Singapore

Trip Summary:

 

Dates:    September 27th to October 1st

Year: 2017

Main Language of Country:   English, Malay, Tamil, Mandarin

Transportation Used:   MRT (Public Train), Taxi, Walking

Currency: Singapore Dollar

Accommodation: Hostel

Population of Singapore: 5.6 Million

Number of Photos Taken: 1417

Favorite Place: Chinatown

Average Cost of a Full Meal: Hawker Centre – $5     Restaurant – $15

Average Cost of a Night per Person: $20 – $40 for budget hostels

Best Foods Eaten: Laksa, Unknown Noodles in Chinatown (sounds questionable right?)

Tap Water Drinkable: Yes

 

Singapore – The Complete Guide

Where to Stay, Places to Eat, Best Things to Do, and Awesome Photo Spots

 

A Quick Prelude to Our Singapore Trip:

Before heading over to Singapore, we had been living and working in New Zealand on a 1 year working holiday visa. This meant that since we had arrived in New Zealand on September 30th of 2016, we had to leave New Zealand before our visa expired on September 30th of 2017. For a long time we had considered extending our visas so that we could stay for another year, or at least part of a year. But, because we wanted to go back home to Canada for Christmas, this meant that we would be extending our visas to only use them for just over 2 months.

Because it’s a hassle and quite expensive to complete the visa application and have all of the medical exams done for the renewal, we decided to do the only logical thing that we could think of. This was to leave New Zealand to do some cheap travelling through Asia for 6 weeks, then come back to New Zealand for 3 weeks on tourist visas before flying home to Canada.

So, on September 27th, after 363 days in New Zealand, we packed up some of our things, loaded the rest into our van, and hopped on a plane bound for Singapore.


TIP: Sometimes it can be beneficial to look at booking a few one way tickets instead of a return flight or continuous journey to a destination. In this case, we were heading to Myanmar, but it was cheaper to book a continuous ticket Queenstown to Singapore, then a separate ticket from Singapore to Yangon, Myanmar rather than a single ticket from Queenstown to Yangon. So with two separate tickets it just gave us a few days in Singapore as a bonus along the way.

This sometimes isn’t a good idea if you have short layovers, however, as if your bags get lost or a flight is delayed, then things aren’t quite as smooth with two disconnected tickets. So I only do it if I’m going to be staying for at least a day or two between the two separate plane tickets.


 

Now, there’s a funny thing that happens after you’ve been in a country for nearly a year. At a certain point, you transition from the feeling of simply travelling for an extended period of time to actually living and becoming part of a country. Part of this is because we got lucky with jobs and found ourselves settled in the cool town of Wanaka after being in the country for a few months. So for the next 10 months we integrated more and more into the community of Wanaka. We met new people, found new places, and continually explored more and more of the area. Over this time, Wanaka became to feel almost as much like home as Canada did. Even though we were across the world from family, we were surrounded by so many people that we loved to spend time with.

This meant that leaving New Zealand felt much like leaving home. We had a lot of tough goodbyes and struggled when we were packing our things and leaving our home in Wanaka.

On another note, however, since being in New Zealand for a year we hadn’t left the country at all, so as plans to travel to Asia came into fruition and our departure date crept closer and closer, that old familiar spark of an upcoming trip began to get ignited.

The night before leaving Wanaka, we got together with friends and had supper and a few drinks. Then the 4:30 AM alarm came way too early and we were off to Queenstown to catch our flight out of the country. Soon after arriving at the airport, however, we found out that our flight had been cancelled because of low cloud. Luckily things worked themselves out quite quickly and , while we were set back a few hours, flights were juggled, and everything was back on track. The real bonus is that because of the delay, Air New Zealand gave us $24.00 worth of vouchers to use in the airport. So two chai lattes and a few cookies later we had nothing to complain about. I love free stuff so Air New Zealand was really pulling on my heartstrings with that one.

