Singapore is an economic success story, which transformed itself from an isolated jungle to an economic powerhouse and metropolis in less than 50 years. Modern Singapore was founded in 1819 as a trading post for the British Empire. During the Second World War, it became occupied by Japan. After the war, Singapore and Malaysia gained independence from the United Kingdom; however, Malaysia voted to expel Singapore due to ideological differences. In 1965, the Republic of Singapore was born and formed a representative democracy, with the People’s Action Party (PAP) holding power ever since. Singapore is small and one of only three world city-states (Monaco and Vatican City). The city is known to be green, clean and has a low crime rate; however, it is also known to have strictly enforced rules and laws and is often referred to as the ‘fine’ city.
Some interesting facts you might not know:
- The national symbols of Singapore are the Lion, Merlion (mythical half lion-half fish creature) and the plant, the Orchid. The national colours are red (brotherhood and equality of man) and white (purity and virtue)
- Singapore’s national anthem is in micro-text on the back of the $1,000 Singapore Dollar note
- Singapore has over 3,000 kilometres of road, which would be the equivalent distance between the US cities of San Francisco in the state of California and Chicago in the state of Illinois
- Singapore is a green city with over 2,000 native plant specifies and over two million trees around the city. Singapore’s Botanical Gardens has a history of more than 150 years and is a UNESCO world heritage site
- Singapore is the anglicised version of its original Malay name, Singapura, translated means ‘Lion City.’
- Singapore was once a jungle with large forested and swamp areas during the 18th to early 19th century and was once home to tigers!
- Singapore believes in the importance of discipline and has strict rules, including those around littering, urinating in public spaces, flushing public toilets, chewing gum, long hair for men, and openly criticising the government. Violating any of these rules can get you into serious trouble
- You should avoid using your left hand when interacting with people, as the left hand is associated with the bathroom. Also, touching someone’s head is to be avoided, as the head is considered to be sacred
- Singaporeans do not like loud, drunk behaviour and any form of public displays of affection
- Singapore has many stunning indoor waterfalls, including the world’s tallest known as the ‘Rain Vortex’, 40 metres tall and pumps 500,000 litres of rainwater in the centre of its impressive roof. The Cloud Forest waterfall at Gardens by the Bay and the Waterfall Aviary at the Jurong Bird Park are both 35 metres tall
- The average temperature throughout the year is 28 degrees Celsius (82.4 Fahrenheit), with the lowest temperature ever recorded being 19.4 degrees Celsius (66.9 Fahrenheit) in 1934
- Singapore is connected to Malaysia via the Johor–Singapore Causeway, Tuas Second Link and the Woodlands Train checkpoint. The causeway was constructed in 1924, and the link is a bridge completed in 1998. The train checkpoint connects Malaysia’s railway network to Singapore
- Singapore has been reclaiming land from the ocean for years and is a large importer of sand from neighbouring countries. In the past 55 years, Singapore has reclaimed 13,800 hectares (138 square kilometres) of land
- Singapore Changi Airport (///bend.songs.ending – SIN (IATA) | WSSS (ICAO)) is an international airport and is one of the largest transportation hubs in Asia. The airport is located in the Changi area and can be found in the eastern part of Singapore, approximately 20 km (12 mi) from Downtown Singapore. Changi has four terminals and receives daily flights from airline carriers worldwide. As a transportation hub, many passengers disembark in Singapore to travel to often remote, isolated and distant locations. Passengers arriving in Singapore can get downtown via public transport, taxis or shuttle services. Changi Airport is connected via the Changi Airport Branch of the Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) network. Boarding at the Changi Airport MRT station, you can take the train and change at Tanah Merah Station to connect to the East-West Line, which will take over one hour to downtown. Taxis are metered and will typically cost S$30-40 and take approximately 20 minutes. Buses and shuttle services are also available.
- Ferry Terminals – Singapore is home to three ferry terminals. Harbourfront Centre (///gent.assist.found) located downtown, Pasir Panjang Ferry Terminal (///wash.stews.play) located west which is close to downtown and SAF Changi Ferry Terminal (///form.will.grand) close to Changi airport. All ferries are going to and from Batam, Bintan, Great Karimun Island in Indonesia and Malaysia. Ferries are daily and often affordable
- Cruise Terminals – Harbourfront Centre (///gent.assist.found) and Marina South Pier (///heat.yappy.apron) are both located close to downtown, and both offer worldwide cruises and mini cruises, especially to neighbouring Asian and Oceania countries
- An indirect train service runs from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. The journey takes over 7 hours, and you must change trains at either Gemas or Johor Bahru. The onward train will then connect to Woodlands Train Checkpoint (///hush.fingernails.commented), and tickets can be purchased via the Malaysian railway operator KTM (https://www.ktmb.com.my/ets-routes-map.html)
- Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) – Singapore has an extensive subway network known as the MRT. The MRT connects most of the city, and the operator plans to expand the network further. The 122 MRT stations run north to south, west to east and is a quick and affordable way to get around. For those with accessibility issues, the good news is that Singapore’s entire MRT network offers disabled facilities. It is easy to use the transport infrastructure from ramps to special barriers. You will need to register for an EZ-Link card and top up as required to use the MRT. Fares will depend on how far you wish to travel, and single journeys can cost from 60 cents to SG$2. For more information on EZ-Link visit Transitlink (https://www.transitlink.com.sg/PSdetail.aspx?ty=cat&Id=2) and for timetables/journey planners, visit the Land Transport Authority website (https://www.lta.gov.sg/content/ltagov/en/map/train.html)
