It’s hard to ask me about Singapore, because once I start talking it’s almost impossible to stop. I loved living there and hosting friends and family who came over on weekends and stopovers.
24-48 hour layovers are great in Singapore as there is so much to do. Even in the early hours of the morning, it is common to see people crowded around hawker centers taking their supper around midnight; so if you get off the plane late, there’s no problem. The MRT (train) closes around 11:30pm across the country, but Uber is good and cabs are cheap.
I’ve made a breakdown of some of the best free (or very cheap) things to do in Singapore for those with little time to spare, that gives a little taste of everything this nation has to offer!
I’ve avoided some great places to visit because of price only, such as shopping on Orchard Road, the Night Zoo, River Safari and Universal Studios. And some notable free or cheap things to do is off the list as well because of time constraints such as Pulau Ubin, Botanical Gardens, Macritchie Reservoir and Chinese Gardens. If you like walking and nature, these are the places for you.
Afternoon/evening: Gardens By the Bay
Gardens By the Bay is a ridiculously amazing and futuristic eco-park consisting of 18 ‘supertrees’ covered in over 200 plant species. Some of these harvest solar energy, and others are encircled by the OCBC Skyway; a 22-metre high, 128-metre long path where you can walk along overlooking the gardens and the city. The skyway is open between 9am-9pm.
If you get to the Supertree Grove around 7:30pm, you will be in time for the Garden Rhapsody, a light and sound show that is really worth going to. There are other things to do there like visit the bio-domes, but they aren’t free so don’t make the cut for my list.
Night: Walk along the esplanade
From the Gardens By the Bay, you can walk around the esplanade at Marina Bay, where you can get some amazing views overlooking the Arts and Science Museum (or as my Aussie friends call it “that giant lotus looking thing”), the city and the Marina Bay Sands.
There is a popular hawker centre on the esplanade called Makansutra at Gluttons Bay, but it’s quite expensive, so maybe save yourself for a cheaper one.
Along the bay you will be able to walk by the Merlion and bridge near Fullerton hotel.
The cool thing about Marina Bay is that it is also a drinking water catchment. Water scarcity is being well addressed in Singapore, with tight legislation prohibiting swimming and pollution of the water, and treatment facilities recycling water for drinking to a standard higher than most developed nations.
I’m gonna go ahead and recommend 1-Altitude at Raffles, the worlds highest alfresco bar. There’s a bit of a cover charge (about $35 SGD last time I went that came with a free drink). The rooftop bar is perched on the 63rd floor and gives a full 360 of the city, as well as glimpses of Malaysia on the horizon.
Alcohol is insanely expensive in SG, so if you’re going to drink it may as well be somewhere incredible.
Morning: Sentosa (perhaps?)
If you happen to wake up early I recommend heading to Sentosa, a small resort island south of Singapore. Even though they offer many paid activities (Universal Studios, the aquarium etc) you can still go for a morning walk and swim at the beach. It’s a nice way to fill time too, as the bustle of other areas of Singapore won’t really pick up until after 10am.
Sentosa is reachable by monorail or cable car but I prefer walking there via the footbridge at Vivo City/Harbourfront shopping centre (Harbourfront MRT). Sentosa also has the tallest Merlion in Singapore.
So what is the Merlion about anyway?
The story goes that in earlier times, a Srivijayan prince sailed near Singapore and saw a lion. He named the place ‘Singapura’, meaning lion city (singa= lion; pura=city). The lion head of the merlion represents this, and the fishy tail pays homage to the nation’s historical roots as the sea town Temasek.
If you happen to be in Sentosa at night, you can see a crane dance, where these two very transformer-esque birds come out of the water and perform a love story.
Mid-morning onward: Chinatown, Little India and Arab Street
Taking the MRT to Chinatown, again to Little India and then walking to Arab Street through to Masjid Sultan (Sultan Mosque), will give you great variations between food, people and culture. You might even come across a festival!
Chinatown over Chinese New Year
The Last Supper
Whenever my visitors leave, I always take them to East Lagoon Food Village for dinner.
I like it because it’s the only hawker along the beach, has a very large spread of food and is just a really calming place to farewell Singapore and watch the sun go down. The downside is that it’s a 2.5km/half hour walk from Bedok MRT, so I have always taken a taxi from there to the airport.
My alternative for this is to spend the early evening walking along Orchard Road (hop out at Somerset or Dhoby Ghaut MRT and walk up to Orchard Rd MRT). Even if you don’t want to spend money it’s still an amazing sight.
- gothere.sg shows best routes via bus, MRT or taxi – and the prices for each!
- MRT closes around 11:30pm
- Wifi is good however I recommend getting a $10 Singtel SIM card to use maps etc (taxi’s often don’t know where they are going)
- Chop your table!! When you go to hawker centres, put a packet of tissues or a business card on the table to reserve it, then walk away and order your meal. If you see some personal items on a table or chair don’t touch them, chances are they weren’t forgotten, theyre simply holding someones place for lunch.
- If you see tutu kueh (below), buy as much as you can. It’s the most glorious food in the world.
Anyway thats all, here’s some tutu kueh I met along the way.