Singapore is a city-state known as 'the pearl of Asia'. It is so diverse that it is difficult to think of a Singapore travel itinerary. However, it is best to choose a little bit of everything. The choices are between a Singapore ethnic, modern, green and, historical. Don't forget also the fun side of Singapore. These should be the best choices for a Singapore travel itinerary if you want to see almost everything.
The country is one of the most modern and most developed in Asia. As you can imagine is also one of the most expensive. On the other hand, it is also among the safest in the world. Maybe because of tight laws.
Here in Singapore lies one of the largest financial centers in the world. But it was not always been like this. In the past, with few natural resources, there weren't great prospects for the future. When it became an autonomous state, and under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew was catapulted to the top. The strategic location on a commercial route made all the difference.
The excellent educational system, the incentive to attract foreign companies, the multifunctionality of its citizens, social investment, housing, and health have also contributed to economic growth.
The truth is that whoever visits the country does not remain indifferent. Even for those who do not like more industrialized sites will be a surprise. It is not one of the cheapest in Asia, but it deserves at least one visit in life.
Day 1 | Arriving in Singapore
We arrived in Singapore from Bali. You will have a good choice of flights from there and at good prices. In addition Singapore is a hub for Europe. So it was our final destination before we returned to Portugal.
We arrived and after leaving everything at the hotel we were exploring the city. In our Singapore travel itinerary was included the Chinatown and Little India area. Without wasting time, it went there to explore this fusion of cultures.
The Little India area is on any Singapore travel itinerary. Here we can see the whole Indian culture and its relationship with this city. Curry restaurants, shops, several temples make the place hectic. Little India is a whole world of color, smells, tastes, to awaken our senses. Authentic smiles and friendly words make this area one of the most visited.
We simply love Hindu temples. The first one where we went to was the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple. But, you can not miss the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple. We also recommend the Temple of 1000 lights, which in this case is Buddhist.
The house of Tan Teng Niah is maybe one of the most photographed buildings. All because of its colorful facade. And the Mustafa Centre is very popular for shopping.
In Little India, there is also a mosque, Abdul Gafoor. Built by Muslim traders from South India. A Chinese temple dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy shows that this area of Singapore is influenced by other cultures.
Chinatown is one of the busiest areas of the city. It combines history and culture, with many places to visit, restaurants and shops. When we plan the travel itinerary through Singapore, Chinatown was almost mandatory.
The most famous temple here is the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. A 4-story temple with a 2-meter gold stupa. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, there are guided tours in English for free. On the second floor, a tea house is used to relax and have some cup of tea.
The oldest temple in this area is the Thian Hock Keng Temple. It is a Taoist-Buddhist temple. With elaborate doors, decorated beams and gold-plated panels.
In Chinatown don't miss, the Hong Lim Park, located downtown. For the best view in this part of the city, The Pinnacle @Duxton is ideal. It is located in the largest residential building in the world, it costs 5 SGD (4 USD/3 €) and only 200 people are allowed per day.
As for museums in Chinatown, the Red Dot Design Museum, the Singapore City Gallery and the Baba House worth a visit. Before dinner, we still had time to stroll down Chinatown Street Market. A street market where you can find all kinds of things. If you are hungry there is also a space dedicated to gastronomy.
At dinner time we were in the area and went to the Maxwell Food Center. Inside, there are several food stalls. It is a good option for those who want to save money on food. Even before the day finishes and we had to return to the hotel, we had time to go around through the business district of Singapore. We just walking by, every corner is a surprise.
Day 2 | Exploring the city
On the second day around the city, when we worked out the itinerary for Singapore, our aim was to wake up early. But we want to have a relaxed morning. In this perspective, we decided to visit Singapore Botanic Gardens. And in the afternoon leave options to explore other areas of the city.
At the end of the afternoon/night, we wanted to watch the much-anticipated light show of Marina Bay. Since on the first day wasn't possible, because we didn't arrive in time.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
The Singapore Botanic Gardens opened in 1859. It is an important center of research and conservation of plants. This place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It maintains many of the original structures, which allows following the evolution of the tropical botanical gardens created by the British colonizers.
