Botanic Gardens is a must. This is served by the local buses and MRT. The plants and flowers are quite spectacular and there is plenty of information in English. Try to also visit the orchid garden. For those of a certain age there is a discount and you just need to show some ID. A wonderful experience. Look out also for the wildlife as you may spot an iguana or some of the impressive tropical birds which live there.
The Gardens by the Bay are also worth a visit particularly at night when the displays are lit up. There is plenty to see and so you don’t really need to worry about paying for the extra exhibits. The gardens are close to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel with its amazing outdoor pool, restaurants and gardens high in the sky on the 57th floor!
A lot of the old parts of Singapore seem to have disappeared but it is still possible to visit Chinatown with its incredible bargains and wonderful atmosphere. Close by is a Hindu temple which is well worth seeing.
There are some excellent hotels in Singapore and Singapore International Airlines have a number of special deals if you are using the destination as a stopover. If you are going it alone then I would suggest finding somewhere towards the centre of the city. There are some very good hotels near the junction of Scotts Road and Orchard Road (great for shops) which is easy to reach from the airport. I recently stayed at the wonderful Goodwood Park Hotel which is a traditional colonial type building. A very well respected hotel in the city, many of the staff have worked there a long time. The hotel has been around since the beginning of the 20th century and the staff are extremely friendly and very keen on telling you all about the history. The buffet breakfast is delightful and there are two wonderful swimming pools in the beautiful gardens.
There is so much to do in Singapore and it is difficult to choose, especially if you are there for a short time. The shops are quite amazing as are the places to eat. It is also very safe and there is a lot to see including Sentosa and a large number of green spaces.
Make sure that you keep an umbrella handy as there can be some very sharp heavy showers in the afternoon. These can catch people out and it can rain quite heavily so be warned.
Changi Airport is quite remarkable so give yourself some time when leaving to have a look around. There is an amazing waterfall and plenty of shops on offer.
The price for food can vary in Singapore and street stalls are cheap, however hotels can be a bit pricey.
You should find plenty of English television and radio channels in your hotel which should make you feel at home.
Look out for the many rules that apply in the city. Smoking can only take place in designated areas and when boarding the underground make sure to stay in the red lanes at the side until those leaving the train passes along the green channel. There is no eating or drinking on the underground or buses.
Singapore is a clean, well ordered and vibrant city, well worth a short break of around five days. Singapore International Airlines has first class staff and service, however there are also a number of other international airlines serving the city.
Images courtesy of Godfrey Hall
For further information on the city go to www.visitsingapore.com/en/
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Singapore Tourism Board.