How to make the most of a stopover in Singapore
Singapore is the key stopover on the so-called Kangaroo Route between London and Sydney (and vice versa). So if you're travelling to Australia via Singapore, lucky you. That means you'll be touching down in one of the best airports in the world. But Singapore's much more than just a place to refuel and stretch your legs. If you can, it's worth leaving the airport, and taking a day or two to see the world's only Island City State.
What's it like?
Singapore is just off southern Malaysia. It's pretty small: London is twice the size of Singapore and Hong Kong is a third bigger.
- It's made up of 63 islands. Pulau Ujong the main one you'll spend time on.
- The name comes from Sanskrit. Singa is "lion"and Pura means "city", which explains all the references to "Lion City".
- It's a global financial hub. You'll see mega skyscrapers alongside the colonial buildings leftover from British Empire rule in the 19th and 20th centuries.
- There are loads of temples. Buddhism is the largest, and most practised, religion.
What can you do in Singapore?
Here's some suggestions on how you can spend your stopover time - be it for a few hours, one day or a weekend.
At the airport
If you haven't got much time on your stopover, lucky you - T3 at Changi International Airport keeps getting voted the best in the world. So don't rush off.
- Try the 24-hour cinema or swimming pool.
- Have a stopover snifter in their rooftop bar
- Visit the butterfly gardens - there are 40 species to spot
Singapore has a real mixed bag of architecture - which makes it an interesting city to just potter around.
- For colonial buildings with skyscapers in the background, visit The Padang field. Built as a cricket pitch in the 1830s, it's still run by the Singapore Cricket Club.
- Around the field, you'll find City Hall, St. Andrew’s Cathedral and the Supreme Court.
- Chinatown was built in the 1820s - don't miss the red-and-gold Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.
- Stroll through the back lanes of Chinatown market. The old flats are typical old neighbourhoods and where the China samsui women (the contractors) used to live.
- The Marina Bay Sands Skypark which contains a rooftop infinity pool, bar and viewing deck overlooking the city.
Arts and culture
- The National Museum of Singapore, Singapore Art Museum and National Gallery Singapore are all really close to each other.
- Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay, a performing arts centre only opened in 2002 and this is a great place to see live performances.
- They've got loads of festivals: food, drink, cultural, seasonal (New Year etc) taking place throughout the year
- The Mid Autumn Festival in September is huge. Time your visit and see thousands of lanterns all lit up.
Explore the great outdoors
They've made a massive effort to improve the biodiversity on the island recently, which means plenty of parks to have a rest in.
- Singapore Botanic Gardens is the only tropical garden listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site
- The Gardens by the Bay is a tropical yet futuristic park in the heart of Singapore.
Visit the theme parks
- Welcome to the State of Fun - otherwise known as Sentosa. You've got beaches, theme park rides, a huge aquarium, cable cars and everything in one place.
- The Night Safari at Singapore Zoo is the first one in the world to let you visit the nocturnal animals.
- Singapore has loads of waterparks - more than 20 - of varying sizes.
Where's the party?
If you only have the energy to do one thing in Singapore, then get stuck into the local grub. This is also a party island, so if your flight is arriving late, you're sure to find a bar. The Singapore Sling cocktail was invented here - so a trip to the Raffles Hotel, as cheesy as it might be, has to be high on the tourist itinerary. It was invented in Long Bar back in 1915. And if it's good enough for The Queen...(see below).
- Keong Saik street might be a bit hipster, but it's also where you'll find an old-school Chinese hawker called Kok Seng.
- Wander through Little India and have some food at the Tekka Market. Try Thosais (the ones with rava chilli onion is our favourite) and Appom at Madras Woodlands.
- Lau Pa Sat Food Hawker Centre has lots of food stalls, great views and cheap food. It's in the the financial district surrounded by the illuminated skyscrapers.
- Singapore’s very own Chinatown is worth a visit.
- There's 29 Michelin starred restaurants in Singapore if you fancy a splurge.
- Have a very unique tea experience - Arteastiq offers you all day brunch and variety tea paired with an art masterclass painting series.
- Club Street is a great place to go on a Friday night when the bars are going off.
- Go to Gibson for oysters and cocktails.
- There's Operation Dagger in a basement - where all the best clubs are.
- Dance the night away in Clarke Quay - this district is ideal for those who’d like to experience the party life Singaporean style.
Do some shopping
- Haji Lane is full of fashion boutiques and Middle-Eastern cafes, a bit like London's Shoreditch.
- The Harbourfront - a place where you can take a boat cruise around the islands - they've also got shops, restaurants and bars here.
- The Singapore Grand Prix started in 2008 and now its one of the biggest Formula One races in the sporting calendar in September. Unusually they race round the Marina Bay circuit at night and they put on parties, food festivals over the four days the F1 circus is in town.
- Scuba divers wanting to see coral reefs usually head to the southern island of Pulau Hantu.
- Go banana boating on Siloso Beach - this place attracts a younger crowd. Take advantage of this beautiful beach by doing some watersports.
Here's your essential information for Singapore:
When's the best time to visit?
Its tropical climate means it's warm and humid all-year-round.
- You'll get temperatures ranging from around 20 to 35°C and it's hottest in our spring - April and May.
- While you can expect some rain if you visit - the official monsoon season is from November to January.
You won't see many cars around, as they're heavily taxed, but you can easily travel around by foot, bicycles, bus, taxis and train (MRT or LRT).
- Taxis are probably the most expensive - there's a small surcharge to and from the airport into town - but the journey only takes 30 minutes and is available 24 hours a day. Expect to pay anywhere between $20 and $40.
- The bus from the airport can take around an hour - but it only costs $2.50 (exact fare only - so get some change before leaving the airport).
- The MRT train is quickest and runs from around 5.30am to 11pm both ways. You can buy single trips - or get a tourist pass which gives unlimited travel for one, two or three days - find out more.
This is long-haul. Singapore flights take around 13 hours from London. The time difference is also different - Singapore is seven hours ahead the UK.
Where to stay
Browse our range of Singapore hotels to find the best places to stay if you fancy making your stopover a longer one.
What's the currency?
You'll need Singapore Dollars here - "singdollar" - there are plenty of ATMs if you haven't bought any in advance - find latest exchange rate.
Before you go
What language do they speak in Singapore?
English remains the common language, while Malay closely followed by Mandarin and Tamil are also widely spoken. You'll find most of the signs and menus are in English, but you can practice a few phrases of Singlish - a distinct dialect of Singapore - before you go. They like to end a sentence using words like lah, ley and ah - as punctuation and exclamation marks. Huh means 'I beg your pardon'.
Do I need a visa?
UK residents staying for less than 30 days don't need a visa- here is more Government Advice for visiting Singapore.
Where else can I go nearby?
Singapore is possibly the ultimate stopover for people travelling to Australia and New Zealand from the UK and Europe. You can also use Singapore as a base to visit more South Asian countries - starting with its neighbour, Malaysia. The capital Kuala Lumpur has one of the best food scenes in the world - it's only a one hour flight. Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia have similar climates and are just short flights away - or just use Singapore as a springboard to explore this part of the Asian continent.
Already visited Singapore?
We'd love to hear what your favourite things to do in Singapore are. Let us know where you would go by leaving a comment here below.