When I and my partner decided to make our first out-of-the-country travel, Singapore really isn’t our first choice. We actually vied on going to Hong Kong and Macau first just like everybody else, but suddenly, I realized that I wanted to bring my mother along when I get to visit Hong Kong and Macau. So? Just like that, Singapore made it to our ‘international scene’.
What to Know and Prepare Before Flying:
- Singapore is one of the 27 countries worldwide offering a visa-free entry for Philippine passport holders. As tourists, Filipinos can stay up to 30 days without visa.
- Singapore is 3 hours and 40 minutes away from the Philippines (Cebu) and there’s no time difference between the two countries.
- Currency in Singapore is in Singaporean Dollars (SGD). As of this writing, foreign currency exchange is at Php34-35 per 1 SGD.
- Locals in Singapore are English-speaking people, though informally. So, please be considerate of their broken English.
- Before finally boarding your flight, please prepare the following amounts for your taxes and fees:
- Travel Tax – Php1,620.00
- Terminal Fee – Php750.00 (for international passengers departing from Cebu)
- Philippine immigration clearance is one of the hardest to get through (according to some friends). Immigration Officers tend to get strict to Filipinos going to Singapore because most often than not, they go there as a tourist, never came back, find a job, then process their working permits there. Below are the standard documents you need to show to an Immigration Officer for a tourist-purpose travel:
- Philippine Passport (at least 6 months valid)
- Boarding Pass
- Fully filled and signed embarkation card (ask form at check-in counters)
- Round-trip ticket
- Hotel voucher
- Company ID/ Approved Leave Application – I suggest these should come in handy. Immigration Officers might look for these documents and the like to establish that you are able to finance your travel expenses and that you are definitely coming back to the Philippines. They may ask you a lot of questions, so just be prepared and confident.
- Authority to Travel (for government employees)
How to get there?
Singapore can be reached through direct flights from almost all international airports in the Philippines. Specifically, Cebu Pacific Air, Air Asia, Tiger Air and Singapore Airlines operate daily and direct flights from Cebu to Singapore at varied times. Other Philippine airports serving Singapore-bound flights include Manila (NAIA), Davao, Iloilo, and Clark.
Airport in Singapore:
Serving about 6,800 flights weekly, Changi Airport in Singapore is seen to be one of the finest airports (World’s Best Airport 2016 by Skytrax) in the world. There are three terminals in Changi Airport: Terminal 1, 2 and 3. Each terminal caters specific airlines, for example, Cebu Pacific Air departs and arrives at Changi Airport Terminal 2. If you need to transfer from one terminal to another, Changi Airport provides a free Skytrain service that operates from 5:00 am to 2:30 am. From 2:30 am to 5:00 am, free shuttle buses are available in lieu of the non-operational hours of the Skytrains. You can check Changi Airport website for more information.
Getting around in Singapore:
The integrated public transport system in Singapore makes one get to any point in the city conveniently. Travelling around Singapore is made easier through MRT, LRT, commuter buses, and taxis.
Taking the MRT or the LRT is the most efficient way to tour around Singapore. Please mind of the following information to help you get better at commuting through MRT/LRT:
Operating Hours: 5:30 am – midnight
Train Frequency: On peak hours (7:00 am – 9:00 am) – 2 to 3 minutes; Off peak hours – 5 to 7 minutes
Train Fares: You can check for an estimate of your train fares here.
Travel Cards: All train journeys can be paid for with cash or contactless stored value smart cards.
Standard train tickets can be purchased at any train stations in Singapore and can be used up to six times within 30 days from the date of purchase on MRT and LRT rides (one-way or round-trip).
Upon purchase, the price you’ll pay will include a deposit of 10 cents and is automatically refunded/deducted on your travel fare on the third trip. On the sixth trip, the user then enjoys a 10-cent discount.
ADULT STORED VALUE SMART CARD
These contactless smart value card comes in various modes, with the EZ-Link Transit Card as the commonly used. You can buy this from any TransitLink Ticket Offices and Passenger Service Centres within MRT Stations, 7-Eleven stores and online at My EZ-Link Online Shop.
SINGAPORE TOURIST PASS (STP) / STP Plus
For tourists, especially those who want to make their Singapore trip a DIY (do-it-yourself), I highly recommend having the Singapore Tourist Pass or the Singapore Tourist Pass Plus, whichever suits your needs.
A Singapore Tourist Pass is a special ez-link card that offers tourists unlimited travel on Singapore’s basic bus services, MRT and LRT trains for the duration that is valid. The Singapore Tourist Pass on the other hand, offers the same benefits of the regular STP but comes with other freebies.
Both offering UNLIMITED travel passes on both buses and trains, the Singapore Tourist Pass comes in three options: 1-day, 2-day or 3-day while the Singapore Tourist Pass Plus comes in two options: 1-day or 3-day. Please refer to below image for the schedule of prices and the inclusions to both passes:
Since Singapore’s rail system is a station-to-station type of transport, buses then complement the transport network to bring commuters closer to their destinations.
Just like the MRT and LRT, you can use an EZ-Link card or your Singapore Tourist Pass (STP) to hop on a bus. To check for bus fares, please click this link and for list of bus stops and bus arrival timings, you can find it here.
Where to Stay?
If there’s one thing to remember when booking accommodations for your Singapore trip, find hotels/hostels which are near to MRT stations or bus stops. That will save you lot of walking and muscle cramps (whew!).
In our case, we booked Hotel 165 at first. It’s an accommodation at the center of Little India in Singapore that’s very near to Farrer Park MRT Station and just across the entrance of City Square Mall. But due to minor problems we encountered before our trip, we had to cancel it. A day before our departure, I had to book another hotel since Hotel 165 at that time got real expensive.
