What are the best day trips near Singapore?

Jamie L.T. Mapa

It is easy to assume that Singapore is only one island, but most - even those living on the main island - often forget that Singaore is actually comprised of 63 different islands.  The largest and main island is referred to as Singapore Island or Palau Ujong, which literally means island at the end in Malay.

If you are spending some time in Singapore and looking for a different experience outside of Orchard Road and Clarke Quay, here are a few ideas for day trips near the main island:


Pulau Ubin: is one of the remaining areas of Singapore that has not been urbanized, retaining its old world rural charm.  Many say if you're looking for life in Singapore decades ago, then just hop on a bumboat to Pulau Ubin and you would have travelled time in just 15 minutes and S$2.50 later.  There are approximately 100 villagers residing on the 10km island and the main mode of transportation are bicycles.  Bikes can be rented near the jetty once you step foot on the island.  Though finding your way around the island should be much easier than decoding the bus map on the main island, residents are nonetheless very helpful (with some even offering invites into their oldschool bungalow homes, clearly created before the highrise condominiums) and happy to see visitors.  There is one local eatery on the island not far from the jetty and a wetland reserve on the southeast coast which you can bike to for a coastal beach view.

Sentosa: is located on the main island of Singapore and is comprised of resorts and reclaimed land with man-made beaches using sand from Indonesia and Malaysia.  While Sentosa can be reached by car, the easiest way to get to the island during the day is via the Sentosa Express monorail from the Harbourfront MRT station.  Total commute time is ~15 minutes and transportation on the island is free with the exception of taxis.

Sentosa is a great way to spend a day in Singapore or plan a staycation at for couples and families.  There is the Forbes four star rated property Capella which also houses the five star rated Auriga Spa.  Other popular accommodations on the island include Shangri-la Rasa, W Sentosa Cove, and Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa.

Shortly after the entrance into the island there is the Resorts World complex - Singapore's first casino and home to Universal Studios theme park, a hotel and shopping malls.

Activities on the island include Sentosa Golf Club, the only golf course in Singapore open to the public and the location of the annual Barclays Open; Wavehouse, an artificial wave creator where you can learn to surf; ziplining and the luge and skyride.  After a day of fun in the sun, indulge in a dinner at one of the acclaimed restaurants opened by these world renowned chefs: Joël Robuchon's restaurant at Hotel Michael, the recently opened Ocean Restaurant at Resorts World by Iron Chef Cat Cora or the japanese restaurant and chef kunio tokuoka joining his fellow michelin rated chef.  

  • On November 14, 2013
    Jo Soh answered the question: Jo Soh

    What are the best neighborhoods in Singapore?

    I grew up and went to school in the Siglap neighborhood. It’s right by East Coast Park and the sea. Because I grew up there, I feel very comfortable there. I just love being close to the sea.

    Marine Parade is also a great neighborhood, and the best part about it is that it is right next to the sea. Long walks along the beach at East Coast Park are always a favorite relaxing activity. Marine Parade is also right next to Katong, which is filled with eateries serving both local and international cuisine.
  • On November 14, 2013
    Jo Soh answered the question: Jo Soh

    What are the best things to do in Singapore?

    1. Haw Par Villa. It’s weird, wonderful and a little macabre. It’s this really old park that’s free in entry and built by the Aw Brothers [Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par]. They used all these plaster of Paris sculptures to depict Chinese folklore. There are really weird things like women that are half-crab, half-woman, or people that have a head of a cow and the body of a human being — it’s kind of weird. The statues always tell some moralistic story. There’s the Ten Courts of Hell [exhibit], which all Singaporean kids get dragged through to scar them for life; maybe that’s how Singapore stays crime-free.

    2. The Southern Ridges. It is a great [6.2-mile] walk. It takes you maybe an hour or two. It guides you through lots of lush greenery and great views. I like to go walking a lot.

    3. Tiong Bahru. The old Tiong Bahru neighborhood is very popular. It’s an old housing estate built in the 1930s, so it’s all low-rise Art Deco buildings. Now, it’s got more restaurants and is becoming quite a popular place to visit. I enjoy the food at modern restaurants such as Open Door Policy, and at the same time, I also like to visit the Tiong Bahru Food Market & Hawker Centre — my personal sinful favorite is the roasted pork.
  • On November 14, 2013
    Jo Soh answered the question: Jo Soh

    What are the best museums in Singapore?

