Shop till you Drop in Singapore

Shop till you Drop in Singapore

Historically a trading hub, what better place than Singapore to embrace your inner shopaholic? What once was a great market for tea, silk and tin, now is home to glittering shopping malls offering state of the art electronics and designer fashion. Singapore might appear as a small red dot on your map, but it packs in more malls per square mile than any other country in the world, which makes it one of the top shopping destinations on a global scale.

Most of the shopping malls center along Orchard Road - the commercial heart of Singapore - and they specialize in specific items. Given Singapore's cultural diversity, there are also various shopping alternatives, including jumbled markets and hip boutiques. Some of the best places to shop in Singapore come in the form of outdoor markets, bustling roads and clusters of quaint boutiques. While Chinatown and Little India offer great shopping opportunities, you shouldn't miss out on the vast Bugis Street Market.

Orchard Road

Once a quiet, market-lined street, nowadays the 2.2 kilometer street of Orchard Road is home to megamalls, making it the best place to shop in Singapore. With its front molded into futuristic metallic curves, the most impressive mall is indisputably the ION Orchard mall. Consisting of four stories extending both above and below ground, the glistening mall is lit up neon at night and contains designer labels, mid-range brands and plenty of dining options. While you'll find all the designer brands in Paragon house, bargain hunters should head to centers such as Far East Asia, famous for its cheap food and fashion, and Lucky Plaza. For arts and crafts, head to Tanglin Shopping Center, one of the first buildings to be set up here. There are also plenty of dining options after burning all those calories while shopping.

Chinatown Street Market

As 75% of the population is of Chinese descent, you can expect Chinatown to be massive and so are the shopping opportunities in the area. If you want to soak in the shopping spirit of the area, head to Chinatown Street Market, which houses stalls selling traditional candles, artwork and clothing as well as street food stalls.

One month before the Lunar New Year, either January or February, Chinatown's streets are filled with stalls touting their wares, which include foodstuffs, clothes, pottery, plants and other household items. An alternative to the Orchard Road is Ann Siang Road, which is lined by old shop houses and stand-alone boutiques that sell something more out of the ordinary than Singapore's mega malls. The area is also a great place to shop for clothes. Some of the shops you'll find here include Willow & Huxley, an umbrella shop for funky international womenswear brands, Mythology on Club Street offering colorful party dresses, head to Asian Region for independent labels, and Aston Blake offers smart-tailored shirts and suits for men. Rose citron French Design is perfect to shop for homeware, particularly the patchwork cushions.

Book lovers will also find their place herein Books Actually, an independent book store that offers a wide variety of titles - including some they have published themselves - and supports Singaporean writers. From fiction to history, they have everything to satisfy your reading needs.

Haji Lane

For a whole different kind of experience, head to Haji Lane in Kampong Glam, a historic Malay District. With small historic shop fronts repainted in pastel shades, independent boutiques, tattoo parlors and record shops, Haji Lane is Singapore's most bohemian area. Bargain hunters will probably go on a shopping spree as soon as they step on the Blog Shop, a uniquely Singaporean phenomenon. This is a big store that sells the stock of many independent internet retailers.

Shopping Tips

Bargain hunters are in for a treat during the months June and July, which is the time when the Singapore Sale takes place. During this time, the prices are reduced almost everywhere, except for big designers the likes of Chanel. You can also get discounts some other times of the year in some of the older shopping malls like Lucky Plaza. There you can haggle even to bring down the price of electronics and other goods. Shopping in Singapore can be gratifying but it can also be overwhelming; it's good to be prepared for it or take someone who is familiar with it.

Singapore Travel Tips

Singapore Travel Tips

Over the last few years, Singapore has become one of the most popular destinations in Asia and the continent's most travel-friendly country. With a diverse and world-class offer of entertainment, cuisine and shopping, who wouldn't want to visit this interesting island-state that went from that has experienced an outstandingly rapid growth over the last few decades?

With its economic architectural marvels - such as the Marina Bay Sands and the creatively shaped Art Science Museum - and its important historical sites - including Boat Quay and Palau Ubin - Singapore won't disappoint.

Customs, law and etiquette

Although Singapore is a very safe and easy place to travel, there are certain local customs and laws that must be followed. While some offenses might be seen as insignificant or inexistent in some countries, they might be seen as serious offenses in Singapore. For instance, it's against the law to spit anywhere on the island. Meanwhile, chewing gum is strictly prohibited for sale, import and personal use, so if you have any breath problems, you might want to resort to another method. You can also get a massive fine for littering, jaywalking and throwing cigarette butts on the ground. Some of these rules might seem harsh to you but just picture how clean and safe the island is. And if you thought you could get away for being a tourist, think again, as some officers will still fine you despite your ignorance of the law.

While drugs are illegal in most countries, Singapore takes a step further and getting caught with them can land you in some really dark waters. Although getting caught with small amounts of drugs might get you arrested, larger amounts might lead to charges of trafficking. In the best scenario, you would get a massive fine or jail time. That is why you should always check your luggage or not carry any stranger's belongings.

