Singapore travel guide: what you need to know


Best time to go, customs, culture, language, health, safety, laws, watchouts, emergency contacts and more.

singapore red lantern shop

Singapore overview


When's the best time to go, why you'll rarely hear 'no' and why you shouldn't flash your feet or point at people - download the Singapore travel guide.

Travel-size tips

  • Australians can fly to Singapore in as little as five hours.
  • The temperatures are high all year round, with little variation in seasons.
  • Australian passport holders don't need a visa to enter Singapore provided they meet the necessary entry requirements.
  • Singapore Airport is considered one of the best in the world, so it's worth setting aside some extra time to explore it when you arrive or depart.
  • English is the official language in Singapore.

Know before you go

  • Singapore has strict laws on drugs, homosexuality, smoking, chewing gum, littering and even flushing the toilet. 
  • Mosquito-borne illnesses such as dengue fever are a risk in Singapore. Do what you can to avoid insect bites.
  • Singapore sometimes experiences extreme levels of air pollution. If you have respiratory problems, speak to your doctor before you go.

Best time to go

Wetter months: November - January

Drier months: May - July, February

Check average temperatures and rainfall.

  • Singapore is only 137km north of the equator, so it has no summer or winter - just year-round balmy temperatures.
  • The country has no definitive wet or dry season either, but rainfall is usually greater from November to January. The driest months are May to July, and February - May and June are the hottest months.
  • Rain tends to come in brief daily downpours rather than setting in for days on end.
  • Singapore's infamous 'haze' (ie. smog) can reach extreme levels when illegal slash-and-burn land clearing takes place in nearby Indonesia during its dry season, generally between June and September.
  • Peak tourist times include Christmas, Chinese New Year (January - February), the Great Singapore Sale (May - July) and the Singapore Grand Prix (September).

Culture

  • Singapore's multicultural population is mostly made up of ethnic Chinese, Malay and Indian people, as well as people from all over the world who migrate there for work.
  • Singapore is a wealthy and modern society, but it still places great importance on traditional values.
  • Singaporeans are generally more conservative and formal than Australians, so keep in mind that our 'easy-going' nature could be misconstrued as impolite.
  • Public displays of affection, such as kissing, are not appropriate.
  • Homosexual acts are illegal in Singapore, so public displays of affection between same-sex couples are not recommended. That said, Singapore has an emerging (albeit low-key) gay scene.
  • It's considered rude to touch a person's head, point at them, or show them the bottom of your feet.
  • 'Face' is very important in Singaporean culture. That means Singaporeans don't like to be embarrassed or make a scene, and they'll sometimes even be reluctant to say 'no' to you or admit that they don't know something.
  • Tipping is not necessary, but it is appreciated. Some restaurants add a service charge to the bill - but this is not a tip for the service staff. Even if you leave money on the table the restaurant owner may pocket it, so make sure you hand your tip directly to the staff member.

Official language: English

Mandarin, Malay and Tamil are also recognised as official languages. Most people speak English as their first language.

Health and safety

  • The tap water in Singapore is safe to drink and food hygiene standards are generally high.
  • Singapore has an excellent health care system. Hospital bills for non-citizens can be high, though, so make sure you're covered by travel insurance.
  • There is a low risk of catching malaria in Singapore, but dengue fever is still a concern. Both diseases are spread by mosquitos, so pack repellent and take steps to minimise mosquito bites.
  • Singapore's air quality is often poor. You can check daily pollution levels at haze.gov.sg. When levels are high, you may need to limit your time outdoors, particularly if you have respiratory problems or if you're pregnant, elderly or travelling with children.
  • The air quality can occasionally reach very dangerous levels between June and September when mass land-clearing and forest fires in Indonesia send smoke northward to Singapore.
  • Masks for outdoor use are available from pharmacies and supermarkets. Singapore's Ministry of Health recommends the N95 mask, which has 95% filter efficiency. The masks are not suitable for children (it's best to keep kids indoors).
  • For the latest health and safety advice on Singapore, check smartraveller.com.au

Do I need vaccinations to travel to Singapore?

Laws and watchouts

Laws

  • Singapore has strict (and some bizarre) laws with tough punishments, ranging from hefty fines to canings and even the death penalty.
  • Drugs are highly illegal in Singapore and convictions can result in capital punishment. Authorities have been known to conduct random drug tests on locals and visitors and even if you took drugs before you entered the country, you're breaking the law if they're still in your system.
  • Many medications that are legal in Australia are restricted in Singapore. This includes some painkillers, cold and flu medications and ADHD medications. If you're planning to travel with medication, you may need to apply for approval from Singapore's Health Sciences Authority.
  • Tip: No matter where you travel, you should carry all medications (even vitamins) in their original packaging, along with their original prescription. It's also a good idea to carry a letter from your doctor explaining what the medications are (using generic names) and what they're for.
  • Homosexual acts are illegal, and even though kissing could land a same-sex couple in prison, thankfully the law is rarely enforced.
  • Pornography is banned, as is public nudity - even in your own home or hotel room if the curtains are open.
  • Littering, spitting, eating on public transport or jaywalking could earn you a hefty fine or community service.
  • Smoking is banned in all public indoor areas and many outdoor areas including playgrounds, bus stops and pedestrian bridges.
  • Chewing gum is banned. If you bring it into the country you could be fined $1000.
  • Using somebody else's Wi-Fi is an offence, as it's considered 'hacking' under Singaporean law.
  • It's even illegal not to flush a public toilet. Yes, police do sometimes check.
  • The legal drinking age is 18.
  • The blood alcohol limit for driving is .08. Drink driving carries a prison sentence of up to four years.

More tips on driving in Singapore.

Watchouts

Crime rates in Singapore are extremely low (see the above laws and punishments for an idea as to why). Scams and petty theft do still happen, though, so keep your belongings close and be as cautious as you would be at home. Always cover the keypad when using ATMs, and never let your credit card out of your sight when paying at restaurants.

Making a complaint

If you fall victim to theft or any other crime, contact the police (numbers below).

If you have a dispute with a local business or service and you're unable to reach an agreement, you can contact the Singapore Tourism Board: feedback@stb.gov.sg or 1800 736 2000.

Alternatively, you can lodge a complaint with the Consumers Association of Singapore: case.org.sg.

If your gripe is with an Australian or international tour operator, airline, or booking site, follow the usual procedures for making a complaint or seeking compensation.

Emergency contacts

If you are calling from your Australian mobile, use Singapore's country code +65 or dial 112 to be redirected to the police emergency (999) number.

  • Police: 999
  • Non-emergency police: 1800 225 0000
  • Ambulance and fire: 995
  • Non-emergency ambulance: 1777

Hospitals, clinics and dentists

Singapore has high-quality health care. The Australian High Commission website lists the contact details of doctorshospitals and dentists.

Australian High Commission in Singapore
singapore.embassy.gov.au
25 Napier Rd, Singapore
+65 6836 4100

24-hour Australian Consular Emergency Centre: +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 or SMS +61 421 269 080

Got a travel tip about Singapore? Or spotted something in our guide that needs updating? Add a comment below.


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