Known as the Lion City, 48 hours in Singapore is the perfect amount of time to experience this buzzing metropolis.
Many travellers find themselves on a stopover in Changi, Singapore’s world class airport, especially if flying to Australia or points east and west. So if you’re wondering if you can zip into town for a few hours then it is definitely worth it. Normally, flying Singapore airlines they will encourage you to visit the country, so check if you can extend your stay with the airline (they’ll normally do this for free). However, with the arrival of budget flights from Europe with Norwegian, Singapore is bracing itself for more visitors – and with good reason, it’s a great city break! Great shopping, vibrant nightlife, beaches, nature reserves and amazing food.
Geography wise, the island is small enough that you can get on the metro in the airport and be downtown within 45 minutes. Unlimited travel for one day is S$10 (approx £5.50) or S$16 (£9) for two days. A single journey will be around S$3 – fares are worked out by distance and can be paid in cash at machines in all stations. If you’re here for a day or two get the EZ Link Card, which is a pre pay card valid on buses and metro all over the city.
Where To Stay
The joy of Singapore is that nothing is far away. However, although the city is walkable it is recommended to take the bus or metro to zip around and save time.
I stayed at a hostel in the Lavender area, the @Little Red Dot hostel. This was a short walk from Lavender metro stop just off a fairly busy road and close to the bus stop (if you’re arriving from mainland Malaysia). For around S$20 a night (approx £12) you get a 6 bed dorm and a nice breakfast included.
There are also some decent hostels in Chinatown and Little India which are both good central locations.
If you’re looking to splash out, Singapore is probably one of the more expensive places to do it in Asia. But staying at hotels near Clarke Quay or the Marina you will find some excellent luxury options. The Marina Bay Sands is an iconic hotel with an amazing infinity pool on the top – expect to pay upwards of US$300 per night. The iconic infinity pool is only available to guests, however, there are stories of workarounds from people who know how. See what you can find…
A good breakfast isn’t hard to find in Singapore. You’ll spy hawker centres all over town, but for reliably decent Singapore coffee (pronounced ‘kopi’) head to Heap Seng Long (10 N Bridge Rd, #01-5109, 190010) which is in the Kallang area near to Lavender MRT station. The toast is also excellent. See also Kopitiam (115 Kallang Rd).
Wherever you are in town, look for somewhere that says ‘Kopi’ for great coffee and food. The Singaporean coffee is very much different from the coffee you’re used to, a lot sweeter as it made with condensed milk. Most of them are reliably good quality and a coffee is normally no more than S$1 (although the more ‘street’ places are normally under S$1). Grab toast or pastries wherever you go for a tasty and very sweet treat.
A great place to get stuck into ‘old’ Singapore is in the hustle bustle of Chinatown, which is centred around Pagoda Street. A lot of the shops are the kind of low grade souvenir style, but it’s a good spot to watch the world go by. As well as people watching, eating street food and just taking in the vibe you can marvel at the colonial era architecture and visit the Chinatown Heritage Centre. Entry is S$15 (approx £8 or US$11) for adults and is worth a wander to learn a little about colonial Singapore.
Another landmark in Chinatown is the Buddah Tooth Relic Temple. This working temple is also a museum with various Buddhist relics including, apparently, one of The Buddah’s teeth. Entry is free for all but donations are appreciated.
There is also a food court in Chinatown which houses one of the world’s cheapest Michelin starred restaurants. See below for more details…
Fort Canning Park
This beautiful park is a great place to relax and rest your feet after a hard mornings sightseeing in this frenetic city. You can take in magnificent views of the city and grab some refreshments at the many coffee shops and cafes. If you want to get stuck in, there are nature trails and places to relax but at certain times of the year you’ll find pop up events and festivals too. Take a look at their page to see what events are coming up.
Rich in history and culture, Singapore has a lot of very good museums. From Fort Canning Park you are well placed to visit any or all of:
- Singapore National Museum: All about Singapore and it’s history. S$15 entry for adults (concessions for students etc are available).
- National Gallery: Art from Singapore and the South East Asian region. S$20 for adults, plus concessions.
- Asian Civilizations Museum: Museum exploring the history and culture of Asia. S$8 for adults but $4 if you visit after 7pm.
This iconic hotel is a must visit in Singapore, although it closed for renovations until late 2018. If you visit any other time and you can’t afford to stay the night (around US$1000 a night) then you can visit the hotels bar and have a Singapore Sling cocktail. Make sure you’re not wearing shorts of flip flops though or they won’t let you in. Shirt and shoes for gents, smart casual for ladies.
Any visitor to Singapore will find themselves in one of these fantastic temples to food. Singapore is a foodies paradise and you’ll be spoiled for choice with a range of cuisines on offer. From fantastic Chinese and Hokkein, Malay and Indonesian, native Singaporean (a mesh of all of the above) and also top notch western food.
