Singapore’s Changi Airport is a world-class transportation hub and a great introduction to the efficiency, cleanliness, and quirky charm that you can expect from the rest of the city. From the airport, it takes about an hour to get downtown by either bus or MRT (subway), either of which is a cost-effective option. A taxi will take 25 minutes and cost around SGD30. It is also possible to reach the city by train, bus, or car from Malaysia and farther north.
Singapore’s compact downtown core is very walkable, and the city offers excellent public transport links. If you have a smartphone with a data plan, you can use Google Maps to plan your route on public transportation. The “SG Buses” app will let you know how many minutes you have to wait at the stop for your bus. Taxis are also plentiful and inexpensive. Flag them down in the street or at designated taxi stands in the city center. There’s no need to worry about getting ripped off—taxi uncles (and aunties) are friendly, meters are always used, and tipping is not necessary.
Some families have been here for many generations, but the primary immigrant populations in Singapore hail from China, Malaysia, and India. The culture on the island is a blend of these diverse influences with some English colonial flavor thrown in for good measure. Get a feel for some of Singapore’s distinct cultural personalities in Chinatown, Little India, Arab Street, and Katong.
In a land with subtle seasons, the passage of time in Singapore is marked by colorful festivals, parades, and special treats. Chinese New Year, the country’s biggest holiday, brings lion dances, loud drums, and elaborate meals. In August, National Day celebrates Singapore’s independence with fireworks, military parades, and flyovers. During the Mid-Autumn Festival, Chinatown is festooned with colorful lanterns, and Singaporeans give gifts of moon cakes filled with sweet bean paste and a salted egg yolk.
Arwen Joyce practiced corporate law on two continents before deciding to focus on travel, writing and photography full time. From a home base in Singapore, she is rediscovering much-loved destinations from her vagabond childhood in Southeast Asia and finding new favorite places. She is a regular contributor to inflight magazines in the region such as Scoot, Fah Thai, Tiger Tales, Renaissance, and JetWings. You can find her recent work at arwenalamonde.com.