We were totally intrigued by Singapore. Yes, we're usually into remote places and outdoorsy adventures, but Singapore won us over. Sadly, our stay there was cut short due to our decision to give up our seats on the Japan leg of our flight to Singapore (but yay for earning a ton of mileage points!), so this is definitely not a comprehensive overview of Singapore! Regardless, we want to share ten reasons to visit Singapore, based on what we experienced.
1. It's safe. According to the Singapore 2015 Crime and Safety Report published on the United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Singapore continues to enjoy one of the lowest crime rates in the world, and is listed at number 5 out of 176 countries on the least corrupt countries list. We felt exceptionally safe and relaxed the whole time and it appeared that everyone else did too, as people were casual with their belongings, and we saw lots of lone women out exercising early in the morning and late at night. Case in point in the photo below: a group of women practicing Tai Chi under an overpass early in the morning. There are plenty of places where it would be a very bad idea for a group of women to be hanging out under an overpass downtown! Singapore would be a great place to travel to alone as a woman.
2. It's artistic. We know this wouldn't be a reason to visit for a lot of people, but Singapore really was a beautiful city. Such careful landscaping, so many sculptures, artwork just about everywhere you look. It was really wonderful. Below are a few examples from a walk just around the vicinity of our hostel.
3. It's clean. Singapore has strict laws relating to cleanliness. For example, spitting in public can land you a fine up to $1,000 and failure to flush a public toilet will incur a $150 fine. Smoking in public is illegal, which is a common law, but in Singapore it's even illegal inside vehicles. If you're caught littering something small like a candy wrapper you will be fined $300. If you're caught littering something larger like a plastic bag, you'll be fined up to $1,000. If you get caught littering three times you'll be forced to clean streets wearing a bright orange jersey that identifies you as a litterer to shame you into changing your ways.
4. There's a good blend of old and new. Singapore is the epitome of modern, innovative, and sleek, and yet beneath the towering cityscape you'll also find beautifully restored 19th century buildings, narrow cobbled streets, and areas like Chinatown and Little India that make you almost forget that you're in a modern mecca. Below is a look back at our hostel, located in one of those quaint restored shops along the riverfront, dwarfed by the modern buildings behind them.
5. It's a melting pot. According to Singapore's 2015 population trends report, the top three ethnicities percentage wise are Chinese, Malay, and Indian. And of course that's just the top three. Many other ethnicities are represented and since Singapore is such a business hub, there is also a substantial expatriate community. As such, Singapore is a fascinating blend of cultures, making a visit to this small city state feel much more substantial.
6. It's a foodie's paradise. If food is your thing, you need to visit Singapore. It's not called "the island of food" by Bon Appétit for nothing. The country's cultural diversity plays a part in the dizzying array of mouthwatering food choices available. Just walking down the street from our hostel we spied Mexican, Greek, Indian, Chinese, and Thai food. We ended up eating a lot of Indian food, all of which was wonderful. That's really one of my biggest regrets from Singapore though - not having enough time to really explore the food scene. We didn't even eat any of Singapore's famous street food, which practically feels like a crime!
7. There's something for every one. Singapore has a wealth of incredible attractions. If museums and history are your thing, there's the Asian Civilisations Museum, the Art Science Museum (great if you're traveling with kids), the Singapore Philatelic Museum (stamps anyone?), and the Peranakan Museum just to name a few. If nightlife is what you're after, Singapore has a very trendy club scene that you can explore with this guide from Honeycombers. Shopping? Singapore has entire malls just for electronics, vast markets for souvenirs, and just about every kind of couture imaginable at places like Orchard Road. If it's nature you want, there's loads of fantastic parks. We went to Gardens by the Bay, which actually encompasses multiple different gardens like the Cloud Forest, Heritage Gardens, and Supertree Grove. The Supertree Grove was the main reason I wanted to visit Gardens by the Bay, as it's quite iconic. The first place I saw a photograph of it in fact was in National Geographic, and TripAdvisor's 2016 Traveler's Choice awards names it one of the top five landmarks in Singapore. The day we left we decided to walk to Gardens by the Bay as it was just 5 kilometers away, and then catch a metro from there to the airport. What we didn't take into account was how incredibly hot the day was. And that's how we found ourselves trudging through the city in 90 degree weather with our backpacks, absolutely drenched in sweat and catching a lot of looks from the many chic Singaporeans inhabiting the area. When we finally got to the gardens, we'd completely lost interest in exploring and spent most of our time just sitting on a bench gazing up at the Supertrees. We could have gone up to the skywalks connecting the trees, but since you have to pay to do that, and we're decidedly cheap, we decided not to. So here's our advice: pick a cooler time of year to visit Singapore unless all you want to do is hang out at the beach (check out Sentosa Island), and visit the Supertree Grove at night when it's all lit up.
8. Transportation is easy and affordable. Singapore has an excellent mass transit system. Like the metro in Delhi, we bought stored value cards (ez-link cards) that could be loaded with money to ride both the buses and the metro. Their advantage to the cards for Delhi's metro, is that you can add specific sums of money so that nothing goes to waste. For example, if you know you will be traveling a certain route, you can look at the map, calculate the price, and load that exact amount onto your card at a handy self-serve kiosk. In Delhi, we had to add lump sums to the card (for example $5 at a time) that forced us to leave the country with a remaining balance. We ended up riding the metro a fair bit, and it was fantastic. Stations (referred to as MRTs) were everywhere, so we never had to walk far, and as you would expect, they were spotlessly clean and well organized.
9. There's lots of unique and chic hostels. Admittedly, Singapore is not the cheapest place to visit, and I spent quite a lot of time looking for accommodations, but there were a lot of very nice hostels to choose from. We ended up settling at a hostel (MET a Pod) with prices more closely aligned with a cheap hotel, but the location alone made it worth it - riverfront and just minutes walk from Clark's Quay. You can check out its fantastic location here. What really intrigued me about MET a Pod (and a lot of hostels in Singapore actually) was that as the name suggests, the beds are actually separate pods with shades for complete privacy - so basically a capsule hotel. Justin wasn't quite as stoked as me as he was afraid the pod would be too short for him (he's a little over 6 feet tall), but he fit just fine! Each pod had its own little air conditioner, a mirror, several lights, and a little flip down TV. Each pod also came with sheets, pillow, blanket, and towel, and we were super impressed with how clean everything was. For all the reasons listed above, we highly recommend MET a Pod. If you do decide to stay there, you can get great directions from Hostel World under the map tab that walks you through how to get there via metro from the airport. We followed the directions without any difficulties, until we reached the riverfront. We walked up and down the street twice before we noticed the tiny sign for MET a Pod pointing up some stairs just inside a bar. We had expected it to be in it's own building instead of above a bar, so we'd just been scanning at street level for something big and obvious.
10. Their international airport is incredible. Sounds like a pretty lame reason to visit a country, but Changi Airport is like an attraction in and of itself. Think beautiful indoor and outdoor gardens, an entertainment deck with Xbox 360s and a movie theater, a hotel inside the airport, free city tours if you have an 8 hour or greater layover, and much much more. There's a reason this airport has won numerous awards including Airport of the Year, World's Best Airport four times, and Top Worldwide Airport 11 times. We seriously didn't want to leave the airport. Even if you don't want to spend time in Singapore, do yourself a favor and plan to have a layover at Changi!