THE CITY OF SINGAPORE

 

Description : The cleanest, safest and most developed multi-cultural city in Asia. 

Comments : Considering the cost and the size, Singapore is not exactly a backpackers' paradise. Its attractions may not also justify a trip in itself. But if you are in the area, then do not miss it ! This very developed city is a breath of fresh air after a while on dirty or bumpy roads...

What to do ? Visit any of the tourists office for free maps and tons of leaflets / Experience some world's records : the busiest port (Keppel Harbour with one vessel movement every 10mn), the first night safari, one of the best zoo, the highest man-made waterfall inside the largest walk-in aviary (Jurong Birdpark), the highest hotel (Westin Stamford), the largest fountain (Suntec's Fountain of Wealth), the first Pewter Museum / Have breakfast or tea with an Orang Utan (zoo) / Wander by a small tropical garden inside a beautiful white colonial hotel / If escaped from the zoo, climb bamboo scaffoldings / Enjoy "high tea" at a luxury hotel / Spot luxury cars / Listen to caged's birds / Caress an happy Buddha / Wander around the pedestrian or colorful streets of Chinatown / There, watch a traditional Chinese opera / Use the toilets (it would be sad to eat a Big Mac while in Singapore...) of probably the classiest McDo in the world (extreme east of the Boat Quay) / Cruise aboard a traditional Chinese Junk (from $15 for 1 hour) or a bumboat ($10 for 30mn along the river) / Vote for the best attraction, the best nightspot or the best tourism host in various categories (but do the survey of Passplanet first...) / Fly a kite / Mountain bike around a rainforest / Test lots of colorful condoms at specialized shops / Enjoy winter sports at Snow City (not cheap at $15 per hour but if you miss the cold...) / Discover the kitschy Chinese legends and mythology at the Tiger Balm Garden (Haw Par Villa, unfortunately $5) / Get up Mount Faber for a spectacular view of the City, the Harbour and the highlands / Stop smoking (Singapore could become the first smoke-free country) / 

What you may not like ? The few beggars (so Singapore is not perfect after all ?) / The few rubbish on the floor (yes, I have seen some) and a very dirty stream of water (shocking !) / Finding the doors of some temples closed / The constructions sites everywhere, in particular for the MRT North-East line / Getting fined $10,000 if feeding a monkey / Getting fined $1,000 if littering / Having to clean the street with a flashy T-Shirt (corrective work order) if littering again / The lack of free attractions and total cost if visiting it all / The 3am curfew in the bars and disco / The complicated  taxi fares / Importing chewing gum (forbidden !) / The bad quality price ratio of most guesthouses and the bedbugs in some of the cheapies

How long ? 3 days would be a minimum but travelers are surprised to extend their stay to a week and still find things to see...


Where to stay ? Most places are located in the colonial district. Chances are you will be approached by a tout while walking around with your big bag. Follow them only after having clarified the tariffs and kind of rooms.

Hotels  <<  Get infos, book online and save money !  >> Hostels

- On Bencoolen Street :

  • Hawaii Hostel (338 4363), No171, 2F / Dorm (10) 10, Sgl w. sink 25(1) or 28(2), Dbl 30-35 / All rooms w. AC / Common HW shower / Free tea / Go there for the cheapest AC and the clean atmosphere / What you may not like : the lack of backpackers' atmosphere
  • Goh's Homestay (339 6561, minggoh@pacific.net.sg), next to the above, 4F / Dorm (6) 14, Sgl 36, Dbl 46, Trpl 52 / All rooms w. AC / Internet $6 / Go there for the larger atmosphere, the relaxed lobby and to check out the rooms / What you may not like : the lack of breakfast at those prices...
  • Peony Mansion Travelers' Lodge "Green curtains" (3348697), No131, entrance with hidden sign between restaurants / No dorm / Dbl w. AC 30-35, w. fridge & TV 40-45 / Go there for the large rooms w. some furniture / What you may not like : the small & ugly lobby. 
  • ® San Wah Hotel (3362428), No36, just after Peony Mansion / Small colonial house in a small garden / Dbl w. sink 40, w. AC 45 / Go there for the large & charming rooms and the quiet atmosphere / What you may not like : the old retro look and not having a shower inside 

