When we lived in Singapore and friends asked about it, I’d always say: “Singapore is Asia for beginners!”. It’s very easy to visit, very organized, safe and clean, making it an easy destination if you have never been to Asia. It’s also a melting pot, with people of Chinese, Malay and Indian origin and many expats from all over the world mingling in this big city with a small footprint. Read on to find out if you’d enjoy a trip to Singapore!
One reason for many companies, expats and visitors to choose Singapore as a destination or a new home is that it is so easy to stay or visit, compared to other Asian capitals: You arrive into Changi Airport, regularly voted the best airport in the World and can get with clean, reliable trains or well maintained, honest taxis around the city. The city is very clean and very safe, I was comfortable walking around any part of town, any time of day or night, and many families with kids feel the same way. Compared to other cities in Asia, there is little corruption and very little hassle in day-to-day transactions. The infrastructure is great, phones and internet are better than in many Western countries and there is very little to worry about. English is the first language and pretty much any local you meet will be fluent, making it easy to get around and get things done!
And if you have never been to Asia, there is a lot to see. Within the small island – the ride from the airport on one end of the island to the city center at the other is rarely more than 30 minutes by taxi – you can experience very different cultures: The majority of the population is Chinese – and you can see that in some of the old architecture, the temples and food. Yet, you can also find Malay and Indian roots and an Arab street, as well as leftovers from English colonial times, all with their different religious buildings and well worth exploring. Add to that stunning modern architecture, like the Reflections residences or Marina Bay Sands hotel, great parks, like the Chinese Garden or the Gardens by the Bay, entertainment parks for families and even some beaches on Sentosa Island – and you have plenty of options to spend your time! There are also casinos and plenty of shopping to spend your money!
This ease of travel comes at a price: When I compare Singapore for friends to European countries, I usually describe it as “more German than Germany” – it’s a rule based society and enforces those rules strictly! Drinking water on the subway or crossing the street on a red light can cost you hundreds of dollars in fines and the arcane legal system with canings of teenagers for littering or graffiti has made news around the world. On top of that, the focus on making money, a priority of the government and many locals and residents, makes Singapore a less friendly and happy place than other South East Asian nations. It’s also one of the most expensive cities in Asia, so you’ll have to budget for that!
There is a lot more to see than many people give Singapore credit for and you can easily spend a few days in the city to get a taste of Asia. It’s much easier to visit and less overwhelming than other cities in Asia, making Singapore a great entry point for visitors from Europe or the Americas. You can use it as a stop-over and move on to other destinations in the region: It’s easy to get to from around the world and has lots of inexpensive connections to all-over Asia on discount airlines. For visitors from elsewhere in Asia (or Western visitors who have been to other Asian cities) , Singapore also makes a great point of contrast to the more freewheeling and slightly chaotic cities of Bangkok, the City of Angels, or Manila, the Gateway to Paradise! Regardless of where you are from or have been, Singapore makes for an interesting destination and deserves a spot on your list of places to visit!