Ditch the image of Singapore as a dull, sterile Utopia – scratch the surface and you’ll discover a strange brew of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Western cultures, a rich social stew that’s anything but boring. Sure, the graffiti-free trains run on time, traffic jams are nonexistent and everyone looks clean-cut and wholesome, but who needs pollution, poverty and chaos?

Singapore’s mouthwatering food is the number one drawcard. Pull up a pew at a hawker centre, crack open a Tiger beer and immerse yourself in a munificent range of Asian delights; heavy on the flavour, light on the wallet. Want to splurge? Singapore delivers Southeast Asia’s best shopping and innovative, stylish restaurants, plus a swathe of top-notch hotels. Top of the tree is Raffles, a timeless symbol of colonial opulence.

Of course, it’s not all about shopping, eating and G&Ts on the veranda. Work up a sweat with outdoor activities – walking, cycling and water sports – or check out the contemporary arts scene, thriving under the government’s promotion of Singapore as an arts hub. If you want a break from the urban confines, the centre of the island has sparkling reservoirs and leafy tracts of forest where all you’ll hear is monkeys clattering through the boughs.

The Lion City is more than you bargained for – dust off your credit card, prime your stomach and dive right in.

Getting there in singapore


• Local transport

• Travel documents

• Land

• Boat

• Air

Local transport


There are shared long-distance taxis to many places in Malaysia from Singapore’s Queen Street Bus Terminal; but it will be cheaper to take a bus to Johor Bahru and take a taxi from there to your ultimate destination. Share taxis to Johor Bahru are about S$8 per person, with a maximum of four passengers per taxi.

^ Back to top

Travel documents


Compare the costs of flying into Singapore versus Malaysia. You can travel overland to Singapore from almost anywhere in Peninsular Malaysia (and vice versa) in less than 18 hours. Singapore is good for buying onward tickets from Malaysia, but if you’re really budgeting, you’ll probably do better in Bangkok.

For internet bookings: No-frills website for discount flights. TripPlanner for multistop trip bookings; Haystack for accommodation. Covers a broad range of destinations. Flights, car hire, cruises and hotels. Good for holiday bargains and speciality travel.

^ Back to top


Buses run frequently from Singapore into Malaysia, some continuing to Thailand. The Causeway linking Johor Bahru with Singapore handles most traffic between the countries. Trains and buses run from all over Malaysia straight through to Singapore, or you can get a taxi or bus to or from JB.

There’s also a causeway called the Second Link linking Tuas, in western Singapore, with Geylang Patah in Malaysia – some buses to Melaka and Malaysia’s west coast head this way. If you have a car, tolls on the Second Link are much higher than the main Causeway.

From Singapore, both the Causeway Express and Singapore–Johor Express air-con buses (S$2.40) and the public SBS bus 170 (S$1.70) depart for Johor Bahru every 15 minutes between 6.30am and 11pm from the Queen Street Bus Terminal (cnr Queen & Arab Sts). Bus 170 can be boarded anywhere along the way, such as on Rochor, Rochor Canal or Bukit Timah Rds. Yet another, quicker, option is to go to Kranji MRT station by train and catch bus 160 (S$1.10).

In all cases, when you get to the Singapore checkpoint take all your belongings and get off. After clearing immigration you have to wait for the next bus (but don’t have to pay again, as long you have your ticket). Repeat the process at the Malaysian side or, once you’ve cleared immigration, simply take a two-minute walk into JB city centre. Buses stop at the Kotaraya II Terminal in JB. If at all possible, avoid crossing at weekends, when it gets infernally busy; Sunday evenings crossing from JB to Singa¬pore, and Friday and Saturday evenings crossing from Singapore to JB are akin to a descent into hell.

If you’re travelling beyond JB, it’s easier to catch a long-distance bus straight from Singapore, but there’s a greater variety of bus services from JB and the fares are cheaper.

Long-distance buses to Melaka (S$11, 4½ hours) and east coast Malaysian cities Kuantan (S$27, seven hours) and Kuala Terengganu (S$30, 10 hours) leave from and arrive at the Lavender Street Bus Terminal (cnr Lavender St & Kallang Bahru). The terminal is 500m from Lavender MRT station, or get there on buses 61, 107, 133, or 145.

