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Visiting Singapore: 25 Useful Things You Need to Know


Ced earned a bachelor's degree in communication studies in 1999. His interests include history, traveling, and mythology.

The must-knows before visiting Singapore.

The must-knows before visiting Singapore.

This travel guide is written by a native Singaporean and meant for all friends of the world. I sincerely hope the following tips will help you better enjoy your stay in our beautiful city.

25 Things to Know Before Traveling to Singapore

  1. Singapore is Not Just Warm. It’s Humid.
  2. Singapore Has Stringent Duty-free Regulations.
  3. The Local Subway System Is Mostly Reliable.
  4. Taxis Are Increasingly Expensive.
  5. You Still Need Cash When Going About Singapore.
  6. Airbnb Rentals Are Illegal for Most Singaporean Properties.
  7. Singapore Is Safe, Not Crime Free.
  8. Free WiFi Is Plentiful, but Could Be a Hassle.
  9. Most Singaporeans Speak Some Degree of English.
  10. There Is No Need to Tip.
  11. Tap Water Is Safe. Even Delicious.
  12. It Is Phenomenally Expensive to Smoke and Drink in Singapore.
  13. Be Mindful of Alcohol Consumption Regulations.
  14. Expensive As Singapore Is, There Are Still Many Free Attractions.
  15. The Lion City Adores Light Ups.
  16. Other Than Festive Light Ups, There Are Many Other Tourism Events to Enjoy.
  17. Don’t Skip Public Parks.
  18. Hawker Centers, Food Courts, and “Kopi-tiams” Are Great Places to Sample Local Cuisine Affordably.
  19. Don’t Forget to Visit Residential Neighborhoods.
  20. Be Mindful of Bad Travel Seasons When Visiting Singapore.
  21. Singapore Is Not an Orwellian City.
  22. Singaporean Laws About Public Cleanliness and Order Are Way Exaggerated.
  23. Busking Is Illegal Without a License in Singapore.
  24. Be Aware of Tourist Scam Hotspots.
  25. There Are Many Other Places to Head to After Visiting Singapore.

Keep scrolling to learn more about each of the items listed above.

1. Singapore Isn't Just Warm. It’s Humid.

Everybody knows that Singapore is warm all year long. On the other hand, many visitors do not realize it is not the tropical temperature but the high humidity levels that make it so uncomfortable.

To paraphrase what an Australian couple once told me, stepping into the Lion City is akin to entering a sauna. An island-wide sauna that operates 24 hours a day.

For folks visiting Singapore, this means several things. You are going to get sweaty, so you will need to constantly hydrate. You should also carry a small towel or something similar to clean up every half hour. An extra set of clothes in your day-pack is usually a good idea too.

Also, if you’re new to tropical weather, please take things slowly. The tropical climate wears down your body in more ways than one, often without you realizing. You certainly do not want to have to visit the doctor during your stay.

What to Wear When Visiting Singapore?

Even if you are accustomed to tropical weather, it’s best to wear light and comfortable clothing when here. T-shirts, flip-flops, the likes of, are worn by Singaporean everywhere. Shorts are generally fine too. That is, unless you are visiting an institution of worship.

And if you’re heading to an establishment with a dress code, consider including time within your itinerary for you to return to your hotel to change. Our efficient transportation systems make doing so easy.

Why Is Singapore so Humid?

Humidity is high in Singapore partly because it rains very often. In other words, you ought to always have an umbrella with you too.

On a really warm day, your body loses fluids faster than the Singapore Merlion.

On a really warm day, your body loses fluids faster than the Singapore Merlion.

2. Singapore Has Stringent Duty-Free Regulations.

Singapore’s duty-free regulations (on arrival) are stringent, particularly for cigarettes. What’s especially important to know is that there is no concession at all for tobacco regardless of the origin of travel. If you’ve purchased a carton at your departure point or during your flight, be prepared to be taxed.

In comparison, rules are less strict for alcohol. Travelers are permitted to bring in up to two liters of alcohol in different combinations. To give some examples, this could be 1 liter of wine and 1 liter of beer, or vice versa. The combination could also be 1 liter of spirits and 1 liter of beer/wine.

Needless to say, narcotics of any form are prohibited, including soft drugs and marijuana. Don’t even think about it.

Additional Alcohol Concession Conditions to Know:

To qualify for concession, you must also:

  • Be 18 years old or above
  • Have spent 48 hours outside Singapore
  • Not be arriving from Malaysia
  • All alcohol with you is for your own consumption i.e. not for resale

What Medicine Can I Bring Into Singapore?

