A quick guide to one of our favorite destinations
Cosmopolitan Singapore is a must-see on most travelers’ Asian bucket list! The island city-state, with the second-highest population density on the planet, is a cultural melting pot unmatched elsewhere in the world. Here different cultures live and work together, providing visitors with a very unique and exciting experience. Considered a robust global economy, there are many business opportunities! BusinessTravel365 is pleased to present this amazing place in the hope that you will visit this top destination — and return again and again!
First thing’s first — a few interesting facts about Singapore:
- There is one national language, Malay. There are four official languages used in government, daily life, and society: English, Chinese, Tamil, and Malay.
- The name Singapura means “Lion City” in Sanskrit. Singapore was given this name by a prince from Palembang, Sang Nila Utama, who was certain he saw a lion roaming free on the island. However, the only lions in Singapore have always been in captivity.
- Singapore is one of three city-states currently considered an independent nation throughout the world. The other two are Monaco and The Vatican.
- Buildings in Singapore cannot be taller than 280 meters/919 feet. There are three buildings of that exact height in the CBD (Central Business District). Marina Bay Sands, the new Singapore landmark with the surfboard-shaped “beach club” above three hotel buildings, tops out at exactly 200 meters or 656 feet!
Singapore: Getting There
Gateway Cities from the USA to Singapore…
In 2021, due to the ongoing COVID Pandemic, nonstop flights to Singapore from the USA are operated only by Singapore Airlines, the national airline. Earlier, United Airlines also served Singapore from the West Coast. These popular roundtrip nonstop options should resume once travel returns to normal. A flight from Singapore to the USA is among the longest in the world. Some of the Singapore Airlines flights are operated by special “two-class” aircraft that include only Premium Economy and Business Class seats! At this time, no aircraft flying to the USA have a first-class cabin.
Currently, it is possible to purchase tickets on Singapore Airlines to depart on nonstop flights to Singapore (represented by the airport code SIN) from three airports in the United States, each with a daily flight. San Francisco is operated by a two-class A350-900, flying 8498 miles. This flight is airborne for an average of 14 hours between SIN and San Francisco airports and 17 hours between SFO and SIN airports. A traditional Singapore Airlines A350-900 serves Los Angeles daily with a choice of a regular economy, premium economy, or business class seat for the 8823-mile flight. This flight is airborne for an average of 14 ½ hours between SIN and Los Angeles airports, and 17 ½ hours between Los Angeles and SIN airports. Lastly, a daily service flying 9599 miles “over the North Pole” to New York JFK is operated in the “two-class” A350-900. This flight has relatively similar flight times of just over 17 hours, irrespective of the departure and arrival cities. There are some great flight deals to be had for travel to Singapore! BusinessTravel365 can help you select the flight you want and book now for the best fare!
Many people traveling to SIN choose to make a stop through some of Asia’s biggest hub cities, including Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, and Tokyo. Those connecting flights allow one-stop service (with the connecting cities in Asia) aboard some of the world’s best airlines to a further 20 departure cities in the United States. Most top airlines’ business class on Transpacific flights include fully flat seats, most with direct aisle access. Economy class is an excellent option for the price-conscious traveler. It is sometimes less expensive to select cheap business class deals for these connecting flights with one stop, as opposed to nonstop flights on Singapore Airlines business class.
The Best Airlines Flying to Singapore
Tickets to Singapore are possible if you search on top airlines such as Cathay Pacific (flight via Hong Kong), ANA and Japan Airlines (fly via Tokyo), Korean Air (include transit in Seoul), and EVA Air (with a stop in Taipei). It is possible to book a seat on American legacy airlines such as American Airlines, Delta Airlines, or United Airlines with great fares to Asian hub cities, booking a connecting seat on their partner airlines to Singapore. It is a simple search for the best prices to fly almost halfway around the world!
Spotlight on Changi International!
Singapore Changi (with the code SIN) is the main international airport, located about 13 miles east of the center. One of the busiest airports globally, SIN is consistently in the top 20 for both passenger and cargo airlines. The most impressive statistic is that Changi is the Skytrax World’s Best Airport for the past eight years in a row! SIN is a destination in and of itself — there are many great things to experience! Passengers can use these amenities before or after their flight or may spend a more extended connection here! At the peak of operations, over 100 airlines were flying to over 100 countries in the world. Every week there was an average of 7500 departures, a takeoff an average of every 80 seconds, all day and night! Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the number of passengers in 2020 dropped to about 12 million, and an average of 150 aircraft ready to depart daily. This reduction in flight options is a problem at airports worldwide.
