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Tips for Overseas Friends to Know Singapore!

Hi, welcome to Singapore!

This is a handbook for friends from overseas.

Table of Contents

Data SIM Card

At Changi Airport (currency exchange counter) you could buy a $15 (5 days) / $30 (10 days) Singtel Prepaid SIM Card with up to 14 GB data.


You can go into most convenience stores (eg. 7-11) and buy a pre-paid simcard from either SingTel or StarHub (or possibly M1).

SingTel plans
StarHub plans.

Looks like this is the card
to get for those who need nano sims.

Power (Socket)

This bad boy (Type G, BS 1363 UK, 230-240V).

Sometimes you can force the two prong European Type C
into the socket, but it involves shoving a something small and non-metallic into the third hole, so I
tend to avoid using this one.

Free WiFi

Changi Airport has it.

[Comment: Changi Airport is amazing. I returned from a trip one day and to
get from the gate, through customs and into a taxi took FOUR minutes.]

Wireless@SG is an open network available at almost every shopping mall, library and McDonalds.
Requires a log in. Sign up here, under "Non-Singtel Customers". There is also a second network SSID called Wireless@SGx, which uses WPA-Enterprise + TKIP for authentication.

And the reboutable ladyironchef lays down
where the free wifi cafes are.

Goods and Services Tax (GST)

Do take note that Singapore imposes a 7% levy on nearly all forms of goods and services rendered/sold on the island. This price is mostly (if not, always) included in the listed price. However, some establishments may still leave out the tax on listed pricings.

Hence, do still keep a lookout for text at the bottom of menus and product listings that indicate the non-addition of tax and service charge and calculate accordingly.


No real need to tip. Leave a few coins if you'd like (to get rid of your coins).

You don't need to tip at a hawker food stall, and normal restaurants include a
10% service charge.

[Comment: Oh and talking about coins, Singapore is in a transition from one set
of coins to another differently sized set. So you'll get two sizes of each
coin. Yay!]

Tissue Culture

Singaporeans often leave tissues on seats in busy food halls (hawker centres etc.) while they walk around and buy food. I know you'll be tempted but best not to remove the tissue and sit down.

[Comment: If you need your own tissues, hawker centres are the place to buy them. You'll often find an older gentleman or lady offering one, two or more packets for a dollar or two.]


English mainly.

[Comment: You'll look like an idiot if you try this slang. I sometimes answer
"are you able to?" questions with "can!", but mostly that just makes me look
like an idiot. YMMV.]

What to buy to bring back home


  • Vandalism
  • Littering
  • Chewing gum
    [Comment: Actually you can chew gum like a cow chews cud, but you won't be
    able to buy any gum in Singapore and when you need to get rid of your gum,
    make sure you put it in a bin - see "littering" above.]
  • Don't carry Durian in public transport
    [Comment: Eating Durian is another must-try experience in Singapore. However, carrying them in public transport is an offence and you will be fined if caught. If you really want to carry it onto public transport, request for them to be packaged on the spot or consider purchasing ones that have already been packed in styrofoam packages wrapped in clingfilm.]
  • Drink and eat in public transport. You can be fined for it. This is especially true for MRT stations and trains, and less so for buses.

[Comment: You really don't want to commit even minor crimes here. Singapore
takes its law and order very seriously - one of the reasons it's a very nice
place to live.]

Getting Around

Public transport in Singapore is excellent (see below) and probably should be
your first choice.

If you're in the central area you can certainly get to many places by walking
(but of course it's always hot and humid - and sometimes raining heavily - so
please take this into account).


Install one of the following app:

  • Grab (previously GrabTaxi)
  • Uber

You can also walk to a Taxi stand or flag down a taxi from the street.

Taxis could be a challenge during rainy days.

Can checkout Taxi Router Explorer.

MRT and Buses

The public transport system runs on a reloadable contactless card called EZ-Link. There are 1, 2, and 3 day unlimited "Tourist" passes. There is no need to buy these unless you plan on making 4+ trips per day. Available also are standard tickets which can be re-used for up to 6 times, purchasable at General Ticketing Machines (GTM) at all LRT and MRT stations.

For more information on the various train fares and travel cards, visit this site.

There are the MRT trains which
are frequent, clean and fast (and full of people during rush hour). (They run
underground in the central part of Singapore.) Can checkout MRT Rail Routes Explorer.