While it is not customary to tip on top of your bill, tipping is commonly accepted by the service industry. The majority of restaurants charge a 10 percent service charge plus 7 percent GST on top of your bill; you can find these extra costs indicated on the menu next to the prices. If restaurants do no already include a service charge, then you may add 15 to 20 percent tip. While tipping or service charge might be common in hospitality, it is not common to tip taxi drivers, hairdressers or others.

Best Time to Travel

Singapore may be a melting pot of cultures, but what makes the island such an appealing destination for sun-soakers is its fabulous warm weather year round, offering good conditions for outdoor activities. As Singapore is located in the tropics, temperatures rarely dip below the mid-20s, which means you must pack light clothes to beat humidity, and stay hydrated at all times. Don't worry about the heat at night; most places feature air conditioning. Although Singapore is warm and humid year round, the coolest season is from December to February and it rains more from June to October.

Remember that humidity makes temperatures feel higher, so always carry a water bottle and keep an eye out for fountains so you can refill it from time to time.

Although the severity of the haze varies from year to year, it is at its worst during September, therefore you must avoid it traveling during this time as the pollution can affect your health and it's not an ideal time for sightseeing.


The local currency is the Singaporean dollar. Although all shops in major shopping centers accept cards for payments, street vendors accept cash only. While most major hotels and local banks offer currency exchange services, it is cheaper to do it at any of the many money exchanges throughout the city. You can also withdraw money from most of the ATMs scattered throughout the island.

Also keep in mind that Singapore may be expensive compared to other Asian countries. While there are many budget-friendly activities, others like visiting a museum (around $20), going out for drinks (one costs between $15-25) or eating out can be expensive if you are on a budget.

Duty-free rules

Although duty-free rules tend to be somewhat standard, they do vary slightly from country to country and it is important to know the ones from Singapore as they are very strict about what is give duty-free concession. When it comes to alcohol, duty-free rules vary depending on what you are buying. For instance, you can never exceed one liter of spirit but you can buy two liters of wine or beer. There is no duty-free allowance on cigarettes and tobacco products, and if they catch you bringing these from abroad, you might face massive fines. You are allowed to bring in one packet (not box) of cigs for personal use (not for sale).

Singapore as a source of inspiration

Singapore as a source of inspiration

Sometimes referred to as the Lion City, the Garden City or the Little Red Dote, Singapore is a sovereign city-state in Southeast Asia. Founded by Stamford Raffles in 1819, colonial Singapore was set up as a trading post of the East India Company.

Despite its small size, Singapore has featured on stories and here's a compilation of them. One of the most evocative quotes of Singapore is by Harry de Windt, published in From Peking to Calais by Land (1889): “Singapore: a vision of green hills and red dust, a sickly odor of pepper, cocoa, nut-oil and drains.”

Even Rudyard Kipling mentioned Singapore in his “The Song of the Cities published in 1893. That mention, however, might be a tad dramatic. “No one talks about the unhealthiness of Singapore. A man lives well and happily until he begins to feel unwell. Then he feels worse because the climate allows him no chance of pulling himself together - and then he dies.”

Awash with green spaces, Singapore is sometimes referred to as the “City in a Garden.” Home to 300 parks and four nature reserves, Singapore is one of the greenest cities anywhere in the world. This impressed Harold Nicolson back in 1957, who rote on his Journey to Java: “It is about the greenest place I have ever seen. It is like entering Dartmouth on a muggy August afternoon.” Singaporeans are aware of their status and they are encouraged to support conservation; they are proud of its many environmentally friendly spaces.

The academic Paul Scott described Singapore as “that modern apology for a romantic Eastern port.”

“Getting to places like Singapore was a hell of a sweat. But when you got there it was the back of beyond. It was just a series of small tin sheds.” - Sir David Attenborough.

“Flat, steamy, thickly humid, the island lies there in its hot seas, fringed with mangrove swamps, and from the air it looks as it always did, a slightly desperate place that ought to be inhabited. It looks like an invented place, and so, of course, it is.” - Jan Morris, Travels, 1976.

William Gibson wrote on his Distrust That Particular Flavor that “Singaporeans... loathe to discuss these more intimate policies of government with a curious foreign visitor who was more than twice as tall as the average human, and who sweated slowly but continuously, like an aged cheese.”

Some people have also criticized Singapore's strict rules. In Twisted Travels, Jessica Zafra wrote “Singapore is what your city could become if everyone obeyed the rules, did their jobs diligently, and just shut up. When your city gets to be this paragon of efficiency and discipline, would you still want to live there? Singapore is a model city, which is terrific if you happen to be a model human.”

Also, as to the control over the population, Peter L. Berger said: “Even in a society as tightly controlled as Singapore's, the market creates certain forces which perhaps in the long run may lead to democracy.”