There's no easy answer for this, The only way to be sure is to check with Singapore's Health Science Authority (HSA).

Despite occasional breakdowns, the MRT is still the best public transportation system in Singapore. It is also exceptionally clean.

Despite occasional breakdowns, the MRT is still the best public transportation system in Singapore. It is also exceptionally clean.

3. The Singaporean Subway System Is Mostly Reliable.

Since the 1980s, the Singaporean subway system, known as the MRT, has been regarded as one of the best public transportation systems in the world. Regrettably, it has since somewhat fallen from that position, no thanks to several high-profile breakdowns in recent years.

That said, the system is still an efficient and affordable way to get around the island overall – the foremost choice of transportation for anyone visiting Singapore on a budget too. As of 2021, near every corner of the country is within reasonable distance of an MRT station. Even when not, be assured that there will always be convenient bus connections right beside the stations.

What Happens During an MRT Disruption?

In the event that you do get caught in an MRT breakdown, what’s useful to know are the following:

  • “Bridging” services would be provided. These are in the form of buses traveling in-between stations of the affected portions.
  • Without surprise, bridging services considerably extend travel time. If possible, change your itinerary.
  • You could also check for breakdowns and delays on Twitter at @SMRT_Singapore and @SBSTransit_Ltd. Please be advised that there have been complaints about both operators not promptly or accurately reporting delays.
  • Since late 2017, system renewal works have resulted in many stations being affected by early closures and late openings. These typically happen on weekends. Please check the SMRT website for details. Also, keep an eye out for relevant posters beside control stations.

4. Taxis in Singapore Are Increasingly Expensive.

Singaporean taxis are required by law to charge by the meter. This means you should immediately walk away if a taxi driver attempts to negotiate a special “package price” with you.

Final fares for any ride could also pile up substantially, no thanks to a plethora of possible surcharges. These surcharges range from highway tolls to airport charges, to peak hour fees, to the notorious 12 am to 6 am 50 percent midnight surcharge.

The short of it, if you are visiting Singapore on a budget, you should stick to using the subway and buses. Do be aware too that private-hire car services like Grab have been charging substantially in recent times too, especially during peak hours. You are unlikely to enjoy significant savings from using these services.

Late-Night Singapore Public Transportation Tips

  • The MRT always operates till the early morning hours on the eves of major public holidays. For example, on New Year’s Eve, it operates until at least 2 am.
  • If you are a night owl, consider using the night buses on weekends. These services charge a low flat fee for any ride. Appropriately, one of the services is named the Nite Owl.
Cash isn’t king when visiting Singapore. But you will still need it.

Cash isn’t king when visiting Singapore. But you will still need it.

5. You Still Need Cash in Singapore.

Since 2018, there is an aggressive national campaign to go cashless in Singapore. Before this, many methods for cashless payment also existed.

Still, it’s helpful, if not essential, to always carry some cash with you. Examples of places where you would almost definitely require cash would be older hawker centers, residential neighborhood shops, and kopi-tiams eateries (coffee shops).

As for the amount to have, I’d say having anything between fifty and a hundred dollars would be more than enough for one day. If you do run out, ATMs are everywhere. Money changers are also widely available.

6. Airbnb Rentals Are Illegal for Most Singaporean Properties.

More than 80 percent of Singaporeans live in leased public housing known as HDB estates. Under local laws, lessees are not permitted to rent out their properties to tourists. Rental is also only permitted for visitors holding student passes or long-term social visit passes.

Since 2017, even private property owners are prohibited from renting out their properties for less than three months. They can only do so with permission from the government.

For tourists visiting Singapore, the implications of these laws are significant. You are unlikely to be arrested for staying in a non-Airbnb permitted residence, but you certainly run the risk of your bags and yourself thrown out into the streets overnight.

If you are here on a budget, I thus encourage you to consider hostels in areas like Chinatown and Little India, many of which are hippy, atmospheric, and decently operated.

Alternatively, there are also several budget hotel chains operating in the country. Hotel 81 and Fragrance Hotels are the most famous names in this accommodation niche.

Note: Laws regarding the sharing economy constantly change. It is good to diligently check before booking your accommodations.

7. The Lion City Is Safe, Not Crime Free.

Is Singapore safe to visit? Absolutely. Our city-state has long been one of the safest countries in the world, great for even solo female travelers.

