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 June 27, 2013
    Jamie L.T. Mapa answered the question: Jamie L.T. Mapa

    Should visitors rent a car in Singapore?

    Renting a car in Singapore is not necessary, especially if you're not accustomed to driving on the left side of the road.

    Here are some suggestions on the best ways to get around in the red dot:

    Public transportation: the country has a rather developed train system known as Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) in addition to buses that run through a majority of the country.  There are also free shuttles from some hotels - it's best to check with your hotel's transportation/concierge desk - and major shopping and tourist centers including Chinatown, Orchard Road and Great World City.

    By bike: Singapore is a very convenient country to ride around on your two-wheeler.  You can bike the width of the country if you have time or utilize biking trails along the coast for a view of the South China Sea.

    By taxi: there are a multitude of taxis centrally in Singapore and if you find yourself outside of the central area, taxis can be booked by a simple phone call, text message or utilizing a nifty smart phone app.  When it rains, however, and during weekday peak hours - when most are traveling to and from work - taxis are almost impossible to hail or book.

    On foot: there's no better way to immerse yourself in your surroundings and really experience the culture than by walking.  Wear light clothes, comfortable shoes and bring a small umbrella.

     
  • On June 25, 2013
    Jamie L.T. Mapa answered the question: Jamie L.T. Mapa

    What language is spoken in Singapore?

    Nowadays English is the primary language spoken in Singapore though you'll hear a fair amount of Mandarin spoken by locals - especially at local establishments such as hawker centres and Chinese restaurants and stores.

    With Singapore's independence in 1965, the government decided to promote English as the primary language and mode of teaching in schools.  Students, however, are encouraged to be bilingual with most courses taught in English and a separate language class taught in their native ethnic tongue.

    Since Singapore is now largely a melting pot of cultures, the term 'Singlish' has been used to describe the local tongue; it has been likened to British-English with a local Sing-twist (e.g. lift is elevator, carpark is parking lot, "can" and "cannot" are preferred over "yes" and "no", "la" is tacked on to the end of phrases).

    Malay and Indian (primarily the southern Tamil dialect of India) are also common languages heard and two of the main ethnic groups on the island in addition to Singaporean-Chinese and Eurasian. 
  • On June 24, 2013
    Jamie L.T. Mapa answered the question: Jamie L.T. Mapa

    What are the best food gifts to buy in Singapore?

    Singaporeans love their daily gastronomic staples and are happy to share these goodies in easy-to-pack gifts as souvenirs for visitors.  Below you will find a few food items worth bringing home - or indulging on the flight back - which can be found in both standard groceries and specialty shops:

    Bak Kwa: its literal translation is "dried meat" in Chinese and it is very similar to beef jerky in western cultrure.  The fragrant aroma of candied dried pork, the "traditional bak kwa", from a Bak Kwa shop is hard to miss, especially in Singapore's Chinatown.  These specialty shops do a great job of packaging these square meat slices into containers and vacuum sealing them to ensure the smell and freshness are retained: Kim Hock Guan Bak Kwa - 金福源肉干, 150 South Bridge Road, Chinatown; Kim Hwa Guan, 32 New Market Road, People's Park Food Centre, Chinatown; Bee Cheng Hiang, 28 outlets in Singapore including a stall in Changi International Airport, Terminal 2.

    Kaya Jam: is a light green spread consisting of coconut, eggs, sugar and pandan flavor.  Kaya and toast is as much a staple to any local Singaporean as peanut butter and jelly is to any American.  Here it's served at coffee shops with slices of toast and coffee or milktea and often a side of soft boiled eggs.  Kaya jam is also sold in plastic and glass containers in any Singaporean grocery or food mart including large grocery chain NTUC Fairprice and Cold Storage.  For those who can't wait to try it, you can also visit these popular chains to fulfill your Kaya breakfast needs: Killiney Kopitiam, Ya Kun Kaya Toast and Good Morning Nanyang Cafe.

    Kopi and Teh: these two beverages retain their Malay and Hokkien roots but are more commonly known as coffee and tea outside of Singapore.  Kopi locally is a darker roast with a buttery caramel taste and is thicker than what is served at well-known international chains like Starbucks.  Listed below are a few basic tips to ordering your brew at a local Singaporean coffee shop and brands that offer instant kopi at the aforementioned groceries.


    Kopi: this is the default cup of coffee and is made with sweetened condensed milk (this is already sweet and does not come with additional sugar)
    Kopi C: unsweetened coffee with evaporated milk and sugar (milkier and still sweet, but less than the above option)
    Kopi C Kosong: coffee with evaporated milk, but no sugar
    Kopi O: coffee with no milk, but with sugar
    Kopi O Kosong: coffee with no milk and no sugar
    Brands for purchasing instant kopi: Owl, Gold Kili, 434 Kopi
     
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  • On June 24, 2013
    Jamie L.T. Mapa answered the question: Jamie L.T. Mapa

    What is the weather like right now in Singapore?

