When you’re a frequent traveler, layovers are often a boring but necessary part of getting from point A to B. If you’re crossing hemispheres, the stops tend to be at the same airports and you prepare yourself to wait for hours armed with a good book and endless cups of coffee.
But when it comes to cities that are worth more than just a glimpse at an impressive airport, Singapore is a place that is just crying out to transform your layover into a stopover. So swap your cabin bag for your big case and find out why.
Singapore, which is often called “The Lion City,” has much to offer the inquisitive traveler. Here are 9 reasons why Singapore should be your next destination.
1) The climate
Even in the rainy season, life continues on pretty much as usual for Singaporeans, mainly because the temperature doesn’t tend to change all that much. It’s this fabulous climate that allows the stunning rainforests to grow and that will attract you, too.
Outside of the rainy season, you’re almost guaranteed to have sunshine, with temperatures reaching up to around the mid-30s C. Head to the beach or sit outside at a rooftop bar admiring the skyline. You’ll almost never need a sweater or jacket except in the super air-conditioned malls, trains and cinemas.
2) The people
Singaporeans, in general, are a friendly crowd that is well used to the international community of resident expats and tourists. Traveling, even with children or grandchildren in tow, is never a problem because people are always willing to chat and offer advice on where to go, what to see and what to eat.
3) The food
A real highlight of Singapore is the amazing food. With influences from across Asia, you’ll find something new to try every day of your holiday. Try the famous Singapore chili crab or a comforting bowl of laksa (a spicy noodle soup) to add a little heat.
You’ll find restaurants ranging from the hugely expensive to those where meals cost just a few Singaporean dollars. If there’s one place you must eat at it’s the famous hawker centres. This is simply a collection of outdoor, covered food stalls. Dishes are varied and plentiful, and there’s most often somewhere selling cold drinks and the famous kopi (a local coffee).
Queue up with your tray, pay anywhere between S$4 and S$8, and grab a seat at a table. You may end up sharing with locals, who often opt for a hawker centre meal for their lunchtime fare. Cheaper and more filling than a sandwich, hawker centres are often very crowded at lunch and dinner time.
There are relatively few rules surrounding etiquette at hawker centres aside from general common sense, But one rule you must follow is to avoid sitting at a table or on a chair where someone has laid down a packet of tissues. This is known as choping and is the act of reserving a seat. All Singaporeans understand the meaning and respect the practice, so you should do the same.
4) The natural environment
From a fantastic coastline to soak up the sun and splash in the South China Sea to acres of amazing rainforest, if you’re a fan of wildlife then Singapore is for you.
Head down to MacRitche Reservoir for breakfast and be prepared to have your pastry stolen by a mischievous monkey. Staff are generally on hand with a squirt of water to deter the determined residents but you’ll still need to keep your wits about you.
This reservoir has several walking options and routes, including a treetop walk that takes you through the trees, offering magnificent views. The climate is hot and humid, so make sure you have plenty of water and food with you (and a basic first aid kit if you’re going on a longer hike).
5) The supertrees
There are plenty of other attractions but these deserve a mention all of their own. The imposing man-made structures dominate the skyline and at night and when they’re all lit up, they are particularly impressive.
Not just for show, the trees filter water that feeds nearby flower displays and carry solar energy panels.
If you’re looking for a view to remember, head up the tower for a walkway stroll between some of the structures and take in the fantastic view of the Gardens by the Bay.
6) The Fun Island
Just a short stroll over a bridge from the mainland will bring you to Sentosa, a small island committed to fun and entertainment. Here you’ll find all the main tourist attractions of Singapore, including the Aquarium, Universal Studios and a fabulous water park with all the usual slides and pools plus a saltwater pool where you can try out scuba diving with thousands of fish.
If you’re just looking for a relaxing afternoon, head to one of the beaches where you’ll also find plenty of options for food and drinks. Nearby you’ll also find the Port of Lost Wonder, a free park for children featuring a swimming pool and giant pirate boat complete with slides and staff on hand to supervise the play.
While it’s perfectly possible to walk across to Sentosa, you can also jump on the monorail that will stop at various points on the island or take a cable car to your destination.
7) The transport
While there are the usual taxis and Ubers, public transport in Singapore is superb. The pride of the island is the MRT system a train network that runs across the city-state. Trains are spotlessly clean, no eating and drinking are allowed, they’re cool and run every few minutes.
Avoid peak commuter times as they can get crowded but throughout most of the day they make a quick and cost-efficient way of getting you from A to B.
Buses, too, are extremely well-routed and most buses are beginning to have screen and Tannoy (loudspeaker) announcements fitted so you’ll know exactly which stop you’re at. Talk to staff at the MRT stations about which ticket is suitable for you during your stay in Singapore.
8) The shopping
If shopping is your thing, then Orchard Road is where you need to head. This mecca to consumerism is characterized by towering malls down this one long street, mostly all connected underground by various walkways and MRT stations.
A great way to spend a wet afternoon, the malls often have onsite entertainment, giant cinemas and their own food courts that though not as cheap as hawker centres, they are very reasonably priced.
Down this road, you’ll also find the home of the country’s prime minister and at certain times of the year, his stately home is opened to the public for tours and entertainment.
9) The Take-Away on Singapore
You may have stopped over in Singapore countless times during your trips in and out of Asia or whil heading to Australia and Europe but this city is a place that is entirely unique.
From the Merlions that pour out water at the city’s bays to the fabulous SuperTrees and ArtScience Museum, there really is something that will capture the imagination of every member of the family and keep even the solo traveler busy for days.
Take a culinary tour around some of the best eateries in the world, from the very cheapest street food to the expensive buffets, favored by the city’s best hotels. You won’t be disappointed and will be keen to take home some of your favorite recipes.
My suggestion: Take Singapore off the layover list and put it where it should be, up there on your bucket list of cities you just have to visit.