Apa Kabar Lah! We are very excited to plan for a trip to the lion city – Singapore. The name Singapore is derived from the Sanskrit words “Singha” and “Pura”. Singh means lion and Pura means city. Apparently, a lion was spotted centuries ago there and so the city was named after the lion. Today, Singapore is a major tourist destination and a unique city-state. It is a city and a country at the same time! That means nothing is too far away, and planning a trip to this awesome city is going to be fun. We have planned a 5-day/6-night trip. We would have liked 8 days or so because 5 days is too short a duration to see most of the stuff that the city has to offer. But we had to work with 5 days.
Our planned travel itinerary for Singapore is as follows:
Day 0 – Arrive in the evening, dinner and rest
Day 1 – Gardens by the Bay, Boat Quay, Bayfront/Merlion area. Night time will be for Spectra Light Show
Day 2 – Singapore Zoo, Singapore Flyer at night
Day 3 – Jurong Bird Park, return in afternoon and city tour or Kampong Glam
Day 4 – Universal Studios Sentosa, Helix Bridge at night
Day 5 – Botanic and Orchid Gardens, afternoon shopping at Bugis.
Day 6 – Fly back home
An awesome trip needed some awesome planning. And since we did not have a whole lot of time in Singapore, we really needed to prioritize and choose wisely. Luckily, there are tons of resources available online for Singapore travel. There is plenty of information and guidance available online, and we just had to put in the time to fine tune our trip details. Following are some things that helped us a lot in our planning:
I used Tripadvisor extensively. It is such a great community of people, who have a vast amount of knowledge and information. First, I read various posts and trip reports that other travelers had written. After getting a fairly decent idea, I created a draft itinerary as per what I wanted to see in Singapore. I then posted my planned itinerary on Tripadvisor’s Singapore forum. I got some great feedback from the forum’s “Destination Experts” and modified my itinerary accordingly. I highly recommend people who are planning a trip to Singapore to take some feedback from these Destination Experts. It will improve your overall experience for sure. I also suggest that you keep reading the various Tripadivsor Singapore forum topics periodically right up to travel day. There are such a wide variety of topics being discussed out there, that you will literally discover new things before you leave for Singapore.
Google Street View
A lesser-known but amazing planning tool was Google Street View (see below a screenshot of how to get a street view). It allowed us to explore what kind of neighborhood our hotel was in. We got to see if there were convenient stores nearby, and what the quickest way was to the hotel from the MRT station. Many hotels in Singapore do not offer breakfast. The ones that do charge a hefty amount. So, we had to figure out how we were going to get breakfast every day. Street view helped us find small convenient stores from where we could buy milk, bread, etc.
(Google Maps Street view is easy and useful)
Social media was very helpful to get a personal unbiased view of attractions/places in Singapore. Planning tools here were YouTube and Facebook (type “Singapore” in the search bar at the very top of your Facebook page after logging in, and you will get unbiased content from across Facebook, as well as from your friends/friend’s friends who have visited Singapore). There is a lot of good content here which can keep you busy! YouTube also has plenty of personal travel vlogs which give you tips and information about various places in Singapore.
Blogs and Food
We are vegetarian and love exploring different foods and cuisines. Singapore is perhaps one of the best places for food in Asia. Our Singapore trip was as much a food trip as it was a sightseeing trip. Hence wanted to find out vegetarian restaurants which specialize in Peranakan, Tze Char, local Singaporean, and other cuisines. We got all that info from amazing blogs like hungryangmo, VeganAsh, hungrygowhere (for the dessert places), and city nomads. We also used YouTube a lot for insider tips. In particular, the Ryan and Sylvia channel on YouTube is one of the best. I have also made a complete guide to vegetarian food in Singapore using these resources and my travel experiences.
Weather and temperatures
For weather, we used nea.gov.sg. It is the official weather site of the government of Singapore, and it gives fairly reasonable weather forecasts. When you go to the homepage, you will see a widget for the forecast of the day. You can click on “check forecast” and review the 2-hour, 24-hour, and 4-day forecast. The forecast given by this official website can be considered fairly reliable.
Driving Directions and Travel Times
Google Maps gives fairly reasonable directions and travel times. But, locals in Singapore use a website called GoThere. This website not only gives you the directions, but also the travel cost. So, if you were planning on taking the MRT or a taxi, then the GoThere website will give you the cost of both the options along with the travel time. It is a neat little tool to plan your finances and budgeting, as you can estimate how much money you will need to spend on local transport.
(gothere.sg is a great tool for directions and local travel planning)
Activities in Singapore can be expensive. There are a few ways in which you can get discounts. The best thing you can do is book directly from the official website. Every major sightseeing destination has an online “book now” option. By doing so, you will get a 5% discount in most cases. There is also a well-known discount website called Klook. They have discounts and combo offers on many activities throughout the world. Just a note of caution, when you book through a third-party site such as Klook, make sure you read the terms and conditions very carefully. These third-party tickets tend to be strictly non-refundable. Sometimes, they require you to go to a separate counter at the destination and then have your electronic ticket exchanged for a physical paper ticket. This extra step simply adds additional time before you can enter the attraction. Sometimes, third party tickets are date-bound (you must go on the exact day that you specified while booking). The tickets booked from official websites are often times open-ended, which means you can visit any day within a 5 or 7 day period. That gives you some flexibility. If the price is important to you then Klook is a good option, but if you want a balance of price, flexibility, and peace-of-mind, then official websites are the way to go. There are also some local tour companies like Hippo tours and Duck tours which offer combo tickets. In particular, they have something called the Singapore Pass, where you can pick attractions from a list and you will end up getting some discount. But with them also, you should read the terms and conditions before proceeding. You may save a small amount with the Singapore Pass.
Let’s get Techie
For our phone and internet, we planned on using a local sim. Data and maps will be taken care of by that. There are two main companies offering short-duration tourist plans. First is Singtel and second is Starhub. They both have a 7-day plan which offers 100GB, 500 minutes of local calls, 100 local SMS, and 30 minutes of international calling. That should be more than enough for most tourist needs. We also downloaded an app called Maps.me. This app has offline maps which you can download and they are really good. We downloaded the Singapore map on our phone and tablet. For electricity, Singapore uses Plug G type with 230V supply. So, we will be taking a Targus World Adapter with us along with a power strip. This way, we wouldn’t need multiple adapters for each of our devices. We will also save time by being able to hook up all our devices simultaneously. I always take a power strip with me wherever I go, and it is very useful to me every single time. You may have noticed that some hotels do not have a lot of plugs in the room. So, a power strip solves that problem as well.
Some invaluable things
I have prepared a sheet of paper with various sightseeing locations of interest as well as a list of all the food and dessert places that we want to visit. Along with the places, there are MRT station names closest to each location and the opening/closing times for each place. Some restaurants are closed on a particular day of the week, some places even close down in the afternoon or unusually early times. To tackle all of this variation, this information sheet will be a great resource for us because we will be able to take decisions on the go whenever we get delayed or when things do not go as planned. We will not have to spend time looking up a place on google maps or trying to find its hours of operations, etc. Even though we have planned a day-by-day itinerary on Tripadvisor, we can use this info sheet and very easily adapt our trip according to how we feel about visiting a place at any particular time.
Hope this helps you in your planning. Are there other resources or tools which you found to be effective while planning a trip to Singapore? … Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below.