Tiny but mighty: Singapore’s many charms will delight you

Singapore may be small, but its holiday appeal is off the scale. Blending the best of east and west, culture and nature, history and cutting-edge modernity, this lush island state has something for every type of traveller. Oh, and did we mention the food?

Pack your appetite: with culinary options spanning Michelin-starred delights, delicious hawker fare and a cornucopia of international flavours, you’ll be eating up a storm. Speaking of taste sensations, don’t forget to sample what many consider the national drink, a Singapore Sling, at the iconic Raffles Hotel’s Long Bar.

They don’t call it the Garden City for nothing: green is a dominant theme, with the historic Singapore Botanic Gardens and the wondrous Gardens by the Bay just the start. Even the airport has its own rainforest (complete with towering indoor waterfall)!

Vibrant and multicultural, the Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam neighbourhoods combine history and tradition with lively bars and street art, unique shops and – of course – incredible cuisine. The nearby island of Sentosa is all about adventure activities, theme parks and tropical beaches, while the inimitable Orchard Road precinct is a shopaholic’s dream come true.

Get ready to sing Singapore’s praises...

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Things to do: Singapore

  • Gardens by the Bay, Singapore, with Supertrees towering above the greenery. Alan Tan Photography / Shutterstock.com

    Get your green fix at Gardens by the Bay

    The jewel in Singapore’s crown, this verdant waterfront wonderland takes horticulture to new heights, both figuratively and literally. Enjoy breathtaking views from the aerial walkway, suspended 22 metres above the ground, and the unforgettable Supertree Observatory with its open-air deck and nightly light-and-sound shows. Authentic recreated habitats host countless species of plants from around the world – from a magical Cloud Forest to a cacti-filled desert landscape – while the beloved Flower Dome is a glorious reminder that life looks best in technicolour.

    Image credit: Alan Tan Photography / Shutterstock.com

  • Diners enjoying hawker fare at Newton Food Centre, Singapore. Image: AhBoon.Net / Shutterstock.com

    Eat your fill at a hawker centre

    Singapore’s hawker culture is on UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, which should give you some idea of its importance to local life. And no holiday here is complete without a few meals at the innumerable hawker centres around town. Among the most popular with Singaporeans and visitors alike are the huge Chinatown Complex (home to the Michelin-starred stall Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle), the Newton Food Centre (which appeared in the hit film Crazy Rich Asians) and much-loved institution, Tiong Bahru Market.

    Image credit: AhBoon.Net / Shutterstock.com

  • Indulge in the Museum of Ice Cream

    The Museum of Ice Cream is dedicated to bringing visitors joy through the ‘universal power of ice cream’. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s not all about eating (although there’s plenty of opportunity for that) – its entertaining range of multi-sensory installations engage all the senses. Frolic in the enormous Sprinkle Pool, explore the Banana Jungle, go nuts in the Dragon Playground and browse the wonderful shop. Needless to say, don’t miss the on-site cafe and bar. Museums don’t get much sweeter than this.

  • Group of flamingos at Jurong Bird Park, Singapore

    Shake your tailfeather at Jurong Bird Park

    The Jurong Bird Park’s commitment to the conservation and protection of its 3,500 feathered residents has won it international renown and a slew of awards. Some 400 species (many of them endangered) live here in diverse zones designed to replicate their natural environments. Immerse yourself in the rainforest of ‘African Treetops’, home to colourful starlings, turacos and hornbills; or hang out with 600 feathered friends in the huge free-flight Waterfall Aviary. Areas devoted to flamingos, penguins, parrots and raptors are just a few of the other drawcards. The bird is the word!

  • Go-kart racers in action at KF1 Karting Circuit, Singapore.

    Feed your need for speed at the KF1 Karting Circuit

    Channel your inner Lewis Hamilton or Penelope Pitstop at the KF1 Karting Circuit. With 18 corners and a Grand Prix–worthy lighting system, this 960-metre track was designed by renowned Formula 1 track designer Hermann Tilke and caters to novices (30 kilometres per hour) and advanced drivers (50 kilometres per hour, drivers license needed), as well as pros. While the adrenalin factor is undeniable, comprehensive safety measures mean you’ll be able to put your pedal to the metal with confidence. Question is, can you break the one-minute barrier?

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Airport information

Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) 

Distance to city centre 17km

Taxi Taxis are plentiful and use their meters; they should get you to the city in around 30 minutes and cost SGD $20-40 (plus an airport surcharge that varies between SGD $3 and 50% of your final fare, depending on the time you catch the taxi).

Train The MRT Changi Airport Shuttle runs every 5-10 minutes. You’ll need to change to a Green Line MRT at Tanah Merah to get to the popular accommodation areas. The journey takes around 30 minutes and costs around SGD $2.

Shuttle The Changi Airport Shuttle runs every 30 minutes with drop-offs to most city-centre hotels. Tickets are SGD $9 for adults and SGD $6 for children under 12 and the trip takes around 30 minutes. NB: the shuttle service is suspended due to the COVID-19 situation, so be sure to check their website for updates.

Bus There are bus stops at all four terminals. Local buses 36 or 36A travel from Terminal 4 to the city centre every 7-10 minutes, taking around 90 minutes to reach Somerset MRT station.

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When to go

Singapore has a tropical rainforest climate. There’s little variation in temperature, but different levels of precipitation throughout the year. The monsoon season runs from December to March and the hottest months are from April to July. 

There are many free-for-all traditional festivals on the Singapore events calendar. Admire the Chinese New Year lantern displays at the River Hongbao carnival, observe the colourful Hindu procession Thaipusam, and enjoy the spectacle of the Hungry Ghost Festival. There are also plenty of international events to choose from, including the Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix and a bunch of exciting music festivals throughout the year.

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Getting around

Singapore has high-frequency, well connected bus and train networks. The MRT (subway) is the easiest, quickest way to get around most of the city, while the bus covers a more comprehensive range of routes. If you’re planning to do a bit of travel on public transport, consider getting a convenient EZ-Link pre-paid card or a Singapore Tourist Pass, which offers unlimited travel in one-, two-, or three-day options.

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