Destination Singapore

Singapore is marked in dark green

I was somewhat disappointed when I visited Singapore. I had been to Bali for almost two weeks before visiting the city state and got used to smiling people in the streets, places with charm and character. The city is too clean and the people in the streets where too busy minding their own business to notice the world around them. Though, if you stop them in the streets and talk to them, they are indeed friendly and helpful. They are fluent in English so there should not be any language barriers. In Singapore you may risk getting a S$500 fine for eating or drinking food at the metro or a S$1000 fine for using your bicycle at certain places in the city center. The city does not have it own charm and charisma and could be an industrialized city anywhere in the world. Singapore is a city-state in Southeast Asia. Founded as a British trading colony in 1819, since independence it has become one of the world's most prosperous countries and boasts the world's busiest port. Combining the skyscrapers and subways of a modern, affluent city with a medley of Chinese, Malay and Indian influences and a tropical climate, with tasty food, good shopping and a vibrant nightlife scene, this Garden City makes a great stopover or springboard into the region.

Singapore had been a part of various local empires since it was first inhabited in the second century AD. Modern Singapore was founded as a trading post of the East India Company by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819 with permission from the Sultanate of Johor. The British obtained full sovereignty over the island in 1824 and Singapore became one of the British Straits Settlements in 1826. Singapore was occupied by the Japanese in World War II and reverted to British rule after the war. It became internally self-governing in 1959. Singapore united with other former British territories to form Malaysia in 1963 and became a fully independent state two years later after separation from Malaysia. Since then, it has had a massive increase in wealth, and is one of the Four Asian Tigers. The economy depends heavily on the industry and service sectors. Singapore is a world leader in several areas: It is the world's fourth-leading financial center, the world's second-biggest casino gambling market, and the world's third-largest oil refining center. The port of Singapore is one of the five busiest ports in the world, most notable for being the busiest transshipment port in the world. The country is home to more US dollar millionaire households per capita than any other country. The World Bank notes Singapore as the easiest place in the world to do business. When Singapore became independent from the United Kingdom in 1963, most of the newly minted Singaporean citizens were uneducated labourers from China, Malaysia and India. Because of this the diversity in culture is great in Singapore. Due to scarcity of land, four out of five Singaporeans live in subsidized, high-rise, public housing apartments. Singaporeans generally take off their shoes before entering their homes. As with most Commonwealth countries, vehicles on the road and people walking on the streets keep to the left. Unlike some Western countries and ASEAN countries in the Golden Triangle, Singapore does not have a culture of recreational drug use. The country has strict laws against drug use and has one of the lowest rates of drug use in the world. Singaporean employees work an average of around 45 hours weekly, which is relatively long compared to many other nations. Three in four Singaporean employees surveyed stated that they take pride in doing their work well, and that doing so helps their self-confidence.

General information about Singapore
Singapore is a small country on a small island, but with just over five million people it is a fairly crowded city and in fact second only to Monaco as the world's most densely populated country. However, unlike many other densely populated countries, Singapore has over 50% of its area covered by greenery and with over 50 major parks and 4 nature reserves, it is an enchanting garden city. Large self-contained residential towns mushroomed all over the island, around the clean and modern city center. The center of the city located in the south — consisting roughly of the Orchard road shopping area, the Riverside, the new downtown Marina Bay area and also the skyscrapers-filled Shenton way financial district known in acronym-loving Singapore as the CBD (Central Business District). In 2011, the population of Singapore is 5.18 million people, of whom 3.25 million are Singaporean citizens while the rest are permanent residents or foreign workers. 23% of Singaporean citizens were born outside Singapore. English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil are the official languages but of these English is the most common language. English is the medium of instruction in schools, except for mother tongue subjects. Due to the demographics they may lean Malay, Mandarin and Tamil in addition to English. However, the distinctive local patois Singlish may be hard to understand at times, as it incorporates slang words and phrases from other languages, including various Chinese dialects, Malay and Tamil as well as English words whose pronunciation or meaning have been corrupted.

