If I could only go on one more getaway in my life, I would return to Singapore. I went for the first time last December and absolutely loved it. It packs so much into a tiny space. At 710 km², it’s one-fifth the size of Rhode Island, the smallest state in the USA. Yet its population is over 5 million, five times that of Rhode Island.
Right on the southern tip of Peninsular Malaysia, this Southeast Asian country developed and grew rapidly after becoming a British trading post. Originally home to indigenous Malays, it became a country of immigrants, many of them Indian and even more Chinese. The diverse population is reflected in Singapore’s four official languages (English, Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil) and wide variety of food.
Singapore’s rate of advancement is incredible. This tiny city-state has the world’s highest percentage of millionaires with one out of every six households having at least 1 million in disposable wealth. Real estate is incredibly expensive, but Singapore’s infrastructure and architecture are enviable. There is a dark side worth mentioning, though. Singapore has no minimum wage and has one of the highest income inequality levels in the world. It’s not all roses, but Singapore still has the best quality of life in Asia, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit’s quality-of-life index.
Singapore is tourist-friendly. English is one of its official languages, Singapore Changi International Airport is one of the best airports in the world, and transportation in the city is a breeze. Between buses, taxis and the very convenient train system, it’s easy to get around. Considering that it only takes an hour to drive the length of the country, it can’t be too hard to get from any one point to another. Singapore’s attractions are numerous, from high-end shopping on Orchard Road to wandering the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Visit the island of Sentosa for amusement, or enjoy a beautiful view of the city from the Singapore Flyer. For cultural immersion, you could explore Chinatown, Little India, or a plethora of Buddhist temples, as Buddhism is the most common religion in Singapore.
My favorite area of Singapore was Marina Bay, home to Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay. Marina Bay Sands is an amazing resort with an iconic building that stands 57 stories high, and at $6 billion USD (US Dollars) to construct, is the most expensive building in the world. On the grounds are a high-end shopping mall and a full casino on two floors underneath the building. However, the highlight of this five-star property is the top floor SkyPark, which features stunning views of the city, bars and restaurants, and an amazing infinity pool. While anyone can ascend to the observation deck for a fee, the infinity pool is only accessible to hotel guests. That is the main reason I dream of staying there one day.
But who am I kidding? My real favorite place was any food court. The selection of food in Singapore is amazing, with its Malaysian, Chinese, and Indian influences. Often described as a food lover’s paradise, Singaporean classics include chili crab, carrot cake, char kway teow, and chicken rice, but my favorites were yong tau foo, chicken satay, and goreng pisang (banana fritters). I love how you can eat delicious food for very cheap. Stick to hawker centers and food courts, where a meal costs $3-6. Fresh fruit juice and smoothies only cost $2 and are a delicious complement to any meal.
Though I prefer to keep costs low, Singapore is perfect for travelers on any sized budget. Your money can go far in Singapore, with the bulk of your travel expenses most likely going to accommodations. There are plenty of hotels, attractions, and high-end shopping malls to suit those with more upscale tastes, and those who fit in with the millionaire population. Singapore is such a beautiful, clean country, and you can eat like a king even on a small budget. Strict laws keep Singapore clean, so remember: there is a ban on chewing gum in Singapore. You can have it only for medical purposes, and it must be prescribed by a doctor. You could be fined $500 for spitting gum on the street, and up to $1000 for first-time littering. With these types of laws keeping standards high, rest assured that you’ll enjoy your time in this beautiful, well-kept country.