Singapore, Singapore

Things to know before going to Singapore

Marina Nefedova Marina Nefedova 10 October 2020
83 view 15 min. read

Singapore is a fantastic city. It is one of those places in the world, which you can visit without learning anything in advance. Passport, money - and let's go. It is a clean, safe, exciting and fabulously expensive city. In the program "Head and Tails" Singapore, we are told that every tenth person in this city is a millionaire. It may be so. The quality of life in Singapore is too high; everything is organized as comfortable as possible for numerous guests of the city and its permanent residents. Travel to Singapore will guarantee you a breathtaking experience equally suitable for the lovers of traditional colonial luxury, and the fans of super modern metropolises. Here are things to help you navigate and get the most out of your trip, especially if you are in those parts of the world for the first time.

Where is Singapore?

island

Singapore is a city-state located on 63 islands of Southeast Asia, separated from the Malacca Peninsula by the very narrow Straits of Johor. Are you wondering where is Singapore on the map? This Strait is more like a river, right? Singapore has a program "Bulk Islands", and its area is continuously increasing. It is possible that in the coming years, there will be not 63 islands, but for example, 65. Or they will develop the sea bottom. You can expect everything from the citizens of Singapore!   

Singapore's airport and transport

changi airport

To any country in Southeast Asia, you can get through Singapore; it is the most convenient transit hub in that part of the world. And if we add to this the fact that Singapore Airlines is the second-best company in the world and is inferior only to Emirates Airlines, then here is at least one fundamental reason to include Singapore in your journey. If your trip was active (Bali, Cambodia or Burma) and you make this stop on the way back, you can relax in a comfortable environment and make a shopping tour through the Singapore moles, which is a separate story.

The port of Singapore is the largest in Asia

flight to singapore

But the airport of Singapore is a real wonder of the world. As the "Heads and Tails" project of Singapore informs us, Singapore Airport is one of the largest in the world. The passenger flow of the airport is 54 million passengers a year. It is a real city in the city, caught up in all sorts of entertainment, performances and services for passengers. So if you decide to wait for your plane at the airport, you will not get bored or hungry. But do not linger! The city is beautiful and diverse; you will love it there! And to fully experience its charm, a little history and special knowledge will not hurt. 

History

park

The history of the city is the best way to establish relations with it, to understand why everything is arranged in it this way and not otherwise. And the history of Singapore is a real adventure novel. The first mention refers to almost the 3rd century A.D. It was called in those days - Tumasik and about it, except for a small number of archaeological finds and several "mentions in the press" - official reports of Chinese officials - nothing is known.

What was going on in those places before the 16th century? Nobody knows! Yes, people lived there, but there were no chronicles among them, or the documents were lost/burned/drown/ somewhere in the jungle. If you find Singapore on the map, you will immediately notice: this region has its specifics and can actively develop exclusively as a trading or pirate hub. But about everything in order.

Since the 16th century, the region began a gradual revival. Ships of Europeans began to furrow the Javanese Sea and the Bay of Bengal and the Singapore population, throwing fishing rods and other items of hunting, fishing and agriculture were carried away by a new type of trade - almost all went to pirates, sea hunters. The new type of mining has become fashionable (and still is), and the island re-trained as a pirate trans-shipment base with an Asian flavour. Singapore on the map of Portuguese and Dutch sailors was not marked, but the glory of bloodthirsty Malay pirates flew ahead of any map, which is reflected in the notes of travellers of those years.

marina bay sands

Chaos decided to stop - and the Dutch and Portuguese guys were also good, so they from time to time seized this pleasant place and established their control. It lasted about 300 years. But control the Asians is very difficult without a systematic approach because the Europeans do not distinguish them from each other, besides, Europe from there is quite far away, especially if we consider the transports capacity of those times. So, the 19th century has finally arrived. A marvellous complex of islands attracted the attention of Britain, strengthening its presence in this region. 