I always find that travelling is accompanied by some strange emotions and feelings. I always get a nervous excitement for the things that you might see and do and a slightly anxious feeling for the unexpected things that can always happen. To battle these things, it’s usually necessary to adopt the mindset of taking one thing at a time and not worrying about the unpredictable parts of travel. There’s a simplicity that comes with travel once your plans are set, your bags are packed and you finally board that plane. Things are locked in and you have what you have and you just have to accept everything else that comes along. It’s a change in mindset and it’s part of why travel can be so freeing, exhilarating, and intimidating.

Anyways, off to Singapore.

The Basics of Visiting Singapore:

If you’ve ever heard anything about Singapore, it was probably accompanied by the words “Efficient,” “Clean,” or maybe even “Strict.” People talk about the outrageous littering fines of thousands of dollars, the law that makes chewing gum illegal, and how the public transit, airports, and general functionality of the city is extremely efficient.

All of this is definitely true and makes Singapore a unique and comfortable place to travel, but the thing that surprised me the most was the variety of the city. You could walk around the colourful streets of Little India in the morning, hop on the train and head to see temples in China Town for lunch, and then hang around the Marina Bay at night to see the light shows. Each area of the city is like its own country with different smells, architecture, people, and foods.

How to Get Around Singapore:

Because the public transit in Singapore is so simple and efficient, we did most of our travel within the city on the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) system, which simple folk like myself might just know as the train or subway.

Map of Singapore Transit MRT System

I’ll be totally honest and admit that when we first arrived in Singapore, we had expected to walk everywhere. So when we woke up the first day in our hostel, we headed out the door full of gusto to take on the streets. It wasn’t long before the heat and humidity had us soaking in our own sweat. Everywhere that we wanted to go looked so close on the map but it took use forever to get anywhere. We walked for the entire morning and afternoon before we realized that everywhere that we had visited was easily accessible on the MRT, which by the way is air conditioned and comfortable.


TIP: To use the MRT you can pay for each ride, but by far the best thing to do is get an EZ-Link Card. We got ours at the MRT station from the airport, but most stations have an attendant where you can buy one. You can also use the card on busses, however, we just used the MRT.

A card cost us $12.00 ($5 for the card and $7 pre-loaded value). You then just scan the card when you enter a station and scan it when you leave at the next station and it automatically deducts the fare from the card. In our experience, everywhere that we travelled in the city, each ride was anywhere from $1 to $1.50.

During our 3 days in the city we then each added $10 to the card. But the nice thing is that any amount that you don’t use, you can get refunded back. So we each had $5 unused at the end of the trip that we had refunded. This meant that our total cost each was $12.00 + $10.00 – $5.00 = $17.00. Not too bad for 3 days of travel. Without the cards, a 3 day transit pass would have been $30 each and wouldn’t have included busses.

Find out more about the EZ-Link Card.


 

The only problem with the MRT is that it’s closed between from around midnight (depending on which stop) and 5:30 AM. This meant that on the morning that we left Singapore, we had to catch an early flight out and had to catch a taxi from the airport which is about 25 minutes away. This ended up costing $25, which was far higher than the $17 on the MRT after 3 days around the city, and including our first trip from the airport to our hostel.

 

If you’re really ambitious, you can also find bikes scattered throughout Singapore by a company called OBike which you can rent through an app on your phone to ride around and drop off wherever you want.

Where to Stay in Singapore:

We generally stay in budget accommodation like hostels so that we can save a few bucks, so in Singapore we found ourselves at Coziee Lodge. Don’t let the name mislead you however, because it’s definitely not a lodge and there isn’t anything cozy about the concrete walls, but there also wasn’t much to complain about either.

It was clean, the beds were comfy, and the bathrooms worked. They had a breakfast included but it was only white bread that you could toast with jam. The staff weren’t super friendly or helpful but that’s not the end of the world. And the location was in an area with nothing really to see nearby but it was near the Kalang MRT station which made getting around really easy.

