Zipping around Southeast Asia? There’s a good chance you’ll land yourself in the city-state of Singapore.
Many travellers visiting Southeast Asia for its beaches & cultural treasures may find Singapore, well, a bit urban. But don’t let the modern façade fool you: Singapore’s as a fascinating a place to visit as any in Southeast Asia.
Singapore’s downtown central business district gleams with modern architecture. It ranks among the world’s best skylines. Landmarks like Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay are among the planet’s most distinctive. Seek them out and you’ll see why architecture nuts go crazy for Singapore!
But there’s more to Singapore than its modern development. Dig a below the surface and the city’s historical side emerges. Discover Singapore’s history among the heritage shophouses of Chinatown. Browse the colourful shops & restaurants of Little India. Or meander through the old Arab quarter of Kampong Glam.
And let’s not forget the food! Singapore is one of the world’s top food cities. In its famous hawker centres, the best Singaporean food awaits. For foodies, Singapore will become an instant favourite culinary destination.
Not sure where to start your Singapore travel plans? Plan your trip with this quick & easy Singapore travel guide…
When to visit Singapore
Weather in Southeast Asian countries can get complicated thanks to varying climatic regions. The compact nature of Singapore simplifies things. (A little bit.)
Singapore’s weather ranges from hot & humid to hot & humid throughout the year. (No, that’s not a typo.)
The only thing that varies much in Singapore during any given month is the amount of rainfall. The year splits into two (not-so) distinct seasons: wet season & dry season.
The best time to visit to Singapore is between February and March. These months fall into Singapore’s “dry” season. (And, yes, dry is a relative term here). The dry season sits between the Southeast and Northwest Monsoons.
With “only” 13 rain days in February, it’s the driest month of the year. It’s the best chance for you to enjoy sunny skies and all the outdoor activities this city can throw at you.
What to do in Singapore
Singapore is less popular than other destinations in Southeast Asia among international travellers. Even so, there are plenty of interesting things to do & see in Singapore.
Singapore’s best moments are varied. You can hunt down temples in Chinatown or Little India. Or plod through hawkers centres in search of some the world’s tastiest food. You’ll never get bored exploring Singapore. (Even if you’ve heard otherwise.)
Want to get started on planning what to do? Here are a few of the best places to visit in Singapore…
Chinatown is one of Singapore’s most interesting quarters. Chinatown provides an interesting historical contrast to the modern developments in the CBD to the east.
Low-rise heritage buildings hide small shops, restaurants & boutiques. They harken back humbler origins, before the city became a global financial powerhouse.
While you’re in Chinatown, don’t miss out on the spectacular Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. It’s one of the city’s most spectacular temples.
Also, don’t miss out on Chinatown’s food scene. Seek out a delicious meal at Chinatown Complex Food Centre, Chinatown Food Street, and Maxwell Food Centre. The trio are three of the best places to eat in Singapore.
Gardens by the Bay
It’s hard to imagine a time when Gardens by the Bay wasn’t part of the Singapore sightseeing experience. (And, no, it wasn’t that long ago.)
The stunning 250-acre Gardens by the Bay is one of the top things to see in Marina Bay. It’s one of the best places in Singapore to while away a few hours.
You’ll love meandering among its biodiverse greenery. A visit to its two conservatories, the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest, is also a must.
In the evening, though, is when Garden by the Bay truly comes alive. Time your visit for the nightly light show at the supertree grove. You’ll get to enjoy a performance that looks (quite literally!) out of this world.
Whoever said Singapore was short on historical sites didn’t spend enough time in the old Arab quarter of Kampong Glam.
Singapore’s most Malay and Islamic-influenced area is home to several worthy attractions.
While exploring Kampong Glam, be sure to check out the golden-domed Sultan Mosque. It’s among the most impressive religious buildings in Singapore. Also save time to wander along Haji Lane, one of the city’s hippest and most colourful streets.
Rounding out the epicentres of Singapore’s three main ethnic groups is colourful Little India. The neighbourhood is steps from Kampong Glam.
