The island city-state of Singapore is a truly fascinating place. It is a melting pot of culture, a high-tech urban hub, and one of the world’s most kid-friendly destinations. I’ve visited Singapore numerous times, with and without my daughter, and think this destination should be on every traveler’s must-see list.
In this post, I share my best Singapore travel tips and some of my family’s favorite things to do in Singapore. Under each section, I list tips for how to buy tours and tickets for less, and this is mostly done through a highly rated and large Singapore-based travel company called Klook.
Singapore Travel Tips
Many people are happily surprised to discover that traveling in Asia is easy. Visiting Singapore is no exception, but it’s nice to know what to expect. Here are some Singapore travel tips I share when friends and family express an interest in visiting the city.
Visit in the Driest Season
The critical thing to know is that the weather in Singapore is hot and humid year-round, and there’s always the possibility of rainfall. That said, if you want potentially the least amount of rain during your visit, plan your trip for June, July, or August (though expect some rain during these months, too).
If visiting Singapore with kids, don’t pack your itinerary too full because they will need downtime in the heat.
Eat Like a Local
The food in Singapore is, frankly, amazing, and one of my favorite things to do in Singapore is to eat. While you could stick to Michelin starred restaurants (there are tons), definitely make time to check out the food centers and hawker stalls where you’ll find some of the best chicken rice, chili crab, and laksa.
What to Pack
Singapore is consistently humid, so one of my top Singapore travel tips is to stick with natural fibers like linen and light cotton when you’re packing. Tunics are an excellent option because they’ll protect your skin from the harsh equatorial sun while keeping you cool.
Bug spray and sunscreen are mandatory no matter what time of year you’re visiting. Do not forget a hat and UV umbrella to provide some shade while sightseeing. We also like handheld fans that mist water. Singaporean heat is no joke.
Where to Stay
During our trips to Singapore, we’ve loved staying at the Four Seasons Hotel Singapore and Mandarin Oriental, Singapore, and I’d recommend either as a perfect home base whether you’re traveling solo, on a couple’s getaway, or visiting Singapore with kids. The historic Raffles Hotel (where the Singapore Sling was invented) is another option for a luxury hotel (though it’s closed for restoration until August 2019), but there are many, many wonderful hotels in Singapore for every budget.
Ask About the Handy
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of figuring out how to get your U.S. mobile phone to work in Asia — or you don’t want to pay for roaming charges — ask your hotel if you can borrow a “handy.” These are complimentary phones with local SIM cards that many hotels keep on hand for guests. Many luxury hotels already have Handys waiting in every room.
Cabs Are Plentiful
Locals will typically choose a cab ride over a stroll (possibly because of the heat and humidity), so you’ll never have trouble finding a ride. They’re also inexpensive, despite Singapore’s reputation as the world’s most expensive locale. I would also highly recommend that you download the Grab app, which is Singapore’s version of Uber.
Know the Rules
Singapore is known for being a clean and safe destination, and that’s partly because there are many laws and regulations locals uphold. One of the most important Singapore travel tips I can share is to be aware of the rules. For example, chewing gum in public, forgetting to flush a public toilet, and feeding pigeons can all result in a fine.
Things to Do in Singapore
There are so many amazing things to do in Singapore that it’s hard for me to choose just a few. Below, you’ll find some of our favorites.
National Gallery Singapore
This museum houses the most extensive public collection of modern art in all of Southeast Asia. There are more than 8,000 pieces of art, and you could easily spend an entire day wandering around the galleries. Start your visit at the “Siapa Nama Kamu? Art in Singapore Since the 19th Century” exhibit, which features art that explores the country’s identity.
The Singapore Zoo
This is a must-do for families visiting Singapore with kids. The Singapore Zoo is famous for its open-concept enclosures that put visitors very close to the wonderful animals that call the zoo home. Yes, these are orangutans swinging over my daughter’s head as she walks down one of the zoo pathways.
