Let me guess, it’s your first time in Singapore and you’re not quite sure what things to know when traveling to Singapore?
Girl (or guy as the case may be), I SOO get it.
I just recently did my own little Singapore itinerary and had ZERO idea what to expect.
I did know where to find Singapore on a map (Which is pretty amazing since Americans are notoriously bad at geography), so that was a teeny, tiny something!
This type of knowledge wasn’t really going to help me out once I got there but hey, it’s better than nothing.
Okay, truth be told:
I also saw the movie Crazy Rich Asians. But, since I am neither rich nor Asian, that cinematic reference took me…exactly nowhere.
I feel like I’m not alone in my uncertainty about what to expect when traveling to Singapore.
In recent years, Singapore has become a rather hot (uh quite literally but we’ll get to that later) travel destination.
And if you don’t believe me:
Just do a quick scroll through Instagram and you’ll see a ton of photos from Singapore; pics of ultra-cool indoor waterfalls, vibrant gardens full of orchids, buildings so colorful that you could probably see them from space (Okay, obviously kidding about that last part), and tons of influencer wannabes who are wearing flowy gowns and taking duck face selfies (no judgment, I do this too. Minus the duck face thing because that I don’t get).
Clearly, I can’t be the only one who had no idea what to expect when touring Singapore. Right?
I hope I’m right because if I’m wrong then exactly no one will be reading this post.
Which would be SUPER bad since I’m trying to lure people into my web of travel awesomeness, not drive them away,
But that’s a mild case of self-doubt that I’ll save for my therapist. So:
If it’s your first time in Singapore and you want to know all about the most common travel mistakes to avoid (Because yes, I am literally a walking travel disaster and bring calamity with me wherever I go), or if you want to learn about some Singapore travel hacks that you need to use ASAP, then you’ve come to the right place.
Because in this post:
I’m going to give you the inside scoop on all of the things you need to know when traveling to Singapore for a layover or for a longer trip.
You’ll be able to make your first time in Singapore a trip that you’ll never forget. And in a good way. Not in a horrific way where something awful happens and it’s only funny about a decade or so after the fact.
Without further ado, let’s grab a massive MONSTER energy drink, crank up those tunes, and do this shiz…like a BOSS (my lame-ass attempt at trying to maintain what little street cred I have left).
Since I am incapable of making it rain money, there’s a high chance that this post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure for more information. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.
***Not sure where to stay while in Singapore? Then try Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong (Located in Singapore’s historic Katong neighborhood, rooms at this Chinese inspired hotel start at $188 per night and include a 24-hour gym, a chic AF, rooftop infinity pool, a Peranakan home design aesthetic, and so much more. Seriously, you’ll never want to leave this place), M Social Singapore (Sleek, modern rooms at this River Valley district hotel start at $168 per night and include beautiful views of the nearby, Singapore River, complimentary WIFI, loaner smartphones, flat-screen TVs, complimentary breakfast, and more. There’s even a fabulous sundeck and rooftop infinity pool that will appeal to any of the sun worshippers out there.), and The Great Madras (This swoon-worthy hotel in Little India has rooms that start at just $100 per night. But aside from the fantastic location and budget-friendly price tag, the hotel’s gleaming white, art deco exterior is perfectly complemented by a series of pastel-hued guest rooms with uber-comfy beds. Also, don’t forget to check out their on-site Catalan restaurant and pool, both of which are amazing).***
1. Just say NO to drugs! Even MARIJUANA!
I don’t do drugs of any kind. No judgment if you do but they’re just not my thing.
if you are looking to chillax while smoking a doobie on vacay, Singapore is not the place to cut loose and let your drug-related freak flag fly.
Well, have you ever seen that movie Brokedown Palace with Claire Danes?
The one where they are two naive young women who get locked up in Thailand when drugs are planted on them by a handsome young stranger?
Prison life looked pretty bleak there. That’s why this movie definitely scared many of us 90’s girls straight back in the day.
Yeah, Thailand looks like a picnic compared to Singapore, which has some of the HARSHEST drug laws on the planet.
If you only listen to ONE thing I say in this entire post, then this should be it.
You should not, under ANY circumstances possess, consume, or traffic illegal drugs like marijuana, cocaine, opium, heroin, “ice”, ketamine (also known as “special K”), or ecstasy.
This may seem like a no brainer. But, when you’re in the moment, inebriated AF, and partying with friends, doing a line of coke could seem like a BRILLANT idea.
However, I assure you, it’s not.
