Singapore: A Complete Travel Guide


Singapore is a city-state and an island country in Southeast Asia. It lies 1 degree north to the equator, at the southern tip of the Malay peninsula. Traditionally Singapore was a trading post. Singapore is a global commerce and transport hub. Singapore is also ranked the most expensive city to live in five times in a row in an 2018 study.

The backbone of Singapore’s economy is industrialization, which has allowed Singapore to evolve into a cosmopolitan city-state. There’s a lot to do here, from incredible tropical parks by the Malaysian border, delicious and cheap Chinese and Indian food, shopping, fun theme parks, beautiful beaches, and a world class zoo.

History of Singapore :

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Singapore was first mentioned in a Chinese account from the third century which described the island as Pu Luo Chung. In 1613, the Portuguese raided and burned down the small settlements and then the island faded into obscurity. By then Singapore was nominally part of the Johor Sultanate. The wider maritime control was under the influence of Dutch control for the following period.

Raffles, a british statesman arrived in the port of Singapore in 1819, and soon recognised the island as the natural choice for a port. The island was then ruled by the Sultan of Johor, who was controlled by the Dutch. The British then expelled the ruling Sultan and placed Tengku Long, as the new Sultan of Singapore in exchange for Singapore opening its harbor to English ships. In 1824, the entire island became a part of British possession and in 1826, under the Straits settlement, Singapore came under the British India jurisdiction.

Singapore was not affected by the first world war. In the second world war, the island of Singapore was captured by the Imperial army of Japan. The fall of Singapore to the Imperial army of Japan was termed as the “worst defeat for the British” by the British Prime minister Winston Churchill. After the surrender of Japan in 1945, Singapore was subsequently re-occupied by the British, Indian and Australian forces.

The inability of Britain to protect Singapore, destroyed the credibility of the British rulers. The local people fought for the independence against the British after a rise in anti-colonial sentiment. Singapore finally achieved its independence, and the People’s action party (PAP) won the election and established the government.

Despite their successful government in Singapore, the PAP leaders believed that their future lay with Malaya due to the strong ties between the countries. In 1962, Singapore merged with Malaysia. Due to the separate ideologies of Malaysia and Singapore, the two countries ended their merger and Singapore gained independence in 1965 and emerged as the republic of Singapore. Singapore underwent rapid industrialization and improved its economy and transitioned as an industrial nation.

Geography and Landscape of Singapore :

Singapore is a small, heavily urbanised, island city-state in Southeast Asia, located at the end of the Malayan Peninsula between Malaysia and Indonesia. Singapore has a total land area of 719.1 square kilometres.

The Singapore area comprises mainland and other islands. The mainland of Singapore measures 50 kilometres from east to west and 27 kilometres from north to south with 193 kilometres of coastline. Singapore is separated from Indonesia by the Singapore Strait and from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor.

Singapore’s main territory is a diamond-shaped island, although its territory includes surrounding smaller islands. The farthest outlying island is Pedra Branca. Of Singapore’s dozens of smaller islands, Jurong Island, Pulau Tekong, Pulau Ubin and Sentosa are the larger ones. Most of Singapore is no more than 15 metres above sea level.

The highest point of Singapore is Bukit Timah Hill, with a height of 165 meters and made up of igneous rock, granite. Hills and valleys of sedimentary rock dominate the northwest, while the eastern region consists of sandy and flatter land.

Climate and best time to visit Singapore :

Singapore is one-and-a-half degrees north of the equator, lying entirely between the 1st and 2nd parallels. Singapore’s climate is classified as tropical rainforest climate, with no true distinct seasons. Owing to its geographical location and maritime exposure, its climate is characterized by uniform temperature and pressure, high humidity and abundant rainfall. Therefore, it is almost always warm and wet.

Relative humidity is in the range of 70% – 80%. April is the warmest month, January is the coolest month and November is the wettest month. There are two main monsoon seasons in Singapore: Northeast Monsoon Season (December-March) and the Southwest Monsoon Season (June – September). The Northeast Monsoon has a “wet phase” (December and January) and a “dry phase” (February and March). The wet phase witnesses continuous moderate to heavy rainfall in the afternoons and early evenings.The dry phase is cool and pleasant with comparatively little or no rain.

While tourists visit throughout the year, the festive season is a great time to explore the many facets of Singapore, especially around July when the Great Singapore Sale and the Singapore Food Festival take place. Feb-April: The months between the summers and winters are quite pleasant.

How to reach Singapore :

By air :

Singapore is a city-state island country. It houses an international airport in its city called as the “Singapore international airport (SIN)”. Most major airlines, and also plenty of budget airlines also offer affordable flights to Singapore.