As you might expect, Little India is one of the most interesting areas to wander about in Singapore. There are plenty of things to do in Singapore’s Little India.
In Little India, you can roam the streets shopping for saris to the sounds of Bollywood. Or scope out the city’s most impressive Hindu temple. There’s also plenty of opportunity to taste delicious Indian dishes at the area’s best restaurants & food centres.
If shopping’s on your agenda, then heading over to Orchard Road is a must.
You’ll find all the world’s top fashion brands, spread among the malls & boutiques of Orchard Road. It’s also a fantastic destination for searching for some of Singapore’s tastiest food.
Strolling along the lovely Singapore River is a must for any visitor. Along the way, you’ll walk past several historical riverside quays. Each features colourful old merchant houses that now house chill restaurants & bars.
None of the quays is more popular than Clarke Quay. It’s located just a few blocks north of Chinatown.
Clarke Quay is the premier nightlife destination in Singapore. It’s home to a multitude of bars and restaurants resting among the riverbank.
Even if you’re not into its raucous party scene, Clarke Quay is a great place to enjoy a quiet evening meal by the river before the volume ramps up to 11.
The leafy historical neighbourhood of Tiong Bahru is a far cry from the hustle & bustle of the CBD or Chinatown.
Tiong Bahru will round out your appreciation of Singapore. Wandering around Tiong Bahru you’ll discover a whack of cool street art, hipster-approved cafés, and vintage shops.
While in the area, be sure to sample some of the delights at the area’s namesake food centre, Tiong Bahru Market & Hawker Centre.
Got a few extra days in your Singapore itinerary? Set aside some time to visit Sentosa Island, one of the top day trips from Singapore.
Sentosa Island is located south of the city centre. It’s the perfect escape from the hustle of downtown.
There are plenty of things to in Sentosa Island. You can re-energize on a family-friendly retreat at Universal Studios Singapore. Or soak up the rays at Palawan Beach or Tanjong Beach, two of the top beaches in Singapore.
What to eat in Singapore
Loved Singapore’s top attractions? Now, it’s time to experience the city’s real tipping point for visitors: its food.
Singapore is a city that takes its eating seriously. Very seriously. You’ll immediately recognize the culinary love as you prowl the streets in search of grub. In fact, I wouldn’t blame you—at all—for thinking that eating is one of the main reasons to visit Singapore!
Wherever you happen to be, you’ll never be far from one of the best hawker centres in Singapore. At its hawker & food centres, you’ll get to sample some of the region’s best delights. And in spades.
Singaporean cuisine is unique. It reflects the city’s three main ethnic groups—Chinese, Malay, and Indian. It’s diverse and flavourful. At hawker centres, food is even surprisingly budget-friendly. It’s shocking as Singapore is known for its sky-high prices.
Not sure where to start? Here are a few ideas for what to eat in Singapore…
- Laksa: If there’s one dish you need to try in Singapore, it’s laksa. This fragrant and rich seafood noodle soup is a staple in the region with every city putting their own spin on it. Throughout the city you’ll encounter any number of laksa varieties. Keep your eye out for katong laksa. This authentic Singaporean version features short-cut noodles. They fit neatly into a spoon for easy eating without excessive slurping.
- Char Kway Teow: From the instant I tasted this dish, I was in love. Char kway teow features a bed of broad noodles tossed in sweet dark soy sauce. It’s served with a diverse set of ingredients. They include eggs, bean sprouts, cockles, pork fat, and fish cakes. Char kway teow is rich & tasty enough to keep you coming back for seconds on your trip to Singapore.
- Satay: Whether you’re in Malaysia, Indonesia or Singapore, you won’t go far without seeing satay. This barbecued Southeast Asian classic cookin’ up on a grill is a Southeast Asia staple. Satay comes in several varieties including beef, chicken, pork or lamb. The true quality test surfaces with the distinctive peanut dipping sauce served alongside.
- Hainanese Chicken Rice: This classic Singaporean dish originates from Hainan Province in China. It consists of succulent chicken on top of a bed of flavourful broth-cooked rice. Add a little bit of sambal paste to give it that extra Southeast Asian flavour.
