I recently flew into Singapore as an extended lay-over on my way to London Heathrow. Singapore is a popular stop-over destination for New Zealander’s as it’s a pretty sweet destination to break up super-long-haul flights (which are nearly all flights from NZ).
I stayed for an extra long weekend with my cousin (he’s lived there for two years now, the lucky bugger). It was my first time visiting Singapore, and even though I thought I knew what it was going to be like, I really had no idea.
After spending a fun and fulfilling four days exploring this vibrant island, here is what I think every Kiwi traveller needs to know before arriving in Singapore.
Exercise pants are your enemy
Active-wear is great for a flight, there’s no denying that. What it is not great for, is hot sticky humid environments. The tight-tights will stick to your thighs, causing irritation and chaffing and things of the not-fun-now not-fun-later variety (believe me, I know).
It’s all good to wear active wear on the plane, in fact I would encourage that. It’s comfy, and being comfy on a long haul flight is top priority.
However, it is imperative that you change your pants before you land in Singapore. I will say it again in case you missed it. CHANGE YOUR PANTS. Do not under any circumstance exit that aeroplane wearing active-wear made from synthetic tight material.
Take a spare change of clothes to change into. Something like flowy shorts, a dress, a nice maxi skirt, anything that lets air touch your nether regions. You will thank me.
Singapore airport has relaxed customs
Compared to New Zealand, Singapore airport is Cruisey McCruisey when it comes to customs. You can bring pretty much anything into the country (no drugs kids). I walked through without even having my bags checked, just go through the doors. It was incredibly surprising after coming from New Zealand where we check EVERYBODY’S suitcases for food, insects, wood, outdoor matter, foreign bodies of any kind – Singapore just lets you breeze on through. Keep in mind you can only buy one bottle of alcohol at duty free though.
Catch a cab from the airport, it’s cheap
Cabs in Singapore are cheap cheap cheap. Not like New Zealand. When you arrive at the airport, just hop in the taxi lane and catch a cab. It’s easier than public transport and much quicker too. For me to get into central Singapore it cost $20 SGD give or take. Not that much compared to Auckland where it is $50 NZD or more.
During your stay, I would recommend travelling most places by foot or on the MRT (Singapore’s public train/tube system) but if you need to get somewhere that is a little bit further away (like IKEA, yes they have an IKEA) then just call up a taxi, it’s cheap!
Get cash out as soon as you land, you’ll need it
Singapore is very modern and forward thinking in terms of technology, but unlike New Zealand you still need cash at most food outlets. As soon as you land, if you haven’t gotten cash out prior (which I don’t think you need to) find an ATM and get at least $50 SGD cash out so that you can pay for the delicious dinner you’ll have later that night… come on you’re in Singapore, you’ve gotta try the Asian cuisines, there’s so many to choose from.
When you go to a local restaurant or street food market, you’ll primarily need to use cash to pay for your meal as they don’t all support use of cards. It’s a good way to get used to using another currency anyway. I must admit I find it quite fun using cash, in NZ I use my card because EFTPOS is everywhere, so using cash again is quite different!
Singapore is expensive for shopping, unless you know where to go
I was told by friends that Singapore was pretty expensive, especially for shopping. This is true. After my exercise pants debacle (see first point) I required an entirely new outfit. Not knowing where to go, my cousin took me to H&M where I spent $60 SGD on shorts, jandals, and a playsuit. In my opinion, that was a waste of $60 SGD and I do not want you to go through that!
To avoid spending a lot in expensive stores, visit the local markets and hawker centres. Hawker centres are like malls, but instead of big brand retail chains they are full of local independent stalls, often owned by families and local Singaporeans, that sell everything under the sun, food and fruit, souvenirs, knick-knacks, clothing and more. Everything is at really good price and by shopping at hawker centres you are supporting the locals (always makes me feel good).
I went to the Tiong Bahru Markets (which has a food market and a hawker centre) where I saw some great deals on clothes and shopping. But you really just have to explore the streets on foot to find a market, they are everywhere.
I hope you now feel a bit more prepared for your stop-over or trip to Singapore. If you have any questions about anything I haven’t covered, please comment below and I’ll do my best to answer. Happy travels!