"Oh!" - thought the British in the person of Governor-General Benculen Stamford Raffles - "Great place to control the region! We will build a port here".  The island was ruled by Sultan Johor at the time, supported by the Dutch and some local elites. The British quickly organized coup d'état, brought to power the elder brother of Sultan Johor, named Hussain, and he (in gratitude) gave them the island. The beautiful scheme, isn't it? By the way, it is funny that Hussein formally remained the sultan of the island and even received a salary of about $ 5,000. It was quite royal for those times. Everyone was happy with it.

The British built a port, and the city overgrew from 3,000 to 100,000 people with a large number of Chinese, as the British were creating Singapore as a platform for integration into China. Until the middle of the 20th century, it was exotic, but, in general, an ordinary city and it did not differ much from other Asian cities with a similar history, until the Singapore miracle.

Singapore miracle

Singapore tower

In 1951, Singapore became a self-governing state within the British Empire, and in 1959 the post of Prime Minister was taken over by Lee Kuan Yew, a man whose name is known to anyone who is a little familiar with the history of the 20th century. When Lee Kuan Yew came to power, Singapore was a poor criminal city that imported even drinking water and building sand.

Find Singapore on the map again. It is an island, you see? It is 63 islands united by bridges and dams, and the territory is constantly expanding as a result of the program of washing the area. This complex of islands is located in a strategic place; the British were well chosen. Lee Kuan Yew thought of making a financial and logistics hub there and succeeded in doing so.

As a result of 40 years of purposeful work and a number of reforms in the '90s, the world began to talk about the Singapore Miracle, and this city-state has entered the 10 cities with the highest standard of living in the world and continues to develop.

Visa to Singapore

marina bay Singapore

Almost 35% of the population of Singapore (a total of 5 781 110 people live there) are ex-pats, and the number of tourists is twice as high as the Singapore population. All procedures for obtaining any documents are as comfortable and computerized as possible.  90% of any documents can be made out and received through the Internet. So everything is extremely convenient and easy.

But to just get acquainted with the city, you do not need a visa to Singapore at all! In this city-state, there is a system of visa-free transit. You fill out an immigration card, you need to have in your pocket a foreign passport and a plane ticket (on the way) and - voila! - you take a cab at the airport and go to meet the wonderful city. By the way, for the first acquaintance with the city four days is enough!

Those who have a business in Singapore and four days is not enough will have to apply for visa to Singapore independently in one of the accredited centres.

Visa to Singapore is usually issued for 5 weeks, it costs 30 Singapore dollars, and it is a separate document, which will be sent to you by email. You will need to print it out and show it along with the tickets at the front desk and the Singapore Border Agency

The population of Singapore

People of Singapore

76% of the Singapore population is Chinese, 15% are Malay, and 7.5% are Indians. And the remaining 1.5% are all others, including us, Europeans.

Therefore, it is a real situation when you will be the only white Europeans in the huge Chinese market. I don't know about you, but we had fun there. And if you have blonde hair and blue eyes (and I was with such a companion), then with you will be photographed, give some trifles and yield in trade with fun. You will enjoy your time there! 

Weather in Singapore

Purple flower in Singapore city

The weather in Singapore is tropical. It is hot and humid with slight temperature fluctuations. The average daily temperature is 28 ° C, which means that the daytime is just over 30 ° C. And by tropical tradition - the rainy season and dry season.

We were several times in the rainy season. The first time I imagined it this way: all the time it rains, there is a flood - that's all, like in a movie. But I was wrong.  The rainy season is not a 24-hour downpour as we imagined in our childhood. Just during the rainy season, the probability of rain is higher than during the dry season. That's all.

But the sun is something worth paying attention to. Singapore is a city where you can burn even in cloudy weather. Be sure to bring your sunscreen. Imagine how shocked you will be: a cloudy day, and you have sunburns! At first, I did not understand what happened. I thought I was allergic.

The second "danger" of the weather in Singapore is the air conditioners. It is very easy to catch a cold, so bring a jacket or hoodie and don't sit directly under the A.C.  It's nice, I know. But it's quite easy to catch a cold. We've done it 100 times! 

