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Information found here is as accurate and updated as possible.

Last Edited 27 June 2006

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Hi, I am Robin. This site is written primarily for budget travelers who are planning to visit Singapore and a source of supplementary information and 'localized' info. I do not wish to write about things that you can find out about Singapore in other web pages (I provide some good links). This site is informally written with humour & wit intended (yes, I often fall short) and sometimes tainted with my own opinions (ok, ok, I admit, most of the times, but that's what makes it better than official guide yah?). This is not an authoritative site!

Well, before I start describing Singapore to you, let me give you a brief intro to who I am so that you know whose eyes you are looking through. I am a Chinese Singapore Citizen (Chinese as in the race not as in from China). I was born here. A young-working adult who somehow managed to secure a degree. I love music, spicy food, architecture, traveling, nature and computers. Enough said, you could find out more about me here. The information you find here are more for budget travelers and the likes. I assume that you have done some background reading on Singapore and thus I have skipped the bare necessity. I felt that the Lonely Planet guide might be too brief about certain things and hence I added more information here. Feel free to email me on what you want to see written here or if you have any queries. (Or if you want to send me food, postcards & cash) :-).

Due to work and family life, I may take up to a week to answer emails these days. I do hope you forgive me if I am unable to answer all your queries. I am also unable to answer Qs about working in Singapore, basic stuff that you can find on the net and where to get hookers, I'll not answer them. If you need core facts of Singapore, please refer to my links.

How to use this guide

I have simply grouped different topics into different pages. This page mainly describes the basic things you need to look out for like dressing, drugs & so on. If you need more info simply click on the topics on the left side of the page. Say for example, if you want to know about the sights in Singapore, simply click on the sights icon at the top. My advice is to read this page first before you move on to the rest. Any web page that is not mine, I'll provide a link and that will open a new window.

This is a vacation/tour guide & does NOT tells you about how to get a job here, job related issues (income taxes etc) & I do not send out brochures to people who make such requests. I refuse to entertain such requests or questions simply because I am not qualified to do so and/or do not have the resources. This is a non-profit one-man show :o)

Plagiarism.: A piece of writing that has been copied from someone else and is presented as being your own work.

My website has grown popular and some have plagiarize my content for their website. If you think that my article is useful, by all means use it but have the courtesy to quote the source if you are using it word for word.
List of Plagiarists
- Adeline_Foo @ VT

General Information

Map of Singapore
click for a bigger map


Singapore consists of the main island of Singapore and islets within its territorial waters.
Total land area: 620 sq. km (239 sq. miles)
Population: 4.1 million
Languages: The official languages are Malay, Chinese (Mandarin), Tamil and English. The national language is Malay, while English is the language of administration. What this simply means that in reality Singaporeans conduct business in English.
Religion: The main religions are Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, and Hinduism.

- Per capita GDP is USD21,825 (2003).
- Is the world's busiest port.
- Has an airport that handles 56 major airlines with 15 million passengers (five times the population).
- Over 3000 MNCs call it home, with many more local businesses.
- More than 200 banks, most of them international.
- One of the world's main exporters of electronic and computer products, pharmaceuticals and textiles.
- A major center of commerce and IT servicing Asia Pacific and beyond.
- Ranked the second most profitable country after Switzerland for businesses to invest in from now to the turn of the century, according to a 1996 report by Beri (Business Environment Risk Intelligence), which assessed profit opportunities in 50 countries.


Located in S.E. Asia means that the weather here is hot and humid. An average of 30 șC and humidity reaching more than 90 %. So this simply means that you get very warm and sticky.  It rains quite often here, so be prepared for it. Plan your trip in such a way that if it's rain you have other plans to fall back on. Monsoon season is from December to February.

Attire, what to wear in Singapore

Most western tourists wear Bermudas and tee shirts. Singaporean, who got used to the weather, wear jeans, shirts and whatever. Japanese businessmen still wear their suits! This is a cosmopolitan city. As long as you cover up your modesty, you can express yourself freely. There is NO restriction on tattoos or long hair for guys/girls (though a sexually explicit tattoo in plain sight might be). It's hip these days to spot a trendy tattoo but not tattoos that associate with the triads/gangs. Tattoos associated with triads/gangs are allowed BUT you draw attention to yourself with the police/rival gang members.

Some business executives here have pony tails, many men do not have long hair simply because of the hot weather and because they are called up for military reserve training about once a year which requires them to have a short hair. You can do whatever you like do your hair. Dreadlocks, blue, bleached blonde hair and etc will have no problem with the authorities. Body piercing too is popular and you will not find it a problem with the authorities here.