- Inside Peony Mansion at 46-45 Bencoolen Street (no sign but a few restaurants in the front, lift in the back) :

  • Peony Latin House (3396308, vmaca@pacific.net.sg), 3F / Dorm (12) 7, Dbl 25, w. AC 30 / Go there for the cheapest bed and to check the rooms
  • ® Peony Mansion Travelers' Lodge "Green Curtain" (3385638), 4F / Dorm (6 or 10) w. AC 9, Sgl 18, Dbl 22-25, w. AC 30, w. attached shared shower 35, w. shower 40 / Internet $5 / Go there for the correctly sized rooms well furnished (chair or sofa), the very reasonable prices and the backpackers' atmosphere / What you may not like : it is not spotless, there is no breakfast and the staff is not always courteous
  • ® Lee Boarding House (3383149), 7F / Dorm (12) 9, Dorm (6) w. AC 10, Dorm for girls (8) w. AC 10, Sgl 15-18, Dbl 22-25, w. AC 25-30, w. shower 36-40 / Rates incl. breakfast / Go there for the friendly backpackers' atmosphere, the good breakfast and the cheap prices / What you may not like : the rather small rooms with walls not reaching the ceiling and the size of the GH on 3 floors (toilets busy in the morning)

- Between Beach Road and North Bridge Rd : Bus No145 or 84 from train station, No145 from Lavender St Bus Station

  • Lee Traveller's Club (3395490), No75 Beach Rd, 6F with lift / Dorm (6-8) 8-10, Dbl 28, w. AC 35 / Go there if English... / The card says "The exclusive club for travelers". Asking too many questions and not having showed them my credentials, I was apparently not welcomed to join the club. As I understood between the insults, French travelers were not too much appreciated around here either, as, like it is well known they "all have big mouth but no bowls". The big fat scary Chinese owner wanted a fight. Having no reason to spend the rest of my trip in hospital or in jail, I went to the police station instead. It was much more clean and hospitable there...
  • Beach Hotel (336 7712, bhotel@singnet.com.sg), No95 Beach Rd / Great all comfort Dbl w. AC, HW shower, TV, fridge, etc. cost $96 but are down to $75 when not busy
  • Season Homestay (3372400), 26 Liang Seah St / Dorm (8) 9, Dbl 23-25, w. AC 30-35 / Go there to check the rooms (apparently good & clean but the owner was not too keen to show me around) and to learn how Singapore is a great place to study ("we have the best universities"), be sick ("we have the best hospitals") or be transported ("we have the best infrastructures") / What you may not like : the Chinese owner who does not always know what he is talking about (it is an interesting monologue thought)
  • ® Ah Chew Hotel (8370356), 496 North Bridge Rd / Dorm (6) w. AC 12, Dbl 25, w. AC 30 / Free tea & coffee / Go there for the high ceiling clean rooms, the backpackers' touch with TV and kitchen and to spot the animation in the street below / What you may not like : the noise from Liang Seah St and the empty rooms
  • Willy's Home Stay "cozy corner" & Waffles Homestay (337 0916), 494 North Bridge Rd, 2F, entrances via restaurants / Dorm (3) w. AC 12, w. fan 8, Dbl 25, w. AC 28-30 / Go there for the clean atmosphere & the good beds / What you may not like : the empty rooms, the lack of backpackers' atmosphere and some dorm beds in the corridor

- At other places around Little India & Arab Street (West of Jalan Besar), from South to North :

