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Traveling to Singapore: 9 Useful tips for a hassle-free trip
7 min read
Updated on May 23, 2024

This is part of the Been There, Done That series, where our expert globetrotters travel the world to get the insights and information you need for a seamless travel experience.

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Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. | Source: iVisa

Singapore, a bustling city-state in Southeast Asia, is a melting pot of cultures, cuisines, and experiences.

Known for its strict regulations and world-class infrastructure, Singapore offers a unique blend of modernity and tradition that captivates travelers from around the globe.

Dive into our top tips to help you easily navigate this fascinating destination.

1. Getting to Singapore: Fly in

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Travelers arriving and going through immigration at Singapore Changi International Airport | Source: iVisa

Entering Singapore via Singapore Changi International Airport is a breeze, thanks to its efficient and world-renowned facilities. As a frequent traveler, you'll appreciate the seamless experience from arrival to departure.

iVisa tip: Consider pre-filling out your arrival card for an even faster arrival experience!

If you're looking to explore beyond the airport, the land border in Johor between Malaysia and Singapore offers an alternative entry point.

This option is trendy among those who work in Singapore or wish to take advantage of the price differences between the two countries for various goods and services. Just be sure to have your documents to ensure a smooth crossing.

Whichever way you arrive in Singapore, you'll be welcomed by a vibrant city-state offering a unique blend of modernity and tradition.

2. Getting around: Use public transport

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People use the MRT system in Singapore. | Source: iVisa

Singapore's public transportation system, which includes buses and the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) subway, is an efficient and affordable way to explore the city.

The EZ-Link card is a convenient way to pay for fares on both buses and the MRT. Alternatively, you can use your credit card for contactless payments on public transportation.

Singapore also has a variety of rideshare apps for a quick ride around the city. Popular Southeast Asia apps such as Grab, Gojek, Zig, Ryde, and Tada are all safe and reliable options for getting around the city.

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A sign highlights banned objects in Singapore at Singapore Changi International Airport. | Source: iVisa

Singapore is renowned for its strict laws and regulations, which contribute to its reputation as one of the safest cities in the world. Visitors must be aware of banned items to avoid legal issues during their stay. Some of these prohibited items include:

  • Chewing gum and chewing tobacco

  • Weapons, including pepper spray

  • Items shaped like weapons, such as lighters resembling a gun

  • Obscene articles, publications, videotapes, videodiscs and software

  • Controlled drugs and psychotropic substances

Please note that Singapore has a zero-tolerance policy towards drugs, with severe penalties, including a maximum of 10 years imprisonment or $20,000 or both. This includes having drugs in your system.

Singapore has begun randomly testing passengers from drug use hotspots like Bangkok and Amsterdam. Travelers must familiarize themselves with the local laws and regulations to ensure a smooth and trouble-free visit.

4. Weather and packing tips: Be prepared for unpredictable weather

Singapore's tropical climate is characterized by three main weather patterns: hot and humid, torrential downpours, and chilly air-conditioned indoor spaces. To make the most of your visit, pack accordingly:

  • For the heat and humidity, Lightweight and breathable clothes are essential, as you'll spend time outdoors in the tropical heat. Don't forget to bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun.

Pro-tip: If you walk, consider cutting through the malls or other air-conditioned spaces to escape the heat.

  • For the rain: An umbrella is a must-have item, as rain showers can occur unexpectedly and without warning. Consider bringing a lightweight, foldable umbrella that can fit easily in your bag.

  • For the air-conditioned spaces: Be prepared for the temperature difference between outdoor and indoor spaces. Pack a light sweater or cardigan to stay comfortable in these cooler environments.

By packing for Singapore's diverse weather conditions, you'll be well-prepared to enjoy all this vibrant city-state offers.

5. Budgeting and cost-saving tips

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People eat at one of Singapore’s many Hawker stands. | Source: iVisa

Singapore is known for its high cost of living, but there are ways to save money while enjoying the city's offerings. However, saving money is not impossible. I used these tips to stick to my budget:

  • Public transportation: Use Singapore's efficient MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) and bus systems to get around. These are affordable and well-connected, making them an excellent choice for budget-conscious travelers.

  • Hawker centers: Indulge in Singapore's famous hawker center cuisine, which offers various delicious and affordable meals. Remember to bring cash, as many hawker stalls do not accept credit cards.

  • Grocery stores and supermarkets: Shop at the grocery stores and supermarkets located in the lower levels of malls and shopping centers for affordable food options.

6. Cultural Insights: Safety, Etiquette, and Respect

Singapore is known for its safety and adherence to rules, making it a comfortable and welcoming destination for visitors. Here are some cultural insights to remember:

  • Unattended items: Singapore is generally safe, and you may occasionally see items like packages of tissues left on seats to reserve them. You can leave your items unattended in Singapore; they will be there when you return!

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I left my stuff on the table to get more food and found it untouched when I returned. | Source: iVisa

  • Respect for elders: Show respect for elderly people by allowing them to go first or addressing them as "uncle" or "auntie." This is a common practice in Singapore and is a sign of respect.

  • Etiquette and rules: Singapore is known for its strict adherence to rules and regulations, so be sure to follow them. For example, jaywalking is considered rude, and you won’t see Singaporeans doing it.

By being mindful of these cultural practices and rules, you can show respect for Singapore's unique customs and make the most of your visit.

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A sign in Singapore reminds people not to jaywalk. | Source: iVisa

7. Staying connected in Singapore

Singapore boasts a highly connected environment with various telecommunications providers offering SIM cards for tourists.

While airport prices for short-term tourist SIM cards can be steep, purchasing an eSIM or a SIM card in the city is more cost-effective.

Local providers include M1, Singtel, and StarHub, each offering various packages to suit different needs.

Singapore also offers widespread free WiFi access in public spaces, including malls and MRT stations, making staying connected easily without incurring data charges.

However, relying on international cell phone plans from your home provider might not be the best option, as they may not work well in Singapore. Opting for a local SIM card or eSIM is a more reliable and often cheaper alternative.

8. Money matters

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A traveler pulls out Singapore Dollars from an ATM at Singapore Changi International Airport. | Source: iVisa

Almost every place in Singapore accepts credit cards. However, some of the best hawker stands and street food stalls only accept cash.

Don't miss out on Singapore's incredible culinary experiences – make sure you have some cash on hand for these hidden gems.

As for tipping, there's no expectation of tipping in Singapore. You may see a service charge on your bill, but that's generally it.

So, enjoy your meal without worrying about calculating tips or potentially offending anyone. Happy eating!

9. Let’s talk language barriers

Singapore's linguistic landscape is a delightful medley of languages, reflecting its rich cultural diversity. Though English is the official language and widely spoken, you'll encounter a fascinating mix of Chinese, Malay, and Tamil, thanks to the city-state's multicultural heritage.

As you stroll through its bustling streets, it's not uncommon to catch snippets of various other languages, adding to the vibrant cosmopolitan vibe that defines Singapore.

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Marina Bay Sands is one of the most iconic skyscrapers in Singapore. | Source: iVisa

Singapore is a captivating destination with a rich culture and a high standard of living. With its efficient public transportation system, strict rules and regulations, and a wide range of culinary delights, this vibrant city-state has something for everyone.

Don't forget to read our other guides before embarking on your Singapore adventure:

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