So I wouldn’t highly recommend this place as I’m sure there are other cooler places to stay in better areas, but if you want a cheap place that works and allows you to easily hop on the MRT to get around the city, then Coziee Lodge would be just fine.


TIP: Don’t worry so much about getting the best location in Singapore, unless you specifically want to stay in a certain area. It’s so easy to move around the city on the MRT system that you can stay a fair distance out of the city centre, and still have easy access to everything. If you’re going to do this, however, try to find a place close to a train station.


 

Lots of people say that Singapore is super expensive for accomodation, but we paid around $15.00 each per night in a dorm room which wasn’t outrageous. You can definitely spend more for a nicer place or better location, but we didn’t spend very much time at our hostel anyways.

We booked through Agoda or Booking.com for most of our time in Asia, but you could also look into Airbnb or Hostel World. We just found that Agoda and Booking were the easiest to use and as we didn’t want to spend tons of time researching places to stay while we were travelled we just kept things simple.

Click the buttons below to search for places to stay in Singapore sorted from Lowest Price to Highest Price!

Places to Eat in Singapore:

For some reason we struggled to find good places to eat in Singapore. Maybe this was partly because it was our first stop on the trip and our travel senses were a bit rusty (is that a thing?), or maybe Singapore is just a tough place to find good food to eat for cheap.

If there is one thing that I think stands out about South East Asia compared to a lot of places, it’s the street food. We had heard all about the Asian street food before the trip, and so that was mostly what we were on the hunt for. We struggled to find what we were looking for to begin with and ate at a few restaurants at the start. But eventually we found a few markets, street vendors, and cafeteria style places to eat that had awesome food at really good prices.

I will admit, however, that some of these cafeteria places are super intimidating (especially in Chinatown or Little India) because they are super loud, busy, overwhelming, and confusing. There are a bunch of vendors and half the time you don’t actually know what they’re selling as everything is in Chinese, or Indian, or some other language. But these were also the places where we got some of our favourite meals and they are by far the cheapest.

Tekka Hawker Centre

Another confession that I had to make is that there was one or two times that we were walking around during the day and forgotten to make a plan for lunch when we got desperately hungry. In these times, we found out that you’re never very far away from a mall in Singapore, and malls always have food courts. And in these food courts is usually something like a McDonalds or a Subway, or some other fast food. So we did eat at places like this a few times. But I guess my point is that if you ever get desperately hungry in a place like Singapore and don’t have any snacks with you, head for a mall, and search out the food court. Sometimes, you’ll even find really cool places to eat in food courts that aren’t just typical big chain fast food.

You can also find cool little street vendors throughout places like China Town who sell either fruits or smoothies. Another good option is to check out small convenience stores like 7-11’s where you’ll be able to find small things like water, cookies, or candy which can be good to chuck in a backpack and carry with you.

The Best Places in Singapore that we found to eat at were:

Check the Map above to see where these places are!

A. Little India – Hawker Centre at Tekka Centre (We didn’t find this one until it was too late, so we only had smoothies, but it looked like a great place to eat, although slightly intimidating)

B. Marina Bay – Hawker Centre underneath the Flyer ferris wheel (We ate here once and it wasn’t bad, but not our favourite. It’s more western than China Town or Little India, but had a smaller selection and the food wasn’t as good.)

C. Marina Bay – Makansutra Gluttons Bay Hawker Centre (We ate here a few times and liked it, although it’s a bit more expensive, it’s also more western than other hawker centres. You can get Indian, Middle Eastern, Thai and Singapore dishes.)

D. Chinatown – Hawker Centre across from Buddha Tooth Relic Temple (We ate here a few times and loved it, although it’s intimidating at first)

E. Little India – Andhra Spice Restaurant (Fairly expensive compared to hawker centres but not bad food)

My Top 7 Favourite Photo Spots in Singapore:

Check the Map below to see exactly where these spots are!

Seeing as this is a photography website, I thought you should know the best places in Singapore to take photos. That way you can just skip the rest of my ramblings below and get to the good stuff. Although I’m sure you’ll tell me that you read everything on these trip reports just to avoid hurting my feelings right?

