Have a bit of extra time in Asia and looking to fill your time with 3 days in Singapore! Good choice! This Singapore itinerary will help you plan out your visit and then some. Keeeeep on reading, my friends.
I visited Singapore in March of 2018 (after a whirlwind of a few days in Hong Kong), and found the city/country (ack which one is it,both?!) to be a great combo of old and new, nitty gritty and shiny. While I did spend some time meticulously planning my trip (that’s what I do, have you seeeen my super-detailed itineraries?!), I found my original plans didn’t work out as well as I had hoped. Whomp whomp. It happens. We’ll just say I was too focused on the bright lights of super grove trees and the chicken — oooo the chicken.
So thankfully, we have local Singaporean Mel from Girl Eat World to show us exactlyyyy how to spend the perfect 3 days in Singapore (with lots of good eats included). And trust me, she’s way more qualified to give out advice, living there and all. All I knew before visiting was that chewing gum was a huge no-no (really though, leave the gum at home – it’s illegal in Singapore), and there’s lot of dramatic futuristic trees over there. Of course you’ve probably seen photos from the infinity pool overlooking the city at Marina Bay Sands, like myself. Yup, I really didn’t know much.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of the Singapore itinerary she planned out for us, let’s learn a bit about the country, how to get around, and advice and tips from our new Singaporean expert, Mel!
Take it away, Mel!
Singapore gained its independence in 1965, making it a relatively young country at just 53 years old. Since then, Singapore has grown rapidly and has established itself as a global financial center. Singapore is now known for its cleanliness, efficiency, and low tax income, making it a very attractive city for businesses and individuals alike – yours truly included 🙂
I’ve been living in Singapore after making the move here for my career ten years ago. I became a permanent resident and gained my Singapore citizenship last year. I can’t wait to show you guys my home town! (Editors Note– and I thought my move from NYC to SF was a big deal)!
Singapore is a very small country, often referred to as a city-country, so small that you can cover one end to another in under two hours via car! You can easily fit the major things to see and do in Singapore in three days if you know what you’re doing. Lucky for you I’m here with just the perfect 3-day guide for you first time visitor to Singapore, you.
Pre-Travel Guide to Your 3 Days in Singapore
Weather in Singapore
Singapore lies just one degree north of the equator, which means – you guessed it – It’s going to be hot and humid all year long. On average, you can expect the temperature to range from 27-33C or 80-91F. Humidity level is very high here at 60-90%, so you will definitely feel the sweat dripping in when you walk into Singapore. Yup, it’s instant.
We don’t get four seasons in Singapore, but we do have something called monsoon season, where it is more likely to rain more than other times. The wet phase of the monsoon season runs from November to January where thunderstorms can be expected every day. But if you are planning to visit at that time, don’t worry! The rain typically doesn’t last more than 2 hours and it’s actually way more pleasant after the rain since it cools the area off a bit.
Language and Currency
Singapore is a multicultural country, boasting four major languages: English, Malay, Tamil, and Mandarin (And cool trivia: during National Day rally, our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addresses the nation in three of these languages: Malay and Chinese, followed by English). The national language of Singapore is officially Malay, but you can get by just fine with English.
However, you might find that the English used colloquially in Singapore is slightly different than the English you find in other parts of the world, both in vocabulary and intonation. That’s because locals use a local variation called Singlish, which results from mixing of all the four major languages!
Singapore uses Singapore Dollar (SGD) which is currently trading at 0.73 USD to 1 SGD. so basically 10SGD is approximately $7.50USD (makes it easier for conversion purposes when eating and shopping).
Data SIM Card
As soon as you land in Changi Airport, I recommend purchasing a prepaid data SIM card. The price varies depending on the data included, but you shouldn’t be spending more than S$15. Alternatively, you may also purchase SIM cards at any 7/11 stores across Singapore. Just know that you’ll need to show your passport to purchase a SIM card.
Transportation in Singapore
1. Get a Transportation card
EZ-link card is the transportation card in Singapore and is a must if you plan to get around using public transportation. There is an unlimited ride option for tourists called Singapore Tourist Pass for 1-3 days which you can get at any train stations. You can click here for more information.
But if you prefer to buy the card a la carte, simply purchase the EZ-link card for $5 and load it up with credits at any train stations. You can use the card to board any bus or trains across Singapore. Some fast food outlets even let you pay using EZ-link balance!
