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Singapore Holidays

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Singapore Holidays

Beguiling Singapore is a modern city-state embracing economic progress against the backdrop of age-old tradition. The customs that underpin community life are created out of an ethnic mix that includes predominantly Chinese, Indian and Malay groups.

Singapore's sightseeing attractions reflect the diverse population which calls the country home. In downtown Singapore, the communities of Little India and the Arab District give an exotic cultural spice to a country ultimately known more for urban planning and a high-tech economy than its history. Similarly, Chinatown stands out with its traditions and vibrant decorations in contrast to a very modern city. The creative achievements of this modernity can be viewed at the Red Dot Design Museum, the many shopping malls and the Gardens by the Bay, a fascinating marriage of technology and nature.

To escape the urban rat race tourists can enjoy numerous stunning gardens and parks, including the Singapore Botanical Gardens, the Chinese and Japanese Gardens, the Jurong Bird Park and the Singapore Zoo. Probably the best way to experience nature within the city limits is a visit to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, where swathes of tropical rainforest have been preserved. For others ferrying between islands can be the best escape. Sentosa Island is a fun theme park with myriad attractions, including beaches, aquariums and amusement parks like Universal Studios Singapore. The more relaxing Palau Ubin island is interesting for its Malay culture and is an ideal spot to go cycling or hiking along unspoiled beaches and through the forested interior.

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Detailed City Overview

Singapore in Detail

Many holidaymakers travel to Singapore on their way to the Far East, or as a stop-off between Australia and Europe, and are eager to see and experience this legendary hi-tech Asian city, which combines traditional enclaves with the towering steel and cement of a cosmopolitan international power-house. The customs that underpin community life emerge out of a cultural mix that includes predominantly Chinese, Indian and Malay ethnic groups.

Singapore's full calendar of events showcases a spectrum of cultural celebrations and shopping activities. The early summer months bustle in anticipation of the Singapore Sale - a time when tourists can cash in on the competitive prices of electronic equipment, jewellery and other merchandise. The business activity thrives amid the celebration of Chinese, Hindu and Muslim festivals that punctuate the year with their colourful representations. These include the Chinese New Year, Ramadan, Hari Raya Puasa, Vesak Day, the Dragon Boat Festival, Festival of the Hungry Ghosts and Thaipusam.

The core of downtown Singapore is formed by the Colonial District, embellished by cathedrals and cricket lawns. The notable sites of the area include the Empress Place Building and the luxurious Raffles Hotel. Although most of old Singapore has been demolished to make way for the modern city, many major landmarks within the Colonial District have been preserved. The surrounding ethnic enclaves of Little India, Chinatown and the Arab Quarter also provide glimpses into the traditions that have sustained their respective communities through the centuries.

Getting Around

The bus network and the reliable MRT train subway system are both cheap and user-friendly and service all parts of Singapore. Electronic EZ-Link passes cover trains and buses and prevent the need to carry loose change for fares as well as giving a slight discount on standard ticket prices. The city also has thousands of metered taxis, which are safe, air-conditioned and surprisingly affordable, driven by helpful and honest drivers. The only drawback is the long taxi queues during rush hour. Many of the tourist attractions are situated close together and walking is a safe and pleasant option if you can handle the heat.

Nightlife

With so many choices on offer, it can be a difficult task deciding what to do for an evening out in Singapore, and hard to know how best to experience the city's nightlife. From cultural performances and traditional dancing and music venues to nightclubs, bars and upmarket lounges, Singapore is a city that never sleeps.

Start an evening out at one of the many international touring Broadway shows or head to one of the nightlife hubs of the city, such as Boat Quay, where a variety of bars, karaoke bars, clubs, discos and lounges can be found, as well as some of the city's glitterati, who can be seen hanging out and mingling with the who's who. Muhammad Sultan Road is another key area where clubs and bars are scattered.  One of the largest and longest-running clubs is the sprawling Zouk in Jiak Kim Street, which hosts visiting international artists and has a variety of floors ranging from house to hip hop, pop and even a dinner-dance area. Clarke Quay is the place for hardcore clubbers, where the Ministry of Sound is based as well as a handful of hip new dance clubs. There are other areas of the city that have become eclectic in their entertainment choices and live jazz, acid jazz, international guest DJs and live music is easy to come by. Sentosa has a number of cocktail bars on the beach, and the Central Business District has plenty of chic nightclubs.

Many clubs stay open until very late, closing at about 2 am on weekdays and 4 am on weekends. Taxis can be found fairly easily, but be prepared for a rush of people, and an increase of fares after midnight when the clubs start to close. Drinking in Singapore is an expensive pastime as the country's heavy sin taxes push the price of drinks up.

Shopping

In Singapore, shopping is said to be the national sport, strongly supported by numerous shopping areas, malls and markets; at the mid-year Great Singapore Sale, the whole island offers fantastic shopping discounts. Despite its reputation as an international shopping destination, however, pretty much everything sold in Singapore is made somewhere else, so don't expect to find authentic local goods or handmade treasures. If ethnic goods are what you're after, Chinatown sells Chinese items like seals and painted fans, and Geylang Serai and Little India offer a range of Malay and Indian goods. Colourful Peranakan clothing and artwork are available in Katong.