We spent all morning exploring every area of the garden. Although Gardens by the Bay is quite popular and has an immense variety of fauna, the Botanical Garden should not be excluded from Singapore travel itinerary. We did not plan in advance the areas to visit. And the best is to do that, no planning. Just, wandering around and letting yourself be enchanted by the naturalness of the place.
Although we have not seen many tourists, local people love the garden. In the morning, they go early to practice sports, we saw families doing picnics, walks or just resting in one of the many shadows. There is a space dedicated to children too, the Jacob Ballas Children's Garden.
In another part of the garden, a giant shell-shaped stage hosts concerts, and theatre. There are several sculptures scattered throughout the grounds.
The National Orchid Garden is a real success since this is a national symbol. This is one of the largest orchid gardens in the world. As infrastructure, the garden has public bathrooms, a food court at the entrance to the Tanglin Gate and several restaurants.
There are several entrances in the Botanical Garden, the main ones are:
- Tanglin Gate;
- Burkill Gate;
- Nassim Gate;
- Cluny Park Gate;
- Bukit Timah Gate
Admission is free in various areas. Only the Orchid Garden is paid. The Botanical Garden is open daily from 5 am until midnight. To the Orchid Garden from 8.30 am to 7 pm (ticket offices close at 6 pm) every day.
Jacob Ballas Children's Garden opens from 8 am to 7 pm Tuesday to Sunday, on holidays also Monday.
Orchard Road and Clarke Quay
After spending a beautiful morning in the Botanical Gardens, we went to explore a bit of Orchard Road. After all, we were close by and as it was lunchtime. So we enjoyed the occasion as well. We like to leave options in the travel itinerary through Singapore. It gives us the flexibility to change things or add others.
Here you will find basically the commercial district of Singapore. With long avenues boasting shopping centers. You can see buildings with sensational architecture and choose from different activities, especially for families
Fort Canning, in the heart of the city, is the closest park. It shows how much Singapore is dedicated to green spaces. The Singapore National Museum and the Singapore Art Museum are two of the spaces to take into account here. No less important is the Emerald Hill Road. It is the former residential area of the peranakans (descendants of Chinese and Malaysian immigrants). Built between 1900 and 1920, it still preserves all its features.
Clarke Quay is famous for its riverside restaurants, bars, and clubs. It is the most bohemian area of Singapore. It was almost late afternoon when we reached the Merlion. The one who is the symbol of Singapore. It is displayed in a statue of 8.5 meters with the body of a fish and the head of a lion that spits water.
Everyone wants to take pictures of the Merlion, tourists or local people. It turns out to be one of the most tiresome places for a photograph. Still, when we walked through this area, we saw the city theater, called the Esplanade. We crossed the Helix Bridge, a pedestrian bridge with a unique design. The bridge was inspired by the structure of human DNA.
On the other side, we found the Art & Science Museum. A museum dedicated to art and science. Being among the few of its kind in the world. The building is impressive both inside and outside. The format is a lotus flower with a round base and 10 extensions referred to as 'fingers', where several galleries are found. In total there are 21 galleries with permanent exhibitions and others are changing throughout the year.
The building is also thought of in a sustainable way. Rainwater is collected and channeled to recycle and be reused in bathrooms. There are even more to discover in this area, such as the Singapore Flyer, several parks, shopping centers, among others.
It should be noted that every year i Light Singapore is held. It is a festival that celebrates the sustainability of Singapore. Where luminous works of art are exhibited by local artists. The Marina Bay area is the main stage of the event. At the time of our visit, they were putting some of the structures. On the last day, we still witnessed a test that would illuminate the Art Science Museum.
Marina Bay: Light Show
Since we were already in this area, we decided to stay some more time. The goal was to watch the light show of Marina Bay.
Marina Bay's renowned light show is one of the busiest in Singapore. Named Spectra - a light and water show, it's a show of lights, water, and music. For 15 minutes images are projected onto water jets and combined with light effects.
Here it tells a story, it is the journey of life. Reflect on how Singapore has become the cosmopolitan city we see today. We arrived a little before the show started. We wanted to set up in a good place, after all, it was already gathering a lot of people. After contemplating, our verdict is undoubtedly positive. It's 15 minutes of intensity, do not forget to go and see for yourself.
