A tropical island country situated at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia, Singapore is remarkable in that it is one of the few "city-states" in the world - an indication of just how vibrant Singapore could be. Being a popular travel destination, there is no doubt that there’s a flood of information on how to travel in Singapore but like many other places, travelling like a local is still easily the best way for any visitor to learn about, and experience, the local cultures. Apart from staying in town for a few weeks and maybe look for an apartment for rent whilst in Singapore, the following are 8 suggested ways for visitors to experience the city-state of Singapore like a local:
1. Celebrate like a Singaporean
What makes the city vibrant is that there is an exciting array of events and festivals happening in Singapore all year round! It is good to know that there is a festivity almost every month which is joined by the whole population of Singapore – a sign of a harmonious and peaceful society that respects each other’s beliefs and traditions. Throughout the year, you will have the opportunity to enjoy probably some of the most festive celebrations as follows:
- January/ February (Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year)
- February (Thaipusam)
- April (Good Friday and Easter Day)
- May (Vesak Day)
- June/ July (Hari Raya Puasa)
- August (National Day)
- September (Hungry Ghost Festival)
- October (Deepavali)
- December (Christmas and December Solstice)
2. The night is never too young for Singaporeans
Although Singapore seems to have a reputation of being “boring", the city is working hard to get rid of this image with concerts, musicals and even F1 Grand Prix Night Race. On the nights when there are none of these scheduled, there are still many nice cafes and restaurants in town where you could enjoy a night out, sitting at one of the many terraces in the evening when the temperature is just perfect. Some of these can be found here:
- Clarke Quay: A very bustling part of town with many trendy restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
- Dempsey Hill: This used to be the former British army barracks but it has now been turned into a trendy area with upmarket restaurants and specialty shops.
- Holland Village: A fun and casual place to meet up for drinks, coffee or a meal at one of the many restaurants.
- Various hawker centers: If you want to eat the Singaporean way, try one of the many hawker centers where you can eat heartily without much concern about the damage to your wallet.
3. Enjoy Beautiful Nature Walks
Very few cities are as green and luscious as Singapore. Despite the concrete jungle appearance, there are many places to go for a stroll and discover new plants and trees. Some of the favourite ones are as follows:
- Singapore Botanic Gardens: A big, beautiful park with wonderful gardens and stunning landscapes.
- Bukit Timah Nature Reserve: For those who want to be in the jungle and enjoy a more challenging walk, this is the place to be.
- MacRitchie Reservoir Park: Often said to be the gateway to Singapore's nature reserves, the park offers many beautiful and exhilarating walking trails to nature lovers.
4. Shop, Shop and SHOP!
Singapore is known for its shopping culture, which is one of the locals’ favourite pastimes. There are so many malls to check out here but in general, the following are the places to go if you’re looking to splash on something:
- General Shopping: The most popular shopping road in Singapore is Orchard Road. Ngee Ann City (that’s a shopping mall, by the way) is the home of Takashimaya, a major Japanese superstore, and many of the high end brands as well as the colossal bookshop, Kinokuniya. From Ngee Ann City, you can take a stroll to Wisma Atria, where there is an incredible assortment of shops. Paragon, which is located opposite Ngee Ann City, has a good variety of shops too. Another favourite is Vivo City, which is located near Sentosa.
- Sports Items & Equipment: For game shoes and sports attires, go to Queensway Shopping Centre. An undisputed top choice however, is the Velocity Sports Mall at Novena Square for some incredible range on Adidas garments.
- Computers and Electronics: There are a lot of options on computers and electronics at Sim Lim Square. Another good one (less muddled) is Funan DigitaLife Shopping Center. On Orchard Road, Lucky Plaza is a good place for some bargains on electronic goods.
5. Discover the Local Emerging Designers
Singapore is one of the fashion capitals of Asia, with a wide range of exciting local labels. For many years, talented designers have had their creations seen only in competitions and adorned by the privileged few. Thanks to incubator programmes and strong support from trade associations and official agencies, many local designers are now retailing their ready-to-wear designs, making their well-tailored unique interpretations of the latest trends become more accessible these days. You can find them in the central Orchard Road shopping belt or in the city fringes, like Haji Lane or Holland Village.
6. Eat Like a Local
Eating out is definitely one of the ways to experience Singapore like a local. The best Southeast Asian city, Singapore has many restaurants and hotels offering a variety of authentic local dishes and other cuisines, including international ones. Street foods served here are also very tasty and provide for a cheap option.
7. Have Fun at Singapore Flyer
If you have been on London Eye, you will definitely enjoy the Singapore Flyer. The 165-meter-high attraction is currently the world's largest observation wheel, and the experience that comes with it is definitely worth your time and money. A 30-minute ride on Singapore Flyer costs only SGD29.50. If you are planning to take a ride, doing it at dusk hours is probably the best as that is the time when the whole row of skyscrapers is subtly lit.
8. Visit Museums
Last but not least, visiting museums is another way to discover Singapore. The following are some of the recommended museums to visit:
- Singapore Art Museum: It has over 7000 Southeast Asian pieces of artwork. The collection includes sculptures, paintings and drawings, and highlights beautiful modern and contemporary artworks. Art lovers would certainly enjoy this wonderful art gallery that is located at Bras Basah Road.
- National Museum of Singapore: A popular museum in Singapore, it guards 11 treasures of the city state - the most significant artifacts in the history of Singapore. This includes the last will and testament of Munshi Abdullah, the father of Malay literature.
- The Peranakan Museum: This Museum showcases the arts and culture of a distinct ethnic of Southeast Asia called Peranakan. In Malay, Peranakan means "locally born". This term refers to the descendants of Chinese traders who settled down in Singapore, Malacca and Penang by marrying local Malay women back in the 14th century. These interracial marriages created a fusion of cultures and these are reflected in their architectures and fashion. The Museum provides informative insights on the multicultural mix of Singapore and Malaysia.
- Asian Civilisations Museum: The Museum is dedicated to showcase artifact collections of different regions in Asia, including China and the Middle East. A visit to this Museum is a must if one likes to have a crash course on Asian Studies.
- Singapore Philatelic Museum: Located on Coleman Street, this Museum showcases the collection of stamps and archival philatelic material ranging from the 1830s to present day.
So there you go, how you can stay in Singapore like a local, and eat like a local while at the same time, have fun & learn more about its cultures & history, so much so perhaps you would start to appreciate the country like a local too.
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Have you been to Singapore?
If you have, did you do any of the above whilst there? Would you add anything else to the list?
If you haven't been, which would you be interested in doing the most?