Perfect cleanliness

Clean Singapore beach

Everyone in Asia knows that water for drinking should be taken in sealed bottles. Because in the tropics, it is easier to catch a disease that is unknown to science. In general, it is better to avoid the exchange of fluids with the environment and - moreover - with the local Singapore population. These places are poorly studied, and there are all kinds of things in the jungle. By the way, every year, scientists discover more than 100 species of animals unknown to science. These, of course, are not new tigers but are reptiles, crustaceans, snakes (!!!) and other small animals. But you should think about the number: more than 100 species annually! And all this Zoo crawls, hunts, multiplies, bites, scratches and treat with antiseptic neither teeth nor claws. Not to mention the poisons. In a word, the fauna in those areas is diverse and dangerous for Europeans.

But all this is not about Singapore, my friends! There is no wildlife in it, only the cultural environment. The city is packed with cameras and sensors - devices that control the quality of the environment and the behaviour of citizens. Residents of Singapore are deservedly proud of the fact that they have perfectly clean streets, perfectly clean drinking water flows from the water supply, and even at night clean public toilets work on the outskirts of the city.

Clean water is, of course, no reason to fall on the tap, but it is a little miracle: the tropics, Asia, and here the perfectly clean drinking water flows from the tap. It is not incredibly tasty, but not worse than Aqua Minerale.

singapore twilight

Perfect purity is achieved, among other things, by fines. Do you remember about the cameras? You need them for that too! You can't litter in Singapore. The price of 1 coconut juice which is not thrown in the container is SG$ 600 (in USD it is about $ 500, which is also a lot). There are policemen in uniform and many agents in civilian clothes watching the order.

Once, in the Chinese Quarter, we drank incredible coconut cocktails made of special eggplant. We don't have a habit of throwing garbage everywhere, so I started to look around for a suitable container. And I noticed a couple of apparent agents in civilian clothes who were watching us by kite - they were waiting for us to drink and throw eggplant because there were no containers nearby. Naive! When our drinking was over, I stood on tiptoe and carefully put both packages in the container behind the high fence. From the height of my height (180 cm), I noticed it long ago, but they could not see it. Two of them were left to guard us, and two of them rushed to check where the aubergines had gone.

After a minute, they returned saddened, waved to the guards, and all went to look for less disciplined tourists, and we moved on our route.

Singapore is a real treasure trove of street scenes, just need a little attention, and you will be rewarded!

No crime

Flag of Singapore

When you walk through the wide streets of this fantastic city, you will remember that less than 100 years ago it was one of the centres of the slave trade, piracy and opium trade. This is another Singapore Miracle, the result of the city's development strategy, which was laid out in the '60s of the last century.

The absence of corruption (death penalty), clear police work and abundance of agents in civilian clothes, these three factors, combined with stringent laws, make Singapore comfortable and safe for law-abiding citizens. Not least, drugs are illegal in Singapore. Yes, the 'golden triangle' is nearby, but only a psycho or suicide bomber can bring drugs to Singapore. The penalty for possession is the death, penalty for use - up to 10 years and more. Let us mention in passing that the presumption of innocence in Asia does not apply in our European sense. That is, if drugs are found in your belongings/car/house, YOU must prove that you are innocent.

two cameras

For example, for this amount - the death penalty

Heroin - 15 gr. or more

Methamphetamine - 250 gr. and more

Morphine - 30 gr. or more

Hemp - 500 gr. and more

Morphine - 30 gr. or more

Opium - 1200 gr. and more

Hashish - 200 gr. and more

Similar methods address the problems of corruption, slave trade and fraud. And in recent years, a number of serious measures have been taken against piracy.   

Nightlife

singapore nightlife

Nightlife is not the strongest side of the city. Singapore is a city of big money and private fun, which, of course, is not for tourists.