Each ride in Singapore costs around $0.80 – 2.00 depending on the journey distance. Don’t worry about loading up too much credit – you can always get a refund before you leave Singapore at any train stations too! The country’s just awesome like that. 🙂
2. Getting into town from the airport
You can catch a taxi straight from the airport, which should cost about $25 and takes around 20 minutes if you are staying near the city center. You can also catch the train to town if you’re up for it! I would do this sometimes if I don’t have too much luggage with me. The Changi Station is connected to the airport and is about 50 minutes ride into the city for $2.00. If you want to make it super easy you can prearrange an airport shuttle (with lots of baggage allowance) for about $8 here.
3. Taking Public Transport in Singapore
In a country as clean and efficient as Singapore, you must consider taking the public transportation. It’s actually one of the things I miss the most when I’m abroad. In terms of charting your routes for public transportation, Google Maps works very well for that. You’ll want to have the Singapore offline map downloaded while you’re here to save some data.
The trains in Singapore is called Singapore Mass Rapid Transit, or MRT to locals, and is extremely clean and super efficient! You can expect the train to come within 2-5 minutes. Taking the bus is also a good option, though the waiting time for a bus varies between 8-15 minutes. If you are taking the bus, I highly recommend talking to Bus Uncle, a super fun facebook messenger chatbot which will tell you when the next bus is coming.
If you want a super-easy tourist experience, book yourself one of those hop-on, hop-off buses for extra ease and convenience. This is especially helpful if you’ve only got a day or two in the city on a layover in Singapore. No shame! The bus tour will take you to plenty of the typical tourist spots, and you’ll even get commentary to learn about the city at the same time.
4. Taking a Taxi / Shared Car in Singapore
While I highly recommend taking public transport, Taxis in Singapore are relatively cheap and sometimes the more sensible choice to travel in order to save time.
You can download Grab, which works similar to Uber (in fact they are the company that has bought out the Uber operation in South East Asia). However, since Grab has a monopoly in Singapore right now, they have been a bit annoying with the surge pricing. I recommend also downloading the app called Comfortdelgro, which is Singapore’s largest taxi provider, in case the surge pricing on Grab gets ridiculous.
What to pack for your Singapore Trip
Singapore is a large metropolitan city, so you don’t need to worry too much about forgetting something back home. Chances are you can buy them here! I would recommend having the following items ready when you’re out and about:
- Sunscreen – As Singapore is located so close to the equator, you’ll get a lot of strong sunny days. You will want to protect your skin if you are out and about. And men – don’t forget about your head!
- Other Sun Protections – a hat and sunglasses will go a long way here
- Water bottle – As I said before, you’ll definitely sweat a lot in Singapore so you’ll want to hydrate every chance you get. The tap water in Singapore is potable, so drink on up!
- Foldable Umbrella – Even if you’re not visiting during monsoon season, it still might rain in Singapore so you’ll want to be prepared!
- Light clothing such as thin cotton t-shirts, shorts, sundresses, the works. Don’t wear anything too heavy because again, it’s very hot here.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes – Singapore is a highly walkable city if you can stand the heat. And chances are you’ll want to walk when you’re here!
Where to stay in Singapore
- Clover Hotel – This is a boutique chain hotel in Singapore, usually taking over a heritage shophouse as their location. There are five branches of Clover Hotel and they are all located very conveniently around the city. Find locations here: North Bridge Road, Hong Kong Street, Jalan Sultan, The Arts, and finally Clover #7
- The Warehouse Hotel – A boutique hotel located in a restored warehouse. It’s located right by the Singapore river and very close to the city center.
- The Scarlet Hotel – a luxury boutique hotel located conveniently in a shophouse on Club street, one of Singapore’s most lively street filled with cocktail bars and chic restaurants.
And now what we’ve allllll been waiting for – the perfect way to spend your 3 days in Singapore!
3-Day Singapore Itinerary
Below I’ve broken down the days according to theme and proximity of areas to see so that you won’t have to waste your time going back and forth. You don’t need to do each day in chronological order. For example, you can choose to do Itinerary 2 first before going Itinerary 1 and 3. It’s all about that Singaporean efficiency, am I right?
Day 1: Introduction to Modern-Day Singapore
This first day is designed to introduce you to what we know as Singapore in current time. Impressive architecture, manicured garden, high rises, and museums are in store for today!