Speaking of orangutans, we always book Jungle Breakfast with Wildlife when visiting the Singapore Zoo. You’ll enjoy a huge buffet, listen to zookeepers talk, and get an up-close look at the orangutans who climb down to eat, too, snakes and more.
Check out the zoo’s schedule before you go because there are lots of animal feedings and other activities each day. River Safari Singapore is located next door to the Singapore Zoo. If you have the energy, you can visit both in one day.
- Discount Jungle Breakfast with Wildlife Tickets
- Discount Singapore Zoo Tickets
- Private Transfer to Wildlife Reserves Singapore Parks (including Singapore Zoo) with car seats by request
- Discount River Safari Singapore Tickets
- Go Singapore Pass
Jurong Bird Park
This is the largest bird park in Asia, with more than 5,000 animals representing 400 species in its 50 acres of green spaces. Four large aviaries mimic lush natural habitats, and you can see everything in a half day visit.
When we went, we booked the Jurong Bird Park Feeding Frenzy Tour for a fun experience that I highly recommend (it was nice to be driven around in a cart with a young child in Singaporean heat).
- Discount Jurong Bird Park Tickets
- Lunch with Parrots
- Private Transfer to Wildlife Reserves Singapore Parks (including Jurong Bird Park) with car seats by request
- Go Singapore Pass
Universal Studios® Singapore
One of the most obvious things to do in Singapore with kids that’s always a hit is to visit Universal Studios Singapore on Sentosa Island. There are seven movie-themed lands with twenty-four rides, shows, shopping, character experiences, and lots of other fun stuff to do for both kids and grown-ups. Purchasing tickets in advance is a must as the park limits the number sold each day.
- Discount Universal Studios Singapore Admission + Express Pass Combo (top pick)
- Discount Universal Studios Singapore Tickets
- Universal Studios Singapore Express Pass (need an admission ticket, too)
- Discount VIP Tour
- Go Singapore Pass
Singapore Botanic Gardens
While there are many green spaces to explore here, the Singapore Botanic Gardens (a UNESCO World Heritage site) stands out. Set on 60 acres of what was once plantation land, four distinct gardens feature thousands of species of orchids, beautiful tropical plants, beautiful landscaping, children’s areas with tree houses, and other attractions. Admission is free.
The heat makes it a bit hard to explore but rest-assured it’s worthwhile. Before moving back to San Diego, we’d spent so much time in Singapore that I wanted to replicate a Singaporean garden at home. We don’t have the climate (despite much care, I learned this the hard way) so do enjoy the lush greenery and orchid arches when there.
- Big Bus Tours Singapore (hop off at Singapore Botanic Gardens)
The Night Safari
Singapore is home to the world’s first safari park showcasing nocturnal animals. The Night Safari is one of the most interesting things to do in Singapore for visitors of all ages. The complimentary guided tram tour only takes 40 minutes and takes guests through each habitat for close-up views of nocturnal animals from 130 species.
After the tour, you can explore the trails on your own or check out the Creatures of the Night show. Rest assured that plenty of snacks and adult beverages can be enjoyed during your visit.
- Discount Night Safari Tickets
- Private Transfer to Wildlife Reserves Singapore Parks (including Night Safari) with car seats by request
- Go Singapore Pass
Ethnic Neighborhoods: Little India, Chinatown, Kampong Glam, Katong/Joo Chiat
Singapore is a true multicultural destination. The Chinese, the Malay, and the Indian populations have all contributed to Singapore’s cultural richness while still celebrating their art, festivals, and cuisine. You can experience the diversity of Singapore by traveling to these enclaves (be sure to eat).
In Little India, you’ll find an abundance of fantastic food and one of Singapore’s oldest Hindu temples. Chinatown is home to traditional medicine bars and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum plus cool restaurants and bars. Kampong Glam is home to the golden Sultan Mosque and Haji Lane — a colorful, narrow, and artsy street that is one of the most Instagrammable spots in Singapore. Joo Chiat is the most famous street in the Peranakan neighborhood of Katong, and you must go there to eat. (Peranakan are native-born people of mixed local and foreign ancestry. In Singapore, this refers to Straits-born Chinese whose culture and language is Malay influenced.)
