When people think of Southeast Asian travel destinations, the Maldives, Thailand and Indonesia most often come to mind. This can make these places saturated tourist destinations. Over time, this can cause a country's culture to change because of such a heavy emphasis on tourism, making it difficult for travelers to achieve a full, immersive experience. As a result, many people now venture to less popular tourist spots such as Singapore.
Singapore is one of the last remaining city-states in the world. It boasts a population of more than five million and is well-known for its focus on modern, sustainable living. This eco-friendly city-state has strict laws in place that help to keep it not just safe but beautiful. Singapore is a year-round travel spot, but visiting between February and April is ideal, as this is the region’s dry period. That means more sunny days at the beach for you.
What To Do
If you’ve never considered traveling to Singapore before, you may wonder what there is for you to enjoy. Ultimately, this depends on your travel style. Do you like to go out and adventure, or do you prefer the opportunity to stay inside and relax? Do you travel solo, as a group of friends, in a family or as part of a couple?
Whatever answer you choose, Singapore has something for you. While it is a little pricey compared to other locales in the region, it’s likely no more expensive than traveling to Japan. There are also several free activities available that help to make traveling to Singapore budget-friendly. These options include visiting the botanical garden, strolling through the clean-as-a-whistle streets and swimming at public beaches.
If you prefer amenities on your travels, then consider booking a trip to Sentosa Island. This resort island is dedicated almost entirely to your entertainment and is the location of many of Singapore’s most beautiful beaches. If you’re traveling as a family, then Sentosa 4D AdventureLand, Universal Studios and Mega Adventure are all worth seeing.
Before you get ready to book your trip, here are five things you need to know about Singapore that will help you to better finalize the details of your trip such as where to go and what to look out for.
5 Facts About Singapore
Britain has a long history of expanding its empire, especially throughout the 1600s and into the early 1900s. Singapore is just one of the many territories it acquired as part of its Commonwealth at this time. In 1950, Singapore then petitioned King George VI to be upgraded from a town to the status of a city. King George VI granted this in 1951, which gave the region more autonomy.
In 1963, Singapore decided to join forces with Malaysia to build a stronger nation. It then broke away in 1965 amid racial tension and riots. This is also when Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew announced that Singapore was now an independent nation. Yew originally took office in 1959 and held this position until 1990.
Over his 31-year tenure, he raised the standard of living, improved housing opportunities and eliminated the racial tensions that had threatened the nation’s prosperity. For years, Singapore faced threats of reabsorption into Malaysia and a possible attack from the Indonesian army. However, it remained independent and became an official member of both the United Nations and the existing Commonwealth.
Modern-day Singapore carries very few scars from its difficult past. It has remained politically stable and is one of the most peaceful countries in the world. Singapore uses its own dollar as a currency, which at the moment has an exchange rate of SGD $1 to USD $0.74. Because it is a city-state, the capital of Singapore is well...Singapore.
Within its several pockets of communities, people speak their own languages, so English serves as the common language that is spoken between groups. Because of this, most Singaporeans are bilingual, and many speak multiple languages. This reflects the diverse population that calls Singapore home. Singaporeans consider this a triumph after the racial tensions that arose while they were bound to Malaysia and in the aftermath following their separation.
Today, Singaporeans view their diversity as a strength and embrace it. The days of fighting between ethnic groups are long gone. Instead of attempting to bring all cultures into one melting pot, however, Singapore creates a safe space where each culture can enjoy their own traditions and practices without oppression.
People also enjoy complete religious freedom. While walking down the street in Singapore, you’ll often find churches, mosques and synagogues right next to each other. What’s even more impressive is that all of these communities exist together harmoniously.
The one exception to this is that Jehovah’s Witness practices are illegal. In spite of this, the Pew Research Center still named Singapore as the most religiously diverse nation in the world. To arrive at this decision, they look at the percentage of the population that belongs to each of the world’s major religions.
One of the Safest Countries
When traveling to foreign locales, one of the first things people wonder about is how safe they’ll be. People traveling solo or with small children worry about this more than others. If this is one of your big concerns, you should rest easy in the knowledge that Singapore is consistently ranked as one of the safest countries in the world.
In 2018, CNBC reported that the crime rate is so low that some shops don’t even bother to lock their doors. In 2016, the police in Singapore reported that they went an entire 135 days without a single reported crime. There weren’t even break-ins or thefts. Much of this peacefulness comes from strict laws and the consistent enforcement of those laws over time; however, be sure to read up on these laws to ensure you don’t break any while visiting.
Here are some of the surprising things that are illegal in Singapore:
- Failing to flush a public toilet
- Singing obscene lyrics or annoying someone with a musical instrument
- Selling chewing gum
- Keep in mind same-sex relationships are illegal in Singapore, however there’s evidence of growing support for gay rights.
While many of these laws may sound crazy, they are the reason Singapore is so clean and safe today. Be sure to check your country’s travel advisory for Singapore before visiting to get updates on current laws.
Virtually every tourist destination claims to have great food, and most do. Singapore is no exception, but it brings more to the table than most other travel destinations. The ethnic diversity in the country allows you to get an authentic taste of multiple lauded Asian cuisines while enjoying some combinations that have become uniquely Singaporean.
With the strong focus on the cleanliness of the streets, you may wonder if street food is even allowed. Fortunately, it is, and Singapore has some of the most delicious street food in Asia. Here are some of the main dishes you shouldn’t miss, including a quick rundown of what to expect from each:
- Chili Crab: This is the primary dish Singapore is known for, and it consists of stir-fried crab dipped in a chili-tomato sauce. It’s a little on the expensive side, so generally Singaporeans don’t eat this on a regular basis. Tourists, on the other hand, absolutely love it. Even if you’re traveling on a budget, this is one dish you have to try.
- Pork Rib Soup: If you dislike seafood, it can be hard to find local dishes to eat. One of the best that you might enjoy is a Chinese herbal broth flavored with actual pork ribs.
- Nasi Lemak: For a taste of everything, try this dish that has a strong Malay influence. It includes fried anchovies, deep-fried fish, grilled fish paste, chili paste and slices of cucumber. If you have nut allergies, note that one of the ingredients in this dish is peanuts.
You can get some of the best street food at Hill Street Fried Kway Teow, which will also help you stay within your budget. To treat yourself to more expensive dishes, try Hong Sheng Restaurant.
Unrivaled Focus on Sustainability
In 2017, Singapore’s current senior minister gave a speech on the four pillars that formed the foundation of the country’s sustainable development. These four crucial elements include a strong economy, preserving green spaces, investing in its people and collaborating with other nations to bring about long-term positive change.
If you plan to visit Singapore primarily for ecotourism, there are several opportunities for you to explore. Night owls have a special attraction dedicated solely to them. A renowned group of otters have reappeared and are easy to spot after Singapore’s large investment in urban renewal. And the Singapore Night Safari allows visitors to learn more about nocturnal animals.
For travelers who prefer to see animals in the wild and enjoy the natural scenery, there are several reserves to visit. Add Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Central Catchment Nature Reserve and Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve to your itinerary.
Singapore is one of the most diverse countries you will ever visit. Not only do you get to taste the cuisine of multiple Asian cultures, but you get to enjoy the unique focus on sustainability that is every bit Singaporean. Add this destination to your travel bucket list and ask for skyhours to help get you there.