Shhh! After three years of living in Singapore as an expat, I have a few locals’ secrets to share with travellers. These tips will make your trip to the Little Red Dot more enjoyable, affordable and authentic.
- Singapore allocates two official holidays for holy days belonging to each of its major religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. This may affect the opening times of some attractions.
- Depending on the timing of your trip, seek out one of Singapore’s many festivals. With about 76% of the Red Dot’s population being of Chinese descent, Chinese New Year is by far the biggest celebration of the year. My personal favourite is Thaipusam that occurs in January/February each year – check dates here.
- The Singapore Grand Prix takes place in September each year. Prices for flights and accommodation are a lot more expensive a week either side of the race.
- Alcohol in Singapore is hugely expensive. Buying duty-free alcohol at the airport on your way in is usually the most economical, particularly for spirits.
- You can take a taxi or the MRT (train) from the airport to your accommodation depending on where you are staying. If you are taking a cab into the CBD area, tell them to take the ECP (East Coast Parkway), and insist on that route despite what they may try to tell you about the traffic. In 99% of cases, it’s still faster and cheaper. You will also sound like someone who knows their way around, so are less likely to be taken on the roundabout route to bump up the fare.
- “When in Rome” or Singapore as it might be, you are probably wanting to partake in a Singapore Sling. Traditionally this would be done at the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel *** Under renovation as of August 2018*** which was the birthplace of the Sling. However, be warned it will set you back roughly SGD30 per cocktail. I recommend doing it once for the experience, and then finding somewhere less expensive to drink.
- Affordable, local hawker stalls can be found in most malls but are often not signposted. Don’t be fooled by the food court signs directing you to the westernized, chain-filled food court. As long as you enjoy the local cuisine, the hawkers found in out-of-the-way places such as the basement or very top level are cheaper places to eat.
- Also, check out the standalone food centres such as Maxwell Road Hawker Centre and Lau Pa Sat.
- If you are tentative about trying local cuisine, start out with a meal at Straits Kitchen at the Grand Hyatt on Orchard Road. Straits Kitchen is an upscale version of what you will find in a typical hawker centre and although it will cost you a lot more, it is a good place to get your feet wet.
- Some of my other personal favourite places to eat were:
- Lokal – Australian cafe/bar that does an amazing brunch.
- Kith Cafe – any meal of the day.
- Artichoke – Middle Eastern inspired food great for brunch or dinner.
- Raffles City Food Court – Located opposite Raffles Hotel and has a mix of cuisines and price points. I recommend Nam Nam, Thai Express and Din Tai Fung followed by Tiong Bahru Bakery for dessert.
- My Little Tapas Bar – Excellent Spanish tapas in Club Street, Ann Siang Hill.
- See my recommendations in Peranakan: A Colourful Cultural Collision for places to sample Peranakan cuisine.
- Reference Fullerton Hotel vs. Raffles Hotel for a review of afternoon tea experiences in two top examples of colonial British architecture in Singapore.
- Singapore is an extremely walkable city, but sometimes its just too hot or mid-tropical downpour. Look for underground tunnels that link the MRT (train system) with local attractions, and channel pedestrian traffic under major intersections. Sometimes you will be surprised how far you can get in these cooler underground pathways.
- The MRT is great for long distances and is extremely affordable. You can buy a temporary pass to top up as you need.
- If all else fails take a cab, they are relatively cheap.