Breakfast: Kaya Toast and Soft-boiled eggs
Start your day with breakfast loved by everyone in Singapore: a set Kaya Toast with butter and two soft boiled eggs, to be enjoyed with local coffee (or Kopi, as locals say it). You can get this at many different places, but I recommend Ya Kun Kaya Toast at China street – it’s their first outlet since 1944, and it’s in the city.
Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay is no doubt a must-visit for every tourist. It’s a large nature park spanning across 101 hectares. There are plenty of gardens to visit, but my favorite attraction here is the Cloud Forest, which houses a diverse collection of rare plants. Gardens by the Bay is a great area to visit during the day, but you also must come back during the night to see the Supertrees light up!
Get your Gardens by the Bay and Skywalk tickets in advance here to bypass the long lines you’ll most likely encounter.
Lunch Time: Song Fa Bak Kut Teh
One of Singapore’s most well-loved dish – Bak Kut Teh aka BKT aka Pork Bone soup in Teochew style of using garlic and pepper to flavor the soup. Song Fa might not be considered the best in town, but they are located very conveniently in the city so if you are just looking to try something new, then this will do. Get a bowl of Bak Kut Teh with rice and some you tiao (fried dough), boiled nuts and pickled vegetables as your side dish. PS: The broth is refillable! usually there will be a server coming around with a pot of their broth ready to fill up your bowl, but they don’t come around – don’t be shy to ask for more!
Singapore River Cruise
You will notice that the waterfront area feeds into a river called the Singapore river. This river takes you to the different “quays” (pronounced “keys”): Clarke Quay, Boat Quay, and Robertson Quay. You can discover these areas by going on the River Cruise (book your ticket here), which will take you to the major landmarks along the river with commentaries.
If you don’t feel like taking the cruise, you can take the cheaper option called Singapore River Taxi – it will still take you to the major points in the river without the commentaries, but it only costs S$5 per person, payable with your EZ-link transportation card.
Visit the Museums
Whether you like museums or just need an air-conditioned break from the heat, the central district of Singapore has plenty of them. Here are my favorites:
- ArtScience Museum – My favorite museum in Singapore. The exhibitions always change so you’ll need to check their website to see what’s on, but there is a permanent interactive exhibition created by teamLab from Japan. See what’s on at ArtScience and purchase your ticket here.
- National Gallery Museum – This is Singapore’s newest addition to the collection of museums, and it features arts from across South East Asia. On the rooftop of the museum is a chill bar called Smoke and Mirror, which also offers a fantastic view of Singapore.
- National Museum of Singapore – This is Singapore’s oldest museum and is the place to go if you want to learn a bit of Singapore’s history.
See the city from above
Many tourists flock to Marina Bay Sands to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the city. But as a local, my favorite view is actually from a microbrewery called Level 33. Why? Because from this brewery, you can see every iconic landmark – The Merlion, Fullerton Hotel, Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay. It makes for a really good photo! I don’t recommend getting their beer though – it wasn’t the best.
Editor’s Note: However, if you’re looking for the typical tourist experience (like many are), Marina Bay Sands provides a great view of the city; I went up there! Buy your Marina Bay Sands SkyPark ticket in advance here to bypass the long lines.
Dinner Time at a Hawker Center: Lau Pa Sat or Makansutra Gluttons Bay
Please bring cash if you decide to visit these places! To locals, these two might not the most authentic hawker center. But again, for the purpose of convenience, they are perfect since they are located right in the city so you don’t have to stress with the logistics. And honestly, the food at these places are still really good! It might be slightly more expensive than normal hawker center, but the difference is only by $1-2 per dish. I recommend trying the basic Singaporean hawker fare – Carrot cake (not the cake dessert), Hokkien Mee, and Char Kway Teow.
At night: Walk around the Waterfront Promenade area
Can you believe that twenty years ago, this area did not exist? Most of what you will see in the Promenade is built on reclaimed land. This is why the main road near the Fullerton Hotel is called “Beach road” because literally, it used to be where the beach was. The waterfront area is a 4km walk if you decide to circle around the entire perimeter, but the one thing you have to do here is to check out Singapore’s mystical creature icon called the Merlion.
If you are here at night, you can also enjoy Spectra, the light show at Marina Bay Sands. The best place to see this light show is at One Fullerton, near where the Merlion is. Click here to see the schedule.