    Singapore is currently 30 degrees Celsius/86 degrees Fahrenheit and typically remains around this temperature through July.  As the dry season starts in Indonesia, however, fears for a hazy Singapore loom until September.  Last week witnessed unprecedented levels of air pollution in Singapore and Malaysia caused by fires in Indonesia and wind blowing smoke from Sumatra.  With the Pollution Standard Index (PSI) reaching an all time hazardous high in Singapore of 401 last Friday, June 21st - the high in 2006 was 150 - locals were seen donning surgical masks and scarves with a majority of retail shops selling out of face masks. 

    The PSI has dropped drastically the last two days though and the Singapore skyline was visible all day and night on Monday, June 24th.  There is hope for clear skies over the next few weeks with both governments communicating and working closely together.  
  • On June 23, 2013
    Jamie L.T. Mapa answered the question: Jamie L.T. Mapa

    What are the best rooftop bars in Singapore?

    Singapore has a remarkable skyline with over 4,300 highrises, the Singapore Flyer and Marina Bay Sands.  Here are a few places where you can marvel at the lights when the sun goes down while sipping on a cocktail:

    Ku De Ta: is located atop Marina Bay Sands and spans 40,000 square feet, 200 meters above sea level.  With a renowned restaurant, indoor and outdoor lounge, and an infinity pool open to hotel guests, Ku De Ta is the perfect venue for visitors.  Weekend nights tend to be the busiest so expect a long queue in the Sands' lobby and come dressed in your dancing club attire.  Remember to bring your camera to capture the view of the central business district across the bay.

    Lantern: is the Fullerton Hotel's rooftop bar also located on the Marina Bay waterfront facing Marina Bay Sands.  Hotel guests can swim in the rooftop pool while visitors can enjoy a cocktail at an outdoor table or on one of the canopy style beds.  Lantern has a casual atmosphere reminiscent of an upscale South Beach lounge.  It is recommended to visit around 8pm or 9:30pm during the 15 minute light and water show presented across the bay by Marina Bay Sands.    

    1-Altitude: is the world's highest alfresco gastrobar and is located at Level 63, One Raffles Place.  The Gallery & Bar offers breathtaking 360 degree views of Singapore, premium cocktails and food options.  In addition to the rooftop bar, 1-Altitude has six golf simulators (Citygolf, level 61) and Stellar, a fine dining restaurant serving western cuisine on level 62.  The lower levels likewise offer views with floor-to-ceiling windows. 
  • On June 23, 2013
    Jamie L.T. Mapa answered the question: Jamie L.T. Mapa

    What are the best rooftop bars in Singapore?

    Singapore has a remarkable skyline with over 4,300 high rises, the Singapore Flyer and Marina Bay Sands.  Here are a few places where you can marvel at the lights when the sun goes down while sipping on a cocktail:

    Ku De Ta: is located atop Marina Bay Sands and spans 40,000 square feet, 200 meters above sea level.  With a renowned restaurant, indoor and outdoor lounge, and an infinity pool open to hotel guests, Ku De Ta is the perfect venue for visitors.  Weekend nights tend to be the busiest so expect a long queue in the Sands' lobby and come dressed in your dancing club attire.  Remember to bring your camera to capture the view of the central business district across the bay.

    Lantern: is the Fullerton Hotel's rooftop bar also located on the Marina Bay waterfront facing Marina Bay Sands.  Hotel guests can swim in the rooftop pool while visitors can enjoy a cocktail at an outdoor table or on one of the canopy style beds.  Lantern has a casual atmosphere reminiscent of an upscale South Beach lounge.  It is recommended to visit around 8pm or 9:30pm during the 15 minute light and water show presented across the bay by Marina Bay Sands.    

    1-Altitude: is the world's highest alfresco gastrobar and is located at Level 63, One Raffles Place.  The Gallery & Bar offers breathtaking 360 degree views of Singapore, premium cocktails and food options.  In addition to the rooftop bar, 1-Altitude has six golf simulators (Citygolf, level 61) and Stellar, a fine dining restaurant serving western cuisine on level 62.  The lower levels likewise offer views with floor-to-ceiling windows. 
  • On May 21, 2013
    Jamie L.T. Mapa answered the question: Jamie L.T. Mapa

    What are the best Singapore food experiences?

    Singapore is a 'foodie' heaven attracting epicureans worldwide to sample its decadent local cuisine. The country represents a diverse mix of southeast asian cultures evident in its fusion of local staples including chicken rice, chili crab, laksa, char kway teow, roti prata and carrot cake. What is the ultimate local food experience and one place where visitors can sample all of Singapore's famous gastronomical pleasures? The hawker center.

    Hawker centers are open-air complexes housing a multitude of stalls, each with their own speciality. These centers were first created in the 1950s-60s in urban areas as an inexpensive food option for the less affluent. Fast forward to the present and, while this food alternative is still quite economical, it is acknowledged by locals and foreigners alike that hawker centers offer diners the most authentic, traditional and delicious local Singaporean delights in the country.