Travel to Singapore
Singapore is one of Southeast Asia's largest aviation hubs, so unless you're coming from Peninsular Malaysia the easiest way to enter Singapore is by air. There are direct services to Europe, the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand, North America, and even South Africa from/to Singapore. Air Asia, Firefly, Jetstar Asia, SilkAir and SilkAir" target="blank">Singapore Airlines offers flights from various destinations in Asia. If you have planned to travel to or from Singapore from Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Bandar Utama or Bandang Sunway Aeroline is a good option. Aeroline is using double deckers with comfortable leather seats. Singapore is the southern terminus of Malaysia's Keretapi Tanah Melayu network. There are two day trains and a sleeper service from Kuala Lumpur, and also a day train and sleeper daily between Singapore and Gua Musang (Lambian Timur) or Tumpat (Ekspres Timuran), near Kota Bharu in the East Coast of Malaysia. Trains are clean and fairly efficient, but slower than buses. Ferries link Singapore with neighboring Indonesian province of Riau Islands, and the Malaysian state of Johor. Singapore has four ferry terminals which handle international ferries: HarbourFront (formerly World Trade Centre) near the southern part of the Central Business District, Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal on the East Coast, as well as Changi Ferry Terminal and Changi Point Ferry Terminal, at the eastern extremity of the island. Star Cruises offers multi-day cruises from Singapore to points throughout Southeast Asia, departing from HarbourFront FT. Itineraries vary widely and change from one year to the next. Travelling within Singapore is a small place, and the city center is easily accessible on foot. If you want to get somewhere faster you may use the public transportation system which is easy to use. The MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) and LRT (Light Rail Transit) are trains that are the main trunk of Singapore's transit system. They are a cheap and very reliable mode of transportation, and the network covers most points of interest for the visitor. All train lines use contactless RFID tickets. Just tap to scan your train ticket at the gantry when entering and exiting the train service area. Tourist-oriented bumboats cruise the Singapore River, offering point-to-point rides starting from $3 and cruises with nice views of the CBD skyscraper skyline starting from $13.

Places to sleep
Accommodation in Singapore is expensive by South-East Asian standards. Particularly in the higher price brackets, demand has been outstripping supply recently and during big events like the F1 race or some of the larger conventions it's not uncommon for pretty much everything to sell out. Check out, for hotels and for hostels. Check out as well.

Money and banking
Singapore Dollar (shortened to S$), which is divided into 100 cent, is the official currency in Singapore. In December 2011 1 S$ ~ 1.23 US$. ATMs is found everywhere and most credit cards are acceptet anywhere. Restaurants often display prices like $19.99++, which means that service charge (10%) and sales tax (7%) are not included and will be added to your bill. When you see NETT, it means it includes all taxes and service charges. Tipping is generally not practiced in Singapore. Singapore is expensive by Asian standards but affordable compared with some industrialised countries. In general, prices in Singapore are about twice as high as in Malaysia and Thailand and 3-5 times as high as in Indonesia and the Philippines.

