Singapore (சிங்கப்பூர்) (新加坡) is a city-state in Southeast Asia. Founded as a British trading colony in 1819, since independence it has become one of the world’s most prosperous countries and boasts the world’s busiest port.
Combining the skyscrapers and subways of a modern, affluent city with a medley of Chinese, Malay and Indian influences and a tropical climate, with tasty food, good shopping and a vibrant night-life scene, this Garden City makes a great stopover or springboard into the region.
Singapore is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world for a lot of reasons. One of which is the less stringent entry requirements.
What to see:
- Singapore Zoo.
- Jurong Bird Park
- Universal Studio
What to do:
- Take a day trip to Universal Studio and Sentosa.
Where to Eat:
Singapore is a melting pot of cuisines from around the world, and many Singaporeans are obsessive gourmands who love to makan (“eat” in Malay). You will find quality Chinese, Malay, Indian, Japanese, Thai, Italian, French, American and other food in this city-state.
Eating habits run the gamut, but most foods are eaten by fork and spoon: push and cut with the fork in the left hand, and eat with the spoon in the right. Noodles and Chinese dishes typically come with chopsticks, while Malay and Indian food can be eaten by hand, but nobody will blink an eye if you ask for a fork and spoon instead. If eating by hand, always use your right hand to pick your food, as Malays and Indians traditionally use their left hand to handle dirty things. Take note of the usual traditional Chinese etiquette when using chopsticks, and most importantly, do not stick your chopsticks vertically into a bowl of rice. If eating in a group, serving dishes are always shared, but you’ll get your own bowl of rice and soup. It’s common to use your own chopsticks to pick up food from communal plates, but serving spoons can be provided on request.
Keep an eye out for the Singapore Food Festival , held every year in July. During the last three festivals, all visitors to Singapore smart enough to ask for them at any tourist information desk received coupons for free chilli crab, no strings attached!
Where to shop:
- Antiques: The second floor of the Tanglin Shopping Centre on Orchard and the shops on South Bridge Rd in Chinatown are good options if looking for the real thing (or high-quality reproductions).
- Books: Borders at Wheelock Place has since closed down. However, Kinokuniya is at Ngee Ann City, on Orchard, is one of the largest bookshop in Singapore. Many second-hand bookshops are located in Far East Plaza and Bras Basah Complex, where you may attempt to bargain if you are buying a lot. For university textbooks, the bookshops at the National University of Singapore has the best prices on the island, up to 80% off compared to prices in the West.
- Cameras: Peninsula Plaza near City Hall has Singapore’s best selection of camera shops. However, there are no great bargains to be had, and many camera shops in Singapore (particularly those in Lucky Plaza and Sim Lim Square) have a reputation for fleecing unwary tourists. The best way is to know what you are looking for and then when you arrive, drop by the shops at the airport’s transit area and take a look at the price and check with them whether they have any promotions. Then go to the city centre shops and compare prices/packages to see which shop will give you value for money. To be safe, always check prices and packages for everything you’re interested in at large retailers like Courts, Harvey Norman and Best Denki first. Be very careful when shop staff attempt to promote brands or models other than the one you have in mind; a few shops at Sim Lim Square and elsewhere are known to use this tactic and sell products at 2-4x their actual list prices.
- Clothes, high-street: Ion, Ngee Ann City (Takashimaya) and Paragon on Orchard have the heaviest concentration of branded boutiques. There are another malls such as Raffles City located at City Hall MRT that also hosts a variety of brands for instance, Kate Spade, Timberland.
- Clothes, tailored: Virtually all hotels have a tailor shop attached, and touting tailors are a bit of a nuisance in Chinatown. As elsewhere, you’ll get what you pay for and will get poor quality if you don’t have the time for multiple fittings or the skill to check what you’re getting. Prices vary widely: a local shop using cheap fabrics can do a shirt for $40
- Clothes, youth: Most of Bugis is dedicated to the young, hip and cost-conscious. Currently Bugis street(Opposite Bugis MRT) is the most popular in the Bugis area, consisting of 3 levels of shops. Some spots of Orchard, notably Far East Plaza not to be confused with Far East Shopping Centre and the top floor of the Heeren, also target the same market but prices are generally higher.
- Contemporary Designs: The red dot design museum near Chinatown a great place if you are into design, contemporary products and want to catch the latest trends. Nearby places worth exploring include Ann Siang Hill, Duxton Hill, Club Street and even along Keong Saik Rd
- Computers: Sim Lim Square (near Little India) is great for the hardcore geek who really knows what they’re after – parts pricelists are available on HardwareZone.com and are given out in Sim Lim itself, making price comparison easy. Lesser mortals (namely, who have failed to do their price-checking homework) stand a risk of getting ripped off when purchasing, but this is generally not a problem with the price lists offered by most shops. Some Singaporeans purchase their electronic gadgets during the quarterly “IT shows” usually held at Suntec City Convention Centre or at the Expo, at which prices on gadgets are sometimes slashed (but often only to Sim Lim levels). Another possibility is to shop at Funan IT Mall, the shops of which may be more honest on average (according to some). Do not be attracted by side gifts/sweeteners of thumbdrives, mice and so on; these only tend to hide inflated prices.
- Consumer electronics: Quite competitively priced in Singapore. Funan IT Mall (Riverside#Buy|Riverside), Sim Lim Square and Mustafa (Little India) are good choices. Avoid the tourist-oriented shops on Orchard Road, particularly the notorious Lucky Plaza, or risk getting ripped off. Also be wary of shops on the 1st and 2nd levels of Sim Lim Square, some of which tend to rip off tourists, so please do your research before heading down; multi-shop price comparisons and bargaining are absolutely essential. Mustafa has fixed, low prices and is a good option. For any purchases, remember that Singapore uses 230V voltage with a British-style three-pin plug.
- Electronic components: For do-it-yourself people and engineers, a wide variety of electronic components and associated tools can be found at Sim Lim Tower (opposite Sim Lim Square), near Little India. You can find most common electronic components (such as breadboards, transistors, various IC’s, etc.) and bargain for larger quantities as well. Be careful as some of the shops in Sim Lim Square are well known for their fleecing techniques.
- Ethnic knick-knacks: Chinatown has Singapore’s heaviest concentration of glow-in-the-dark Merlion soap dispensers and ethnic knick-knack, mostly but not entirely Chinese and nearly all imported from somewhere else. For Malay and Indian stuff, the best places to shop are Geylang Serai and Little India respectively.
- Fabrics: Arab Street and Little India have a good selection of imported and local fabrics like batik. Chinatown does sell rather reasonable and cheap fabrics, bargaining is allowed so do know your stuff on what fabric to buy. Do note that fabrics in Singapore may not be as cheap as overseas for most fabrics are imported to Singapore, due to the freight charges and many middlemen, the fabric cost may be more costly than overseas.