SIN has four large passenger terminals, and a VIP terminal (that all passengers can use for an entry fee, not just when traveling on Business or other premium class flights ). In the center of the four terminals is The Jewel, a mixed-use building that connects Terminals 1, 2, and 3 directly. This new symbol of Changi, with its interior rain forest and Rain Vortex, is now a must-see sightseeing destination!
Currently, only Terminals 1 and 3 are open. Terminal 2 is closed to allow for a reconstruction project that could be completed one year early now that demand is so low. This new terminal construction will raise the current annual capacity to 85 million passengers. More and more flights to Singapore will resume soon, hopefully to the levels pre COVID-19. Travelers who can book seats are able to enjoy some cheap business-class deals!
Premium Passenger Lounges at Changi – for Business and First Class passengers:
There are both Airline and Alliance lounges, as well as paid access lounges in each terminal at SIN. There are lounges in Terminals 2 and 4, but as those are currently closed (2/2021). We are listing only the lounges within Terminals 1 and 3. Even in the open terminals, many lounges are currently closed.
Some lounges offer paid access, as well as contract access to various airlines that depart from Changi. These lounges include the dnata Lounge in Terminal 1 and the Ambassador Transit Lounge in Terminal 3. There is also the SATS Premium Lounge in both Terminal 1 and 3. Otherwise, all individual airline lounges, including British Airways, Thai Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, and Emirates Airlines lounges are all closed. Prior to departure, frequent flyer program elite passengers traveling in economy class may also be invited to enter the contract lounge for each of the participating airlines before taking their seat for their international flight.
Terminal 3 is currently the home of all Singapore Airlines departures. There are usually four choices of lounges, operated by Singapore Airlines alone! Unfortunately, there is only one lounge open as of the date of publication. That is the SilverKris Lounge located near the E gates. Business Class and Elite-level passengers from Singapore Airlines’ and Star Alliance’s frequent flyer programs who are traveling in economy class may enter. As we know of further open lounges, we will update this information.
Getting there and away
Road access to Changi Airport is possible via the East Coast Parkway, which was purpose-built to serve this growing transit hub. Taxi service to the center is quick and easy, but airport-stop surcharges make this a more expensive option. To reach the CBD (Central Business District) from SIN, select a taxi. It will take about 20 minutes to make the 18-kilometer (12-mile) journey, and the fare will be about 20 SGD (about $14) for a standard taxi when you depart Changi. There are different sized taxis and therefore different fares for the journey. Taxi stands are located in each terminal, outside the arrival areas. There are also MRT (subway train) stations and a public bus stop in each Terminal. A return ticket on a prepaid transport card costs under 6 SGD (about $4). The ride takes from 30 minutes to 90 minutes to get to downtown. The taxi is the most convenient and cost-effective transportation method, as you will stop directly at your chosen location.
Interesting information about Changi
- Changi is one of the only airports in the world where 100% of flights are International. It is not possible to find a domestic flight in Singapore. As a result, SIN has a very advanced immigration and customs infrastructure to allow travelers to enter Singapore.
- Before The Jewel was completed, SIN had a variety of other interesting places to visit: an outdoor pool (on the roof of Terminal 1, at the Aerotel Airport Hotel), some movie theaters (in Terminals 2 and 3), and even a butterfly garden (on Level 2 of Terminal 3).
- It is not just Butterflies – there are other gardens to choose from! In Terminal 1, there is a Water Lily Garden. Terminal 2 is home to the Orchid Garden, where you can find over 700 varieties of orchids! The airport’s nursery is also located in Terminal 2 with a Sunflower Garden. And most impressive is the rooftop Cactus Garden in Terminal 3, which includes over 100 different species of cacti and other plants that are at home in Singapore’s equatorial climate! It is possible to enter these gardens before you depart on your journey! We cannot think of other airports with these types of attractions!
- Children will enjoy The [email protected] It is the world’s longest slide in an airport. The slide offers speeds up to 15 miles per hour, as you drop four stories!
- There is art located at SIN as well. 3D Kinetic sculptures were designed, including two Rain sculptures in Terminal 1 and a Clouds sculpture in Terminal 4.
Singapore: A Primer
A concise history of Singapore
The known history of Singapore began in the second century, over 1800 years ago. The Singapore of today had its roots in the negotiations between Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles and the Sultanate of Johor in 1819. Singapore became a British Trading Post. Today, many things are named “Raffles” or “Stamford” — and the Raffles Hotel, founded in 1887 as a ten-room establishment, was built in honor of Sir Raffles! The economy grew quickly as this was a free port that charged no customs fees and trade duties. Once integrated into the British Empire, Singapore was considered part of British India. In 1867, it was established as a Crown Colony, reporting directly to the Monarchy in London.
