Once routinely criticised for being dull, Singapore has reinvented itself as one of Southeast Asia’s most modern and dynamic cities. Melding together a mass of different cultures, cuisines and architectural styles, the city-state is now studded with vast new showpiece constructions to complement its colonial-era hotels and civic buildings. Cutting-edge tourist developments continue to spring up. Shopping avenues and underground malls throb with life, as do the food courts, the riverside bars and the temple-dotted outlying neighbourhoods. It’s never going to be Bangkok, but it’s doing a fantastic job of being Singapore.
Chinese, Indian, Malay and European influences all flow through daily life here. Boring? Hardly. It’s true to say, however, that the former British trading post and colony still has a reputation for its cleanliness (it’s still panned for its seemingly petty regulations, such as the banning of chewing gum). Likewise, levels of serious crime are very low. It’s worth pointing out, too, that Singapore’s cultural mix has left it with a genuinely world-class food scene – and you won’t need to spend big to eat well.
Recent years have seen the city really pushing for recognition as an international tourist destination in its own right, rather than as a convenient stopover. Significant investment has resulted in developments such as Marina Bay Sands, the three-towered skyscraper that now stands as Singapore’s centrepiece; Resorts World Sentosa, which is home to a Universal Studios theme park; and Gardens by the Bay, a remarkable project complete with “supertrees” and two colossal plant domes.
More traditional attractions include the designer malls of Orchard Road, the exotic clatter of Chinatown and Little India and the elegance of Raffles Hotel, still standing proud more than 125 years after being built. On the subject of hotels, Singapore now offers one of the best spreads of high-end accommodation in the region: a sign, amongst other things, of its ambition to keep visitors flooding in. It’s likely to succeed.
697 sq km (269 sq miles).
5,696,506 (UN estimate 2016).
Head of state:
President Tony Tan since 2011.
Head of government:
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong since 2004.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. British-style plugs with three square pins are standard. Many hotels have 110-volt outlets.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Be aware of the risk of street crime, particularly bag snatching. Take particular care of your passport. Leave valuables in a hotel safe if possible. Don’t leave valuables in unattended vehicles.
Violent crime is rare.
Road conditions in Singapore are generally good. If you are involved in an accident, you should remain at the scene until the police have arrived.
You can drive in Singapore using a UK driving licence for up to 1 year. If you are staying in Singapore for longer than 1 year or become a Permanent Resident you should get a Singaporean driving licence.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offence in Singapore. The traffic police regularly carry out breath tests. Sentences can include a fine or imprisonment.
The Singaporean authorities will prosecute cases of air rage within their jurisdiction.
There have been attacks against ships in and around the waters of Singapore and the Malacca Straits. Be vigilant and take appropriate precautions. Reduce opportunities for theft, establish secure areas onboard and report all incidents to the coastal and flag state authorities.