I never expected to like Singapore. From the stories I’d read previously, I thought it was going to be an expensive, strict and somewhat drab city. But once again, I was pleasantly surprised. Singapore is a great place to visit in Asia. It is cheap, it is expensive, it is old, it is new. It was all of these juxtapositions that made me like Singapore so much.
I visited Singapore on my way back to Australia from London. I was there for four nights, but the first day was basically a jet lagged blur, so I really only had three full days to explore the city. Keep reading for the best things to do in Singapore, including places to eat and where I recommend you stay if on a budget.
THINGS TO DO IN SINGAPORE
GARDENS BY THE BAY
Gardens by the Bay in Singapore is such an interesting area. You kind of feel like you’re in Avatar or something. There are plenty of places to see within the Gardens by the Bay complex. I spent my time there at the Christmas Wonderland, which was magical. There was a light show, carolers, an “ice skating” rink and fake snow. I can’t wait to return to explore more.
Orchard Road is undoubtedly the most popular street in Singapore. There are SO many shops. The best part is that most of the shops are inside separate shopping centres or malls, which equals air conditioning and free bathrooms. Funny story: after being in Europe for so long, once I got to Singapore I initially forgot that you didn’t have to pay to use the bathrooms.
MARINA BAY SANDS
You can’t go to Singapore without taking a photo of Marina Bay Sands. Personally, I think the hotel/shopping/dining mecca looks best from Gardens by the Bay, as you can frame it in different ways. But I mean, if you have the cash to splash, spending the night and getting to swim in the world’s largest infinity pool also wouldn’t be a bad way to spend your time.
WALK ALONG THE WATER
Marina Bay is where you will find Marina Bay Sands, the Merlion statue, Helix Bridge and the ArtScience Museum. There’s a Waterfront Promenade you can walk along to take in the views from every angle. I started from the Theatres on the Bay and walked towards Gardens by the Bay, but the view might be even better from the other side. Here’s a Google Maps link to check it out yourself.
I actually stumbled upon Clarke Quay when I wanted to head to Chinatown. But the pastel paradise was another pleasant surprise. It was very quiet on the Sunday I visited, but there are lots of restaurants, another mall and Old Hill Street Police Station, which you might have seen on Instagram. If you want colourful photos, make a quick pit stop at Clarke Quay in Singapore.
I visited Little India when I was still feeling a little jet lagged, but the colourful sights I saw definitely made me feel better. You can’t miss Little India. It’s one of the things to do in Singapore. Have lunch at Komala Vilas (more on that later), check out Tan Teng Niah, walk down Little India arcade, visit Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple and keep your eye out for street art.
This was another place I accidentally found, while looking at cool buildings (the usual ’round here). What initially drew me in was Masjid Sultan, a mosque and the local Islamic house of worship. But then I found Haji Lane, which is a shopping strip filled with boutiques, bars and street art. I popped into Spoil Market and found lots of cool stuff I wanted to buy. In the end I just purchased a present for my friend’s 30th.
A few people told me to head to Sentosa Island, so I listened. I decided to walk from Vivocity, which is another mall. But I then got the monorail back, which was free at the time. This seems unusual though, so I don’t know if this is because of the holidays/the weekend. I’ll take it! It’s easy to walk around the island as there are plenty of signs pointing you towards attractions. A lot of the island’s attractions are paid, such as Universal Studios. But there’s also a beach, a huge Merlion statue, Hershey’s stores and more. Apparently Sentosa Island is Asia’s leading leisure destination, so definitely add this to your list of things to do in Singapore.
This is on my list of things to do in Singapore when I return in August. The Singapore Botanic Garden is the first UNESCO site in Singapore, and it’s the only tropical botanic garden on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. With that in mind, it must be pretty impressive, right?
This Instagrammable location is another place I need to check off my list next time. Its tagline is “where art meets science,” and a lot of the exhibits at ArtScience Museum look interactive. That’s my kind of museum.
WHERE TO EAT IN SINGAPORE
ICE CREAM SANDWICHES
My friend in Melbourne who’s from Singapore mentioned this ice cream sandwiches to me, so I went hunting for them on Orchard Road. I found a couple of people selling them from freezers connected to bikes at the end of Orchard Road, near ION Orchard Mall. For $1.20, you get a slice of ice cream between wafers or a piece of sweet bread. There are various ice cream flavours, but I went for choc chip between the bread. It was DELICIOUS. The bread is so sweet that it doesn’t taste weird to be eating ice cream and bread. It’s the perfect snack after walking around Singapore.
There are hawker centres located throughout Singapore. I visited one just metres from my hostel on a couple of occasions. I got a freshly prepared (and large) serving of crispy chicken with noodles for $4. It was so good. Check out this guide for some of the most popular hawker centres in Singapore.
KOMALA VILAS RESTAURANT
Another recommendation from my friend was Komala Vilas, which is one of the oldest Indian vegetarian restaurants in Singapore. I visited the Little India location and sat downstairs, which was mostly full of locals. There’s also restaurant seating upstairs. I sat opposite a lady from the States who lived in Singapore, and she helped me decide what to eat. I went with the masala dosai, which was basically a large, thin pancake with a potato filling. It came with three dipping sauces. The dish cost me $4 and I would definitely return. Eating Indian is definitely one of the best things to do in Singapore.
This was one thing I didn’t have time to do. But my friend told me that the two best places for satay are Satay by the Bay and Lau Pa Sat. Next time!
WHERE TO STAY IN SINGAPORE
I stayed in a 6-bed female dorm at Dream Lodge, which were like little pods, with walls on all sides and a curtain over the entrance. With lockers, plenty of bathrooms and free breakfast, I’ve already booked to return to Dream Lodge in August. It was walking distance from two different metro stations, a mall and that delicious food court I mentioned earlier. If you’re looking for budget accommodation in Singapore, definitely check out Dream Lodge. It was also about a $25 taxi from the airport.
As you can tell, I’m so excited to head back to Singapore. If you have any further recommendations for things to do in Singapore, please let me know in the comments.
• My favourite photos from Singapore
• My other top solo travel destinations around the world