By World War 2, the Colony was capable of governing itself. Self-rule was established in the mid-1950s. The British left their Colony in 1963, and it became part of Malaysia for only a few years. The Malay government was afraid that the residential Chinese majority of Singapore would overthrow the Federation’s current rulers. That set the scene for full Independence on August 9, 1965. Most Singaporeans were not looking to choose full independence when it was thrust upon them!
Only three Prime Ministers have governed Singapore. The first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, was the head of the government for forty years (1959 to 1990). In that time, the country became a prosperous parliamentary republic. Goh Chok Tong was Prime Minister from 1990 to 2004. Since August 2004, Lee Kuan Yew’s son, Lee Hsien Loong, has been the Prime Minister. The main challenge facing Singapore is the delicate balance between having a thriving economy and social freedoms.
At less than 100 miles from the equator in the center of South-East Asia, the location of Singapore has helped it grow in importance as the economy grew over these 200 years. It is considered one of the East Asian Tiger economies, referring to the immense wealth here.
Geography of Singapore
Singapore is an archipelago consisting of 63 islands. The main island, known as Pulau Ujong, is connected to the Malaysian mainland at two points. Sentosa, a resort-style community, is another major island located to the south of the Central Business District.
The highest point is Bukit Timah Hill, and it is just under 550 feet high. An interesting fact is that at independence in 1965, Singapore had a total land area of 220 square miles — due to land reclamation, that area has increased by over 20% to 270 square miles. There are further reclamation projects to be completed by 2030!
The unique neighborhoods of Singapore
The 5.5 million people who live in Singapore call many different districts home. The inhabited areas are among the most densely populated in the world! While SIN is located on the easternmost point of the main island, the center (spelled Centre in British English) is on the southern part of Pulau Ujong. The center is located between Orchard Road, Riverside, Marina Bay, and Shenton Way.
- Orchard Road – The best-known street in Singapore. Several miles long East-West road is lined with shopping centers and traditional Asian market stall-based highrises.
- Riverside – The original colonial center, with its museums, government buildings, and critical historic hotels, restaurants, and nightlife.
- Marina Bay – Built on a reclaimed land site. The premier address today with a large shopping center, the largest casino in Asia, and the three-tower Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Another essential stop is “Gardens by the Bay” — with its enormous “Super Trees” — that collect rainwater for irrigation and provide adventurous opportunities for visitors!
- Shenton Way – the Central Business District, or CBD for short. Most of the tallest skyscrapers are located here.
- Chinatown – The original Chinese settlement, established by Sir Raffles. Many actual family businesses are still working today! Visit one of the biggest and best “hawker stand” eateries for a great price on lunch!
- Clarke Quay – Located near the inland navigable terminus of the Singapore River. This is a shopping and restaurant district, plus a Water Taxi stop, where you can select a boat cruise to depart from here and select a stop like Marina Bay or Chinatown.
- Bugis and Kampong Glam – The historic Malay district, northeast of Riverside.
- Little India – Northwest of Bugis, the electronics district, with the best Indian restaurants.
- Jurong – Home to the Singapore Science Centre, Singapore Discovery Centre, and the Singapore Bird Park.
- West – primarily a residential district, where one of the two border crossings to enter Malaysia is located.
- North West – the most undeveloped area of Singapore and home to Military infrastructure.
- North – where the Singapore Zoo and a large number of residential and industrial areas are located.
- North East – more residential towns are located here, including Compass Point.
- East Coast – another primarily residential area, the location of Tampines (a residential town), Changi, and many beaches and select a waterfront restaurant.
- Sentosa – This military base-turned-resort was the site of Singapore’s first casino in 2010. It is now the location of Universal Studios Singapore and an exciting tourist show, “Wings of Time.”
Best Time To Visit Singapore
It is generally accepted that the best time for tourists to visit Singapore is from December to June. The peak tourist season is from Christmas to the Chinese Lunar New Year (taking place in January or February).
In terms of climate, temperatures remain relatively constant all year round. The average temperature is about 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit. To avoid rain, visit from February to April, when the sunshine is prevalent, and the least amount of tropical rain is expected.
There is a well-defined set of two monsoon seasons. The Northeast monsoon season runs from mid-November to March. The Southwest monsoon season is from June to September. Monsoon season is most commonly associated with higher wind speeds and frequent afternoon rain showers. The months between monsoon seasons have the least rainfall recorded.