- Hokkien Mee: A Chinese-inspired noodle dish, hokkien mee one of the Malay Peninsula’s most popular street foods. Hokkien mee in Singapore is different than the most famous Malaysian dark-soy variety. The Singaporean version of hokkien mee stir-fries wide egg noodles in a soy, vinegar, and chili sauce. It’s served along with seafood like squid and prawns. To finish it off, it’s topped with sambal and lime. Seek out the hokkien mee at Nam Sing Hokkien Fried Mee in the Old Airport Road Food Centre. It’s one of the best places in the city to check out this popular dish.
Where to stay in Singapore
One of the biggest challenges in planning a trip here is choosing where to stay in Singapore. The accommodations market is both wide and pricier than expected for Southeast Asia. That might be the biggest reason so many travellers skip Singapore!
Although Singapore’s a large city, most of the points of of interest for travellers lie in & around the downtown core. When searching for your hotels, here are a few of the best areas to stay in Singapore…
- Chinatown: One of the most interesting areas in the city, Chinatown features a large selection of accommodations. They range anywhere between budget hostels to 5-star luxury hotels. For cultural sightseeing & foodies, choosing to stay in Chinatown is a fantastic idea. It’s the best area to stay for exploring the city to its fullest.
- Singapore River: Besides Chinatown, the riverside quays offer some of the best central accommodations in the city. Want to experience Singapore’s best nightlife and mid-range/luxury dining? You can hardly beat staying around Clarke Quay or Robertson Quay.
- Marina Bay: Got (more than) a little extra to spend? The city’s luxury hub of Marina Bay is top of the list. If you decide to stay in Marina Bay, you’ll find many of the best luxury hotels in Singapore in the area.
- Orchard: Shopaholics will love staying in Orchard. This upscale area lies to the north of the downtown core. It teems with some of Singapore’s best shopping malls & fashion boutiques. There’s also a thriving food scene here, even if it’s a little more “formal” than in other areas in the city.
- Little India: One of the most colourful & interesting cultural corners of Singapore, Little India is a good place to stay in the city. It’s a great choice for travellers who aren’t keen on the inflated prices around the CBD & downtown core. Little India is also home to a few of the city’s tastiest hawker centres. Foodies will love staying here, especially if Indian cuisine is high on your Singapore eating agenda.
- Bugis: Visiting Singapore on a budget? You might want to consider staying in Bugis. The neighbourhood give you a better bang for your buck than area’s closer to the city centre. It’s still well-connected to the rest of Singapore via public transit. Bugis is also within walking distance of Kampong Glam and Little India.
- Sentosa Island: For families or anyone wanting to escape the bustle of Singapore, Sentosa Island is a superb option. The top choices for where to stay in Sentosa Island are among the city’s best. The island’s high-end resorts are among the best luxury picks in the city. If beaches rather than skyscrapers dominate your agenda, this is your chance to make the dream happen.
Transportation in Singapore
By air: Singapore Changi Airport is consistently rated as one of the world’s best airports. Singapore has become a major transit hub for travellers exploring Southeast Asia. Several major airlines fly into Changi Airport from Asian & international destinations. Options include AirAsia, Jetstar Asia Airways & Singapore Airlines.
By bus: Singapore is well-connected to neighbouring Malaysia by bus. I’d recommend sticking to the more comfortable & reputable luxury bus services like KKKL, Aeroline or Luxury Coach. Sample destinations & times include Melaka (3.5 hours), Kuala Lumpur (6 hours), and Johor Bahru (1.5 hours).
Like many cities in Asia, getting around Singapore is a cinch. Singapore offers an efficient public transportation system.
By MRT: For most travellers, the easiest way to get around Singapore is by the mass rapid transit (MRT) train system. There are five major MRT lines in Singapore: North South, East West, Circle, North East, and Downtown. The main stops are located within walking distance of most of the city’s top tourist sites. It’s a convenient alternative for sightseeing in Singapore.