Not only could you get fined $20,000, but you could also be imprisoned, caned, and even get the death penalty if you’re caught drug trafficking (PS: You’re assumed guilty until proven innocent, making it incredibly difficult to clear your name).
While you should DEFINITELY say no to doing drugs on the reg, be sure to stay especially far away from them while visiting Singapore for the first time.
2. Watch Your Bags Carefully, but Only at the Airport
Singapore is a SUPER safe country. You could literally walk around at 3:00 am, all by yourself, and not run into a single problem.
But at the airport:
Things are just a smidge different. Look closely and you’ll notice that when native Singaporeans get off an international flight, they tend to hold their bags just a little more closely,
That’s because they don’t want anyone planting illegal drugs in their bags before they enter the country.
You won’t run into insane drug lords who will try and force you to swallow condoms full of coke at gunpoint (No, I swear, I saw that on a show, It’s not from personal experience).
You will want to be a little more mindful of your belongings while at the airport, since, in this instance, it is 110% better to be safe than sorry,
3. Just Say NO to Chewing Gum (While you’re at it, just don’t liter or eat/drink outside of designated areas either)!
I was a little surprised by this one too but believe it or not, chewing gum has actually been banned in Singapore since 1992.
So while you can chew gum, it is illegal to either sell it or import it into the country.
And if you do happen to do either of these things?
Well, then you could be fined as much as $100,000 or be sentenced to two years in prison, penalties that will increase with each additional conviction.
If you’re one of my fave, gum-chewing homies out there, do yourself a favor and just don’t chew gum while in Singapore.
While you’re at it, try not to liter since there are harsh penalties and fines for doing that too.
That’s something that you shouldn’t do anyway since its horrible for the planet and super disrespectful, but just try to be extra mindful of it while you’re in Singapore.
Okay, last thing and then I promise, I’ll stop. You also should not spit in public (You could get fined up to $1,000 for doing so) or eat/drink in non-designated areas, like on public transportation.
Singapore is still super awesome and their laws really aren’t difficult to abide by, scout’s honor!
4. Be Sure to Pack Plenty of Light, Breathable Fabrics.
What you don’t see in all of those uber posh, ultra-fab Instagram pics, is just how oppressively hot and humid the weather in Singapore really is.
And added bonus?
The weather in Singapore actually stays the same 24/7, 365 days a year.
It really is surface of the sun level hot and rainforest level humid all year long.
Pack accordingly and be prepared for average year-round temperatures of 89 F and average humidity levels of a whopping 89%.
Shorts, tank tops, and light breathable fabrics of any kind are now your new best friend.
They’ll help keep you as cool as humanly possible while you’re outside.
That being said:
AC is a way of life in Singapore. Therefore, many top Singapore attractions and modes of public transportation will definitely crank up the AC like no tomorrow,
Pack accordingly and try not to worry too much about it.
5. The Sun in Singapore is Next Level Intense, So Prepare Accordingly.
My pasty white, freckle laden, Anglo-Saxon skin was definitely not a fan of the intense UV rays in Singapore.
I would apply SPF 70 sunscreen, rock a hat, and wear light, breathable pants, and without fail, one TINY part of my body would still get burned to a crisp, even if I was only outside for a whopping twenty minutes.
If you’re a blond-haired, light-eyed, fair-skinned person like me, with potato loving, ancestors from the far north, then do not leave your hotel without wearing sunscreen, a hat, and a pair of super snazzy sunglasses.
I know it all sounds a bit overkill but trust me, the sun in Singapore is super intense since it’s pretty damn close to the Equator (I may or may not have just double-checked that fact on Google).
Melanoma free is always the way to be (And I mean that seriously. Skin cancer is no joke).
6. Pack an Umbrella or Rain Gear or Both
With great humidity comes great rain.
And the rain in Singapore?
Yeah, its hardcore and will come down hard and fast and without warning, especially if you’re in Singapore during monsoon season, which is from December through March, and from June through September.
That being said:
I visited Singapore in August and encountered no rain at all, so go figure?
Definitely, come prepared and pack both an umbrella and a raincoat, just to be on the safe side.
It’s always better to have raingear and not need it than to need it and not have it.
No one wants to look like a drowned rat in all of their Instagram photos. Trust me, I’ve been there and done that and it’s just never a good look.
7. Eat Where the Locals Eat and Say Hello to Hawker Centers!
Singapore is this uber weird combination of super expensive and super affordable things. And one place where you can really go budget, but without sacrificing on quality, is food!