1. East Bay: Across the water from Gardens by the Bay and the Flyer is an area called East Bay. You get an awesome view of all the main sights of Marina Bay that you can’t get anywhere else. I have more info on how to get there below.

Singapore Skyline at Night

2. Super Tree Grove: Within Gardens by the Bay, there is a section of huge man-made trees that make for awesome photos. You can get them in the afternoon or morning against a blue sky, in the evening with the lights and colours, and from some views you can also get the Bays Sands Hotel in the background.

Super Tree Grove During Light Show

3. Helix Bridge near ArtScience Museum: From the Bay Sands Hotel, if you walk the full loop all the way around Marina Bay, you’ll cross two bridges that are awesome for taking photos of. The first one is the Helix Bridge near the ArtScience Museum which is windy, twisty, and colourful at night. You can get both the museum and the hotel in the background.

Helix Bridge, Bay Sands Hotel and ArtScience Museum

4. Esplande Bridge near the Lion/Fish Statue: The second bridge that I thought was awesome to take a photo of is near the white lion statue that spits water out of its mouth across from the Bay Sands Hotel. The statue itself is good for photos, but for something different I liked the bridge more, with the downtown in the background.

Esplande Bridge in Marina Bay

5. Pagoda Street in Chinatown: There is all sorts going on in Chinatown, but my favourite shot is down Pagoda Street. I stood near the top of the stairs out of the Chinatown MRT station to get a bit above the head level of the street and took a long exposure.

POW: Wandering Through China Town

6. Buddha Tooth Relic Temple (From Stairway Across): While the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is cool to picture from ground level, my favourite view of it was from a stairway of a residential apartment building behind it. I think I climbed up to around the 14th floor and took a photo from there. The building is between the temple and the multi storey hawker centre and the stairway is right on the corner of the building.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum in Chinatown

7. Inside the Marina Bay Sands Hotel: The Marina Bay Sands hotel captures all of the attention in Singapore and it’s famous design is easily recognizable, but not many people take photos of it’s interior. It’s a bit tricky to get to at first, but there is a walkway high up in the lobby that goes from Gardens by the Bay to the mall on the marina bay waterfront that you can get to from stairs on each side or by elevator. It offers a great vantage point for a photo of the hotel lobby and at the top of the stairs from Gardens by the Bay you can get a cool shot of the hotel from the outside.

Inside Lobby of Bay Sands Hotel

 

Things to do in Singapore:

Arab Street:

mosque on Arab Street Singapore

Arab street was the first place that we headed after we arrived in Singapore. We walked there from our hostel as it looked to be quite near, but it took far longer than we expected. Because of this, we arrived tired and sweaty.

There isn’t a ton to see here, but there are a few streets to wander around and some buildings such as the Masjid Sultan Mosque, and the Istana Kampong Glam Palace that are worth checking out. We didn’t eat here, although there are lots of places around to grab something if you need to.

Arab store front

To get there, the closest MRT station would be Bugis which should be a quick walk away.

Bugis Street Mall:

For a break from the heat, the Bugis Street Mall is a good place to go. There’s a food court here as well that looked really good if you happened to be here at lunch.

Neither Hilary nor I are big fans of malls so we walked through it quickly but didn’t spend much time exploring it. There is a section of the mall that is several stories high though that we went to the top of that was quite cool. It was oddly empty and deserted but had a cool design and we kept taking floors up and up to see what was on the next floor.

So check it out if you’re into that kind of thing or nearby (it’s right in between Little India and the Arab District), but don’t make a special trip.

To get to the mall you can get off at the Bugis MRT Station.

Little India and the Food Market:

Colourful buildings in Little India Singapore

One of the most colourful and unique places in Singapore is Little India. Besides what the name implies however, Little India actually covers a fairly large area and takes some time to explore. But you can wander around the streets and alleys and take in the colourful buildings and shops to your heart’s content.