Fareer Zakaria said: “The tallest building in the world is now in Dubai, the biggest factory in the world is in China, the largest oil refinery is in India, the largest investment fund in the world is in Abu Dhabi, the largest Ferris wheel in the world is in Singapore.”

There are also more positive opinions about Singapore. For instance, Romain Grosjean said “Singapore is a pretty fantastic place, and the race is always a challenge.”

Despite being a society with a strict set of rules, Dan Buettner said “Singapore is the happiest place in Asia.”

Other people have also commented on Singapore's multiculturalism. For instance, Nicolas Berggruen said, “Singapore has been incredibly well-managed. It was created out of the swamp, with a strong emotional idea: a safe place for mostly Chinese, but accepting other cultures and other races.”

Some other quotes are quite enlightening. “Nobody in Singapore drinks Singapore Slings. It's one of the first things you find out there. What you do in Singapore is eat. It's a really food-crazy culture, where all of this great food is available in a kind of hawker-stand environment,” sated Anthony Bourdain.

It seems that food in Singapore is appreciated by everyone. The famous Spanish Chef Jose Andres said “I was very impressed with the street food of Singapore. I was very impressed with the dishes that they did.”

Top 10 Festivals in Singapore

Top 10 Festivals in Singapore

From dragon boat racing, spectacular military displays and mesmerizing bazaars, there is always a celebration taking place somewhere in Singapore.

Chinese New Year

You can't miss the two-week-long party that takes over Chinatown in Jan or Feb. With its exuberant mix of vibrant colors, sounds and tastes as well as age-old traditions, Singapore's Chinese New Year is one of the biggest events that take place on the island. During this celebration, temples open their doors, stalls sell raw fish salad and decorations glow under lanterns of the night bazaar. The floats and performances at the Chingay parade in Marina Bay are a feast for the eye.

Over weeks of celebration, cheerful Singaporeans get together to exchange mandarin oranges for good luck and feast on traditional dishes. Whether you visit seasonal markets, join the colorful processions or admire the riotous lion dances, there are endless opportunities to soak in the festive mood throughout the island.

Thaipusan Hindu festival of faith

As Singapore is a truly multicultural society, festivals also reflect this reality and this is reflected in Thaipusan, which takes place in February. Each year Singapore's traffic comes to a halt to make way for this large and colorful procession that brings Hindu devotees together to seek blessings, fulfill vows and offer thanks.

The festival honors Lord Subramaniam (also known as Lord Murugan), who is worshipped for being the destroyer of evil, and for representing virtue, youth and power. The chariot procession (with the Lord Murugan statue) sets out from Sri Thendayuthapani Temple at Tank Road to Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple at Keong Siak Road.

Over two days of procession - give or take - devotees carry milk and wooden ornate frames - kavadis - from temple to temple, some pierce their tongues with skewers and carry a kavadi decorated with flowers and peacock feathers over their shoulders. The faithful who carry the kavadis walk 4.5 kilometers, along with relatives and friends who chant hymns and prayers to support and encourage them. The procession is a demonstration of faith and “kavadi” means “sacrifice at every step” in Tamil.

You don't have to take part in the procession to enjoy the festival. This colorful and interesting procession is an attraction in itself. You can watch the spectacle anywhere between Sri Srinivasa Peruma temple at Serangoon Road and Sri Thendayuthapani Temple at Tank Road.

Hari Raya street bazaars

Every August and September during Hari Raya, street stalls offering mouthwatering Muslim food line the streets around the Sultan Mosque and Arab Street. If you fancy something sweet instead, head to the Malay neighborhood Gelang Serai, which sells rainbow-colored biscuits.

The Lantern Festival (photo)

Novelty and animal lanterns light up the autumn nights in the pagoda and bridges of Chinese Garden in Jurong. The festival, which takes place in Chinatown, features lion dances and moon cake pastries.

Traditionally a time to give thanks to the gods, the Mid-Autumn Festival is also the time of the year that the moon is at its brightest, which explains why lunar legends have always been attached to this celebration. One of the most outstanding legends is the one that tells the story of Chang Er, a merciless king's wife who saved her people from his tyrannical by pouring the elixir of immortality he had intended to drink. According to the legend, after that heroic act, she ascended to the moon, ever since the Chinese have worshipped her as a Moon Goddess.

When the sun goes down, the night comes alive as festival-goers sit in gardens lit by the soft glow of paper lanterns, sip tea, nibble on moon cakes, and even compose poetry in Tang Dynasty fashion.

Singapore Arts Festival

International dance performances, plays, music and art installations are some of the spectacles in store for those who attend Singapore Arts Festival. Not only local artists but mostly international acts take over the festival to display a great variety of contemporary and avant garde. In fact, approximately 70 percent of the events are put up by international artists. One of the most significant events in the regional arts scene, during the Singapore Arts Festival shopping centers, playing fields and museums transform into theater and gallery venues.

Since its opening in 1977, the festival aims at celebrating local arts from the diverse communities in Singapore. Over the last three decades, the festival has played a key role in transformation of the city's cultural landscape.