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5 Useful Tips for Traveling in Singapore
1. Money business: Get yourself familiar with the prices
It is advisable to change some Singapore Dollar (SGD or S$) before you get on that plane, just in case. If you haven't however, you can change it immediately once you arrive in the country as money changers are available in the airport and harbour.
Singaporean coins are made up of 10, 20, and 50 cents, as well as $1. While the notes range from S$2, S$5, S$10, S$20, S$50, S$10 and the rare S$500, S$1000, and S$10,000. The currency is directly interchangeable with Brunei Dollar (BND or B$), that is 1:1 ratio.
Regarding budget, it depends on how much shopping you're planning to do. Accommodation in reasonable hotel range from S$120-200. You can save a fortune by staying in backpackers hotel that charge only between S$20-50, depending on your privacy preferences.
It is better to eat in "hawker centre" or "foodcourt", the local eating places in Singapore. Other than to experience the daily food, the prices are also friendlier in the pocket ranging from $2.50-$10. (Yes, it is still possible to find a meal at $2.50 in Singapore).
2. Learn the language: The Singlish
There are four official languages in Singapore: English, Chinese Mandarin, and Tamil. However, dialects like Hokkien, Cantonese, Hindi and Tagalog are common too.
Although English is widely used, the locals' older generation usually understand Mandarin or Hokkien/Tew Chew better.
The most interesting of all, is the country's unofficial language of Singapore-English or better known as Singlish. It is a language made up of Mandarin grammar with a mixture of English and Malay words. You might want to read a bit about this interesting social phenomenon before heading to the country, because for those who are not familiar with Singlish, the language can be confusing.
The most common misconception is that only the older Singaporeans who speak Singlish. But the fact is, most Singaporeans speak Singlish since they can speak that they don't even realize that they are speaking Singlish all around!
3. Public Transport: MRT and buses are cheap and comfortable
MRT (Mass Rapid Transit)
Using MRT, or the subway, in Singapore is simple. A clear route is provide all over the stations and the trains. Map of the surrounding area is also provided in the station. Being there and decide how to go somewhere else, however, is tricky. Especially when it's crowded and you don't get a seat.
There are basically only 4 MRT lines: North South line (red color), East West line (green color), North East line (purple color), and Circle line (yellow color). Interchange stations are indicated with white dot on the MRT map.
You can buy the pass in automated machine in the stations, or go to the passenger service.
- Buy a 'Singapore Tourist Pass' instead as it's cheaper if you move around a lot. It costs S$8 for per day.
- When you are standing in MRT, be sure to stand facing the door/windows. This way, your legs will help you to suspend the jerking motion and help you to avoid falls when the MRT starts/stops.
Travelling by bus in Singapore is quite simple too, once you get the hang of it. Every bus stop is provided with a board that will show you the bus stop number, what buses pass through the stop, and the route of the bus. The route shown is based on road names and the bus stop names. The road names that has a white dot on it means an MRT station is close by.
Every bus number is written upfront. Some buses have digital number display that will also flash the route of the bus.
Asking people in the bus stop on which bus to take does not usually help. Many people are tourist or outsiders in Singapore, and some of the Singaporeans themselves usually take a fixed route so they are not familiar with other buses. Download the app 'SG Busses' (available for iOS and Android) that will tell you the nearest bus stop to you, what buses are available, and when the bus is coming.
4. Eating out: Eat and act like a local!
If you want to taste some local food, the best place to go is a foodcourt or hawker center. A foodcourt is a public place where many food vendors gather.
Because the seating is free (you can sit anywhere you want), strangers sometimes ask to sit with you if there are available chairs in your table. When the foodcourt gets crowded, the locals usually "chope" the seats. This is done by putting personal stuff on a certain table. More popular items are tissue paper or umbrella, but some of the locals are have been spotted to leave even their cellphone, or wallet, or even their toddlers. That's how secure people feels in Singapore!
Tipping is definitely NOT recommended in hawker centre. In overall, tipping is not the way of life in this country because a 10% service charge is usually already included in restaurants' and cafes' bill.
5. Restroom manners: Sit don't squat
If you haven't noticed already, Singapore is very particular with cleanliness. The people are also very particular about queueing, even in toilets. Instead of waiting in front of each cubicle, people will queue in a single file right after the front door for available cubicles.
If you have a small bladder, worry not! Toilets are available almost everywhere in this Lion country. Be it in shopping belts, strolling around parks, having a feast in a hawker centre or attending outdoor concerts, you can drink to your fill without worrying where to relief yourself. Restrooms in malls are even come with baby care room and cubicles for disabled people.
Toilets in Singapore are sitting. Squatting toilets are available, but usually only located in the corner cubicle(s), that is, either the first or the last cubicle.
Singapore is a tropic country. The general rule is that summer is from April to September, when the degree shot up to 30++ degree Celsius, and rainy season is from October to March, when the temperature is a very wet 25 degree Celsius. However, because it's an island, the weather is more chaotic that the general rule. It is highly recommended to bring an umbrella to avoid sudden rain or blazing sun.
One thing for sure, dress comfortably with thin shirt and shorts. Sneakers are preferable to slippers as you will walk a lot to enjoy the things along the way, as well as to get from where you are to the nearest bus stop/MRT station.
If you are a food junkie, use your holiday in Singapore as the opportunity to taste food you've never had before. Recommended food include laksa, chicken rice, and rambutan fruit. For a more adventurous eater, don't miss the durian!
If you have time to spare, spend a few hours in Changi Airport. The world's 2nd best airport has most facilities you can imagine including nature trail, gym, and even sleeping area.
The perfect time to come to Singapore is between June and July. This is when the Great Singapore Sale is happening. Also remember, everything with a price tag in Singapore is with fixed price, while those that have no price tag are bargainable.
In general, 4 days are enough time for you to experience famous places in Singpore. If you're staying longer than that, you can check out unconventional tourist attractions in Singapore.
Click here for the general information on Customs formalities and clearance procedures when you enter Singapore.