Singapore. “A city in a garden,” as they say there.
Imagine a place where you feel like you’ve been transported about 20 years into the future–in the best way possible. With humidity levels that instantly make your skin look 10 years younger–no complaints there.
A food scene, nightlife, tech advancements, Supertrees and public transportation that’s so clean you could probably eat your food off of its floor. It’s all waiting for you in this tiny island city-state in southeast Asia.
The movie “Crazy Rich Asians” was filmed here, and while its name fairly represents how expensive the city can be, you don’t need a trust fund to enjoy it. A few words of advice to help you save a bit of money:
- Only stay for a few days. The island is small, so you don’t need too much time.
- Use public transportation instead of cabs to get around–it’s clean and easy.
- Eat at Hawker Centers–Singapore has some of the best street food in the world.
Getting Around Singapore
The public transportation system in Singapore is your best bet for a convenient and cost-effective way to get around the city. It includes a below-ground subway train (MRT) and city-wide bus routes.
Public transportation in Singapore is incredibly clean and efficient. Even if you decide to take cabs most places, I’d use the MRT at least once to experience it.
We got the weekend pass (which is just a two-day pass that can be used any time of the week) and thought it was a great value at just $16 Singapore dollars. It’s valid on the MRT and most bus routes.
You can buy a weekend pass inside any MRT station. Look for a manned desk, not the self-serve kiosks. They’ll charge you a $10 deposit on top of the $16 cost, which you can get refunded if you return your card to the airport.
We took a cab from the airport to our hotel and it cost about $40. There’s a bus that goes straight to the airport and we used it to catch our return flight without any issues.
Where to Eat in Singapore
Singapore is known for its street food. Hawker Centers are open air food courts lined with stalls that serve street food from around the world. I had the best fried dumplings.
The food quality at the hawker centers is high and the prices are low, at about $5 per plate. You can even find MICHELIN-guide stalls if you’re lucky. We ate at the Lau Pa Sat hawker center and the Chinatown hawker center. Both were delicious.
Some of the stalls in the Chinatown hawker center also had adjoining restaurants so you get the best of both worlds–delicious food and air conditioning. We definitely took advantage of the air conditioning.
Anthony Bourdain went to the Maxwell hawker center, but it was closed for renovations while we were there.
Lau Pa Sat Hawker Center: 18 Raffles Quay, Singapore 048582
Chinatown Hawker Center: 335 Smith St, Singapore 050335
Maxwell Hawker Center: 1 Kadayanallur Street, Singapore 069184
Ann Siang Hill and Club Street
Ann Siang Hill and Club Street make up one of the trendiest areas in Singapore. Located in Chinatown, it features cobble stone streets dotted with restored shophouses. Go there for shopping, restaurants and rooftop bars.
Merci Marcel: French-inspired cuisine with a cute patio and airy indoor seating (along with climate-controlled seating in the back). I had a rosé, charcuterie board and the marinated crab tartine.
Oxwell & Co.: British bar with small rooftop and city views. I ordered some tea that, surprising nobody, wasn’t just tea (hello, gin). Pinky fingers up.
Merci Marcel: 56 Eng Hoon St, #01-68, Singapore 160056
Oxwell & Co.: 5 Ann Siang Rd, Singapore 069688
Song Fa (MICHELIN GUIDE) restaurant
This restaurant is on the MICHELIN Guide, but it’s low-key and inexpensive. They’re famous for their Bak Kut Teh, which is roasted ribs in bone broth.
No reservations needed and the wait isn’t long. They take your order while you wait in line, so your food is served to you as soon as you’re seated.
Although Merci Marcel (mentioned above) was a chic restaurant, I had my favorite meals at the hawker centers. You just can’t beat street food in Singapore.
Song Fa: Several locations
What to Do in Singapore
These trees are what Singapore is most known for so you have to see them. They are near the Cloud Forest, Flower Dome and Marina Bay Sands Hotel, so plan accordingly. It costs $10 to go up on the bridge, but it wasn’t too exciting so don’t feel bad if you want to skip that part.
We went during the day and then returned after dark for the light show. The light shows are 15 minutes each and there are usually two per night (check the calendar). The best view of the show is right in the center, laying on the concrete ground and looking up.
Each show has a different musical theme. Ours was retro night. It’s a great show and the only place in the world to see something like this, so make sure to attend one while you’re there.