There are the buses which go everywhere, and
are also very clean and comfortable. Can checkout Singapore Bus Routes Explorer.

There are a few apps that you might find helpful for getting around on the public
transport system:

  • Google Maps (iOS, Android)

    Whenever you are at a particular place in Singapore and if you need to go to another place, Google Maps app is your friend. The reason being that this app provides details like which bus number(s) and/or which train lines can take you from one destination to another. Whichever transport you decide to take(based on which option you choose in the app), Google Maps also helps you to navigate your way to the nearest bus stand or MRT train station from your current location.

  • SBS Transit iris (iOS, Android)

    Tells you when the next bus will (hopefully) arrive.

  • (iOS, Android)

    Tells you which bus or MRT to take to get from A to B.

  • CityMapper (iOS, Android)

  • Moovit (iOS, Android, Windows Phone)

    Fully featured transport app that provides you different route options, where to alight, which part of the train you should enter and heat-safe options.

Situated between Terminals 2 and 3 is the Changi Airport MRT station which can get you into the heart of our Lion City in approximately 45 minutes. However, as the line serving the airport terminates at Tanah Merah (right after Expo station), you will then be required to cross platforms and head towards to the platform with trains heading towards Tuas Link (do keep a look out for the signs!). The train heads all the way towards the West of the island VIA City Hall or Raffles Place stations which are our Central Business District (CBD) - don't go all the way to Tuas Link!


These are some of the local food that you should try if you are in Singapore.

[Comment: I've added photos for a few of the foods listed here, mostly the ones I've tried in Singapore.
If you're interested in some of the others, just grab a staff member at RDRC for suggestions about where to find them.]

ieat Ultimate Food Trail

You can't go wrong following the recommendations of famous food blogger Dr Leslie Tay.

Check out his Singapore's Ultimate Food Trail post and the map.

Kaya Toast with Eggs

Yakun - these stores are everywhere.

You can get this at the drink stall in almost every hawker center. Ask for "breakfast set".

Nasi Lemak

This is a traditional Malay dish of chicken, coconut rice and other nice things.

[Comment: Sorry, but I haven't found a really good Nasi Lemak in Singapore.]

Carrot Cake

Go into any hawker centre and you'll find carrot cake. There are two varieties,
black and white. You can order for a mix of both as well!

Where can I find it?

He Zhong Carrot Cake

Address: 51 Upper Bukit Timah Rd, #02-185, Singapore 588172 Map


A spicy roll and a great option for vegetarians.


Chicken Rice

This is a very famous Singaporean dish.

Tian Tian in the Maxwell Food Centre is very famous (and I hear half decent).
If you like to stand in a long queue, please go there at lunch. If you don't go
there at lunch, they're unlikely to be open.

Ice Kacang

A local dessert.

Ais Bor

[Comment: Unfortunately Singapore just doesn't make good variations of this
dessert. You need to visit Malaysia for the real thing.]

Tsui Kway / Chwee Kueh

This is an odd one, again from hawker centres. Rice cakes sprinkled with salted radish.

[Comment: I think it's vegetarian.]


Spicy noodle soup.

Bak Kut Teh

Pork in a herb soup..


Rojak is a great local dish for vegetarians. Another staple of any food centre.

Dim Sum

Not a traditional Singaporean dish but always a good option.

The most popular Hong Kong style dim sum (aka. yum cha) restaurant at the
moment is Tim Ho Wan - their pork buns
are a "must try".

Pork Buns

Kway Chap

Kway Chap is a Teochew dish of flat, broad rice sheets in a soup made with dark soy sauce, served with pig offal, braised duck meat, various kinds of beancurd, preserved salted vegetables, and braised hard-boiled eggs. Fit for the slightly adventurous!

Pictures of Kway Chap via Google

Where can I find it?

Lao San Kway Chap

Address: 232 ang mo Kio Ave 3, #01-1222, Singapore 560232 Map

Chilli Crab

Singapore is very famous for its chilli crab.

If you can get there
Mellben is quite good. Try
their Crab Bee Hoon.]

[Comment: Don't try this at touristy restaurants - it's just not worth it.]

Wanton Noodles

Again, not a truly local dish, but a very nice Chinese dish of noodles and

Worth visiting Foong Kee coffee shop
if you're in Chinatown.

