What To Do In Singapore When You Are Here For Only Four Days Or Less (May 2023 edition)
Whether you attend an IP law conference or whether you have a stop-over on your way to your holiday destination, there is much to do in Singapore.
Because of the upcoming INTA 2023, I have updated my earlier 2020 article with some useful information.
Here you go.
Accommodation: AirBNB is not legal in Singapore.
However, the authorities in Singapore are pragmatic. As long as no one complains it is very unlikely that someone will generate trouble for you and your host.
A word to the wise is sufficient.
An introduction to AirBNB and how to book a room is here https://ip-lawyer-tools.com/how-to-save-usd-500-while-attending-your-next-ip-law-convention-airbnb/
One Month Before You Arrive
You should come to a decision about what you want to see while you are here.
Common souls have three options:
You want shopping galore: check out the shopping malls along Orchard Road
You want to get a quick overview of Singapore: book a classic DUCKTour/Hop-on/-off Bus Combo
You want to see what nobody can easily see in Singapore: book an Experience on AirBNB
While I cannot say much about shopping on Orchard Road, I can say much about the two other alternatives.
For getting a quick overview of Singapore, nothing beats the DUCKTour packages. They come with a ride on a refurbished Vietnam War amphibious vehicle, with a ticket for several hop-on hop-off bus lines that allow you to explore and travel freely and independently around the city, and with a ride on the Singapore Flyer.
What is difficult to beat are the Singapore Experiences on AirBNB. Some of them need to be booked well ahead of your stay, that is why I recommend watching the one-month deadline. The Singapore Experiences on AirBNB are all provided by individuals who do this for fun, and not for a living. It is likely that you will end up with new lifetime friends after going through an AirBNB Experience in Singapore. I recommend the “Walking Tours” experiences to Kampong Glam, Geylang Serai, Little India, Chinatown or Katong, they take about 3 to 4 hrs. and you will see a lot. Here is a very special tour guide, just try your luck https://singaporeforless.blogspot.com/
Alternatively, If you want to design your own experience of Singapore, please follow this link http://bit.ly/SingaporeTraveller
And if you look for adventure, take a bus ride to the most remote part of Singapore: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_cbkiKz3GA
Prepare your Smartphone at Home: Three Things That You Should Do While You are Still in Your Own Wifi, And A Fourth Feature That You Need Anyway
- download the GRAB app to your smartphone and link it to your travel credit card (what is a “travel credit card”? See https://ip-lawyer-tools.com/how-i-lost-my-credit-card-in-a-3rd-world-country-and-i-still-could-sleep-well-until-the-end-of-my-holidays/ ). Grab will be your preferred taxi provider while you are in Singapore.
- download Google Maps for Singapore to your smartphone. Manuals on how to do that are here. If you do that, you have a map even when you have no Internet coverage.
- Store my office phone number +65/6337-6191 and my Whatsapp phone number +65/98334062 on your phone, together with my name and the word “Singapore”, so that you have them ready when you need them in an emergency.
- Install a VPN. On your phone, and on your laptop. It is also helpful on your desktop computer. Please read my little article about the use of a VPN: https://ip-lawyer-tools.com/the-one-good-thing-that-gdpr-brought-to-me-a-virtual-private-network-vpn-software-for-my-smartphone-and-for-my-laptop/
Think About This When You Pack Your Suitcase at Home
You can bring your prescription drugs together with a copy of the prescription. OTC drugs will be cheaper in Singapore as compared with your home country, so you don’t need to bring them along.
Tobacco is NOT duty-free. Singapore customs are always on the lookout for cigarettes, and your baggage will be x-rayed for them. Officially, you cannot bring in any cigarettes, but one open pack will usually be tolerated.
Apart from that: DO NOT bring in any narcotic drugs. AT ALL. Even the possession of small amounts of narcotic drugs can be considered drug trafficking. If caught, you will face severe punishment, including the death penalty. Especially if you are a foreigner.
Bring your swimsuit along. Singapore has beaches with nice, clean, and blue water. And there are public showers where you can wash off the salt after you went in for a swim.
Upon Arrival in Singapore
Passport check-in Singapore is a breeze, you will be surprised.
If you want to bring a gift to a local: buy Whisky/Vodka/Cognac/Gin immediately after passport check and before picking up your luggage.
Wine at the airport duty-free stores is a bit expensive, better offers are available in the city.
First Thing To Do After Arrival at Changi Airport: Get A Mobile Wifi
At Changi airport:
buy a data SIM card
- the market leader Singtel https://www.singtel.com/personal/products-services/mobile/prepaid-plans/hi-tourist
offers a “$15 hi!Tourist 2-in-1 SIM Card” that comes with 100 GB data and with a S$3 “MRT card” (public transport) option that you can easily top up when you are in the MRT. You can organize a pick-up at the airport, click here.
- or take the S$60 CHANGI Mobile card with unlimited data that is sold in the arrival hall (click here):
Alternatively, if you don´t want a SIM card: rent a Wifi router for 10$ per day with unlimited data. These devices are also provided at Changi airport.
