48 hours in Singapore
Sarah Ricketts is in her fourth year studying History and Political Science at the University of Birmingham, and spent her year abroad studying at the National University of Singapore. Here's her suggested itinerary for those of you planning a 48-hour adventure in Singapore...
With its perfect location in southern Asia, Singapore is the city of flight stopovers. If you end up touching down in this amazing place for a just a night or two, it’s worth knowing how to use your time in the best way to see this mix of east and west in one small country.
1. The Basics
Forget relaxing. If you want to see the full city it is definitely going to make you sweat – mostly because of the ridiculously humid tropical weather! Also be aware that Singapore has some strict laws so find out what you can and can't take in before double checking your baggage. For example, it’s illegal to bring in chewing gum and doing so can result in a $100,000 fine.
They also have some strict rules on alcohol. It’s illegal to drink on the metro and on the street. To make sure you're not hit with an on the spot fine that could take away your future bungee jump fund, read up on pages like this one so you know what to expect.
2. The Itinerary
Wherever you’ve just arrived from you will probably be tired, but grab a Kopi iced coffee (learn how to order a cup of Singapore coffee) and power through! Spend your first evening wandering around the beautiful, bustling streets of Little India. The colourfully ordained architecture that surrounds you is completely different to anything else you’ll see in Singapore, with shops pouring out into the streets and amazing jewellery at great prices. You can also find some incredible Indian cuisine here, although be warned - it is extremely spicy (depending on how brave your choices are).
Don’t fall for the tourist traps, instead wander down the side streets to find the more local restaurants where the food is both cheaper and better. Remember the rule to never judge a book by its cover... Some of the best restaurants may not look like much, but I promise they are worth visiting! My recommendations for your order are the roti canai and a refreshing mango lassi.
Get up early to make the most of the (marginally) cooler weather. Spend the morning wandering around the expansive (and free!) Botanic Gardens. This is a great place to explore where you could easily lose a few hours, if not the whole day. Unmissable highlights include the rainforest walk and the Orchid Garden.
For lunch head on the metro to Chinatown in central Singapore and find the outdoor Maxwell Road Hawker food court. This is THE place to try Hainanese chicken rice, the Singaporeans’ all-time favourite dish. Hainan Chicken can be found all over the city but never as cheap or delicious as at this locals’ most famous secret, with meals at Maxwell’s priced anywhere from $4-$6. For the best combination I would pair this with a refreshing iced tea with lemon (fresh, not bottled). Keep an eye out here: If you spot a pack of tissues on any table, it means it’s been reserved so steer clear to avoid any conflict.
Spend the afternoon wandering around the tourist haven of Chinatown and step inside the Buddhist and Hindu temples to add a bit of culture to your day.
For your last night in Singapore I have two choices for you - highbrow or fun.
Whichever way you prefer, head to Lau Pa Sat for dinner first. This old, colonial hawker centre sits smack-bang in the middle of the CBD (central business district), so you have the luxury of sitting in a tiny building surrounded by huge skyscrapers. Pick what you fancy from the huge number of stalls or head to the street for some delicious satay.
After dinner head to the Bayfront metro and find your way to Gardens by the Bay (it’s a short walk from the metro but is well signposted). Here you can watch one of Singapore’s light shows: a dazzling and slightly psychedelic array of Technicolor beams that light up parts of the city with a score of classic songs giving it a magical effect. The light shows are on every day and can draw in a big crowd so make sure you arrive before 7.15pm or 8.15pm to get a prime spot underneath the 'super trees' for optimal viewing.
Garden by the Bay by LWYang
After this for those who want a highbrow experience, look to Marina Bay Sands for a classy night with incredible views over the harbour. The hotel is iconic viewpoint for Singapore, and only a short walk from Gardens by the Bay. Travel to the 57th floor to savour a drink at their bar whilst you look over the panoramic view of Singapore on one side or the thousands of shipping liners in the sea. It’s truly spectacular. Top tip for female travellers: on Wednesdays ladies get a free drink at the club.
Those who want a more bustling evening should grab a taxi (or metro if you have the energy) to Haji Lane. This is where you can find a small, impressively graffitied lane that is lined with excellent bars. Take the time to wander across to the Arab Quarter, where you'll find stores full of rugs and shisha topped by impressive the Sultan Mosque. Blu Jaz Cafe is my recommended Haji Lane hang out.
But for a day of culture I recommend Singapore's fantastic museums. Spend the morning at the Asian Civilisations Museum before wandering along the river back to the Bay area. Here stop for lunch at a great hawkers centre next to Esplanades with an unbeatable view. After lunch take your obligatory selfie with the Merlion - this statue by the harbour is literally the stuff of legends in Singapore, as well as a hugely significant national symbol. Once you’ve grabbed your luggage leave some time for a quick pit stop back at the Changi Prison Museum, where the horrors of War World Two in Singapore will come alive. A heart-wrenching and largely unknown story, it’s not to be missed.
Finally head to the airport ready for your next destination! And don't forget with its reputation as the best airport in the world, Changi offers you plenty to explore within itself: from a butterfly garden to the biggest indoor slide in the world.
Be sure to check any visas, restrictions, and vaccinations before you go so it doesn't ruin your plans! The FCO has some great advice and tips on how to 'know before you go'. Also, follow their Twitter advice on @FCOTravel for update to news and breaking announcements.