    There are a number of museums. There’s the National Museum of Singapore, the Singapore Art Museum, the Asian Civilisations Museum. The ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands is the best. I find it the most interesting because it brings in shows that involve design, which I’m interested in. The rest of the museums are all like fine art, Asian art or local heritage.
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  • On November 14, 2013
    Jo Soh answered the question: Jo Soh

    What are the best restaurants in Singapore?

    I would say Kok Sen Coffee Shop on Keong Saik Road is one of the best Chinese restaurants. They call it zi char; basically, they just cook a variety of different dishes. They have this amazing dish called the “Golden Dragon Chicken” that isn’t actually chicken. The so-called flesh is actually made of seafood paste. It looks like a roasted chicken spread out with the wings and everything, but the meat inside is actually seafood paste — it’s kind of weird, but wonderful.

    There’s one called The Big Sheila. It’s in this little neighborhood in Opera Estate. It’s run by an Australian lady [Fleur Glover]. Her food is down to earth; it’s homemade style. I really don’t like itsy bitsy fine-dining food. The Big Sheila turns even the humble Scotch egg into a gastronomical heaven. It's Glover's signature approach to food — hearty, homemade and very tasty. Her portions are generous, too, and overall her dishes are as big as her personality.

    Because I’m a big veggie girl, I like The Garden on Sentosa. I think it’s the best hidden secret for vegetarians. They don’t serve just vegetarian food — they do serve meat — but when they do vegetarian, they do it really well. It gives me my ultimate feel-good fix. They practice what they call "conscious dining" where they prepare fresh, premium produce with a focus on retaining their natural goodness and flavor. Their self-constructed salads allow you to choose what makes up your salad from quality ingredients. (I always go for the larger “bucket” portions.) They have an absolutely delicious fennel risotto, and the one dish that really tips the experience over the edge is the wild mushroom soup made from boudin blanc, shimeji mushroom and leek ravioli. They might as well call it the "magic mushroom soup."
  • On November 14, 2013
    Jo Soh answered the question: Jo Soh

    What are the best places to stay in Singapore?

    I haven’t stayed in it yet, but I love [Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star] The Fullerton Bay Hotel. It’s so beautiful. It’s not the biggest hotel — it’s cozy — but it’s just so well designed. It’s not over the top glitzy. It’s got some kind of Art Deco-style touch to it. I like that one.
  • On November 14, 2013
    Jo Soh answered the question: Jo Soh

    What’s the best time of year to visit Singapore?

    Because I’m in retail, Christmas! Everybody spends. Maybe it’s more commercial here during Christmas but it’s still a lot fun. It’s my favorite time of year because my work means a lot to me because it’s my company. I enjoy meeting people in the shop. Everything has fairy lights. Everyone is eating and drinking. It’s fun.
  • On July 2, 2013
    Jamie L.T. Mapa answered the question: Jamie L.T. Mapa

    What are the best outdoor activities in Singapore?

    Singapore is a very outdoorsy country, mainly due to the weather.  While it does rain almost weekly, and usually for a short amount of time, it's expected to be consistently hot and humid all year round which makes planning activities and abiding to outdoor routines easier.

    Marathons and running groups have been all the craze on the little island with over 50 races planned since the start of 2013.  Singapore has sits own Runners Group (SGRunners.com) with a race calendar and regularly scheduled practice runs throughout the country.

    Staying with the athletic route, there are several bike and walking paths including four hiking paths to Singapore's highest peak at the Bukit Timah Natural Reserve.  The National Parks Board offers free guided tours at 9:25am every third Saturday of the month.  It may not be Mount Everest, but the view from 535 feet up from a forrest is quite stunning.

    For those looking to experience the outdoors with a little less athletic activity, Singapore attracts Billboard topping mainstage talent and has likewise been a great breeding ground for local 'up and coming' singers and bands.  Aerosmith, Psy and Ceelo Green recently graced the outdoor stage at Gardens By the Bay and Rihanna, The Killers and Justin Bieber are scheduled acts for the annual F1 Race in September.  Occasionally you will find free of charge events - in a country often cited as being one of the most expensive to live in - such as Baybeats: a showcase of Singaporean and regional bands hailing from countries like Malaysia, Korea and the Philippines; 20+ acts and thousands gather at the outdoor Esplanade Theatre located at the mouth of the Singapore River for three days annually.  You may want to check out SISTIC, Singapore's ticket central, for more information on tickets and upcoming events.

