One of the things I love about being an Instagram Blogger is that it forces you to explore, even the places you thought you knew quite well.
Five years ago when I visited Singapore, my experience hardly went beyond Orchard Road. Shopping and dining was the memory I’d made along with the usual attractions like Singapore Zoo. And I’d spent the following five years believing I’d seen Singapore. Turns out I was wrong.
This time I made a point of venturing beyond the main shopping district to discover different neighbourhoods, and I’ve learned just how big the city is and how much Singapore has to offer. This cosmopolitan city was already one of my favourite cities in the world and I love it even more since I’ve extended my bubble within the red dot.
Everything seems to work on clockwork in this sleek urban jungle and its clinical ways often stoke curiosity in those who have never been. Its laws are strict and the number one fine tourists get punished for is jaywalking and such rigidity can feel stifling, especially when the searing heat is unbearable and you have to take two pedestrian crossings just to cross the road, but the tight rules also create one of the safest and cleanest city environments you’ll ever be in.
Here’s are some of my highlights and recommendations of Singapore:
What Did I Do in Singapore
A glance at any top ten things to do in Singapore list will feature Gardens by the Bay. And for good reason. Strolling around the Supertree Groove is like waking up on a distant planet in a faraway universe. It’s free to wander and admire those magnificent structures and it costs $6 each to go up on the Skyway.
A free activity is the spectacular orchestra at the Supertree Groove. The show starts at 8pm, so make sure you’re there in plenty of time so you don’t miss the man-made trees put on a mesmerising light show that’s in sync with whatever symphony is chosen for that evening.
And you can get a bird’s eye view atop of one of the super trees at the SuperTree by IndoChine rooftop bar, which costs $20 to enter and includes a welcome glass of wine.
Two of the big attractions are contained in the massive dome infrastructures. The Cloud Forest and The Flower Dome. I found the Cloud Forest quite magical and you’re greeted as soon as you enter by the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. At certain times of the day the Cloud Forest is misted, which shrouds the indoor jungle in even more mystery (10am while we were there).
Tip: Use your hotel’s Handy to pre-book your dome tickets as you get approx. 20% discount, ($23), which entitles you to both The Cloud Forest and The Flower Dome.
Another lush place to visit is Singapore’s Botanical Gardens. It’s free to enter and roam, though there are sections within the gardens that cost money to see. It’s perfect for a Sunday stroll, though my first trip was shrouded by a crazy tropical thunder and lightning storm (check out my Singapore Highlight on my Instagram to see the building I was taking shelter in getting hit), but the grounds are beautiful.
It’s a straightforward journey as the MRT will bring you straight there. Make sure you check the weather forecast or bring an umbrella because once the heavens open up, you are stuck at whatever shelter you find as the paths aren’t covered.
Tip: Make sure you have cash on you as they don’t take cards for the Orchard Garden section.
A traveller’s budget can be tested by Singapore. The lifestyle isn’t cheap and the amount of attractions will hit your pocket, however, Singapore’s colourful side won’t cost you much more than a ride on their efficient public transport system. Some of their buildings, like the MICA Building, are just awash with colour. Little India have a man-made rainbow in the shape of the Residence of Tan Teng Niah building, which features practically every shade of colour imaginable, and is often an overlooked tourist attraction. And the pretty pastel Peranakan houses on Koon Seng Road is a beautiful street to prance along.
Tip: To get to Koon Seng Road, check out the bus routes as there’s a bus that will take you straight there. That same bus will also drop you off near the MICA Building if you want to combine the two. The Residence of Tan Teng Niah is located a minute’s walk from Little India’s MRT station.
Places to Eat in Singapore
If you want authentic local food at a good budget price, I highly recommend Kampung Glam. This corner open aired restaurant is located in the middle of Arab Street and is a very popular place, though we never had trouble getting a seat. The food is very reasonably priced compared to its neighbour eateries and extremely tasty. If you come to the menu and you’re not sure what to try, give the flat noodles Char Kway Teow ($4.50) a go. It’s a favourite dish of ours.
The Grand Hyatt offer several top-class dining options, including Mezza9, which you can read more of by clicking here, and The Straits Kitchen, which was my personal favourite. This restaurant is an excellent dining choice if you’re only in Singapore for a couple of nights. For $66++ per person, you get an all you can eat buffet with a huge amount of choice available that allows you to try and taste the best of the local cuisines; Chinese, Malay and Indian.