Low import taxes mean there are bargains to be had, but if you've come to Singapore in search of bargain electronics or computers, it pays to do some research ahead of time so you don't end up paying more than you could have. Singapore's consumer protection laws are good, so most shops are honest and fakes are not openly sold.

Orchard Road is the main shopping area and features mall after mall of fashion, furniture and cosmetic shops. There are countless stores offering every imaginable form of electronic device shoppers might require, and the street markets and smaller shops sell good souvenirs. There is also late night shopping on Orchard Road every Saturday till about 11 pm.

Exhibitions, fairs and garage sales take place often and offer many discounted goods. Wet Markets smell bad but sell well-priced fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, spices and flowers. The general opening hours for shops are from about 9 am to 10 pm, but many shops (especially those in Suntec City and Funan IT Mall) do not open before 11 am.

Sightseeing Overview

Teeming with sightseeing opportunities, Singapore is a great city for any traveller to explore. With historical sites such as Kampong Gelam and Thian Hock Keng Temple; cultural enclaves like Chinatown and Little India; and beautiful gardens and animal parks like the Chinese and Japanese Gardens and the Jurong Birdpark, Singapore has a wide range of attractions on offer. Have a picnic in the Singapore Botanical Gardens and enjoy the peace and quiet, take the kids to the Singapore Zoological Gardens where animals from all over the world can be viewed, explore tropical rainforest within the city at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, or lounge on the beaches of the resort island of Sentosa. Those with an eye for art and design will love the red dot design museum, which showcases some of the most innovative and exciting designs, and art lovers should visit the Singapore Art Museum.

Visitors wanting to see the sights should buy a Singapore Tourist Pass, which is an all-day travel pass that allows unlimited travel on Singapore's public buses and MRT trains and can be bought for one, two or three days.

Singapore for Kids

Singapore is a great city for kids on holiday, compact and brimming with varied and exciting attractions, some uniquely Asian. In fact, some of the most popular tourist attractions in Singapore are family orientated.

Singapore is a city of gardens and this combined with the country's world-class animal attractions ensures that there is lots of fun to be had outdoors. For a great day with the family head to the Singapore Zoological Gardens where the kids can bond with animals such as Komodo dragons, polar bears and orangutans, or head to the Jurong Bird Park to marvel at hundreds of pink flamingoes. For a more relaxed day, pack a picnic and visit the Singapore Botanical Gardens where kids will have plenty of room to stretch their legs and let off a bit of steam. The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is a wonderful place to spend the day and children will be amazed by this verdant wonderland. The Singapore Crocodilarium is another exciting attraction, home to over 1,000 reptiles, including crocodiles and some of the world's rare and endangered species of reptile.

On rainy or cold days, when outdoor activities with kids are not an option, head to an indoor playground like eXplorerkid, or Fidgets. Hugely popular Singapore tourist attractions, like Universal Studios Singapore, are other great options for rainy days.

Eating Out

With heavy influences from Malay, Chinese, Indonesian, Indian and British cuisines, the restaurant scene in Singapore is far from dull and fusion food is the order of the day. Street vendors are common in this bustling city for a tasty meal on the go, and most specialise in one dish with favourites including fish head curry or Mee Goreng (yellow egg noodles stir-fried with ghee, tomato sauce, chilli, egg, vegetables and various meats or seafood). Seafood such as prawns, oysters, crabs and lobsters are also popular dishes on most Singaporean menus and traditional dishes such as laksa (soup), popiah (spring rolls), and satay (barbecued meat skewers) are worth trying. Those with a sweet tooth will enjoy the sugary desserts like kuih (steamed cakes), bubur cha-cha (coconut milk soup), and ice kachang (shaved ice with sweet red beans).

Hawker centres are the cheapest places to eat and come with their own unique atmosphere, which is somewhere between a market and a food court. Prices are low and the food is generally very good, so it's a great way to try a lot of dishes. Find a table first, and many stalls will deliver your food to you. Popular hawker centres include Newton Circus, Glutton's Bay, and Lau Pa Sat, as well as several options in Chinatown.

Singapore has its share of international fast food chains, but local takeaway options worth trying include Bengawan Solo's Chinese pastries, Old Chang Lee's deep-fried curry puffs, and the traditional Singaporean breakfast at Ya Kun Kaya Toast.

Singapore's more upmarket restaurants have a lot to offer as well, with plenty of variety. A special focus is on Chinese cuisine and seafood, however. Head to the Orchard Road area and the historic district for eateries of every nationality, or for a trendy night out a trip to Boat Quay or Clarke Quay along the riverfront is a must.

Local Information

Language

There are four official languages of Singapore. Malay, Mandarin, Tamil and English. 

Local time

Singapore is about 8 hours ahead of United Kingdom

Airlines

Some airlines include BA, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar. 

Flight time

Around 14 hours.

Where to fly from

Fly from various UK airports, many with connecting flights

Currency

The local currency is the Singapore dollar.