Singapore is well-known, but where exactly is it located? What kind of country is it? Is it a city, island, or something else entirely?
In a nutshell, yes to all three! Singapore is a city and an island nation – the only place in the world that can claim that. Southeast Asia’s Republic of Singapore is located just off the southern tip of Peninsular Malaysia. Singapore is not just one island; it consists of one main island and as many as 62 smaller islets.
Singapore is a unique destination that can be confusing for first-time visitors, but don’t let that deter you from adding it to your Southeast Asia itinerary.
Where Is Singapore?
Singapore is located about 85 miles (137 kilometers) north of the equator, south of Peninsular Malaysia, and east of West Sumatra (Indonesia)-just across the Strait of Malacca. Singapore lies east of Borneo, the largest island in the world.
Singapore’s closest island neighbors are Sumatra and Borneo, two of the world’s wildest islands. Among the few places on earth where wild orangutans can be found, the rainforests are still home to indigenous people. Meanwhile, in Singapore, you can see luxury cars on the roads and high-rise buildings.
Singapore may seem remote, but it has easy access to several nearby major airports.
- Distance from Bangkok: 1,434 kilometers (891 miles).
- Distance from Bali: 1,679 kilometers (1,043 miles)
- Distance from Hong Kong: 2,586 kilometers (1,607 miles)
- Distance from Sydney: 6,297 kilometers (3,913 miles)
Thing to Know
One of the world’s strongest economies, Singapore is a highly developed nation in Southeast Asia. Singapore ranks at the top of the Wall Street Journal’s Index of Economic Freedom, which measures free markets. Singapore has an estimated one in six households with at least one million dollars in disposable wealth, excluding property. Additionally, Singapore is considered one of the most expensive places on earth to live.
Singapore has a land area of around 280 square miles, which is slightly smaller than Lexington, Kentucky. Although roughly 6 million people are living in the tiny country, unlike Lexington. Singapore has one of the highest per-capita GDPs in the world despite its size. Quality of life, technology, and education are among the nation’s highest achievements. Along with the prosperity of Singapore, there is a noticeable wealth divide (Singapore does not have a minimum wage).
Crime is low and taxes are relatively high. Singapore is ranked as one of the least corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International. It ranks much higher than other countries in the region.
With the third highest life expectancy in the world, Singapore ranks third. According to the United Nations, the United States is ranked 36th in the world.
Singapore’s epic population density and reputation for cleanliness may conjure up images of some futuristic metropolis made entirely of concrete and steel, but that’s not the case. The National Parks Board is achieving its goal of turning Singapore into a “city in a garden,” so tropical greenery abounds.
Singapore is not a dreamy utopia for everyone. Many human rights organizations consider its laws too harsh. Frequently, the government is criticized for censorship and limiting freedom of speech. It is technically illegal to be homosexual in Singapore. The drug laws in the United States are among the strictest in the world, as they include a mandatory death sentence.
Things to Do
Although Singapore is a tiny country, there is no shortage of things to keep you busy. One of the most unique places to visit in Southeast Asia and the world, this isn’t just your typical big city. There are attractions that appeal to all tastes and all budgets, so you don’t have to be a member of the local elite to enjoy yourself.
- Explore the local food scene for a real taste of Singapore. Try an elegant night out at one of the many Michelin-starred restaurants on the island. Hawker centers across the city offer Malay, Chinese, and Indian dishes for as little as a few dollars per meal.
- Even though this modern city has a futuristic feel, there are plenty of ways to escape the urban sprawl. For a break from the concrete and skyscrapers, visit one of the nearby nature reserves or the Singapore Botanical Garden.
- This multi-cultural country offers a wide array of attractions. You can experience the rich diversity of Chinese, Malay, and Indian cultures by taking a tour of the different neighborhoods in the city.
- Singapore is also known for its shopping scene. Whether you’re looking for high-end luxury brands or authentic street markets, you’ll find it all in this city.