And in general, in Singapore, they go to bed early. Do not believe when you are told - ah, Singapore, ah, nightlife! Everything will be known in comparison. Ibiza - yes, the nightlife. London - yes, the nightlife. Dubai - oh, yes! Amsterdam - well, everything is clear here. Singapore - no.

There is the quay of Clarke, there is an embankment resort island Sentosa (tours to Singapore include Sentosa as a beach option), there are some more or less popular clubs at major international Singapore hotels. Some clubs for foreigners, mediocre music, banal light, the public and so on. Expats and tourists come here to dance and drink. Taste in music is not the strong point of Asians, at least for Europeans.

If you are a fan of clubs and dance wherever you go, then run "for a tick" in Zouk and St James Power Station, you will see everything. This is not exactly a rural disco, but to the fashion clubs of New York, London or Dubai as to the moon.

Same schedule for restaurants and bars: after 21-00 only tourist areas (not all) and restaurants at Singapore hotels remain open. This is not a problem, just such a feature of the city, as the siesta in Spain. The locals sleep at night.

But if you find yourself on the street in the late hour, you can safely walk in any direction. Even if you are alone and even if you are a girl, the only people who can show interest in you are the police, who can offer help. And if you say that you're just walking, they will look suspicious and strange but will go further on their business.

In Singapore, it is safe. Everywhere and at any time. And it is amazing!

Food

singapore food

If the nightlife in Singapore is like this, be sure they love and know how to eat. The most common form of catering is restaurant yards, hawker centres. Sometimes - a new thing - in such a place, you can cook your own food from prepared ingredients. This is fashion. But in any case, it is all very democratic, very cheap and delicious. It is not haute cuisine, but huge portions of excellent quality. The locals are not your helpers with a choice of the dish; they have a different taste, experiment for yourself. Some of the food will be quite specific. For example, in Singapore, pancakes with durian are very popular. The Chinese are so fond of this dish with a truly killer flavour, that in the subway there are signs NO DURIANS - do not enter with durians. Almost all food is Asian. 

As we said, 76% of the population is Chinese, but finding Japanese, Indian or European cuisine is not a problem.

But still, it is better to go to small restaurants, they are at every step, and Google maps will help you choose a place where locals eat.  Keep in mind: locals prefer a restaurant to be tasty and cheap, and popular in Singapore hockey centres. You will be surprised there!  The only thing worth paying attention to is the portion size. Even the most gluttonous tourist can hardly cope with a portion of middle, a large one - it is only possible for an extremely gluttonous Chinese, a European with such a large portion can not cope even with a bet.

Must dos

yokohama

Singapore Flyer Ferris wheel is 165 meters high. It is a grand attraction, the highest Ferris wheel in Asia and from 2008 to 2014 was the highest in the world. Now it is the second tallest Ferris wheel in the world (in March 2014 it was broken by Las Vegas with its High Roller). One lap takes one hour, and from above there is a stunning view of the port, bay and skyscrapers. 

By the way, the skyscrapers in Singapore and the Ferris wheel are built on feng shui.

Marina Bay Sands Hotel

Amazing Singapore city

Marina Bay Sands Hotel is a very famous hotel with a ship on the roof, one of the symbols of Singapore. It is very popular, but it is not worth living in it - there are too many rooms, crowds of tourists, and not the best service. There are better options, for example, a stunning Raffles (the oldest hotel in the city, a real colonial luxury) or a super modern Marina Mandarin. You can go up to the observation deck of Marina Bay Sands or have a snack at a restaurant with stunning views. Entrance to the restaurant costs $20, but this is not a ticket, but the price of a prepaid meal. For this money, you can have a cocktail or snack.

Chinatown

ferris wheel

In a city where 76% of Chinese residents, Chinatown is a whole city in the city. There are wonderful restaurants, huge multi-storey mega moth, a lot of exotic food on the open food courts and a market. There you can find everything from embroidered Chinese silk kimonos ($30) to diamonds (with certificates) and ultramodern gadgets you haven't even heard about. Singapore is one of the trade centres, where all the technical innovations appear. And the prices will amaze you; it is very cheap. You can bargain there, and they will give you a bargain.