Buses leave from outside the Golden Mile Complex (Beach Rd) for Kuala Lumpur (S$27, five hours) and other northern Malaysian destinations including Ipoh, Butterworth and Penang. They also run to Phuket (S$70, 22 hours) and Bangkok (S$80, 25 hours) in Thailand. There’s a string of bus agents and moneychangers along Beach Rd – shop around. Lavender MRT station is about 500m away.


From Singapore there are three air-conditioned express trains daily to Malaysia (about seven hours to Kuala Lumpur) with continuing services to Thailand. Contact Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM; 6222 5165; or its booking office at the Singapore Railway Station (6222 5165; Keppel Rd) for information. Depending on the carriage class and whether you ride in a seat or a sleeper, a Kuala Lumpur fare will be between S$30 and S$110.

The luxurious Eastern & Oriental Express (6392 3500; departs Singa¬pore on the 42-hour, 1943km journey to Bangkok. Don your linen suit, sip a gin and tonic and dig deep for the fare, which veers dramatically between S$600 and S$6000 depending on how far you’re going and what kind of sleeper you opt for.


Malaysia from Singapore

Regional cruise trips depart for Malaysia from the HarbourFront Ferry Terminal (6270 2228), next to HarbourFront MRT station; a host of agents here handle bookings.

Ferries depart the Changi Ferry Terminal (6546 8518) for Tanjung Belungkor, east of Johor Bahru (JB). This is primarily a service for Singaporeans going to Desaru. The 11km journey takes 45 minutes and costs S$18/22 one way/return. There are usually four services daily in each direction. From the Tanjung Belungkor jetty, buses operate to Desaru and Kota Tinggi. To get to Changi Ferry Terminal, take the MRT to Tanah Merah, then bus 2 to Changi Village and then a taxi (or just a taxi!).

Ferries also sail from the Changi Point Ferry Terminal (6542 7944) for Pengerang (return S$14), across the Straits of Johor in Malaysia. This is an interesting back-door route into Malaysia. There’s no fixed schedule; ferries leave between 7am and 4pm when full (12 people). The best time to catch one is before 8am. Clear Singa¬pore immigration at the small post in the terminal. To get here, take the MRT to Tanah Merah, then bus 2 to Changi village.

Indonesia from Singapore

No direct ferries run between Singapore and Indonesia’s main ports, but you can travel between the two countries via Pulau Batam and Pulau Bintan in the Riau Archipelago. Ferries are modern, fast and air-conditioned.

Pulau Batam

Ferries depart for Pulau Batam, 20km away, from the HarbourFront Ferry Terminal (6270 2228), taking about 30 minutes to get to Sekupang, or 45 minutes to Batu Ampar. The main agents are Penguin (6271 4866), Dino Shipping (6270 2228) and Berlian (6272 2192), all with offices at HarbourFront. Between them they have dozens of departures every day, at least every half-hour from 7.30am to 8pm. Tickets cost between S$30 and S$34 return. Ferries dock at Sekupang, where you can take a boat to Tanjung Buton on the Sumatran mainland. From there it’s a three-hour bus ride to Palembang. This is a popular travellers’ route to Sumatra.

Pulau Bintan

The same companies that operate ferries from Batam also have several ferries a day from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal (6542 4369) to Tanjung Pinang, the main city on Bintan, or Teluk Sebong on the island’s north coast. The 45km journey takes about an hour and costs between S$38 and S$48 return, ferries departing from 9am to 8pm.


Airports & airlines

Singapore’s slick, squeaky-clean Changi International Airport (6541 2267; is about 20km east of the city centre. It has two terminals, with a third due for completion in 2008. Most airlines operate from Terminal 1, a handful (including Singapore Airlines) from Terminal 2. Changi’s facilities include a 24-hour medical centre, post office, free showers, free internet access, free local phone calls, left luggage (between S$3.15 and S$8.40 per day depending on the item’s size), children’s playground and free city tours for transit passengers. Pick up the free booklets, maps and other guides (including the airport’s own magazine) from information stands.

