Traditional Singapore Dish

Whether you're cruising the river in a bumboat, sipping a Singapore Sling, exploring temples or on a night safari, this is a city to suit all tastes, says Simon Calder


At the crossroads of South-east Asia, Singapore has traditionally been treated as a stopover destination - but its sophisticated shops and lively restaurants, colourful ethnic districts and cultural treasures make it a rewarding city to explore in its own right.


Singapore Airlines (020-8750 2708; flies from both Heathrow and Manchester to Singapore's Changi airport; hang on to your boarding card as it may get you a discount at some of the city's attractions. British Airways (0870 850 9850; and Qantas (08457 747 767; fly from Heathrow. Changi airport is on the east side of Singapore island. A taxi will whisk you into the city in 20 minutes for S$20-25 (£6.50-£8.20), or you can take the MRT train from the airport station to the city centre, with a single cross-platform change. A single ticket costs S$2.80 (£0.90); hand in your card at the end of the journey and get a dollar back. If you are planning to explore the city by public transport, invest in an E-Zlink card (, Singapore's equivalent of the London Oyster card. For S$15 (£5) you can travel anywhere by bus and MRT, swiping in and out for each journey. You can top it up too.

Take a trip on a Bumboat Click on image to view a larger PDF map
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Singapore is a diamond shape, about 26 miles across and 14 miles from north to south. Visitors are likely to spend most of their time in the southern point of the diamond, an area which is cut through by the Singapore River. Chinatown and the main business district are on the south bank, while the colonial district, Little India and the Arab Quarter are all to the north. The Main Visitor Centre (1), at the junction of Orchard and Cairnhill Roads, opens 9.30am-10.30pm daily. There is a 24-hour tourist hotline, available on the local tollfree number, 1800 736 2000, or see To plan in advance, call the Singapore Tourism Board in London on 020-7484 2710.


One of the most impressive in the new crop of boutique hotels is the New Majestic (2) at 31-37 Bukit Pasoh Road (00 65 6511 4700; It has individually designed rooms, and a first-floor swimming pool from which swimmers can peer through at the diners in the restaurant below. Rooms start at S$281 (£91), including breakfast. The city's newest budget hotel is the Link (3) at 50 Tiong Bahru Road (00 65 6622 8585;, a short walk from Outram Park MRT station. Attractively converted out of a public housing development, its rooms come in four different styles and cost S$280 (£92) for a double, S$260 (£85) for a single. (4) at 10a Upper Wilkie Road (00 65 6438 5588; is an upmarket hostel that offers "no frills, just fun". Located in a pleasant residential area, it offers dormitory accommodation and private rooms, as well as a lovely rooftop terrace. Dorm beds cost S$41 (£13), and doubles are available from S$140 (£46) including breakfast.


For a panorama over the city, take a flight on the DHL Balloon (5), the largest tethered balloon in the world. It takes off regularly from a plot of land on Tan Quee Lan Street (00 65 6338 6877) from 11am to 10pm daily, although flights are halted if there is too much wind. They last 10 minutes and cost S$23 (£7.50).


Chinatown, with its red lanterns and restored buildings, is a fascinating area to explore. Start at Chinatown MRT station east exit (6) and wander through the lanterns to the Chinatown Heritage Centre (7) at 48 Pagoda Street (00 65 6325 2878; Here the history of the Chinese in Singapore is explained through photos and evocative reconstructions of the so-called cubicles in which people used to live. The centre opens 9am-8pm daily, and admission is S$9.80 (£3.20). From there, continue to the end of Pagoda Street, and peep into the Jamae Mosque (8) (00 65 6221 4165), and the colourful Sri Mariamman Temple, the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, on the opposite corner. Take a detour along Ann Siang Hill and into Club Street, lined by traditional shophouses. Returning to South Bridge Road, turn down Smith Street - known as Food Street for its extensive choice of eateries - and into Trengganu Street. Trishaws, waiting to pick up passing tourists, line up along the pavement, while groups of men sit nearby, absorbed in games of Chinese chess. Opposite, at 288 South Bridge Road, is Chinatown's newest, and most fascinating attraction, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple (9) (00 65 6220 0220;, which opens 4.30am-9pm daily.