Whatever you may have heard about authorities at the airport cutting long hair are BS (nonsense).  While Singapore is a country with many laws, we do not have Gestapo watching our every move. Check out my Laws page to get the facts right.

Appearance only starts to matter when you are going to a place where it calls for you to dress up. For e.g. if you are going to a place of worship, you may need to wear a pair of jeans/pants to cover your legs (I take it that deities don't like hairy legs. It's best to come to hot Asian countries with those cargo pants that can be ripped into bermudas) or if you go to fancy restaurant here. For Plays, musicals etc, smart casual are usually the norm with the minimum of a polo shirt, jeans and shoes.

In general, you will need to bring summer clothes and some rain gears (Umbrella or Raincoats). The practical thing to wear here is most probably a t-shirt, pair of jeans/bermudas or zipoff pants and sneakers.

Chjimes - fotos courtesy of Wee Keng Hor

Perceptions, People & Language

Perception: It is amazing that there are some travelers who don't read up on the country they are traveling to. You always prepare yourself for a meeting, an exam, a presentation but not when you travel? You will not know what you face in a foreign country. Is there a crime wave there, is racism an issue there, is there a riot going on in the city or even when is the rush hour? These are simple things you do to keep yourself  safe and enjoy your trip more.

Singapore is very misrepresented by the western media. Because of that, many came here believing what they hear and will be pleasantly surprise when not all they hear are real. I was asked many times whether Singaporeans speak English, are there public toilets, are there public IDD phones and so on. Either our government is doing a poor job to tell the rest of the world that we are not a backward  country or there are people who don't bother to read enough out there. A colleague of mine was in New York and posted a parcel back to Singapore. It says on the parcel to send to the "Republic of Singapore". The parcel was received 2 months late. On the parcel where the address was written, the New York Postmaster added, "China" to the address. So that little parcel took a little vacation before coming back to Singapore.

So throw out your image of Singapore being a sleepy third world country, prepared yourself for a fast pace Cosmopolitan city. As we speak, the government is networking every household so that we can have a fibre optic backbone running across the country! (For those computer illiterates, it means a damned fast network). For the first time visitors, you will be surprise that a country this small has such an efficient public transport system and a consistently voted top 5 Airport by passengers. Airport.

People: People: In case you didn't know Singapore was once a British Colony. We were a part of the East Indies Company. Sir Stamford Raffles founded this little island in 1819. During WW2, the British defending this colony were outsmarted and defeated by the Japanese Army. We were occupied by the invading Japanese for about 3 years until the end of the war and suffered war atrocities in the hands of the barbaric Japanese (think bayonetting babies and mass execution of civilians), We declared our independence on 1965 and never look back ever since. Our present state administration is heavily based on the British system. There are many races here. The Chinese, Malays, Indian and many others like Arabs. It is not propaganda when the government says we live in racial, cultural and religious harmony.

People here are generally polite but reserved. We tend not to smile to each other or greet strangers, the service level in shops, restaurants varies from nonchalant (Do not greet or smile at you when you enter the store) to friendly service staff. Don't expect good service from mid-priced restaurants (even restaurants in Manila provide better service). What do I get if I say "Hi" or "good day" to strangers? I either get stared at like I just break out of an asylum or people think I am hitting on them. Few would return my smile. So it's very discouraging.

If you ask for directions, most will be very helpful. However, there are also some not very civil or gracious. Singaporeans in general are "Kiasu" (afraid to lose out). They will rush into trains before passengers can get out. On escalators, keep left is not a norm. People do not give up seats to the needy in public transport. Neighbourhood supermarket checkout counter do not greet you, at most you get a curt acknowledgement, or a smile.

In certain ways, Singaporean are self centred and not socially graceful yet. The typical Singaporeans feel that they need to extract the most from anything, 'pilfering' hotel shampoos, hangers etc are not unheard of (This dubious honour was apparently snatched away by the British in a recent 2004 international survey). This is especially true for the older generation of Singaporeans. They love to compare countries they visit with Singapore and quite often putting those countries down. It's so bad until I avoid going tours that mainly consist of Singaporeans. Not that I like tours over than DIY vacation. Yes, at time, I am ashamed of my fellow countrymen with such attitudes.

