Singapore Quick Guide
- Population: 5.4 million
- Government: Parliamentary Republic
- Language: Mandarin (official) 35%, English (official) 23%, Malay (official) 14.1%, Hokkien 11.4%, Cantonese 5.7%, Teochew 4.9%, Tamil (official) 3.2%, other Chinese dialects 1.8%, other 0.9%
- Currency: Singapore Dollar
- GDP: $239.7 Billion (2011), ranked 40th in the world
- GDP Growth Rate: 4.9% (2011 est.)
- Size Compared to US: About 3.5 times the size of Washington, DC
- Religion: Buddhist 42.5%, Muslim 14.9%, Taoist 8.5%, Hindu 4%, Catholic 4.8%, other Christian 9.8%, other 0.7%, none 14.8%
- Ethnic Groups: Chinese 76.8%, Malay 13.9%, Indian 7.9%, other 1.4%
- Median Age: 33.5 years
- Visa Information: US citizens do not need a visa for visits up to 90 days, although like most countries, your passport must be valid for six months prior to expiration. For more information see the State Department’s website.
- Transportation: Singapore is a very modern city and has an extremely clean, efficient rail system called the MRT. There are also numerous bus lines to get you anywhere you want to go. We took public transportation everywhere. In terms of entering the country by bus from Malaysia, it’s a fairly simple process. We took a bus from Melaka, Malaysia directly to the Lavender bus station in Singapore. The bus waits for you as you clear immigration on the Malaysian border and then again on the Singapore side. We had to wait for about 30 minutes in line at the Singapore immigration office, but there wasn’t any wait on the Malaysia side. It’s a bit annoying to have to keep getting on and off the bus with all your stuff, but overall it took less than an hour to clear both sides of immigration. There are many buses running between Singapore and various cities in Malaysia so you usually shouldn’t have difficulty buying tickets, unless its a public holiday.
- Weather: We were in Singapore in mid-March and the weather was hot and extremely humid. It was overcast and rained on and off throughout the day. The temperature was probably in the low 80s during the day. I think it’s pretty tropical there year-round so it probably doesn’t matter what time of year you visit.
- Food: Singapore is known for its excellent cuisine since it’s a melting pot of Chinese, Indian, Malay, and Western influences. There is everything from inexpensive food stalls to very high end restaurants. There are also a lot of western chains if you’re craving something from back home.
- People: We found the people to be relatively friendly, given that it’s a major city. Most people speak very good english, which is helpful when getting around. In fact, English is even an official language in Singapore.
- Dress: Most people dress Western and travelers can wear whatever they want.
- Accommodation: Travelers Inn, Within walking distance from Lavender Bus Station. The owners are a middle-aged Singaporean couple named Jenny and Daniel and they were really helpful in getting us a taxi for early the next morning and they showed us how to get around the city. I think the hostel is on the small side and is mostly dorms, but the rooms were clean, had A/C and the shared bathroom area was also very clean and had hot water. It was perfect for what we needed: a place to take a shower, store our stuff and take a “nap” (aka sleep for 3 hours before leaving for the airport!)
- Brewerkz: A large American-style brewery located on the riverfront in Clarke Quay, it served great burgers. They were really expensive and way out of our price range, but Singapore is an expensive, modern city. It was still worth it though because I was craving a burger and I didn’t trust the meat in some of the other countries we traveled to.
We were disappointed that we ended up only having an afternoon to explore the city after our travel delays in Malaysia. We were pretty exhausted from our overnight bus but we rallied and went to Marina Bay to walk around. We saw that crazy hotel with the cruise ship on top, I think it’s called the Marina Bay Sands. Apparently it has over 2,500 rooms; I wonder how often it is full to capacity. Marina Bay reminded me a bit of the Sydney harbor. Afterwards we walked around Boat Quay and grabbed an early dinner at Clarke Quay.
I heard that the Singapore zoo is really great, but unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to go there. However, they have this thing called the Night Safari that is next to the zoo, and we read it was cool so we decided to check it out. It took us about an hour and a half to get there taking the MRT, getting off at N16 and transferring to bus 138. When we arrived I thought we were at Universal Studios or Disney World – it looked like a theme park. The entrance tickets plus the tram around the complex were 32 sing dollars/person. It was fun, you could get on/off the tram to go walk around and get a closer look at all the animals. I’m not sure how the animals are enclosed in their areas since there are no fences to be seen, I’m assuming they’re electric. All I can say is that a spotted hyena was staring daggers at me so I decided it was probably time to keep walking and not test the strength of the electric fence! In typical Singapore fashion everything was very efficient and clean. The bathrooms were amazing. After having been in so many filthy, disgusting squatters and outhouses I am very perceptive of the quality of bathrooms now. You had to cherish any bathrooms that were clean, and if there was soap and toilet paper too then you really hit the jackpot!
We had an early morning flight the next day so we had to leave the hostel at 4:45am and only managed to get 3 hours sleep. Fortunately we were headed to another beach the next day so you couldn’t feel too sorry for us!