There are a few temples to check out such as the Sri Veeramakaliamman, the Sri Srinivasa Perumal, and the temple of a thousand lights. I’ll be honest, we didn’t go into any of these temples but they’re at least cool to see from the outside. There is also the colourful House of Tan Teng Niah to see and the Mustafa Centre if you want to do a bit of shopping.

Decorated street in Little India

Probably our favourite find in Little India, however, was the second floor of the Tekka Centre just off of Serangoon Road where there is a hawker centre style food court. We had already eaten lunch when we stumbled across it, but on the second floor there are all sorts of vendors selling food and drinks. It’s busy, crowded and overwhelming but super cool to wander through. If you’re there, at least go and grab a blueberry or mango lassi on your way through!

Tekka Hawker Centre

To get to Little India you can take the MRT to, you guessed it, the Little India MRT Station.

Chinatown:

Chinatown at Night

Similar to Little India, but vastly different (does that even make sense?), is Chinatown. Singapore’s Chinatown is located right behind downtown so you get a juxtaposition (I’ve always wanted to use that word) between the old buildings and temples of Chinatown and the new shiny skyscrapers of downtown.

POW: Wandering Through China Town

The few main streets to check out in Chinatown are Pagoda Street and Temple Street as well as the side streets off of them. It’s an awesome place to wander around and do some shopping if you want, check out the narrow and colourful buildings all squished together, and get some food along the way. You can go inside of temples such as the Sri Mariamman temple and the massive Buddha Tooth Relic Temple (my favourite one).

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple Entrance

We first explore Chinatown in the afternoon and decided that it might be a cool place to check out at night as well, so we came back for a second time after dark. If you can make it to Chinatown after dark, it’s definitely worth it because the lanterns are all lit up, and there might even be a show to watch at the stage behind the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.

Speaking of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, to get a really good photo of it from higher up, there is a residential apartment building behind the temple that has a stairway on the corner of the building. You can walk up as many flights as you want to get a totally different perspective and there isn’t even any glass or anything to get in the way of the photo. I found that somewhere between floor 10 and 14 gave a cool perspective.

My other favourite thing in Chinatown that is also just behind the Buddha Tooth Relic temple is a hawker centre where you can get great cheap food. It’s on the second or third floor of the building if I remember, and the floors are filled with food vendors and hawkers selling all sorts of different food and drinks.

Chinatown hawker centre food market

It’s a bit crazy and intimidating at first but it was some of the best food that we ate in Singapore. To get there, if you walked straight out the back of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, across Banda Streets, through a little square, you would arrive at the steps into the building.

Chinatown Complex Food Market in Singapore

To get to Chinatown, you just take the MRT to the Chinatown MRT Station.

Gardens by the Bay:

Lotus flowers in Gardens by the Bay

Directly behind the Bay Sands Hotel is an area called Gardens by the Bay. It’s a whole area with boardwalks, paths, different plants and gardens, bridges, and in the centre of it all is something called the super tree grove. These are a bunch of man-made trees that are covered in solar powered lights. There’s even a bridge connecting some of the trees and a cafe/restaurant at the top of another. But you have to pay for both of them and they didn’t quite seem worth it to us, but cool nonetheless.


TIP: Every night there are two light shows in the super tree grove. One at 7:45 PM and another at 8:45 PM. The trees light up in all sorts of different colours and it’s choreographed to music. It’s really cool and impressive!

Oh! And if you’re into terrible videos, check out the one below that we took as we were sitting on the grass watching the light show. It’s a little dark but you can get the idea.


 

Although the super tree grove is probably the highlight and the main attraction, there is so much else to explore! There is a little section where all of the trees and bushes are shaped into cool bugs and shapes, there is another area that is cool with similar man-made trees called the silver garden, and there is a boardwalk along a little section of river that’s really cool as well.