Zoo

singapore zoo

All tours to Singapore include it in a mandatory program - the Zoo is considered almost the main attraction of the city. If you have children with you, then you should go there. However, adults will also be interested in it. There are more than 300 species of animals, but the main thing is that there are no cells. All animals walk "as if" in the wild, in large enclosures and in specially equipped areas. Some of them can even be fed! Animal lovers can develop their success and visit also a huge oceanarium S.E.A. Aquarium at the Sentosa Island and Jurong Bird Park. Both sights are often included in the tours to Singapore, but they are for the amateur. We, for example, are not interested in them.

Cruises

marina bay sands

 Many tours to Singapore include a cruise. From a simple sightseeing day cruise through the Strait (by the way, a great idea, especially in the evening, when the evening lights are included) to 2-3 day cruises and more - around the neighbourhood. It is a great experience! The point of the cruise is that you travel to seaside cities right at the hotel. Prices for ordinary cruises are very democratic, especially in Asia, you start to appreciate the normal European service. But it does not apply to Singapore. There are Asian tropics around it and in some places are not very well-groomed and quite fragrant settlements. The high service is not everywhere there. And the cruise will allow you to see everything without dirtying the white colonial costume (which you previously bought on Orchard Road).  

Park Gardens by the bay 

("Gardens by the Gulf") - another symbol of Singapore. It is a colossal project. Huge 50-meter trees, which are at the same time - solar power generators, drainage and ventilation systems in greenhouses, in which more than 1000 plants species grow. Among 22 metres of trees, there is a walkway, and on top of the largest - a restaurant and cafe. In this place, it is worth taking a photo for Instagram; the pictures will be very recognizable and just amazing!

Shopping in Singapore

Singapore Buildings

Yes! That's what you should do for sure. It is a port there, remember? Everything that is produced in Asia gets to Singapore one way or another. On Orchard Road, you will find all the world's brands, but it's silly enough to bring an LV from Singapore, especially since the prices are not so affordable. Next to China, and in China now, it is fashionable to imitate European tastes.

In Singapore, you need to buy:

Equipment, electronics, gadgets, smartphones, and all other novelties. In Singapore, there is everything that you have read about and a lot more that you have not even heard about. There are also really great prices. Where is it all? In the megalopolises of Chinatown and at exhibitions.

coast of singapore

Pearls and gems. Huge selection, interesting prices, G.I.A. certificates. By choice and price, it is almost like Hong Kong. There are quite a few artificial stones in Singapore, such as Singapore emeralds. Better stones are also more than enough. As a rule, this is reflected in the certificates and gemstones documents. Such stones are not considered natural, but if you do not know the subject, it is better to limit yourself to pearls and finished products.    

Japanese and Korean clothing. If you are close to Japanese cyberpunk and other trendy fashion trends, then you can really buy something that is not and will never be in Europe.    

Spices and rarities of the region. Colonial goods. The list is so extensive that you'd better study it yourself and decide what you need.

That is it for the beginning. Yes, you can talk endlessly about Singapore. But it's better to see once than hear 100 times, so don't think too long! Travel! Apply now for a Singapore visa and be ready to explore Singapore.

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Marina Nefedova

Marina's idols as a child were Tour Heyerdahl, Jacques Yves Cousteau, Francis Drake and Hodja Nasreddin. To see with her own eyes all those places that she read about in books - that's a dream that was worth realizing. Over the past 15 years, Marina has travelled to 52 countries, caught fish in the headwaters of the Nile in Central Africa, met the dawn in the Himalayas, and dived into the cenotes in the Yucatan.  She is passionate about energy practices of different peoples, yoga and water sports and in her spare time is very fond of boating around the Balearic Islands with old friends, where she lived for 2 years before moving to the Netherlands. Marina is involved in modern cinematography at a university in Amsterdam and is sure that every trip opens a new door to opportunities, and sometimes more than one.

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