That said, it naturally doesn’t mean we are crime-free. For travelers, the most common threats to be mindful of here would be scams and drunken brawls.

In the case of the latter, many recent cases curiously involve the drunk assaulting taxi drivers. If you happen to encounter such incidents when visiting Singapore, please immediately notify the police at 999.

And if you are unfortunate enough to be within an establishment when someone gets rowdy, do not panic, just leave as quickly as possible. Be assured that the staff would have called for help before you are even through the door.

Finally, snapping pictures and videos of such fracases is akin to inviting the violence to attend to you. Your priority should always be to quickly leave.

Promotion for pre-paid SIM cards in Singapore. These cards are great for tourists visiting on a budget.

Promotion for pre-paid SIM cards in Singapore. These cards are great for tourists visiting on a budget.

8. Free WiFi Is Plentiful But Can Be a Hassle.

Many places in Singapore offer free WiFi. For example, shopping malls and museums.

You could also sign up for a free account at Wireless@SGx on arrival. Once registered, you can enjoy Internet connection at any of the numerous Wireless@SGx hotspots around the country, locations such as libraries and museums. The service itself is available as a free app, and once configured, will keep you auto-connected throughout your stay.

Attractive as they are, though, the strength of such free services is typically unreliable, particularly at crowded areas like Changi Airport and fast-food restaurants. If this is an issue for you, head to the nearest 7-11 convenience store and pick up a tourist SIM card instead. These are remarkably affordable and come in many options.

To give an example, a Singtel tourist SIM card with 100 GB 4G local data costs but 15 Singaporean dollars as of 2021. Some versions are also “EZ-Link” enabled, as in, you can use them to take public transportation as well. In all, it’s a low price for island-wide convenience.

Note: Singaporean pre-paid SIM cards have terminated all support for 2G phones since 2016.

Singlish is, at the same time, a curiosity, an embarrassment, a social phenomenon, a source of pride, and an academic research subject in Singapore.

Singlish is, at the same time, a curiosity, an embarrassment, a social phenomenon, a source of pride, and an academic research subject in Singapore.

9. Most Singaporeans Speak Some Degree of English.

Most Singaporeans speak some degree of English, though you might need some time to get used to local intonations and colloquiums. As a general guide, what’s useful to know about Singaporean English, or “Singlish,” are the following:

  • Most Singaporeans tend to speak English faster than Americans and Europeans.
  • The less fluent also tend to clip pronunciations.
  • Singlish often includes onomatopoeic words for emphasis. The most infamous ones are “lah” and “loh.” Once you are mindful of these, you tend to subconsciously ignore them.

10. There Is No Need to Tip.

Nearly all Singaporean restaurants and cafes charge a 10 percent service fee on top of the usual consumption tax. Because of this, tipping is generally considered unnecessary at such establishments.

Conversely, less formal eateries such as hawker centers and food courts do not charge service or consumption tax. Neither do fast-food outlets. Nonetheless, most Singaporeans would find it odd to tip at these places. In other words, you wouldn’t be stared at or frowned at, if you follow suit.

If plain water isn’t to your taste, convenient stores are everywhere in Singapore and they sell all sorts of drinks.

If plain water isn’t to your taste, convenient stores are everywhere in Singapore and they sell all sorts of drinks.

11. Tap Water in Singapore Is Safe. Even Delicious.

It is widely known that Singaporean tap water is perfectly safe to drink. To this, I’d add that it’s also palatable, with no weird odor or taste.

In other words, this means there is absolutely no need to buy bottled water when here. That is, unless you need the bottle.

Take note, though. Tap water being safe for consumption doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be contaminated by the pipes and taps serving it. While there is no way for anyone to be completely sure, it’s usually a bad idea to fill up using rusty and tarnished taps. Coloration of the water is a sure sign of contamination too; Singaporean tap water is clear.

Lastly, most Singaporeans would balk at the notion of drinking straight from the tap at places like coffee shops and hawker centers. For us, just the thought of doing so is disgusting.

12. It Is Phenomenally Expensive to Smoke and Drink in Singapore.

I have previously written about ways to save money when visiting Singapore. In that list of tips, I highlighted how expensive it is to smoke and drink alcohol here.

I cannot repeat this enough. In fact, prices have shot up again since that write-up.