Gardens by the Bay

The Gardens by the Bay are completely free to enter and walk around in, but you can pay around $24.00 to get into two buildings, one called the Flower Dome and the other called the Cloud Forests. We didn’t go inside but they looked really cool from the outside and the Cloud Forest even had a giant waterfall inside of the building.


TIP: Weekends get super busy in the Gardens, so if you want to see a light show or go into these attractions get there early or revisit on a weekday. We felt like we had the whole place to ourselves when we were there on a Thursday, but on the Saturday we could hardly move within the gardens.


 

The best thing about the gardens is that they are good during the day or at night, so whenever you decide to go, you won’t be disappointed.

Super Tree Grove of Singapore

Garden by the Bay Supertree Grove

The easiest way to get to Gardens by the Bay is to take the MRT to the Bayfront MRT Station and when you get off you’ll see signs taking you to Gardens by the Bay. You basically walk underneath the Bay Sand Hotel and pop up behind it, which is where the gardens are.

Gardens by the Bay – East Bay:

POW: Singapore by Night

Across the way from the popular Gardens by the Bay, is an area called East Bay. There’s nothing there except for a walking and cycling path along the water, but the view from the trail is my absolute favourite in the city. You get a great view of the supertree grove (the giant man made trees) of the Gardens by the Bay, the Bay Sands Hotel, the Flyer, and the Art and Science Museum. And at night the lights from the building make a great reflection on the water.

Singapore Skyline at Night

To get there, you can head straight through the Gardens by the Bay. You want to head for the far end where there is a place called Satay by the Bay. From there, you continue on a few hundred meters until you reach a bridge which takes you across the Bay and into the East Bay. This also gives you a cool view out into the harbour where you can see all of the big ships anchored.

Now you’re in East Bay and you simply walk up the trail and take in the views. I found the best photo spots to be about halfway along the trail with the further you went, the better the photos seemed to be. You can turn around and go back the same way if you want to return to the Gardens by the Bay, but otherwise you can make a loop by taking the pedestrian crossing along an overpass. It’s the first major overpass that you’ll see walking along and you have to backtrack along it a little ways to find the set of stairs up to the top. Crossing it then takes you back near the base of the flyer.

To get to East Bay, get off at the Bayfront MRT Station, head into Gardens by the bay and follow my directions above. The Promenade MRT Station would also work, but you would have to read my directions in reverse as you would start at the other end of the walking path.

The Marina Bay Area:

Singapore Downtown at Night

Another area of Singapore that deserves a lot of time is the Marina Bay Area. Just like most places in the city, it’s nice to see during the day but it really comes to life and shows its true colours after dark.

First off is the iconic Bay Sands Hotel which dominates the view of the area with its triple tower design and the roof that looks like the hull of a ship.


TIP: If you’re interested, you can go to a viewing platform at the top of the hotel for $23.00 per person. To get there, you have to find a stairway near the side of the hotel that is closest to the bridge. You access the stairway from the outside, so you don’t actually go inside of the hotel. It’s on the side of the hotel closest to the main street. If you haven’t noticed, I’m having trouble trying to describe where it actually is but hopefully it helps a bit and you can always look out for signs and ask someone if you need to as well.


 

Bay Sands Hotel at Night

At night there is a light show in front of the hotel at 7:00 PM, 8:00 PM, and 9:00 PM on weekends. If you want front row seats, there is seating along the water directly in front of the The Shoppes mall (at the base of the hotel). There are lights, fountains, music, and even lasers that shine from the roof of the hotel. The good news is that you can watch the show from anywhere along Marina Bay, and it might actually be a better view to see from a distance.

Light Show on top of Bay Sands Hotel

If you’re looking for the latest Gucci, Michael Kors, or Louis Vuitton, make sure to check out the shopping mall at the base of the Bay Sands Hotel as well. That’s all I’ll say about that.

The Shoppes of Marina Bay

Another cool building to check out is the ArtScience Museum. We didn’t have time to go inside, but it’s a really cool building to look at from the outside (it’s the one that looks like a blooming flower) and it even lights up in different colours at night. Tickets range anywhere from $17 to $38 depending on how many exhibits you want access to.

