A lot of people seem surprised that Gary and I flew 13 hours across the world, to spend just 5 and a half days in Singapore.
I mean, if you’re going to fly that far, surely you should spend more time there, right?
Well yes. That would be the dream. Singapore is one of the most interesting and most beautiful places I’ve ever been in my life. I feel like we barely scratched the surface of this brilliant city, and I already have a list in my notebook titled: Things to Do on Our Second Trip to Singapore.
But unfortunately my leave at work is limited, and Gary’s British Airways companion voucher had an expiration date, so five and a half days was all we could manage. And you know what? It was worth every single second of the hideous jetlag that hit me when we got home.
The heat, the colour, the skyscrapers, the greenery, the food… Singapore is like nowhere else we’ve been before, and we were both completely mesmerised by it.
So here are a few things we discovered on our first trip to Singapore!
THE HUMIDITY IS INTENSE
OH DEAR LORD, THE HUMIDITY.
Singapore weather is always hot and humid. It smothers you, as soon as you step out of the blissfully air-conditioned airport, and feels a bit like being squashed on the Central line in London, in mid-August, with all the windows closed.
People had told me about the heat and humidity, and I thought I was prepared… I was not. I think it’s something you just can’t understand until you experience it!
Ice cream/juice/iced coffee breaks were necessary every hour of the day. My camera would steam up every time we stepped outside. We cancelled a bunch of our more energetic outdoor plans (hiking the MacRitchie Reservation, cycling at Pulau Ubin). We actively looked forward to going on public transport, because the metro is blissfully air-conditioned.
I’ve also never showered and changed my clothes so often in one day before. I’m an over-packer, and always pack way more than I ever actually wear. And yet I literally ran out of clean clothes four days into our trip, and had to run to Zara to buy a new dress for dinner on our last night. (This one, if anyone cares.)
So make sure you pack way more than you think you’ll need!
THE PUBLIC TRANSPORT IS A DREAM
The MRT (metro) in Singapore is something else.
First of all: it’s clean. Like, super incredibly nice and clean and shiny. The seats are color coded so you know that if you sit on a red one you may have to move for a pregnant lady or elderly person. The doorways are also clearly marked with arrows, so you have to stand aside so people can get off before you get on.
Food and drink isn’t allowed on the metro (you could actually get fined like £300). The route is marked with lights and arrows inside the train, so you know at all times exactly where you are and where you’re going.
The whole setup is just dreamy. You can buy an EZ Link card (a bit like an Oyster) and use that to travel around. Gary’s work friend had a couple of these to lend us, and we just topped them as we went along. We used exactly $20 each (around £14) over our five days, and as we used metro a LOT, I think that’s a pretty great deal!
The only weird thing is that in Singapore you stand on the left of the escalator, and walk up on the right. Which is confusing to my brain, because in London it’s the opposite, and now I’ve been home three weeks and I’m still getting it mixed up…
FOOD IS CHEAP
Singapore is the only place in the world where you can buy an actual Michelin starred meal for £1.50. And I’m not even joking.
The city’s hawker centres are legendary. We ate in one proper restaurant in the whole five days we were there. Other than that, all our other meals were bought at street food stalls. Noodles, rice, meat, fish, vegetables, spicy, mild, sweet, sour… the options are limitless.
On our first night, we wandered out of our hotel and crossed the road to Tekka Centre, a hawker centre in Little India. We ordered two pratas (grilled flatbread) and a bowl of chicken curry from one stall, and a giant mutton biryani from another, and our entire bill came to just SD$10 – about £6!
BOOZE IS EXPENSIVE
Water and fresh juices are usually about SD$1-SD$2, which works out about 60p-£1.
So our only real expense was alcohol, which is mostly on par with London prices: £4-£5 for a beer, £6-£8 for wine. Unless you go to the super expensive/touristy places (like we did) and buy fancy cocktails (like we did), in which case you’re looking at around £20 for a cocktail. Ouch.
And if you fancy an original Singapore Sling from Raffles Hotel, be prepared to drop £30 on each drink!
EVERYONE SPEAKS ENGLISH
Singapore has four official languages: Malay, Tamil, Mandarin, and English.
An even though I’m sure there are plenty of people who don’t speak English, everyone we spoke to could. All the signage was usually written in English, as well as at least one of the other official languages (if not all of them). And overall, it was just so easy for us!
It’s silly, but I’d never been to Asia before, and was a bit worried that we’d find ourselves lost down an alleyway with no way of asking for directions… But we had no problems at all. So if you’ve never flown East before, and you’re feeling a bit wobbly about the language barrier, Singapore is a great place to start.
I’m feeling much more confident about our massive Japan trip now, and that’s definitely going to be an interesting language experience!
SINGAPORE IS A FINE CITY
Singapore has a lot of rules.
First of all: chewing gum is illegal. If you bring a pack in from abroad, you could get fined around £800. Selling it will hit you with a £9000 fine.
Connecting to someone else’s wifi could see you fined £8000 and/or sent to jail. Littering, jaywalking, spitting, feeding pigeons, not flushing after using a public toilet, and playing musical instruments in public places will all get you fines of around £300.
Vandalism will see you fined, jailed and possibly caned. Being in the possession of drugs still carries the death penalty. And despite it being 2017… gay sex is still illegal, and could see you jailed for up to two years.
There are more. A lot more. So just make sure you read up on ALL the rules before you fly!
…AND IT’S ALSO RIDICULOUSLY CLEAN
Because of all the rules, Singapore is one of the cleanest cities in the world.
No litter, no chewing gum stuck to the pavement, and (best of all) NO PIGEONS. Everything just feels pristine and fresh and new, and it’s actually pretty delightful!
And there you go! A little intro to Singapore for first-timers.
I’ve got a ton of posts coming on the places we visited and the food we ate, so keep an eye out! :)