aWhen travelling in Asia, Singapore is a common layover stop that certainly deserves to be explored. Here is how to spend 2 days in Singapore, before heading onward!
Singapore is such an interesting city. Having made a rapid transition from third to undeniably first world, the Lion City is an incredible mix of sci-fi futuristic and colonial quaint. Like us, most young travellers only spend a short layover in Singapore on the way to and from more backpacker-y (aka less expensive) destinations. Luckily, Singapore can quite comfortably be done in two days or less! Also, this is all any backpacker budget will allow!
Here is how we got a taste of Singapore in our short time span, visiting what we felt were the “musts” of the city. One could definitely tackle more, but we were feeling lazy and were hindered by periodic monsoon rain. All the same, I left Singapore feeling that I had sufficiently explored the city enough to check it off the travel list!
Where We Stayed
I can’t talk about Singapore without saying something about the amazing AirBnb we stayed at. After our dormitory stays in Borneo, D and I wanted a good nights rest. Unfortunately, even hostels in Singapore are super expensive, and booking last-minute, there were basically no hotels available for less than $100 (double our max budget for accommodation). Luckily AirBnB had my back, and we found a real gem. It was still expensive, but less than $100, and much nicer than any of the hotel options I had seen. We had the whole upper flor of a GORGEOUS home in a very swishy neighbourhood. Our host was amazing, even stalked our little fridge with breakfast supplies. If ever you are in Singapore, stay at Made in Mountbatten. You will not regret it.
Where We Ate
In case you hadn’t got the hint from this article so far, Singapore is pricey. Even a meal at a café costs easily $40 for two. Because we were staying at an AirBnb with a fridge, and had access to a nearby grocery store, Derek and I bought supplies for breakfast and snacks upon arrival. Having a big, low-cost breakfast allowed us to explore for most of the day with only stopping for a small bite at a restaurant or café wherever we were exploring.
Unlike the other countries we have visited on our Asia tour so far, we did not see very many street food vendors. Our AirBnb host explained that the government wanted to clean up the streets, so they put the street food vendors into set, outdoor cafeteria type places. One of these “Food Centres” was located right near where we were staying. With tons of choices of various Asian cuisines, we ate delicious dinners from here for less than $20 total. It’s also a cool Singapore experience because most locals don’t eat out at restaurants very often. Cooking at home is the norm, or going for a cheap meal at one of the food centres. During our 2 days in Singapore, we typically picked up some dinner on the way back from post-exploring cocktails.
After a $20 Uber ride from the airport to our AirBnb, we quickly realized that Uber would just not be an option the way it was in Malaysia (you can travel basically anywhere for less than $5). Luckily, Singapore has a superb network of subways called the MRT. You can get pretty much anywhere you would want to go, and there are stations less than 10 minute walk from anywhere. You pay using a preloaded card that costs $5 that you then load at the station to pay for fares. Our amazing AirBnb host however gave us the cards, saving us $10 each. The whole system is super user friendly, and D and I had no trouble figuring out which line to take and where to stop. It was also faster in many cases than driving would have been!
2 DAY SINGAPORE ITINERARY
MORNING: GARDENS BY THE BAY
When you think of Singapore, you think of the Gardens by the Bay. The massive, futuristic super grove that has become synonymous with a visit to the Lion City. I had expected to have to pay a huge entrance fee, and be pushing past tons of tourists, but entrance to the gardens is actually completely free. While you do have to pay to enter attractions like the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest (which D and I opted not to do, but look really cool), the iconic super grove can be visited without breaking the bank.
AFTERNOON: CHINA TOWN
After your morning visit to the future, its time for some hustle and bustle in largest cultural centre in Singapore. The Chinese Quarter is a crowded colonial neighbourhood with lots of shops and restaurants. While many of these are quiet touristy, you can still find some cheap eats and enjoy walking through the colourful old buildings! Buddha Tooth Temple is a favourite temple in the Chinese Quarter that is definitely worth a visit!
EVENING: RAFFLES BAR
So you relaxed in the future, you explored the crowded streets of China Town, whats next? A trip to the past. Singapore was a British Colony on a crucial shipping route to and from China Raffles Hotel was one of the first and most famous hotels in Singapore – open since the late 1800s! A favourite for expats in the 1920’s-1940’s the hotel is a beautiful blast from the past.
D and I headed here for drinks as the hotel claims to be the creator of Singapore iconic cocktail: the Singapore Sling. We figured with only 2 days in Singapore, we had to try a Singapore sling at least once. At $30 per cocktail, ordering food isn’t really an option budget wise. Luckily, the gorgeous, swishy colonial style has a tasty and casual quirk. Peanuts! Each table is set with a massive bag of whole peanuts. You can eat as much as a circus elephant, and just sweep the husks onto the black and white tiled floors!
MORNING: HAJI LANE
Haji Lane is a brightly coloured street covered in graffiti in the Middle Eastern neighbourhood of Singapore. It’s a cool place to walk around and explore the mix of trendy stores, carpet merchants, and lantern shops! There are loads of restaurants from all over the world, but the Middle Eastern ones are the least expensive and most in-place!
AFTERNOON: ARTSCIENCE MUSEUM
We heade to the future (and indoors) to escape a rain storm, spending the afternoon at the ArtScience Museum. Entrance is half price if you are a student, and you pay per exhibit. We did FutureWorld, and Human+ World. Overall, it was a perfect place to spend a rainy afternoon, but it was a lot of money for what it was.
EVENING: SUNSET AT MARINA BAY SANDS
Right next to the ArtScience Museum is the colossal Marina Bay Sands Hotel. This futuristic luxury hotel has a rooftop bar that overlooks the city from one side, and the Gardens by the Bay on the other. You can either pay to enter the Sky Park, or to enter the bar. Can you guess what we chose? The $20 cover charge to enter the sky bar goes towards your bill, covering one cocktail each. Its a great place to end your time in Singapore, enjoying the sunset and the party that follows while looking out over the Lion City!