Singapore is a destination that belies both its small geographical size and its location in South-East Asia.
Singapore is a mass of ethic influences – Chinese, Malay, Indonesian and Indian. Part of the British Empire – this small island nation is found at the very tip of the Malay Peninsula. English is widely spoken along with other dialects, and, all signs are written in English.
ℹ️ Travel: Singapore is served by three terminals at Singapore Changi airport. With Singapore being such a small island to travel distances is rather swift and all public transport is clean, efficient, air-conditioned and easy to use. Taxi’s are all metered and should cost around SG$25. The easiest method for me was to use the MRT underground. The cost varies upon distance travelled but their is a MRT station near Terminal 2 that carries you to the city centre. You have to change MRT at Tanah Merah for the Green line that stops by Geylang, Bugis, City Hall, Raffles Place, and Chinatown. Regardless of which terminal you arrive into always follow the sign for “Train to the City”.
ℹ️ Currency: The Singapore Dollar (SGD)
ℹ️ Credit Cards and Banks: ATMs are common place in almost every shopping street, with several ‘bureau de change’ around the city centre, with almost every retailer accepting Mastercard and Visa. There is no fear of an establishment declining card payments.
ℹ️ Accommodation: Like all major cities in SE Asia hotels can run from the lavish to the basic budget, to everything in between. Sort what is important in a hotel for you and work around that. I stayed at the 3* Park View Hotel, a stones throw from Raffles Hotel. Prices are roughly £70 p/n with breakfast. The location is pretty decent too.
For a little luxury consider the 5* Fullerton Hotel down by the harbour front. Prices are roughly £200 p/n. If this is a little out of pocket then certainly consider the Afternoon Tea served in the afternoon. Of Course, for added luxury then consider the Marina Bay Sands hotel!
ℹ️ Weather: There is no Hot and Cold season in Singapore. The weather is hot, humid and often suffers from the mid-afternoon thunder shower due to the humidity. Quite often the showers relinquish as quick as they formed. The vast majority of buildings have air-conditioning.
After visiting Singapore on several occasions either as the ‘transit’ point, or, a short stay it is one of the easiest destinations to visit “fully” on a short trip. In fact, within three days you could quite literally see the whole world on the streets of this island nation.
Although much of Singapore’s skyline is defined by mid to high-rise buildings that seems befitting of modern city centres all around the world, it is Singapore’s Central Business District, located around Singapore Harbour on the South shore of the island, that comprises the city-states “skyline.” Singapore’s CBD is definitely a place you need to explore during your three days in Singapore. The streets are adorned with a hustle of people in Suits. Banking, Finance Companies, Insurance is the name of the game here. The ‘Raffles Mall’ is a hive of Western High street and Asian stores.
It is also in the Singapore CBD where you find the Marina Bay Sands hotel, which is a spectacle in and of itself. If you cannot afford to stay here – and I could not, there is no shortage of hotels in the Burgis area, a 10 minute walk away, passing the infamous ‘Raffel’s’ Hotel.
After you have had your fill of the CBD area – make sure also to visit the statue of “Merlion,” Singapore’s official symbol – take the Singapore MRT to “Chinatown” station and explore (prepare for it…) Chinatown, the officially Chinese section of a city that is, in general, extremely Chinese anyway. Three days in Singapore would not be complete without a trip here!
Chinatown is filled with China-looking kitsch, from paper lanterns, to karaoke street performers, to shops selling goods for which you know the owners paid 5 per cent of the price they are asking you. Chinatown is the best place to grab awesome Singaporean food. There is a great area known as ‘Maxwell’ Street which provides ‘street vendor’ food cooked fresh whilst you wait. Not only is it incredible tasty, but, it is also palatable on the wallet!
As Singapore is an island, it might not seem surprising that Singapore is home several beaches. But a trip to the beach is a great way to escape the “Big City” for a morning or early afternoon, not to mention the oppressive heat that defines Singapore’s climate for much of the year. Taking a trip to at least one of Singapore’s beaches is important for a well-rounded three days in Singapore.