If you must consume alcohol when here, try to have some of your sessions at hawker centers and kopi-tiams. (They don’t serve hard liquor or wine, though). Alternatively, you could buy from supermarket chains such as NTUC Fairprice and enjoy your favorite beer in your hotel room.

As for cigarettes, sadly, there’s no way around it. You either pay the high prices or give your lungs a break.

Don’t be alarmed by the alcohol consumption regulations. There are pubs and restaurants selling alcohol all over the country.

Don’t be alarmed by the alcohol consumption regulations. There are pubs and restaurants selling alcohol all over the country.

13. Be Aware of the Alcohol Consumption Regulations.

In 2015, Singapore implemented a series of rather draconian liquor control laws to minimize public disturbances. Under these laws:

  • Consumption of alcohol is banned in all public places from 10.30 pm to 7 am. Retail shops are also not permitted to sell takeaway alcohol from 10.30 pm to 7 am. Note that the term "public places" does not include licensed pubs.
  • The precincts of Geylang and Little India have stricter laws. At these places, public drinking is banned from 7 am on Saturdays to 7 am on Mondays. Public drinking is also banned from 7 pm on the eve of a public holiday to 7 am on the day after the holiday. Shops in these two areas are not permitted to sell takeaway alcohol from 7 pm onward on weekends.

Stringent as they sound, these laws simply mean you can only drink at licensed establishments during affected hours.

14. Singapore is Expensive to Visit, but There Are Still Many Free Attractions.

Here’s a quick list of free attractions in Singapore. Given the quality of all, I dare say these freebies are among the best attractions in the country too:

  • The dramatic HSBC Sky Vortex and Shiseido Forest Valley at Jewel Changi Airport.
  • Open-air performances at venus such as The Esplanade, The Singapore Botanic Gardens, Ngee Ann City Civic Plaza, and so on.
  • All parks in Singapore are free for all to enter. This includes Gardens by the Bay. (At Gardens, only the Flower and Cloud Domes charge entry fees)
  • Chinese and Indian temples, and churches, are generally free to enter.
  • The Singapore Botanic Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, charges no entry fee.
  • The truly weird Haw Par Villa also charges no entry fee.
  • The light-and-water shows at Gardens by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands are free.
  • Changi Airport/Singapore Airlines offers two free city tours for visitors in transit. (There is also a walking tour of Jewel Changi Airport)
  • Last but not least, festive light-ups. (See below) There's practically one every other month.
Singapore Chinatown Mid-Autumn Festival Light-Up 2020. Such illuminations are among the best free attractions in Singapore.

Singapore Chinatown Mid-Autumn Festival Light-Up 2020. Such illuminations are among the best free attractions in Singapore.

15. Singapore Adores Light-Ups.

Nowadays, there is a light-up somewhere in Singapore every month. Other than those for ethnic/religious celebrations such as Chinese New Year and Christmas, there are also artistic illuminations such as the Singapore Night Festival and the i Light Marina Bay Sustainable Light Art Festival.

What’s additionally great about these light-ups is that it never just about elaborate street decorations. Festive areas frequently have bazaars and free street performances, with some bazaars covering entire streets. Visiting one of these light-ups could easily be your most memorable experience when here.

16. Other Than Light-Ups, There Are Many Other Tourism Events to Enjoy.

The Singapore Tourism Board hosts many events throughout the year. For example, The Singapore International Festival of Arts, The Singapore Jazz Festival, Dragon Boating Regattas, and for those into retail therapy, the two-month-long Great Singapore Sale. As much as possible, you should try to time your visit to coincide with these events.

Bishan Park at the heart of the country. You could jog, stroll, cycle, play golf, even fish here.

Bishan Park at the heart of the country. You could jog, stroll, cycle, play golf, even fish here.

17. Don’t Skip Singapore’s Numerous Public Parks.

The unimpressed often criticize that the Lion City is a concrete jungle. There is some truth in this but I’d add that we are a concrete jungle dotted with plentiful green spaces.

Not only are our parks well-maintained and safe after dark, the larger ones also contain facilities like restaurants, pubs, fishing ponds, and sports venues. If you don’t mind traveling a bit further from the downtown area, the public parks to check out would be Punggol Waterway, Bishan Park, Woodlands Waterfront, and ORTO. A trip to any of these could easily fill up the good part of a day.

Tray return shelf at a Singapore Hawker Center.

Tray return shelf at a Singapore Hawker Center.

18. Hawker Centers, Food Courts, and “Kopi-tiams” Are Great Places to Sample Local Cuisine Affordably.

Hawkers Centers prominently feature on all visiting Singapore guides, so I wouldn’t talk about them.

