What You Need to Know And Do When Traveling Throughout Singapore
Singapore is located in south east Asia and its hailed as a thriving global financial hub with much of its British colonial past still to be seen in it's architecture. The city is an economic force in the region and is known as one of the cleanest countries in the world, much of it attributed to the strict local laws. The country is a stable economic powerhouse in the region.
The Chinese make up much of Singapore's multi-racial population with 75% of the population identifying in this group. Malays and Indians make up much of the remainder. Densely populated, most of the people of Singapore live in public housing tower blocks which can be seen in and around the city center. The economy is driven by trade, and is heavily supported by foreign workers in ever increasing numbers.
When Is The Best Time To Visit?
Singapore lies 137 kilometers or 85 miles north of the equator, with no discerning seasonal variations only year round balmy temperatures with no discernible wet or dry season, however rainfall is usually higher between November and January. The driest months of the year are from May to July, and February with May and June being the hottest months. Precipitation tends to come in brief daily downpours rather than setting in for days on end.
- Wetter months - November - January
- Drier months - May - July and February
The peak tourism periods
- Chinese New Year - January to February
- The Great Singapore Sale - May to July
- The Singapore Grand Prix -September
Singapore's infamous smog haze can reach extreme levels when illegal land clearing takes place in nearby Indonesia during the dry season which tends to occur between June and September each year.
The multicultural population of Singapore comprises ethnic Chinese, Malay and Indian people, as well as people from all over the world who migrate for work. The nation is a wealthy, modern society however it places great value and emphasis on maintaining its traditional values. Singaporeans are relatively conservative and interact in a formal manner generally speaking.
Public displays of affection a considered to be inappropriate.
Homosexual acts are illegal in Singapore so displays of affection between same sex couples is not recommended although the times are changing in this regard to some extent.
Much like most Asian cultures it is considered rude to touch a person's head, to point at them or show them the bottom of your feet.
'Saving face' is important in Singaporean culture which means Singaporeans don't like to be embarrassed. Oftentimes they are reticent to say 'no' or admit that they don't know something.
Tipping is not required, however some restaurants will add a service charge to the bill, but this is not a tip for the service staff. In the event you leave money on the table to tip the wait staff, the restaurant owner may pocket it him or herself, so be sure you hand your tip directly to the staff member.
For visitors from most overseas countries passport holders will not require a visa to visit Singapore. All travelers are required to pass through immigration clearance upon arrival into Singapore. The granting of visit passes to visitors is determined by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officers at the point of entry.
Visitors must satisfy the following basic entry requirements before they can be considered for entry into Singapore:
- A passport with at least 6 months validity.
- Valid Singapore visa, if applicable (refer here for more information).
- Sufficient funds to last for the intended period of stay in Singapore
- Confirmed onward/return tickets (if applicable).
- Entry facilities to their onward destinations, e.g. visas.
- Completed Disembarkation/Embarkation Card.
- Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate, if applicable.
- The period of stay granted is shown on the visit pass endorsement given on the visitor's passport.
- Visitors are advised to check their passports for the arrival endorsement and take note of the number of days stay given before leaving the checkpoint.
- All visitors on visit passes are not permitted to engage in any form of business, profession, occupation or paid employment while in Singapore.
- Visitors are also reminded that it is a punishable offense to overstay in Singapore beyond the number of days given. If there is a need to stay beyond the period granted, visitors may apply for an extension of stay online via e-XTEND or at the Visitors Services Center before the visit pass expires. Application for extension of stay is subject to approval.
Visa rules may change. For up-to-date information check with the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority Website.
Health And Safety
The tap water in Singapore is safe to drink and food hygiene standards are generally high.
Singapore has an excellent health care system and the country is a popular medi-tourism destination, however hospital costs for non citizens can be high so make sure you are covered by travel insurance prior to leaving home.
There is a low risk of catching malaria in Singapore but dengue fever is still a concern. Both diseases are spread by mosquitoes, so pack insect repellent and take steps to minimize mosquito bites.
Singapore's air quality is often poor, and its worth checking the daily pollution levels at the Government's National Environmental Website
If you suffer from respiratory problems or if you're pregnant, elderly or traveling with children, you may wish to consider limiting the period spent outdoors, as the air quality can reach dangerous levels particularly between June and September when mass land clearing and forest fires in Indonesia send smoke north to Singapore.
Masks for outdoor use are available from pharmacies and supermarkets. Singapore's Ministry of Health recommends the N95 mask which has 95% filter efficiency. These masks are not suitable for children (it's best to keep kids indoors).
Personal Safety And Security
Singapore has some strict laws and unusual laws with tough punishments for those convicted of a charge. These can range from hefty fines to being caned and the country imposes the death penalty for the most serious of offences.
Drugs are illegal in Singapore and convictions can result in capital punishment or a death sentence. Authorities have been known to conduct random drug tests on locals and visitors and even if you took drugs prior to entering the country, this activity is considered to be breaking the law, if found with drugs in your system.
A number of medications that would be considered legal at home are likely restricted in Singapore, this includes some painkillers, cold and flu medications and ADHD medications. If you're planning to travel with medication, you may need to apply for approval from Singapore's Health Sciences Authority.
When traveling to Singapore, carry all medications, including vitamins in their original packaging, together with the original prescription. It's also a good idea to carry a letter from your doctor explaining what the medications are using the generic name of the product and what they are used to treat.
Homosexual acts are illegal and even though kissing could land a same sex couple in prison, thankfully the law is rarely enforced.
Pornography is banned, as is public nudity even in your own home or hotel room if the curtains are open.
Littering, spitting, eating on public transport or jaywalking will earn the offender a hefty fine or community service.
Smoking is banned in all public indoor areas and many outdoor areas including playgrounds, bus stops and pedestrian bridges.
Chewing gum is banned. If you bring it into the country you could be fined USD$791 / AUD$1000 / GBP$617.
Using somebody else's Wi-Fi is an offence, as it's considered 'hacking' under Singaporean law.
It's even illegal not to flush a public toilet. Yes, police do sometimes check.
The legal drinking age is 18.
The blood alcohol limit for driving is .08. Drink driving carries a prison sentence of up to four years.
Due to the tough policing and sentancing laws, the crime rate in Singapore are extremely low, however scams and petty thefts do happen, so keep your belongings close and be as cautious as you would be at home.
Always cover the keypad when using ATMs, and never let your credit card out of your sight when paying at restaurants.