Singapore is a relatively small country—a train can connect you to literally anywhere in the city. All you need to do is follow the maps and signs, and you should be just fine!
Still, it might be difficult to navigate. After all, Singapore is incredibly diverse and in a single train car alone, you could be stuck with about ten different nationalities speaking all at once. I’d never felt more like that biblical story with the Tower of Babel. It can get overwhelming to say the very least.
So here’s where my Teacher Mode kicks in, and I’ve come up with a very quick guide on how to get through your first Singapore trip unscathed.
Get your EZ-Link first!
It can be tempting to just hail a cab to get around places but really, half the adventure is on traveling Singapore is the commuting around!
One time, a man sat next to me on the train and he was playing games on his phone. He got bored so he just randomly downloaded an app to Thai Airlines, and booked himself a bloody holiday to Tenerife. It was insane! But bloody brilliant as well—and that’s the kind of thing you’d miss out on if you didn’t take the local’s way around.
An EZ-Link is a kind of card that is reloadable and it basically works like an Oyster card! Plus, the trains and buses tend to be a lot cheaper than a GrabCar, anyway. Just make sure you’ve always got at least S$5 in your card—otherwise you might get in trouble.
Always make the time for Uncle Ice Cream!
The locals call the ice cream vendors here as “uncle” – don’t know why but it’s brilliant – and the dollar ice creams are incredible. (Okay, S$1.20 but hey, tough times in this economy!)
I say this because I find that it’s really important to support local businesses when you’re in a foreign country. Ice cream vendors like these uncles are the backbone of this society and if you’re there, you might as well try what they’ve got to offer. I’d personally recommend the durian ice cream – if you can’t handle the smell of the fruit when it’s fresh, the ice cream has got all the flavour (with a few more calories involved!)
And, if you must know, John favours the tuttifrutti ice creams—it gives those unicorn frappuchinos from Starbucks a run for their money.
Bugis first, Orchard last!
Granted, the most popular thing to do in Singapore is to shop. There’s stuff to buy everywhere! Besides the Merlion and Marina Bay Sands, most of the other tourist places are filled to the teeth with shoppers and boutiques, so I don’t really blame you.
However, if you can gain anything from this post, I have to say—go to Bugis Village first, and make your last shopping trip at Orchard road.
Bugis is a thrift store aficionado’s heaven. There’s a sale on every corner and you can actually haggle for really nice clothes, when they’re already S$15 per top, at most. Plus, there’s a really cute cat café just upstairs of Burger King (it’s by the primary entrance of Bugis Village, it’s hard to miss). Also, pay a visit to Ned’s on the second floor of Bugis—they’ve got the most amazing strawberry nutella soft crepe I have ever had in my life!
Now, go to Orchard on your last shopping day—because that’s really where you want to spend your last cent. If you’ve managed to drop by during June (the nationwide month for sales), this is definitely the place to be. All the big-name international brands are along this road and this is where you want to splurge on things for yourself, and for souvenirs!
And there’s even at least two Ice Cream Uncles every ten steps, approximately. (Probably.)
Hope you enjoyed my little list. Singapore’s a wonderful city and it’s up to you on where you want to go. But keep in mind to be friendly and supportive to the local community, especially since a lot of the employees in retail and fast food are quite old in age.
Keep safe, have fun in this fine city, and be kind!