Last updated on February 9, 2019
Singapore is a global financial hub in Southeast Asia with a multicultural population. This island city-state attracts millions of tourists every year, with approximately 17.4 million arriving by land, air and sea in 2017 alone. That sure is a lot!
We recently had a pleasant 5-night stay, traveling around Singapore. From strolling around gardens to going on a night safari, it truly was a memorable experience.
Singapore at a glance
English is widely spoken in Singapore, along with Mandarin Chinese, Malay and Tamil.
Climate is typically tropical, so make sure to pack some loose clothes and shorts! Have an umbrella handy too, for occasional showers.
Currency: Singapore dollar (SGD/S$)
Power plugs with three square prongs or three rectangular blades in a triangular pattern (plug type G) are commonly used. Remember to bring along an adapter if your gadgets’ plugs are of a different type. The standard electrical current is 220 to 240 volts AC.
There are designated areas for smoking. Look around for any signs or anyone having a smoke nearby. If still unsure, do ask where you’re allowed to do so.
In the Economist Intelligence Unit’s latest Worldwide Cost of Living report, Singapore took the top spot as the world’s most expensive city for the fifth consecutive year. But don’t let this stop you from enjoying your vacation! You can still stick to your budget if you plan accordingly, like looking for free activities and places to visit.
One of the awesome things about Singapore is the MRT (mass rapid transit) and bus systems. Getting around the city is quite convenient. We preferred the MRT over the bus whenever we could because we found it easier. Taxis are everywhere too. We found the Grab ride-hailing mobile app to be very helpful, especially after MRT hours. You can download it for free on Google Play and on Apple’s App Store.
Water for everyone
Another awesome thing is that it is safe to drink water in Singapore straight from the tap! It comes with the assurance that it is well within the World Health Organization’s drinking water guidelines and the US Environmental Public Health (Quality of Piped Drinking Water) Regulations 2008. So you can save some money by not buying bottled water, if you’re comfortable enough to drink from the tap. And you can use a reusable water bottle. There are water refilling stations/fountains around the airport and the zoo, among other places.
We arrived early morning at Changi International Airport, which currently has four terminals. One of us arrived in Terminal 2, the other in the relatively new Terminal 4 (which opened in 2017). Our flights were with Emirates from London and Cebu Pacific from Manila.
We rendezvoused at Terminal 4 and bought SIM cards. The SIM card was easy to install: Just insert in the proper slot in your mobile phone, and voilà — it sets up automatically.
Getting a tourist pass or EZ-Link card
We also purchased a 3-day Singapore Tourist Pass, which can be used to pay transport fares on public buses and trains. Alternatively, you can get a stored-value EZ-Link card (we highly recommend this if you visit Singapore frequently and use public transport often). The 3-day pass costs about S$20, while the EZ-Link card is around S$10 to S$12. You can reload or top up these cards with cash when you’re running low.
I was feeling hungry so we decided to have a quick breakfast before leaving the airport. We went for Ma Mum as I just wanted some local coffee and something light to eat, like Kaya toast — a sweet and simple dish that I enjoy having with coffee whenever I visit Singapore. There are also plenty of other places to eat inside the airport.
From the airport to accommodations (and the other way around)
Once we had our mobile data working, we booked a private car/taxi through Grab to get to our hotel. You can download the app for free on Google Play and on Apple’s App Store. Alternatively, you can hail or book a taxi yourself at the airport or take the more affordable MRT. I’ve taken the MRT to the airport before during a previous trip to Singapore. It’s a good option if you’re not carrying a lot of stuff with you and the place you’re staying at is just a short walk from the station.
Changi Airport has a handy guide on public transport for getting to/from or around the airport. You can also check with your hotel/accommodations if they provide airport transfer services.
How much is the fare to and from the airport?
As of May/June 2018, the car/taxi ride, which we booked via Grab, from Changi Airport to our hotel in Geylang cost us more or less around S$15, both ways.
Sometimes Grab does have a surge in pricing, particularly during peak or rush hours, but it is indicated in the app. Best to double-check the fees and make sure you are okay with how much the fare is before booking a ride. There is no Uber in Southeast Asia, including Singapore. Just Grab. There are probably other similar apps, but we didn’t use those.
Grab has a loyalty program, dubbed GrabRewards, wherein frequent users earn points. I use Grab often, so I racked up quite a number of points, which I usually use to redeem fare discounts.
Exploring Singapore, day by day
We had a pretty straightforward itinerary for our Singapore trip. We wanted to visit as many places as we could during our stay yet still have some time to chill out.
Days 1 & 2
We arrived at around 9:30 a.m., which was much earlier than the hotel’s check-in time at 3:00 p.m. We weren’t able to check in earlier because none of the rooms were available yet, as they still had to clean it up, etc. So after checking in and placing our luggage on storage, we hopped on the MRT to Little India and explored the district.
Google Maps and Search were very helpful in finding our way around and looking for the best spots to visit in the area at short notice. We visited some Buddhist and Hindu temples and chanced upon a bit of a ceremony at the latter. It was an interesting and educational experience!