There is no entering fee. So, the light show is free to go. The best places to watch are in front of the Crystal Pavillion and the Marina Bay Shoppers.
Opening hours: Monday to Thursday at 08:00 p.m and 09:00 p.m;
Friday and Saturday at 08:00 p.m, 09:00 p.m and 10:00 p.m.
(The time of the shows can be different)
Although we have not been able to visit all areas of Singapore, we feel that you should add in the itineraries if you have time available, the Bugis and Kampong Glam areas. It all depends on the number of days but these are good options to take.
Day 3 | Visiting Gardens By the Bay
The Gardens by the Bay is a sustainability paradise. It is one of the most visited places in the city. Not only by nature lovers but by the general public. By the way, any and all travel itinerary through Singapore should include this location.
Located very close to Marina Bay Sands, this place has exceeded all expectations in tourist terms. Gardens by the Bay have two main areas. One is free and the other only accessible through ticket purchase.
Either one or another is so worth it, we were amazed. We can even say that it is totally worth the money spent. They are further divided into three major ecosystems: Cloud Forest, Flower Dome, and Supertree Grove.
The Cloud Forest inside hides the largest artificial waterfall in the world. At about 35 meters high is an impressive structure. All of its surrounding atmosphere is tropical rainforest.
It is recommended to climb to the top of the waterfall through the various platforms. The opportunity to discover the unique biodiversity of the place is high.
We were visibly impressed when we walked in and we came across a huge waterfall. We explore every place. The feeling of being in a rainforest is very realistic.
Entry fee: For the Cloud Forest + Flower Dome
Adults/Seniors – 28 SGD (20 USD/18 €)
Children (3-12 years old) – 15 SGD (11 USD/9 €)
Opening hours: Daily from 09:00 a.m to 09:00 p.m (Last ticket and entry at 08:00 p.m)
The Flower Dome is the largest cylindrical greenhouse in the world. It is composed of 9 areas of gardens of the world, representing the various continents.
You can see trees like baobabs, cacti in the garden of the succulents, different species of flowers and even our well-known olive trees since it owns a Mediterranean garden.
Several types of events are common throughout the year. For example, at the time of our visit, there was an area dedicated to Japan and its cherry blossoms. We also saw representations of traditional Japanese tea ceremonies and kawaii workshops (the Japanese lunch boxes).
Entry fee: For the Cloud Forest + Flower Dome
Adults/Seniors – 28 SGD (20 USD/18 €)
Children (3-12 years old) – 15 SGD (11 USD/9 €)
Opening hours: Daily from 09:00 a.m to 09:00 p.m (Last ticket and last entry at 08:00 p.m)
Supertree Grove is one of the most visited, especially at night for the light show. It happens daily between 08:00 p.m and 09:00 p.m and the theme of the show change every month.
These metallic trees are composed of about 700 different species of plants. They were designed to make use of natural resources. They collect rainwater for being used in other parts of the complex. Also, they accumulate energy through photovoltaic panels.
The surrounding area of the Supertree Grove is free with the exception of the OCBC Skyway. A bridge of 128 meters to 22 meters of the ground, that makes the connection between the several trees. It was built with the aim of giving visitors a feeling of floating above the ground. The perspective is fantastic.
The entire surrounding space of the Supertree Grove is magical. We visited late, in the afternoon with the intention of staying for the lights show. We didn't go to the OCBC Skyway as we were on a tight budget.
Supertree Grove – Entry fee: Free
Opening hours: Daily from 05:00 a.m-02:00 p.m
Light Show – Entry fee: Free
Opening hours: Daily from 19:45 p.m to 20:45 p.m
OCBC Skyway – Entry fee: Adults – 8 SGD (6 USD/5 €)
Seniors (equal or superior to 60 years old) – 8 SGD (6 USD/5 €)
Children (3-12 years old) – 5 SGD (4 USD/3 €)
Opening hours: Daily from 09:00 a.m to 21:00 p.m (Last ticket and entry at 08:00 p.m)
There are other areas in Gardens By the Bay. Like the Heritage Gardens. Here you can discover the whole history of Singapore. For this purpose, there are several gardens, Chinese, Indian and Malay.
