Living in Bali, as wonderful and exotic as it is, we sometimes find ourselves missing the bustling city vibes of New York. There's something about the skyscrapers and public transport and overall energy of a modern, metropolitan city that really gets us going- and luckily for us, Singapore is just a short flight away and satisfies all our big-city longings!
If you haven't been to Singapore before, you're sure to be shocked at just how sparkling and convenient this city-state is. Singapore is a sovereign island nation at the southern tip of the Malay peninsula with one main island and 60-something islets. All in all, the nation is only a whopping 50 square miles- and just about every inch is accounted for! It's an intriguing place with excellent public transportation, incredible shopping, delicious food and a beautiful mashup of cultures that makes you feel like you've stepped into a Disney World version of a modern metropolis. The nation's airport, Changi International, is our favorite airport in the world and an excellent option for any length of stopover- and the national airline, Singapore Air, is one of our very top choices for air travel whenever it's an available option. We've spent several nights and long layovers in (and out) of the airport, and there's no shortage of things to do to keep yourself occupied. (We'll post an article with our overnight guide to Changi Airport one of these days!) Outside of the airport, Singapore's MRT subway + bus system is sparking clean and simple to navigate, dependable and overall a lovely, efficient way to get around. It's a land of extravagant hotels, copious amounts of mega-malls, and perfectly manicured parks- but with plenty of culture and charm as well. Needless to say, we love Singapore and visit at every chance we get so we've put together a guide to help you plan your next trip to this wonderful destination!
HOW TO GET THERE
Singapore is one of the major international hubs in Southeast Asia, so you can fly in from just about anywhere. The national carrier, Singapore Air, has routes from the east and west coast, and is one of our favorite airlines in the world. The planes are gorgeous and the amenities are generous, especially on long-haul flights. They boast an impressive fleet including heaps of Airbus 380s and Boeing 777s, their planes have ample legroom even in economy, and their stellar service makes for a really pleasant flying experience. They are also a member of the Skyteam Alliance, so you can continue to rack up those skymiles.
WHERE TO STAY
We Love Hotel Jen Orchardgateway for the perfect location, easy access to public transportation and beautiful rooftop pool. Upgrade to the club level for access to an amazing 24 hour lounge, breakfast, afternoon tea and cocktail hour- you can thank us later. Read our full review of Hotel Jen OrchardGateway here.
We love Hotel Jen's Tanglin location for the beautiful and peaceful surrounding area, the proximity to Orchard Road, and the wonderfully redesigned sleek rooms. Again, the club level room is worth the upgrade, and you'll love the lobby restaurant, cafe and the large outdoor pool. Read more about Hotel Jen Tanglin here.
The Shangri-La is the perfect place to stay for the discerning luxury traveler. Consistently a top name in the 5-star experience, Shangri-La will leave you feeling pampered, spoiled and refreshed. We love it for the expansive grounds, the amazing fine dining selections, and the perfect service. Origins Grill and Bar on the ground level is the perfect choice if you want a grand culinary experience as well! Read our full review of the Singapore Shangri-La here.
The Grand Park is a perfect spot to stay for their prime location on Orchard Road, the amazing Cantonese restaurant, Mitzo (seriously, eat here- it's our favorite restaurant in Singapore), and their cool terrace pool and bar, Bar Canary. They also have a club level complete with a club lounge, and as usual, it's worth the upgrade.
HOW TO GET AROUND
Singapore has the public transportation game on locks. This expansive transit system of subways and buses are as spotless as they are prompt, and it's by far the cheapest (and most efficient) way to explore Singapore. You can take the subway right from the airport, which makes getting in and out of the city after your flight super convenient.
Grab is an app-based taxi service much like Uber, and is your cheapest option for taxis in Singapore. Unlike many big cities, the local taxis are pretty honest and trustworthy and highly regulated, so if you can't find any wifi to order a grab, don't fret about grabbing a local taxi either.
