Decidedly global in its outlook, the modern metropolis of Singapore has kept a foot firmly rooted in tradition. Today quaint colonial-era shophouses sit alongside shimmering skyscrapers; temples, mosques and churches share the same streets; and open-air food courts sell tasty and authentic fare just footsteps from fine dining establishments. Singapore continues to defy expectations.

Need to know

Get to grips with the basics

  1. Get around town: The contactless EZ-Link card is sold at most metro stations and can be used on all forms of public transport.
  2. Warming up (and cooling down): Singapore is hot all year round and you can expect tropical humidity with abundant rainfall. Pack shorts and an umbrella.
  3. A fine city: Regulations are tough here. Food and drinks are banned on public transport, as is the sale of most chewing gum. Litterbugs are liable of fines of up to s$1000, a Corrective Work Order (CWO) or both.
  4. Initial thoughts: Singaporeans love acronyms. SG has one for almost everything. Here are some important ones: MRT (Mass Rapid Transit), PAP (People’s Action Party) and CTE (Central Expressway).
  5. Here’s a tip: Although native Singaporeans don’t usually tip, follow your instincts and dig a little deeper if you’re provided with excellent service as extra charges don’t usually find their way to staff pockets.

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Hotels

Hospitality at its finest

  1. The Fullerton Hotel, CBD

    Luxe lounging

    The Fullerton Hotel is an august neoclassical Palladian building constructed in 1928. Guests staying in the suites enjoy extra pampering under The Straits Club privileges, which include champagne breakfasts and evening canapés.

  2. Parkroyal on Pickering, CBD

    Verdant wonder

    This hotel’s balconies comprise verdant sky gardens. The high ceilings create a sensation of airiness while raw-wood finishes complement the “hotel in a garden” theme.

  3. Lloyd’s Inn, River Valley

    Simple pleasures

    An outlier when it comes to boutique hotels in Singapore, Lloyd’s Inn sports a minimalist aesthetic with an eye on details. Guests are treated to kimono-style bathrobes.

Vocabulary

Local lingo

  1. Ang Moh: “Red fur”; refers to caucasians
  2. Cheem: Complicated
  3. Chope: The act of reserving seats, often with a packet of tissue paper
  4. Heng: An expression of relief
  5. Kiasu: Literally means “afraid to lose”
  6. Kopitiam: Open-air food centres
  7. Malu: Lose face
  8. Paiseh: A term of embarrassment
  9. Shiok: An exclamation of delight
  10. Suay: Unlucky

Food and drink

Smart bites and top stops

  1. Potato Head Folk,Tanjong Pagar

    Cool bites and beverages

    A 1939 shophouse has been transformed into a four-storey hospitality stalwart embodying a whimsical-yet-cool aesthetic. The menu includes homemade sodas and innovative cocktails.

  2. The Coastal Settlement, Changi

    Personality-packed dining

    This 1960s inspired restaurant feels like a well- kept secret within the eastern district of Changi. Diners can eat alfresco, enjoying tasty plates that highlight both western and Asian influences.

  3. Cake shop Kki Sweets, Bras Basah

    Sweet spot

    Singaporean couple Kenneth Seah and Delphine Liau have been welcoming patrons to their Japanese cake shop since 2014. Expect colourful rows of handcrafted pastries (made by Seah), best enjoyed with Japanese tea.

  4. Bar Bincho, Tiong Bahru

    Japanese speakeasy

    This cocktail bar is hidden behind an unassuming noodle shop. It’ll take more than a return trip to sample all the Japanese whiskies, beers and cocktails dubbed “Japeritifs”.

  5. Chye Seng Huat Hardware, Jalan Besar

    Singapore’s premier café

    This restored art deco hardware shop is the pioneer of the third-wave coffee movement in Singapore. The Arabica beans are sourced from Ethiopia, Colombia and Asia, and roasted on site.

Retail

Shop talk

  1. Monocle Shop, Holland Village

    Home comforts

    We like to think our shop is one of the city’s cosiest retailers. Shoppers are encouraged to peruse products on the ground floor of an early postwar black-and-white house.

  2. BooksActually, Tiong Bahru

    Good reads

    This eclectic shop is full of everything from novels to vintage drinking glasses but the high-lights are titles from the owner’s publishing arm Math Paper Press, which showcases the best of the island’s literary talent.

  3. Beyond the Vines, Holland Village

    What women want

    Husband-and-wife duo Daniel Chew and Rebecca Ting make high-quality contemporary clothing. Ting has a penchant for muted palettes and subtle plays on texture.

  4. Surrender, CBD

    Word on the street

    An undisputed institution of Singaporean street style, Surrender has been instrumental in propagating the popularity of labels such as Head Porter Plus, Visvim and Neighborhood in the city-state.

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