The World of Plants was designed for visitors to learn more about plants. There is a pavilion dedicated to desert plants, an area for families where children have educational programs. There are also some lakes like the Drangonfly and the Kingfisher.
The entire Gardens by the Bay complex has been designed to be sustainable and efficient in terms of energy and water usage. For example, both conservatories used special glass to minimize the sunlight inside. Air cooling solutions, dehumidification, and energy efficiency to reduce its consumption are other characteristics.
Lakes play a crucial role, incorporating ecological processes and functions. They are used as a natural filtration system and were designed to be also an extension of the reservoir. The water from the gardens is captured by the lake system, cleaned by aquatic plants and later used in the irrigation system itself for the gardens.
Briefly, here's what you can visit at Gardens By the Bay:
- Flower Dome
- Cloud Forest
- Supertree Grove
- OCBC Skyway
- Dragonfly & Kingfishes lakes
- Bay East Garden
- Art Sculptures
- Far East Organization Children’s Garden
- Sun Pavilion
- Heritage Gardens
- The Canyon
- World of Plants
Gardens by the Bay is undoubtedly an impressive construction. And also proof that engineering can be used sustainably. It has already won many awards in this regard and shows us that cities can be built in an ecological way.
For us who are not city lovers, it was a pleasant surprise. This gives us hope that in near future cities will develop in this direction.
You should buy tickets in advance on the internet through the Gardens by the Bay website. Take a day to explore this sustainability oasis as much as you need to.
Day 4 | One day in Sentosa
Sentosa Island is an authentic amusement park. Nevertheless, you can also find natural beauty and it is even one of the best places on the island for diving. Although we liked to visit, maybe if we went back to redo the travel itinerary in Singapore and we did not have many days, we would consider including other places instead.
Formerly called Pulau Blakang Mati, it was once an English military base and a Japanese war prison. Since 1972 it has become what is now one of Singapore's greatest attractions. One curiosity about this place, is here you have the most southerly point of the Asian continent. In addition to the numerous attractions, the island of Sentosa has many types of accommodation for those who want to stay there and make the most of it.
The island is accessible via a pedestrian bridge. In which we can have an incredible view. We highly recommend this route. In 2015 was inaugurated the cable car that connects and facilitates the arrival to the island.
Once in Sentosa, you can go on foot, as we did. Another ecological option is the bicycle. Along the island, there is still the tram, small buses and a small train that can be used.
This is the largest aquarium in the world. Sometimes people who had visited even say it is one of the best. But, all this is very relative. We are not much of an apologist for such attractions. However, the aquarium has educational programs and guided tours that help you better understand all the work.
There is a group called, Guardians of the S.E.A.A that supports research, preservation, and education. Every day they join forces with the population, organizations, and people with the same ideas so that the marine habitat is increasingly protected.
The SEA Aquarium has more than 50 habitats. So you'll need about one to two hours to visit it all. We took a little longer since we still watched feeding the sharks.
Among the diverse spaces, we highlight the Open Ocean. An acrylic panel separates us from the immensity of this space. The feeling is of being right in the middle of the ocean. There is a permanent guide explaining the configuration and talking about the variety of marine animals you can watch.
It is possible to obtain your diving certificate (PADI) in the aquarium. The facilities also have a hotel that connects guests with the marine world through duplex rooms. In which the lower part is submerged.
The restaurant of renowned chef Cat Cora and a wedding hall make up the remaining facilities. All overlooking the multiple marine habitats.
Universal Studios Singapore
The Universal Studios parks are a hit in every corner of the world. In Singapore, couldn't be different. Often referred to as one of the best parks of this theme in Asia, it receives immense visitors every day.
The park has several attractions. Some of them were built for the space. There are 7 different areas to explore, surrounded by a lagoon.
The different zones are inspired by movies and television series. Restaurants, shops, you will have everything inside the park.
We decided not to visit this place. Mainly because it does not fit the kind of parks we like. Also, our budget did not allow it. However, if you are on a family trip it might be a good choice. We saw mostly families entering in this area.