There are two more Wifi options (free but not recommended): rely on public open WLANs or go for the – admittedly many – free Wireless@SG hotspots. A comprehensive article about free Wifi in Singapore is here, it is a bit old but still mostly valid.
Please note that you should already have installed a Virtual Private Network (VPN) software on all your wireless devices, such as smartphones and laptops. An introduction on how to do that is found here https://ip-lawyer-tools.com/the-one-good-thing-that-gdpr-brought-to-me-a-virtual-private-network-vpn-software-for-my-smartphone-and-for-my-laptop/ I strongly recommend ExpressVPN.
Nine (9) General Travel Tips for Singapore
- tap water is safe for drinking or brushing your teeth, anywhere
- don`t give a tip. Not in a restaurant, not in the taxi, nowhere. It is already included in the price.
- smoke in the yellow box, or at least 5 meters away from any building entrance door
- no, you will not like Singapore Sling
- stay away from Geylang Lorong 7 to 22 (especially the even numbers)
- decent wines can be found at Fairprice for reasonable prices, better ones can be found at WineConnection or Cold Storage/CS Fresh
- you can only swim in the famous Marina Bay Sands sky pool if you stay in that hotel
- no, you don´t need much cash in Singapore. A travel credit card is good enough (what is a “travel credit card”? See https://ip-lawyer-tools.com/how-i-lost-my-credit-card-in-a-3rd-world-country-and-i-still-could-sleep-well-until-the-end-of-my-holidays/ ).
- for transportation, use the GRAB app on your smartphone, and not “Gojek”. If you cannot get a normal GRAB or if there are long waiting times, use the more expensive “GrabCar”, “GrabCar 6” or “Grab Car Premium”. Or install the ZIG app for booking a regular Singapore taxi.
Tips for Staying Out of Legal Trouble in Singapore
- Admit it, you don´t genuinely want to chew chewing gum. You only want it because it is banned in Singapore.
Here is further information on how to stay out of trouble in Singapore https://www.tripsavvy.com/how-to-stay-out-of-trouble-in-singapore-1458521
- Don’t quarrel with anyone, especially not with taxi drivers (taxis have indoor cameras!) and not with any woman. They have the upper hand and you may end up in a police station if you do not follow that rule.
- Please note that it is not recommended to remain silent for someone that is arrested by the police. There is no formal “right to be silent” in Singapore. One should bring up their defenses as soon as possible in order to be credible. And don’t lie to the administration, that one is an offense, too.
- You can call my office at +65/6337-6191 or send me a Whatsapp at +65/98334062 in case you get into trouble and we will connect you with an experienced local criminal defense lawyer. Store these two phone numbers on your phone, together with my name and the word “Singapore”, so that you have them ready when you need them in an emergency.
What to Wear for Official Events
The dress code in Singapore was relaxed before the Corona holidays, and it is now even more relaxed. Many tailors disappeared during the lockdowns, and we are very pragmatic.
This is how it was before Covid (B.C.):
- either jacket or tie (emphasis is on either-or)
- shirt with long sleeves
- long pants
- closed leather shoes
Before the lockdowns, I usually went with a jacket hanging over the arm, and with a long-sleeve withe shirt, but without any tie. The jacket then served me as a male version of a handbag.
Today, After Disease (A.D.), I go in a black polo shirt and with a jacket. Or maybe in a black polo shirt and without the jacket (read my little article here https://ip-lawyer-tools.com/my-eight-reasons-to-wear-the-same-outfit-every-day/)
It is accepted that you are 15 minutes late for your business meetings, especially when you say that it rained or that you did not get a cab.
Yes, you can bring your shorts and slippers, they are good for after work and leisure.
Local Delights are Pepper/Chili Crab, and you find it at Jumbo Seafood restaurants, and also at Tung Lok Seafood at Orchard Central.
Dim Sum is a must! Dim Sum is traditionally only eaten for breakfast or lunch. But I like it all day and night long. You can get Dim Sum at Crystal Jade restaurants or at Tung Lok Seafood at Orchard Central. Jumbo Seafood has also Dim Sum. “126 Dim Sum Wen Dao Shi” is an insider tip: simple, not expensive, and open until 2 am.
Try Laksa and Hainanese chicken rice. You can find these dishes everywhere.
Also, the East Coast Lagoon Food Village is at a very nice picnic location, right next to the beach.
Having a Reception in Singapore
There are myriads of small and good restaurants in Singapore.
They all accommodate between 30 and 60 guests. This is the ideal way to have a reception for a medium-sized IP firm.
Costs for food start from SGD 80 per person, upwards.
Alcoholic drinks are expensive. One beer in a restaurant is about SGD 15 – 18. A glass of wine costs the same.
For Foodies. Recommended Restaurants in Singapore
I have done a survey among my friends and here is the outcome. All this comes as of May 2023. Check out TripAdvisor before you decide where to eat!
