Planning a vacation to the beautiful city-state of Singapore? Located on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia, this tiny destination offers a lot to do and certainly some of the best food in Asia.
Here are seven helpful things you need to know before you hop on your flight to Singapore.
Multiple Official Languages
While English is widely spoken, Singapore has four official languages. Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil are the other languages you’ll find on signage and hear people speaking. Expect to hear "Singlish," a hybrid language compiled from the various ethnic groups in Singapore.
Shopping is HUGE in Singapore
Shopping is seriously a pastime in Singapore. Locals spend a lot of their free time window-shopping, especially if it means beating the intense humidity. There is even a huge annual event known as the Great Singapore Sale that takes place for about 8 weeks at a time. Be sure to inquire about the possibility of getting GST back at retailers. If you’re departing via air, some purchases are eligible for refunds at Changi Airport before you depart.
If you plan on drinking in Singapore, plan on paying a lot for it. There is what is referred to as a "sin tax" on alcohol, and establishments pass that along to the consumer. Expect to pay a lot more for your drinks, especially in nicer establishments. Hawker centers are often the cheapest place to grab a beer. And, don’t be surprised if they serve it with ice – it helps keep the drink cold in the humidity and makes it last longer.
You may have heard chewing gum is illegal in Singapore, which is essentially true. It’s illegal to sell, manufacture, etc. And, while some elements of the ban may be loosened - you aren’t likely to be sent to jail for a having a pack of gum in your purse - but you should definitely not chance it. Just dispose of it and you should be ok.
Learn the Laws
Just as the chewing gum ban might come as a surprise, there are a lot of other laws that you should familiarize yourself with. Littering, speaking out against the government, jaywalking, homosexual relations, drugs and even smoking in certain areas may be serious offenses.
Hawker Centers are some of the best places to sample a variety of local eats. However, be very cautious if you’re buying food from both Halal and non-Halal stands. You are not to mix the dishes/utensils under any circumstances. There are some signs in certain places, but just be extremely cautious when buying food from multiple stalls. A helpful tip for reserving your seat at a Hawker Center – buy a packet of tissues from the vendors and place at the table. This lets other diners know that the seat is taken.
A lot of the higher-end hotels in Singapore still charge a daily Wi-Fi fee unfortunately, but you’ll find plenty of other ways to connect around town as well. Travelers can register a foreign mobile number at any Wireless@SG hotspot. You can also purchase local prepaid SIM cards from a variety of retailers, including telcos M1, StarHub, and Singtel. Once you get connected, be sure to check the iPhone or Android store, as there are a number of local Singapore apps to help you navigate the city, scout out great eats and find landmarks and things to do.
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