Some countries have nicknames which encapsulate what they’re all about. ‘The Land of Smiles’, for example, is a perfect description for Thailand. By contrast, Singapore’s nickname – ‘the Little Red Dot’ – is knowingly understated.
In reality, the only thing vaguely little about Singapore is its physical size. Look at it on a map, and it is indeed a mere dot. Dig a little deeper, however, or visit the place for yourself, and you’ll see that this little island group has an astounding amount to offer.
This introduction to Singapore will clue you up on all the basic information you need to know. We’ll cover general facts and history, let you know the best ways to get around, give you a shortlist of the must-visit places, and recommend the best time to visit.
Singapore comprises a group of islands.There are over 60 in total, but the vast majority of the action happens on the central island. It sits just off the south coast of Malaysia’s mainland, and isn’t far at all from northernmost Indonesia.
Singapore has over 5 million permanent residents, who have truly traveled there from all around the world. In fact, it’s estimated that a whopping 23% of people who now live in Singapore weren’t born there. The biggest ethnic group is Chinese, who make up 74% of the population, with Indians and Malaysians making up most of the remaining amount. Buddhism is the dominant religion, though it still only encompasses 33% of the population, with Christianity and Islam being the next two most popular religions.
For all of its recorded history, Singapore has been a bustling trading port, thanks largely to its convenient location. Modern Singapore’s history began in 1819 with the arrival of Englishman Sir Stamford Raffles, who established a trading post on the island. The port prospered greatly for over 100 years, becoming a crucial trading port in the region.
Like many places in Southeast Asia, Singapore suffered during the Second World War under Japanese rule. Upon being liberated it swiftly gained independence from Great Britain, and soon became its own autonomous country.
After some teething troubles in the early years, Singapore exploded. It’s grown incredibly quickly in the past few decades, to become the trading and business powerhouse which millions know and love today.
You’d expect a good transport system from such a modern and prosperous country. Actually, Singapore takes it to a whole other level; we’d struggle to name many cities in the world which are easier to get around.
The best way to travel the city, in our opinion, is by using the MRT. The stops are sprinkled liberally around the main island, so you’re never too far from one. Journeys are extremely reasonably-priced, departures are frequent, and the trains are clean and quiet. Alternatively, the bus service is similarly excellent, and again you’re certainly never far from a stop. Taxis aren’t as omnipresent as they are in most major cities, but they’re a pleasingly quick way to travel if you can get one; Singapore has surprisingly little traffic considering how busy it is.
Where to Go
· The Parks
In addition to the ‘Little Red Dot’, Singapore has another nickname: ‘the Garden City’. In fact, over 50% of Singapore’s area is taken up by greenery. Despite how developed it is, the city has still placed a massive focus on staying environmentally-friendly.
There are a whole wealth of parks to explore; too many to name here! Perhaps the most spectacular is the Gardens by the Bay. This large site is home to the spectacular ‘supertrees’, two vast bio-domes, a variety of themed gardens, and a nightly light show.
This is where much of the magic happens. As well as being home to the Central Business District, the Riverside – across from the Gardens by the Bay and the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel – is ram-packed with things to do.
Spend the day checking out the world-famous museums and art galleries. When night falls, you can meander along the river, dine at one of the fancy restaurants there, and take in the famous nightly lightshow across the bay.
There are ‘Chinatowns’, and there are Chinatowns. Singapore’s version definitely falls into the latter category! As soon as you emerge from the MRT station, you feel like you must somehow have traveled to central Beijing.
The busy streets are filled with delicious restaurants and excellent souvenir shops on either side. The area’s most famous sight is the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. It’s a large, incredibly ornate place of worship, with a lovely relaxing garden on the roof.
· Singapore Zoo
Singapore Zoo is undoubtedly one of the best in all of Southeast Asia. It’s spread across a huge area, meaning that the animals have far more room than normal in which to roam around. From komodo dragons to cobras, and polar bears to giant turtles, this zoo has it all.
It’s a brilliant day out for solo travelers, couples and families alike, and if you’re still eager for more, you can check out the Night Safari when the regular zoo closes!
When to Go
Singapore is actually located only 1.5 degrees north of the equator. That means, as you’d expect, that it has a very tropical climate!
Temperatures are pretty high all year round in Singapore, although at an average of around 29˚C during the day they’re certainly not unbearable. The island group does see rather a lot of rain, with a downpour being an almost daily occurrence. The good news is that it doesn’t usually last very long; pack a raincoat with you when you go out, and you’ll be fine!
There’s almost no seasonal variances in Singapore’s weather, making it one of those great places where you can basically go there… well, whenever you like!
Honestly, we’ve barely scratched Singapore’s surface here, in terms of the sheer amount of things there are to do. You could easily pass a fortnight there, and not run out of new activities to try out; there really are that many.
Luckily for you, we’re planning to post up plenty more articles on specific things to see and do in Singapore in the coming weeks. Keep checking back regularly for more of our expert information and advice!