Singapore travel guide
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).
7,987.5 per sq km.
President Halimah Yacob since 2017.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong since 2004.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.
Before you travel
No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you:
If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.
This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Singapore set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Singapore High Commission in the UK.
There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Singapore.
Passport validity requirements
To enter Singapore, your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ 6 months after the date you arrive.
If you are a resident in Singapore there is no minimum passport validity required. Apply for a renewal before your passport expires.
Singapore does not recognise dual nationality beyond the age of 21. A citizen of Singapore is required by Singapore law to renounce any other nationalities they hold before the age of 22 in order to retain their Singaporean citizenship.
Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.
You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.
Checks at border control
All arrivals in Singapore must complete an electronic SG Arrival Card in the 3 days before they enter Singapore. This online form asks for travel details and a health declaration. It is illegal to submit a false declaration. Biometric information is also recorded and scanned when you enter and depart Singapore (iris, facial and fingerprints).
Screening for drugs
You can be screened for drugs in your system on arrival in Singapore, including if you’re travelling through. You can be charged with drug consumption even if the drugs were taken in another country, including countries where the use of that particular drug is legal.
You could be detained without trial and, if convicted, you could be imprisoned, caned or executed.
There are different entry requirements if you are crew working on ships, small vessels, or pleasure crafts arriving at one of Singapore’s ports or marinas.
You do not need a visa to enter Singapore. The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority decides who can enter Singapore and how long they can stay.
Penalties for overstaying
Penalties for overstaying the time allowed include fines, imprisonment, caning and deportation depending on how long you have overstayed. When you leave Singapore, officials can take your fingerprints if they suspect you are involved in any crime.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need in TravelHealthPro’s Singapore guide.
If you are arriving from certain countries in Africa and Latin America, you will need to show a yellow fever certificate to enter Singapore. Failure to do so may result in mandatory quarantine or being refused entry to Singapore.
There are strict laws preventing accommodation being let out for short term rental, such as for tourists.
There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Singapore. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.
The following items are also illegal to bring into Singapore:
- vaporisers and e-cigarettes
- tobacco products that are chewed or injected
- chewing gum to sell
- weapons and ammunition (including empty cartridge cases and air guns)
- replica guns, including lighters shaped like a pistol or revolver
- radio communications equipment
See the complete list of prohibited items on the Singapore Customs website.
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.
UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.
Terrorism in Singapore
Terrorist attacks in Singapore cannot be ruled out.
Protecting your belongings
Violent crime and theft are rare in Singapore. Be aware of the risk of street crime, in particular bag snatching. Take care of your passport. Leave valuables in a hotel safe if possible. Do not leave valuables in unattended vehicles.
Be careful when approached by strangers. Scammers may try to win your trust, but then threaten to report you to the police for the crime of molestation. They will then offer to keep quiet in return for money. Online scams and phone scams are common and may involve individuals pretending to be officials or bank employees.
National Service for British dual nationals and permanent residents
The following are liable for National Service:
- all male Singapore citizens
- all male dual nationals aged 20 and under
- all male children granted Permanent Resident (PR) status as part of their parents’ PR application
Specific questions on National Service can be put to Singapore’s Central Manpower base.
Laws and cultural differences
The public display of national flags or national emblems is illegal except where a specific exemption has been granted. It is illegal to use the Singapore flag and national symbols in ways considered disrespectful.
Police may give you an on-the-spot fine for littering. Acts of vandalism including graffiti carry harsh penalties such as fines, imprisonment and caning.
Disrespecting or intimidating a public official can be illegal. There is zero tolerance for bribery in Singapore and any attempt to bribe or otherwise prevent an official from carrying out their duties can lead to arrest.
Use of false ID is illegal in Singapore.
Outrage of modesty
You should avoid any action that could be interpreted as molestation. Scams involving false claims of molestation are thought to exist. Penalties for convicted offenders include a fine, imprisonment and caning.
Alcohol laws and bans
The authorities do not tolerate drunk and disorderly behaviour. It is illegal to drink alcohol in a public place, besides restaurants, bars and licensed entertainment venues, between 10:30pm and 7am.
You could be arrested for:
- being found drunk and incapable in public
- fighting and becoming a nuisance in public
- touching someone inappropriately (whether resulting from drunken behaviour or not)
- driving while drunk
- drinking outside of allowed hours and areas
Penalties for convicted offenders include fines, imprisonment, and caning.
Geylang and Little India are ‘Liquor Control Zones’. Drinking in these areas is banned all weekend, on public holidays and on the eve of public holidays.
Smoking and e-cigarette bans
You must be 21 or over to purchase, use, own, sell or supply tobacco products in Singapore.
Smoking is banned at all public parks, all beaches and along certain waterways. Orchard Road is a No Smoking Zone. Make sure you smoke in designated areas only.
There are severe penalties for all drug offences in Singapore, including possession. Trafficking (‘intent to sell’) is defined simply by possession of drugs above a certain amount. The Misuse of Drugs Act sets out the definitions and penalties, which could include death, caning or detention without trial.
Arrests and detentions
If you’re arrested, you can be detained for up to 48 hours. You might not be allowed to speak with anyone, not even a lawyer, during this period.
Do not offer money to officials. You can face further charges or penalties for any attempt to bribe or prevent an official from carrying out their duties.