Day 2: Explore Singapore Heritage Area
Day 2 on your 3 days in Singapore is a history-filled one – it takes you to the cultural parts of Singapore, where you will catch a glimpse of how Singapore looked like before it transformed into the metropolitan city it is today. Get your walking shoes on and bring an umbrella, cause you’ll be spending a lot of time walking outdoors today!
Breakfast and Morning stroll at Hipster Tiong Bahru
Tiong Bahru is one of the oldest estates in Singapore. Here, you will witness how the heritage side of Singapore mingles together with its modern residents. In Tiong Bahru, you can still find some of the oldest government-subsidized apartment, which only goes up to 3-4 stories in this estate (stark comparison to the newer high rise apartments that goes up to 40 stories!). Despite being an old estate, Tiong Bahru received a major revival in the 2010s. In 2014, Tiong Bahru earned its credibility by being named as one of the world’s coolest neighborhood by Vogue.
Take the time to walk around the Tiong Bahru neighborhood, which spans from Eng Hoon street to Yong Siak Street. You’ll find chic cafes, bookshops and local brands intermingled with traditional shops and older buildings.
For breakfast, you can either get your fill of modern brunch at one of the cafes (I recommend Forty Hands or Tiong Bahru Bakery for their to-die-for Kouign Amman) or head over to Tiong Bahru Market for local breakfast. Please have cash ready if you are going to the market!
Chinatown is part of the heritage area in Singapore and is a preserved area. Although the Singapore Central Business District (often abbreviated to CBD) and the high rise offices are just a few blocks away, you’ll only find 2-3 stories heritage shophouses in this area.
I recommend to start by exploring Telok Ayer, there is an MRT that will take you straight here with the aptly named Telok Ayer MRT station. Telok Ayer means “Water Bay” in Malay, and that’s because quite literally, this area was the beach before Singapore started reclaiming land and expanding the island. On Telok Ayer street, you can Thian Hock Keng temple, the oldest Hokkien temple in the country. While exploring the temple I recommend stopping by Peranakan Tile shop inside the temple to see the various tile designs.
From Telok Ayer, make your way past Ann Siang hill and to Chinatown complex, marked by the colorful Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple and Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. This area used to be the settlement area for Chinese immigrants, nowadays it’s a bustling area filled with shops, restaurants and night market. You can stop by Chinatown Heritage Center to learn more about this area.
Lunch: Maxwell Food Center
Maxwell food center is conveniently located right across the street to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. Maxwell food center is famous for housing some of the best hawker food in Singapore. Try to find Tian Tian Chicken Rice stall, usually marked by a long queue of patrons. A plate of hainanese chicken rice (applauded by the late Anthony Bourdain for its fragrant rice) will cost you less than $5. However they might run out of stock if you come here after 2pm, as Tian Tian Chicken Rice is very popular among tourist and locals alike.
Kreta Ayer Road and Keong Saik Road
After lunch, continue your way to Kreta Ayer road and Keong Saik Road, where you will find more colorful shophouses.
If you happened to take the train to Chinatown, you will see that the Chinese characters for the station is 牛车水. Those characters put together does not translate to “Chinatown”, but they do tell a history of this area. 牛 is the character for “cow”, 车 is “car” and 水 is “water”. This is because back in the days, this area also used to carry fresh water supplies using carts pulled by oxen. Similarly, Kreta Ayer simply means “Cart water” in Malay.
You can then continue on to Keong Saik Road, an area that was once a prominent red light district, but has now turned into a hip area filled with bars and boutique hotels, housed in the colorful shophouses. Nearby Keong Saik road, you can board the train from Outram Park MRT to your next destination.
Where chinatown was where the Chinese immigrants settled, Kampong Glam was home to Malay royalty back in the 1800s.
From Bugis MRT, make your way to Haji Lane, a short narrow alley where you will find colorful murals, coffee shops and fashion boutiques from local brands. Right next to it is Arab Street where you will find middle eastern food and Sultan Mosque, a prominent and important mosque for the muslim community in Singapore.
If you happen to be here during Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims, you must stop by this area after sunset. The area would be filled with food markets.