Address: 165 Kitchener Road, Singapore 208532
Room Rates: Please check hotel165.sg for updated rates.
Room Amenities: 32-inch LCD TV, tea and coffee making facilities, complimentary mineral water, complimentary WiFi throughout the hotel, complimentary local calls, fully air-conditioned, attached bathroom with shower and amenities
Finding an accommodation in Singapore at a cheap cost can cause anyone a headache, especially if you want it to be near the city center and a transportation hub – an MRT station for example. Aside from hotels, you can also opt to house in a hostel instead for a cheaper cost. Many of them are freely scattered around downtown Singapore. But since what you pay on most hostels is purely a bed space, the risk of you worrying about your things may make you uncomfortable. That is so like me, so literally I had to look away when I clicked the ‘pay’ button at Agoda. Haha
So, exactly how I captioned it, we ended up staying at Kam Leng Hotel. Though still located at the heart of Little India, Kam Leng is a 5-8 minutes walk from the Farrer Park MRT Station. However, just across this hotel is a bus stop (Hoa Nam Bldg.) and that’s one of the things that made our next three days easy and manageable.
Kam Leng Hotel
Address: 383 Jalan Besar, Singapore 209001
Room Rates: Please check kamleng.com for updated rates.
Room Amenities: Free wireless internet access, free local calls, LCD TV, cable TV channels, digital in-room safe, mini-fridge, coffee and tea making facilities, international direct calling, automated wake-up call, air-conditioning, electronic door lock
So far, if I’m asked, I’d gladly book again at Kam Leng Hotel if ever I visit again Singapore. Or if not, I’ll go for Hotel 165. These two hotels are my ‘highly recommended accommodations’ in Singapore.
What to see and do in Singapore?
The best way to understand Singaporean culture is to explore its diverse community. Though we haven’t tried all of these during our trip, but to help you make the most of your Singapore trip, here are our suggested activities:
1. Go temple hopping around Chinatown, Little India and even in Arab Street.
- Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple
- Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum
- Thian Hock Keng Temple
- Sri Veeramakaliamman Hindu Temple
- Sultan Mosque
Other things to do: You can also do your souvenir shopping at Pagoda Street in Chinatown. And if your a super-foodie, try out the delicious servings sold by hawker centers around.
2. Visit Singapore City Gallery and learn more about Singapore’s past through interactive presentations.
3. Experience the vibrant culture of Singapore’s Indian community at Little India.
4. Walk around Singapore’s Colonial District and take a look at restored historic buildings still dating from the 1820’s.
- National Gallery Singapore
- The Arts House at the Old Parliament
- Victoria Theater and Concert Hall
- Asian Civilizations Museum
5. And hey! Don’t forget to taste the famous one-dollar ice cream! Yum…
6. Take some mandatory shots at Cavenagh Bridge, One Fullerton Hotel and the world’s famous sculpture – First Generation.
7. Find your way to the Merlion Park and fill your eyes with the super-stylish views of Marina Bay. I suggest you visit Merlion Park both on daylight and at nighttime to experience the beautiful difference of its picturesque scene.
8. Spend an afternoon at Gardens by the Bay. Stroll along the OCBC Skyway and watch the impressive transition of the garden’s day scenery to a stunning night one. And if you have a very generous budget, see some of the best views of the world at Marina Bay Sands Skypark.
OTHER PLACES OF INTEREST: Singapore Flyer, Arts and Science Museum, The Esplanade Theater
9. Wander through the streets of Kampong Glam: Stare at the marvelous Sultan Mosque. Appreciate artistic works at Haji Lane and Muscat Street. And if you want to learn more about the rich history of Singapore’s Malay community, head to Malay Heritage Centre.
10. Spend a day or two at Singapore’s Sentosa Island. Visit the Universal Studios Singapore, Siloso Beach, the Skyline Luge and many more interesting spots.
11. Whether on a budget or not, there’s always a place for every type of shopper at Singapore: Try retail shopping at Orchard Road’s ION Orchard and Paragon. Shop for more high-end brands at Marina Bay Sands’ The Shoppes. Or go for budget shopping at Bugis, Haji Lane and Little India.
- Accommodation rates in Singapore can be as high as USD60 per night for budget hotels. Book early through online hotel booking sites like Agoda. Find rooms offered for ‘free cancellation’ or ‘pay later’ scheme, so if you find an even cheaper accommodation for the same amenities, you can just cancel it without any charge. (That’s what I did! Hahaha)
- If you’re more than three visiting Singapore, go for hostels or boutique pods. Aside from being cheaper than the regular budget hotels, these kind of accommodations are everywhere in downtown Singapore.
- Be brave enough to explore Singapore all by yourself – no tour packages or tour guides. All it takes is a thorough research and a well-planned itinerary.
- For cheaper meals, eat at hawker centers.
- Buy yourself a ‘very good’ walking shoes. Trust me, it will save you a lot of leg cramps the following morning.
- Try to ask your hotel information if they sell Universal Studios Singapore tickets. Usually, they sell it for a lower price. (We bought ours at our hotel for just SGD71 each, instead of the SGD74 regular price.)
- If you’re going there DIY, go for the Singapore Tourist Pass instead of buying individual tickets when you hop on a train or bus. You will even get a relief that you choose to bought it whenever you get lost. Hahaha
Our Singapore get-away has been one of the best travels I had this year, and sharing you all this travel guide just made it more special. This post has been very long overdue but nevertheless, I’m hoping that this can help every traveler that comes across this guide. See you on my future trips! 🙂 #ddcaroundtheworld