  • ® Sun Sun Hotel (3384911), No260 Middle Rd, just west of Bencoolen St / Dbl w. sink 30(1) or 40(2), w. AC 45, extra people 10 (child 5) / Go there for the big, clean & charming rooms with some furniture and the info from Tony  / What you may not like : the lack of backpackers' atmosphere (but is this not the idea ?)
  • ® Mayo Inn (2955508), 9 Jala Besar (the road extending Bencoolen to the North) / Dbl w. AC, HW shower & TV 50 (45 if stay 5 days) / Go there for the all comfort clean rooms at reasonable prices / What you may not like : it isn't huge and the rooms over the street could be noisy
  • Haising Hotel (2981223), 37 Jalan Besar, opp Sim Lim Tower / Dorm (4) 20, Sgl 40, w. shower 45, Dbl 50, w. shower 60 / All rooms w. AC / Tiny rooms, some without window but usually w. TV 
  • Perak Lodge (2997733), 12 Perak Rd, just east of the above / All comfort Dbl 80(1) or 90(2) / Rates incl. breakfast / Free tea & coffee / Comfortable rooms (better upstairs) but rather expensive considering the size of the room or of the TV...
  • Little India GH (2942866), 3 Veerasamy Rd, 400 north-west from the above / Sgl 35-40, Dbl 40-50 / Some w. TV / Spotless atmosphere but rather small rooms, beds on two level and bad noise isolation from the street 
  • ® Ali's Nest (2912938), 23 Roberts Lane, 400m north-west of the above, east of Race Course Rd / Sign "Shanghai Kotat Trading Co" / Mattress 8, Dorm (8) w. AC 9, Sgl 20, w. AC 25, Dbl 25, w. AC 30 / Rates incl. breakfast / Go there for the family atmosphere in this backpackers' friendly house, the cheap prices and to check the rooms (was full) / What you may not like : it is not spotless and a bit messy...
  • ® Tai Hoe Hotel (2939122), 163 Kitchener Rd, 400m East from the above / Small Dbl 50, better w. window 60 / Rates incl. breakfast / Go there for the all comfort rooms (AC, HW shower, fridge & TV) at acceptable prices / What you may not like : the expensive $50 rooms
  • ® International Hotel (2939238), 290 Jalan Besar , 200m N-E from the above, 200m S from Lavender St Bus Station / Dbl 30(1) or 35(2), w. AC & HW shower 40 / Go there for the largest rooms, some of them w. balcony, the big beds and the good prices / What you may not like : the old look and the ugly view from the balconies
  • Cactus Hotel (3913913, cactus98@singnet.com.sg), 407 Jalan Besar, 200m west from Lavender St Bus Station / All comfort rooms 49(1) or 55(2) / More expensive if stay only during WE (55 & 65) / Another comfortable place at acceptable prices

- And, last but not least, the only cheap GH in Chinatown area :

  • ® Chinatown GH (2200671, patrikim@singnet.com.sg), 325 New Bridge Rd, 5F / No sign in English / Fan Dorm (3) 10, Sgl 25, Dbl 30, Dbl w. AC & bathtub 45 / Kitchen / Go there for the big clean rooms, the great AC Dbl well decorated and the cheap prices / What you may not like : the empty cheapest rooms, the lack of backpackers' atmosphere and disturbing the owner when she is dressing up for dinner...


Backpacker's Tips : Mark Elliott, Belgium (August 06)
 
« In 2004 I wrote to tell you about two new backpacker places. Quite justifiably The InnCrowd (www.the-inncrowd.com) has since become THE backpacker address of choice in Singapore.They now have a new much bigger main hostel on Dunlop Street and around it a whole selection of traveller bars, Internet cafes and other backpacker pads have appeared. The transformation is incredible - indeed Dunlop Street has effectively become Singapore's Khao San Road. That's Khao San in the sense of ample traveller facilities, but NOT the horrid architecture of the Bangkok version because in fact Dunlop St is a really pretty street and an entirely delightful corner of the city in which to unwind.
I have a feeling that these days backpackers simply head for Dunlop St and work things out from there rather than even bothering with the old Bencoolen Street places. But I didn't make any kind of systematic check... »

Backpacker's Tips : Chayut Pihakaendr, Thailand (June 05)
 
« In the city ,it is really hard to find a budget hotel ,fortunately I find the New 7 Storey hotel (www.nsshotel.com) it cost $17 for a bed in dom and $ 47 for a standard room with a common bath ( Internet rate) . To get there you have to take MRT to Bugis station get off and then see a Seiyo , walk straight to Seiyo . From Seiyo walk straight to the hotel ( 3-5m walk ) the hotel will be on your right . I recommended to reserve the room via the net it gives you the internet rate. At night you should go to Clarke Quake MRT along with the Singapore River, it have a romantic atmosphere . Go there and enjoy , For nightlife go to Mohammed Satun Rd a lot of pub and bar there. »

