I felt there was no better way to start Jet Set Steph than with a preview of my home country, Singapore. I was born in this magnificent place and lived there for 10 years. I have been fortunate to go back and visit many times since, most recently when my brother moved back there for a short period. Each time I make the trip across the world, I am hit with a wave of nostalgia for my favorite places and flavors. And then equally with amazement and wonder as I notice how much has changed. While I may be biased, I always recommend adding Singapore to anyone’s bucket list!
Singapore is a tiny island city-state located in southeast Asia. And I mean tiny – it’s about half the size of London and 2/3 the size of New York City. The country is a true melting pot of cultures and people, with impressive skyscrapers neighboring traditional and holy temples. It is a crowded and bustling city, yet inexplicably clean and safe. Especially for those traveling from the United States, Singapore makes a great stop for a few days before continuing on a SE Asia adventure.
There is so much to see and do in Singapore, but no trip is complete without checking off my favorite activities:
This is the newest part of Singapore – they literally filled in the ocean to build the impressive compound, which was opened in 2010.
- Marina Bay Sands: You may have seen photos of this beautiful resort with three striking towers that connect at the top with a 1,120 ft Sky Park that features a picturesque infinity pool (unfortunately you have to be staying at the hotel to get access). The resort is comprised of a hotel, shopping center, museum, two theaters, restaurants, and the world’s largest atrium casino among others. Definitely grab a drink at Sky on 57 or dance the night away at Ce La Vi for the best panoramic views of the city.
- Gardens by the Bay: This is what city gardens will look like in the future! With space-like structures amidst almost 250 acres of flora and fauna, the Gardens by the Bay is comprised of three waterfront gardens: Bay South, Bay East and Bay Central. Bay South is the largest and must-sees are the Flower Dome, Cloud Forest, and Supertree Grove. In the evenings, the Supertrees light up for an impressive show.
Arguably my favorite place to visit as a kid, Sentosa is an island off the southern coast of Singapore. From Universal Studios to the Aquarium, Sentosa is like the “Disney” of Singapore. As an adult, the best thing is to visit the beaches here. My favorite place to go is Tanjong Beach Club where you can enjoy the outdoors and the water as well as a nice restaurant and bar area. The Club has a nice vibe that almost reminds me of Miami – you can make reservations in advance to secure a prime table!
The street that houses the top luxury brands and shopping centers – be sure to visit Takashimaya and ION Orchard for the best shops in town. Don’t forget the food courts in the basement! I can never pass up a chance for a sweet treat at the Bengawan Solo bakery for some kueh salat, a coconut sticky rice with custard.
This area has some of the best views of the city – walk along the water and marvel at the impressive buildings around you. Be sure to visit Merlion Park and see the famous statute of the national symbol. The promenade is best to walk on a clear night and then pop in for a drink at the luxurious hotels. A bit inland is the Raffles Hotel (home to the original Singapore Sling cocktail) and The Fullerton Bay Hotel has an amazing rooftop bar called Lantern Bar that is definitely worth a visit.
Along the banks of the Singapore River, Clarke Quay is a bit touristy with their riverboat tours but can be a great place to be at night. With great restaurants, bars and nightclubs, it is definitely worth a visit.
- Singapore Zoo: The animals roam in this open style zoo
- National Gallery: The largest collection of modern Southeast Asian art
- Singapore Botanic Gardens: Free and open to the public every day
- Bukit Timah Nature Reserve: Also free and a great place to go for a hike
- Singapore Flyer: Similar to the London Eye, grab a ticket to see the skyline from this wheel
- Little India: Visit the colorful temples, buy from the street markets and try the local cuisine
Eats & Drinks
Singapore is world-famous for its diverse cuisine with influences from its neighboring country and the western world. Street food is the best way to eat on a budget and indulge in all the flavors.
My favorite is Lau Pa Sat in the CBD. Be sure to try the chicken rice (considered a national dish), laksa (spicy noodle soup), satay (seasoned skewered meats with peanut dipping sauce) and roti (fried flatbread with curry dipping sauce). I’m salivating just thinking about it…
East Coast Parkway
Chili crab and black pepper crab are local classics and the authentic way to experience it is on the East Coast Parkway.
Converted army barracks, Dempsey Hill is now an upscale neighborhood with great restaurants. Peruse the antique and design stores before walking in for dinner. A favorite is Jim Thompson for Thai food.
Duxton Hill has some of the best restaurants and bars for a little more casual environment and is a great spot to walk around.
Chinatown is emerging as one of the best cocktail areas in the city. Walk along Hong Kong Street for some hip after dinner drinks.
On weekend nights, the street shuts down and the party is in the street. There are great restaurants and bars along the way, although many locals just stop into one of the liquor stores and drink in the street with their friends.
$$$: Fullerton Bay Hotel, Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton
$$: InterContinental, AMOY, Wangz
$: Hotel G, Village Hotel Katong, Hotel Indigo
My usual questions I get asked…
When is the best time to visit?
Singapore sits just a few degrees north of the equator, so it is hot, hot, hot and humid all year round. There is no wrong time to go but it can be haziest in the summer months. Bring sunscreen and mosquito spray!
What language do they speak?
Singapore has four official languages: English, Mandarin Chinese, Malay and Tamil. Most signs are in both English and Chinese, and mostly everyone speaks English.
Can I bring gum?
Nope! Importing gum – regardless of quantity or for personal purposes – is actually illegal in Singapore. If you happen to have a pack in your suitcase, nothing will probably happen, but it’s good to know the laws! Speaking of laws, Singapore is VERY strict with drugs – absolutely under no circumstances should you carry illegal drugs into Singapore.
Is it expensive?
Yes! Singapore is a world-class city and is as expensive as New York and London. Of course there are ways to do it on a budget, but overall Singapore is not known for being frugal.
How do I get around?
The MRT is a pretty reliable train system, but taxis and Uber are very common and cheap as well.
Have you ever been to Singapore? What was your favorite part? Did I miss anything?
I’d love to hear from you!
xx Jet Set Steph