During the summer of 2019, I visited Asia for the first time and embarked on a 3-week trip, with Singapore as my first stop. My Singapore solo travel guide covers everything from where to stay and what to eat, to the best things to see and do.
Singapore is a city-state located in Southeast Asia, occupying the southern tip of the Malay peninsula. Singapura means “The Lion City” and the merlion, a mythical creature with the head of a lion and body of a fish, is the national symbol.
Located along strategic trade routes, the first settlements date back to 1298. British statesman Sir Stamford Raffles is credited with founding modern-day Singapore in the early 1800s. After gaining independence from Britain, Singapore separated from Malaysia to become an independent nation in August 1965.
Today Singapore is one of the wealthiest nations in the world and a center for international trade.
Where to Stay
Singapore is known for being pricy and the hotel prices match its reputation. Though I typically stay in Airbnbs when I travel, I decided to go with a hotel for a few reasons. Airbnb is technically illegal in Singapore and the places within my budget were quite far away from the city center.
Another deciding factor was my Capital One Venture card. Capital One had a partnership with Hotels.com that entitled members to 10X the points for booking on Hotels.com. For those new to the travel credit card game, points equal money you can spend on your next trip.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Venture card and its perks, check out Nerd Wallet’s review.
The Atlas Station
Hotel Type: Capsule hostel
Location: Little India
Cost: Starting at $24 USD/night
Capsule hotels, a.k.a. pod hotels, were developed in Japan and have spread throughout Asia. The rooms are essentially enclosed bunk beds, either separated by plastic partitions or curtains. Since I arrived in Singapore after 11 pm, I decided to try out this unique style of hotel for one night.
The Atlas Station is located in Little India, about 5 minutes from the Farrer Park MRT station. I chose this hostel largely because of its space theme. The larger side entry capsules are $30 USD/night and include a spacious bed, mirror, safe, and television. Essentially, your own mini-spaceship.
I had a pleasant night’s rest and appreciated that breakfast was included, complete with a boiled egg, croissant, and toast. The only drawback was the lack of storage space. With no drawers or shelves, I had to pack everything into my suitcase after use. There is space underneath the capsule to store your bags.
I would definitely recommend this hostel to solo travelers who are on a tight budget. The communal bathrooms were clean and the location is convenient to the MRT.
Hotel Clover 33 Jalan Sultan
Hotel Type: 3-star hotel
Location: Kampong Glam
Cost: Starting at $41 USD/night
Hotel Clover 33 Jalan Sultan is a 3-star hotel located in Kampong Glam, Singapore’s Muslim neighborhood. Housed in converted two-story shophouses, it has a gym and restaurant on site.
I chose the Select Single Garden room for $41 USD/night. The room was small, but adequate for one person. Having a small outdoor space was also a nice plus. The bathroom was very tiny and the placement of the sink was quite unique. Check out my Singapore story on Instagram for a room tour.
I chose not to pay more for breakfast given the many restaurants and food courts in the surrounding area. If you do want to spring for breakfast, check the hotel’s website to see if they offer any additional perks for booking directly on their website.
How To Get Around
Singapore’s public transportation system is clean, efficient and easy to use. The buses and MRT trains criss cross the city; the vast majority of tourist attractions are a short walk from a train station.
Rides start at $1.40 SGP and increase based on the distance travelled. If you’ll be taking public transit often, consider the Singapore Tourist Pass. It covers bus and train transport for either 1, 2, or 3 days; prices start at $10 SGD.
I opted for the standard Smartlink card, which allows you to add money as you go. You can even choose the card’s design, making for a cute souvenir. Single ride tickets are also available. Visit the Singapore Tourism website for more details on different ticket options.
Getting To/From the Airport
From trains to taxis, there are many options for getting from the airport to the city center. I opted to use Grab, an app similar to Uber, since I arrived after 11 pm. My ride cost about $30 SGD and only took 30 minutes.
Visit the Changi Airport website for a complete list of transit options, as well as surcharges to expect if you book a taxi.
What To Eat
Singapore’s cuisine is a product of its rich diversity. From chili crab to mutton murtabak, the flavors range from spicy to savory and are all delicious. Read my blog post 6 Must Eats in Singapore for the top dishes to try and where to find them.
Here’s a run down of the restaurants where I dined and their locations.
- Ah Tai Hainanese Chicken Rice – Chinatown
- CÉ LA VI – Marina Bay Sands Hotel
- Golden Mile Complex – Kampong Glam
- New Ubin Chijmes – near Fort Canning Park
- Satay by the Bay – Gardens by the Bay
- Singapore Zam Zam – Kampong Glam
- Tekka Center – Little India
top things to do
From futuristic arts exhibits to colorful ethnic enclaves, Singapore is much more than a stopover city. Before diving into all the city has to offer, check out Get Your Guide, Klook and Voyagin for discounts on top attractions.