If you’re under police investigation, your passport will be taken from you. Your passport will be returned once the investigation is over. If you’re convicted, your passport will be handed back after you’ve served your sentence.
In most cases, you will not be allowed to leave Singapore while the case is open. There is no set timeline for investigations. You must be able to support yourself financially during this period.
The British High Commission cannot interfere in the criminal and legal process in Singapore.
The death penalty is a possibility for some offences, including murder and drug trafficking. Penalties for drug offences are severe and possession of even very small quantities can lead to the death penalty.
Same sex relationships are not illegal in Singapore. However, same sex marriage and partnerships are not recognised in Singapore law. This means, for example, that foreign residents cannot easily get a Dependent’s Pass for a same sex spouse or partner. Children from a same-sex partnership may not be recognised as the child of both parents.
It is possible to change legal gender in Singapore, subject to medical procedures.
LGBT+ support groups and social venues exist in Singapore.
Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.
Protests and public demonstrations
Avoid street gatherings and public demonstrations as they will be illegal if they do not have police permission. Foreigners who are not Permanent Residents are prohibited from attending outdoor demonstrations regardless of police permission. Filming an illegal gathering is forbidden. The wearing of ‘cause-related’ T-shirts and displaying ‘case-related’ banners is prohibited in public.
It is illegal for foreign nationals to talk publicly on ‘racial, communal, religious, cause-related or political topics’ without a permit.
Both public and private Jehovah’s Witness meetings are illegal in Singapore. It is also illegal to possess any Jehovah’s Witness publication, including a Jehovah’s Witness bible. There are similar measures against the Unification Church and the Shincheonji Church of Jesus.
You can drive with a UK driving licence for up to 30 days. After that you need a 1949 international driving permit (IDP) as well as your UK driving licence.
Hire car companies often have stricter requirements for their customers, such as a year of driving experience, minimum age and holding an IDP.
You cannot buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel. You can buy an IDP in person from some UK post offices – find your nearest post office branch that offers this service.
If you’re staying in Singapore on a longer term pass or you’ve become a Permanent Resident, you must get a Singaporean Driving Licence.
Driving under the influence of alcohol carries serious penalties including imprisonment. The traffic police regularly carry out breath tests.
If you’re involved in an accident, Singapore’s Road Traffic Act requires that you stay at the scene if there has been damage or injury. You must provide contact details, and inform the police within 24 hours.
Arriving or departing by car
If you are arriving in a car that is not registered in Singapore, visit the OneMotoring website to apply for a Vehicle Entry Permit.
Vehicles leaving the country will be checked against police records.
The Singaporean authorities will prosecute cases of drunken or antisocial behaviour by air passengers on any aircraft registered in Singapore.
There have been attacks against ships in and around the waters of Singapore and the Malacca Strait. Set up secure areas on board and report all incidents to the coastal and flag state authorities.
Before you travel check that:
- your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
- you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation
This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.
Emergency medical number
Dial 995 and ask for an ambulance.
Contact your insurance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Vaccinations and health risks
At least 8 weeks before your trip check:
- the latest information on vaccinations and health risks in TravelHealthPro’s Singapore guide
- where to get vaccines and whether you have to pay on the NHS travel vaccinations page
Dengue fever, zika and chikungunya virus occur all year round. You should take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is common in Singapore with more serious outbreaks from time to time. Young children are particularly at risk.
From June to October Singapore can experience high levels of pollution (haze) from land clearance fires in Indonesia. The haze can cause disruption to local and regional air travel, and may have an impact on public health. Monitor the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) updates and health advisories from the Singapore government.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.
Check to see whether you need approval from the Health Sciences Authority to bring in medication from the UK.
Not all medicines from the UK are available in Singapore. Make sure you have a prescription from your GP, and check with a doctor in Singapore who may be able to issue a prescription for a local equivalent. See the HCI Directory for a listing of licensed healthcare institutions.
The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.
Healthcare facilities in Singapore
FCDO has a list of medical providers in Singapore.
There is also guidance on healthcare if you’re living in Singapore.
Healthcare in Singapore is of a high quality and expensive. English is almost universally spoken in Singapore, so all hospitals, whether private or public, will have English-speaking medical staff.
Take enough medication for your stay and carry it in your hand baggage. Make sure you have travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and possible medical repatriation.
COVID-19 healthcare in Singapore
You can get PCR tests from any health ministry approved clinic. You can also buy Antigen Rapid Tests from retailers and chemists.
Check the Singapore Ministry of Health website for full details of Singapore’s COVID-19 response and recommendations.
Travel and mental health
If you need emotional support during your visit, you can call:
- National Care Hotline: 1800 202 6868
- Samaritans of Singapore: 1800 221 4444
- Mental Health Helpline (Institute of Mental Health): 6389 2222
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.
Emergency services in Singapore
Ambulance and fire: 995
Contact your travel provider and insurer
Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.
Refunds and changes to travel
For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.
Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:
- where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
- how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim
Support from FCDO
FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:
- finding lawyers and funeral directors and translators and interpreters in Singapore
- dealing with a death in Singapore
- being arrested or imprisoned in Singapore
- getting help if you’re a victim of crime
- what to do if you’re in hospital
- if you’re affected by a crisis, such as a terrorist attack
You can also contact FCDO online.
Help abroad in an emergency
If you’re in Singapore and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British High Commission.
FCDO in London
You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.
Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)
Risk information for British companies
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.