I recently traveled through Singapore on my way to a week in Indonesia. This wasn’t unusual — Singapore is one of the major hubs for air travel in Southeast Asia, along with Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. I had a few different flight options and opted for one with a stop in Singapore so that I could have dinner and sightsee with my friend Margaret, who lives and works there. I also booked a hotel room through a web site she recommended. Traveling to Singapore is pretty easy for most people; here are a few things I learned before and after arrival, which may be helpful to first-time travelers from abroad.
Singapore’s airport is one of the best in the world and is served by a variety of regional and intercontinental carriers, including the excellent national flag carrier, Singapore Airlines. Actually getting there can be grueling, though, since it often involves a long flight. It’s a good seven or eight hours from Tokyo or Sydney, and at least a dozen hours from the biggest European hubs in Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, and London. I had the misfortune to wind up in an economy-class middle seat for the twelve and a half hours it took me to fly from Paris, and think upgrading would be an excellent idea if it’s at all possible! On this long of a flight, it’s important to stretch whenever you can, remain hydrated, and try to get some sleep to help adjust to the time difference — Singapore is 8 time zones away from either London or the west coast of the US.
For me, entry into Singapore was the easiest part. Like everyone else on my flight who was entering Singapore, I filled out an arrival form before my flight landed. But since Singapore is a free trade zone and has a reciprocal visa waiver program with the U.S., my U.S. passport got me into the country at no cost, with no line, and no problems. The same will probably be true for citizens of many other major trading countries, although I’m sure actual visas will be required for those from some other nations. The arrival form includes a detachable stub, which must be kept with one’s passport and turned in upon departure.
I am not a drug smuggler, and will just note for those who are that in Singapore, as in most of Southeast Asia, the penalty for drug smuggling is a mandatory death sentence. Just a piece of trivia to keep in mind.
Singapore is a commercial hub, so it’s easy to change money at the airport. I had Scottish pounds sterling, which is exactly the same as any other British pounds, but have different artwork. Change bureaus elsewhere sometimes looked askance at them and refused to accept them, but in Singapore, they were they were accepted without question. The exchange rate is close to 1.5 Singapore dollars to the US dollar, or nearly 3 Singapore dollars to the British pound, and even factoring in the exchange rate, some things cost less in Singapore than in the US or UK.
Where to stay:
By the time I got my baggage, Margaret had arrived to pick me up. Her car was only a short walk from baggage claim, and we were quickly on our way. The hotel I had chosen was 10-20 minutes away, between the airport and downtown. It wasn’t the newest hotel and didn’t have a lot of stars in its rating, but it was cheap, and I had somewhere to sleep. Margaret drove me there so I could shower, change and drop off my luggage, then dropped me off again after dinner and sightseeing. Because I had booked and paid through the web site, check-in was quick and easy, as was check-out. For those who are on less tight of a budget, there are many hotels in Singapore, including one 72-story one, the tallest building in town. Most of the famous hotel brand names can be found in the center city, near the best shopping districts. If you’re just passing through and have a long layover between flights, the airport itself features a transit hotel, where 6-hour blocks of time can be booked by travelers.
Singapore is geographically tiny — only a little over 265 square miles (680 square km). Margaret told me that she can sometimes drive across the whole country in a half-hour, and if traffic is light, I think it’s possible. Traffic isn’t always light, though, especially downtown. Electronic signs warn of slow traffic, or if things get worse, a "massive jam" on the road ahead. If you don’t want to drive yourself (or be driven around by a friend), buses are widely available, and the island’s subway/surface rail transit system, already fairly comprehensive, is even being expanded. My taxi back to the airport for a morning flight out took less than 15 minutes, and cost only 10 Singapore dollars, or about $6.70 US.
Departure is as easy as arrival. I checked in, turned in my departure form, and wandered around all the airport shops in Terminal 1. In many other airports, I have to buy postcards one place and stamps another and mail them in yet a third, but along with stores selling just about everything imaginable, Singapore’s airport had a full-fledged Post Office where I could easily do all three. There were also computers scattered around with free web access. I wasn’t required to go through any detectors until just before reaching my gate, which meant there were no lines prior to that point, and my boarding pass was also checked before I entered the gate seating area, so boarding was just a matter of walking down the jetway onto the plane.
I am Joseline Burns. I am a big fan of fantasy and horror movies, science, and psychology. Also, I am a teacher and PhD writer with over 9 years of experience at coursework website and I led my travel blog for 5 years. I have many hobbies and I can write about everything. My main goal - to help people with self-development, to teach them to look at the situation from different sides.