Helix Bridge, Bay Sands Hotel and ArtScience Museum

Another main feature in the Marina bay area is the Singapore Flyer, which is a big ferris wheel that lights up in all different colours at night. One of my food recommendations above is located underneath the Flyer as well.

Hawker Centre near the Flyer in Singapore

Next on the list of cool things to see in the Marina Bay is the Helix bridge. It’s a walking bridge near the ArtScience museum that has a really cool design of twisting beams and a long smooth curve. Again, it also light up a night and changes colours.

For a place to eat in the Bay Area, make sure that you check out the open air hawkers centre called Gluttons Bay. There is a good variety of food vendors and our meals there were quite good. It’s another one of my food recommendations that I mentioned above.

Gluttons Bay Hawker Centre

On the far side of the bay from the Bay Sands Hotel, you’ll find another collection of things to see and take photos of. The first is the Esplande Bridge which makes for some great photos, and the other is the white lion/fish (Merlion) statue. The Merlion statue especially is an icon of Singapore.

Esplande Bridge in Singapore

So hopefully I’ve passed along the idea that there is a lot to see in the Marina Bay area. It’s easy to walk a loop all of the way around the bay and take in all of the sights that way. Along the way, you’ll also likely see some live music or theatres as well, so make sure to give yourself some time to watch those as well. Besides that, however, Marina Bay is just a great place to walk in the evening and there are tons of photo opportunities along the way.

To get to Marina Bay, just get off at Bayfront MRT Station and follow the signs for Marina Bay. It should be about 5 or 10 minutes walking from the station. Promenade station is also nearby if you wanted to get off there.

Sentosa:

One area that we never had time to check out was called Sentosa. It’s where Universal Studios is located, as well as a cable car and some beaches. It looks like an interesting area, but we didn’t have time to put it on our list and it wasn’t one of the priorities so we had to skip it.

Botanic Gardens:

POW: Golden Arches in Singapore's Botanical Gardens

The Botanic Gardens in Singapore are a great place to spend an afternoon. There is a wide variety of gardens with cool pathways through each. We spent about 3 hours total walking through the gardens and, while we were quite exhausted from the heat afterwards, it was definitely worth it. The gardens are quite large though and it’s roughly 2 km’s from one end to the other.

Map of the Botanic Gardens in Singapore

The gardens themselves are completely free the enter, but if you want to go into the Orchid Garden (which is the most impressive area) you have to pay $5.00 per adult.


TIP: If you have a student card you can get in for $1.00 each.


 

Throughout the gardens, there are separate gardens such as the healing garden, the fragrant garden, a wetlands area and so on. My advice would be to try to see a bit of each one as each area is quite different. The orchid garden is especially nice and there are some areas with curvy paths and arches of flowers over the walkway that are super photogenic.

White Gazebo in Trees Boardwalk in a thick gardenTo get to the botanic gardens we got off on the Botanic Gardens MRT Station. This takes you to one side of the gardens, so to avoid walking from one end to the other and then all of the way back again, I would recommend walking to Orchard Road once you reach the far side and hopping on the Orchard MRT.

Orchard Road:

Ion Sky mall on Orchard Road

If you haven’t gotten your shop on yet and you need your fix, then you might want to head to Orchard Road. It’s like the Rodeo Drive of Singapore.

It’s also a good stop after checking out the Botanic Gardens because it’s not too far of a walk (make sure that you have some sort of map) and it saves you from walking all of the way back through the Botanic Gardens to get to the MRT station. Instead, you just check out Orchard Road for a bit and hop on the Orchard MRT to get to where you’re going next.

Orchard Road sign

Our time in Orchard Road was mostly spent wandering down the street trying to find somewhere good to eat when we eventually did the exact opposite and guiltily ate at McDonalds. We did, however, get some sort of strange burger that you could only get in Singapore so that made it somewhat unique.