Supertree Grove: 18 Marina Gardens Drive, Singapore 018953
This is one of the more popular attractions in Singapore. A giant dome, meant to resemble a greenhouse, features the tallest man-made waterfall in the world and plants from every level of the rain forrest.
It takes an hour or two (you move at your own pace) and while it wasn’t the most exciting place I’ve ever been, it’s worth a visit. Even if it’s just to escape the Singaporean heat.
Cloud Forest: 18 Marina Gardens Dr, Singapore 018953
We went through this quickly because we were running out of time. Expect to see a variety of flower gardens from around the world. If you have a fear of missing out, then go. Otherwise, it’s not worth it.
Flower Dome: 18 Marina Gardens Dr, Singapore 01895
It was raining during our visit, so our time was cut short, but we enjoyed the little walk that we had. There’s also a restaurant in the middle where you can stop for coffee or a meal overlooking the gardens. The coffee was surprisingly not bad.
Botanic Gardens: 1 Cluny Rd, Singapore 259569
Marina Bay Sands Hotel
We watched a documentary on the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and knew that we had to see it for ourselves. It’s an integrated resort and casino–the world’s most expensive stand-alone casino. Since its opening, it’s become an icon in Singapore’s skyline.
Three massive buildings are connected by an impressive boat-shaped rooftop structure at the top. Up there you’ll find a bar and restaurant that are open to the public and the world’s largest infinity pool, which, sadly, is only open to hotel guests.
The lobby is bustling with guests and tourists strolling through the many restaurants and shops. You could probably stay at this hotel for a year without ever having to leave.
We walked through the lobby during the day after seeing the Supertree Grove to get a burst of air conditioning. We returned later that night to get a drink on the rooftop.
It costs $20 to get access to the rooftop, but you can apply that to your bar tab. We each had one drink and ended up breaking even after applying our access fee.
Not only is this hotel one of the most architecturally interesting in Singapore, it offers a spectacular view of the city. I would 100% recommend having a cocktail at night while taking in the panoramic views.
This independent bookstore is on the outskirts of Singapore, but the bus will drop you off about a 10-minutes walk away. If I said the Marina Bay Sands rooftop was 100% worth the cost, then this bookstore is 1000% worth your time. Yes, I meant to type 1,000. With three zeros.
It features work from up-and-coming Singaporean authors along with notable books from around the world.
We spent about an hour here and honestly could have spent longer, but we had dinner reservations that we couldn’t miss. Not to mention a flight directly following dinner that probably wouldn’t have waited on us.
Books Actually: 9 Yong Siak St, Singapore 168645
The Changi Airport
This is not a mistake. The airport in Singapore is considered the best in the world. It has a movie theater, butterfly garden and high-end shopping.
I didn’t see any of the above (minus passing storefronts) because there was also a Wizarding World of Harry Potter installation and we opted to stop by that on our way to the airport lounge. It was MAGICAL.
If you have time, head to the airport a little early because this one is a destination. Plan for about an hour journey from the heart of Singapore to the airport.
Where to Stay in Singapore
We stayed at the Swissotel Merchant Court. The rooms were modern and spacious while the staff were accommodating. We didn’t have time to check out the amenities, but they have a pool and full-service spa.
Its location in the Clarke Quay area is ideal. You’re just a short walk to the MRT, and not far from the trendy Chinatown neighborhood. It’s also close to the Maxwell hawker center that Anthony Bourdain visited and a short walk to a Song Fa location.
It’s billed as a five-star hotel, but at the time of writing this blog the prices look reasonable. The Marina Bay Sands Hotel (mentioned earlier in this blog) was out of our price range, but it’s also a great contender if you want to splurge like a Crazy Rich Asian.
What to Wear in Singapore
First, sunscreen. Singapore is hot and humid, so protect your skin.
Singapore is not the place to make your next crazy fashion statement. You’ll be surrounded by impeccably dressed business men and women. I’d recommend simple and classic basics. Shorts and tank tops are your best bet with the high humidity.
Finally, your feet. I opted for comfortable Adidas walking shoes during the day and changed into gold sandals in for our evening out. The humidity will make your feet swell more than you’d anticipate, so be prepared. I found the Adidas shoes to be the more comfortable of the two.
Watch Before You Go
One final piece of advice before you head to Singapore: Watch “Crazy Rich Asians” and Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” episode about Singapore before you visit. Both are sure to get you excited for all that Singapore has to offer.
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