Singapore survival guide: What to know before you go

If you’re traveling to Singapore, there are certain things you need to know before you go. For example, is it safe, is it really that expensive, what’s allowed and what isn’t, etc. While the laws can be strict, this shouldn’t deter you from visiting this culturally-diverse metropolis that’s home to gorgeous green spaces, incredible high rise buildings and colorful neighborhoods. This Singapore survival guide will give you the lowdown on everything you need to know before you visit.

It’s one of the safest countries in the world

If you’re wondering how safe Singapore is, you’ll be pleased to know that it’s one of the safest countries in the world! As a solo female traveler I felt totally safe while walking alone at night. Of course you need to use common sense and avoid flashing any expensive objects in crowded places. Furthermore, the crime rate is extremely low since it’s usually accompanied by heavy fines, so almost everyone will be on their best behavior. 

Most people don’t need a visa to enter Singapore

Most foreigners traveling to Singapore don’t need a visa for stays up to 90 days provided they meet all the necessary entry requirements. However, if you’re a resident of India, Russia or Tunisia for example, you might need a visa. You can check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for more information about which nationalities require a Singapore travel visa. 

It’s not cheap but it ain’t super expensive either

Singapore is known as one of the most expensive cities in Southeast Asia, almost on par with US and European cities. The cost of renting an apartment or buying a car can be quite high but these won’t affect the ordinary traveler looking to spend a few days in Singapore.

It’s still possible to visit Singapore on a budget provided that you stay in hostels or budget hotels, eat at hawker centers and take advantage of all the free attractions.    

Public transportation is a breeze

Traveling in Singapore couldn’t be easier. The MRT is clean, quick, efficient and the cheapest way to get around. While trains provide access to most parts of the city, you might consider taking the bus if you’d like to get off the main tourist trail. They are just as cheap and efficient.

©Ernesto Andrade/Flickr

If you’re planning to travel extensively by public transportation, I recommend buying an EZ-link card or Singapore Tourist Pass for more convenience since you won’t have to buy tickets for every single trip. 

It’s hot all year round

Singapore’s climate is notorious for being very hot and humid with temperatures hovering around 30 degrees Celsius all year round. Make sure to wear light clothes and always carry plenty of water if you don’t want to be drenched in sweat. Don’t forget to bring an umbrella as the weather can sometimes be unpredictable.

Airbnb isn’t exactly legal in Singapore

Although there are no laws that prevent tourists from staying in Airbnbs, all property owners must comply with a minimum renting period of 3 or 6 months according to Singapore’s housing law which can make things a bit complicated.

©S Pakhrin/Flickr

If you’re looking for budget accommodations in Singapore, there are plenty of other options such as hostels and budget hotels around Chinatown, Little India and Bugis. 

Be mindful of the laws

While there are certain things that you can do in your home country, the exact same thing might actually be illegal in Singapore. Chewing gum, for example, is banned in Singapore unless it’s for health-related purposes. Littering, jaywalking, eating or drinking in MRT stations or smoking outside of designated areas are also not allowed and can carry some pretty hefty fines. So make sure you’re familiar with the local laws to avoid any trouble.

English is widely spoken

English is widely spoken in Singapore since it’s one of the country’s four main languages which also include Malay, Mandarin and Tamil. If you’re coming from an English speaking country, there won’t be any language barrier but you might hear some Singlish mixed in which is an informal form of English used by Singaporeans. The expression “lah” is usually thrown at the end of each sentence. “Can” and “Cannot” are sometimes substituted for yes and no respectively. 

Alcohol is expensive

Alcohol is very expensive in Singapore so if you want to hit the bars make sure to go during happy hour. If not, expect to pay over 10 SGD (US $7.37) for a beer pint or 20 SGD (US $14.74) for a cocktail.

Coolest airport in the world

Changi Airport has been named the world’s best airport for eight consecutive years, making it one of the best places to spend a long layover.

©Jorge Láscar/Flickr

While it recently lost that title in 2021, it still remains as one of the best thanks to its unique features which include the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, a sunflower garden, butterfly garden, free movie theaters, sleeping lounges, shopping malls, restaurants and even a hawker stall section where you can get cheap eats for less than 10 SGD (US $7.38)! The good news is that most of Changi’s attractions can be enjoyed for free.

Tap water is safe to drink

Buying water bottles every single day can quickly add up but you don’t have to worry about spending the extra cash since it’s totally safe to drink from the tap in Singapore.

Easy to get around on foot

You can do most of your sightseeing on foot since Singapore is very small and most of the attractions are located within walking distance. For example, you can spend the whole day strolling around the Marina Bay area to see all the major landmarks such as the Merlion statue, Esplanade Theatres, Helix Bridge, Art Science Museum, Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay.

Visit the hawker centers for cheap local eats

Did you go to Singapore if you didn’t eat at a hawker center? These food courts are scattered all over Singapore and offer a glimpse into the local way of life. You don’t have to spend a fortune at restaurants as these hawker centers sell a wide range of local dishes for very cheap. A full meal costs around 3-6 SGD (US $2.22-4.43) and you’ll rarely pay over 10 SGD (US $7.38). Some of these stalls have even gained Michelin Star status so you can be sure that you’ll be eating some of the best food in Singapore without breaking the bank. 

Visit the main tourist attractions early

Most of Singapore’s tourist attractions are extremely popular especially the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay and because of that you should plan to visit early in the morning.

©Vladimir Varfolomeev/Flickr

It’s also recommended to buy entry tickets in advance if you don’t want to wait in line.

Getting to Singapore

With one of the best airports and direct connections to several parts of the world, getting to Singapore couldn’t be easier. If you’re traveling between Singapore and Malaysia, you have the option of taking the bus, plane, private taxi or train. Below are some of the most popular routes:

RoutesStarting price
Kuala Lumpur to SingaporeUS $30
Johor Bahru to SingaporeUS $8
Melaka to SingaporeUS $15
Genting Highlands to SingaporeUS $35
Ipoh to Singapore US $30
Penang to SingaporeUS $40

I hope you found these Singapore travel tips helpful. There’s so much to see and do in Singapore so it’s definitely a must-visit.

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