At an exchange rate of SGD$1.50 to the US dollar, Singapore’s dollar (SGD) is fairly competitive to other countries’ currency. Other exchange rates are SGD$1.10 to 1 Australian dollar and SGD$2 to 1 Euro. Expect to use the Singapore dollar when purchasing in cash so take advantage of the numerous money changers found in Little India and Orchard Road, who exchanges without charging any commissions. Although there are ATMs all over the island, you may use your credit cards when shopping, dining or taking taxis (which charges 10% fee). Note, however, that credit card payments are only allowed for purchases of $20 and above.
Surprisingly, you are not obligated to pay tips in Singapore, as majority of the bars and restaurants automatically add a service charge (10%) to the bill. Note also that when looking at menu prices, a “plus plus” (++) sign means that the 7% government service tax and the service charge are not yet included. If you’re not so fond of these add-ons, try eating at the vendor centres or the food courts where these fees are non-existent. Of course, there’s no prohibition in tipping if you really get exceptional service and this includes taxi drivers. For taxi fares, exact changes is appreciated but if unavoidable, taxi drivers will give you changes since they don’t round up the bill.
Security and the Police Force
Known for its strict laws, tough implementation and exorbitant fines, Singapore is still updating its peace and order through its campaign of “Low Crime Doesn’t Mean No Crime”. The best way to further ensure safety is to be cautious and prepared. When in doubt, avoid places that are too overcrowded where pick pocket thieves are prolific. However, if you’re absolutely determined to go shopping, just be on the safe side and take all necessary precautions to guard your valuables. Although the chances of you getting robbed or even assaulted in Singapore is very low, take solace in the fact that the English-speaking police force is ever so vigilant, even if you won’t notice most of them (strategically disguised in civilian garbs). So all you have to do is dial “999”, their emergency hotline, to seek very friendly support.
In Singapore, non-tourists and tourists are not exempted from the offences and their respective fines. Littering, jaywalking and most especially eating in public are not allowed in this island country and are fined as much as SGD$1000. Just imagine then the penalty for trafficking and/or possessing illegal drugs? Caning and an extensive imprisonment would be the punishment for being caught with drugs while trafficking gets the death penalty.
As visitors, expect heavy screening at Singapore’s port of entry as bringing in of duty-free cigarettes and excessive liquor are strictly prohibited. These items are not just heavily taxed but also harshly limited. You may however bring in up to one litre each of spirits, wine and alcohol tax free.
Aside from a world renowned penal system, Singapore is also known for its healthcare system, the best in the region together with that of Thailand. Consequently, expect also to pay for expensive fees unless you’re prepared enough to purchase insurance prior to travelling. There are plenty of hospitals offering full ER services clinics open round the clock and some are even available to make house calls like Raffles Hospital. If you didn’t get your travel shots yet or just want to consult with a health care provider for something you seemed to have acquired while in Singapore, you can contact the following clinics:
Changi General Hospital Medical Centre T: 6850 3333
Catering mostly to tourists, Changi General’s travel clinic is available for vaccinations (by appointment basis only), pre-travel advice, and anti-malarial medication. Located in east Singapore, they even sell reliable medical kits which you can use during your vacation containing medicines treating common, travel-related illnesses like diarrhoea and motion sickness.
Travel Health Services by Raffles Medical Group T: 6311 1111
With 72 branches, one at the Changi International Airport, you can get your travel medical kits, Hep A, B and flu shots at the Raffles Medical Group. Vaccines for Japanese encephalitis and yellow fever, on the other hand, are available only at selected branches. Although charging at the high end in fees, a correspondingly high end service will be offered at any of its branches, open for walk-in clients.
Singapore General Hospital Travel Clinic T: 6326 6723
Well-situated, reachable from Outram Park’s MRT and with operation schedules Monday to Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Singapore General is staffed with nurse practitioners available for medical advices (doctors are by appointment only). Singapore General also gives anti-malarial pills, vaccinations and specialized health advices for travellers.
Tan Tock Seng Hospital Travellers’ Health Clinic T: 6357 2222 THVC@ttsh.com.sg
Vaccines for yellow fever, typhoid, hepatitis and Japanese encephalitis are available at this clinic both by appointment and outpatient (for the latter, anytime from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 2:00-4:30 p.m., weekdays and 8:00 – 11:30 a.m., Saturdays). They also have anti-malaria medication available.
Modes of Transportation
You can go around in this city-state using three modes of transportation. One is by using the MRT, which is the swiftest way to get around and also the busiest, with operations from 6:00 a.m. to midnight. With a fourth line still being constructed, the three subway routes can be mastered through the system map conveniently posted at all the stations. Or you may browse through the MRT’s website and print a detailed map or grab a pocket map at the ticket offices.
Two is by taking the numerous city buses (with same operation time as MRTs and a partial service called “Nite Owl” from midnight to 2:00 a.m.) which is very efficient and more inexpensive compared to the MRT. Surprisingly though, the buses are less used by tourists although they are highly recommended for use during short trips around the city-state. We recommend using the SBS Journey Planner to map out your bus trips.
And three is by taking taxis. At meter rates going from SGD$0.20/385 metres or 45 seconds of waiting, a flag fall of SGD$3, which includes the first kilometre, taxis are somewhat reasonably priced. Beware of surcharges, however, which can go up to 50% from the hours of midnight to 6:00 a.m. and fall to 35% from the hours of 7:00-9:30 a.m. which are peak travel hours. For journeys starting at the city’s centre, there is an extra fee of SGD$3 when travelling during 5:00 p.m. to midnight. Lastly, ERP (or road tolls) are meant to be paid by passengers during high travel hours. For more information, check out the “Getting Around Singapore” section from Singapore’s official website.
Thirty-day visas are free and obtainable by most tourists upon arrival. For more information, drop by our Singapore visa site.
Most Singaporeans speak fluent English, although there are three other widely used languages, namely Tamil, Malay and Mandarin. Signs all over the city-state are in English and the trend nowadays is speaking in a combination of Singapore’s native slangs and expressions with English, also known as “Singlish”. Try adopting the local habit of ending sentences with extra word like “lah” for that uniquely Singaporean experience.
As expected from a country located 1° north of the equator, Singapore is really humid and hot all year round. From June-September and December-March, expect heavy monsoon rains, with heavier chances during late afternoons, which consequently, is the best recommended time to visit Singapore’s many sites likethe Sentosa, Botanic Garden and Singapore Zoo. Although the latter period of December-March is considered Singapore’s “winter” season, Singapore’s weather is still tropical.
The First in the Region
Singapore is considered a developed nation, a contrast to its other surrounding Asian countries. Naturally, the standard of living is at the high end. Although you can bargain hunt for tasty cuisine at the cheap vendor centres, travelling and vacationing in Singapore requires rigid budget planning.
The Only One of its Kind
With a unique history and a multiplicity of cultures, Singapore is indeed one of a kind. It is truly modernly chic and geographically urbane as well as socially diverse and economically elite, so you should really come and visit this inimitable city, island-state.