Singapore is a thriving, modern and developed city, an island of modernity in an otherwise chaotic Southeast Asia. Stamford Raffles is normally credited with the city’s establishment in 1819, the small town rapidly becoming the administrative and trading centre for the whole of Malaya during the nineteenth century. The city streets still reflect the British heritage with museums, law courts, restaurants and shops all house in revamped colonial buildings. There is also strong Chinese, Indian and Malay influence, reflected in the architecture and scattering of mosques and temples. Since independence – first from the British and then from Malaysia in the mid twentieth century – the city has developed rapidly, becoming one of the foremost business hubs in the region. The small island has much to offer. From theatre and the arts, to a small but buzzing bar and restaurant scene to rival any Asian city, along with a fair helping of green space, forested areas and islands for hiking and cycling, the city really has something for everyone.
One thing that Singaporeans never tire of is the array of shopping malls, bars and places to eat. Almost every street has a variety of eateries offering global cuisine from Vietnamese, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Malay, and French to healthy salad bars, cafes, and bakeries. First time visitors will appreciate the area around Chinatown, especially Club Street, Ann Siang Road, and Duxton Hill where locals, expats and tourists spend the night bar hopping.
Two of the best things for me about Singapore are the excellent urban planning and safety. Singapore is a very walkable city, easily navigable with ample shaded streets when it hits midday. The public transport (MRT) is well connected, fast, efficient and cheap.
The climate is tropical, averaging 30° all year round. Pack sun cream, insect repellent (mosquito borne dengue fever is common), an umbrella (tropical downpours) and…a cardigan. Yes, you heard me correctly, almost all indoor spaces max the air con so high that it is really an essential item.
Local business etiquette and customs
There are few cultural taboos with regard to dress or behaviour but always dress respectfully if you plan to visit a religious site.
travel and transport
The MRT remains the best and cheapest way to get around Singapore: https://www.lta.gov.sg/content/ltaweb/en/public-transport/mrt-and-lrt-trains/train-system-map.html. Taxis can be hailed on the street, but most people use Grab Taxi or Uber. Peak hours can be expensive but otherwise, taxi prices are reasonable.
Dining and bars
Where to start…? For an overview, check TimeOut listings; thehoneycombers.com; or www.hungrygowhere.com. For some tried and tested recommendations: for tapas try Sabio at the bottom of Duxton Hill www.dhm.com.sg/sabio or La Champaneria cava bar and tapas at the top of the same hill www.lachampaneria.sg/. For Western style food and an excellent view of the marina, Level33 microbrewery works (advance booking essential).
For a great selection of wines by the bottle and casual dining, Drinks and Co on Club Street is always a favourite. Also in the Chinatown area with a slightly higher price tag is Esquina, for some of the best Spanish food outside of Spain: esquina.com.sg. Neon Pigeon offers an eclectic mix of western and eastern food with a great cocktail menu to match: neonpigeonsg.com. A really good fine dining Chinese restaurant is Empress, within the Asian Civilisations Museum, they also have daily happy hour. Further out of the city centre are two bar/restaurants (both with happy hours until 8pm) on St George Street: The Refinery (Japanese/Singaporean) and AEIOU, the latter a slightly hidden, understated place with surprisingly good food.
For high class bars with happy hours, check out Mezza9 at the Hyatt, Scotts Road, Black Swan near Raffles Place MRT for weeknight drinks, or Hi So bar Wednesday Ladies Night (free champagne!) at the Sofitel. Interesting bars/speakeasy include 28 Hong Kong Street (located as the name suggests) or Maison Ikkoku at Kandahar Street http://www.maisonikkoku.co
women’s networks and events
Internations host a women’s group event at least once a month. Check the local timings at http://www.internations.org
beauty and fitness
Trimmings at Robertson Quay has an extensive menu, from waxing to massage, facials and spa treatments: http://www.trimmings.com.sg.
Singapore has a wealth of open spaces for running and exercise. If you are staying centrally, Marina Bay, Marina Barrage and Tanjong Rhu Promenade all offer great running/walking/cycling options. Further north is the Botanic Gardens (MRT Botanic Gardens), or get a short taxi ride to MacRitchie Reservoir where you can run or walk for hours. Also good is the East Coast Park, where you can hire bikes but you will need to get a taxi from town. If you have a free day over a weekend, it’s worth visiting Pulau Ubin, a small island off the north-east coast. Bikes can be hired here. Big gym chains also have outlets in Singapore (e.g. Virgin Active and Fitness First) and you can buy day passes to visit. If you are visiting for work, check corporate options too as many of the gyms do deals with local big businesses. You find however that all the larger, corporate hotels have gyms/pools.
safety and emergency services
Singapore is generally safe for women. Always exercise caution though and get a taxi back to the hotel if you have had a few drinks. As a woman in a new city, rest assured that the crime rate is also low and its generally safe to walk around alone at night.
about fiona williamson
A British expat enjoying living and working in Southeast Asia. I’ve been in the region for five years, recently relocating to Singapore for work. I enjoy the outdoors and am a keen runner. The sunny climate of Singapore is perfect for this! If you have questions about your trip to Singapore, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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