Money Matters in Singapore
As a business powerhouse with an amazing economy, Singapore has a well-developed infrastructure. The official currency is the Singapore dollar (or SGD) — referred to as S$. The dollar is divided into 100 cents. There are coins from one cent to S$1, and paper currency from S$2 to S$1000. The exchange rate fluctuates — and currently, 1 Singapore dollar (1 S$) is approximately 75 U.S. Cents ($0.75).
The prices here typically include the Goods and Services Tax (or GST). There are some businesses (including hotels and restaurants) that display prices without the GST nor a Service Charge. When a price ends in “++,” the service charge of 10% and the GST of 7% will be added to the price indicated on the menu or signage. If a price is described as NETT, all taxes and service charges are included.
In either case, Singapore has a provision to return taxes to tourists spending on certain purchases at Changi Airport. Fees reduce the refund amount significantly, and the refund process in the departure zone is time-consuming. You should speak to sellers as sometimes they will offer deals with bigger discounts to avoid the paperwork for the tax refund procedures!
Tipping is generally not practiced in Singapore. In restaurants, bars, and hotels, a Service Charge of 10% is added to bills automatically. One of the rare exceptions is bell desk employees who can be tipped a few Singapore dollars per bag or taxi call. Taxis will return exact change based on the meter displayed.
Banks, ATM, and Currency Exchanges
There are many ATMs all over Singapore. Beware, there are usually significant fees for international withdrawals. Credit and debit cards are accepted widely, but smaller shop owners may include a surcharge from 3% to 15% above the advertised price to encourage cash payments. Traveler’s checks are accepted only at banks and other financial institutions but not in stores as payment for goods and services.
Banks are the most widespread location to exchange money. There are currency exchange booths in most shopping malls and some of the open-air markets. Search Little India and Chinatown for the best exchange rates. Currency exchange offices provide more favorable rates than banks.
Shopping in Singapore
Shopping in Singapore is a national pastime! As a result, there are many places where one can get some “retail therapy” at competitive prices. You should remember that most everything sold here is made abroad. There are stringent consumer protection laws, making shopping a very safe and pleasant experience.
Shopping centers are commonplace. Most of these establishments have many floors, are attached to a hotel or two, and typically have a food court on the basement floor. Typically, stores are open from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Family-run stores tend to close earlier, and supporting those places helps the local economy.
Should you haggle? The only two places in Singapore where haggling is common are the Little India and Chinatown areas. It is considered acceptable to ask for discounts anywhere in Singapore.
Top Souvenirs: there are a variety of items to take home from Singapore. They include:
- Electronics and Cameras – To purchase everything from small novelty items to the most modern computers and telephones, stop by Sim Lim Square (near Little India). When shopping there, be careful to verify the item you take with you is what you pay for. Remember that many electronics have better prices back home. If planning on making purchases, you should investigate the deals at home first, remembering to include the fees for foreign transactions.
- Tailored Clothes – Shopping centers have many tailor shops that fit clothes to your exact measurements. Prices can be reasonable, but the lower the prices, the bigger the risks of poor quality. You should have a fitting before you order, and then again with the newly made clothes before you accept them. Singapore tailored suits can last a lifetime! (Purchasing non-tailored fabric to take back home could be more costly in Singapore. Visit Arab Street or Chinatown, be ready to haggle, and ask for discounts!)
- Local souvenirs – Make a stop in Chinatown at one of the hundreds of places to buy Merlion statues, magnets, etc. These items are mostly made in China. One regional novelty is a Singapore Sling ingredient and glassware set. Porcelain products are best purchased in the department stores in Riverside or along Orchard Road.
- Foodstuffs – most of the products in local grocery stores such as Cold Storage or Shop N Save are imported. There are some spices, curries, sauces, dry snack foods, and candies that are popular with the locals in Singapore. Those always make good gifts for the office lunchroom. Search for interesting spices such as a Chili Crab sauce kit or Bak Kut Teh (meat marinade spices) that will help remind you of the tastes of Singapore in your kitchen!
- Teas – There are some great Chinese teas available when you search in Chinatown. Remember that the teas are imported. If your travels are not taking you to tea-producing countries, some more exotic teas could make great gifts, even if more expensive than purchasing them at a tea stand in the Cameron Highlands in neighboring Malaysia!
Travel Tips – Staying safe in Singapore:
Singapore is one of the safest major cities in the world. Single females walking alone at night feel safe. Police do not have a large presence on the streets, and their patrolling is concentrated only in certain areas. As in most crowded places, beware, pickpockets — particularly on the MRT.