Gardens by the Bay
THE iconic attraction of Singapore, Gardens by the Bay is an absolute must visit. Much of this futuristic garden is outdoors and free to visit, including the towering Supertree Grove. Want a better view of these 160-foot structures? Buy a ticket to walk among the treetops via the OCBC Skyway or the brand-new Observatory.
After taking in the scenery outside, head into two air-conditioned conservatories (a.k.a. greenhouses) to cool off. The Cloud Forest is home to the 2nd tallest indoor waterfall, standing at a whopping 115 feet. Get here early for a photo with the waterfall’s cascading mist and to realize just how small you really are.
A standard ticket also includes admission to the Flower Dome (only Singapore residents can buy tickets to one conservatory). Themes rotate with the seasons, so it may be a hit or a miss when you visit.
Be sure to come back at night for the free light show in the Supertree Grove. I enjoyed grooving to disco music as the lights danced among the trees.
Entry Fees & Hours
Marina Bay Sands Light Show
If you’re like me, you probably first encountered the lavish Marina Bay Sands Hotel thanks to the movie Crazy Rich Asians. With its distinct boat-like roof, spread over three sky-high towers, it’s an iconic part of Singapore’s skyline. With rooms starting at $350 USD/night, those of us who prefer to ball on a budget will have to forgo a stay.
Marvel at the hotel’s exterior via the Spectra light and water show. This dazzling display happens nightly along the waterfront, right outside the hotel. The 15-minute show includes lasers and dancing streams of water, all telling the city-state’s history.
Pro tip: Catch the 7:45 PM light show at Gardens by the Bay before heading over to the Marina Bay Sands show at 9 PM. The crowds add more time to the journey than you’d expect.
Entry Fees & Hours
The lotus shaped ArtScience Museum is yet another Singapore landmark, as well as part of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Its mission is to “explore where art, science, culture and technology come together” and its exhibits do just that.
The permanent Future World exhibit is interactive and a favorite among Instagrammers. From Crystal Universe, a room filled with strings of floating lights, to Light Ball Orchestra, where touching huge multi-colored balls emits unique sounds, there’s plenty to photograph, play with, and explore.
Take a look inside their latest exhibition, 2219: Futures Imagined, with this virtual tour!
Entry Fees & Hours
Monster day Free Walking Tours
Monster Day’s free walking tours are the perfect way to explore Singapore’s ethnic enclaves. The tour guides are young, energetic locals who illuminate the area’s history through storytelling. As a huge bonus, each tour includes a free snack.
I went on the Little India tour (read about it here) and not only learned about the neighborhood, but also met many friendly travelers.
Their free tours are currently suspended due to COVID-19, but they also offer private tours around the city. Check out their website for more info.
Entry Fees & Hours
Singapore Botanic garden
Take a relaxing walk through Singapore’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, its Botanic Gardens. With an 150+ year history, the gardens played an important role in horticultural breakthroughs involving the rubber plant and orchid hybridization.
The few extra bucks are worth it to see the beautiful National Orchid Garden, home to the country’s national flower. The stunning collection is filled with orchids of every hue. There’s even a portion with flowers named after foreign dignitaries who have visited the site.
Entry Fees & Hours
Imagine having an entire island dedicated to adventure, beaches, and family-friendly fun? That place exists and it’s called Sentosa Island. The largest of the 60+ off-shore islands that make up Singapore, attractions range from Universal Studios and waterparks to bungee jumping and beach clubbing.
I opted for a mix of forest and beach during my day at Sentosa. After a ride on the city bus, I hopped on the Sentosa Express train (one of the cheapest ways to reach the island). A free shuttle bus, which circles the island, took me to Fort Siloso. The Skywalk provides a panoramic view of the trees, cable car, and ships in the port.
The second half of my day was spent enjoying Palawan Beach. Pretend you’re in Pirates of the Caribbean as you cross the long rope bridge to the Southernmost point of Asia. I ended the day watching a bird show while enjoying some ice cream.
Visit Sentosa Island’s website for a complete list of attractions, from parks and shops to hotels and dining.
Entry Fees & Hours
One of Singapore’s most polarizing attractions is the Night Safari. Heralded as the “world’s first nocturnal zoo,” it seemed like a unique experience I couldn’t get anywhere else. It turned out to be one of the most disappointing parts of my time in Singapore.
Apparently, there’s a science to timing your visit right, which I did not master. I had a bit of bad luck as it was pouring rain when I arrived at 8 PM (tickets include timed entry). I was steered towards the lengthy line for the safari drive. It was cool seeing the animals at night, though taking photos was pretty impossible, as expected. From elephants to lions, the animals were fairly easy to see and a lot more active than they normally are during the day.
Unfortunately, after the safari ride, there were no more live animal shows scheduled. My only option was to traverse the park on foot – in the dark – to view the snake exhibit, which I did not feel comfortable doing. I ended up spending all of 30 minutes experiencing the zoo’s animals. Unless you’re able to make sense of how to best tackle this overcrowded and difficult to access attraction, I’d say skip it.