All the major cities in India offer flights to Singapore. The costs from India to Singapore is relatively less if flights are booked in advance. Scoot, IndiGo, Air Asia and Malaysian airlines all offer flights at an affordable price.

Air travel is the cheapest and the fastest way to travel to Singapore.

By sea :

Singapore is an established port city and it is located at the end of Malaysian peninsula, between Malaysia and Indonesia. Sea journey is always an extraordinary journey and the journey from India to Singapore offers an amazing experience on the sea.

Take a ferry from the port of Chennai, and relax on the decks of the ship. First the ship travels through the bay of Bengal and passes through the Indian ocean. Then the ship courses through the Andaman sea and then enters the strait of Malacca. After crossing the strait of Malacca, the ferry enters the south China sea. From there it’s a short journey to the port of Singapore. The total distance travelled by the ship is 1891 nautical miles.

One can book a ferry from any of the major port cities in our country. Sea travel takes a lot of time, and it is not the best way to travel to Singapore.

Things to see and to do in Singapore :

Singapore is one of the world’s leading members in shipping and banking which has evolved the country as a prime destination for travellers. Singapore is touted as “Garden city” because of the steps taken by the government to combat the increasing urbanization. This makes Singapore a very beautiful city to visit.

Hang out with the Merlions :

The imaginary creatures of Singapore; the Merlions are the mascot of the city. The merlion is a very interesting creature as it has the upper body of a lion and the lower body of a fish. You can see plenty of these creatures dotted across Singapore. The most impressive and the original statue of Merlion can be found in Merlion park.

Visit Sentosa island :

This little island is popular with locals and tourists alike. You can visit Tiger Sky Tower, Asia’s tallest observation tower, Universal Studios, which is also in the island too. There’s also a host of bars, restaurants and beaches here too. Palm-lined, crescent shaped Tanjong beach is the most tranquil beach on Sentosa island.

Visit gardens by the bay :

Gardens by the Bay is a nature park spanning 101 hectares of reclaimed land in central Singapore, adjacent to the Marina Reservoir. This urban landscaping project is a series of fake “supertrees”. At heights of 80-160 feet, the metal structures have roughly 200 species of orchids, ferns, and other tropical plants coating their structure and forming a lush, colorful skin.

Take a trip to Pulau Ubin :

This island lies off the northeastern coast. It’s incredibly different from the modern city — locals still use a diesel generator for electricity and fetch water from wells. Rent a bike and explore sights, villages, and beaches of this island.

Learn about the colonial history of Singapore :

Singapore has a rich history and has been a colony of the British rule. For a more cultural experience, visit the former British naval base of Fort Siloso. It’s the only preserved fort on the coast of Singapore which provides a fantastic look into the city-state’s complicated history.

Visit the MacRitchie reservoir park :

This beautiful and lush city park has an eight-kilometer treetop hike, with bridges suspended high above the forest floor. It’s one of the best nature things to do in the country.

Visit Singapore zoo :

This is one of the best zoo’s in the world spanning over an area of 70 acres. The zoo has a massive array of animals at around 3600 mammals, birds and reptiles. The night safari’s offered at the zoo are a very famous attraction.

Explore Bukit Timah nature reserve :

Bukit Timah nature reserve is located within the only stretch of Singapore’s rainforest and it is the country’s premiere ecotourism attraction. Find macaques, squirrels, flying lemurs, and various species of birds in this reserve. This park is open on the weekends from 7am – 7pm.

Visit Thian Hock Keng temple :

Stunning architecture makes Thian Hock Keng one of the most photogenic buildings you’re likely to see in Singapore. The temple was built in 1840 and made from the finest materials available at the time. This temple is designated as a national monument.

Eat in little India :

No trip to Singapore is complete without a visit to little India. Get the most delicious food, fresh vegetables and the most interesting snacks in the streets of little India. Eat at the giant cafeterias and explore little India in Singapore.

Explore the National museum of Singapore :

The National Museum of Singapore is the oldest museum in Singapore. Its history dates back to 1849, when it was started as a section of a library at Singapore Institution.

Food in Singapore :

Singaporean cuisine is diverse and contains elements derived from several ethnic groups, as a result of its history as a seaport with a large immigrant population. Influences include the cuisines of the native Malays and the largest ethnic group, the Chinese, as well as Indonesian, Indian, Peranakan and Western traditions.

In Singapore, food is viewed as crucial to national identity and a unifying cultural thread. Singaporean literature declares eating a national pastime and food a national obsession. The local people of Singapore ask “Have you eaten?”, as a greeting.

Singaporean food can be divided into five types: meat, seafood, rice, noodles, and dessert or snacks. Singapore is especially renowned for its seafood. Chili crab and black pepper crab are two quintessential dishes that dominate the scene and are greatly recommended to tourists. Another favourite is sambal stingray. In the meat category, Hainanese chicken rice is the most popular dish. Essentially, it is rice cooked with chicken fat, served with boiled chicken, accompanied with chili sauce.