Language: Our official language here is English. Ever since our independence, our education system moved toward the English media. All our subjects are taught in English except of course, the other languages like Tamil, Malay and Mandarin. Our education system is based on Cambridge University "O" and "A" levels and is graded in Cambridge. So from this background, Almost all our people can speak, write and read English. The minorities that cannot are the elderly or the lower working class. These days, if you encounter someone Asian and not able to speak English, they are probably foreigners working here. Many are from China, Thailand or India. One in four people you meet here are not Singaporean. Also we might use English differently. We spell like the British with a 'u' in humour. We write our date as DD/MM/YY. So don't get confuse about some events date. We say "Queue Up" instead of "Get in Line". Most importantly, we speak with an accent and many of us use Singlish.

Gay Travelers: Singapore Gay scene is still 'underground'. There are pubs, discos that caters to the gays. However, the public in general still cannot accept them though gay bashing is unheard of. Opening declaring that you are gay will get you discriminated in your career. The oxymoronic government recently said that they welcome gay talents even in civil service but have laws stating it's illegal to have unnatural intercourse or oral sex (it's legal to have oral sex if it's leads to legal sexual intercourse). See how stupid some laws are here. Of course such rules are never enforced. For more info about the gay scene here, refer to People Like Us

Travelers on wheelchair: Singapore is not very wheelchair friendly. Public transport (MRT and buses) does not have aequate provision for wheelchair passengers. Recently, the MRT built lift to make it more wheelchair accessible. Many buildings and public places are not really wheelchair friendly. There are some wheelchair public toilets. Most malls, hospitals and other major buildings have wheelchair accessible toilets. Read a wheelchair traveler comments on Singapore accessibility. Singapore's online resource for the disabled is http://www.dpa.org.sg

Revelers during a National Day celebration. Foto courtesy of www.rsi.com.sg

Drugs and the Government

Please do not take the risk of smuggling drugs here even for personal consumption. If one of your friends tell you he managed to, don't, it's not worth the price to pay. DEATH. Yup, no two ways about that, once the sentence is passed, no amount of pleading will help, even with the help of your government. Cooperating with the police hoping to escape the gallow is also fruitless. If you really want some, I'm sure you are street smart enuff to find a way to get some here (Sorry, I don't do drugs).

I was once in Lake District, U.K. and met a Dutch, she asked me how on earth could we take the kind of restraints. Many westerners will probably agree with her. I guess a lot of Singaporeans are internalized to the restrictions that they don't find it so anymore. Many less educated or older generation of people still believe that the government will do what is best for you...This isn't without reasons. For them, the economic growth and success they had experienced was partly due to the economic strategies the government adopted. But some restraints is a small price to pay for being able to hang out with your girlfriend or boyfriend late at night in a quiet place or walking down the road alone without worrying about getting mugged like in some parts of the world. Well only sometime the price is worth paying....

With more educated young population, who are able to think more critically and articulate themselves, makes the government edgy. With knowledge, you want more stuff and expect more from the government. That's why the government is paying more attention to yuppies. However, government transparency and accountability have a long way to go. It is fashionable to for the ruling party, People Action Parties (PAP), to sue opposition parties until they are bankrupt. Elections involve gerrymandering. Our opposition parties are in a sad state (badly suppressed). I am not saying that I don't support the ruling party, no in fact they are efficient, but I just don't like the idea of monopoly of power and a nanny state. (LP gives a good article on our government).

Some articles wrote that we exchange our political freedom for economic success. I am not sure of this. Because of gerrymandering during elections, many of us have no chance to vote. In this political arena, the ruling party mindset is dominate or be dominated. I wonder how long this will last as many have emigrated and the brain drain is a serious concern. This has gave rise to the government opening arms to foreign talents so much so that some feel that being a Permanent Resident working here is better of than being a Citizen.

Finally, I have to say the Singapore Tourism Board has finally come up with a great info website www.visitsingapore.com. Information are well organised. Previously information were not tightly organised, it's hard to navigate. I may sound like bragging but what they have is a better version of what I had done years before (Better because they have a professional team doing it). Even the header format they have now is similar to mine.

With more than 90,000 Virtual Visitors to Singapore.
With 1000+ hits per month
Site launched since 14th December 1996. 

Disclaimer and notes

Please read my disclaimer about information found here. 



( This website is all about: Singapore, backpacker, budget travel, tourist guide, cheap hotels, Singapore bed & breakfast, where to shop, where to visit, where to stay, where to eat in Singapore food, sights, transportation, Singapore places of interest, Singapore maps, things to do in Singapore, Palm, ebook)




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