The tickets to Universal Studios Singapore are paid separately from the pass to Sentosa. There are several types of passes but the most popular is the Universal Express Pass. It is advisable to buy the tickets in advance.
Skyline Luge Sentosa
When we visited Sentosa we hadn't done any planning in advance. So, we missed seeing some of the attractions. However, the Skyline Luge Sentosa was the one we wanted to visit right away.
The experience has two parts. Get off by luge and climb via cable car. The luge is basically a small car (similar to karting) where the person uses only the brakes and the steering wheel to control it.
The use of helmets is mandatory. Before you get started we were given instructions on how to drive the luge. It's very simple and we had a lot of fun. It can be driven by people of all ages as long as they feel comfortable to do it.
Once you reach the finish line, you can take the cable car back to the starting point. This cable car hasn't cabined. But rather, small chairs as is common to see in the mountain resorts.
Fort Siloso is where the largest collection of World War II items can be found in Singapore.
Nowadays it is a military museum open to the public. There is information to explain all of Singapore's involvement in the war, as well as the Japanese occupation. Its name is of Malaysian origin, where Siloso means 'rock'.
The Fort Siloso was in time a strategic point in the defense of Singapore against invasions. It still conserves the historical part. Therefore, it must be visited by all those who like history. There are guided tours to better understand the whole context.
The tour can be started on the Skywalk, a treetop trail. The view is absolutely amazing. The access is through a huge tower, inside, you can choose stairs or a glass elevator to get you to the top.
For those who are afraid of heights, we do not advise you to go. All directions are given along the way.
Some of the other attractions that can be visited in Sentosa include:
- Resort World Sentosa Casino;
- Madame Tussauds;
- Adventure Cove Park;
- Tiger Sky Tower;
- Royal Albatross;
- Maritime Museum;
- Sentosa Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom;
- The beaches at Sentosa (Palawan, Siloso e Tanjong)
- Sentosa 4D Adventureland
- Sentosa Nature Discovery
- Crane Dance
- Mega Adventure Park.
To visit Sentosa it is possible to buy individual tickets for each attraction. Or the other option is buying passes. The last ones can cover entry into a part of the attractions (be careful not all of them are included).
Sentosa is huge so there needs to be some planning in advance. Start by selecting the attractions you want to visit. This will make it easier to find the right pass.
There are several types of passes. At that point, we chose the Sentosa Fun Pass which could be used on 3 attractions not included in other passes.
Sustainability in Sentosa
One of Singapore's biggest concerns is the environment. In this direction, a whole sustainability plan for Sentosa was developed. In order to safeguard the environment and conserve the island's natural heritage.
It is noteworthy that even today, Sentosa preserves many of its green spaces. Even for the visitors, campaigns and educational programs were created to take care of environmental problems and practice responsible tourism.
Here we can find key points of sustainable tourism. Like trees, national heritage, restored colonial buildings (some from 1800), the country's only restored military fort, among others.
Many of the buildings have environmental certification. There is even an eco-hotel, the Siloso Beach Resort. Throughout the year they also hold events to give back to the community. Organizations/charity associations in Singapore have free admission all year round.
Transportation | How to go around
As a small island that is, Singapore is mostly accessible by plane. Changi Airport is often voted one of the best in the world and presents itself as a hub that connects the West with the East.
The truth is that it is impossible to get bored at this airport. There is so much to do, so much to see. From gardens to explore, cafes, restaurants, a waterfall, a swimming pool and also free Wi-Fi to always staying connected.
The public transportation system is one of the best in the world. There are many forms of transport and connection to the various points.
The train network (MRT) is made up of 5 trains that connect to all parts of the city. In downtown even comes to have a station every ten minutes to walk. The lines are divided by color and the name according to the orientation.
The price of the tickets depends on the distance of the route. There is also a pass, the EZ-Link that exists in the version for 1 (10 SGD / 7 USD / 6 €), 2 (16 SGD / 11 USD / 10 €) or 3 (20 SGD / 14 USD / 13 €) days . This pass is valid for all transport, whether metro, train or bus. It can be purchased on arrival at the airport or at most stations.
Singapore works so well that it is still possible to use bank cards (MasterCard) to make transportation payments.