Vaccine and health
Singapore has a generally efficient healthcare system, even with a health expenditure relatively low for developed countries. Because of the high standard on medical facilities compared to its neighbour states you might be transferred to a hospital in Singapore if you get sick while traveling Asia. Tap water is drinkable unless indicated. Restaurants and other places selling food are visited regularly by health inspectors. Before visiting Singapore you should get a vaccine for Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Tuberculosis. Certificate of vaccination against Yellow fever is required if you arrive from an infected area. Visa Most nationalities can enter Singapore and get a visa on arrival. Inhabitants of certain countries need to get a visa before they arrive Singapore. Entry permit duration depends on nationality and entry point: most people get 14 or 30 days, although EU, Norwegian, Swiss and US passport holders get 90 days. Citizens of some CIS countries (Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan) can transit 4 days without visa, if having tickets to a third country. Crime Singapore is one of the safest major cities in the world by virtually any measure. Most people, including single female travelers, will not face any problems walking along the streets alone at night. But as the local police say, "low crime does not mean no crime" — beware of pickpockets in crowded areas and don't forget your common sense entirely. Singapore has very strict drug laws, and drug trafficking carries a mandatory death penalty — which is also applied to foreigners. Even if you technically haven't entered Singapore and are merely transiting while in possession of drugs, you would still be subject to capital punishment. The paranoid might also like to note that in Singapore, it is an offence even to have any drug metabolites in your system, even if they were consumed outside Singapore, and Customs occasionally does spot urine tests at the airport. In addition, bringing in explosives or firearms without a permit is also a capital offence in Singapore. For some crimes, most notably illegal entry and overstaying your visa for over 90 days, Singapore imposes caning as a punishment. Other offenses which have caning as a punishment include vandalism, robbery, molestation and rape. In 1994 Michael P. Fay was sentenced to four months in jail, a fine of 3,500 Singapore dollars and six strokes of the cane. Even of you are a tourist the authorities in Singapore will punish you if you break their laws. Caning is a widely used form of legal corporal punishment. It is reserved for male criminals aged under 50, for a wide range of offences under the Criminal Procedure Code. Some physical damage may be inflicted, depending on the number of strokes. In case of a larger number of strokes the caning will leave scars for life. Do note that having sex with a girl under the age of 16 is considered to be rape under Singapore law, regardless of whether the girl consents to it and would land you a few strokes of the cane. This is no slap on the wrist: strokes from the thick rattan cane are excruciatingly painful, take weeks to heal and scar for life. Corruption is also punishable by caning so under no circumstances should you try to offer a bribe or gratuity to a police officer. Crimes such as murder, kidnapping, unauthorized possession of firearms and drug trafficking are punished with death. Oral and anal sex, long banned under colonial-era sodomy statutes, was legalized for heterosexuals in October 2007. Homosexual contact, however, remains illegal, with a theoretical punishment two years in prison and/or caning. Though this law is rarely enforced and there is a fairly vibrant gay community, gays should still expect legalized discrimination and unaccepting attitudes from locals and government officials.

Begging is illegal in Singapore, but you'll occasionally see beggars on the streets. Most are not Singaporean — even the "monks" dressed in robes, who occasionally pester tourists for donations, are usually bogus. Tourists should be vigilant of taxi scams while in Singapore. Some taxi drivers receive commission for delivering foreigners to certain tourist traps and will employ high-pressure techniques to take you there. If reasonably possible, make sure the place you're going to is open before going there, confirm the place you're going to with the driver before embarking on your journey, and that you wish to go straight there. Do not confuse genuine helpfulness with an attempted scam, though. Bring prescriptions for any medicines you may have with you and obtain prior permission from the Health Sciences Authority before bringing in any sedatives (eg. Valium/diazepam) or strong painkillers (eg. codeine). Hippie types may expect a little extra attention from customs but getting a shave and a haircut is no longer a condition for entry. Duty free allowances for alcohol are 1 L of spirits and up to 2 L of wine or beer per person. Alcohol may not be brought in by persons under the age of 18. There is no duty-free allowance for cigarettes: all cigarettes legally sold in Singapore are stamped "SDPC", and smokers caught with unmarked cigarettes may be fined $500 per pack. Bringing one opened pack is usually tolerated. If you declare your cigarettes or excess booze at customs, you can opt to pay the tax or let the customs officers keep the cigarettes until your departure. The import of chewing gum/tobacco is illegal, but a few sticks for personal consumption are permitted. Tobacco is heavily taxed, and you are not allowed to bring more than one opened pack (not carton, but a single pack!) of cigarettes into the country. This is particularly strictly enforced on the land borders with Malaysia. Many public places including hawker centres have restrictions on smoking, and it is prohibited in public transport as well. There is a total ban on smoking in all air-conditioned places (including pubs and discos), and strict limitations on where you can smoke outside as well. The designated zone should be marked with a yellow outline and may have a sign reading "smoking zone". Pornography, pirated goods and publications by the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Unification Church may not be imported to Singapore, and baggage is scanned at land and sea entry points. In theory, all entertainment media including movies and video games must be sent to the Board of Censors for approval before they can be brought into Singapore, but that is rarely if ever enforced for original (non-pirated) goods. Pirated CDs or DVDs, on the other hand, can land you fines of up to S$1000 per disc. Jaywalking is illegal and punished with fines of $25 and up to three months in jail. Alcohol is haram to Muslims, and most Muslim Singaporeans duly avoid it. While most non-Muslim Singaporeans are not puritanical and enjoy a drink every now and then, do not expect to find the binge-drinking culture that you will find in most Western countries. Unlike in most Western countries, public drunkenness in socially frowned upon in Singapore, and misbehaving yourself under the influence of alcohol will certainly not gain you any respect from Singaporean friends. Do not allow any confrontations to escalate into fights, as the police will be called in, and you will face jail time and possibly caning. Prostitution is tolerated in six designated districts, most notably Geylang, which — not coincidentally — also offers some of the cheapest lodging and best food in the city. The industry maintains a low profile (no go-go bars here) and is not a tourist attraction by any stretch of the word. Legally practising commercial sex workers are required to register with the authorities and attend special clinics for regular sexually transmitted disease screening. However, please be prudent and practice safe sex--although most sex workers will insist on it anyway.

