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Singapore Travel Guide
Beguiling Singapore is a modern city-state embracing economic progress against the backdrop of age-old tradition. Many business people and holidaymakers travel to Singapore on their way to the Far East, or as a stop-off between Australia and Europe, and are eager to see and experience this legendary hi-tech Asian city, which combines traditional enclaves with the towering steel and cement of a cosmopolitan international power-house. The customs that underpin community life emerge out of a cultural mix that includes predominantly Chinese, Indian and Malay ethnic groups.
Singapore is an island off the southern tip of Malaysia, linked to it by a causeway. It evolved from a sleepy fishing village in the early 1900s to become one of Asia's economic tigers. Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles landed on Singapore's northern bank in 1819 and felt that its location made it ideal as a trading station. From here Singapore's landscape was transformed by British colonial rule, Japanese occupation, Communist insurrection and finally, independence. Since becoming a republic in 1965 the island has experienced increased prosperity and exponential economic growth. Shimmering skyscrapers tower above the slick financial districts and elegant colonial buildings preserve a lingering old-world charm.
Singapore's full calendar of events showcases a spectrum of cultural celebrations and shopping activities. The early summer months bustle in anticipation of the Singapore Sale - a time when tourists can cash in on the competitive prices of electronic equipment, jewellery and other merchandise. The business activity thrives amid the celebration of Chinese, Hindu and Muslim festivals that punctuate the year with their colourful representations. These include the Chinese New Year, Ramadan, Hari Raya Puasa, Vesak Day, the Dragon Boat Festival, Festival of the Hungry Ghosts and Thaipusam.
The core of downtown Singapore is formed by the Colonial District, embellished by cathedrals and cricket lawns. The notable sites of the area include the Empress Place Building and the luxurious Raffles Hotel. Although most of old Singapore has been demolished to make way for the modern city, many major landmarks within the Colonial district have been preserved. The surrounding ethnic enclaves of Little India, Chinatown and the Arab Quarter also provide glimpses into the traditions that have sustained their respective communities through the centuries.
As a result of government-induced deterrents towards drivers to combat traffic congestion and air pollution, hiring a car is very expensive in SIngapore. However, getting around the city is easy without a car due to efficient, modern and inexpensive public transport. An extensive bus network and the reliable MRT train subway system are both cheap and user-friendly and service all parts of Singapore. Electronic ez-link passes cover trains and buses and save carrying loose change for fares as well as giving a slight discount on standard ticket prices. There is also a Tourist Day Ticket that is valid for 12 rides of any length. The city also has thousands of metered taxis, which are safe, air-conditioned and surprisingly affordable, driven by helpful and honest drivers. The only drawback is the long taxi queues during rush hour. There are services offered to travellers that include the Singapore Explorer shuttles, which stop at most tourist destinations, and the SIA Hop-on bus, which offers passes for unlimited rides for a day and is free for visitors who travelled to Singapore on Singapore Airlines. Many of the tourist attractions are situated close together and walking is a safe and pleasant option if you can handle the heat.
Singapore Tourism Board: +65 6736 2000 or
Singapore Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 537 3100.
Singapore High Commission, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 (0)20 7235 8315.
Consulate of Singapore, New York City, USA (also responsible for Canada): (212) 223-3331
Singapore High Commission, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6271 2000.
Singapore High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 430 6035.
Singapore High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 470 0850.
United States Embassy, Singapore: +65 6476 9100.
British High Commission, Singapore: +65 6424 4200.
Canadian High Commission, Singapore: +65 6854 5900.
Australian High Commission, Singapore: +65 6836 4100.
South African High Commission, Singapore: +65 6339 3319.
Irish Embassy, Singapore: +65 6238 7616.
New Zealand High Commission, Singapore: +65 6235 9966.
Emergencies: 999 (Police); 995 (Ambulance).
Singapore is a fairly diverse society and has been moulded by its immigrant population, primarily Malay, Chinese and Indian, along with the large expat community. The city is incredibly efficient and the citizens very law-abiding - there are fines issued for just about any offence in Singapore, including S$500 for smoking in public places, S$50 for jaywalking, S$1,000 for littering and S$500 for eating, drinking or chewing gum on the MRT. There are even fines for not flushing public toilets so it goes without saying that getting involved in illegal drugs is not advisable; trafficking carries a maximum penalty of death. Chinese Singaporeans have three names, the first of which is their surname, or family name. As a result visitors should be prepared for hotels mistakenly reserving rooms under their first names. For clarity surnames may be underlined.
Travellers should hold confirmed documents and tickets for onward or return travel and enough funds to cover their stay. Male travellers with long hair are advised to tie their hair back on arrival. Women who are six months pregnant or more may be refused entry. All nationals, regardless of visa requirements, may be issued with a Social Visitor's Pass on arrival allowing for a stay of 14 or 30 days provided their visit is for touristic or business purposes. Extensions are possible for S$40, but the initial Pass is free. Passports must be valid for at least six months from date of arrival. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.