Dynamic Singapore is an island, a city and a country all at the same time. Its blend of Asian cultures and Western attitudes has made it the most stable economy in the region and the logical gateway to Southeast Asia.
The country is rightly proud of its efficiency, cleanliness and highly developed infrastructure. The luxury shopping centres and world-class restaurants that grace Singapore City's modern business district could take their place in any large Western conurbation. But there is also ample evidence of Singapore's rich cultural heritage in the fascinating districts of Little India, Arab Street and Chinatown.
Other distractions include ever-popular Sentosa Island, the tranquillity of the Chinese Gardens, the bonsai-sized reserve of Bukit Timah and the world-renowned Night Safari at the Singapore Zoo.
Increasingly thought of as a holiday destination in itself, Singapore is an ideal introduction to the kaleidoscopic cultures of Southeast Asia and a wonderful place to spend a few days or so, exploring the exciting blend of excellent food, shopping and diverse, hospitable people.
Demographics and Stats
While Singaporeans have a culture of their own, this is ultimately a nation of immigrants from Malaysia, China, India, Sri Lanka and Great Britain. Even today these ethnic groups retain their cultural practices, customs and festivals. Across all cultures, the people of Singapore share a love of shopping and eating; there is a restaurant ethic here like nowhere else on earth.
Singaporeans are also aware of the country's diminutive size and this reinforces a tremendous patriotism and self-belief in the destiny of this dynamic city-state.
Your best buys in the city are electronics, jewellery, fashion clothing and Asian artefacts. Remember that when buying electronics it is worth insisting on a one-year international warranty and making sure the specifications of the item comply with those of your home country.
As Singapore is a major transport hub, you may be here in transit and thus able to take advantage of duty free shopping. Changi Airport is one of the world's greatest airports and has outstanding shopping facilities, with electrical and computer items especially discounted.
The Great Singapore Sale is held from the end of May until July each year. The city's main stores and malls slash an incredible up to 70% off the prices of even the best labelled goods. It's an excellent time for shoppers to be in the city, although the stores are always crowded so be prepared to fight for the best bargains.
Opening hours vary tremendously. Malls and supermarkets are typically open between 08h00 and 21h00, while markets frequently operate from 05h00 to as late as 24h00. Banks and other shops 09h30-15h30 Mon-Fri; 09h30-13h00 Sat.
Currency: Singapore Dollar (SGD). SGD1 = 100 cents. Note that the Brunei Dollar is also accepted in Singapore and is exactly equivalent in value to a Singapore Dollar.
Notes: SGD1, 2, 5, 10, 50, 100, 1000, 10000
Coins: SGD1 and 1, 5, 20, 50 cents
Credit cards: American Express is accepted widely, as are Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa. Taxi Cabs often take credit cards. Smaller shops and market stall-holders will not always take credit cards.
Singapore has an exemplary public transport system: safe, clean, reliable and reasonably priced. There are also good links to neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia as well as flights to all corners of the globe.
The MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) is Singapore's super-reliable, air-conditioned metro system that whisks you to all major parts of the city in style and comfort. The Tourist Day Ticket (SGD10) allows 12 trips on the MRT and buses. The bus service within Singapore offers excellent route coverage and you will seldom have to wait for more than a few minutes.
There are no mandatory vaccination requirements for entering Singapore itself. If coming from a territory where there is a risk of contracting yellow fever you will be required to have the necessary injections before being allowed into the country.
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Singapore is a year-round destination with typically tropical weather: humid and hot with perennial sunshine and fairly even rainfall.