Local expert Lionel Lee of Wanderhow shares how to travel Singapore like a local.
How to Travel Singapore Like a Local
All my travelling experience brought me to a single realization. The best way to travel is to travel like a local because they know their place best.
What to eat, where to play and how to get from one place from another.
No disrespect to any travel bloggers, but my experiences tell me that the locals know all the local gems and secrets. This is really how you discover the magic of any place.
If you want to travel to Singapore like a local, here are my recommendations for the best local hot spots.
What are the Best Singapore Attractions
1. Gardens by the Bay (South)
To Singaporeans, Gardens by the Bay is just another big garden with plants from all over the planet in our garden city. “Like what's the big deal?”
It was only after I spoke to many travellers that I realized the importance of Gardens by the Bay to Singapore’s tourism scene and why it is ranked #1 attraction on Tripadvisor for Singapore.
Gardens by the Bay’s Flower Dome and Cloud Forest are uniquely Singapore and you will not be able to find this amazing collection of plant life anywhere else on the planet.
The Flower Dome and Cloud Forest open from 9 am to 9 pm.
When to Go: Usually, I will advise travellers to visit any attractions early so that they can avoid the crowds. But for Gardens by the Bay, my recommendation is to visit in the afternoon from 4 pm to 5 pm so to see the gardens at sunset.
That is also the time that they light up the Supertree and it will give you a whole new experience.
Local’s secret tip
2. Gardens by the Bay (East)
While Gardens by the Bay (South) has 2 beautiful conservatories and a nice garden in an indoor fully air-conditioned area.
Ask any locals: the true beauty of Gardens by the Bay is across Marina Bay at Gardens by the Bay (East).
How to Get There: From Gardens by the Bay (South) walk towards Marina Barrage cross the Barrage and walk along the water body, you will arrive at Gardens by the Bay (East). The whole walk is 1.7km.
At the end of your walk, you will be rewarded with this complete skyline view of Singapore. The Garden is always quiet and peaceful unlike the one across Marina Bay.
3. Satay by the Bay
The go-to-place for food at The Gardens by the Bay is Satay by the Bay. It is located right beside Gardens by the Bay (South).
You can get a full suite of local food that you will find at any hawker centre. It just may be a little bit pricey.
4. Old Airport Road Hawker Centre
Just an 8 to 12-minute car ride away is one of Singapore’s most popular hawker centres at Old Airport Road!
The reputation and taste of old-time stores with low prices are what draws locals to them day after day.
The Hawker Centre – Dining in Singapore
The reason the Hawker Centre's are so significant is that you cannot find anything like them anywhere else in the world.
Whenever I am travelling, I always try to find the local version of hawker centre.
I am unable to find it in the U.S, Switzerland, France, Germany, Italy, Philippines, Thailand, Shanghai, Brunei, Taiwan (some resemblance in their night market).
You may find something similar in Malaysia because they are our neighbour.
Hawker stalls offer a wide variety of cheap local food all in one location.
I urge every traveller visiting Singapore to dine in a hawker centre at least once. Below is the list of Hawker Centres that I selected because they are near to tourist spots:
Where to Eat in Singapore
- Old Airport Road
- Chinatown Complex Food Centre
- Maxwell Road Hawker Centre
- Tiong Bahru Hawker Centre
- Tekka Centre (Great Muslim and Indian Food)
There is also a trend of cafes popping up in Singapore over the last few years. This is not your typical Starbucks and coffee bean type of café.
Such cafés have great ambience, great atmosphere and most of all great food and drinks.
They are typically located along at the fringe of our town area.
Getting Around Singapore
Train & Bus
In Singapore, the train and bus share the same distance fare system.
Travelling by train can get you to most major areas. And then you hop on a bus to get even closer.
For travellers, the train would often be more than enough to get by in Singapore because most tourist attractions have a nearby train station.
Learning the bus routes can be slightly more daunting but you can always find yourself ending up at a train station one way or another.
Private Hire (Uber or Grab)
Uber and Grab are the 2 largest ride-hailing apps in Singapore.
Most of the travellers I know use Uber extensively in Singapore. I believe this is due to Uber being a global brand and also the outright price that is agreed upon before the ride.
Travellers can consider using Grab as it is a more localized version of Uber and would often provide promotions.
Taxi is often the priciest option to travel around in Singapore.
Locals would only use this option if Uber or Grab is having surge pricing and there is really no way out. The flag-down fare, distance and waiting time fares are clearly displayed on the window of the back seat.
Taxi fares are also subjected to an additional surcharge of 25% – 50% during peak and wee hours (midnight to 6:00 am). There is also a surcharge of 3/5 SGD from the airport.
Useful Apps in Singapore
Local apps are often overlooked. When I went to Shanghai for work, I almost went crazy because I could not use Google and Whatsapp. Knowing a few local apps would have helped.
Let's face it, we are reliant on our phones.
Burpple is the authority on finding great food in Singapore.
Foodpanda, Deliveroo and UberEATS are the main food delivery services in Singapore.
My website Wanderhow is where you can forget about everything you just read in this article and ask a local for his/her insights.
It is a Singapore Travel Guide that gives tips by locals to travelers. Locals give recommendations in the discussion group on where to eat, where to stay and what to do in Singapore.
And those are my favourite tips and recommendations for traveling to Singapore. If you want more advice, be sure to check out my website.
Do you have any local recommendations to add?
Lionel Lee of wanderhow.com believes that the best way to learn about a place, as a traveller, is to ask the locals.
He created Wanderhow so that he can help travellers from all over the world learn more about Singapore through his personal insights. Join the community on Facebook