Visit one of the worlds cheapest Michelin Starred restaurants at:
- Tai Hwa Pork Noodle: Minced meat noodles at Block 466 Crawford Lane near Lavender MRT.
- Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Noodle: Head to 335 Smith Street in Chinatown.
If you’re near Clarke Quay/Raffles then there is a great food court on the edge of the bay.
Makansutra: Massive selection of food with lots of places to sit and take in the view.
Or if you’re deeper in the city then…
Telok Ayer: This Victorian era market is a beautiful building in the city, just a short walk from the Marina Bay. Although it’s relatively small it packs a punch is very lively due to its proximity to the Bay and downtown.
Another popular food court is Maxwell Food Centre (1 Kadayanallur Street, near Chinatown), which is popular with office workers in the day.
If you’re spending 48 hours in Singapore you will undoubtedly end up in several food courts so be adventurous. Food to try:
- Laksa (Coconut chicken soup)
- Salt and pepper crab
- Char kway teow (noodles with mixed meats)
- Fish bee hoon (fish noodle soup)
- Oyster omlette
- Frog porridge
- Any number of chicken rice or pork noodle combinations
Gardens By The Bay
This modern and very impressive park is now one of the icons of Singapore with it’s imposing trees which look like something out of Avatar. The park is stunning in itself, with beautiful vegetation, parks and walks. The park itself is free to enter, but if you want to head up to the iconic walkway in those sci-fi trees then it’ll cost S$8.
The Gardens By The Bay complex sprawls all along the waters edge although it’s the Bay South park that attracts the attention for good reason. This is a must visit when you’re in Singapore.
It’s all about Clarke Quay. The whole area is packed full of bars, clubs and restaurants and is where Singapore goes to let it’s hair down. Many bars are free entry but nightclubs with big name DJ’s or events will charge a cover, often around S$20-30.
For a cool alfresco drink, head to Altitude Bar for a view of the city in style on the best roof terrace in town.
So you were up all night at Clarke Quay dancing the night away were you? That’s OK… Head to:
Home of theme parks like Universal Studios and Kidzania, you can ignore them if you want and head straight to the beach. Getting to Sentosa Island involves taking the MRT to HarbourFront Station then heading to the monorail station and taking the train across (you can also get a taxi or bus right into the island which isn’t as much fun). The ticket on the monorail is S$4 return, the final stop is ‘Beach’, the clue is in the name.
There are several beaches to choose from, all of which are man made crescents with bars and restaurants fringing them.
Palawan beach has an island which claims to be the southern most point of continental Asia. Although seeing as it’s a tiny island on an island which is itself part of an island nation, this may not be 100% factually accurate. It’s also not even the southernmost point on Sentosa Island, so yes, make your own conclusions.
If you walk back into the island from Beach station you’ll find yourself in a faux Gaudi-esque landscape with mosaic lizards and fountains. This walkway also takes you past the Sentosa Merlion. You’ll see the Merlion everywhere, the symbol of Singapore, it has the head of a lion but the tail of a fish.
If you’ve got kids in tow they’ll probably love all of Sentosa Island so this might be a must visit.
If you love a bit of retail therapy then you’ll love Orchard Road. Historically the place to pick up duty free gadgets, it isn’t such a draw now that you can get anything online. But, if you’re in the market for something in particular it is definitely worth a dropping by, especially if you’re staying in the area. Those who aren’t worried about shopping can skip this stop though.
This vibrant district a short jaunt away from the centre of town is a great stop if you’re up for some Indian food and shopping. Find markets, cafes and regular events for Indian festivals. Head to Jalan Besar MRT stop and follow your nose (literally).
Best food in the area can be found at Komala Villas (76 Serangood Road), which is cheap and authentic. Their dosas and thalis are the real deal and still cheap. TripAdvisor suggests that the quality may have gone downhill since my visit, but the area is packed full of amazing restaurants so see what you can find.
Marina Bay By Night
You will probably have done this on your first night, but wandering the Marina Bay is a great way to take in the vibe in this big buzzing city. You’ll see Tai Chi classes, joggers, dance classes, dating teenagers and families going about their evening. Plus you can watch the displays such as the light and music event in front of Marina Bay Sands. Find a spot by the big Merlion (you’ll see it) on the North side of the bay for the best views.
Whenever you go, Singapore will be hot. Situated just north of the equator, expect temperatures above 20 all year round. However, the country can also be hit by storms especially during the ‘wet season’ which is technically the winter. Loose fitting and comfortable cotton clothes are the order of the day, but if you visit in the winter keep a waterproof jacket to hand.
Public Wifi is widely available and the transport infrastructure is excellent. Although Singapore is a relatively expensive country, you can get by on around US$30 a day if you stay in a dorm/hostel, eat cheap local food and walk as much as possible. Check our guide to travelling on a budget.
Ready to explore Singapore? Even if you’re only in town for a quick stop-off it is worth a visit. Check prices to Singapore on our handy widget below.