I would assume too that our air-conditioned food courts, found all over the country, are equally well-known too.

Instead, I’d highlight “kopi-tiams,” which are open-air “coffee shops” found throughout the residential neighborhoods.

Miniature hawker centers of sorts, kopi-tiams serve the same hawker cuisines at similar prices, and in pretty much the same ambiance as their larger counterparts. Many also have restaurant-like stalls known as zi-cha, which allow you to order Chinese dishes and fresh seafood from an extensive menu. (If you are ordering from zi-cha, do remember to inquire about prices beforehand)

In addition, practically all kopi-tiams have ethnic stalls where you can sample a variety of Asian cuisine too. For example, Singapore's many noodle dishes. The short of it, these informal eateries are mini slices of local cuisine heaven. Even if you are not traveling on a budget, you should at least check out one.

Compulsory Tray Return and Table Clear-Up at Singaporean Hawker Centers

Note that from June 1, 2021, tray return and table clear-up are compulsory at all Singaporean Hawker Centers. If you fail to do so, and have been caught more than once by enforcement officers, you will be fined SGD 300/- or more.

Table clearing doesn’t mean you need to clean the table at which you dined at too. Instead, it simply refers to proper disposal of used plastic cutlery, tissue papers, sauce packets, and so on.

Lastly, all tray return shelves will be categorized as HALAL and NON-HALAL. Halal shelves are meant for cutlery and utensils from Muslim stores, these usually with green signs and the Arabic Bismillah sign. However, there is no penalty for using the wrong shelf.

Toa Payoh HDB Estate. Meticulously maintained, the dense blocks within each HDB estate provide for great selfie opportunities.

Toa Payoh HDB Estate. Meticulously maintained, the dense blocks within each HDB estate provide for great selfie opportunities.

19. Don’t Forget to Visit Residential Neighborhoods.

Singaporean residential districts such as Ang Mo Kio, Clementi, Bedok, etc, do not have noteworthy landmarks or tourist attractions. However, they are full of great food, cheaper products, and glimpses of colorful daily life.

Easily accessible by subway, each major neighborhood also boasts of a “town center,” where there would always be malls, hawker centers, and supermarkets. Should you tire of museums and theme parks, pop over to one of these neighborhoods for a few hours. You might even end up enjoying them more than the usual tourist haunts

20. Be Mindful of Bad Travel Seasons When Visiting Singapore

Singapore doesn’t have different weather seasons, but it certainly has bad travel seasons that you should take note of. The most notorious of these is the haze i.e. when the city-state is smothered by smog caused by nearby Sumatran forest fires.

It doesn’t happen every year, but when the haze does come, it’s always terrible. Arguably worse than typical air pollution too as a burning stench permeates everywhere.

If your Singapore trip is scheduled for the second half of the year, be sure to check whether there are any forecasted haze days. Other than health concerns, the haze significantly obscures vision. Visits to famous panoramic spots would be rendered entirely pointless.

21. Singapore Is Not an Orwellian City.

Over the years, Singapore has developed somewhat of an Orwellian reputation within certain circles. This is not helped by how the ruling political party, on and off, continues to play up such perceptions to maintain order and control.

Here’s the truth, though. There are millions of us in the country who live each day peacefully without being spied on or threatened. In fact, the Internet has for years been full of Singaporeans grouching about how the government is not doing enough, or not paying enough attention.

As a visitor, none of these local sentiments should concern you. This is especially with it being a widely known fact that the Singaporean government adores visitors.

To put it in another way, do not believe nonsensical and archaic rumors about how the Singaporean government constantly supervises and intimidates everyone. Apart from laws involving anti-social behavior such as littering and spitting, and what’s already mentioned above, there are no laws or rules that visitors should particularly be mindful of.

The short of it, as long as you aren’t here to compromise the government’s rule or challenge our laws, or to work illegally, you have absolutely nothing to worry about at all.

22. Singaporean Laws About Public Cleanliness and Order Are Way Exaggerated too.

In the '80s, some cheeky company came up with the “Singapore is a Fine City” tee as a pun on how there are numerous fines for all sorts of minor offenses in the country. Humorous as it was at that moment, this painted an awful image of the country over the long run.

There are indeed many types of fines in Singapore. If you objectively examine them, though, you will realize that all are meant to discourage unpleasant public behavior.

