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A Traveling Insider’s Guide to Singapore 

Modern and multicultural, Singapore’s soaring skyscrapers and diverse population offer an urban blueprint for any aspiring global city. | By Chris Kucway | December 28, 2022

Proudly known as the Little Red Dot, Singapore looms large in the imagination with its future-focused attitude and a rich history that combines four distinct cultures. For guests looking to enjoy a fun-filled stay away, check out our insider Singapore travel tips for this one-of-a-kind Asian gateway:

  • Four cultures, one city: Experience how varying backgrounds meld to form one vibrant city

  • Heritage to high-tech: From century-old shophouses to futuristic structures, Singapore is rich with notable architecture

  • Eat your way through town: Every kind of cuisine is on offer, including delicious dishes not found anywhere else in the world

Asian couple enjoying a snack at a hawker center in Singapore, Asia.
Singapore’s exquisite cuisine runs the gamut — grab lunch at a food stall and dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant.

Why visit Singapore?

With a population of five and a half million people and positioned at an innovative crossroad, Singapore sets the pace for fast-moving Asia.

This island city-state at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula taps into its rich history to map out the future. Look no further than its heritage shophouses, some of which date back to the 1800s and have been reborn as mom-and-pop eateries, trendy bars and compact creative spaces, often in the shadows of modern skyscrapers that dot the skyline. Dive deep into diverse cultural enclaves by visiting Chinatown, for its traditional shops and eateries; Little India, where bright colors dominate, including at the Hindu and Tamil temples; and Geylang Serai, a Malay neighborhood home to a bustling bazaar. Each area offers a unique perspective on the city.

From Hainanese chicken rice (Singapore’s national dish) to a bowl of prawn laksa (spicy noodle soup) to the searing heat of vegetarian vindaloo, Singaporean cuisine is a tantalizing melange of Asian flavors — and a stop at one of Singapore's hawker centers for a bite is worth the trip alone.

Marina Bay
Lunar New Year represents one of Singapore’s largest celebrations, blending storied traditions with modern festivities.

The best time to visit

Close to the equator, this often-humid city offers a near-constant temperature of between 82- and 90-degrees F (28-32 degrees C) year-round. Tropical downpours are the norm between November and January but blow by just as quickly as they arrive. Follow the local’s lead and wait out the rain, it’s likely to end quickly.

The long list of celebrations on the culture calendar is all-inclusive. Lunar New Year (Jan. 22, 2023) is unmistakable with red lanterns lighting up the night. On Aug. 9, Singaporeans wear their patriotism loud and proud for National Day, while Hindu temples come alive during Deepavali (Nov. 12, 2023).

The Singapore Grand Prix (Sept. 15-17, 2023) has become a magnet for the international racing set. If Formula 1 isn’t up your alley, keep in mind that a large portion of the Central Business District doubles as the course, so avoid the nighttime race as many of the city’s well-groomed streets are shut down for the 63-lap event.

The Jewel Changi at the Changi Airport in Singapore.
A destination in its own right, Changi Airport is linked to Jewel Changi, a 10-story lifestyle and retail hub.  

Getting to and around Singapore

Changi Airport is a great introduction to Singapore. Hyper-modern and efficient, it’s not uncommon to be in your hotel 45 minutes after landing. You may not be in a rush to leave the vicinity though – Changi Airport is considered a top attraction with a calming butterfly farm, several gardens, a 52-foot (16-meter) play structure, an entertainment zone, art installations, murals, sculptures and more.

Singapore’s airport is also noteworthy because of its easy access to Changi Jewel — a nature-themed entertainment and retail complex surrounded by and linked to the airport terminals. With shops like Kate Spade, UNIQLO, Zara, Marks and Spencer and Coach, you can start your Singapore adventure upon arrival.

Jewel Changi also features worthy diversions such as the Rain Vortex – the world's tallest indoor waterfall that cascades down seven stories into a manmade rainforest. You can also weave through Singapore’s largest hedge maze, lose yourself in a kaleidoscopic mirror maze or traverse a taut web 82 feet (25 meters) above the ground. Once you’re ready to head downtown, the city’s six-line Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system is an air-conditioned cocoon that stitches together most corners of this 281-square-mile (727-square-kilometer) island. Where it doesn’t, taxis are plentiful – just be forewarned that there are designated taxi pick-up and drop-off stands. Invest in a Singapore Tourist Pass, which can be purchased at the airport, to cover public transport fares (and fees for certain sightseeing attractions) with a quick tap.

Street view of Singapore with Masjid Sultan.
Singapore has a diverse mix of languages, religions and cultures within its 281 square miles (727 square kilometers).

Singapore's culture and customs

The idea of Singapore as a model urban city can be chalked up to the fact that this is a city of rules. It’s clean, efficient and polite in equal measures, all worthwhile traits to adopt during any visit.

While English is the most common language used in Singapore, the country’s three other official languages are Malay, Mandarin and Tamil. With such a multicultural mix, it’s no surprise that the main dialect has been dubbed “Singlish.” It’s worth learning a few conversational basics, such as the subtle differences between “lah,” “lor,” “leh,” and “meh” — discourse particles used at the end of sentences, each serving a different purpose depending on tone, syntax and context – which are heard at every turn.

Whether you choose to learn bits of Singlish before arriving in Singapore or not, we guarantee your visit will be “shiok,” a Malay word meaning “great.”

After decades of living in Hong Kong and Bangkok as a travel writer, editor and photographer, Chris Kucway is now back on the other side of the Pacific Ocean and is based in Vancouver.

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