Drifter’s Guide to Singapore
Located in the middle of South East Asia’s traveler trail, Singapore is a well developed cosmopolitan island city-state and an economic power house that connects the region with the rest of the world. Its advanced infrastructure, and long term financial and political stability, turned it into a major business and tourism hub, and the center of a thriving expat community. I’m even gonna go ahead and call it “the Dubai of South East Asia”, because that’s exactly what it reminded me of when I got my first glimpse. But what is astonishingly noticeable about it is that its undoubtedly the most expensive country in the region, yet traveling there from neighboring countries is somewhat a hassle-free experience, mostly because of its small manageable size and level of security.
The outstanding thing about Singapore is its super modern infrastructure, futuristic parks, facilities, efficient public transportation and its readiness to take on tourists from both east and west, so there’s something for almost everyone (unless of course, you’re traveling on a tight budget), from city touring, checking out historical / cultural sites and colonial architecture, chilling in parks, visiting fancy resorts and extravagant hotels and theme parks.
The trail and what to explore
Get acquainted with Boat & Clarke Quay (Singapore Riverside) – Take a relaxing afternoon stroll by the river and marvel at the modern towers and artistic statues dotting it, before having an afternoon drink and later dinner at the many bars and restaurant located on the banks.
Stroll down Little India – immerse yourself in this area where Indian culture reigns supreme, and it’s easy to get amazing, cheap food, fruit and vegetables, and do a little street shopping on the side.
Visit Marina Bay – Take a walk and check out Singapore’s amazing skyline. Make sure you rub shoulders with the remarkable Marina Bay Sands, maybe even go up to the top floor infinity swimming pool for an incredible 360 degree view of the city, and don’t miss the Helix Bridge and the Singapore Flyer.
Marvel at the unique gardens by the Bay – A grandiose scheme intended to transform Singapore from a “Garden City” to a “City in a Garden.” The main attractions are the 50 meters tall man-made Supertrees and two equally amazing bio-domes.
Take on Sentosa Island – Spend a fun day on rides and themed attractions like The Underwater World aquarium, and universal studios, the first theme park of its kind to open in Southeast Asia, or relax at the man-made beaches of Sentosa.
Get lost in Chinatown – Experience Singapore’s traditional Chinese life and culture. Everywhere you look there are temples from Buddhist to Hindu including “Sri Mariamman” Temple, the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore. You will also find cheap stalls selling just about anything you can think of, and traditional Chinese restaurants of course. For an authentic and cheap food experience, head to the hawker centers on the 2nd floor of The Chinatown Complex.
Relax in the Botanical Gardens – Where you can visit the Orchid Garden, home to hundreds of species of orchid, the ginger garden, the rainforest and a variety of streams and waterfalls to discover. A fun way to spend a relaxing day…
Tips and what to expect
People: You will quickly find that Singaporeans, as many other SE Asians, are very respectful, helpful and accommodating, which is something that will definitely improve your experience.
Food: Try the famous Chill crab
Bargaining: Chinatown and Little India aside, it is unlikely that bargaining will get you anywhere here. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to try, especially with the inflated prices which you will encounter everywhere.
Cash: ATMs and money exchange outlets are available everywhere so you won’t have any issues finding local Singapore Dollars
Transportation: Singapore has a convenient, extensive, and affordable Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and bus network. From the airport, the MRT is the cheapest way to get to the city center.
Essentials: Make sure to pack an umbrella or water-proof poncho, a mosquito repellent and some sun screen… oh, and make sure you don’t forget your credit cards at home 😉