The best-known shopping street is Orchard Road, a lively strip of designer outlets and malls. For a gentler experience, shop at the small, ethnic boutiques on Bussorah Street in the Kampong Glam district. If the jet lag gets to you and you want to shop at 4am, go to the Mustafa Centre (10) in Little India, a Westernstyle department store. It opens 24-hours a day; see


Little India has an excellent choice of eateries, including Banana Leaf Apolo (11) at 54-58 Race Course Road (00 65 6293 8682;, a popular, buzzing establishment that serves one of Singapore's bestknown culinary treats, fish-head curry, as well as plenty of other tasty Indian dishes, served on a traditional banana leaf.

St Andrew Cathedral


Bumboats were once used to collect supplies from the container ships that docked at Singapore's busy harbour; they bumped together which is how they got their name. They are now used to transport visitors, starting all along the river, including from Clarke Quay (12), and heading east past the place where Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, first landed. The cruise ( continues as far as the Merlion, a statue that is part fish, part lion and has become the symbol of the city, before returning to Clarke Quay. Trips last half an hour, and costs S$12.60 (£4.10).


Try the city's signature cocktail, the Singapore Sling, at the New Asia Bar on the 71st floor of the Swissotel The Stamford (13) at 2 Stamford Road (00 65 6837 3322; It doesn't appear on the menu - possibly because it is the signature cocktail of a rival establishment, Raffles Hotel (14) - but for S$21 (£6.90) the waiters will be happy to make one; ingredients include gin, cherry brandy, cointreau and pineapple juice.


A great Singaporean tradition is the hawker centre. Bag a table, then order whatever you fancy from the various different food outlets. Serving up to 1,000 people a night at weekends, Makansutra Gluttons' Bay (15), on the Esplanade at 8 Raffles Avenue (00 65 6336 7025), is one of the most popular, with stalls offering everything from laksa to fried carrot cake. Feast for as little as S$10 (£3.25).


St Andrew's Cathedral (16), located in the colonial district, was built by Indian convict labourers and funded by Scottish Christians. The cathedral is at 11 St Andrew's Road (


Head to the district known as Arab Street and get a table at Samar (17) at 1 Baghdad Street (00 65 6398 0530), one of a number of the cafés here. The decor is relaxed and atmospheric, and the food tasty: choose from a selection of salads, dips and cooked main courses, washed down with delicious juices.


The Asian Civilisations Museum (18), one of the finest collections of its kind in Asia, provides an insight into the cultural roots of Singapore. There are rooms devoted to different parts of the region, each containing fascinating artefacts, from priceless Buddha statues to huge idols used in Chinese processions. The museum is at 1 Empress Place (00 65 6332 2982; and opens 9am-7pm Tuesday-Sunday, 1-7pm Monday, and until 9pm on Fridays. Admission is S$5 (£1.60), or S$8 (£2.60) when there is a special exhibition.


Walk after dark through the intriguing surroundings of the Night Safari at the Zoo. Three walking trails allow visitors to observe over a hundred species of nocturnal animals. The park, at 80 Mandai Lake Road (00 65 6269 3411;, opens daily from 6pm-midnight. Admission is S$20 (£6.50). The most convenient way is to take a taxi, although you can also get there on public transport: via the MRT to Ang Mo Kio Station (NS16), then walk through the underpass to the bus station and take bus 138.

Take a trip on a Bumboat


...from the foyer of the Fullerton Hotel (19) at 1 Fullerton Square (00 65 6733 8388; Once the General Post Office, six years ago it was converted into this luxury hotel, where a mouth-watering chocolate buffet is served from 8-11pm on Thursday-Saturday. Eat as much as you can for S$38 (£12.50).


Allow enough time before your flight home to enjoy the delights of Changi airport - and not just the shops, restaurants and free internet access. Other distractions include an indoor orchid garden, free cinema and, in Terminal 1 (but easily accessible from Terminal 2), a rooftop outdoor swimming pool, where you can take some exercise before the journey home.

For more information about Singapore go to