A trip to Singapore was on the cards from a long time. And somehow, we just delayed it for one reason or the other. This August we decided to fulfill prolonged desire of a short vacation in Singapore. The Island City was too irresistibly accessible with so many direct flights from India. Tickets were booked, bags packed and with a long list of must-see places we landed in Singapore. With an impressive first impression, one could make out why Singapore is rated as one of the cleanest and safest countries in the World. Singapore is the first choice for travelers for a family getaway, and those seeking to indulge in metropolitan luxuries. And of course for its unique and top-notch attractions that cater to almost every type of traveler. Singapore is – a nice enough city, with great food, super clean, efficient; in short, it has all the features for a perfect leisure getaway.
We did all sort of touristy things in Singapore. From spending a day at Bird Park, enjoying dinner at Clarke Quay to getting clicked at Universal Studios, we did it all. And it was fun in its own way. The tourist destinations we toured through our brief stay at Singapore – Jurong Bird Park, Singapore Zoo Night Safari, Universal Studios, Sentosa Island, Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay, Riverside and Civic District, Bugis Street, and Chinatown. Spent a fun day on themed attractions at Universal Studios, enjoyed a quiet moment at the Sentosa beaches, experienced Singapore’s multi-cultural diversity by walking in the bylanes of Chinatown, marveled at Marina Bay Sands and enjoyed a drink or two at Clarke Quay. There was still so much more to explore. A piece of useful advice to help you plan a better itinerary, attractions like Universal Studios and Sentosa Island requires one full day to get explored. And places like Riverside, Marina Bay Sands, and Gardens by the Bay are best enjoyed after the sunset. So plan your schedule accordingly. If you are on a tight travel schedule then I would recommend giving Bird Park (was a bit boring for us), Chinese Garden or maybe Bugis Street (if you are not too keen on shopping) a miss.
There are well updated official websites of most of these attractions. I would recommend browsing through them before making your layout for checking the ticket price/show timings/opening hours/holiday calendar etc. Like for Bird Park + Singapore Zoo + Night Safari + River Safari you can buy a 4-in-1 pass online at a concessional price. In fact for the Universal Studios as well, you can buy a premium pass online to skip the long queue for the rides. And trust me, you are going to be pleased for buying this premium pass considering the waiting time of 1 – 2 hours for certain popular rides at Universal Studios. Our must-see recommendations – Universal Studios, Sentosa Island, Chinatown, Singapore Zoo Night Safari.
What to eat in Singapore?
If you are planning a trip to Singapore then be ready for a diverse gastronomically gratifying experience. The love for the Hawker Centers gives definition to the Singaporean Cuisine that goes beyond national and political boundaries. So when you eat local dishes, you are ingesting a blend of Malay, Chinese, Indonesian, Indian and Western Cuisines. And one is really spoilt for choices in Singapore. It is a food-crazy culture. If you are in the city , and would like a quick meal then the local hawker centers will not disappoint you. During our trip, for breakfast, we stick to the neighborhood bakeries serving the most delicious Kaya Toast, Iced Kopi C and an array of local sweet and savory bakes.These small cafes serve decent sandwiches and poached eggs as well.
For the day meals, we give up to the temptation of international/local fast food joints – Marybrown, Goldilocks at Universal Studios, Chili’s, Tastes of Asia – Sentosa Island, Bongo Burger at Bird Park. And as the sun sets, the scene at hawker centers get more lively, hustling – bustling with food lovers.There is a peculiar aroma hanging in the air around hawker centers, many of us might find it pleasing while others nauseating. But with each passing day your food senses get accustomed to it. It is best to sit at one of these places, savour the local flavors, latch into an interesting conversation with your fellow diners. The servers and the cooks at these small food joints are super friendly and helpful, all you need to ask them for a tailor-made dish. And they will either accept your request with a gleeful smile or suggest the viable alternative.Try well-known favorites or venture off to sample the unique finds. Most of these hawker centers serve good vegetarian dishes as well. There is one more good news, Roti-Prata House, and Punjabi Food Joints can be easily discovered in Singapore. Some of our local favorites were – Hokkien Mee (noodles withs seafood), Stir-Fried Greens, Chicken Fried Rice, Ramen Noodle Chicken Bowl, Chicken Satay, Pho Gai (Chicken), Thai Curries, and Fish Bee Hoon.
Our must-try recommendations – Singapore Chicken Rice, Chili Crab, Laksa, Satay, Ice Kacang, Popiah, Curry Puff, Kaya Toast and Kopi. Don’t miss out the giant Churros at the Universal Studios.
How to explore Singapore like a local?
Eat at hawker centers — Meals are cheap, delicious and freshly prepared. And it is probably the best way to taste the local flavors of Singapore.
Travel via MRT/Buses — Public transport in Singapore is quite efficient and well connected. And probably this is the most budget-friendly way to navigate through Singapore. While traveling via buses you get to see so many neighborhoods on the way to your destination. At times we used Uber cabs as well, the drivers are quite hospitable, and they don’t hitch back from building an engaging conversation with you.
Stay at Airbnb — This is a good way to socialize with the local folks and closely observe their culture. You can book in advance according to your budget and requirement. Don’t be a shy. Interact with your host and know much more about the vicinity you are staying.
Use a good mobile app — Go on a do-it-yourself (DIY) around Singapore’ by using good mobile applications to know more about the bus timings, nearby MRT station, food joints etc. There are a lot of awesome things to do in Singapore that doesn’t cost a dime. Moovit, HungryGoWhere, GoThere.sg, and of course the obvious Google Maps.
Shop at supermarkets: Explore the nearby supermarkets for daily needs such as – munchies/beverages/battery pack etc. One, you get products at a good price. Second, it is a great self-learning and an eye-opening experience. Trust me on this one!!
Must-Pack Items for Singapore
- A pair of running/sports shoes. Walking is one thing you cannot skip at Singapore. So pack your most comfortable footwear for the trip.
- A high SPF sunblock/sunscreen, sunglasses, and if you can a sun protecting hat/cap. Don’t even think of stepping out during the day in Singapore without these essentials. An umbrella for the unexpected showers or a sunny day (optional if your baggage space permits).
- To munch during the day-long excursions carry energy bars, healthy trail mixes, nuts and dark chocolates. These definitely keep you energized the entire day. Pack your favorite sipper as well. You need plenty of fluid to beat the heat.
- Instead of fashionable hand bags stick to trendy backpacks. You can stuff your snacks, water, passport, power bank, face towel and much more in them. Plus they are super comfortable to carry around.
- Cotton/linen/soft lycra are the fabrics that will keep you cool in Singapore. Light fabric clothes with dull colors definitely help to keep the heat at bay and absorb sweat. Tight fitting denim could not be your best sidekick in Singapore.
- Don’t miss out to carry a loaded iPod and kindle. There is plenty of time while traveling via buses/MRT’s. You can sit comfortably and do reading or browsing.
- Most of the places in Singapore has free Wi-Fi access. But if you are a social media freak and believe in sharing live updates then it is recommended to take a local sim (easily available at Seven Eleven or similar places) or activate your international data services.
- Too much sun at the beach. Too much wine with dinner. Or too much walk during the day. A good pain reliever is all you need by the end of the day. Consult your physician before including one pain relieving ointment and tablet in your travel bag.
…..’the world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.’ And on that note, we are done with our Chapter on Singapore travel tale. And highly motivated to read many more such chapters in life.