Today, we were going to fly back home after a wonderful 5 days in Singapore. We had an 11 o’clock flight to catch and hence had to reach the airport by 8-8:15 am. We woke up early at around 5:30 am. After getting ready, we checked out of our hotel, which was quite a simple process. It was going to be another rainy day and NEA was forecasting rain to begin by 7 am. We had our fingers crossed, as we really did not want our bags to get wet while walking to Jalan Besar station. With grey clouds hanging over us, we quickly made our way to the station. The station was literally a 3-minute walk from our hotel, which worked out well for us not just on the last day, but throughout our trip. It was one of the main reasons why we chose Hotel 81.
As it was early morning, the MRT was not too crowded. It was probably about one hour before the morning commuters would begin to pour in. We had no trouble maneuvering our luggage either, and in fact, found places to sit for the entire journey to Expo station. The journey from Jalan Besar to Singapore airport is not a short one. It took us a good 45 mins. At Expo station, we had to change trains and take the airport train.
Upon arrival at the airport station, the first thing we did was visit the MRT ticketing window. The window was located just after the turnstiles where you swipe your card to exit. We had some unused credit on our EZ link cards and planned to get a refund for it. While you can get back any unused money on your EZ link card, what you don’t get back is the $5 deposit which you pay when you first buy the card upon your arrival into Singapore. We collected our refund money and then made our way to the airline check-in. A few minutes after we left the ticketing window, I realized that the lady at the counter did not give us back our EZ link cards! I had hoped to keep the card as a souvenir. After all, I had already paid the $5 deposit for it. But for whatever reason, we forgot to ask for the cards and the MRT lady must have assumed that we did not want to keep them. Lesson for future travelers: if you want to hang on to your card, then make sure you ask the lady to give it back to you when you go for the refund.
We made our way up the escalators to the check-in terminal. As we were there almost 3 hours before departure time, we got our preferred seating. After picking up our boarding passes, we had enough time to get breakfast. We had not eaten anything before checking out of our hotel and were hungry. The food court was located in basement 2. So, we headed down a few levels and explored the food court. After being treated to some exquisite vegetarian food throughout our trip, we were totally disappointed with the food choices there. Some places were not even open by 8:30 am. The ones that were open had 95% Chinese staff who couldn’t speak a word of English. In fact, many of them did not even know the items on their menus! Forget trying to explain vegetarian food to them, even ordering normal items off the menu was a challenge. Almost everything had either meat or eggs in it. Food wasn’t freshly cooked either. We ended up eating breakfast at Starbucks, which had helpful staff who understood English.
After breakfast, we bought some stuff from a Watsons store (also in basement 2). Then, as we were heading for our departure gate, we were looking to exchange some Singapore dollars which were still unused. The exchange rates in the departure area after security/immigration were horrible. So, we decided to spend it instead! There were plenty of duty-free shops and we had no trouble spending those last few SGDs. It was time to say goodbye and reflect on the great times that we had in Singapore. We went home with plenty of memories, enjoyed some excellent vegetarian food, and were absolutely tired from all the walking. We must have walked 6-8 kms daily!
As with any travel experience, not everything during our trip was rosy. One thing that we were not impressed with was the quality of directions in certain places. One example was Day 4 at GBTB. The same thing happened at the Zoo and at Suntec Mall. The huge malls were a nightmare to find anything quickly because there are multiple buildings, escalators, lifts, etc. The MBS buildings are also super confusing, some things are in tower 1, some others in tower 2, and so on.
(be ready to walk and spend lots of time on escalators)
Coming to the MRT stations, they are absolutely world class – no doubt about it. But, we spent as much time on the train as we spent trying to get from one platform to another. Whenever you change from one line to another at a station, you have to climb 2 or 3 levels up, walk for a bit, and then go back down 2 or 3 levels. All of this kept on adding time to our journey, and we had limited time over 5 short days. Sometimes, even when we were not changing any lines, just getting to a platform at certain stations took us as long as 10-12 minutes. So the key is to count for all of this extra time when you plan your journey by MRT.
All the challenges aside, overall our trip was excellent. 5 days was not long enough because we did not get time to visit the Aquarium, the amazing museum, the River Safari, and the Sentosa Island beaches. We would have loved to spend some more time in the city and go to certain districts/areas that were quite unique. The foodie in me would have liked to visit a couple of more restaurants! Taking these insights into account, it is easy to see why 8-10 days is a better duration for an immersive trip to Singapore. So, if you have the time and money, make your trip just a little bit longer. You won’t regret it.
(one of the beaches on Sentosa Island)
People who like to shop in Singapore should take note of the fact that you can claim a GST tax refund at Changi Airport when you leave Singapore. You are eligible for this refund IF you buy something from a participating store for S$100 or more. You can ask for an eTRS ticket and when you present that ticket at the airport, you can get a tax refund. You may have to physically show your purchased items, so do not check those items in. Finish the refund process first and then put them in your bags or simply put them in your carry-on bags. 5-7% of GST savings is a reasonably good amount to warrant some attention to this topic. You can read about the program here and here. Many big stores in the malls (H&M, etc) had signs of this eTRS stuff on their cashier desks. Whenever you shop, just ask the store staff if they support the eTRS program.
Thank you for reading. Terima Kasih, Xie Xie!