Candlenut (perfect for visitors. Peranakan food in a great location)
A stall named Aliff at Serangoon Garden Food Centre. Best Nasi Lemak in town.
Rendezvous Nasi Padang, 6 Eu Tong Sen St, 02-72 to 75/77/92
Bismillah best Halal Briani Restaurant (Dunlop St. just behind Tekka Mall)
Coconut Club – Nasi Lemak
Jack’s Place (ok local steak house chain with decent quality food & wines)
Marché-Mövenpick (freshly prepared German/Swiss/Austrian comfort food)
Volare By La Barca – South Italy cuisine, riskless, authentic
Paulaner Brauhaus, the best Bavarian beer in town
Meat Smith (smoked meat galore)
Cloudstreet (something unique and special)
Blue Kouzina. Greek restaurant at Dempsey and at Siglap
6th Avenue – classic
Casa Brazilia – opened in 04/2023, good quality
TungLok Seafood – Orchard Central
Long Beach Seafood. Several outlets.
126 Dim Sum Wen Dao Shi – Geylang (24/7) or Boon Keng (until 2 am)
Guo Fu Hotpot Steamboat (near Raffles Place)
小龙坎 Xiao Long Kan Hotpot (Orchard)
Imperial Treasure – very good, not expensive, several outlets. I like the steamboat at 111 Somerset and the Peking Duck at Paragon.
Chrystal Jade – several outlets. Riskless.
Don Lechon roasted pork galore
Chikuyotei餐厅 – InterContinental Singapore (Michelin starred)
Shinji by Kanesaka for Sushi
GO! K BBQ Amoy Street (Korean BBQ)
Fancy & Nouvelle Cuisine
Zén (one of the most luxe)
Nouri (sui generis. You won’t find another restaurant like it anywhere in the world)
Odette (one of the most luxe)
Braci (Michelin starred)
Thevar Indian food
Curate Chef is German, and he does wonderful “modern German” tasting menus
Les Amis – Orchard Shaw Center
Travelling to Johor Bahru (Malaysia)
There are ten (10), or so, ways to go Johor Bahru in Malaysia, which is the next settlement across the water.
Traveling between Johor Bahru to Singapore is only geographically similar to traveling between Manhattan Island and New Jersey. The difference is we have two passport controls and two very strict customs controls between Johor Bahru and Singapore. This journey is definitely not a picnic.
You have three realistic options:
- A convenient one and (most of the time during the day) the fastest one is to take a taxi to “Woodlands Checkpoint” and follow the crowd from there. This will cost you about S$30-40 and take about 2 hours of your time. Please note that there are long lanes with two different speeds at the MY immigration counters on the Johor Bahru side. Don’t queue at the wrong lanes. Welcome to Malaysia.
- The cheapest but least convenient way is to take a public bus. That is slow, and also close to impossible if you have frail elderly people or young children with you. Ask Google Maps if you really want to find out how to do this.
- The most convenient way is to take a taxi from your hotel in Singapore directly to your destination in Johor Bahru. But that one is very likely also the slowest option, depending on the daytime that you travel. Calculate with 4 hours of traveling time. And this option is definitely the most expensive one, too. Price: maybe S$60 – 80.
Don’t forget to bring your passport along, and some Singapore-$ in cash!
If You Have Only Half a Day Then Visit The New Bird Paradise. It is Worth It
The Singapore Bird Park has always been my favorite.
Here is where I am coming from: I do not like zoos because I find them boring. A zoo keeps big wild animals in small spaces, as pets. The distances between the compounds are still large. You need battery-driven vehicles to move between the compounds. That comes close to safaris which I find even more boring.
Bird parks are entirely different. Birds have in general smaller living spaces. They (usually) do not eat each other which means that you keep a lot of species together, in large netted enclosures. You can even go inside these enclosures. You can see the entire Singapore Bird Park in half a day. That is my maximum attention span for such a visit.
The Singapore Bird Park re-opened only on 08 May 2023, and it is worth the visit. If you do only one thing in Singapore then it is this one.
Here is a newspaper article
When You Leave Singapore, Check in at Changi Airport like a Boss
This is how you do it: be early at the airport, at least 4 hours before boarding.
This is not only because you may need to return your rented WLAN router.
We have a new must-see attraction at the Singapore Changi Airport, the Jewel https://www.jewelchangiairport.com/
Here is how you check in: at the Jewel, if you have at least 3.5 hours until boarding, you can check in your luggage there.
After checking is, you can spend your time there. Have lunch or dinner at the airport before you fly off!
And after that, you can slowly walk over to your boarding gate.
45 Minutes before boarding time is a good time to start walking to your gate, from the Jewel.
You only need 15 minutes from the Jewel to the customs.
And you need only 20 minutes through the customs and security check until your gate.
The gate closes 15 minutes before departure. But they still let you in 5 minutes before departure.
Martin “Singapore” Schweiger