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Quick facts on Singapore
Singapore is a city-state of 720km2 in South East Asia. self-proclaimed the red dot, the city is about half the size of Greater London with a population of 5.5 million. It is cosmopolitan, dynamic and one of the most successful economies in the world. It has a large financial centre and its port is among the busiest.
Founded as a British colony in 1819, the country celebrated its independence in 1965. Since then, Singapore has managed to develop at a rapid pace. While the business district may give you an impression of a slick and sterile modern city, the rest of the country will tell you otherwise. Many neighbourhoods will hit your senses and make you discover a vibrant street life such as Chinatown, Little India or Kampong Glam. The city is also surprisingly green. It offers parks, mangrove rivers, nature reserves, gardens and even small islands where you can get away from it all.
- Demographics: Singaporeans are mainly from 3 ethnic groups; Chineses, Malays and Indians. They speak respectively, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil but all share a common official language which is English.
- Currency: Singapore Dollar (SGD).
- Weather: The city is under a tropical rainforest climate. Apart from a more significant monsoon from November to January, not much changes throughout the year and the average temperature is 27°c. The main hurdle visitors will face is a humidity above 80%. That being said, showers are generally short and the city can be visited all year long.
- Electricity: plug type G identical to the British one (220-240V).
- Health: the phone number to use in case of emergency is 995. The City has an extensive network of high quality general practitioners clinics and hospitals.
- Safety: very safe country by most standards. As an example, the homicide rate is 10x lower than in Europe. Petty crime such as shoplifting and theft is also very low and is hardly a concern for any visitor to Singapore.
It would be inconceivable to talk about Singapore transport system and miss its flag carrier; Singapore Airlines (SQ). The carrier has received countless awards for its service and hard product. On comparable aircrafts, the airline will put generally less seats than most of its competitors. Meals are of good quality with a large choice of religious or dietetic options. The service is at its best, where every detail is studied by the airline to the millimetre. The Cabin crew is highly trained and does the job to the perfection, even though it may lack a bit of spontaneity. SQ operates a regional airline under the name of Silkair. It has an extensive network and nicely integrate within the group network allowing for seamless transfers and check-through arrangements.
Many regional low-costs fly to and from Singapore, mainly Jetstar (owned by Quantas) and Scoot (owned by Singapore Airlines). I would not recommend those for flights longer than 3 hours. However, Scoot is the long haul low cost arm of SQ and flies to Australia, Japan, among others. All the above carriers have their planes registered in Singapore and a good safety track record.
Changi Airport has received more than 500 awards since its opening and it is clear why. Whether landing or departing, expect a very peaceful environnent with relaxing music, a butterfly garden, swimming pool and a large number of shops. Somehow, and despite the 55 millions passengers every year, the airport never seems overcrowded. It is actually planing its extension with 2 more terminals in the making (for a total of 5). The airport has an extensive international network and is now linked directly to San Francisco (SFO), a SQ flight of 15h 20 minutes.
From the Airport
- Taxi: The default solution and the easiest. USD 18-25 to Orchard depending on the time of the day. Expect 20-25 min.
- Train: The underground train is the cheapest. USD 1.30 to Orchard. It will take 50 min and 2 transfers. Avoid peak hours as the train generally get packed, especially on the airport line (East West Line).
- Shuttle bus: the shuttle bus will bring you to many hotels in the city. USD 13. Expect a journey time of 25-30 min. the airport website lists the hotels served by the shuttle.
to fight the humidity and heat, many travelers will tell you that it is best to take a cab around town. It is safe, reasonably priced and can be hailed on the street. It gets however more expensive during peak hours and in the CBD, not mentioning that it gets impossible to find one as soon as it starts raining. Fortunately, UBER and Grab are now in Singapore and can offer a good alternative, especially from 5pm when it is often cheaper.
Public transport is a good alternative; The underground system is the MRT and is cheap, efficient, clean and easy to use. A trip is charged based on the distance and start at USD 0.60. It is best to buy a EZ-Link card at the train station, which is essentially a wallet card you can top-up at all MRT stations. It can also be used on Public buses, at 7-Eleven and various other shops.
Public buses in such city can be intimidating at first. Fortunately, there are various websites that will help you find your itinerary very easily: http://gothere.sg or http://www.streetdirectory.com. As buses do not travel at a fixed schedule, it is worth using the Local transport App which will give you the next arrival time for each bus stop on the island: MyTransport SG.
Usual Cost & Tips
- Accommodation: Hotels can be on the expensive side when compared to other capital cities in South East Asia. Count about USD 200-300 for a 5* hotel, USD 100 for a 3*. Do avoid peak periods such as F1 Grand Prix (September) and Chinese New Year.
- Food: not as cheap as in Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City, the food in Singapore is famous and always available. For local food, an outdoor hawker centre will have dishes from around USD 3. While you may want to spend more during your holiday, it is recommended to try them out, Hawker centres are where you will find the most authentic local food. It will be a bit more expensive in food courts but it is at least air-conditioned (USD 7-10). As for restaurants, expect to pay from USD 15. You will also notice trendy western restaurants as well as the high end celebrity chefs restaurants with no decent limit to their pricing.
- Sights & Activities: most outdoors activities and temple visits are free. The Singapore Zoo is at USD 24 (online discount), the national gallery at USD 15 and the national museum at USD 7. While these are worth it, most of the other sights in Singapore are free of charge and accessible through the extensive bus and train network.