Singaporeans love their food and enjoy some of the best food in the city, for the absolute lowest prices, at Singaporean hawker centers.
These outdoor, cooked food centers are home to a variety of different food vendors that sell delicious, inexpensive, local delicacies that everyone will love.
Some of these food vendors are so good, that they even have Michelin stars!
Singapore is actually home to the world’s cheapest, Michelin star-rated meal.
Ditch the stuffy restaurant, forget all about ambiance (I mean, you can’t actually eat it so does it really matter?), and embrace your inner Singaporean by savoring the gastronomic glory of the city’s food centers.
Because in Singapore:
The general philosophy towards food is overpriced = overrated.
8. Use Public Transportation Because Yes, It Really is THAT Awesome in Singapore
Singapore has taxis a plenty…if you want to spend the majority of your hard-earned vacation fund on transportation (They also have the uber alternative Grab, which is a bit cheaper. But trust me, all modes of Southeast Asia transportation are not created equally, so do your research!).
But, let’s keep it real:
Taxis are kind of sort of unnecessary when Singapore has this amazing, insanely well-connected public transportation system that is right there, just waiting for you to use it.
It’s the simplest and most affordable way to get around the country.
It’s wicked fast too. And yes, I’m EVEN referring to THE buses, since they get their own, private bus lane and don’t get caught up in all the traffic associated with private vehicles.
If you like money (and who doesn’t) and kind of want to save some of it whlle you’re on vacation, then do yourself a favor and get the Singapore Tourist Pass, which is $10 SGD for one day, $16 SGD for 2 days, and $20 SGD for 3 days.
Not only is it cheap, but It covers both the MRT (subway system) and the bus systems.
You can use one pass to quickly and easily access all of Singapore’s public transportation networks (FYI: if you don’t use a pass or card, buses will only accept cash and will not give you change).
And added bonus?
Because most, if not all, locals use the public transportation system here, there are also these awesome, sheltered walkways between most MRT stations and bus stops.
These nifty little structures will help prevent you from sizzling like bacon in the sun or from getting hit by thick, humid, golfball-sized raindrops.
9. Go to a Clinic if You’re Not Feeling Well
I know this one seems like a no-brainer, but I guess it all just depends on where you’re from.
If you’re American and have to drop a whopping $250 on a simple doctor’s visit, then you may be a bit more inclined to just suck it up and muddle your way through your vacay, with decongestants and tissues in tow.
If you’re feeling a little less than stellar while visiting Singapore, do NOT hesitate to visit a doctor and take advantage of one of the best healthcare systems in the entire world.
Even If you’re traveling without any travel insurance (something that I do not recommend but now is not the time for a mom size lecture), never fear because Singapore’s got your back.
Because let’s be honest:
Getting sick while on vacation is definitely one of the worst things ever.
You’ve probably been planning this trip for months and then the second you set your foot on foreign soil, boom, you start coughing up a lung and wheezing like a 90-year-old man.
Even though being sick on vacay will always super suck, at least Singapore makes it easy to start feeling better since there is a walk-in medical clinic on practically every corner.
If you DO end up getting sick, just do a quick google search for a clinic near you, pop on in, and BAM, you’ll be seen within 15 minutes.
No appointment necessary and no terribly long waits (Ugh, if only I could say the same about the American healthcare system).
And added bonus?
You can even pick up all of your necessary prescriptions right at the clinic too. Pretty sweet right?
But wait, it gets better!
You might want to sit down for this part though since you’ll legit freak out when you realize that the average cost of a doctor’s visit, and medication, is just $45 USD in Singapore!
So, moral of my long-winded story?
Always visit a local doctor in Singapore if the need should ever arise. Because friends don’t let friends miss out on affordable, high-quality health care (especially if you’re American).
10. Be Prepared and Always Carry a Packet of Tissues
When you dine at a hawker center:
You’ll sometimes see a seemingly vacant table that has a lone packet of tissues on it.
You might even start to convince yourself that someone accidentally left a package of tissues behind and that this would be a REALLY good place to sit and dive into some of Singapore’s epic, budget, foodie delights.
But you would be wrong, so very wrong.
Instead, take a deep breath and slowly back away from the table. Because that packet of tissues right there? Yeah, it means that this table is absolutely NOT available.
As hawker centers quickly fill up with hungry Singaporeans during the lunch and dinner rush, available tables can be quite hard to come by.
People like to ‘chope’ their table with a pack of tissues.
I haven’t started speaking in tongues because I’ve undergone a recent demonic possession.