From Kampong Glam area, it’s just a short walk to Little India, however you can also take the train here. Little India area of Singapore spans from Little India MRT to Farrer Park MRT. Right off the Little India MRT is the former Tan Teng Niah house. It is the last surviving Chinese villa in Little India and famous for its extremely vibrant facade, even more so than the already colorful shophouses in the area.
From there, make your way down Serangoon road – there are tons to explore here. You will be in for a treat if you visit during Deepavali, as the area is the most vibrant at that time. Deepavali is Festival of Lights, a celebration of triumph of good over evil. The street in Little India would be filled with light decoration and night markets.
Towards the end of the road closer to Farrer Park MRT, you can also visit Mustafa Center for the craziest shopping experience. I’ve been living in Singapore for almost 10 years, but I still think of Mustafa as a magical place where you can find everything and anything… if you’re willing to sort through the madness.
Dinner: Indian Food
Since you’re already in Little India, it would be a crime to skip out on Indian food. I love Indian food and I’m forever thankful that good, authentic indian food is so easy to find here. You’ll be spoiled for choice here, but I recommend these restaurants:
- Kailash Parbat – This is an Indian vegetarian restaurant famous for the Chaat, aka Indian street food. I recommend getting Chaat (of course) and Pani Puri here.
- Khansama Tandoori – Punjabi cuisine famous for the grilled meat dishes. Try their Tandoori Chicken!
- MTR 1924 – South Indian vegetarian restaurant famous for their Masala Dosa.
Day 3: East to West of Singapore
This itinerary is a much more light and chilled out one than the other two days in Singapore, however it does feature places that are a bit out of the city so you will spend more time on the road. I would recommend doing day 1 and 2 first before going on to this one, so you’ll have more context of Singapore first.
Joo Chiat / Katong
Now considered the food heaven of the country, Joo Chiat area was the center of Peranakan culture. Peranakan is the result of mixed marriage between foreign traders and locals – usually Chinese or Indian traders with local Malay and Indonesians.
You can walk along Tembeling Road and Koon Seng Road – you’ve seen the Singapore shophouses from the previous itinerary, but the ones in Joo Chiat and Katong area are considered the most beautiful in Singapore. The shophouses here tend to be more well maintained and beautifully painted in pastel colors. The shophouses here also still maintain the original Peranakan tiles, which has become increasingly rare.
While you are in the area, also stop by the colorful Rumah Bebe to discover more of the Peranakan culture.
Lunch: Katong Laksa
Laksa is a considered Peranakan cuisine – it’s a rice noodle soup dish made from spicy coconut milk broth base and variety of seafood. In Katong Laksa, the noodles are cut up so you don’t need to bother picking up slippery rice noodles – just use a spoon! If you’d like to try a bowl, you can head to 328 Katong Laksa, the restaurant that beat Gordon Ramsay in a cooking competition.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Since the other itineraries are all about cities and human civilization, I thought it would be good to include something closer to nature and greenery! Singapore Botanic Gardens is a UNESCO World Heritage site, a tropical garden that has existed way before Singapore gained independence. The garden was found in 1859, making it 106 years older than Singapore. The main thing to do here is the National Orchid Garden, which houses over a thousand species of Orchids, including Singapore’s national flower – a hybrid Orchid called Vanda ‘Miss Joaquim’, or simply Singapore Orchids. If you’re a planner like myself, pre-purchase your ticket here (it’s only $4).
And we are back to civilization again – The Botanic Garden might seem like its own world, but it’s actually located really close to Singapore’s biggest shopping street, Orchard Road. If shopping is your thing, you won’t run out of places to visit here. But I just want to quickly highlight a small place you can visit if you haven’t had enough of the cultural experiences in Singapore, called Emerald Hill. This area, despite being literally just off Orchard road, houses some well-preserved shophouses. I’ve always thought it was an interesting contrast to see the Shophouses against the background of large shopping malls in Orchard Road. The area also used to be a large nutmeg plantation which is how the name Orchard Road came to be.
Dinner: Try anything you want!
This is your last day in Singapore, and by now you should have an idea of what you want to try and what you haven’t, so I’ll let you decide what you’d like to do for dinner. To make things simpler for you, I have a few recommendations of places I’ve grown to love as a local, which consists of variety of cuisine (not just Singaporean cuisine)
And that’s all from me for Singapore! I hope you enjoy my home town and I hope you have a great time here! 🙂
Are you visiting the area soon?! Will you be following this local’s Singapore itinerary?!