Airlines flying to/from singapore

The major airline offices in Singapore:

Air New Zealand (6535 8266;; 24-07/08 Ocean Bldg, 10 Collyer Quay)

Berjaya Air (6227 3688;; 67 Tanjong Pagar Rd)

Silk Air (6223 8888;; 25-01 SIA Building, 77 Robinson Rd)

British Airways (6589 7000;; 06-05 Cairnhill Place, 15 Cairnhill Rd)

Cathay Pacific Airways (6533 1333;; 16-01 Ocean Bldg, 10 Collyer Quay)

Garuda Indonesia (6250 5666;; 12-03 United Sq, 101 Thomson Rd)

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (6737 7622;; 06-01/02/03 79 Anson Rd)

Lufthansa Airlines (6835 5933;; 05-01 Palais Renaissance, 390 Orchard Rd)

Malaysia Airlines (6433 0220;; 02-09 Singapore Shopping Centre, 190 Clemenceau Ave)

Qantas (6589 7000;; 06-05 Cairnhill Place, 15 Cairnhill Rd)

Silk Air (6223 8888;; 25-01 SIA Building, 77 Robinson Rd)

Singapore Airlines 6223 8888;; 02-38/39 Paragon Bldg, 290 Orchard Rd)

Thai Airways (6210 5000;; 02-00 The Globe, 100 Cecil St)


Low-season Singapore flights from Melbourne or Sydney start at A$800 return, rising to AS$1100 from December to February. Flying from Brisbane saves about A$100; from Perth A$200. Check Malaysian Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Qantas for deals. Weekend travel sections of the Melbourne Age and Sydney Morning Herald have listings.

Some reliable agents:

Flight Centre (133 133; Offices throughout Australia.

STA Travel (1300-733 035; Offices in all major cities.


Flights from Vancouver to Singapore start at one way/return C$1150/1450. Montreal prices are similar. The Globe & Mail, the Toronto Star, the Montreal Gazette and the Vancouver Sun carry travel agency ads. A reliable operator is Canada’s student travel agency, Travel CUTS (1866-246 9762;

Continental Europe

From Paris to Singapore costs as little as €750 return. Nouvelles Frontières (0825-000 747; is a reliable agent.

Hong Kong

The cheapest one-way flights to Singapore cost around HK$1000. The Tsim Sha Tsui area is Hong Kong’s budget travel–agency centre. Try Aero International (2545 6669; for deals on flights to/from Hong Kong.


From Java, the cheapest connections to Singa¬pore are as little as US$75/US$125 one-way/return. From Bali to Singapore costs from US$150/210 with Bouraq Airlines ( It also has direct flights between Singapore and Medan and Surabaya.


Japan to Singapore return flights cost between ¥50, 000 and ¥70, 000. One-way tickets are expensive (around ¥50, 000). It’s usually around ¥10, 000 cheaper to fly to/from Tokyo, rather than Osaka.

Some reliable agents:

No 1 Travel (03-3205 6073;

STA Travel (Tokyo 03-5485 8380; Osaka 06-262 7066;

New Zealand

Low-season one-way/return Auckland–Singapore tickets start at NZ$900/1400; add around NZ$400 for high season. The New Zealand Herald travel section has fares.

The following agents are also worth a look:

Flight Centre (0800-243 544; Branches throughout the country.

STA Travel (0508-782 872; Offices in major towns and cities.


In Bangkok, for tickets to Singapore head to Khao San Rd. Agents deal in discounted tickets; rip-offs do occur occasionally, so take care. Flights from Bangkok to Singapore one way/return cost around 4800B/6500B.


London has great Singapore flight deals, the cheapest carriers including Aeroflot, Pakistan International Airlines and Air Lanka. Low-season tickets start from one way/return UK£240/380. Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic and Malaysia Airlines return fares start at UK£565, topping UK£600 between Christmas and New Year. Check travel ads in the Saturday Independent, the Sunday Times and street mags like TNT.

Some reliable agents:

ebookers (0800-082 3000;

STA Travel (0870-163 0026;

Trailfinders (0845-058 5858;


Fares from the west coast to Singapore start at US$900 return; check with Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Air China and Cathay Pacific. From New York, fares start at US$1100; some include a Hong Kong stopover. Circle Pacific flights cost around US$2000 from Los Angeles to Singapore via Tahiti, Auckland, Sydney, Bali and Hong Kong (among other destinations). The San Francisco Examiner, New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune travel sections run travel agency ads, or check these out:

Airtreks (1877-2478 7357;

Priceline (

STA Travel (800-781 4040;

Money & costs


The major banks line their coffers in the CBD and along Orchard Rd. Opening hours are 9.30am to 3pm Monday to Friday, and 9.30am to noon on Saturday.

ATMs accept MasterCard, Visa and cards with Plus or Cirrus. ATMs are everywhere, including shopping centres and MRT stations. Larger department stores accept foreign cash and travellers cheques at lower rates than you’ll get from moneychangers.