    Other music festivals and outdoor activities focused on the arts are often held at Fort Canning and East Coast Park along with outdoor movies (some with a drive-in theme) and the country's annual Shakespeare in the Park.

    Singapore is an outdoor traveler's dream adventure; make sure you spend some time exploring the hidden gems the country has to offer! 
  • On July 1, 2013
    Jamie L.T. Mapa answered the question: Jamie L.T. Mapa

    What are the best neighborhoods in Singapore?

    Like any country, Singapore has a number of neighborhoods, each with its own style and feel.  When you visit, expect to see a skyline filled with skyscrapers and bright lights as the Republic is often referred to as the financial centre and hub in southeast Asia.  During the day, the Central Business District is bustling with locals and expats alike, businessmen and women shuffling from one meeting to the next in the sweltering heat.  At night however, like Wall Street, most of the CBD shuts down.  Here’s a look at a few neighborhoods and what to expect during daytime and nighttime play.

    CBD: is one of the most expensive districts to live in as a result of its proximity to, well, itself.  A majority of the financial institutions reside in the CBD so commuting to work is a breeze.  During the day, there are a bunch of lunch options including hawker centres at food courts like Lau Pa Sat, Golden Shoe Food Centre and Asia Square.  At night however there are limited food options bar a 24 hour McDonalds.  The best way to experience the CBD at night would be from the top – of a building that is.  There are rooftop bars on some of the tallest structures in Singapore which offer a fantastic view of the city skyline.

    The Quays: Starting at the mouth of the Singapore you’ll find Boat Quay, followed by Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay.  Boat Quay has a string of bars and pubs and some decent restaurants, mostly frequented by the Happy Hour after-work crowd.  Less than 1km up the river directly after Boat Quay is Clarke Quay.  Clarke Quay is the most touristy of the Quays and has an animated pixar-esque feel to it.  The food is commercial (if you look close enough, you will find a Hooters and Chili’s on the stretch), but the view from the main bridge crossing the Singapore River is worth a 30 minute trip.  It’s a great location for people watching; just don’t be surprised to see locals propped up on the bridge with a bottle of their favorite alcohol and mixer enjoying the sights.  Following Clarke Quay is Robertson Quay.  Robertson Quay has a more family and residential feel to it and is a popular location for weekend brunches and dog walking.  There is delicious Japanese food in the area and an eclectic mix of sports, whiskey, wine and sake bars.

    Tiong Bahru: this is Singapore’s up and coming hipster vibe neighborhood likened to Williamsburg or the Mission; it is perfect for Foodies or vintage goers looking to experience a more localized Singapore.  You will find a mix of acclaimed local food in the area with Tiong Bahru Food Market and Hawker Centre and local staples like Por Kee Eating House.  A mix of old meets new is the best way to describe Tiong Bahru – within one of the oldest neighborhoods in the country, you’ll also find modernized fare including the Orange Thimble, a café and gelato shop, and Open Door Policy (OPD) a western themed restaurant that’s as refreshing as an ice cold beer on a hot Singaporean day. 

    Emerald Hill:  is home to Ice Cold Beer, an establishment known for its wings as much as its beer, located in a shophouse built in the early 1900s.  Emerald Hill is situated near Orchard Road and is comprised of a short stretch of bars and restaurants which were once owned by the country’s wealthiest Peranakans.  A few well-known establishments other than Ice Cold Beer include No. 5 Emerald Hill, Que Pasa and Peranakan Place.

    Orchard Road: is the Fifth Avenue, Beverly Hills or Avenue des Champs-Élysées of Singapore.  From high-end designers to worldwide department stores, Orchard Road can cater to all of your shopping needs.  The neighborhood is one of the most expensive to reside in with towering condominiums and is easily accessible via public transportation or taxi.  Surrounded by extravagant malls, hotels and dining options, Orchard Road is a must visit for any traveller.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Jamie L.T. Mapa answered the question: Jamie L.T. Mapa

    What are the best day trips near Singapore?

