It’s been a couple years since I visited Singapore but it still stands out as one of my favorite cities in the world. With all the modernity of other progressive cities (if not more) Singapore maintains a balance of nature in its capital, which could have easily been just another concrete jungle. I spent four days in Singapore part of a longer three-week Southeast Asia trip and am excited to refresh this itinerary to highlight some of the eco-friendly aspects of this must-see city.
I was traveling with one of my Suitcase Six girls, Marie. Lucky for me, Marie is a talented photographer so we have some incredible shots to document our time. Most of the photos you see below are hers.
In case you’re short on time, I’ll give you the low down on our trip. I’ll go into more detail below.
Where to stay –
- Marina Bay Sands (luxury; an iconic part of Singapore’s skyline; also has lots of eco-friendly practices)
- The St. Regis Singapore (luxury; I actually wrote about whole post about why I love St. Regis properties)
- Little Red Dot Hostel (budget hostel; where we stayed)
- PARKROYAL on Pickering (eco-hotel; hotel in a garden concept!!)
- Oasia Hotel Downtown (eco-hotel; plant covered skyscraper)
Top Singapore Attractions –
- Gardens by the Bay
- National Gallery Art Museum
- Sentosa Island
- Chinese Heritage Cultural Center
- Singapore Botanic Gardens
We didn’t visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens ourself because I didn’t know about it, but it’s a 160+ year old Tropical Garden that’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, UNESCO World Heritage Site which I think is pretty incredible. The reviews seem to indicate as such so I’d probably swap out the zoo for the Botanic Gardens instead.
Where to Eat/Drink in Singapore –
- Platform 1094
- Rooftop Bar for Drinks
- Little India
Must know info –
Currency: the Singaporean Dollar (SGD)
$1 SGD = ~$1.39 USD
$1 USD = ~$0.71 SGD
Language: 4 official languages; English is common language while Tamil, Malay, and Mandarin are the other official languages
Other things to know about Singapore –
Singapore has super strict laws on drugs which include tourists. I would suggest not messing around with drugs while here. They have some strict laws on littering, spitting, and other things which help keep the city clean and orderly – just be aware of them.
RELATED: Three Weeks in Singapore
Eco-Friendly Tips for Singapore Travel
- Take advantage of the public transportation that will get you most anywhere you need to go in the city. The city is so very walkable and the weather is pretty agreeable so walk if you can.
- Make sure to add some of the eco attractions to your itinerary – you’ll be amazed and you’ll be voting with your dollars for protecting the natural environment. Sites like the Singapore Botanic Gardens and the Gardens By the Bay are works of art and history, the latter which is employing a ton of modern innovation to recycle by-products, reduce waste, and create a thriving eco-system in the middle of a major city.
- Remember to bring your own straw. Drinks on rooftop bars are a popular evening activity and you can limit your plastic consumption by coming prepared.
Day 1 – Arrive, Gardens by the Bay
Subway to Hostel & Lunch
The subway system in Singapore is incredibly easy to navigate and efficient. You can purchase a pass for each ride or put a little money on a card to use for several rides – either way I would recommend utilizing this form of transportation as much as possible as its a really inexpensive way to get around.
We had a really nice lunch at a cafe near our hostel, getting a coffee and a lunch combo that included soft-shell crab for about $15 USD total – pretty reasonable compared to what seafood can cost in the states sometimes. After using the wifi to research our next move, we settled on the Gardens by the Bay and made our way to the subway station.
Gardens by the Bay
We absolutely loved the Gardens and would recommend them to anyone who is visiting Singapore. You can walk through a lot of the grounds for free, but there are two domes (The Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome) which are completely worth the admissions ticket you need to enter.
We spent several hours here taking photos and enjoying the enormous, beautiful landscaping – so much so that we came back at night on the tail-end of our trip because we wanted to take in the Gardens with the evening lights.
Open from 9 am – 9 pm, admission to the Cloud Forest AND Flower Dome are $28 for non-Singaporean adults – you can save money by buying tickets online, or by booking through your hostel.
Located close to the gardens, the Marina is an area on the Bay in Central Singapore where there are restaurants, hotels, shopping centers, and many other major attractions. We walked around a while, and having worked up an appetite at the Gardens, set off for a nice meal by the water.
The first restaurant we visited informed us they weren’t serving food after we’d ordered a drink, the famous Singapore Sling, so we visited another restaurant immediately after to finally curb our appetites before returning to our hostel.
Day 2 – National Gallery Art Museum, and Sentosa Island
National Gallery Art Museum
After having breakfast at our hostel, we set off for the National Gallery Art Museum where we spent a couple hours exploring the exhibits. The building and collections were beautiful, and it really helped to give a background to Singapore with each exhibit focusing on a different era in the city-state’s history.
The museum was a nice air-conditioned break from the intense heat we were experiencing during our visit in March – I would expect most people to spend around 2 hours here but you could easily spend more if you had the time.
Walking through the city surrounding the museum was a treat in itself as the cityscape is a unique blend of modern architecture and imposing skyscrapers with an abundance of tropical trees and gardens on the rooftops and balconies of every concrete tower. As I’ve shared with several people, I thought of Singapore as a mix of Jurassic Park and Outer Space.
Sentosa Island – Aquarium
Sentosa Island was a very interesting place that felt to me like the entire island was a theme park. It is not far off, as there is a Universal Studios on the small island, and their motto is “The State of Fun”.
In addition to a few beaches, there are many fancy resorts and golf courses, a waterpark, a butterfly kingdom, dolphin island, the SEA aquarium, a Mega Adventure park, and several other attractions.
