Singapore is undoubtedly one of the most accessible cities in the world, as befits one of a handful of countries that have officially adopted Universal Design principles. A wide-ranging and long-term government campaign has seen major improvements in the accessibility of public infrastructure and transport. The footpaths in the city are in excellent repair, with ample kerb cuts and tactile paving. Elderly and disabled residents are issued with a card that can be tapped at pedestrian crossings to give them extra time to cross roads; this Green Man Plus scheme is unique in the world as far as we know.
All MRT stations have priority lifts, tactile wayfinding, easy-to-follow signage, visual and audible indicators in lifts and on platforms, and wheelchair-accessible toilets. More than half of public buses are wheelchair-accessible, with the whole fleet due to be wheelchair-accessible by 2020; almost all bus stops are already barrier-free. Wheelchair-accessible taxis can sometimes be flagged down, but Ezylimo (http://ezylimo.com/) can be contacted to book wheelchair-accessible maxicabs for airport transfers or transport around the island.
Almost all tourist attractions are wheelchair-friendly, including the cable car to Sentosa – although you need good wheelchair skills and/or nerves of steel to board the moving gondola! Singapore Zoo and the Gardens by the Bay complex make for particularly accessible outings.
Visit Singapore (http://www.visitsingapore.com/travel-guide-tips/getting-around/accessibility.html) gives further information about and links to accessibility on different modes of transport and the built environment.
The government maintains the Friendly Built Environment Portal (http://www.bca.gov.sg/friendlyBuilding/FindBuilding/FriendlyFeatures.aspx): a search engine for accessible buildings with a variety of filters, including type of building, user group (not only various disabilities, but also families with children and/or pushchairs), friendly features, and level of friendliness!
The Disabled People's Association Singapore (www.dpa.org.sg) can provide information on accessibility in Singapore.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Dangers & Annoyances
Singapore is one of the world's safest and easiest travel destinations, but be aware of the following:
- Penalties for the illegal import or export of drugs are severe and include the death penalty.
- Outbreaks of mosquito-borne illnesses, such as dengue fever do occur, especially during the wet season. There have also been a number of zika cases confimed in Singapore; the National Environment Board (www.nea.gov.sg) monitors any outbreaks. Wear mosquito repellent, especially if visiting nature reserves.
- Eating and drinking is prohibited on public transport.
If you arrived on a Singapore Airlines or SilkAir flight, you can get discounts at shops, restaurants and attractions by presenting your boarding pass. See www.singaporeair.com/boardingpass for information.
Embassies & Consulates
For a full list of foreign embassies and consulates in Singapore, check out the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.mfa.gov.sg).
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Ambulance & Fire||995|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Entering and exiting Singapore is usually fast and efficient. You'll be issued with an embarkation card on arrival; don't loose this as you will need to surrender it on departure.
You are not allowed to bring tobacco into Singapore unless you pay duty. You will be slapped with a hefty fine if you fail to declare and pay.
You are permitted 1L each of wine, beer and spirits duty free. Alternatively, you are allowed 2L of wine and 1L of beer, or 2L of beer and 1L of wine. You need to have been out of Singapore for more than 48 hours and to anywhere but Malaysia.
It's illegal to bring chewing gum, firecrackers, obscene or seditious material, gun-shaped cigarette lighters, endangered species or their by-products and pirated recordings or publications with you.
Passport holders of all countries (who have secured the appropriate visa, where applicable) are able to enter Singapore. You must have at least six months validity on your passport before entering.
Citizens of most countries are granted 90-day entry on arrival. Citizens of India, Myanmar and certain other countries must obtain a visa before arriving.
Visa extensions can be applied for at the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority website.
- Loss of Face Singaporeans are sensitive to retaining face in all aspects of their lives. Being confrontational or angry with a local makes them lose face and you look rude.
- Uncles & Aunties It is common to address middle-aged and elderly people as 'Uncle' or 'Auntie' as a sign of respect, even if they are not related or known to you.