In Singlish, “Chope” or “chopping” actually means reserved or taken.
As a result:
Any empty table with a packet of tissues on it actually means that someone is ordering food and will be right back for their seat.
Be the wonderful, totally respectful human being that I know you are, and do NOT mess with someone’s designated seating area.
Do like the locals do and grab a packet of tissues that you can then place on a dining spot of your very own.
That spot will still be sitting there, patiently waiting for you, after you’ve just made one of the hardest decisions in your life…where to eat (so much food to eat and so little time).
11. Always Carry Cash
Singapore is a super snazzy and super modern place.
Most shopping malls and top Singapore attractions will absolutely accept credit cards as a valid form of payment.
But the one notable exception?
HAWKER CENTERS! Most stalls at hawker centers just can’t process credit cards and will only accept cash.
If you decide to dine out like local, then be prepared and make sure that you have some cash with you.
Because trust me:
There really is nothing worse than going all the way to an amazing hawker center, just to find out that you can’t actually order anything there (This scenario makes me want to curl up into the fetal position while sucking my thumb and rocking back and forth. The horror!).
12. Don’t Feel Obligated to Tip!
Good news my 20% tipping American brethren out.
Tipping is absolutely not customary in Singapore, especially if you’re eating at a low key hawker center.
If you feel inclined and wanna be super nice, you’re obviously always welcome to leave a tip.
It’s not expected. And might even be given back to you if you leave too much (especially at a restaurant)!
If you do want to tip someone at a hawker center, always give the cash directly to the owner of the stall.
No, no one will steal the money. Quite the contrary.
Everyone will just leave your money where it is since they assume that you’ll be coming back for it.
As a result:
It’ll just sit there because no one will know what to do with your intended tip that NEVER was!
13 You Can Safely Walk Around Singapore in the Middle of the Night (This is why Singapore is one of the BEST destinations for solo female travelers)
Do you wanna party like a rockstar (and I mean that in the drug-free sense) while in Singapore?
If you’re emphatically nodding your head yes, then let me guess:
You’re more than a little anxious about getting back to your hotel once the bars close and your new nickname becomes Tippy Tumbles.
Am I right?
Well if my weird, non-predictive capabilities have actually worked this time, then you can soothe your worried soul because Singapore is SUPER safe at all hours of the day, and night.
Punishments are incredibly severe in Singapore, especially for things like violent crimes and theft.
I can almost (I can’t completely since they are some crazy people out there) guarantee that no one will dare mess with you, no matter what time of the day it is.
If you and you’re drunken homies do happen to get lost, never fear because most Singaporeans are really friendly and only too happy to help you find your way.
Most people in Singapore definitely speak English, so don’t be afraid to ask for help if your handy GPS is failing you.
If you’re super drunk or out REALLY late, you can always catch a Grab (Remember, Grab is the Uber of Southeast Asia and MUCH cheaper than a taxi) and make your life WAY easier.
Just a little FYI in case you plan on getting SUPER drunk.
If you’re found in a public place, or a place that you’re not supposed to enter, and “cause annoyance to any person” while you’re intoxicated, you can get jailed for six months, fined up to $1,000, or both.
Drink responsibly and embrace your inner sober Sally as you leave the bar for the night (Come on, I know she’s in there somewhere)!
14. There is SO Much More to Singapore than the City!
We all know about the glitz and glam of city life in Singapore.
What most people do NOT know is that Singapore isn’t actually just one island.
Singapore is an archipelago that is made up of a whopping 63 islands!
And while most of these islands aren’t opened to the public (they’re used for either industrial or military purposes instead), two of Singapore’s most famous islands, Sentosa and Pulau Ubin, are well worth a trip.
If you’re looking for a quiet escape from the frenetic pace of life in the city, then Pulau Ubin is the perfect place for you.
This quiet, unkempt jungle of an island is full of exotic creatures and dusty, country roads that you can explore while on an enchanting, scenic bike ride.
If you’re looking for some slightly more, high-adrenaline fun, then Sentosa is the place for you.
Easily accessible from Singapore via the Sentosa Express:
This “good-time” island literally has it all. From Universal Studios to aquariums to zip-lines to white sandy beaches lined with tiki bars that are way cooler than me, Sentosa has something for every type of traveler and makes for a fun, and super easy, day trip from the city.
What are you waiting for? Get your butt out of the city and into nature, or into a ride at Universal Studios. Either or.
Whatever makes you happiest is what I’m down with.