If you love to travel, you’re probably aware that using your phone abroad may come with fees, but did you know that there are sim providers that specialise in...
Its strategic location makes Singapore both a gateway to the rest of Southeast Asia, and a fantastic destination in its own right. Visit world class museums, eat your way around the region, marvel at the mix of local, colonial and futuristic architecture - and get immersed into this melting pot of cultures and history.
Singapore has plenty to offer visitors, whether you want a sleek city break or a fun packed family weekend. But it’s not a cheap destination by any means. This guide will cover the practicalities of a visit to Singapore, as well as a smart way to make your money go further with the Wise borderless account and linked Mastercard.
Singapore is a fantastic destination, and a relatively easy place to visit as an English speaking traveller. There’s plenty to do, so the biggest challenge is likely to be working out what to prioritise during your visit. Doing some research before you travel is the best way to make the most of your time in Singapore.
Singapore’s tourist information website is a smart place to start¹. Get information on festivals and events, places to visit and stay, and a whole range of practical advice to make sure your visit works well. Make sure you look at the specifics for your visit, too. Even simple things like checking the likely weather for your visit before you pack, and finding the best way to get to your accommodation from the airport can make your trip run much smoother.
In general terms, you won’t need to worry about safety when in Singapore. The Australian government recommend you use normal precautions, looking after your belongings in crowded places and being generally aware of your surroundings. It is worth noting though that there are some things which in Australia are accepted, or only minor issues, which can be frowned upon or even illegal in Singapore. We’ll cover that more later - but it’s worth understanding the legal and cultural context before you travel to avoid nasty surprises.
For up to date information including check out the Singapore page on the government’s Smart Traveller website².
Travel is seldom cheap, and Singapore is certainly not a low budget destination. While there are ways to enjoy yourself for free - or at least make your money go further in Singapore - you’ll get more from your visit if you have a bit to spend on experiences. Here are a few ideas on how to cut your currency costs and bank fees so you have more in your pocket to enjoy your trip.
The currency in Singapore is the Singapore dollar. If you want to use cash when you’re there you’ll need to convert your spending money - but how do you know if you’re getting a good deal?
Of course you’ll need to look at the published fees before you choose a currency service - but don’t forget to also take a look at the exchange rate being used.
A smart approach is to get an online currency converter, and use it to compare the exchange rate offered by your chosen provider against the mid-market exchange rate.
The mid-market rate is the one you’ll get from an online currency converter, app or Google search - and the one the banks use when they buy currency themselves. However, they don’t always make this rate available to customers. Instead, it’s common to find a margin added to the mid-market rate, which means you pay more than you expect for your currency.
Avoid paying this markup with a Wise borderless account and card. More on that later.
Look for hidden costs
A smart alternative to using cash is to rely on your cards when in Singapore, both to pay in stores and restaurants and to withdraw local cash from ATMs. Before you decide to do this, take a look at your account and card terms and conditions to find out if you’ll be charged to use your card overseas. These charges - often called foreign transaction fees - may be flat fees, a percentage added to each transaction - or both - and can quickly mount up.
Many travellers end up paying more than they expect due to DCC. If you’re using a card abroad, and are asked if you want to pay in your home currency instead of the local one, that’s DCC.
Choosing to pay in your home currency comes with higher fees and may mean you get a poor exchange rate. Always pay in the local currency to get the best exchange rate and lowest fees.
In Singapore and beyond, you’ll be able to manage your money cheaply and easily as you travel, with a Wise borderless account.
Hold, send and receive dozens of currencies, and spend them easily all over the world using the Wise borderless Mastercard. Top up in dollars, and switch to the currency you want using the mid-market exchange rate, to spend overseas with no foreign transaction fees.
See if you can save when you travel to Singapore, with Wise.
While Singapore is warm and welcoming to visitors, it’s still a conservative country, and some laws and local sensitivities will be different to those you might experience in Australia.
Chances are you’ve heard of the fact you can get into trouble for chewing gum in Singapore, for example. Rule of law is strict, and citizens are generally used to having strict rules which allow the country to function efficiently. However, this approach can come as a surprise to foreigners when they first arrive. Take some time to read up on the topic before you travel.