WHAT TO DO
1. Find your zen at the Chinese + Japanese Gardens
These incredible Gardens sit on the edge of Singapore's center, and are an easy 30 minute subway ride from Orchard Road. (The Chinese Gardens stop on the green East West Line). Go early for the beautiful morning light, to avoid the crowds, and to see the locals practicing tai chi on the lawns.
2. Eat Halal food and admire the beautiful Masjid Sultan on Arab Street
One of the coolest parts of Singapore is the amazing diversity found between neighborhoods- so if you want to feel like you stepped out of Southeast Asia and into the middle east, Arab street in the Kampong Glam neighborhood is easily accessible from the city center by walking or by taking the Downtown line to the Bugis Street stop on the SMRT.
3. Eat roti and curry and admire the colorful architecture in Little India
Indians make up a large percentage of Singapore's population, which means you can find the very best of Indian food and culture in Singapore. Take the SMRT's Downtown Line to Jalan Besar to explore the wonder that is Singapore's Little India neighborhood! Feast on roti canai, chicken masala, spicy curries and sip a mango lassi- you'll be so glad you did!
4. Shop to your heart's content on Orchard Road
Singapore is the land of malls. There's an incredible concentration of glitzy shopping centers in this tiny country, so you can shop the days away buying everything from bargain and second hand to high-end labels. The very heart of this shopping extravaganza is Orchard Road, where there is a different mega-mall every single block it seems!
5. Explore Gardens by the Bay
If you've ever seen anything about Singapore, it probably included the giant tree-like structures from Gardens by the Bay. These iconic sculptures are only a small part of the amazingly expansive garden complex, complete with 2 bio-domes, a walkable skyway, sculptures, lakes and more. With the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel in the background, this place is a perfect spot to snap some photos and make some memories! If you can spare the time, spend a sunset here to see both the day-time vibe and the night-time lights! There's also a killer light and sound show here several times nightly that will leave you speechless!
6. Admire the colorful row-houses on Joo Chiat Street
While there's little else to see around this neighborhood and no easily accessible SMRT stations without a bit of a walk, a short taxi ride to this street full of beautifully colorful row-houses is worth the trip!
7. Explore iconic Emerald Hill
This neighborhood is a short walk from Orchard Road, and was the former home of many of Singapore's wealthy Pranakan Community. Admire the beautiful streets and the Chinese Baroque architecture, and enjoy a quick peaceful escape from the chaos of Orchard Road.
8. Eat your way down Killeny Road
One of our favorite parts about Singapore is the amazing diversity of food options- you can pretty well find any type of cuisine you want! If you're having trouble deciding, though, don't fret! Just head to Killeny Road and try it all! This amazing stretch offers nearly every type of food you could imagine- each shop is a different specialty and you can easily eat Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese, Western, Indonesian and French food without walking more than 2 blocks- and all without breaking the bank!
9. Singapore Flyer
If you're looking for an epic view of Singapore, take a ride on the city's mega-ferris wheel, the Singapore Flyer. It stretches a whopping 541 feet into the sky, and includes 28 air-conditioned capsules- each able to accommodate 28 passengers.
10. Catch the nightly Laser show at the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
The Marina Bay Sands Hotel is a marvel in every way- so it's no surprise that their shoppes are equally as spectacular. Ride a gondola on their underground river or shop every high-end brand you can think of- but don't forget to heard out the back to watch the nightly laser show on the bay and prepare to be amazed!
11. Admire the ancient architecture and culture of Chinatown
Singapore has a very large Chinese population, so it's no wonder that Chinatown is massive and full of wonder and adventure. Explore the exotic shops and traditional markets, eat authentic Chinese street food and get lost wandering the many incredible streets of this part of Singapore!
Ok- there is so much to see and experience in Singapore, but hopefully this list can serve as a starting point to plan your own trip to this amazing country! If you have anything to add or local tips, please let us know in the comments below!
Zach + Tara