Dan and I started and ended our honeymoon in Singapore earlier this year solely because we scored some really cheap flights on Japan Airlines into and out of Singapore. While I feel like every travel blogger has been to Singapore, and either loves it or hates it, I could not find a good summary of experience, itinerary, or anything of that nature. After visiting, and as expected, I am firmly in the LOVE Singapore crowd, and Dan is firmly in the don’t love Singapore crowd. In any case, for those planning a trip, here are my highlights of my trip to Singapore and how I think that you can make the most of your time!
Singapore is a small city-state in Southeast Asia, located on the tip of the Malaysian Peninsula. Singapore is an island nation and its huge in the shipping industry. Seriously, Marina Bay looks like a game of battleship…
Singapore has quite an extensive history and has changed hands a lot over the years and as a result, while solidly in Southern Asia, Singapore is very Western, modern, multicultural and expensive! Its definitely worth reading up on Singapore history before visiting. Its also worth reading up on Singaporean laws. As you may have heard, Singapore has some strict laws, including those related to chewing gum! We did not have any issues, but I found that Singaporeans do follow the rules and keep themselves in order.
Although small, Singapore is quite packed and there are a lot of activities to take up a tourist’s time. I note my highlights, but I also feel like there is a lot that we did not see, such as the National Gallery, the Botanical Gardens, Little India, and the Tiger Brewery. I definitely need to plan a few more days on a future trip!
MARINA BAY SANDS (AND GARDENS BY THE BAY)
Marina Bay Sands, that hotel that looks like a space ship that has become the symbol of Singapore, was a huge highlight for Dan and me. We stayed at Marina Bay Sands for a few nights and spent two days enjoying the rooftop infinity pool! Definitely a bucket list experience!
Everything at Marina Bay Sands was grand and we really enjoyed our time. If you are not staying at Marina Bay Sands, you can only access the rooftop view by paying to enter the viewing platform or visiting one of the restaurants on the top (probably a better deaa, especially if you go at lunch).
Just behind Marina Bay Sands are the Gardens by the Bay – Singapore’s newest public park. While they were not life changing, you should absolutely check them out if you are at Marina Bay Sands. The Skywalk, pictured above, is particularly fun if you are not afraid of heights.
We visited Singapore just before Chinese New Year 2018 – the Year of the Dog (my favorite animal!) – one of Singapore’s largest and most important holidays. As such, all of Chinatown was decked out in Year of the Dog swag and packed with people. While Chinatown was super fun decked out for the year of the dog, it would also be fun to visit on a regular day. Note – if you are visiting for Chinese New Year, visit before the holiday starts (everything closes during the holiday).
One of the coolest things that we visited in Chinatown is the Buddha Tooth Relic, which is a really cool and large Buddhist temple. While we did not see the relic, the temple was really interesting to explore!
Also great about Chinatown, the Hawker Centers! And, there are multiple. But more on that below…
Singaporean food. Yuuuummmmmm. The food in Singapore was really, really, really delicious! I would go back to Singapore just to eat! If you watch Anthony Bourdain like I do, you already know about Singapore Hawker centers – large food courts where locals (and tourists) eat great food for cheap! We joined a food tour to show us around several Hawker Centers, but you could definitely do it on your own. Of note to me (and a lot of others who visit Singapore) was the surprisingly delicious and famous Chicken Rice – a famous Singaporean dish of plain chicken, rice, and the most delicious sauce that really makes the dish when you mix it in!
And, dumplings. I love dumplings and these were filled with pork! Also, that entire plate was just for me and Dan…and the end of a food tour. #whoopsie.
In addition to the Hawker Centers, some of my very Singapore favorites were Chinese dim sum. This particular one was served at the Intercontinental’s Club Lounge breakfast. The dim sum with the orange dot is filled with red bean paste!
I also had one of my favorite meals ever at a swanky restaurant called Birds of a Feather, located in a trendy part of Amoy street. The dish that I really loved is called the “Birds Nest” and is basically really spicy chicken that is lightly fried. I could not go back to Singapore without returning here. Amazing!!!
And another winner in Singapore, Indian food. I LOVE Indian food (although I have never been to India, need to go!!). And as you may not know, Indians make up a substantial portion of the Singaporean population, so Indian food was really good and readily available. We enjoyed this Indian dish on our first night.
THE GORGEOUS CITY
I loved just walking around Singapore. Singapore is filled with well-kept and interesting modern buildings, may of which have outdoor space, as well as more traditional Singaporean homes, also very well preserved. I could have spent an entire day walking through Singapore. Definitely leave some time to just wander, its pretty great, especially for a large, modern city!