Backpacker's Tips :  Mark Elliott, Belgium (July 04)
« There are at least two excellent real backpacker options:
Betel Box Hostel 200 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427471 tel (65) 6247 7340, www.betelbox.com 
Inn Crowd 73 Dunlop St, Historic Little India, Singapore 209401, tel: (65) 6296 9169 www.the-inncrowd.com . Wonderful position.
Both charge S$18 for very good good dorm beds in places designed by travellers for travellers. Both have free fast-connection internet for guests. Check out their websites.
 »

Backpacker's Tips : Stephanie Thullen, Mexico (August 01)
« Many of the budget guesthouses are disappearing. As of July 2001, there is no more Peony Mansions Green Curtains, Cozy Corner/Nest, or New Backpackers Lodge. A few of these have merged into the Waffle's Homestay/Willy's GH/Cozy Corner. But if you don't want spend the rest of your holiday scratching your bedbug bites then don't stay there! The only reason to stay there is if you are really scraping for money, but then again, why are you in Singapore if that is the case?!? We recommend the Haising Hotel in Little India on Jalan Besar between Upper Weld and Rochor Canal. It has very friendly staff (unlike the Waffles), you can get a room with a/c, attached bathroom with hot water, free coffee, TV, and free local calls (but no windows) for S$50 (Waffles is $25 for fan room with just a bed, and only a bed). Goh's Homestay is now in Little India, Upper Weld Road» 


Where to eat ?  For Lunch, the SAF Warrand Officers & Specialists Club (opp. Raffles Hotel on Beach Rd, tel 4332134) has a cafeteria with a set lunch (incl. soup & dessert) for R3.5 during week day from 11:45 to 14:00. Otherwise, head toward one of the numerous food courts. All the shops are rated from A to D according to their level of hygiene (D is the "worst" but, in clean Singapore, this does not mean much and many locals find those places the tastiest). If you are rich and have something special to celebrate, you can dine inside the cable car connecting Mount Faber and Sentosa Island (Frid & Sat nights only, 18:30 to 20:30, $120 nett per couple) 

Where to drink ? Serious professionals could consider Taps (54 boat Quay) on Friday & Saturday from 19:30 to 22:30 : unlimited supply of gin, vodka, rum, tequila, bourbon, whiskey, brandy & beer for $22. While stock or liver last... Note that the tap water is also unlimited but cheaper... / La Cantina (304 Orchard Road) advertises the cheapest beer in town : 2 small bottle of Corona, Heineken,... for $12 or a jug of Tiger Beer for $16. Shop around to see if the claim is true (apparently, it is not)

Where to wait for the sun after the clubs curfew ? The free "Singapore Visitor Guide" recommended the Wholesale Centre, the place where professionals buy their fruits and vegetables. It opens at 2am but get busy at 4am only. It is located along Pasir Panjang Road and certainly provide a very authentic experience, that is if you can walk straight of course ! Taking a taxi is the best way to reach it. 

Internet ? Most places (and there are plenty) cost $5 per hour with a minimum charge of $1-2. The Company Pacific Internet (info@pacific.net.sg) has however different branches around town with usually (there is no standard price) more reasonable rates : Burlington Branch (175 Bencoolen St, #01-53 Burlington Square, open 10 to 22 daily) : $2.5 from 10am to 6pm from Monday to Friday and $3 at other times. Min charge $2 / Suntec City Branch (#02-066 Suntec City Mall, 3 Temasek Blvd, open 10 to 22 daily) : $3.5 per hour. Min charge $2

Change money ? Private money changers, scattered everywhere, usually offer a better deal than banks for cash or TC (no commission). American Express FES Service (open 8:15 to 18:00 daily) inside the Tourist Office at Suntec City was offering one of the best rate at the time of writing but by a few cents only (by the way, thanks Joanne for the old coins given). Syed Alwi Rd has a money changer nearly every 5 meters. A good place to shop around...

