Singapore

Getting There and Around

Practical advice for Singapore healthcare and wellness travel

Singapore has what’s rated as the best airport in the world, and its public transportation system is among the best globally as well. Getting around here is quite easy, and you can go from end to end of the main island in less than two hours. Buses and the city-state’s mass rapid transit (MRT) and light rapid transit (LRT) systems can take you to almost every part of Singapore. The MRT and LRT are both easy to navigate, and you can get a free MRT map at any station.

Language

Singapore has four official languages—English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil—and is known as a place where different peoples, religions and cultural practices peacefully coexist.

Safety

Singapore is one of the most tightly regulated places in the world and generally a safe place to visit, but that doesn’t mean it is free of trouble. Scams do occur, and there have been reports that gangs do target overseas visitors and of unattended luggage being taken at the airport and elsewhere. Traffic also moves fast, so be careful when you’re on the street.

Airports and Transportation

Singapore Airport, also called Changi Airport, is one of Southeast Asia’s main aviation hubs, and in 2013 was rated the world's best. Located about twenty kilometers from the city center, it combines the efficiency and service that travelers expect with outstanding shopping, eating and drinking options and other leisure activities. The three-terminal airport handles 66 million passengers a year, and a fourth terminal is in the works.

Taxis:

Taxis are air-conditioned and easy to find in Singapore, and you can often get online in them as well. The drivers typically speak several languages, including Mandarin, English and Malay. A typical taxi fare is around 5-15 Singapore dollars depending on the distance, and you can pay in cash or by credit card. Surcharges apply during peak hours and also from the airport.

Rental cars:

There are plenty of rental car agencies in Singapore, but the mass transit system here is so good and taxis plentiful enough that it doesn’t make much sense for most visitors to rent a vehicle. Rates are not cheap, either, and Singaporean drivers move fast. Traffic can also be a problem. You’ll also need an international driver’s license.

Buses:

You can get a copy of the bus services from the Bus Interchange showing the routes and hours of service. Most buses in Singapore are air-conditioned—which is a critical factor in this hot, humid place—and some have TV as well. You may have trouble getting on one during peak hours, however, when people are commuting to work.

Buses require exact change, by the way, so buying an ez-link card is a smart move, and the card also works for the MRT. Placing the card on the sensor at the front of the bus deducts the full fare, but if you tap the card on the sensor again when getting off the system will refund any difference in the fare.

Trains:

Singapore’s MRT is the most comfortable and hassle-free way to get around Singapore. The service starts operating as early as 5.30 in the morning and ends around midnight. Even during off-peak hours, the trains run every three to five minutes. The ez-link card mentioned above can be purchased from machines or at the ticket office of any station. You can also recharge the card from the same machines.

Hotels

Accommodations in Singapore run from the lavish—such as the famed Raffles Hotel, where prices average from US$270 to around $700 per night—down to hostels that cost just $10 or so. It’s one of the more expensive aspects of a visit here. While Singapore isn’t big, you should look for a place reasonably close to the area that interests you most. The five districts of Geylang, Orchard Road, Chinatown, Little India and Bugis all have places worth your money.

Some visitors looking at longer stays might consider living in one of the many serviced apartments around town, which are fully furnished and usually have a gym and pool. The leases are flexible, from daily to weekly to monthly. While not cheap, they do give you a more grounded, homelike experience than a hotel, are often centrally located, and can be quite spectacular.

Cellphones and Wi-Fi

Singapore’s government’s launched free Wi-Fi in 2006, and service is available in high-traffic areas all over the island. If you’re within range of a hotspot, a registration prompt will pop up on your mobile device or smartphone. Dialing 186 and choosing SingTel as your service provider will get a password sent to you via SMS. You can also drop by any information counter at Changi Airport and get a temporary account. You’ll then enjoy free wireless broadband access with speeds of up to 1 Mbps. Even better, the government introduced seamless and secure access (SSA) in 2010, so you can use mobile handheld devices such as iPhone, iPad and Android devices securely. An application called Wireless@SG Connect also gives you access to several services and relevant information about Singapore, including the nearest hotspots.

Food

Singapore is a foodie paradise, a land of multicultural culinary pleasures encompassing Indian, Chinese, Malay, Peranakan, Eurasian, French, Indonesian food and many other cuisines.

Given Singapore’s location and ethnic makeup, Chinese dishes are naturally well represented, and come from every region of that huge country. India’s southern and northern halves of the continent, from spicy to mild and vegetarian to hearty seafood curries made with rich coconut milk. Local Indian-Muslim fusion dishes like nasi biriyani and roti pratas are indicative of the culinary inventiveness. Malaysian dishes and influences employ spices and herbs such as ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, shrimp paste and various chillies in ways that will warm and delight you.

Some perennial favorites include hard-shelled crabs cooked in thick tomato and chilli gravy or thick pepper gravy, and Hainanese chicken rice—steamed chicken accompanied by fragrant rice cooked in chicken stock—served with cucumber slices, minced ginger and chilli sauce with dark soy sauce. Satay is marinated meat such as chicken, beef and mutton on skewers and grilled over a charcoal fire. Noodle lovers should try laksa, which are rice noodles bathed in spicy coconut curry with shrimp, eggs, chicken and cockles.

You can eat cheaply and well at food courts, while dining at a proper restaurant will be significantly more expensive. Singapore also has a thriving nightlife scene, with clubs and bars that stay open well into the night.

Travel and Sightseeing

Singapore is an intriguing weave of historical ethnic culture that includes Chinatown, the Arab Quarter and Little India and modern trappings that also offers one of the world’s greatest shopping paradises. The government legalized gambling in 2005, making the city-state an even bigger draw for the travelers flocking to its hotels, malls and casinos. The arts scene is booming as well—the government wants to make Singapore a global arts center by 2015—and the cuisine is a tempting ethnic mix of Chinese, Indian, Malay and European cuisines.

The urban skyline here is lined with dramatic skyscrapers and centuries-old buildings transformed into boutiques, offices and bistros. The city’s showpiece is the Marina Bay Sands resort—which features three massive pillars supporting a titanic ship in the sky topped by a breathtaking rooftop swimming pool—along with the performing arts center of The Esplanade, the ArtScience Museum and the Fullerton Bay area. This is urban culture at its height.

The ethnic quarters and festivals will draw you into the diverse background of this island, and one of the best ways to discover them is through the various heritage centers and “trails.” Although most people think of the cosmopolitan aspect of the place, the suburbs offer a lot of natural scenery, organic farms and more. Singapore’s sixty-some islets—particularly Kusu Island, and the Sisters’ Islands—are worth exploring as well, offering plenty of sun, ocean and sand.

If you have a mobile device with you, download the free YourSingapore Guide mobile app to become instantly knowledgeable about Singapore’s attractions, food, nightlife, transportation and other aspects.

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