Singapore is known to be one of the great shopping destinations in Asia. It is also a nice place for vacation where you might be thinking of going with your family or friends. I would like to leave a few tips here based on my experiences during a recent trip to Singapore. These tips might help you plan better and save a few dollars!
Plan your trip
The cardinal rule for a tourist is “Plan your trip well in advance”. Holds good here too. You can get good deals in flight fares, hotel tariffs. My personal preference after the trip is to book hotel and flight tickets on your own in stead of going through travel portals like Thomas Cook or Makemytrip etc. I booked through Thomas Cook and had to face hiccups which could have been avoidable by the trip organiser.
There are many websites out there who will give you great deals on flight tickets. Return airfares on budget airlines are the best bet for early planners and budget conscious travellers. Make sure to check the baggage allowance before you hit the confirm button for booking the tickets. Few airlines would charge for the extra baggage you would be carrying while on your way back home!
Hotels in general are well maintained in Singapore. So if you are having a tight budget, you can choose a 3 star hotel which is good enough for the stay. Depending upon the amount you want to spend, the hotel selection can go up to upscale 5 star hotels too. If you are good at bargaining, you can try to contact the hotel directly and strike a good deal for your stay. We stayed at Days Hotel near Zhongshan park which was quite accessible to the shopping areas. Usually the hotels have provision of complimentary shuttle bus service to the major shopping areas like Orchard road and Novena shopping area. Shopaholics need not worry about how to reach the shopping heaven!
Singapore has tropical climate, so the weather changes dramatically. Rains can show up anytime. Hotels can borrow you an umbrella, but keeping your own helps you that waiting time for an complimentary (returnable!!!) umbrella. Using sites like lonelyplanet, tripadvisor etc help you understand the best time to visit Singapore. Point to be noted here is the best time to visit would obviously be the peak time. So you have to shell out more dollars during the peak time.
Indians need a visa to get an entry into Singapore and an electronic visa would do for tourists. Don’t forget to but the insurance which are mostly missed out till the last day (as was a case for me few times)! Remember medical expenses abroad are very high, so an insurance will help in case of any untoward incidence while on a trip out of India.
Major credit cards are accepted across the outlets, but it is advisable to carry more than one credit cards (Visa, Master, Amex). Just in case you Amex card is not accepted by merchant, you can use the Visa card. For the shopaholics who are also street shoppers, here is a piece of advice. Though the credit cards are acceptable, but make sure to carry some Singapore Dollars in cash too. Anyways money changers are available quite easily near the shopping destinations.
Plan your tour itinerary
A research about Singapore will give you the idea about the tourist destinations. Depending upon the nature of trip (leisure, shopping, family), one can choose the destinations and the duration of the trip.
Select the tourist attractions you want to see
Once you do a thorough research about Singapore, you will be ready with the list of places to see. You can choose the ones you want to include in your travel plan. Every such attraction has a website of its own which give detailed information about these tourist spots. Make a note of the timings, distance from landmarks and particularly the days when they remain closed.
Book entry tickets online
You can book your entry tickets online from the website of the major tourist attractions. For example, the entry tickets can be booked online for Universal Studios, Sentossa, Singapore Zoo etc. In case you have someone know staying in Singapore, you take their help in planning. That may save a few dollars sometimes. A friend of mine told if I had booked the tickets for Universal Studios through him, I could have got a discount of SGD15 per ticket! Your friend/relative may also help you in booking for a city tour. The hotel guys can also help you in the city tour.
Singapore has very good local transport available for tourist with all budgets. Starting from the city buses to tube trains to radio taxis. Depending upon the number of dollars you can shell out, you can choose your mode of transport. Mostly hotels make arrangements for airport transfers (complementary as well as paid). If you can bargain well, the airport transfer can be complementary. The tourist spots are also well connected to the city by all forms of public transport, so they can be arranged impromptu after reaching Singapore too. The hotels can help you to arrange these transfers in advance. My personal experience is it can be easily done once you reach there. Traffic congestion is very common during peak hours, so one needs to keep at least an hour in hand while planning the transfers during the peak hours in morning and evening.
Make your itinerary
Depending upon the duration of your stay, you can prepare your itinerary. Different attractions in Singapore ask for different amount of time. For example one needs a full day to visit the Universal Studios while the Singapore zoo can be done in half a day. So a proper research about the places for sightseeing in Singapore will help you plan your itinerary effectively. While making the itinerary, you should leave some time for visiting the shopping areas like Orchard road/Novena shopping area. Even though you are not a shopaholic! Budget and street shoppers must include China Town, Little India for some shopping experience followed by culinary delights from the Chinese and Indian menu.
Major tourist attractions
The Universal Studios
One of the must see places in Singapore is the Universal Studios which is a theme park inside the Sentossa Isalnds. It is the second Universal Studios theme park to open in Asia (first one was in Japan) and the first in Southeast Asia. More details at: Wikipaedia_Universal Studios Singapore. There are seven zones in the theme park: Hollywood, New York, Madagascar, Far Far Away, Water world, Sci-Fi city, The Lost World. Few tips which might help you to make your experience better in Universal Studios:
1. You can buy an express ticket which will help you to avoid the normal queue and allow faster access to attractions.
2. Get hold of a map of the Universal Studios which are available at the main gate and can be a guide for you to plan your day.
3. Try to carry as less luggage/valuable as you can. Lockers are available on rent to keep valuables, rent it for 8 hours i.e. for the whole day which you will be spending inside.
4. Remember to carry a good camera as there are statues, scenic backgrounds, sculptors etc based on the theme you are visiting. For example, while in the Egyptian theme, you will see the statues that you have seen in movies like Mummy. They are so artistic that they can be a photographers delight!
5. Some attractions don’t allow you to carry handbags or camera cases to the rides, so you have to keep them in the locker which are again paid.
6. There are themes where you can be drenched with water due to live shows. So a rain coat and protective covering for valuables like mobile phones, camera etc is a must. You should carry your own so that you don’t have to buy them inside (which are slightly highly priced inside the park).
7. Go through the notice boards before going for the rides which mention the risk involved for people with ailments or pregnant women.
8. You may bump into the street characters from the theme of the park where you are moving around. For example the characters from the movie Madagascar or Mummy. Tourists are allowed to take snaps with these characters which is a lifetime experience especially for kids.
9. Don’t miss the light and sound show hosted by Steven Spielberg (hold on, it’s a video hosted by him!). Mind boggling effects with light and sound Hollywood style.
My personal favourite inside the Universal Studios were the Waterworld and Jurassic Park.Here is a walk through the Universal Studios through my lenses:
The next part of this blog will come up with first hand experiences and tips about another tourist attraction in Singapore with few expert tips!