In other words, behave as you would do in your friend’s home and there is no reason why you should even know about these fines. To highlight, some of these laws even keep you safe. Who in the right mind would want to dash across one of our busy downtown roads?

Singaporean busker along Orchard Road.

Singaporean busker along Orchard Road.

23. Busking Is Illegal Without a License in Singapore

At the risk of contradicting myself, here’s one fine that’s useful to know about.

You need to have a license to busk in Singapore, lack of which you run the risk of a stay at a police station, and a hefty fine. If you are thinking about earning some pocket change when visiting Singapore, too bad. That wouldn’t work here. It will get you into trouble too.

24. Be Aware of Scam Hotspots.

Embarrassing as it is for me to say, there are several tourist scam hotspots to take note of when shopping here.

All specialize in electronic and telecommunication products. If you must buy at these places, please do research trending prices before going. Do not be intimidated in any way when bargaining and be particularly careful about “compulsory warranties”; the latter could run into the thousands.

Finally, if you’re threatened in any way, leave the shop immediately and call the police at 999. Take heart that the whole country detests these black sheep. The police will be more than eager to assist.

Where to go after visiting Singapore? Malacca, just three hours’ drive from Singapore, is a great choice.

Where to go after visiting Singapore? Malacca, just three hours’ drive from Singapore, is a great choice.

25. Don’t Forget to Take Day Trips to Malaysia or Indonesia!

Despite its small size, Singapore has much to offer visitors. In my opinion, you’d need around ten days to go through all attractions. Two weeks would allow for a more leisurely itinerary.

And if you have more time than that, consider taking some day trips out of the country. Nearby Johor in Malaysia is home to modern attractions like Legoland and Hello Kitty Town. A short ferry ride down south brings you to the Indonesian resort island of Bintan.

Lastly, with a little more time, you could even take an overnight trip to Malacca or Kuala Lumpur. The former, like Singapore, was once part of the British Straits Settlement. Its world heritage sites and idyllic atmosphere would provide for a delightful change from Singapore.

Appendix A: Best Places to Visit in Singapore

The following is my personal list of the best attractions in Singapore.

  1. Marina Bay Area (Inclusive of Marina Bay Sands)
  2. National Gallery Singapore
  3. The “Zoos” (Inclusive of The Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, and River Safari. The three are located adjacent to each other)
  4. Gardens by the Bay
  5. Universal Studios Singapore
  6. Chinatown (Including the Buddha Tooth Temple and Sri Mariamman Temple)
  7. Haw Par Villa
  8. Haji Lane
  9. The Botanical Gardens
  10. Asian Civilisations Museum

Outside of these well-known Singaporean travel hotspots, you could also consider these other attractions:

  1. Jurong Bird Park
  2. Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery or Shuang Lin Temple Complex (For those into Chinese temples)
  4. St. Andrew’s Cathedral
  5. National Museum of Singapore
  6. Thian Hock Keng Temple
  7. Clarke Quay
  8. The various attractions of Sentosa Island, such as Fort Siloso
  9. Little India
  10. Sultan Mosque
  11. East Coast Park
  12. Punggol Waterway
  13. Coney Island
  14. Peranakan Museum
  15. Gillman Barracks

Appendix B: What Are the Best Months to Visit Singapore?

Singapore is hot and wet all year around. However, most Singaporeans will tell you that the months from April to September are warmest and driest, while rainfall is heaviest between November and February.

In general, expect humid and wet weather no matter when you’re visiting Singapore. Even the driest month would see sudden thundershowers.

Lastly, if you’re visiting for a holiday, try to time your vacation with one or more of Singapore’s colorful ethnic celebrations. The light-ups and special events during these will make your trip doubly worthwhile.