Where I Got My Coffee Fix
The Wired Monkey is a contemporary café located near The Wanderlust Hotel and within the vicinity of Little India. Large steps act as seats and with their good Wi-Fi, plenty of plugs, and great coffee ($5.50 for a latte), it’s a brilliant café for any traveller to stop into and became a regular stop off for my coffee fix and Instagram posting.
How Did I Get Around
When you arrive in Singapore, one of the first things you should do is purchase an MRT card. Singapore is a big city and you’ll be using their efficient public transport system a lot to get around. You could get the Singapore Tourist Pass, which is ideal if you’re only there for 3 days, however, you can only purchase this at certain stations. We bought the regular MRT cards, which you can get at every station, because it’s just a better investment for us as we were there for about five days and we spent about $25 each. Without an MRT card, a one way journey can cost about $3 while each trip costs $1.50 on average with the card. You’re able to use your MRT card on the bus.
How Did I Get There
I make a point of trying not to write negative reviews and whenever I do experience an unsatisfactory service, my stance is that it’s best to just not mention or recommend the company. However, I feel I have to share my travelling to Singapore by bus experience because there’s a lot of you reading this who will consider taking the journey from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore by bus.
First thing first, if you’re planning on going by bus, make sure you have your passport on you as you’ll be going through visa immigration control. This can take an hour. There are two stop offs and on your second stop off, your luggage will be scanned, just as it would at an airport. You will be taxed for any alcohol found. Going by bus is a lot cheaper and we got return tickets with StarMart Express at RM45 each. You need to purchase your bus tickets online and get it printed out as this will be checked before boarding.
Our bus journey was meant to take 5 hours but took nearly 11 hours to complete. I could have flown back to Europe in that time! Not only that but we received a text in the morning letting us know that our bus, which we’d bought tickets for, had decided to go two hours earlier than scheduled. We missed it, of course. The driver of our rescheduled bus belched, hocked and spat, and smoked throughout the journey. We were eventually dropped off, along with a family with two little kids, on the side of the road close to midnight nearly a kilometre from our designated Kuala Lumpur bus stop, because traffic made this more convenient for him.
Needless to say, I won’t be using StarMart Express again when travelling by bus.
Such an easy journey from Kuala Lumpur. The flight cost me about €70 for a return ticket and the journey takes about 45 minutes, so short that it’s barely enough time to fill out your visa immigration form. From the airport we got an Uber to Orchard Road and this cost us approx. $20. You can also take the MRT from the airport for anyone who doesn’t mind taking a little longer to get to their accommodation.
Things to Know
The ‘Handy’ device that I refer to on occasion is what hotels in Singapore provide guests and I think it should be offered by every hotel worldwide. It’s a handy gadget that gets rid of that bothersome issue of having no data when in a new city. It’s the size of a mobile phone and works in exactly the same way. The software is customised for each hotel and you can purchase tourist attraction tickets with it at discount prices. The Wanderlust’s Handy was the best for us Instagrammers or anyone with an umbilical cord attached to your social media life as can turn their Handy into your own personal hotspot, which meant that I could still use my own phone wherever I was in Singapore.
Where I Stayed
There’s no shortage of hotels in Singapore and I’ve been lucky to stay at quite a few. Depending on your particular taste and interest, there’s something suitable in Singapore for every type of traveller.
The Wanderlust – The Wanderlust Hotel is a quirky hotel full of gimmicks that make it a fun place to take pictures to share on your Instagram feed and it’s located near Little India and Arab Street. You can read my full review of The Wanderlust Hotel here.
Best For: Those who like an element of fun in their lives.
The Quincy – Far East Hospitality at its finest is what I got a taste of at the trendy Quincy Hotel, which is located just off of Orchard Road. I had such a great night stay there and you can read my review of this all-inclusive city hotel by clicking here.
Best For: Those who want to shop and not want to worry about where to eat.
The Grand Hyatt – If you’re travelling to Singapore for business, then you’ll need somewhere to stay that’s efficient and in close proximity to the international offices, and likely the main shopping district since your time is limited. Click here to read my review of the business hotel, The Grand Hyatt.
Best For: Anyone travelling to Singapore on business.
Studio M – This hotel has maximised its space to create a very cool loft style concept and is located in a bustling area right along the Singapore River. Not only that but they have robots. Interested to find out more? Click here to find out more about Studio M.
Best For: Anyone who loves gazing out of double story windows.