Singapore – one of the smallest countries in the world – land of futuristic architecture, colonial remnants, modern culture and delicious food. This city of businesses and boutiques can be hard to budget for on a backpacker’s means, so my solution was to keep it short and sweet and accept that splurging a little bit would mean getting more out of my time here. Here’s my top tips for Singapore, based on the itinerary I packed into my three days in this awesome city-state.
The Marina Bay Sands Hotel
Ok, so this is definitely not a budget option. But it was the one big splurge of my trip so far, and by my reckoning one night in a nice hotel in 7 months of hostels and squat toilets isn’t bad going. And trust me, the view over the Singapore skyline from the world’s longest elevated swimming pool, 200m up, is worth the money all by itself – this is serious bucket list territory.
A deluxe room at the Marina Bay Sands starts at around £170 per night plus tax. A pool pass for the whole length of the stay is included, and ours was even valid for the whole day we checked out until 11pm.
Follow the Food Trail
The Singapore food trail is a retro concept food market located underneath the iconic Singapore flyer. The food stalls are interspersed with nostalgia items and vintage decorations from a 1960’s Singapore, and the trail offers traditional local dishes such as roasted chicken or pork with rice and fried oysters. Ok, it’s a bit touristy, but it’s a fun concept and the food is delicious and cheap!
Street food at the Hawkers Market
For a more authentic Singaporean street food experience, head for Chinatown to the Maxwell Road Hawker Centre. Over 100 stalls are gathered here, offering a huge variety of local dishes such as congee porridge with pork and century eggs. The chicken rice was incredible, and came in at about $4.
The birthplace of the Singapore Sling
We felt it would be rude to visit Singapore and not head to the Long Bar at the iconic Raffles Hotel for the original and best Singapore Sling. The straw ceiling fans and colonial architecture lend to the nostalgic atmosphere, as do the monkey nut shells littering the floor. Head for the upstairs bar for a more excitable crowd and dancing to a live band.
Art meets science
The Marina Bay Sands complex also houses a huge shopping mall where you can browse through Chanel handbags, gifts and artisan food boutiques. Follow signs through the retail maze and you’ll find your way out onto a promenade where you can stop for a coffee and watch the beautiful people go by, before heading into the Art Science museum for an afternoon of dinosaurs and incredible visiting photography exhibitions from the likes of National Geographic and Annie Leibovitz.
In the night garden
The Supertree grove, part of the Gardens by the Bay complex, are vertical gardens that stand up to 16 storeys high. At night these surreal living structures are illuminated with an ethereal light display, transforming them into an enchanted rainforest straight out of Avatar. We spent a magical hour wandering through the gardens in the early evening.
The best zoo in the world
Dedicate a whole day to the world famous Singapore rainforest zoo, a huge park complex home to over 2,800 animals. We watched free ranging orang-utans swinging through the trees above our heads, fed a giant tortoise with pieces of mango and got overly excited at having seen an actual polar bear, even though he was largely asleep. Believe the hype, we had the best day here.
Tickets for the Singapore Zoo start somewhere around £15 per adult, or you can buy a general park ticket for all attractions including the very cool sounding Night Safari.
Karaoke in Chinatown
Chinatown is home to a number of small, unassuming bars flashing with neon lights and full of locals drinking yards of beer. Venture into one of these dark hole-in-the-walls, and you will most likely be confronted with the sight of enthusiastic Singaporeans singing along to their favourite karaoke hits in front of a big screen. Anyone who’s feeling brave enough can join in, and it’s a really fun, alternative night out. Our rendition of Mmm bop was a particular hit!
Have you been to Singapore? Any insider tips or favourite spots to add? I’d love to hear about them in the comments, or over on Twitter or Facebook