- Chopsticks Do not stick chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice. It is reminiscent of funeral rites and considered bad luck.
- Hands Use your right hand to greet, wave, eat or interact with someone of Malay, Indonesian or Indian descent as the left hand is associated with restroom use.
- Head & Feet The head is considered sacred by many so avoid touching someone else's. In contrast, the feet are considered dirty and directly pointing them at someone may cause offence.
Sex between males is illegal in Singapore, carrying a minimum sentence of 10 years. In reality, nobody is ever likely to be prosecuted, but the ban remains as a symbol of the government's belief that the country is not ready for the open acceptance of 'alternative lifestyles'.
Despite that, Singapore has a string of popular LGBT bars. A good place to start looking for information is on the websites of Travel Gay Asia (www.travelgayasia.com), PLUguide (www.pluguide.com) or Utopia (www.utopia-asia.com), which provide coverage of venues and events.
Singaporeans are fairly conservative about public affection, though it's more common to see displays of familiarity among lesbian couples these days. A gay male couple doing the same would definitely draw negative attention.
Travel insurance is a must for any traveller heading overseas. Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
Most hotels offer internet access. All backpacker hostels offer free internet access and wi-fi. Unlike many other modern, major cities around the world, very few cafes offer free wi-fi.
SingTel (www.singtel.com), StarHub (www.starhub.com) and M1 (www.m1.com.sg) are local providers of broadband internet via USB modem dongles. Bring your own or buy one from them. You can get prepaid data SIM cards if you have your own dongle.
Wireless@SG: Free Wi-Fi Access
Singapore has an ever-expanding network of around 16,000 wireless hot spots – and most cafes, pubs, libraries and malls operate them. In Chinatown you'll find 20 wi-fi hot spots within just a few blocks of the MRT station – simply choose the wireless@chinatown wi-fi network. You don't need a local number to access the free wi-fi – just download the wireless@sg app and you'll be able to locate the nearest free hot spots.
Singapore's reputation for harsh laws is not undeserved: don't expect any special treatment for being a foreigner. Despite the surprisingly low-key police presence on the street, they appear pretty fast when something happens. Police have broad powers and you would be unwise to refuse any requests they make of you. If you are arrested, you will be entitled to legal counsel and contact with your embassy.
Don't even think about importing or exporting drugs. At best, you'll get a long jail term; at worst, you'll get the death penalty.
Serious issues with retailers are unlikely (the worst you'll probably get is lethargic service), but if you've been ripped off or taken for a ride, contact the Small Claims Tribunal. Tourist complaints are usually heard within two or three days.
- Newspapers English daily newspapers in Singapore include broadsheets the Straits Times and Business Times, and afternoon tabloid the New Paper.
- Magazines Pornographic publications are strictly prohibited, but toned-down local editions of Cosmopolitan are allowed.
ATMs and moneychangers are widely available. Credit cards are accepted in most shops and restaurants.
The country's unit of currency is the Singapore dollar (S$), locally referred to as the 'sing dollar', which is made up of 100 cents. Singapore uses 5¢, 10¢, 20¢, 50¢ and S$1 coins, while notes come in denominations of S$2, S$5, S$10, S$50, S$100, S$500 and S$1000. The Singapore dollar is a highly stable and freely convertible currency.
Cirrus-enabled ATMs are widely available at malls, banks, MRT stations and commercial areas.
Banks change money, but virtually nobody uses them for currency conversion because the rates are better at the moneychangers dotted all over the city. These tiny stalls can be found in just about every shopping centre (though not necessarily in the more modern malls). Rates can be haggled a little if you're changing amounts of S$500 or more.
Credit cards are widely accepted, apart from at local hawkers and food courts. Cases of smaller stores charging an extra 2% to 3% for credit-card payments have decreased in recent years.
Tipping is generally not customary. It's prohibited at Changi Airport.
