When I visited Singapore for the first time I instantly fell in love with this city-state: its futuristic design, the combination of different cultures and the diverse food. I was lucky to meet Jaclynn Seah there, who is from Singapore and writes on her blog “The Occasional Traveller”. She showed me around and we had a great time. She tells you her insider tips for the Lion City – the best time to travel there, accommodation, restaurants and sights.
Jaclynn is The Occasional Traveller, a Singaporean girl with a full-time day job who loves to travel. She started her blog in 2010 to encourage fellow deskbound wanderlusters like herself to remember to take that time off and get away. She is always looking forward to that next trip!
Here are her insider tips for Singapore:
Why should everyone travel once in a lifetime to Singapore?
There’s nowhere in the world quite like Singapore!
When is the best time to visit it?
Singapore is hot all year round and we hardly have any seasons. Year end tends to be cooler but also more rainy, though really it can rain any time of the year.
June and December are school holiday periods in Singapore so your tourist attractions will be more crowded with families, so you might want to avoid those periods.
Which attractions of Singapore are worth to see?
The Marina Bay area (which you usually see on TV during the F1 Grand Prix in September) is a tourist hotspot but for good reason – Singapore is prettiest in the evening when the buildings are all lit up.
I recommend starting from the Esplanade, walking clockwise around the bay area across the Helix Bridge until you reach Marina Bay Sands.
Other tourist attractions that I think are worth seeing are Gardens by the Bay (18 Marina Gardens Dr) – the alien-looking Super Tree Grove is mostly free (unless you want to go on the Skywalk, a rickety walkway suspended near the top of the tree structures).
But it is worth going into the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest as well – beautiful and cool, a good way to spend your time ‘indoors’ if Singapore is being all humid or rainy.
If you want a proper outdoor garden, Singapore Botanic Gardens (1 Cluny Rd) is centrally located in the downtown area and was just awarded a UNESCO award.
The ethnic enclaves like Chinatown and Little India are also popular, though my favourite of the lot would be the Arab/Muslim Quarter Kampong Glam close to Bugis. It’s a true mishmash of culture – with the hipster shopping Haji Lane alongside traditional cloth merchants at Arab Street.
Walk around some more and you will discover cute cafes, bold graffiti and hints of Malay heritage all around the area.
What are your insider tips?
Check out the street art in Singapore – we have very strict laws against vandalism but there is a burgeoning street art scene nonetheless. It’s a great alternative way to explore Singapore. Kampong Glam is a good place to start.
If you are on the roads or taking a cab, Singapore has a rather complicated taxi surcharge system, as well as road tolls during peak hours which can make the taxi ride a more expensive affair.
Try and avoid the morning peak (7 – 9.30 am) and the evening peak (6 – 8 pm) as far as possible. Or just take the subway aka MRT, which is quite well connected.
To save money on food, eat at the outdoor hawker centres. Indoor food courts tend to be more expensive, especially if they are in the central business districts.
Ask locals for their food recs, most Singaporeans are more than happy to tell you where to get good and cheap grub. If all else fails, just pick the store with the longest queue and wait!
In which district should visitors book a hotel?
Most of the hotels are in the central downtown areas, but for something a little different, consider the smaller boutique hotels in the ethnic enclaves like Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam. (honestly I don’t have a lot for this one since I actually live here…)
Which food is typical for Singapore? Your tips for restaurants?
Hawker food is what makes Singapore’s cuisine so enticing. Also, there’s a very rich and diverse mix of food from all different cultures that you can find in most hawker centres. Frankly I’d skip the restaurants and just spend all my time eating cheap at the hawker centres!
My favourite less touristy hawker centres that I usually recommend visitors to check out are Old Airport Road Food Centre (51 Old Airport Rd, near to Dakota MRT station on Circle Line) and Tiong Bahru Market (83 Seng Poh Rd), both very popular with Singaporeans.
If you are still keen on restaurants, check out local food websites like hungrygowhere, burpple and Yelp Singapore for user reviews by Singaporeans. We’re big on our food so these might give you a better sense of the local favorites.
Where to go out in the evenings?
Ann Siang Hill near Chinatown is a pretty happening area with bars and restaurants and a blocked off road for pedestrians to roam freely.
There are so many places you can choose to hang out in, but a favourite of mine is the rooftop bar at PS Cafe (28B Harding Rd), or eat cheap at Maxwell market (famous for Gordon Ramsay’s favourite Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice) before finding a nice spot for a drink.
I like the bar stretch at Emerald Hill close to Somerset MRT as well – my usual haunt is Ice Cold Beer (9 Emerald Hill Rd) for a good range of draft beers and amazing chicken wings.
Number 5 at Emerald Hill and Que Pasa (7 Emerald Hill Rd) are owned by the same management and share the same kitchen, though they are more famous for cocktails and wine respectively.
Or stroll along the Singapore River – particularly around the Clarke Quay and Marina Bay area. Evenings are cooler and offer a great night view, and these areas come alive then.
In the Clarke Quay area, I like Cafe Iguana at Riverside Point (30 Merchant Road) for its mega margaritas, and at Marina Bay I like Overeasy at One Fullerton – you get a great view of the Marina Bay Sands complex and the laser light show that happens a few times every night.
Is Singapore an expensive destination?
Comparatively it’s not as cheap as the surrounding countries in South East Asia – the Singapore dollar is stronger, but there are plenty of cheap/free things to do as well if you know where to look and avoid the tourist areas.
Which articles in your blog are most helpful for visitors?
- Everything about Singapore you can find here.
- Street art guide Kampong Glam
- Street art guide Little India
- Street art guide Bras Basah/Bugis
- Nice cafes to visit.
- For those coming in Jan/Feb around the Chinese New Year period.
- Haw Par Villa – for somewhere you wouldn’t believe existed in Singapore
Here you may find some more insider tips from locals (English and German articles), e.g. about Brisbane, Cape Town, Yucatan in Mexico, Bali and Barcelona.
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