What you need to know about Singapore’s top attractions

If you are anything like me you will have read a whole bunch of blogs and guides before you embark on your adventure in Singapore.  So rather than tell you again to go the same places (although you can read about my favourites that are not all on the must sees over here) I’m going to give you my tips for how to get the most of the top attractions.

#1  Merlion

Merlion is something of a nationwide obsession.  Singapore’s mascot is a mythical creature and is half fish and half lion.  You will see him everywhere – on coins, in tourist shops and the original 8.5 metre statue down in Merlion Park.

Singapore has a population of 5.6 million people.  About the same as New Zealand but remembering that Singapore is about the same size as Lake Taupo.

Despite this I never felt like there were a lot of people around in Singapore – except for the MRT and the Merlion Statue.

They materialised from no where and all of a sudden there were queues and people thronging everywhere.

My advice.  Chill and wait for a clear space to get your photo.

Everyone is pretty relaxed and keen for everyone to have a go with a forced perspective photo that makes it look like you are capturing the water from Merlion in your hands (or something far more imaginative). 

Personally – I grabbed a photo, people in the way and all and then moved on pretty quickly.  

#2  Bay Sands observation deck

This is another spot that there will be lines.  Don’t be scared of the lines however – like all things in Singapore they move quickly and with skilful manoeuvring that would make the Fat Controller proud.

You can pay for a drink below and this is a cheaper way to see the view and have a drink.  For me I was just after the view so I paid just for the deck.

They sandwich you in the lifts like I have never seen before.  Somewhere in India there is a picture someone has taken with a selfie stick of an extremely large tour group all in a lift with me squashed in a corner looking rather frightened.

Sunset is a busy time.  There are also signs all over the observation deck that you can’t set up tripods so if you are looking at long exposure up here basically everything is working against you.  

My advice.  Just enjoy it.  Don’t worry about the perfect picture.  Don’t stress about the crowds.  Just enjoy looking down over Singapore from 57 stories up.  

#3  Singapore Botanical Gardens

One thing really – take lots of water! 

There is very little shade and a lot of walking to be done to explore the gardens fully.

I love gardens but for me personally if you only had time to go to Gardens by the Bay or the Botanical Gardens I would pick Gardens by the Bay. If you have time for both then you should definitely do both.

Singapore Botanical Gardens

It was one of the few places that has a water station  – it’s by the information desk as you walk in so make sure you fill up there.

Stick to the shady spots where you can, take lots of pictures and enjoy!

Singapore Botanical Gardens
Singapore Botanical Gardens

The MRT is your quickest and easiest way to get back to the city.  Just follow the signs and the exit will lead you right to it.

#4  Sentosa Island

My biggest tip – go early.  Crowds build really quickly here.

I started at the far end of the island and worked my way back which seemed like a sensible way to do things – particularly if you are not going to the Theme Parks. It’s also where you will find this amazing rope bridge and the southern most point of Continental Asia.

Sentosa Island bridge

Water, water, water.  It is so hot and there is very little shade.  I didn’t find a water dispenser but there is lots of water for sale.

The buses around the top of the island are free.  The bus stops also have fans in them (hooray).  If they aren’t on turn them on with the little power switch in the bus stop.

Make sure you purchase the multiple cable car ticket so you can ride both lines.  I found the start of the line hard to get good directions to (and I’m certainly not the one to give them) so catch the cable car back to Singapore and get the Monorail over there.

If you go to Madam Tussauds by yourself (or want a photo with you all together) ask one of the staff members, they are really helpful.

Madame Tussauds

#5  Gardens by the Bay

Tackle it in bits!

The gardens are vast and it’s another spot that gets really hot so my advice is to come back on multiple days to really get the most out of it.

Gardens by the Bay Singapore

Get the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest multi pass – they are right next to each other and worth exploring both.

Look for water refuelling stations – one bottle of water is not going to be enough.