- Taxis – taxis are readily available all over Singapore. There are many taxi rank stands across the city as well as the SMRT apple app (https://apps.apple.com/sg/app/smrt-book-a-taxi/id441897629), Android App (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=sg.com.smrt.smrtbookataxi) and via the website (https://www.smrt.com.sg/Journey-with-Us/SMRT-Taxis/Book-a-Taxi) where you can link your credit card to your account and book and pay for your rides without needing to pay in cash. All taxis are metered, and when you flag down taxis, the fare will start from S$3.90. You can also use the grab app on your smartphone for either metered taxis or fixed cost private hire vehicles
- Buses – there are over 370 scheduled bus services connecting Singapore. Buses are a frequent, reliable and economical way to see the city. To use buses in Singapore, as with the MRT, you are required to use an EZ-Link card, which you can top up as needed. The cost of a bus journey depends on the distance, with single journey fares starting from 90 cents to S$3.30 for trips over 40.2 kilometres per person. For more information on EZ-Link visit Transitlink (https://www.transitlink.com.sg/PSdetail.aspx?ty=cat&Id=2) and for timetables/journey planners, visit the Land Transport Authority website (https://www.lta.gov.sg/content/ltagov/en/map/bus.html)
Where to Stay
- Eighteen by Three Cabins (///curiosity.also.shapes) offers quality rooms for under $100. The 2-star hotel is located in downtown Singapore at 3 Stanley Street. It offers 18 contemporary cabins that are bespoke and designed for privacy, comfort and functionality. Visit Eighteen by Three at http://www.18by3.com/ for more information
- Camping is often a free and low-cost alternative, whether on private islands or close to Downtown Singapore
- East Coast Park – Area D (///bright.blend.work) and Area G (///free.forum.grades)
- Pasir Ris Park – Area 1 (///assist.lace.caller) and Area 3 (///rabble.fuels.frogs)
- West Coast Park – Designated area within Area 3 (///rather.stored.transfers)
- To camp in Singapore, you need to apply for a permit 14 days before your visit, and you can learn more and apply for the permit by visiting Singapore’s National Parks (https://www.nparks.gov.sg/activities/fun-and-recreation/camping). Singapore also has several glamping options for those wanting to sleep outdoors with all of the amenities of home
- Staying in the surrounding areas such as Geylang and on the East Coast can see the average cost per night become more affordable and the MRT and buses make this both a viable option, given it is easy to get around the city
Places to Visit
- Raffles Singapore (///newest.weedy.hint) is a colonial-style luxury hotel in downtown Singapore. The hotel opened in 1887 and offers many colonial-style rooms and suites, six restaurants, and two bars. The Long Bar is famous for serving the cocktail Singapore Sling (ingredients include Gin, Cointreau, Grenadine, pineapple and lime juice), which a bartender created in this famous bar in 1915. The Long Bar is the only place in the city where you are permitted to litter (within reason). The bar provides large boxes of monkey nuts to customers, where you can discard the peanut shells on the ground
- Gardens by the Bay (///intelligible.shakes.bids) is a nature park which is set on over 250 acres. The park’s main features include the Cloud Forest, Supertree Grove and the Flower Dome. The Cloud Forest replicates cool, moist conditions often found in tropical mountain regions and features an impressive waterfall. The Supertree Grove has become a recognisable landmark on the Singaporean landscape. The grove is made up of 18-tree like structures whose height ranges between 25 and 50 meters and are home to exotic ferns, vines and orchids. The Flower Dome is the largest greenhouse in the world and replicates a cool-dry Mediterranean climate
- The Merlion (///shadow.dent.weds) is the national symbol of Singapore; though a mythical creature, many Merlions can be found throughout Singapore; however, the original Merlion statue can be found at Merlion Park on 1 Fullerton Road
- Jurong Bird Park (///loaf.richer.tree) is an aviary set over 49 acres in the western region of Singapore. The bird park was opened in 1971 and is now home to over 12,000 animals from 500 different species. The impressive park boasts an enclosed waterfall aviary, frequent shows and many opportunities to interact and feed the birds
- Island of Pulau Ubin (///supporter.maple.nods) – A 15-minute journey from the Changi Point Jetty via bumboat will take you to the boomerang-shaped island of Pulau Ubin. The small island has bike and hike trails around the island and through the hills. Visitors can hire bicycles or bring their own (which will incur an additional cost when using the bumboat). The island is inhabited by a small number of people and is reminiscent of Singapore’s past. The island is the last rural area and has an abundance of natural flora and fauna. Trips on the bumboats will typically cost S$4 dollars per adult each way
One of the things most visitors find when visiting Singapore is how green a city it is, especially given the warm and humid climate. When you arrive at Changi Airport, you will see the luxury and impressive design found throughout the city. One in six Singaporeans have combined assets of one million dollars or more. From the buildings to the shops, it is geared towards luxury. Designer shops can be found throughout the city; as a small city-state, nearly all the food and clothing items are imported worldwide. You will likely find and buy whatever you are looking for; however, you may have to pay a premium for some items. Given Singapore’s location, many authentic and original electronics can be purchased often at discounted prices.
A trip to Singapore does not have to be expensive; hawker centres offer good quality food at low prices and many low-cost carriers that travel to and from Singapore. People often do not realise that using Singapore as a base for other parts of Asia can be accessible and affordable. A flight to Phuket is under two hours and can cost under S$100 per person, and flights to Cebu City in the Philippines takes under four hours and can cost under S$200.
If you are planning a trip to Asia or are transiting through Singapore, try to extend your trip and explore Singapore. People that visit for two days often regret that they did not have enough time, so you should aim for at least a minimum of 4 days. Singapore’s diverse culture can be seen when you visit China Town and Little India. Singapore has a wide range of restaurants, bars, and clubs to keep anyone amused and happy for foodies and party-goers alike.
In the words of the explorer Dan Buettner “Singapore is the happiest place in Asia.”
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