- Marina Bay is an essential stop for any visitor to Singapore. Many of the city’s top attractions, museums, and nightclubs are concentrated in this always-bustling neighborhood.
Singapore is the easiest place to enter by air. Many backpackers traveling through Southeast Asia opt to travel overland via Malaysia instead of flying.
For tourism purposes, most travelers do not need a visa to enter Singapore and can stay for up to 90 days.
Flying to Singapore
Changi Airport (airport code: SIN) is consistently rated as the world’s best airport. In addition, Singapore Airlines consistently ranks as one of the best airlines in the world. Both of them make flying to Singapore an enjoyable experience, just don’t bring in contraband items. Singapore is a “fine city” for a reason, since electronic cigarettes, chewing gum, and pirated movies/music can all lead to trouble.
It may seem strange, but the airport is often listed as one of the top attractions in the city. You can find out why the swimming pool, butterfly garden, and deluxe shopping mall are so popular. Arrive early for your flight to enjoy everything the hotel has to offer.
Going Overland From Malaysia
Malaysians can also reach Singapore overland by bus. Two man-made causeways connect Singapore and Johor. Several bus companies operate between Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and other cities in Asia.
Buses from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore take between five and six hours, depending on traffic and immigration delays. The buses to Singapore are equipped with interactive entertainment systems, WiFi, work desks, and more than some of the cheap buses along the roads of Asia. This is even more luxurious than flying without the hassle of an airport.
Tips: Singapore has stricter duty and import restrictions than its neighboring countries in Southeast Asia. The rules on bringing in cigarettes are more stringent at the land border than at the airport, even though sometimes a cigarette pack is overlooked when flying in. Singapore does not have a duty-free allowance for tobacco products, unlike many other countries. If you smoke, you’ll need to throw away any cigarettes you bought in Malaysia.
The Best Times to Visit
Singapore is 85 miles north of the equator and has a tropical rainforest climate. Throughout the year, temperatures remain hot, and the average high temperature is 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius), regardless of the month. Rainfall is persistent, but November and December are typically the wettest months. Thunderstorms are frequent in the afternoon, but there are plenty of museums to wait it out in.
Consider big events and festivals when deciding the best time to visit Singapore. The already pricey accommodations skyrocket in price during holidays such as Chinese New Year.
Is Singapore Expensive for Travelers?
When compared to other Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Singapore is considered an expensive destination. Singapore’s relatively high accommodation costs are a common complaint among backpackers and budget travelers. It is impossible to keep a budget in Singapore if you consume alcohol while socializing.
However, there is some good news: you can eat cheaply and deliciously here. Singapore can be enjoyed on a budget as long as you avoid the temptations of shopping and partying. Think about staying at a youth hostel or couchsurfing for less money on accommodation. Although short-term rentals through sites like Airbnb are technically not allowed, there are options.
Its clean city and excellent infrastructure are maintained through liberal taxation and, to some extent, by collecting fines for minor infractions. Jaywalking, not flushing a public toilet, mindlessly feeding pigeons, or consuming food and drinks on public transportation will all result in a fine. Fines are paid at kiosks located around the city much like ATMs.
Budget Travel Tips for Singapore
- Singapore’s tap water is safe to drink. By refilling a water bottle, you can save money and reduce the use of plastic.
- Going out at night can be expensive. An inexpensive pub can serve beer for upwards of $8 per pint. The prices of nightclubs and places with live entertainment should be increased by at least 50 percent. Locals often enjoy cheaper drinks at food courts.
- With Singapore’s efficient MRT system, you can explore parts of the city that are out of reach by foot. Consider purchasing an EZ-Link card that can be tapped on readers at train stations and on buses if you intend to move around frequently for several days.
- The famous Lau Pa Sat food court is a great place to sample lots of local food without spending a lot on a sit-down meal. Locals fill food courts with cheap eats; do as they do!
- Stay away from the malls and eat at those food courts instead! Parks and green spaces throughout the city are connected by nature trails and elevated bike paths. Take advantage of these free spaces!