The Intercontinental that we stayed at on our last two days in Singapore was decorated with the most beautiful patterned ceramics. Everything from its lamps, to its plates, to its bathroom sink. I feel in love with these pieces and later learned that it is traditional Peranakan art! “Peranakan” is the term referred to a group of people descending from Chinese immigrants who immigrated to the Malaysian peninsula. In any case, I loved these ceramics. I ended up bringing a few pieces back home!
While Dan and I had an excellent time in Singapore, there are some things that we did not love about Singapore, especially Dan.
First, the excessive cost. As everyone says, Singapore is expensive, especially compared to other cities in Southeast Asia. Like New York expensive. And, restaurants, bars, and alcohol were particularly expensive. Since Dan and I basically eat and drink, that part was not fun.
ITS WESTERN FEEL
Unlike other parts of Asia, Singapore is quite Western. Everyone speaks English and it seems like Singapore is, in places, more Western than Asian. I guess this cuts both ways, but I personally found it to be a downer. To avoid this, find lodging in a local property outside of the downtown area.
RAFFLES WAS TEMPORARILY CLOSED!!
Raffles Hotel is an old and famous Singapore hotel that has been around forever, and everyone who is anyone has stayed here. I intended on being part of that list of guests, but it was temporarily closed for massive renovations the entire time I was in Singapore!!
Raffles is also home to the famous Singapore Sling drink (of 1980s fame). Since Raffles is temporarily closed, Raffles opened a temporary bar on the same street (look for signs) where you can have a Singapore Sling – but they are $30 Singaporean Dollars a piece! We ordered them at our free happy hour at the Intercontinental Club Lounge instead…
RECOMMENDED ITINERARY AND HOW LONG TO STAY
While Singapore is a tiny country, I found planning an itinerary in advance to be quite difficult. If you only have 24 hours in Singapore, I recommend starting your visit in Marina Bay. Check out the view from the rooftop of Marina Bay Sands and the shopping mall underneath, and then proceed to Gardens by the Bay, directly behind Marina Bay Sands (easily walkable).
You can grab a snack in Gardens by the Bay.
After taking in Marina Bay Sands, take a cab from Marina Bay Sands (use their taxi line) to Chinatown. Spend some time walking around Chinatown, shopping, visiting the Buddha Tooth Relic, and wandering through the Hawker Stands.
Finish your evening on the Singapore River near the Merlion (the famous half-fish statue). There is always a lot of excitement here and you can see the Marina Bay Sands famous evening light show.
Being a multicultural nation, English is one of Singapore’s four official languages, and every speaks English. You will have no trouble getting around if you speak at least basic English.
The Singaporean Dollar is key. International ATMs are located throughout Singapore. In addition, major credit cards are taken at almost all places, even in some of the Hawker stands.
Uber and taxis exist, but the best way to get around town is via subway. Figure out how to use it early on. You can also walk to many central places.
Singapore is extremely safe. No worries traveling alone here.
STEAL OUR TRIP
Singapore: Visit Singapore Website
Singabites Food Tours: The food tour that Dan and I took through several Hawker Stands. Singabites runs several tours, each going through a different neighborhood. We did the Chinatown tour. Book online in advance to ensure a spot, although our tour was just me, Dan and our tour guide. $120 Singaporean/person, includes all food samples and a bottle of water.
Marina Bay Sands Singapore: 10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018956. The famous hotel with the infinity pool. Reservations should be made online in advance, but upgrades may be available upon arrival if you ask. We reached out to the hotel in advance of our arrival and advised that it was our honeymoon. As a gift, the hotel upgraded us and sent us some honeymoon chocolates!
Intercontinental Singapore: 80 Middle Rd, Singapore 188966. I loved this property, especially its Club Lounge. We stayed on IHG points and upgraded to the Club Level for $120 Singaporean dollars.
Raffles Hotel: 1 Beach Rd, Singapore 189673. One of Singapore’s most famous hotels (the other being the Marina Bay Sands). Currently closed until mid/late 2018. The original Singapore Sling experience is now served at a pop-up Long Bar located at 3 Seah Street, next to the Raffles Gift Shop which is open throughout the renovation.
Birds of a Feather: 115 Amoy Street, #01-01, Singapore (069935). I loved this restaurant. Reservations necessary, and can be made via the linked website, Chope.
ON A BUDGET
Singapore is definitely NOT the place to travel if you are on a budget. However, given Singapore’s huge airport, it is likely that you travel through Singapore, even if you are traveling on a shoestring budget. If this is the case, limit your time in Singapore to 1 or 2 days. Stay in hostels or Airbnbs. Use the subway. And, above all, take advantage of Singapore’s free attractions! Also, bring your own alcohol. Its SUPER pricey.