Electronic or computer products ? One address only : Sim Lim Square (electronic or computer) and Sim Lim Tower (electronic), at the northeast part of Bencoolen Street. Hundreds of shops, most offering the same products at various prices. Shop around but avoid the busy WE...

Handicraft ? Chinatown's pedestrian streets offer a few nice shops for souvenirs. The Handicraft center at Chinatown Point however offer more choice.

MRT & Buses ? On MRT, it is possible to stop the journey from 20 to 120 minutes depending on the distance. Tickets cost from $0.8 to 1.8 but from 0.6 to 1.65 only with a fare card. Those cost $10 minimum plus $2 deposit, can be used in buses (much more convenient than carrying small change and also discounted fares) and are refundable if you do not use it all !

To / From the Airport ?  Bus, shuttle or minibus ? See the options at the Airport section. 


Singapore's Visitors Centers ?
  

Several places to head to for lots of info & free maps :

  • STB Tourist Info Centre : tourism court, 1Orchard Spring Lane / 8:30 to 17 Mond to Frid, 8:30 to 13 Sat / Toll free : 1 800 736 2000
  • Suntec City : Shop #02-35 / 8 to 18:30 daily / Toll free : 1 800 332 5066
  • Liang Court Shopping Centre : 177 River Valley Rd, Level 1 / 10:30 to 21:30 daily / Tel : 336 2888
  • H2O Zone : 160 Orchard Rd / 11 to 20:30 daily / Toll free : 1 800 738 8169

The documents distributed free of charge include :

  • The Official Guide to Singapore (also available in most hotels) : what to see & do, shopping, eating, going out, the arts, touring, getting around, leaving, etc... Great info but unfortunately rather poor maps.
  • A few maps of the city (of various quality) plus the Green Map of Singapore and some suggested Itineraries (Little India, Singapore River, Chinatown or the Civic District)
  • Listings : Nightlife (all the places with indications on the type of music, the crowd, the dress code,... but not the entry prices) / Budget Hotels (rather useless for backpackers as the only reference to prices is "below $39")
  • Magazines : This week Singapore and The Singapore Visitor
  • Plenty of leaflets about the private tours or attractions.

    Tourist Information


Backpacker's Tips : Chayut Pihakaendr, Thailand (June 05)
 
« Singapore zoological Garden – Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park and Night Safari: On my trip I went to those 3 places , on it current promotion 3 in 1 for only $30 save up to $16.  I recommended you to go to JBK for a half day and the next day go to the zoo and the safari it is the nearby. Following the flyer ,you can go there quite easy . Don’t leave the safari too late , otherwise you will miss the last to MRT »

Backpacker's Tips : Wah (Feb 05)
 
« I recommend to have a drink at the top floor of the swiss hotel (city hall MRT station), and before the end of the happy hour (9PM), this bar is called the new asia bar, and you'll have an astonishing view of the city, especially during the night time or during the sunset. Also, for electronic goods, such as digital camera, I'd rather recommend to get them at the mustafa store (Farrer Park MRT station) in little india. Prices are the lowest of singapore, and above all, prices are set. However, you'll not be able to get any technical advices as at Funan.»


How to tour the city ? If you have a limited time or do not like to walk, use the SIA Hop-on Service to visit most of the city landmarks (map & precise schedules available at the Visitors Centre). The AC Bus leave every 30mn from 8:30 to 19:00 and cost $5 for a day pass ($2 for Singapore Airlines and SilkAir passengers). 


What to do & see ?  >> see where to go 

Leaving Singapore ?  Going to Indonesia ?  >> see transports options


The trip to Johor Bahru (Malaysia) : SS / L&R / $2.4 / 1 hour / AC Buses
From Queen St Bus Station, you have the choice between ordinary bus No170 ($1.2) or the aircond SJE (Singapore Johor Express, $2.4), both leaving every 15mn. Note that some travelers reported being refused a ticket as carrying too many luggage (and a surf board !) and that a luggage fee may also be charged. 
The AC bus is usually faster and, indeed, it was real fast : we arrived at the Singapore's border within 30mn and at the JB Bus Station within the hour. I may have been lucky : there was no queue at the immigration offices and an onward bus left as soon as I got in.