Singapore is one of the 20 smallest countries in the world. It has only 719 square kilometers and a population of 5,637,000 people. There are four official languages: English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil, which makes the country a comfortable destination in Far Southeast Asia, where any English speaker will handle it with ease. It was a colony of the United Kingdom until 1963, after which it was part of Malaysia for a couple of years, after which the Republic of Singapore was established as an independent country. It has the lowest corruption rate in the world, so it's a very safe destination (good!), although it's the second country with the highest GDP per capita, so it's a very expensive destination (Ouch!). The official currency is the Singapore dollar, which is currently below the euro. You can not miss Gardens by the Bay, the Chinatown neighborhood, Little India, the Merlion (that strange symbol of Singapore, half fish and half lion, which vomits water) or the Peranakan Terrace Houses. For shopping, Orchad Street. Orchad means orchid in English, and is the official flower of the country. The most famous drink is a cocktail called Singapore Sling and where they prepare it best is in the Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel, the place where they invented it. And that's it.
If it were not for the fact that each and every one of these things I knew before traveling to Singapore, as any reader with concerns could find out if you are going to travel to this destination by asking a couple of questions to Mr. Google. However, many other things caught me by surprise. Some of them, I discovered minutes before catching the plane. So here are a number of clues and discoveries that I would have appreciated knowing before traveling there.
Practical guide to saving money on a trip
Vaping is prohibited
On Orchard Road, one of Singapore's most iconic streets, smoking is prohibited. It can only be done in specific places. ROSLAN RAHMAN (AFP/Getty Image
You should know this before you even pack your suitcase: in Singapore, the use of electronic cigarettes has been banned since 2018. This means that it is forbidden to buy, use and, attention, possess them. Better to refrain from carrying one in hand luggage, lest we have problems with the law. Mine was abandoned in a bin at El Prat airport, and I still think of it with affection and nostalgia.
The issue of tobacco worries many travelers who choose this place as a destination and it is natural: Singapore is an anti-smoking country, already in 1986, the Government launched its National Tobacco Control Program with the slogan Towards a nation of non-smokers and it is forbidden to put in the country more than one pack if you do not want to risk paying a fine. There, a pack of tobacco costs around 15 Singapore dollars (a little more than 10 euros at the current exchange rate). And beware, you can not smoke anywhere, or throw cigarette butts where you want: there are delimited areas for it and, of course, there are fines for those who smoke where they should not smoke. This, the truth, is a joy: the streets could not be cleaner and you never run the risk of eating the puff of smoke from an early smoker.
Don't even think about doing toples at the hotel
One of the most powerful tourist attractions in Singapore: the supertrees of Gardens by the Bay.Tuul & Bruno Morandi (GETTY IMAG
It is interesting to know that in Singapore there are a number of laws on decorum that could affect the clueless tourist. For example, it is grounds for a fine to be toples inside a hotel room with the curtains drawn. A curious law that seems to punish more those who get out of the shower than the voyeur who watches what happens in other people's houses.
Let's finish earlier: many things are forbidden here
A poster advertises some of Singapore's bans, you have to take them seriously. Jonas Gratzer (LightRocket / Get
That's right. The country is known as "Disneyland with the death penalty" for something. Contrary to what many people believe, chewing gum is allowed, what you can not do is buy it anywhere, because there they have banned it. Nor can you throw garbage on the ground, something very civilized and very welcome. Other curious laws: you can kiss each other, but not bite yourself on public roads, by rules of decorum. You can't connect to someone else's Wi-Fi without their permission. You can't eat or drink on the subway. Of course, it is forbidden to spit. It is true that, as explained by the guides and locals, all these laws are much more permissive with tourists and, unless you are making a fuss on public roads, it would be rare to receive a warning. And, being honest, it is not necessary to go to Singapore and pay $ 1,000 to know that spitting in the street is a.
We say 'hotel' and not 'tourist apartment' for something
A street market and, in the background, some traditional Peranakan-style houses. Zoonar GmbH / Alamy
While platforms such as Airbnb are not technically banned in Singapore, there are strict regulations on how individuals can rent out their homes (for example, a minimum rental period of three months for private properties without land). It makes sense in a country that, in just 10 years (from 2009 to 2019) saw it go from receiving 9.6 million international arrivals a year to receiving 19.1. Today, there are more than 400 hotels in this small country, and the number continues to rise. At the time of writing, the offer within Airbnb in Singapore is, to say the least, curious: either small rooms in private homes, shared with the owners, or rooms in the Marina Bay Sands, that is, in the most famous hotel in the country.
Alcohol is very expensive
The famous Singapore Sling at the bar of the Raffles Hotel.THEODORE LIM (AFP/Getty Images
There are those who when traveling observe if their destination is suitable for traveling with children or pets and there are others who look at the cost of basic necessities, such as alcohol. I am one of the latter. I would like nothing less than some unwary traveler ending up paying $ 100 for four beers. That can happen to you in Singapore. A glass of wine costs around 20 Singapore dollars (about 15 euros). A cocktail, such as the famous Singapore Sling, can cost between 26 and 36 dollars (between 17 and 27 euros), depending on the bar in which it is ordered. Alcohol is served with a good cut of taxes, so watch out for the second and third rounds.
But food doesn't have to be.
The Chinatown Street Food Market (335 Smith Street) is the largest of all and can be eaten at an affordable price. John Seaton Callahan (GETTY IMAG)
Singapore is not one of those places where you should have a sandwich in your bag or dine cans at the hotel. Yes, it is an expensive place, but thanks to traditional hawkers – markets with different street food stalls – which were integrated by Unesco in its list of intangible cultural heritage in 2021, eating is a pleasure suitable for any type of pocket. The one in Chinatown (335 Smith Street) is the largest of all, with more than 260 stalls, and located in a tourist area that (almost) will always catch us more or less in passing. There, for just over five Singapore dollars, you can eat a plate of rice with chicken (it seems simple, but it is one of the traditional dishes of Singapore), Bak Chor me (dry noodles with pork and mushrooms) or a combination of delicious skewers (or satay) of different meats and seafood.
Seen this way, we can still afford that second round of beers.
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