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Top 5 Things You Need to Know About Singapore
First-time Visiting Singapore?
Singapore may be a tiny red dot on the map but like its national symbol, the proud Lion, this metropolis makes a loud roar on the world stage.
If overachieving accolades like "Best Airport" and "Most Competitive Economy" don't fascinate you, its many contradictions certainly will.
The Merlion [photo: flickr/chooyutshing]
This is a city where you can see old houses against a gleaming modern skyline, dine one day for under five dollars and the next at a fine restaurant, and find people pairing cheap flip flops with luxury bags.
Accommodation wise, it's a common complaint by tourists about the sky-high prices in this modern city. But fret not as there are some budget hotels in Singapore that offer a cheaper alternative.
To better navigate this city that's full of contrasts, here's 5 tips to know before visiting Singapore.
Carry An Umbrella And An Extra Layer
When travelers plan for a trip to Singapore, they often read that it's hot and humid, and therefore pack only the lightest of attire.
This is a mistake. Singapore's tropical climate can indeed be stultifying but a great portion of indoor places are air-conditioned, which means temperatures can be as low as 16 degrees Celsius.
It rains in Singapore! [photo: flickr/_Bunn_]
In addition, if you happen to be caught in one of the frequent sudden downpours, your wet clothes will feel quite chilly.
Your best strategy is to pack a small umbrella and a cardigan or light layer, so you can adjust to climate changes as needed.
Food Is A National Obsession
If you want to engage a Singaporean, skip the weather and ask him what he likes to eat.
Singaporeans live for eating and are notorious for debating amongst themselves over where the "best" rendition of a certain dish is to be found.
Roti Prata [photo: flickr/cactusbeetroot]
Good food here can cost you from a dollar for Roti Prata in Little India to hundreds for a tasting menu at a restaurant opened by a Michelin-starred chef.
The best part is that you can always have a satisfying meal whatever the time is, as many eating places here open all night.
If you're hungry, just hop in a taxi and ask your driver to recommend something to eat.
Durian Is A National Obsession Too! - Durian the "King of Fruit" is also some food that Singaporeans is crazy about.
Do you DARE to try this spiky sweet fruit that smell like dog poo?
It's Not Staid
Singapore's strict government and law-abiding citizens have given it a reputation for being a staid, uncreative place, but this is hardly the case.
Zouk Dance Event [photo: zoukout.com]
The city enjoys vibrant cultural festivals and offers an exciting nightlife ranging from world-famous dance clubs like Zouk to Bollywood-themed bars and Shisha-smoking Arabian lounges.
To delve into more intellectual fare, explore the Indie Arts scene at the Substation on Armenian Street or the Arts House at Old Parliament Lane.
It's Still A "Fine" City
While Singapore's authorities have relaxed their parental-style control over the years, you should still know that rules mean rules here. They also come with some of the strictest punishments around.
Some fines you'd get slapped for doing the above inside MRT trains
So no matter how drunk you are or what passes for normal at home, don't strip naked in public places, vandalize any property, and never accept any recreational drugs. It's just common sense.
A popular form of souvenirs amongst tourists is the "Singapore Fine T-shirts". They are T-shirts emblazoned with all kinds of fines for flouting the laws in Singapore.
One good place to pickup these t-shirts is at Bugis Street Market and this famous street bazaar is also one of the top 5 places to shop near Bugis.
Diversity In Harmony
In how many places in the world can you find a mosque next to a church next to a Chinese temple? Yet in Singapore, this is a common sight.
Harmony Dance [photo: flickr/chooyutshing]
Don't leave this little country without gaining an appreciation of how different cultures, races and faiths can live together in harmony, because this is something that truly makes Singapore special.
Take the time to visit cultural sites and places of worship in Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam, and engage the guides in deeper conversation.