Sentosa is home to Universal Studios. The smaller but equally fun sister of the American Theme Park. Fully expecting to take a full day to do this attraction I was surprised I managed it within 5 hours. Partly due to the ‘Low Season’ (May-July) there were no crowds to fight your way through. Look for deals on Entry tickets. Most are promoted to residents but I managed to pick up a $10 off code if I paid by Mastercard, which is the parks Sponsor.
On Sentosa it will be hard for you not to notice the 120 feet Merlion that faces out to sea. A ticket can be purchased for roughly SG$10.50 (GB£5) that allows you to walk up to the viewing platform at the mouth.
Once you have had your fill of Sentosa catch the train back to the mainland, then the Singapore MRT to “LITTLE INDIA” station. Like Chinatown, Little India greatly enhances the cultural aspect of your three days in Singapore. Little India is the epicentre of Singapore’s Tamil Indian population – it is home to the Sri Mariamman Hindu temple, Singapore’s oldest – and is a great place to get Indian food and buy Indian goods. Or, you know, to feel like you’re in India for a few hours.
Singapore Botanic Gardens is huge, lush and gives you the impression of being in a tropical rainforest far, far away from a large modern city, not right in the middle of it. The Botanic Gardens is home to Singapore’s National Orchid Garden, that contains literally dozens of different orchid species – you could spend an entire day here!
Regardless of how much of your third day in Singapore you spend at Singapore Botanic Gardens or in the National Orchid Garden, at the end the day on Arab Street, located a short walk from the Bugis MRT station, the third in the cultural tri-sect of your three days in Singapore, after Chinatown and Little India.
The ARAB STREET area is home to the huge Sultan mosque, which looks even cooler than it ordinarily might thanks to its juxtaposition with huge modern buildings. Arab Street is also home to my favourite eatery in Singapore: Singapore Zam Zam, whose signature dish “Murtabak” you would be crazy not to try.
There are numerous places to wine and dine in Singapore. A vast majority lie within the Clarke Quay and Boat Quay areas of the CBD. However, if you wonder off the beaten track you can discover all sorts of local haunts at the fraction of the price. Like in every city I have my favourite places were I tend to spend my time watching the World pass-by…..
Located on Keong Saik Road: This is an incredible bar. To look at from the front entrance it really does not look much.
You walk into a small shop selling all sorts of things. This is were it becomes no ordinary bar. To access it you require a “Password” that must be given to the receptionist/shop assistant. The password is often publish on its website or the adjoining restaurants website. The Password could be a phrase or a word. It changes often so keep up-to-date with the bars publishings.
Close to the Chinese street market on Maxwell Road is an outdoor eatery. You can sample the local dish “Laksa” which is served hot, in copious amounts and at an incredible price compared to other eateries in Singapore.
MARINA BAY SANDS HOTEL
The bar at the top of the Hotel is unbelievable. It offers stunning views at sundown across the city. Best of all you do not have to be a resident of the hotel to drink there.
There are two bars. Head to the top of the Third Tower at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. It’s free for non-residents. The bar staff are friendly, attentive and chatty. The cocktails are surprisingly cheap for such a high profile place, and, they come with something free – an incredible view!
BOAT QUAY AND CLARKE QUAY
Be wary here. Clarke Quay runs into Boat Quay all the way down to the CBD. Whats quite surprising here is that along the same stretch drink/food prices can vastly alter in such a short run. For example a pitcher of beer (my fave) was $7 at one end but an incredible $25 closer to the CBD (it is where all the city professionals hangout)
RAFFLES HOTEL AND THE FULLERTON HOTEL
Both located in the Colonial district, if time permits then set aside a few hours for ‘High Tea’ in either the very Colonial Raffles Hotel synonymous for the ‘Singapore Sling’ cocktail.
My own preference, however, is afternoon tea at the Fullerton Hotel which serves sandwiches, cakes and pastries all washed down with Tea in china cups or upgrade with cocktails or Champagne.
Singapore is wonderful. Its old British colonial meets modern 21st Century city. You can relax and take in the sights at your own pace or create an itinerary as intense as you want it.
Singapore offers something for everyone. Its a great place to spend a holiday but equally as great as a transit stop for a few days. Whatever your interested Singapore will not fail to deliver, and, for that long flight from Europe it certainly was worth the time.