Singapore, lah! This modern city-state is small in stature but packs a punch on the holiday front, with a magnetic urban environment and old-world Asian charm. The four official languages of Singapore reflect its diversity: English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. It's a little cultural microcosm of Asia.
There are more than five million in this city state – which includes 63 islands – at the tip of the Malay Peninsula. Yet, the streets are clean, the buildings gleam and traffic jams are non-existent.
More than 50 per cent of its area is parks and this 'garden city' is known for its top shopping and fine food. When the bright lights of Marina Bay come calling, there’s little sense in resisting the lure of one of Asia’s most glamorous cities.
Boasting plenty of high-quality restaurants, trendy new nightclubs and a stunning water-lined location, there’s so much to see and do in Singapore you won’t know where to start! The landscaped, cage-free Singapore Zoo is a premier attraction, famed as one of the prettiest zoos in the world.
Those visitors who don't have the zoo on their list of things to do in Singapore may well be planning to shop. Orchard Road is comparable with New York's Fifth Avenue or Tokyo's Ginza when it comes to retail therapy.
Universal Studios Singapore, the Botanic Gardens and Sentosa Island all ensure there’s no shortage of familiar sights to enjoy in the ever-changing Lion City.
Sample the sights from…
- Singapore Flyer (bird’s-eye aerial views)
- Botanic Gardens (the city’s green lungs)
- Singapore Zoo (for a unique Night Safari)
Where to stay
There's always a high season here, so booking Singapore accommodation well in advance is advisable. The high turnover of business guests means this can be a tough town if you're looking for budget properties, but they do exist; primarily in Little India, Bugis and Clarke Quay.
Mid-range hotels cluster near the western end of the Singapore River and you'll find a few boutique properties in Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar too. The most choice exists at the luxury end of the spectrum - anyone who's anyone has heard of Raffles Hotel. If you're on a romantic break or are looking for a family-friendly resort, you might like to try Sentosa Island.
Sleep somewhere unique...
- Kam Leng Hotel for old world Singapore
- The Scarlet Hotel – Singapore’s first boutique hotel
- Capella Singapore on Sentosa Island
Singapore like a Local
Singapore events pop up throughout the year, so consider timing your trip to celebrate with the locals. Marina Bay lights up for the annual Singapore Formula One Grand Prix, while the Singapore Food Festival tempts epicureans with its delectable delights.
If you're invited to a Singaporean's home, be sure to take off your shoes before entering. When choosing an appropriate gift, keep in mind that white flowers are usually reserved for funerals and clocks also bear bad symbolic connotations. Most Singaporeans speak more than one language, but you will find Mandarin the most widely spoken.
Time your visit for local events...
- Chinese New Year – late January
- Singapore Arts Festival – May
- Deepavali – November held Hindu festival
- Always pack an umbrella in your day pack in case of tropical showers and some tissues – you won’t find many napkins at food stalls
- The retail day doesn’t start until 11am but the best time to shop is in the evening when the temperature has dropped and the main shopping strips such as Orchard Road are still buzzing. Most shops don’t close until 10pm.
- Tourists can claim a refund on the 7 per cent Goods and Services Tax on purchases above SGD$100 at the departure hall of Changi Airport within two months from the date of purchase