When it was time to go back to the hotel, we snoozed for a bit as we were tired from lack of sleep and a long flight. In the evening, we decided to go to Merlion Park and enjoyed some burgers with fries for dinner at OverEasy (Fullerton), which had a lovely view of Marina Bay. The food and service weren’t bad either! We then went on a stroll around the places nearby, like the Supertree Grove (free admission) at Gardens by the Bay. It was a little late so there weren’t any crowd at all.
Sentosa was our agenda for the next day. We headed to VivoCity shopping mall and boarded the Sentosa Express monorail at level 3. We visited the S.E.A. Aquarium after lunch and watched Wings of Time in the evening. There are many places to eat at VivoCity, including Food Republic, Marché Mövenpick, The Soup Spoon (a personal favorite), and Osaka Osho (which serves delicious ramen and gyoza).
Days 3 & 4
We spent a weekday at the zoo and got there by taking the MRT and alighting at Ang Mo Kio station. We had lunch and went to AMK Hub shopping mall, which is opposite the station. Within the mall is where you’ll find the bus interchange to the zoo. Take Bus 138.
We got a combo ticket for River Safari and Night Safari. At River Safari, we took a ride on the Amazon River Quest and the Reservoir Cruise. We then had dinner and went to the Night Safari. There’s usually a show with fire dancers at the entrance courtyard, but for some reason there wasn’t any at the time. Inside, we highly recommend watching the Creatures of the Night show at the amphitheater. It’s free and seating is on a first come, first served basis. We decided to watch the show first before exploring the zoo by tram and by foot.
Mid-morning the next day we went to Chinatown, where we visited a Buddhist temple and bought some souvenirs at the market. Lunchtime came with Hainanese chicken rice, noodles and some refreshing fresh sugarcane juice. Then off we went to Gardens by the Bay.
We purchased a combo ticket for the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest conservatories. It was a lovely place, and a good way to stay cool during a hot day as they are both areas with air conditioning. We had an early dinner and sat on the grass at the outdoor gardens while waiting for the free evening light-and-sound show Garden Rhapsody.
After the entertaining Rhapsody, we headed to Marina Bay Sands. We strolled for a bit before catching the last show of the day of the free Spectra light and water show outside, and then sharing a glass of “Singapore Sling” cocktail at Merlion Park.
Days 5 & 6
Another weekday was spent at Sentosa, where Universal Studios is also located. Instead of taking the monorail, we took the more scenic round-trip route via the Singapore Cable Car, which includes the Mount Faber and Sentosa lines. From VivoCity mall, we followed the signs leading to the cable car station. We boarded at Harbourfront station and alighted at Imbiah Lookout.
Originally, we planned to ride the Skyline Luge (which is one of my favorite things to do in Singapore) on Day 2, after the Aquarium, but it rained heavily that day so we moved the activity to Day 5. We had lots of fun racing each other with the luge before heading to Universal Studios.
We recommend allotting a whole day at Universal and going there on a weekday and a non-holiday to avoid the crowd. It happened to be a local holiday when we were there. The queues were too long, so we weren’t able to see the shows we wanted or take as many rides as we would have liked. We had a great time nonetheless.
After Universal, we had dinner and watched the free light-and-water show called Crane Dance at the Waterfront in Sentosa. We then headed home to rest as we had an early flight out to Bangkok the following day for the next leg of our trip.
So technically we spent a full 5 days in Singapore, leaving early morning on the sixth day. We counted it as 6 days and 5 nights in our schedule.
Some parting thoughts
We primarily use Skyscanner to look for cheap flights and see our options. We opted to fly with Emirates from London (which was an excellent and comfortable long-haul flight) and Cebu Pacific from Manila. We also flew with Jetstar from Singapore to Bangkok, which was our next destination.
Where to stay
We stayed at Fragrance Hotel Crystal. It’s in Geylang, so some people might have an issue with it being at a red light district. However, we didn’t have any unsavory experiences in the area and found it to be relatively quiet. That being said, it’s probably best to stay elsewhere if you’re uncomfortable or if you have any children with you.
Regarding the hotel itself, our room seemed a bit smaller compared to the other same-kind rooms (probably because we checked in a bit too early?). There wasn’t any wardrobe to place our things either, but that’s merely a minor gripe. Overall, we think the hotel was quite accessible, just about a 10-minute walk from the nearest MRT station (Aljunied). There are also bus stops nearby and plenty of hawker centers to grab some food. The staff are friendly and accommodating. We were also able to buy tickets/packages for sights and activities at a good price at the reception area.
Places to visit and activities to do
Traveling around Singapore, we enjoyed a lot of places we visited. But among those on top of our list would be the Night Safari, which we think is such a unique experience. We really liked Gardens by the Bay too. There are several free activities and shows in Singapore, so you can save a bit of money. You just have to take note of their times so you can integrate it well with your daily plans. We highly recommend the free shows at the Gardens, Marina Bay and Sentosa, which were of great quality and very entertaining — perfect for those on a budget, like us!
A little something for you!
~ Safe travels, everyone!
Have you been to Singapore? Which things to do and places to visit there would you recommend?