Another stop to make is the Ion Shopping Mall which, even if you don’t like malls, has a really cool exterior. It’s also massive inside and is cool to wander around for a while.

While you’re in the Ion Mall, make sure to head to Ion Sky (the tall tower protruding from the mall) as well. You head up to the 4th floor of the mall and can enter the tower for free for a really good view of the city. Unfortunately, there was a private function going on in the tower when we were there so we weren’t able to enter it, but the view looked stunning from the top!

Exterior of Ion Sky mall and Tower

To get to Orchard Road, either take the MRT to the Orchard MRT Station, or walk to it from the Botanic Gardens.

Top of a tall building:

Seeings as Singapore is a city filled with tall buildings, a cool thing to do might be to try to get to the top of one of them. We attempted to ourselves but lack of effort and bad luck prevented it I guess.

First we tried to get to the top of Ion Sky because, well it was free, and it looked like a great view from the top. It turned out that the tower was closed for a private function while we were there, however, so we had to pass it up.

We also tried to get to the viewing platform on Bay Sands Hotel, but there was a massive line, tripods aren’t allowed, and you’re only allowed up for a certain amount of time, so we didn’t bother paying the $23.00 each.

Here is a good resource to check out for more info.

Other Things to do in the City:

We only spent 3 days in Singapore and I’m sure that there are lots of things that I missed so here is a quick list of things that you might want to look into including in your itinerary if they sound like your jam:

  • Sentosa (To visit Universal Studios, some beaches, and the cable car)
  • Fort Canning Hill
  • Singapore Zoo
  • Night Safari
  • Museums (like the ArtScience Museum or Asian Civilizations Museum or the National Museum)
  • Clarke Quay
  • MacRitchie Reservoir

Conclusion:

Singapore is a super laid back and friendly city. People are helpful and polite and the cleanliness and efficiency of the city makes it really easy and comfortable to get around. For some reason, the city felt like a giant theme park to me, like a Disneyland for adults or a toned down version of Las Vegas. I also found that English was very widely spoken and that all of the signs are in English which makes navigating and communicating super simple. The city felt very safe yet has a bit of an exotic feel, but you’re still able to find lots of western comforts when you need a bit of that.

We really enjoyed Singapore and for us it made a great first stop to get into the swing of things for travelling. Coming out of a New Zealand winter, the heat and humidity was a shock to begin with but after a day or two we slowly became used to it. In fact, the toughest part about travelling Singapore is the heat and humidity. You always seem to have a hot and sticky feeling, but getting into an air conditioned mall or train becomes a sweet relief and might just end up being the highlight of your day.

One thing that I found about Singapore is that, more than anywhere else that I’ve been, everyone is always on their phones. It’s definitely a technology based city and it shows when you sit on a train and you might be the only one that isn’t on a cell phone. In fact, lots of people don’t even look up from their phones as they walk on or off of the train.

Lots of people claim that Singapore is a super expensive place to visit, and by South East Asia standards this is definitely true. But it’s also possible to find cheap accomodation, get around the city using public transit for next to nothing, and eat at hawker centres for very good, but very cheap meals. It’s also possible to spend several days in the city without paying for any attractions. Doing things like shopping, going to Universal Studios, going to the viewing deck of Bay Sands, drinking, or visiting different paid attractions can definitely add up, but most of the things that we did in Singapore were completely free.

There is so much to see as well and even after three busy days, I feel like there is still a lot left unexplored or unfinished. I’m usually not very fond of cities and try to avoid them as much as possible, so I was quite surprised when I was missing Singapore as soon as we had left and I’m eager to return again one day.


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This site is my place to share everything that I know about photography and travel. I'm not an expert, I'm just a guy who loves this stuff and I want to share everything that I learn, as I learn it, with complete honesty and transparency. So, whether you're looking to improve your photography or you want to learn more about travelling to a new place, I want to help you on your journey. Check out my about page to find out more and get in contact with me. I'd love to hear from you!