The aquarium itself was not all it was hyped up to be, in my opinion. It was very crowded and the enclosures for some of the larger animals seemed small for how many big fish were sharing the tank. I’d heard this aquarium was one of the best in the world, and while I certainly enjoyed it, I found other aquariums like the one in Atlanta, Georgia to be comparable if not marginally better.
The whole island was certainly an experience, and it would be a really fun place for younger kids. I enjoyed the day but the island gave off vibes of it being a large tourist trap that required a fair bit of cash to enjoy, and overall, it isn’t a place I am dying to revisit.
After stopping by the hostel to freshen up, we set out for a little Harry Potter themed cafe that served HP themed cocktails. I was surprised to find they had a wardrobe with robes, wands, and other HP attire and I had to take advantage of the opportunity. I ordered the Goblet of Fire, which true to its name, was served ON FIRE – I loved every second of it.
I haven’t yet posted about the Harry Potter themed trip three of the Suitcase Six took through the U.K. but maybe someday I will get to blogging about that adventure and you’ll understand how excited I was to find this place.
I also ordered a fancy dessert which I thoroughly enjoyed even though I was unsure what I was eating most of the time. Unsurprisingly, this wasn’t the cheapest place we could have gone but if you are a Harry Potter fan, it’s definitely a novelty shop worth visiting.
Day 3 – Chinatown, the Singapore Zoo, and Gardens by the Bay (again)
We stopped by the mall food court for brunch on the way to Chinatown, which was conveniently located by the subway station. For about $2.50 USD, I got a plate of rice, vegetables, and tofu from a Chinese restaurant that held me over till lunch and gave me a little extra lunch money (which I definitely needed for our next meal).
Chinatown – Chinese Heritage Center, Lunch
We took the subway to Chinatown and walked around a bit exploring the streets and checking out a few of the shops before heading to the Chinese Heritage Center.
Marie and I really enjoyed the Chinese Heritage Center. There was an audio guide that led you through each room on the center, and it was an enlightening look at the challenging lives Chinese immigrants experienced in Singapore. I left this place feeling as if I had a much better understanding of the Chinese culture.
For lunch, we stopped at a busy restaurant across the street where we order Chili Crab, a famous Singaporean dish. It was one of our more expensive meals, but it was a huge portion of fresh crab and was absolutely delicious – well worth the experience. We needed a bib and countless napkins to make our way through the sweet chili sauce and I’m still shocked we didn’t ruin any of our clothes in this endeavor.
We had a few mishaps with the zoo. Having bought our tickets through our hostel, we didn’t receive the email with our tickets and had to use a phone at the zoo help desk to call our hostel receptionist and have her resend the tickets. We didn’t realize the zoo closed so early, so we only stayed for the night show for which we’d also bought tickets.
The show included about three different kinds of animals, a few crowd participants who were able to help with the show, and a lot of unacknowledged requests from the trainers for audience members to turn their camera flashes off to protect the animals.
If I were to go back, I would skip the show and just enjoy walking around the grounds while the crowds are in the theater. I don’t blame the zoo for us missing the closing times, but the zoo is harder to access than many of the other attractions that are more centrally located, and I would say it isn’t worth the trip unless you get to spend more than a couple hours there.
Gardens by the Bay (at night)
When we finally checked into our hostel after our flight, most of the attractions were closed for the day. We had enjoyed ourselves so much the first trip to the Gardens by the Bay that we decided to return and have an inexpensive night wandering the free parts of the Gardens, taking in the views with the impressive lights.
The views were beautiful and the weather at night cools off to be quite comfortable, so I would definitely suggest this as a stop if you’re looking for an activity to fill an evening.
I made a misguided attempt to find food by crossing a bridge near the Gardens that appeared to be going toward the main city. I had little to back this navigational assumption up and we wasted some 30 minutes walking before we finally decided to just head back the way we came, catch the last subway, and get food at a restaurant we’d tried on our first night.
Though we somehow ended up with an extra appetizer we didn’t order and we were slightly irritable because of my unnecessary detour, we were so hungry that we didn’t protest and scarfed down some Singaporean cuisine and tea before crashing in our pod-bunkbeds at the hostel.
Day 4 – Little India
Little India – Shopping, Lunch
After another breakfast at the hostel, we checked out, storing our bags there for the day, and went to Little India for our final day of sight-seeing. We walked around a while trying to get our bearings straight, but we were both pretty tired and struggling with the heat and humidity, so our adventurous spirits were slightly dampened.
We eventually settled on an Indian restaurant for lunch and retreated into the air conditioning, enjoying a relaxed meal and lamenting the long journey we were about to make from Singapore back to Chicago.
After lunch, we explored the town a bit more, buying a few souvenirs and stopping into an enormous seven(ish) story superstore that sold anything you could ever need – Marie had gotten a burn from our cooking class in Thailand a few days prior and we were needing some basic medical supplies.
Tired, overwhelmed by the chaotic superstore experience, and ready to get started on the long homeward trek, we left for the hostel to pick up our backpacks, caught the Subway to the airport, and began making our way back to Indiana.
From the time we’d checked out of the hostel in the morning to the time we hit our beds in Indiana, 50 hours passed. I swear, we made the full transition from humans into zombies.
Though there were a few mistakes I’d avoid the next time, I would absolutely do it again. I had an incredible time exploring both Singapore and the rest of the Asian cities with Marie, and am grateful for her artistic eye who captured our journey so well.
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