Here are a few things to be aware of when travelling to Singapore:
- Punishments for drug offenses are severe, including caning and long prison sentences. You’re breaking the law if you have drugs in your system, even if you consumed them prior to entering Singapore
- There are restrictions on where and when you can smoke and drink in public. These are enforced.
- Check the rules if you need to bring prescription medication into Singapore - not all substances are allowed
- Public gatherings and protests are illegal - avoid them if you see them, and take care not to speak on subjects which may disturb racial harmony
- There are laws against importing or chewing gum, littering and jaywalking - things which are minor offences in Australia may be more serious in Singapore
- Same sex acts between men are illegal and punishable. There are no rules regarding same sex acts between women, but it’s worth being wary of local attitudes. There are more resources for LGBT travellers in Singapore in the source section³.
The Australian consular service works to help Australians around the world, and may be able to offer support if you need it during your travels. There’s more information and contact details available on the Smart Traveller website⁴.
Australians do not need a visa for tourist visits of up to 90 days.
There’s a great range of accommodation available in Singapore - although much of it is on the expensive side. If you have the budget for it, you’ll be able to stay in ultra modern luxury in some of the large new hotel complexes - or go for colonial charm in any of the historic hotels.
However, there’s also a good number of solid mid-range hotels, and hostel accommodation. Hostels range from fairly basic to smarter affairs with private rooms as well as dorms, and are often in good locations in atmospheric areas like Chinatown or Little India.
You’ll be able to research and book accommodation easily online to find the right place for your trip.
If you don’t mind the heat, Singapore’s main tourist areas are actually fairly walkable. You’ll be able to stroll around the historic districts for example, or take a look around the bay area on foot easily enough. It helps that much of the city is strategically covered so you won’t get drenched even in the tropical downpours.
However, for longer trips, and for getting between the key sights you’ll want to take MRT trains, taxis or buses⁶. As with everything else in Singapore, public transport works like clockwork. Figure out the system, read the numerous signs and maps, or simply ask someone for help and you’re on your way. You can wave down a taxi or head to one of the taxi ranks which are near local attractions.
You can also use Grab - similar to Uber - in Singapore for simple rides which are often cheaper than hailing a taxi.
Singapore has plenty for all sorts of visitors to enjoy. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:
- Wildlife lovers should not miss the zoo - which actually covers several different sites including a bird park, river safari and night safari. You can easily spend a day or two immersed in the different park environments⁷
- Visit the newly restored Raffles Hotel to have a Singapore Sling in the bar where the cocktail originated⁸
- Sentosa Island is perfect for families - resort accommodation, beaches, a waterpark and loads of activities to keep everyone entertained⁹
- Explore the historic neighbourhoods of Chinatown and Little India, visit the fabulous museums and art galleries, and head to the Gardens by the Bay for a breath of fresh air in the heart of the city
- Eating will feature heavily in any visit to Singapore. From Hawker Centres to high end, you’ll find quality eats from around the world wherever you look¹⁰
Before you go and book your trip, here are a few more tips to get the best from your time there.
- Pick up a SIM card to make it easy to keep in touch and share your photos while in Singapore¹¹
- Medical services in Singapore are excellent - but can be very expensive. Get adequate insurance to cover your trip
- Weather in Singapore can be disruptive - check before you book and take local advice if there’s extreme weather on the way
- Use the government’s Smart Traveller website for up to date travel information for Singapore, as well as a wide range of travel support and resources¹²
You’ll have a fabulous time in Singapore no matter what you’re planning. Get more from your time by cutting currency costs and ditching excessive bank fees.Open a
- Visit Singapore
- Smartraveller - Singapore
- LGBT Travel Info
- Smartraveller - Urgent Help
- Accommodation Info
- Getting Around Singapore
- Singapore Zoo
- Singapore Hotels
- Explore Sentosa
- Dining in Singapore
- Getting a Simcard
All sources accurate as of 17 Jan 2020
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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