It may be one of the smallest countries in Asia, but Singapore has received quite the reputation. First for being a modern, notoriously clean, multicultural, rich (Singapore is home to the highest percentage of millionaires in the world) and bustling city and second for their many rules on social behavior. Singapore also boasts some of the best architecture in the region while nature thrives via the many botanical gardens, green spaces, and parks.
If you are visiting soon for your first or fifth time, here are 7 things to know before visiting Singapore.
Singapore is very expensive.
Unlike many of the surrounding countries, your US dollar won’t go as far as you think. Aside from street food, dining out will be comparable to a night out on the town back home. Ordering cocktails reminded me of time spent at nightclubs in Miami and NYC and taking part in any tourist activities will follow suit. While prices are not outrageous, just don’t expect the same deals that you would find in nearby Thailand. Hawker centres (think massive dining complexes with street food at every step) in Singapore are known for their inexpensive food so this may be a great alternative; some have even received Michelin stars!
Last call is at 10:30 p.m.
Unless you are spending an evening at a local bar or nightclub, your final call for alcohol will have a hard stop at 10:30 p.m. since you can’t purchase alcohol or drink it in public after this time (and until 7 a.m.). My recommendation? Head to Ce La Vi for a few rounds where you can enjoy the beautiful skyline or Raffles Long Bar for the infamous Singapore Sling. If not, grab a bottle at the duty-free shop in the airport on your way in and enjoy a nightcap in your hotel room — you’ll probably save a few dollars that way too.
Singapore is almost 100% crime free.
You can go for days and never see a police officer. Aside from the infrequent patrolling done every 3 or so days, you’ll be hard-pressed to locate one unless you can notice them in their civilian clothing. Because the laws are so harsh in Singapore, it has become one of the safest cities to visit. To give you an example, drug trafficking is punishable by death and vandalism (graffiti included) will get you caned (corporal punishment consisting of a number of hits with a single cane 😥 ) and sent to jail. They basically have zero tolerance for anyone breaking the law.
Credit cards accepted.
I made a mistake and forgot to make a stop by the ATM before jumping on my flight to Singapore. I swore this misstep was going to put me in a bit of a predicament. But to my surprise, everywhere I went (including taxi cabs, local shops, and restaurants) were all happy to take plastic – specifically Visa and Mastercard. I didn’t need to pull any local currency from their ATM’s not even once during my visit! I found this to be very convenient and honestly made it a little easier as I didn’t have to worry about converting between US and Singapore dollars.
Don’t chew gum and don’t spit, um kay.
Singapore has some of the strangest policies in place and two that stood out the most were their bans on chewing gum and spitting. Although chewing gum itself is not against the law, it is looked upon as being impolite. However, if you sell gum you can be fined up to $100,000 or spend up to two years in prison (unless the gum is deemed medically necessary). And on the conversation of spitting, if you do it in a public place you can be fined up to $1,000. So, with that said…keep your gum at home and don’t be gross, um kay? 😊
English is the primary language.
Singapore is a multi-cultural city-state with a majority of the population made up of Chinese, Malaysians (Malays), and ethnic Indians. Given the diversity in the city’s cultural makeup, many Singaporeans use English as their primary language as it is taught in schools at an early age. I had no problem visiting any establishment and speaking English. Although there were times when I may not have been able to understand every word, communicating was easy enough.
Tipping is not customary.
I noticed that when I dined out a service charge had already been added to my bill. Even though most restaurants will impose a 10% service charge, just know the waitstaff doesn’t always get a cut of it. In Singapore tipping the waitstaff is not the norm. So, when it comes to tipping, the rule of thumb should be to do what you feel. Anything extra is sure to make anyone smile.
It is nothing better than being prepared for a vacation. You don’t have to pull out your day planner and schedule every hour, but you should know what to expect. Stay tuned for the next vacation destination where I give you insight on a few things you need to know before you go. Safe travels!