Credit cards

Major credit cards are widely accepted. The tourism authorities suggest that if shops insist on adding a credit card surcharge (which they shouldn’t do), contact the relevant credit company in Singapore. For 24-hour card cancellations or assistance:

American Express (6538 4833)

Diners Club (6294 4222)

MasterCard (6533 2888)

Visa (6437 5800)

^ Back to top

Taxes & refunds

A 5% goods and services tax (GST) is applied to all goods and services. Visitors purchasing goods worth S$300 or more through a shop participating in the GST Tourist Refund Scheme (look for the ‘Tax-free Shopping’ logo) can apply for a GST refund. When you purchase an item fill in a claim form and show your passport. You’ll receive a global refund cheque – present it with your passport and goods at the Customs GST Inspection counter in the departure hall at Changi before you check in. Customs stamps your cheque, which you then cash at counters inside the airport, or have credited to your credit card or bank account. Pick up a How to Shop Tax-free in Singapore brochure at the airport or visitors centres for more information.

Weather & Work in Singapore

To paraphrase Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam, Singapore is ‘HOT and WET. That’s nice if you’re with a lady, but ain’t no good if you’re in the jungle…’. Practically on the equator, Singapore’s temperature never drops below 20°C, usually climbing to 30°C during the day. Rainfall and humidity are steady year-round. Rain arrives in torrential downpours, but is soon replaced by sunshine. It may rain every day during the wet season, but it rarely rains all day. The wettest months are November to January, the driest May to July.

Singapore has a large expatriate European/US community, a reflection of the large representation of overseas companies here. The vacancies pages of the Straits Times are often crammed with job notices, mostly for domestic servants and unskilled labourers.
If you’re looking for work, business experience, economic training and easily marketable job skills are a bonus – do the rounds of companies that might be interested. It’s become fashionable for restaurants serving Western food to employ Westerners – some travellers have picked up temporary work as waiters. Contact Singapore ( has job postings.

Singapore History

Singapore stepped onto the world stage when Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles stepped into the mud in 1819, hell-bent on making the island a bastion of the British Empire. It prospered in its role as a free-trade hub for Southeast Asia, but these early years were marred by bad sanitation, disease, Empire-sponsored opium addiction and piracy. Large-scale immigration of Chinese workers occurred, with some Chinese intermarrying with local Malays to create the Peranakan people and culture.

The glory days of the empire came to an abrupt end on 15 February 1942 when the Japanese invaded Singapore. For the rest of WWII the Japanese ran the island (renamed Syonan) with brutal will – 140, 000 allied troops were killed or imprisoned at the notorious Changi Prison. Thousands of Chinese were executed at Sentosa and Changi Beach; Malays and Indians were subject to systematic abuse. Although the British were welcomed back to the island after the war, it was clear that the Empire’s days in the region were numbered.

The socialist People’s Action Party (PAP) was founded in 1954 with Lee Kuan Yew, a third-generation Straits-born Chinese and Cambridge-educated lawyer, as its secretary general. The shrewdly political Lee led the PAP to victory in elections held in 1959, becoming the first Singaporean prime minister – a post he held in his iron grip for 31 years. Although Singapore’s situation looked grim when it was booted out of the nascent federation of Malaysia in 1965, Lee set to work making the most of one-party rule, and pushing through an ambitious industrialisation programme for the island that had no natural resources beyond its labour force.
Housing and urban renovation, in particular, have been keys to the PAP’s success – by the mid-1990s the city-state had the world’s highest rate of home ownership. Living out ‘social-engineering dreams’ (as couched in the anti-Western rhetoric of Confucianism) recalled from British textbooks, Singapore’s leaders also sought order and progress in the strict regulation of social behaviour and identity – thus earning its reputation as a fairly uptight corner of the world. Singaporean media is subject to strict government censorship – freedom of speech isn’t something Singaporeans are altogether familiar with.
In 1990 Lee Kuan Yew resigned as prime minister (though he still holds the conspicuous position of Minister Mentor, issuing advice on everything from protocol to diet), to be replaced by Goh Chok Tong, in turn replaced by Lee’s eldest son Lee Hsien Loong in 2004. The government is slowly loosening its paternalistic grip, but it’s not entirely ready to set Singaporeans free from the cage just yet.

Come to Singapore today
singapore. orchard hotel singapore . Singapore news

[12 country blog for good holiday or real discovery]