- Witty wonderland
- Vibrant Little India
- Bold boutique design doyen
- Chinatown’s sleepy shophouse streets
- Clash of the centuries
- Southern Sentosa Island
- Vine-entwined urban luxury
- Plush, polished CBD
- Skyscrapers and shophouses
- City life
- Clean and cosmopolitan
Singapore has come a long way, baby. Once dubbed the most boring city in Asia, it now marries old-world charm with gleaming modernity.
Scratch the squeaky-clean surface of this former colonial trading post and you’ll find an aromatically spiced blend of Malay, Chinese, Eurasian and Indian culture, neatly displayed against a landscape of glossy skyscrapers, lush parkland and tropical shoreline. Spend your mornings eyeballing designer glad rags in super-chilled labyrinthine shopping malls, then stop for lunch in a curry house before exploring historic temples and poking around Little India and Chinatown, all within minutes of each other. Later, soak up the sun on Sentosa Island, try your luck at Sands Casino, and feast on amazing Asian-fusion culinary feats in one of the city’s smart restaurants.
Select a couple of woven cane chairs between potted palms and beneath a ceiling fan and order yourself a Singapore Sling in its birthplace, the Raffles Hotel’s legendary Long Bar (+65 (0)64 121 816). Controversy surrounds the pre-mixed Sling recipe used today, and it’s a bit touristy, but it’s still an old-world pleasure to sip the sweetly sour combination of gin, Cointreau, cherry brandy, Bénédictine, Grenadine, Angostura bitters, pineapple and lime
- Easy to hail on the street (except during rush hours and just before midnight), cabs are the most convenient and economical way to get around the city centre. Expect surcharges for journeys in rush hour, at night, on public holidays or to certain destinations.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Shops are usually open daily from about 10am to 9pm, although die-hard shopaholics will be delighted to learn that the Mustafa Centre in Little India is open 24 hours (www.mustafa.com.sg). Banks open their doors from 9.30am to 3pm Monday to Friday, and until 11.30am on Saturdays.
- Packing tips
- Aside from all the ‘S-ssentials’ (sunglasses, swimwear and sunscreen), bring your best sandals, mules and flip-flops: shoes will feel way too clammy. Mosquito repellent will fend them off, but if you do get bitten, Singapore’s famous Tiger Balm will soothe any itchy bits.
- Recommended reads
- Paul Theroux’s entertaining Saint Jack follows a hapless expatriate in 1970s Singapore; Makansutra, the street-food guide, will direct you to the best hawker stalls in Singapore.
- Singapore is renowned for its dining scene. Chinese, Malay, Eurasian and Indian culinary traditions can be sampled everywhere from hawker street-stall centres selling mee goreng and oyster omelettes to formal restaurants offering elegant, modern creations. For something truly unique, head to the Katong quarter for the cuisine of the Peranakans (Nyonyas or Straits Chinese), a sophisticated blend of Chinese and Malay flavours.
- Singapore dollar (SGD).
- Time zone
- GMT +8.
- Dialling codes
- Country code for Singapore: +65.
- Do go/don't go
- Singapore is in the tropics and prone to sudden downpours all year round, but the rainiest months are October–January. In a country where shopping is the national pastime, it makes sense for the sales to be exceptional: May–July brings the Great Singapore Sale, an eight-week retail extravaganza (www.greatsingaporesale.com.sg). Pick up a Tourist Privilege Card from any visitor centre and you’ll get extra benefits.
Don't go home without...
… a Singaporean accent. Just add an emphatic ‘Lah!’ to the end of every utterance.