Cuisine and drink in Singapore
Singaporean cuisine is a result of the ethnic diversity of Singapore and a product of centuries of cultural interaction because of Singapore's strategic location. Singapore is justly famous for its food, a unique mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian and Western elements. The most identifiable cuisine in the region is Peranakan or Nonya cuisine, born from the mixed Malay and Chinese communities of what were once the British colonies of the Straits Settlements. The cheapest and most popular places to eat in Singapore are hawker centres. Many Indians and not a few Chinese Buddhists are strictly vegetarian, so Indian stalls may have a number of veggie options and some hawker centres will have a Chinese vegetarian stall or two, often serving up amazing meat imitations made from gluten. Chinese vegetarian food traditionally does not use eggs or dairy products and is thus almost always vegan; Indian vegetarian food, however, often employs cheese and other milk products. Be on your guard in ordinary Chinese restaurants though, as even dishes that appear vegetarian on the menu may contain seafood products like oyster sauce or salted fish — check with the waiter if in doubt. Muslims should look out for halal certificates issued by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS). This is found at practically every Malay stall and many Indian Muslim operations too, but more rarely on outlets run by the Chinese, few of whom are Muslims. That said, the popular Banquet chain of food courts is entirely halal and an excellent choice for safely sampling halal Chinese food. Many, if not all, of the Western fast-food chains in Singapore use halal meat: look for a certificate around the ordering area, or ask a manager if in doubt. A few restaurants skimp on the formal certification and simply put up "no pork, no lard" signs; it's your call if this is good enough for you. Jews will have a harder time as kosher food is nearly unknown in Singapore. Kosher food is still available near Singapore's two synagogues at Oxley Rise and Waterloo Street in the Central Business District. Celiac disease is relatively unheard of in Singapore, so don't expect to find information on menus about whether dishes contain gluten or not. Alcohol is widely available but very expensive due to Singapore's heavy sin taxes. On the other hand, tax-free at Changi Airport has some of the best prices in the world. Tourists flock to the Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel to sample the original Singapore Sling, a sickly sweet pink mix of pineapple juice, gin and more, but locals (almost) never touch the stuff. The tipple of choice in Singapore is the local beer, Tiger. Places to visit in Singapore There are more to see in Singapore but tall buildings. If you want to visit the diversity of culture in Singapore you should visit Chinatown, Little India and Bugis and Kampong Glam, which are the arab and Malay areas in Singapore. If you are interested in nature the zoo, botanical gardens and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve are situated in the north and west districts. Most skyscrapers are situated in Orchard Road which also is the shopping street in Singapore. There are even more skyscrapers along Singapore river and Marina bay areas. Marina Bay Sands is a hotel that dominates the bay area. It consists of three buildings and something that looks like a ship on top. The roof offers a spectacular view so you should enjoy the view if you have the chance. The Marina Bay Sands also got the largest casino in Singapore. If you are looking for snow Snow city is an indoor snow centre.