- Airport – Changi Airport (SIN)
- Currency – Singapore Dollar (SGD or S$)
- Official Languages – English, Malay, Mandarin, Tamil
- Population – 5.4 million
- GDP – $307.9 billion (36th overall)
En route to a wedding in India, I decided to make the most of my time in Asia and visit Singapore as well. Having gone through the guidebooks, speaking with friends and even getting recommendations from my Couchsurfing hosts, I settled on a fantastic itinerary that I want to share with you. Getting to Singapore from New York took many hours (more than 20!) but Changi Airport (SIN) is very accessible from the East and the West.
Check Out Marina Bay & Swim in the Famous Infinity Pool
On my first full day in Singapore I decided to check out the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel and observation deck. While I typically avoid the more touristy experiences, this is one that I would definitely recommend.
The hotel is beautiful, there is a casino and shopping promenade, and you can go all the way to the top for a fantastic view of Singapore.
Tip: If you’re staying at Marina Bay Sands, cool down with a swim in their famous Infinity Pool on their roof! While access is limited to hotel guests only, split a room with friends for 1 night for access.
Go Bike Riding on Pulau Ubin
Legend has it that Pulau Ubin, a small island off the northeast coast of Singapore, was formed when a frog, pig and elephant challenged each other to a race to the shore.
They bet that whoever lost would turn to stone. All three failed and the elephant and pig turned into Pulau Ubin, and the frog became Pulau Sekudu (Frog Island). As someone who enjoys being active and wandering, I loved the outing to this small island only 10 minutes away by ferry from the Changi Village. Once you arrive on the island you can rent a bike for the day and cruise around, meeting others and taking in the scenery.
Tip: The ferry is on the northeast tip of the island so you can check out the Changi Village and great hawker center on your way there.
Hang Out with Singapore’s Mascot: Merlion Park
The surrounding bay area typically has a lot going on, including its own great hawker center. You can also visit the adjacent Merlion Park which itself is a major tourist attraction with the famous Merlion: the national animal of Singapore (half lion & half fish!).
Hang Out With Locals
Not specific to Singapore, I always recommend meeting and when possible to stay with locals during travel. Couchsurfing.com is one such platform and I was able to meet a handful of awesome students who hosted me at their apartment at the National University of Singapore (NUS) for part of my stay. They gave me great recommendations of things to do, made me feel at home and we even hung out in New York recently when they were visiting my home town.
Traditional Singaporean food is one of a kind. It is the product of a variety of influences and cultures including Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian, Indian and Western! This blend of cultures has created some of the most unique and delicious food in the world, including famous dishes like Chili Crab, Chicken Rice and Kaya Toast.
A great place to try any number of authentic Singaporean dishes is in the Hawker Centers. Hawker Centers are similar to food courts, and serve a variety of food and desserts that are typically made-to-order. Be sure to visit a Hawker Center during your trip to Singapore and try some of the most popular Singaporean dishes such as, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Chilli Crab, Laksa, or Char Kway Teow.
For a refreshing snack, try one of Singapore’s famous fresh fruit smoothies. These smoothies can be found all over Singapore and are a delicious blend of some of the world’s freshest fruit. Many smoothies in Singapore are made with the Durian fruit, an extremely pungent fruit very popular amongst the locals.
Finally, lets talk dessert. Singapore is home to an array of Chocolate buffets. From white to dark chocolate and unique creations such as Lavender Chocolate Mousse, these chocolate buffets are a must for anyone with a sweet tooth. Two of the most indulgent Chocolate buffets in Singapore can be found at The Fullerton Bay Hotel or the Marina Bay Sands. Come here for an evening activity and to taste chocolate like you never have before.
While visiting the Changi Village on the Northeast side of the island on my way to Pulau Ubin, I visited their local Hawker Center (a Singaporean term for outdoor food station) and gave the chili crab a try. This perfect blend of delicious seafood mixed with spicy yet savory chili sauce offered an incredible introduction to Singaporean cuisine! The hawker center is called Changi Village Food Centre, but you can find this dish all over Singapore.
Have a Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel
I capped the week off by checking out The Raffles Hotel and having a Singapore Sling at the famous Long Bar. This eponymous hotel is named after Sir Stamford Raffles, the late British politician. Bartender Ngiam Tong Boon invented the Singapore Sling in the early 1900s with a gin base and pineapple juice and grenadine as the main ingredients. Well done Mr. Boon!
Check it out for a delicious drink as you wrap up your visit!
Bonus Activity – I took a bus to Johor Bahru, Malaysia (you can get there by public Singapore bus) but it’s a long ride and you have to pass through customs. Malaysia is great but do make sure to map it out before making the trek.
Singapore Travel Cheat Sheet
Questions about traveling to Singapore?? Leave us a comment below!