  • January to Mid-February: The run-up to the Lunar New Year sees the Chinatown district, the Changi Airport Complex, and Gardens by the Bay decorated with festive lights. Many shopping malls will feature Lunar New Year food fairs too.
  • In the earlier weeks of January, the annual Light to Night Festival will also be hosted at the Civic District. Landmarks and major travel attractions such as the National Gallery Singapore will host art exhibitions. Come sunset, major Civic District landmarks will entertain with light-art projections too.
  • May: The annual Singapore International Festival of the Arts (SIFA) always features a plethora of paid and free performances. In recent years, free performances of the festival have also been hosted in residential areas.
  • June: There are two events to look forward to in Singapore during June. The first is the annual Great Singapore Sale, a retail campaign participated by all leading departmental stores and retail chains. The second is the annual Chinese Dragon Boat Festival. While the latter is not an official public holiday, many malls will still sell related foodstuff.
  • August: Singapore’s National Day, i.e. Independence Day, is on August 9. Without fail, fireworks will be released at Marina Bay. On the weekends nearest to the actual day, there will also be rehearsals, a couple of which with fireworks too. Such displays, and other celebratory light-up events, can all be conveniently enjoyed for free at the Marina Bay area.
  • Late August: There are two events to enjoy right after Singapore’s National Day. The first is the annual Singapore Night Festival. Over two weekends, the Civic District will come alive with numerous nighttime arts performances, exhibitions, and façade light-art projections.
  • The latter part of August typically coincides with the Lunar Seventh Month too i.e. the “Ghost Month” for the Chinese. While residential areas will be smoky from burned paper offerings, travelers willing to explore will be delighted by numerous community prayer rituals and dinners. Do be culturally sensitive when taking photographs, though.
  • September: The Chinese Mooncake Festival takes center stage this month. Other than mooncake fairs, the Chinatown District and Gardens by the Bay are the places to head to for festive lights and events.
  • October-Early November: Deepavali, or Diwali as it’s also known elsewhere, typically falls within this period. The lower stretch of Serangoon Road i.e. the Little India District will be adorned with colorful ethnic lights.
  • Mid-November to December: The year-end sees the Orchard Road District illuminated with Christmas and year-end lights. Come Dec 31th, fireworks will also be released at Marina Bay. Needless to say, all retailers will host festive sales too.
  • Hari Raya Aidilfitri: Known as Eid al-Fitr in other countries, celebrations for the most important Muslim festival take place at the Geylang Serai District. Other than festive lights, there will be food fairs and festival sales. As the festival is based on the lunar calendar, the date changes yearly. In 2021, the festival was in May. For 2022, it will “move forward” a week earlier.

Important: Visiting Singapore During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As of mid-2021, Singapore is still in the midst of “reopening” following months of COVID-19 semi-lockdowns. Whether you’d be allowed entry, and whether you’d be required to self-isolate, thus depends on the travel arrangements/bubbles between your country and Singapore.

Should you be permitted entry, take note of the following:

  • Facial masks are mandatory in all public places. Should you be caught without one, you will be fined.
  • Social gathering in large groups are not allowed, be it at attractions or in eateries. As the permitted figure regularly changes, do actively check beforehand.
  • Most shops, restaurants, malls, hotels, etc, require visitors to scan-in/register before entry. The procedure can be done using the SG SafeEntry. (QR scanner necessary) The app is available free of charge and managed by the Singaporean government.
  • Some locations may permit you to register in writing i.e. you write down your name and contact details. But these places are few. It is best to have a smartphone with you.
  • Some attractions, such as Gardens by the Bay and the ArtScience Museum, require you to “pre-book” your visit online. Once you have done so, you can only visit during your secured time slot.
  • Most importantly, as of August 2021, indoor eateries will only permit entry for vaccinated customers. Currently, vaccination documents from other countries are still not recognized.

In summary, restrictions are constantly changing as the country aims to strike a balance between economic recovery and public safety. If you’re able to visit Singapore any time soon, do check the official page of the Ministry of Health for guidelines.

Resources and Further Reading

Questions & Answers

Question: I've read that you can’t take e-cigarettes into Singapore, is this true?

Answer: They are banned here. Vaping and possession are both illegal.

Question: Is it true, as I've heard, that you can't chew gum in Singapore?

Answer: There's a lot of misconception about this, largely thanks to the strange execution of this law.

- It is illegal to sell gum in SG.

- It has always been illegal to litter, or damage public property by smearing used gum on them.

- It is NOT illegal to chew gum. No one's going to fine or arrest you for chewing gum.

So I've heard, tourists are allowed to bring in a minimum amount for private consumption when visiting Singapore.

Question: We're thinking of taking a cruise. What is the weather like near the water? Should we wear cardigans or long sleeve shirts?

Answer: If you're referring to cruises such as those along Straits of Malacca, the weather is windy, but it's far from cold. You'd do fine with a light windbreaker or sweater.

Question: How much tax is on a carton of cigarettes?

Answer: I long ago stopped following the tax rate since it changes every year. I can only tell you a Marlboro pack of 20 sticks costs around USD 10/- as of Jan 2019. Lesser brands costs at least USD 8/-

Rate changes yearly, sometimes several rounds each year. General trend is always upwards.