The buses make several routes, through various parts of the city, being sometimes cheaper and with the best view. This time we did not use this transport, the city is very flat, we walked a lot but we also used EZ-Link.
As we bought this for 3 days we had to make a small adjustment. But it was totally compensatory. We recommend purchasing this pass if you visit Singapore.
We have to mention a very ecological way that the city adopted, the bicycles. There are several companies that rent bicycles, and local people use them on a daily basis.
You only need to have the application for the cellphone. Then create a personal account and scan the QR code to unlock the bike. You can use any of the bikes that you will find mostly in stations or other parts of the city. From 2019 it is mandatory to leave the bicycle in designated areas, otherwise, there will be fines to pay.
Some of these companies even operate in several countries. This is great for anyone who wants to save on transportation.
We found Singapore's transport system to be the best we've seen so far. It is super efficient, easy to understand, fast, and convenient.
Accommodation | Where to stay
Being one of the most expensive things in Singapore is undoubtedly a difficult task finding a good and cheap accommodation. But, it is not impossible and there are even several options.
If you want to keep your budget low you need to think about where you really want to stay. What are you going to visit, whether there is public transport nearby or not, can make all the difference.
The most affordable accommodations are in Chinatown and Little India. There are cheaper guesthouses and hostels here than in other places in the city.
In Little India, the accommodations are more modest. The public transport system is very good. The area is culturally rich and is close to downtown.
Chinatown offers a central location, good food, street markets, immense history, and culture. So, this is another location to take into account.
We stayed in the Geylang area at the Amrise Hotel. The proximity of the Aljunied metro station was decisive for this choice. Since we booked the accommodation near our arrival date, we had no better option. Our best advice would be to book in advance. This way you can choose other locations.
Food | Best places to eat
In all countries, even the most expensive ones, there is always a way to get good and cheaper food. The secret is to stay away from the large chain restaurants and eat where the locals eat.
Singapore has some good food courts, known locally as Hawkers centers. There are plenty of choices and the food is tasty. So use and abuse of these food courts.
In the neighborhoods of Chinatown and Little India is where most of these food courts are located. But there are also markets with small food stalls. Singapore has long banned street food, as we see in other countries. They preferred to settle all the food stalls at a certain location.
We have often opted to eat near Chinatown and enjoyed it very much. Maxwell Food Center near the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple was our favorite. There, we saw not only local people but, also many tourists.
Gluttons Bay is also a good choice for anyone who is in a different part of town. Prices are a bit higher than other Hawker centers. But, the space and the location near the river make the difference.
We could not fail to mention that Singapore has the cheapest Michelin star restaurant in the world. It started out as a simple food stall in Chinatown. The success was so tremendous that the owner decided to open a restaurant also in the area.
The Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle is a success. People queue at the door, and we waited during 10-15 minutes to be served. In the end, at the risk of no longer having the right to a meal. Daily they only produce a certain quantity of food. When this ends the restaurant is closed. This space certainly deserves a visit even if you have to wait a bit for the food.
Curiosities about Singapore
- It is forbidden to chew gum. You should not even take them to the country because it is considered smuggling;
- Be careful where you smoke. It's forbidden in the majority of places. Only one pack of cigarette per person can be entered in the country and must be already open;
- Singapore is one of the smallest countries in the world;
- The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve has more species of trees than North America, for example;
- Buildings in Singapore cannot have more than 280 meters;
-You can find the national anthem on the back of the 1000 SGD notes;
- Apart from the main island, Singapore also included 63 smaller islands and many of them uninhabited;
- It is one of the greenest cities on our planet;
- In Sanskrit, Singapore means 'lion city'. But in reality, there have never been lions there and it is thought that the name was inspired by a tiger;
- There are fines for so many things, such as feeding pigeons, not flushing, among others;
- Other things that are banned include: spitting on the street, graffiti on the walls, wandering around naked at the house, among others;
- It is one of the safest countries in the world;
- The highest pool in the world can be found in the city. It is located in one of the most expensive developments in the world, in the Marina Bay Sands;
-The population is one of the most multicultural in the world;
- The city-state has one of the best educational systems in the world.