    It is easy to assume that Singapore is only one island, but most - even those living on the main island - often forget that Singaore is actually comprised of 63 different islands.  The largest and main island is referred to as Singapore Island or Palau Ujong, which literally means island at the end in Malay.

    If you are spending some time in Singapore and looking for a different experience outside of Orchard Road and Clarke Quay, here are a few ideas for day trips near the main island:


    Pulau Ubin: is one of the remaining areas of Singapore that has not been urbanized, retaining its old world rural charm.  Many say if you're looking for life in Singapore decades ago, then just hop on a bumboat to Pulau Ubin and you would have travelled time in just 15 minutes and S$2.50 later.  There are approximately 100 villagers residing on the 10km island and the main mode of transportation are bicycles.  Bikes can be rented near the jetty once you step foot on the island.  Though finding your way around the island should be much easier than decoding the bus map on the main island, residents are nonetheless very helpful (with some even offering invites into their oldschool bungalow homes, clearly created before the highrise condominiums) and happy to see visitors.  There is one local eatery on the island not far from the jetty and a wetland reserve on the southeast coast which you can bike to for a coastal beach view.

    Sentosa: is located on the main island of Singapore and is comprised of resorts and reclaimed land with man-made beaches using sand from Indonesia and Malaysia.  While Sentosa can be reached by car, the easiest way to get to the island during the day is via the Sentosa Express monorail from the Harbourfront MRT station.  Total commute time is ~15 minutes and transportation on the island is free with the exception of taxis.

    Sentosa is a great way to spend a day in Singapore or plan a staycation at for couples and families.  There is the Forbes four star rated property Capella which also houses the five star rated Auriga Spa.  Other popular accommodations on the island include Shangri-la Rasa, W Sentosa Cove, and Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa.

    Shortly after the entrance into the island there is the Resorts World complex - Singapore's first casino and home to Universal Studios theme park, a hotel and shopping malls.

    Activities on the island include Sentosa Golf Club, the only golf course in Singapore open to the public and the location of the annual Barclays Open; Wavehouse, an artificial wave creator where you can learn to surf; ziplining and the luge and skyride.  After a day of fun in the sun, indulge in a dinner at one of the acclaimed restaurants opened by these world renowned chefs: Joël Robuchon's restaurant at Hotel Michael, the recently opened Ocean Restaurant at Resorts World by Iron Chef Cat Cora or the japanese restaurant and chef kunio tokuoka joining his fellow michelin rated chef.  
  • On June 30, 2013
    Jamie L.T. Mapa answered the question: Jamie L.T. Mapa

    What is public transportation like in Singapore?

    The public transportation system in Singapore is quite developed and the main mode of getting around as owning a car can be a costly investment.  Listed below are different options for getting around the island and some helpful tips:

    Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) - Train and Bus: The MRT is Singapore's main rail line spanning a majority of the country.  There are four lines currently categorized by colors - Red (Northsouth Line), Purple (Northeast Line), Green (Eastwest Line) and Orange (Circle Line) - with an additional blue line (Downtown Line) under development.  For other neighborhoods - mainly residential - there is the Light Rail Transit (LRT) categorized by a grey line on the train map.  Trains start operating at 5:30am and most lines have their last ride between 12AM and 1AM.  Unlike subway lines in a few other countries, Singapore's train stations are extremely clean and safe with an organized queuing system during rush hour.

    There are also thousands of buses - single and double deckers - with a multitude of bus stops and routes.  There are minimal late night buses as well, but a taxi would be the best bet if you're out in the evening after 11pm.  More information on bus routes and times and the MRT map can be found here: www.publictransport.sg

    Taxis:  Taxis are relatively affordable in Singapore and is therefore a common form of transport for residents and visitors.  Depending on the time of day, most taxis charge ~SG$3.20 as their base fare.  There will be additional charges during peak hours, if you're boarding in the Central Business District and late night service.  There are eight different taxi companies in Singapore with ComfortDelgro as the largest of the eight managing over 15,000 taxis.  A tip: you may want to avoid the "premier" taxis known as limocabs which are often black or white (Mercedes or Chevrolet) as their base fare and per meter charge is higher.

    Taxis can be hailed in most areas - though the Central Business District has designated taxi stands - and can also be booked via phone, text/sms and utilizing a web based app.  They run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 
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