Question: Can I take chewing gum with me to Singapore?

Answer: It is NOT illegal to own or use chewing gum here. What's disallowed is the selling or importing of it.

Question: Is it safe to walk around Bencoolen street as night for first-time travelers?

Answer: Bencoolen Street is quite a long stretch from the Rochor area to the museum/university district. The Rocher end fringes the Waterloo/Sim Lim shopping area. The lower end is mostly hotels and private residences.

It is considered a major road, and so it will still relatively be busy even late into the night, esp on weekdays. Good news though, few locals, if any at all, would consider it a dangerous area. Apart from a popular cafe in the heart of it, there are also no pubs and so on. As long as you take the usual precautions when walking about late in the evening in any city, you will be fine. Frankly, the area is as safe as practically every other part of the country after dark.

Question: I have planned a trip to Singapore with my family after this pandemic so this is our first time traveling internationally. How many rupees or Singaporean dollars do I need to bring with me to Singapore?

Answer: That is an impossible question to answer. It depends on how many of you there are, how long you’d be visiting, what sort of accommodation you expect, how many places you’re visiting, what you’re expecting for meals, etc.

All I can say is, my country is not a cheap destination. Even our budget hotels would seem expensive compared to those in other countries. However, most tourist infrastructure here, such as hotels, are online. If you spend some time researching them, you can easily work out a sum.

If you like some tips on how to save money while here, you can also take a look at this other write-up of mine.


© 2018 Ced Yong


Ced Yong (author) from Asia on May 14, 2019:

Hey, thanks for commenting! Yeah, the lack of tipping is good. Although, I'm sometimes quite at a loss at how much to give when overseas, given I'm totally inexperienced. LOL.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on May 13, 2019:

I visit your country frequently, it being my favorite city in the world. My favorite on this list is the lack of tipping. Here in the US, it seems that everybody has their hand out. I'm looking forward to visiting The Jewel on my next trip.

Ced Yong (author) from Asia on February 25, 2019:

Hope you enjoy your stay here, Joan!

Joan Abong on February 25, 2019:

Thank you so much for yout candid write up. All the more excited to visit your country soon. Helpful insights indeed!

Ced Yong (author) from Asia on February 10, 2019:

Thank you for reading and commenting too!

merve on February 09, 2019:

Thank you so much

Ced Yong (author) from Asia on September 12, 2018:

Hi! I would recommend checking out Chinatown Complex hawker centre and Tekka Centre at those areas respectively. In Little India, many (un-air conditioned) eateries at the alleys also serve cheap food.

Do note, though, that this is still Singapore, and we are very expensive. Even at these places, it's going to be a huge challenge to find anything that's truly considered "cheap." The price differences compared to other hawker centres elsewhere will not be astounding too.

SUNNY PANDE on September 11, 2018:

I am coming to Singapore but can I know where I can find the cheapest food in china town or little India

Travel Chef from Manila on September 10, 2018:

I totally agree with regards to the taxi in Singapore. We've paid the taxi per person. If I'm not mistaken, it was $10 per head. Anyway, I still enjoyed roaming around the place. I had a great time!

Ced Yong (author) from Asia on August 13, 2018:

Hope you enjoy your stay here!

Ashu Mehra on August 12, 2018:

Singapore is Lovely Country. I hope I'll be there in few months. Thank you so much for Guidelines.

Ced Yong (author) from Asia on March 24, 2018:

Thank you, Eurofile! I hope it does help any one who's coming.

Liz Westwood from UK on March 23, 2018:

This is a really useful guide for anyone planning a trip to Singapore.

Ced Yong (author) from Asia on March 23, 2018:

Glad you like it, Linda!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 22, 2018:

This is an interesting guide to Singapore. It contains a lot of useful information for travelers. I probably won't be able visit Singapore anytime soon, but I enjoyed the education.

Ced Yong (author) from Asia on March 22, 2018:

Thanks! Hope you continue to enjoy our little island.

Ken from Seattle, WA on March 22, 2018:

nice article, singapore is one of my favorite places to visit

Ced Yong (author) from Asia on March 22, 2018:

Hi Mary! Thanks for your kind comments. I hope you visit us again soon, perhaps for the mid year crazy sales. :)

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 22, 2018:

This is a very comprehensive guide. I had been there several times and I find the city very interesting in the innovations to city planning.

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