Known as the Lion City, Singapore may be a small city-state situated just beside peninsular Malaysia, but it is definitely not the least financially. Despite its geographical limitation, it is considered as one of the richest, safest and most successful countries in the world. No wonder, it is known as a preferred investment center, shopping mecca and a tourist destination.
While the standard of living in Singapore is way higher than its ASEAN neighbors, many travelers still don’t miss visiting the country not only for its accessibility but also for the convenience, value for money and fun attractions.
Aside from its world-class facilities, efficient transport system and limitless gastronomic options, a short and quick trip to Singapore is truly a memorable first-world experience. During a seat sale few months back, we booked a Singapore-bound flight together with a friend. Check out our quick guide to a weekend tour of the city-state.
What to Do
There are many possibilities and options to choose from when in SG. If you only came for stay-cations and shopping (and lots of it), then you can choose from the many malls and high-end shops and stores surrounding its financial centers and other convergence points like subways and parks. Two perhaps would be just enough to check them out along with their food scene. We managed to only check out a mall along Orchard Road, Esplanade Mall, the Marina Bay Sands, another mall in Sentosa and of course not to miss the Lucky Plaza.
If you’re in for some exciting outdoor tour, then you can explore the Marina Bay attractions and shop on the first day then spend the rest of your last day at Singapore’s Universal Studios just like we did. The Singapore Botanics Garden, the country’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site is also a perfect choice to visit.
For those staying longer, it is possible to cross the border to Malaysia and check out Johor Baru (Legoland or Hello Kitty Town), or take a ferry to get to the Indonesian islands of Bintan or Batam.
Gardens By the Bay
Marina Bay Sands
There are still other options to choose from — from museums, cafes, art shops, libraries and bars. Of course, don’t dare miss to sample the unique flavors of Singaporean food, giving you an exquisite blend of Chinese, Malaysian, Indian tastes in the variety of restaurants and hawker stalls.
DAY 1 (FRI): Flight – Manila-Singapore (Changi Airport) | Check-In
DAY 2 (SAT): Traditional Breakfast | Merlion Park | Esplanade+Library | Lau Pa Sat Hawker Centre | Lucky Plaza | Orchard Road | Marina Bay Sands | Gardens by the Bay | Helix Bridge | Dinner: Five Star Hainanese Chicken Rice
DAY 3 (SUN): Early Breakfast | Universal Studios Singapore | Sentosa | Lau Pa Sat Night Food Street | Changi Airport
DAY 4 (MON): Explore Changi Airport | Flight: Singapore-Manila
Singapore is a regional transit point, therefore, almost all countries in Asia and major cities globally fly to/from Singapore. For Filipinos, Cebu Pacific and Philippines Airlines are so far the only local airlines that service this route. There are, however, other low-cost regional airlines that fly this route from Manila, Cebu and Clark: Scoot Air, Jet Star Airways and Silk Air. Flights are multiple times daily. It is also possible to reach Singapore by land crossing from Malaysia.
All flights arrive and depart at Changi Airport, the undisputed best airport in the world for years now. Given its facilities and amenities, getting stuck there for hours, whether waiting for flights or delayed flight, is rather a convenience.
Similar to Korea and Japan, Singapore also boasts a very efficient and convenient transport system, from the airport to your hotel’s doorstep and beyond. Upon arrival at the airport, you have the option to take the train, the bus and metered taxis or app-based transport service like Uber and Grab.
When taking the bus or the subway/train, it is best to buy the tap on/tap off EZ Link card (similar to the Philippines’ Beep Card) for convenience. You can buy this and have it loaded in convenience stores (like 7-11). For two days, we loaded our EZ Link with SGD 15.00 and we were still able to keep a SGD 2.00 balance after all the hopping on and off buses that we did.
Don’t sweat it with the directions and safety as these options are relatively safe and almost everyone can communicate in English. Not to worry also if you have hard time asking as there are many Filipinos around; they are practically all over the place, from airports, to restaurants and malls.
Where to Stay
In our case, we were so lucky to be hosted by our friends (special thanks to Vanessa and Mark) in their flat located in a cozy neighborhood called Siglap, which is about 10 minutes drive from Changi Airport and about 20 minutes drive to the central business district. Hence, despite arriving around midnight, the trip was smooth all the way until we settled for the night.
There are however, a hundred or more options to stay in Singapore, from high-end five star hotels and leisure resorts, to mid-range accommodations- hostels, capsules, dormitories, apartments and even AirBnB units. These are all available online, preferably via Agoda. Just decide on which neighborhood you want to stay in.
Where to Eat
As we were dying to taste local dishes, our friends led us to Lau Pa Sat Food Hawker Centre for lunch. It is conveniently located at the heart of the Singapore’s financial district and just a stone’s throw from Merlion Park and Marina Bay Sands. Everything from the local delicacies, to the famous chicken rice and kaya toast (roti prata is Ive’s favorite, while Edge fancied the chicken satay), and a range of traditional and regional dishes are available here for very affordable prices. It is open 24 hours.
At night, the streets around the hawker centre are turned into a night food scene. Don’t miss trying their variety of seafood dishes and drown their satay with cans of Tiger Beer.
We were also able to try the traditional Malay breakfast called Kaya Toast, which is a combination of toasted bread with coconut jam, a soft-boiled egg and partnered with kopi-O, a Malaysian-style coffee. Depending on your itinerary, there are many hawkers around Singapore. Don’t hesitate to ask the locals (or fellow Pinoys) for suggestions and directions.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Note, however, that Singapore has one of the strictest laws and heaviest penalties both for common and high crimes. Smuggling of large quantities of drugs carries a penalty of death. Other illegal acts like spitting, littering, selling gums, feeding pigeons, among other unusual violations are punishable by prison terms or hefty fines.