    Please keep in mind that each local resident will have their own favorite stall and hawker depending on the dish, resulting in quite a lengthy debate. Instead of recommending the best chicken rice stall here, please find the most well known hawker centers in the country worth visiting.  At these recommended hawkers, there are certainly enough delicious and satisfying options where you can sample a variety of dishes and choose your own favorite one:
    • Old Airport Road Food Centre: Old Airport Road near Mountbatten MRT station and not far from Singapore's Indoor Stadium
    • Chomp Chomp Food Centre: located centrally in Serangoon
    • Maxwell Road: Maxwell Road near Chinatown
    • Hong Lim: Chinatown near Upper Hokien and Upper Cross Streets
    • Tiong Bahru Market: Seng Poh Road located in between Tiong Bahru and Outram Park MRT stations
    • Golden Mile: Beach Road near Bugis MRT station and Arab Street
    • Amoy Street: Amoy Street near Tanjong Pagar MRT station and located near the financial district
  • On May 21, 2013
    Jamie L.T. Mapa answered the question: Jamie L.T. Mapa

    What should I pack for a trip to Singapore?

    With its equatorial location, Singapore experiences a consistent tropical climate year round with hardly any seasonal differences like autumn and winter.  Humidity is high (70-90%) with day temperatures averaging 32 degrees celsius (89 degrees fahrenheit) slightly dropping to an average of 26 degrees celsius (79 degrees fahrenheit) at night.  While rainfall occurs almost daily throughout the year, December through March is known as Northeast Monsoon Season and is the wettest time to visit.  June through September is typically the driest stretch during the year with sporadic rain.

    Light weather attire such as shorts, tank tops, cotton shirts, short-sleeved polos, linens and summer dresses are recommended clothing when visiting.  Flip flops/sandals are daily wear for men and women and if dining or going out on the town at night, remember to pack a pair of dress shoes and button down shirts for gentlemen.  A great way to view the country is by taking a stroll or going for a run along the Singapore river; packing a pair of comfortable walking or jogging sneakers is advisable.  Since the climate is hot year round and with Sentosa Beach nearby, do not forget to bring your beach/swimming gear.  Travel accessories worth considering include a camera, sunscreen, bugspray, an umbrella (which most hotels will accommodate) and hair supplies (such as hairspray or gel).
  • On May 21, 2013
    Jamie L.T. Mapa answered the question: Jamie L.T. Mapa

    What’s the best time to visit Singapore?

    Singapore is a vibrant city all year round with events taking place monthly.  There are, nonetheless, certain annual activities you can plan your visit around including the:
    • Singapore Grand Prix also known as Formula 1 race which attracts mainstream musical acts and visitors worldwide (Singapore is contracted to host through 2017);
    • Great Singapore Sale offers eight weeks of value deals at retail shops countrywide coinciding with the Singapore International Jewelry Expo.  This time of year offers special tourist privileges with May 31-July 28, 2013 marking its 20th anniversary;
    • Singapore Food Festival: Singapore local cuisine is renowned around the globe representing a melting pot of southeast asian delights.  It's only fitting that the country displays their culinary skills and artistry at a food festival typically held in June or July.  This year likewise marks the festival’s 20th anniversary from July 12th-21st at Marina Bay;
    • Christmas in the Tropics: while Singaporeans may not experience a true 'white Christmas', the country still celebrates with well-known carols, extravagant decorations and a marvelous light show during a month long festival in December when Orchard Road beams red, green and white. 

    The annual Chingay Parade takes place during Chinese New Year, however it’s also important to note that most retail shops and restaurants close for two days during this holiday.  Chinese New Year is in January or February depending on the lunar calendar.
  • On November 12, 2011
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    Where can I go to watch sports in Singapore?

    To watch the International Rugby Sevens tournament as well as regular cricket, soccer and field hockey games, the Singapore Cricket Club is the destination. Established in 1852, it has had three clubhouse buildings on its historic site on the Padang. Moveable rafters are the seats at this outdoor, limited-sheltered arena.

    The Jalan Besar Stadium hosted the 2011 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and continues to be the home base for regional and national soccer games. This venue, which survived World War II, is also the birthplace of Singapore football and has a seating capacity of 6,000. It was one of the host sites for the first Youth Summer Olympics in 2010, and Pele and Eric Cantona have conducted meet-and-greets there.

    Those wanting to mix sports and betting should head to the Singapore Racecourse. It’s the country’s second venue for thoroughbred horse racing and betting, having replaced the Bukit Timah Race Course in 2000. Go there to see the Singapore Airlines International Cup, Singapore Derby and KrisFlyer International Sprint in addition to other domestic races.

    The Singapore Polo Club, also known as the Singapore Grounds, is not simply a viewing ground for polo, but also one for the Asia Gaelic Athletics Association Hurling and Gaelic Football games. It was built by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II in its attempt to cultivate national identity, but has since become a spot for Singaporean sports fans.
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