Wanton Min

Putu Piring / Kueh Tutu

Putu Piring is a Traditional Singaporean treat. Steamed rice cake filled with gula melaka (melted palm sugar). Served with grated coconut, squares of pandan leaf, has subtle, sweet vanilla fragrance.

Indie Bookstore

Coffee Culture

While there are many western-style cafes and popular chains like Starbucks throughout the island, local coffee culture is something you must experience. Best places to try local coffee are neighbourhood confectionaries or hawker centers. In local lingo, coffee is known as Kopi (and tea is Teh for that matter). There's a comprehensive vocabulary developed on how to order coffee (it is fun to learn and great way to immerse).

You can learn more about Kopi lingo from KopiJS. They also have a regular meetup, which you can join for kopi adventures and meet interesting people.

Cat Cafes

Time spent with cats is never wasted.

Drinking Locations

  • Club Street
  • Clarke Quay

Of course there will be many other places that people drink in Singapore, just
ask someone at RDRC for recommendations.

Craft Beer

Singapore Sling

This is an alcoholic drink. If you're arriving into Singapore via Singapore Airlines, feel free to request for the Singapore Sling as they serve the Singapore Sling on board -- for free! Most convenience stores around Singapore (7 Eleven/Cheers) have pre-mixed bottles ready for consumption and you may consider purchasing a bottle or two to enjoy!

The quintessential place to drink it is at the 2 storey Long Bar in Raffles Hotel (accessible to the public), the birthplace of the cocktail. However, prices are considerably steeper there.

Major Hawker Centres


One of the two major passions (the other being eating) of Singaporeans. Ask any local for their recommendations on places to shop and this particular shopping district will come up. Enter Orchard Road – this 2.2km belt is one of Singapore's premier district for shopping. Located amidst cultural landmarks, lively street activities and dazzling architectural landscapes, you'll be sure to spend at least a full day there if you love shopping!

Worried that you might get lost? Tourist Information Centres have been set up along the shopping belt to assist you in locating various landmarks and attractions within Singapore. You may also consider purchasing various attraction packages at discounted rates at these centres!


  • Sim Lim Square

    Good for electronics, lower floors specialise in audio, video and cameras. Shop around for the best prices and check warranties before plonking down your hard-earned cash. Some bargaining may be possible. Caveat: not all shops are trustworthy. When signing on any documents, be sure to read carefully through the fine print!

    Nearest MRT station: Rochor (downtown Line).

  • Sim Lim Tower

    Electronic components and spare parts. Nerd paradise.

  • Funan Square

    Slightly more up-market version of Sim Lim Square. Prices probably higher than
    Sim Lim, but comes with an altogether more pleasant shopping experience.
    Challenger mega-store on top floor.

    Nearest MRT stations: City Hall (East West and North South Lines), Clarke Quay
    (North East Line).

Sight Seeing

  • Bugis Street
  • National Museum
    [Comment: It's a nice old building but not that exciting unless you're really into
  • Marina Bay Sands
  • Singapore Zoo
  • Night Safari
  • River Safari
  • Jurong Bird Park
  • Sentosa Island (easily accessible)
  • S.E.A. Aquarium
  • Universal Studios
  • The Merlion / Esplanade
  • Orchard Road
  • Sky Garden
  • Singapore Flyer
  • River Cruise
  • F1 Race Track
  • Botanical Gardens
  • Macritchie Reservoir
  • Henderson Park
  • Chinatown
  • Haji Lane
  • Pulau Ubin (located on a seperate island)
  • Bukit Timah Hill
  • Gardens By the Bay
    [Comment: Enclosed and air conditioned gardens. Quite impressive, you have to go
    there more than once.]
  • The Rain Vortex at the Jewel Changi Airport


It's advisable to bring Singapore dollars (SGD) when visiting. However you can easily get cash out at ATMs after you arrive if necessary. While credit cards are widely accepted here, there are plenty of places which will only take cash. Certainly for public transport, cash is more heavily used. The best local food can be found in the older hawker centres and can't be bought with a credit card.

Some retailers have a naughty habit of slapping the transaction fees as additional surcharges for credit card purchases, so, if you're shopping for say electronic goods, you might find that you get a small "discount" for paying by cash.

VISA and MasterCard are commonly accepted. Many retailers still don't accept AMEX. Some retailers accept Discover, but best to assume most don't.

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