Singapore vs Hong Kong
Sarah is studying History and Political Science at the University of Birmingham, and spent her year abroad studying at the National University of Singapore. Alexia is studying English and German at Cardiff University and spent a year living in Berlin, and has just moved back there following the end of her exams! Here, they compare their experiences in Singapore and Hong Kong, in terms of visas, vaccinations, language, climate, sites' food, nightlife and drinking: all of the most important things! Which destination would you choose for your year abroad?
1. Visas and vaccinations
Due to the location of both Singapore and Hong Kong it is easy to assume you will need some kind of visa or at least vaccination for both places. But the good news is you don’t need a visa for either! The vaccinations are also pretty simple, with just Hepatitis A recommended for Hong Kong and none recommended for Singapore! But for both places there are other vaccinations you may wish to consider yourself. One of the best places to find out more information on this is: fitfortravel.nhs.uk – a really simple and clear website to use for any health related holiday planning.
In Singapore you will find four national languages, one of which is English. The young people speak fluent English, sometimes throwing in some ‘Singlish’, they’re usually nice enough to explain what they mean to you! The older generation may not always speak or be able to understand English, but there are always hand signals. The language barrier is most likely to crop up in Hawker Centres (their food courts) or sometimes in taxis. Try and be prepared with a postcode or key are when getting a taxi. As for the food-language-barrier, trust the queuing. Whatever stall has the longest queue just tag on the end!
Sarah said she was surprised to find that Hong Kong had a much bigger language barrier than Singapore – you always think of the two as very similar places. But, again, the younger generation are mainly fluent in English, unsurprisingly as it is one of the official languages of Hong Kong. English is also used in central Hong Kong’s very urban areas but not spoken so much in smaller villages or by the older generations. Be warned: sometimes you may find yourself with a menu you can’t even read or with a menu that has somewhat questionable English…
Singapore is very hot and humid all year round due to its tropical climates. ‘Monsoon’ season is in December until around February – this is a slightly cooler time of year and heavy showers normally occur in the afternoon (often accompanied by an impressive thunder and lightening show). A top tip for the climate is to take cotton, breathable clothes, but also layers. They like to have the AC on full blast on public transport and in restaurants, shops etc. so it is always nice to have a jumper to throw on to stay comfortable in these chilly environments. Also be careful of the haze! This is caused by pollution coming across mainly from Indonesia and is normally at its worst during the hotter months of June-September.
Hong Kong can also be extremely hot and humid in the summer with bad visibility due to fog and pollution. However, be sure to check the weather forecast because they do have seasons, and their winter can be cold! A lot of people assume it’s like Singapore and get a bit of a shock when they turn up to winter temperatures.
Singapore offers the acclaimed Asian Civilisations Museum for the culture-seeking traveller. But also Gardens by the Bay, which can be a bit wacky at night and beautiful in the day. If you’re a hiker then you’ll be at home on the MacRitchie Trail, or if you’re wanting to soak up the atmosphere wandering around areas such as Little India and China Town will perfect for you! You can find even more to do in Sarah’s action-packed Singapore itinerary.
Hong Kong is just as full of things to do, though the experience is slightly less polished. Victoria Peak is always a favourite offering an incredible view, at night or day, across Hong Kong’s famous skyline. The brave can walk up or there is vertical tram for the true tourist experience! Either way, it is not to be missed (we both agree on that). If you’re a shopper at heart, Mong Kok offers a maze of bustling street markets, where, or if you’re the hiker type trails like the Dragon’s Back offer you piece of nature a short distance from the bustling heart of Hong Kong.
Sarah spent her year abroad in Singapore, exploring lots of Hawker centres and trying all the diverse food available in the small island state. Her recommendations are the Malaysian and Indian food! Both types are completely different to what we normally get here in the UK, and offer your taste buds unforgettable, sometimes spicy, sensations. You can’t beat it – some of Sarah’s favourite plates were laksa (Malaysian), and rotis (Indian). An ice-Milo is always a good drink to refresh and reenergise you during the day, or as a sweet end to a meal, but the freshly made ice-lemon-teas are a better pairing for food.
Hong Kong is also full of unforgettably delicious food, but this time Chinese inspired. You have copious amounts of rice, noodles, and dumplings (dim sum) to choose from. Try and seek out the more hidden-from-view restaurants that aren’t tourist traps to truly enjoy a taste of Hong Kong. You can also find fresh fish caught at the local harbour, flavoursome veggie dishes, and much more. It really is full of culinary delights. Also, don’t be surprised if you find yourself only able to find hot water at restaurants, to them that is normal.
6. Nightlight & drinking
What’s key for both places is that their drinking habits aren’t same as ours. It really is best to know your limits and be mindful that they aren’t as used to drunk and disorderly behaviour (and are less likely to tolerate it).
For Singapore the best tip is to try a drink up Marina Bay Sands, although it is pricey the views are unbeatable! Another choice is to head to Clarke Quay where you will find copious amounts of bars (and clubs) where you can drink and dance the night away. Most bars or clubs on a Wednesday also offer deals or a free drink to women as its ‘Ladies Night’ – not a great way to promote gender-equality, but a great way for you (if you are a lady) to have a cheap night with girls.
As for Hong Kong, Lan Kwai Fong in central HK is the district where all the bright lights and bars are! There is also Ladies night on a Wednesday in a place called Wan Chai and on a Thursday in LKF. Hong Kong even boasts the tallest bar in the world! The Ritz-Carlton hotel has a cocktail bar on the 118th floor of the ICC tower – this bar stands at an impressive 1,068ft above sea level.
Whether you choose to go to Singapore or Hong Kong (or both), there is so much on offer. To make sure you’re prepped and ready to head to your destination do check out the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s ‘Know Before You Go’ Campaign and have a browse at the country specific travel advice for Hong Kong or Singapore.
So be mindful and most importantly, happy travelling!