Head to the The Shoppes (right across the road) afterwards for some aircon, great lunch and to watch people be rowed up and down the canal!

#6  Chinatown 

Go twice!  

Head to Chinatown in the morning to take photos and to really appreciate all the Chinese shophouses.

Chinatown Singapore

It’s also a great time to wander around the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum.

Chinatown Singapore
Chinatown Singapore

Go to Chinatown in the evening for food, the busy vibe and shopping.

My impression was that it was really safe and easy to get to.

At night it can be harder to get a taxi so bus is your best option.

#7  Little India

Little India was the only place I felt unsafe but that may have been the time of day that I went.  Trying to cram everything in to 5 days I went in the morning and what I’ve heard is that it is much better at night.

Little India Singapore

The temples were amazing.  The Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is incredible to look at from the outside.

Little India Singapore

And even more incredible to look at from the inside.

Little India Singapore

Before I went in an elderly man told me everything I was about to see and explained that I didn’t have to pray, but if I wanted to that was okay too.

Little India Singapore

My advice – it’s totally worth going to see – just go with someone else and if you can go later in the day.

Little India Singapore

#8  Raffles & Chijmes

Raffles and Chijmes are right across the road from each other so definitely combine these two into one visit.

Chijmes

When I went Raffles and Chijmes were both being renovated and neither open so do check for renovations or works.  Even with these you will still get to see a lot of these two landmarks and the surrounding area.

The thing I loved most about going to Raffles was the history. In a country with so much new it was nice to know that my Grandma had once visited this spot too…

Raffles

Getting around

Singapore is officially ranked the safest country in the world.  I got told this by my taxi driver on the day I arrived and I must admit it gave me a lot more confidence than I thought I would have moving around the city.

On the first day I only caught taxi’s.

Day two I was on the bus.

By the third day I’d joined the 3.3 million people catching the MRT everyday.

An by the fifth day I’d added a Monorail and Cable Car to this list too!

While most people in Singapore speak English a lot of people found my Kiwi accent hard to understand so be prepared to explain in other ways where you want to go to bus drivers and taxis.  I used a lot of spelling and pointing.

Buses come really frequently and are a great way to get around.  If you are catching a bus you need the correct change.  You drop it into a slot and there is no change.

The MRT is the underground rail system and it feels daunting at first but really it isn’t.  The key here is being alert.  This is not a place to have your head in your phone as everything and everyone moves so quickly – it reminded me of an ant colony.

You can purchase an MRT ticket through the machines on the wall and as long as you know where you want to go following the signs is really easy and quick.

There are surprisingly few cars on the road in Singapore.  I found out later this is because cars are so expensive in Singapore, but also because public transport is so good.  Can you imagine what it would be like if 5.6 million people tried to drive in a space the size of Lake Taupo!

The heat

Singapore is hot!  30 degrees every day, all day.  And it’s humid on top of that.

Singapore is littered with pools and I looked out on one in my two day conference and I never saw it being used.  The same was true with the pool in my hotel. Full disclaimer here – this was not the pool at my hotel (I wish!) – just one I happened upon while out strolling….  

My advice – definitely make the most of the pools.  They cool you down so much more than a shower will.

Drink loads of water.  I had a drink bottle that clipped on to my bag and it was awesome.

The Monsoon Season

I went to Singapore in the Southwest Monsoon Season.

The weather forecast looked like this….

The reality was that it rained twice in the 5 days that I was there – both times when I was inside.

My advice – take a light raincoat and umbrella in your bag but don’t worry unduly about the weather.

The food

Two words – try everything!

The only thing I didn’t try was Durian.  I was so tempted but it just smelt so bad that I couldn’t quite do it.

I was very used to a Kiwi notion of breakfast foods being served at breakfast so I was surprised when my hotel offered up curries on the breakfast buffet.  By day 3 though I was having a curry laksa with my breakfast like half the other people there.

The food in Singapore is amazing – try as much of it as you can.

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