- Restaurants Many add a 10% service charge, so tipping is discouraged. A small tip is still appreciated when staff have gone out of their way. Don't tip at hawker centres and food courts.
- Hotels At higher-end establishments tip porters S$2 to S$5 and housekeeping S$2.
- Taxis It's courteous to round up or tell the driver to keep the change.
Banks 9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday (some to 6pm or later); 9.30am to noon or later Saturday
Government and Post Offices Between 8am and 9.30am to 4pm and 6pm Monday to Friday; 8am or 9am to 11.30am or 1.30pm Saturday.
Restaurants Generally noon to 2.30pm and 6pm to 11pm. Casual restaurants and food courts open all day.
Shops 10am or 11am to 6pm; larger shops and department stores til 9.30pm or 10pm. Some smaller shops in Chinatown and Arab St close Sunday.
Postal delivery in Singapore is very efficient. Call 1605 to find the nearest post office or check www.singpost.com.sg.
There are two post offices conveniently located for Orchard Rd: one is at ION shopping mall, the other is just off the main strip. At Changi Airport, you'll find a post office in the departure check-in hall of Terminal 2.
Letters addressed to ‘Poste Restante’ will end up at the Singapore Post Centre.
The only holiday that has a major effect on the city is Chinese New Year, when virtually all shops shut down for two days. Public holidays are as follows:
New Year's Day 1 January
Chinese New Year Two days in January/February
Good Friday March/April
Labour Day 1 May
Vesak Day May
Hari Raya Puasa June
National Day 9 August
Hari Raya Haji August
Christmas Day 25 December
- Smoking It's legal in Singapore, but is prohibited in most indoor locations. Fines for smoking in prohibited places range from S$200 up to S$1000.
Taxes & Refunds
Singapore applies a 7% GST to goods and services. Most prices in shops and food outlets will have GST already included – the symbol ++ shows GST and service charge (10%) is not included in the displayed price and will be added to the final bill. This is common in hotels, restaurants and luxury spas.
Tourists are entitled to claim a refund of the GST (7%) paid on purchases made at participating retail stores before leaving the country. This refund is applicable for purchases above S$100.
- Singapore's country code is 65.
- There are no area codes within Singapore; telephone numbers are eight digits unless you are calling toll-free (1800).
- You can make local and international calls from public phone booths. Most phone booths take phonecards.
- Singapore also has credit-card phones that can be used by running your card through the slot.
- Calls to Malaysia (from Singapore) are considered to be STD (trunk or long-distance) calls. Dial the access code 020, followed by the area code of the town in Malaysia that you wish to call (minus the leading zero) and then the phone number. Thus, for a call to 346 7890 in Kuala Lumpur (area code 03) you would dial 02-3-346 7890.
Mobile-phone numbers start with 9 or 8.
You can buy tourist SIM cards for around S$15 from post offices, convenience stores and telco stores – by law you must show your passport. Local carriers include the following:
Phonecards are particularly popular among Singapore's migrant workers – the domestic maids and construction workers who keep the city ticking over – so there are plenty on sale. There's a small, thriving phonecard stall outside the Centrepoint shopping centre on Orchard Rd, and there are plenty of retailers around Little India, but check which countries they service before you buy.
Singapore is eight hours ahead of GMT/UTC (London), two hours behind Australian Eastern Standard Time (Sydney and Melbourne), 13 hours ahead of American Eastern Standard Time (New York) and 16 hours ahead of American Pacific Standard Time (San Francisco and Los Angeles).
So, when it's noon in Singapore, it is 8pm in Los Angeles and 11pm in New York the previous day, and 4am in London and 2pm in Sydney and Melbourne.
Free public toilets are plentiful in Singapore and are usually of the sit-down variety. In some hawker centres you will be asked to pay a small fee; usually 10¢ per entry.
Singapore Visitors Centre @ Orchard This main branch is filled with knowledgeable staff who can help you organise tours, buy tickets and book hotels.