Here is a list of the best restaurants that serve the most delicious and the most authentic Singaporean food :

  • Whitegrass restaurant
  • Flutes
  • Summer pavilion
  • Tippling club
  • The line restaurant
  • The curry culture – Cuppage terrace
  • Akira back Singapore
  • Basilico restaurant
  • Peach blossoms

Here are a few local dishes that will help you eat like a true Singaporean. Chilli crab, Rojak, Hainanese chicken rice, Satay, Kaya toast, Oyster omelette, wanton noodles, black pepper crab and Ais kacang are some of the most famous local dishes.

Where to shop and what to buy in Singapore :

Shopping is considered as a national pastime in Singapore. Ranging from high-tech wares to designer wares to handmade souvenirs, Singapore has something for each and every person. Packed with modern malls and hotels, the experiences are wide, varied and intriguing.

Little India arcade :

Difficult to miss with its bright orange façade shining bright on the already-colourful Serangoon Road, this complex presents a good collection of Indian and Arabian clothing, fabrics and home ware. Meander through the series of tight alleyways to uncover traditional dresses, dried herbs and spices, flamboyant accessories, colourful artwork, aromatic incense and sweet shops, all at discounted prices.

ION Orchard :

A stylish architectural wonder, ION Orchard glows like a futuristic beacon at the end of Orchard Road enticing fashionistas and luxury shoppers inside. This is Singapore’s most glamorous shopping complex made out of glass, marble and steel. It can also be described as an exuberant work of art.

Mustafa centre :

Open 24 hours, the Mustafa Centre offers a unique market style shopping experience. Designer products are in abundance at low prices with everything from textiles to watches and electronics on sale. The mall is actually two department stores joined together with goods sold under the Mustafa name and streamlined by type.

Orchard road :

This 2.2 kilometre stretch of mega malls is the undisputed shopping hub of Singapore. Pristine complexes such as ION Orchard and Paragon house all the designer brands you’ll ever need, whilst the more worn out centres such as Far East Asia and Lucky Plaza still prove ever-popular with bargain hunters. Throw in a whole list of fine bars and restaurants and you have the complete shopping destination.

Money saving tips :

1 Take public transits : Public transport is just 10 SGD per day for tourists with a tourist pass. This will get you unlimited rides on public buses and trains for free for the rest of the day.

2 Eat cheap : Save money by eating in the hawker stalls in little India and in Chinatown. Meals cost less than a few dollars in hawker stalls throughout the city.

3 Avoid bottled water : Tap water is perfectly fine in Singapore and bottled water is very expensive in the city. Tap water is better for your wallet as well as the environment.

4 Stick to happy hours : Alcohol is very expensive in Singapore. So if you want to kick back and have a few drinks, go to restaurants and bars in happy hours and save some money.

5 Take a free walking tour : There are a lot of companies that offer free walking tours around the city. This is a great way to learn about the culture and history of the city.

Money exchange :

The currency of Singapore is Singapore dollar (SGD). 1 SGD = 50 INR. So we can see that the currency of Singapore is quite steep when converted from Indian currency. The country of Singapore is expensive, so managing money while your trip in Singapore is very crucial.

Clothes to pack to Singapore :

The climate of Singapore is eternally hot and wet. Since you’re going to be dealing with this kind of climate, make sure to carry clothes that are lightweight and breathable. Casual t-shirts and denim shorts soon become your best friends, the less layers you wear the better and try to stick to fabrics such as cotton blends, polyester/spandex, linen and silk – these are lightweight, breathable, absorb perspiration and allow your body heat to escape.

Make sure to wear and carry these things on your day out in Singapore.

  • Cotton t-shirts, light sneakers and swim wear.
  • Dresses go from day to night smoothly, keeping you cool.
  • Pack one nice outfit, Singapore dresses up.
  • A light jacket is recommended during monsoon.
  • Sunblock, mosquito repellent and antiperspirant are quintessential.

Singapore’s visa process :

Singapore consulate is located in Delhi, Chennai and in Mumbai. To apply for Singapore visa one should have the following documents.

  1. Original passport
  2. 2 Passport photograph of the applicant.
  3. Copy of passport main page.
  4. Travel Itinerary.
  5. Return flight ticket
  6. Bank statement for the last 3 months

A fee of 30 SGD must be paid as visa processing fee. The visa granting prerogative rests with the Consulate.

Important Contacts :

Singaporean police – 1800 255 0000

Fire and ambulance – 995

Traffic police – 6547 0000

Emergency – 999

Indian embassy in SIngapore – +65 6737 6777