Many people say that the social order of Singapore is achieved through the enforcement of many strict laws. This includes rules against spitting, littering, eating, and drinking on public transport. Chewing gum is only sold for medical purposes in pharmacies, and it is illegal to import gum except for private consumption. Gum-chewing was never banned; littering on the clean streets of Singapore was.
The most severe penalties here are for narcotic offenses, including capital punishment — a high price for a first-time offense. Other severe laws have ensured that Singapore has among the lowest number of serious crimes per capita globally. It is best to steer clear of discussing politics, immigration policy, and pornography.
U.S. Embassy Address and Contact information
The United States Embassy is located at 27 Napier Road, Singapore 258508, located at the western end of Orchard Road, near the classic Botanical Garden. The telephone number is +65 6476 9100. The United States Department of State has an Emergency Assistance Contact in the event of an emergency overseas. That number is 1(888) 407-4747 or 1(202) 501-4444.
Health considerations and items to have with you in Singapore
Besides the current concerns surrounding COVID-19, there are no special health considerations for a visit to Singapore.
Due to tropical rains, a collapsible umbrella is always good to have along. Light, breathable clothing is also a plus. Insect repellent is a must, particularly if going to the areas outside the center. It is always a good idea to carry your passport with you in Singapore (which is needed to get into a casino or get a GST refund processed).
Respect and Cultural Norms in Singapore
There are no “dress codes” for walking around Singapore. Many upscale restaurants have a minimum standard for clothing, which typically includes bans on sports shorts and sleeveless tops.
Public displays of affection are frowned upon, and most people tend to shake hands instead of kissing each other, even on the cheek. Should you be invited to someone’s home, make sure to remove your shoes before entering. This same consideration is asked of tourists visiting houses of worship in Singapore.
Top things to discover in Singapore
Members of the BusinessTravel365 team know Singapore well! We would like to suggest some favorite things to do in Singapore. They include (in no particular order):
- Stay at the Swissotel: The Stamford and shop at RafflesCity. This hotel was the tallest in Asia for many years. The harbor views from a room on the 50th floor are second to none!
- Ride the Singapore Flyer: the large Ferris wheel between Marina Bay and Suntec City. You will find the views of the CBD, and the harbor to Sentosa is amazing!
- See the Feng Shui “Fountain of Wealth” at Suntec City. The fountain flows inward, and it represents the flow of money into the palm of the hand created by the five buildings surrounding it.
- Visit the two very special gardens in Singapore, the new “Gardens by the Bay” in Marina Bay or the classic Singapore Botanic Gardens at the west end of Orchard Road. The National Orchid Garden is also located within the Botanic Gardens.
- Spend some time shopping, search for deals on souvenirs and other items on Orchard Road. Visit a basement food court where you can find dinner at a great price! Supporting a small local food business can do wonders for the local economy.
- After a morning of walking around the National Orchid Garden or even shopping on Orchard Road, have lunch poolside at the JEN Singapore Tanglin Hotel, at Ah-Hoi’s Kitchen restaurant. Classic Singapore food in a relaxed atmosphere… a stop here to this award-winning restaurant is a must on every trip! The price you pay for lunch or dinner is decided by what live seafood you select in the fish tanks!
- Take a walk from the Fullerton Hotel in the old Post Office, past the Merlion Park (home of the Symbol of Singapore), and along the Singapore River to the Asian Civilization Museum.
- Enjoy a hawker stand lunch in Chinatown! Some are open 24 hours a day, for whenever hunger strikes!
- Visit Clarke Quay – and then board a Water Taxi for a 20-minute ride to the Waterfront Promenade at Marina Bay. A short trip is a leisurely way to view the riverfront near the original colonial center and cruise past the Merlion.
- Spend an afternoon in Fort Canning Park (the old British Governor’s Residence). Experience the history of this fascinating place at the National Museum of Singapore.
- Ride the Singapore Cable Car to Sentosa Island. While there, enjoy a walk around, visit the Resorts World Casino or Universal Studios. See the night show “Wings of Time” at the end of the day!
- Visit the Singapore Zoo! Choose to participate in The Night Safari (with included transport from the center) – a unique experience.
- Return to Changi early, a couple of hours before you are scheduled to depart! Visit the Pearl, a new attraction, and be sure to see the Butterfly Garden! The Orchid and Cactus Garden are also interesting destinations.
This article is authored by the Travel Experts at BusinessTravel365. We look forward to leveraging our knowledge and experience to help book great flight deals for your next business class travel worldwide!
The information is current as of 2/2021.