Travel with Children
Singapore is one of the easiest Asian countries in which to travel with children – it's safe and clean, with efficient public transport. Kids are welcome everywhere, and there are facilities and amenities catering to children of all ages. Oh, and don't be surprised if locals fawn over your little ones!
- Singapore Zoo
Get up close and personal with orang-utans and cheeky proboscis monkeys at the Singapore Zoo.
- Night Safari
At the Night Safari see antelopes trot past and watch interactive shows.
- River Safari
Press up against giant manatees at the River Safari.
- Jurong Bird Park
Feed brightly coloured parrots at the Jurong Bird Park.
- Sentosa Island
Whole days in the sun is what you get at attraction-packed Sentosa. Older kids will get a kick out of the rides at Universal Studios, while young tykes can frolic on the beach or get splash happy at Adventure Cove Waterpark.
- Pulau Ubin
Bring out your little ones' inner Robinson Crusoe with a trip to old-fashioned Pulau Ubin. Getting there is half the fun: you take a bus to the eastern tip of Singapore and take a short jaunt on a rickety bumboat (motorised sampan). The island itself is bucolic bliss – rent bikes and go exploring.
- Science Centre Singapore
Fun exhibits showcase various physics and chemistry concepts at the Science Centre Singapore. The electrifying Tesla coil is hair-raisingly popular, and the Omni-Theatre rounds off the experience. (The darkened theatre is a great time for parents to take a quick power-nap too!)
- National Museum of Singapore
Audiovisual displays, artefacts and child-friendly signs make this museum an engaging place for slightly older children (six and up). It's a highly evocative place, encouraging interaction and bringing Singapore's multifaceted past back to vivid life.
- National Gallery Singapore
On Level 1 of the National Gallery Singapore you'll find the Keppel Centre for Art Education, a wonderful art facility dedicated to nurturing children's creativity and curiosity. Kids can make their own virtual ceramic pots at an interactive station. Check the website – youth programs are run throughout the year.
- Gardens by the Bay
As if the space-age bio domes, crazy Supertrees and bird's-eye Skyway weren't enthralling enough, Singapore's jaw-dropping botanical masterpiece is home to a one-hectare Children's Garden, complete with motion-sensor wet play zones and giant tree houses.
- TreeTop Walk
Get right up into the forest canopy at MacRitchie Reservoir on this 250m-long pedestrian suspension bridge. Not for those afraid of heights.
- Pulau Ubin
This small, relatively flat island is the perfect place to spend a day cycling and exploring. Kids will love the Sensory Trail and Chek Jawa Wetlands, both filled with plenty of flora and fauna. Kids bikes are available for hire, as are child seats and helmets.
Rainy Days & Wet Rides
- Orchard Road
Where do you go when it's pouring down with rain? Mall-packed Orchard Rd, of course. You'll find cinemas, IMAX screens and plenty of indoor playgrounds. There's no shortage of quality food courts, cafes and underground walkways to keep you dry.
- Science Centre Singapore
Inquisitive minds will be kept occupied at this geeky science museum; add a show at the Omni-Theatre and you've easily filled a day.
- National Gallery Singapore
Head to the Keppel Centre for Art Education on Level 1 of the National Gallery Singapore to stimulate your little one's curiosity and creativity through interactive displays and programs.
- Singapore Ducktours
The embarrassingly fun Singapore Ducktours transports visitors on a brightly coloured amphibious former military vehicle. The tour is informative, loud and over the top, especially when the vehicle drives off-road into Marina Bay!
Need to Know
- Babysitting Hire a babysitter at NannySOS (www.nannysos.com.sg).
- Transport Children below 90cm tall travel free on trains and buses.
- Useful Websites HoneyKids Asia (www.honeykidsasia.com) and Sassy Mama (www.sassymamasg.com).
Volunteering in their local community is very important to Singaporeans. The website of SG Cares (www.sgcares.org) lists activities requiring assistance.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures The metric system is used.