The following itineraries illustrate three ways to spend one day in Singapore. They all assume you will start from and end your trip at your lodgings. You can select the activities that sound interesting to you and follow them in any order, including mixing and matching the morning/afternoon/evening sections from the three different itineraries as you like.
All listed prices are in Singapore dollars. The estimates provided below do not include food, drinks or the cost of transportation between the hotel where you are staying and the locations of the first and last destinations stated in each itinerary.
Getting around Singapore is easy. Equip yourself with a bottle of water and the free Singapore Tourist Map is recommended. If you plan on using the subway system, or MRT as it is known in Singapore, you should consider buying the pre-paid EZ-Link card or NETS FlashPay card. Using either card not only helps you to avoid the queue at the ticketing machines, it also helps you to save a bit of money as the fares are slightly lower. There is a non-refundable fee of $5 to purchase either card.
Another way is to buy the Singapore Tourist Pass (available at selected TransitLink Ticket Offices). Pass options are: 1 day ($10), 2 days ($16) or 3 days ($20). This pass lets you enjoy unlimited rides on the MRT/LRT and public buses. There is a refundable deposit of $10 (refund the pass within 5 days to collect back the $10 deposit).
The Tourist Loop
If you have to pick one itinerary out of the three listed here, this is the one. Be forewarned however that this itinerary follows very closely the typical itineraries devised by tour groups and what you will mostly see will be limited to the touristy face of Singapore.
Approximate cost per person for admissions and transport: $50.
Get up bright and early to beat the heat. Skip the hotel buffet and start your day with a Singaporean breakfast of kaya toast, runny eggs and strong sweet coffee, also known locally as kopi. Kaya is the Singaporean’s equivalent of the British marmalade or the New Yorker’s cream cheese, and is made of coconut milk, sugar and eggs. The Singaporean breakfast is available in any corner coffeeshop, known more affectionately by the locals as the Kopitiam, for about $2, but if you want to taste what is considered to be the best kaya toast in town, you will want to figure out the location of the nearest Ya Kun Kaya outlet. Incidentally, the word Kopitiam is formed by joining the Malay word kopi with the Minnan phrasebook (a Chinese dialect) word for a shop; hence, the coffee-shop and the etymology of this word is illustrative of many of the words that are spoken by the typical Singaporean. As a matter of fact, the typical Singaporean seems to be incapable of carrying on a conversation without mixing in words from two or more languages (usually Mandarin Chinese and English). So, if you hear a foreign-sounding word in the middle of an English sentence, you haven’t heard wrong — the word is probably not in English.
Before it gets too hot outside, head to either the Singapore Zoo, which is particularly great for the kids, or the Jurong Bird Park, which is arguably the more romantic option. The Zoo and the Bird Park opens at 8:30 AM, entrance fee to the Zoo is S$32, and S$28 to the Bird Park. Buy the tickets online by Visa or MasterCard to enjoy a 10% discount (wrs.com.sg).
The easiest way to get to either attraction is to take the taxi (approximately $10 if you start from the city center).
By noon you will be hot, sweaty and probably a little peckish. Make your way down to Orchard Road, or more specifically Ngee Ann City (also known as Takashimaya), to begin the shopping portion of your tour. Unlike America’s malls, which occupy acres and acres of land, Singapore’s scarcity of land forces its malls to develop skywards. Among the many malls in Singapore, Ngee Ann City is considered to be the premier mall destination, hands down, and boasts an amazing number of high-end boutiques, including Tiffany, Cartier, Louis Vuitton; and Takashimaya, which is Japanese for the equivalent of Neiman-Marcus or Harrods.
Start off with a quick lunch in the food court located in Ngee Ann City’s basement. Dependable Singaporean-Chinese chain Crystal Jade has no less than 4 outlets scattered throughout the mall (the ones in the basement are cheap, those on top cost more), Sushitei (2nd floor) serves up very good conveyor belt style sushi, Central (Basement 1) has a modern take on Hong Kong cuisine, and if you’re still pining for more options, the lower basement food court has more options than you can shake a chopstick at.
Your course from here onward depends on your interests, there are literally dozens of shopping malls along Orchard Road stretching in both directions from Takashimaya. Up on the third floor is Kinokuniya, Singapore’s largest bookstore. If Takashimaya’s lower floors aren’t enough, across the road is Paragon, full of yet more expensive luxury brands. If you’re looking for something specific and can’t find it, just ask the friendly crew at the Singapore Visitor’s Centre at Orchard Road (near Somerset MRT station, Exit C). But do yourself a favor and avoid buying any electronics in Lucky Plaza, a notorious pit of ripoff artists.
By 5-6 PM the temperatures will start to drop and it’s time to get back to sightseeing. Find the nearest MRT station (the likely candidates are Orchard, Somerset and Dhoby Ghaut, all along Orchard Road) and take the MRT to Raffles Place and head out via Exit H, which will bring you to the southern side of the Singapore River.
The first bridge to your right is Cavenagh Bridge (1), the oldest bridge still standing. Don’t cross it yet, but do pause to admire the original sign advising that cattles are not permitted to cross.
The massive white colonial building just past the bridge was formerly Singapore’s general post office, but it has now been resurrected as the Fullerton Hotel (2), one of the city’s best (and most expensive).
Keep walking down the bank of the river, at one point crossing a road and then promptly heading back down to the riverside. Soon enough you’ll see Singapore’s official committee-designed symbol the Merlion (3), half-lion, half-fish, staring purposefully out at tourists snapping away from the observation deck just opposite. Join them and you’ll be treated to a stunning view of the Central Business District’s skyscrapers and the Marina Bay Sands casino across the bay.
On the other side of the river you will spot two odd-shaped dome like buildings likened, depending on your interpretation, like giant insect eyes, or a durian fruit split in half. This is the Esplanade, a venue devoted to the music & fine arts.
Retrace your steps and cross Cavenagh Bridge (or the preceding Anderson Bridge) and walk along to the north side. To your left is Empress Place (4), now housing the Asian Civilisations Museum and the excellent but pricey IndoChine restaurant complex, also housing Bar Opiume and Siem Reap Cafe.