- Hawker Centre Hopping: Singapore Food Tour (private tour) — top pick
- Night Four Tour — Eclectic Cuisine Scene (private tour)
- Sundown in Singapore: Little India Tour (private tour)
- From the Chinese Straits to Joo Chiat: Peranakan Singapore (private tour)
- List of Singapore Food Tours on Viator
Gardens by the Bay
This urban jungle on Marina Bay has three waterfront gardens showcasing the best and most beautiful tropical flora and garden artistry. There’s plenty to keep you busy, from strolling along the 419-foot aerial walkway supported by eighteen super-trees to wandering around the Flower Dome (the largest greenhouse in the world) to visiting the Cloud Forest, where you can find the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. Make sure to stay for the evening Garden Rhapsody light and music show.
Marina Bay Sands SkyPark
This Insta-ready 57th-floor observation deck is open to the public, though it should be noted that the Marina Bay Sands rooftop infinity pool (the world’s largest) is for guests only.
The panoramic views of the Singapore skyline from the observation deck are breathtaking.
- Marina Bay Sands Skypark Discount Tickets
- DC Comics Superheroes Cafe at Marina Bay Sands Voucher (my daughter loves this)
The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
You’ll find fantastic hiking trails less than eight miles from the city center in this beautiful 403-acre reserve. There are four routes to choose from — two that are easy, one that will give you an excellent workout, and one that is best for experienced hikers — plus a designated mountain biking trail. All of these paths will take you through some gorgeous tropical flora.
The Spectra Light and Water Show
Seeing the Spectra Light and Water Show should be on your list of things to do in Singapore if it is your first time here. This evening show, which happens daily, features perfectly choreographed singing fountains and light projections. One of the best spots to catch it is from just outside the main entrance of the Marina Bay Sands mall, the pedestrianized walkway around Marina Bay, or from your room at the following hotels:
- Mandarin Oriental, Singapore
- The Ritz-Carlton Millenia, Singapore
- The Fullerton Hotel
- The Fullerton Bay Hotel
Shop Orchard Road
Known as Singapore’s shopping street, Orchard Road was once lined by plantations but today is home to luxury boutiques and other high-end stores. There are also lovely dining options, spots to grab a quick glass of wine, and beautiful little cafes.
Highlights include ION Orchard mega shopping mall with its luxury brands and food hall. Tang’s is a local department store that’s been open here since 1932 should you want to browse Asian homewares, local as well as international designers, and its massive beauty hall. We also have spent hours in the gigantic Kinokuniya bookstore in Ngee Ann City browsing comics, anime, cookbooks, office supplies, and more.
Go to the Beach and Play on Sentosa Island
There’s nothing like swimming in the calm waters off Sentosa Island and then drying off on the soft, warm sand.
Siloso Beach is a popular spot for both locals and tourists for its kayak rentals and cool restaurants, and I recommend rounding out your Singapore vacation with some unstructured beach time. My daughter would not sightsee once we landed on Sentosa Island’s beaches as she enjoyed them so much.
Other things to do on Sentosa Island (other than Universal Studios Singapore) include Fort Siloso and the Fort Siloso Skywalk, S.E.A. Aquarium AJ Hacket bungee tower, Adventure Cove Waterpark, KidZania Singapore, Mega Adventure Park and much more.
To give you an idea, it takes about 15 minutes to get to Sentosa Island from Marina Bay. You can also stay on Sentosa Island at the luxe Capella Singapore.
Bundled sightseeing passes are helpful when visiting Sentosa’s many attractions.
Are you thinking of traveling to Asia? I recommend including Singapore as a stop. If you have spent time here, what are your top Singapore travel tips?