This past September, we went on a 16-day Asia trip that spanned 4 countries and 6 cities! We started and ended our trip in Singapore because it was the cheapest way to travel to Asia from Canada (Toronto specifically). This trip hit a lot of countries on our bucket list and was jammed packed with lots activities and itineraries, so I figured it would be easiest to make separate posts about this. The first installment of this series is our 5-day itinerary in Singapore, which is consolidated with the first 3 days and last 2 days of our trip.
Here is some general information of our time in Singapore:
Transportation from the Airport to our Hotels: For the first leg of our trip, we took the subway and got off at Tanah Merah station, which was about a 45-minute ride with 1 transfer. This was the cheapest and fastest option (given the amount of traffic) costing only $4 per person, one way. For the 2nd leg of our trip however, because we were arriving and leaving Singapore during hours where the subway was not operating, we actually purchased a shuttle service which was cheaper than Grab. For traveling both ways, it was about $36 CAD through WTS Tours for the both of us.
Transportation in and around Singapore: We tried to walk as much as we could, even if it was 45 minutes one way. During our first 3 days in Singapore, walking was our only mode of transportation (except for the subway ride from the airport). After connecting with some people in Singapore and seeing how easy it was to use Grab (their ride sharing service, the equivalent of Uber in Canada), I do recommend downloading it and using this as another means of transportation. It is very affordable and it’s the first time I actually used ridesharing before and really enjoyed it. However, to be able to access this service, you do need to have some sort of data, which brings me to the next point.
WIFI Access: Connection was only available in our hotel room and some public establishments. To get around this, what I have done in the past, and also implemented on this trip, was to load our itinerary on Google maps and download the map for offline navigation. This method works most of the time, however sometimes the GPS gets confused and doesn’t know where you and ends up restarting. You end up having to use the map the old way (aka without a GPS and finding your own directions like a traditional map). However, I do recommend just purchasing an international SIM card that you can use and be connected to at all times (if you need to). Personally, for me, I preferred to be connected the entire time since the offline google maps kept restarting and was unable to locate us. This was the first time travelling internationally where we had purchased an international SIM to be able to be connect to internet and I must say that now I am a converted. The international SIMs are very affordable and offer a lot of data (we would also turn it off if we were going to be in a given location for an extended amount of time to preserve data and batter power) and we were able to use the same SIM for the remainder of our entire trip in all of the other countries. We did end up using 3 different types of connection, but I recommend the last option so that you can be connected the entire time:
- International SIM (purchased at the airport) – Once we left Singapore and arrived to Phuket Airport, there were lots of boots that were selling international SIMs. We ended up purchasing one of these at a booth and they connected it for me – it was super easy to use however kind of confusing because I couldn’t understand how much data I had left so we used it sparingly during our visit in Phuket and Chiang Mai. Because we paid in cash, I unfortunately do not recall how much we spent, but it was definitely less than $10 CAD.
- Rented WIFI Device – I had actually rented a device when we were in Singapore for our visit in Bangkok since we were going to be here for 3 days without any excursions. We rented a pocket WIFI which we picked up at the airport via Klook. In total it cost $26 for the 3 days (which at the time we thought was a bargain) – they do have to hold a deposit which is refundable once you return the device, so make sure you have enough cash to avoid the change in exchange rates on your credit card. It was also not clear how much data we had but I think it was unlimited. I didn’t mind the hand held device since we had used one when we visited Tokyo, however I definitely would recommend an international SIM when possible.
- International SIM (purchased online and picked up at airport) – After doing more research while in Bangkok and realizing that the convenience of being connected to data became a growing need, which was already 6 days into our trip, I did more research on Klook. I found SIMs available for 15 countries in South East Asia, which meant that for the remainder of our trip (still 7 days), we could be connected in all of the countries (Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore) and not have to worry about finding WIFI. We found a great deal with the SIM only costing $8.90 for 4GB of data from Klook. This optioned ended up being the best because not only is it a one-time purchase (no need to return anything like we had for the rented WIFI device), but you can actually download an ap that came in English that tracked how much data you had. If you did go over the allotted data, you had to option of adding more data if necessary. I really liked the convenience and visibility of this option the best and felt in full control.
Hotels in Singapore:
For the first 2 nights of our stay in Singapore (Sept 27-29), we stayed at the Fragrance Hotel – Riverside (now known as Ibis Budget Singapore Clarke Quay). The hotel is considered a budget hotel and is essentially just a room with a bed and little area for coffee/hot water. If you’ve never been to this part of Asia, do not be alarmed if you notice that the bathroom itself is both a bathroom as well as a shower, meaning the shower is not separated out from the toilet – it is essentially a room with a toilet, shower head and sink. This was not our favourite part of the room; however, we are pretty low maintenance and since we don’t have children it was fine for the time being. The room itself was quite comfortable and more than enough room for us since we we’re only using this space to sleep and store our belongings. We decided to stay here because we were going to be attending a friend’s wedding at the Fullerton Hotel and liked that it was only a 10-minute walk from the hotel. It was also a great location because it was less than a 20-minute walk to Marina bay and all of the attractions.
For the last 3 nights of our stay in Singapore (October 10-13), we stay at the Amara Singapore. This hotel felt like a 5 star hotel compared to our first hotel – it has a grand lobby, is attached to a mall with great restaurants and is also only about a 20 minute walk back to Marina bay (which is where we spent the majority of our time, but you can read below for more info!)
Budget: We had budgeted $40 CAD cash per day, which was only meant to be used for food and transportation (like the subway). We assumed that for all other expenses we could just use our credit cards. I also used Budget your Trip to gauge how much expenses to expect per day. See below for the breakdown of our actual expenses (keep in mind this is for 2 people):
- Airfare to and from Singapore for 2 people: $1688
- Hotel: $838 ($263 for the Fragrance hotel and $579 for the Amara hotel)
- Cash: $200 cash + exchanging another $50 = $250 CAD
- Meals (on credit card and not in cash): $117
- Shopping and other expenses (on credit card): $301
- Transportation (credit card): $94 ($36 for the 2-way travel from Amara to the airport and $57 using Grab)
- Total cost of trip for 5 days: $3260
Excluding airfare, we actually spent $314 per day, or $157 a person, which is pretty close to the $160 per day approximation found on Budget your Trip, so I highly recommend this website as a great resource in budget planning.
See below for the full details. Don’t forget to also check out some highlights from our trip (video above).
Now set forth and be savvy!
This was the first official day of our trip. We left Toronto on September 26th, spent the night in San Francisco due to construction at the airport (and we didn’t want to miss our connecting flight), and flew out the next morning to Singapore. We arrived in Singapore at 6PM and took the metro to our hotel.
After checking into our hotel, we decided to take a stroll over to Marina Bay. It was about a 25-minute walk from our hotel to Marina Bay, which was a nice break from being on the plane for about 16 hours. At this point it was already past 8PM and we were exhausted but excited to finally arrive in Singapore.
Our first visit was to check out Merlion Park. There were lots of other tourists here so it was hard to get a good photo. The sky was pitch black, which was perfect to see all of the lights and sights of Singapore.
After a stroll through Merlion Park, we decided to go over to Makansutra Gluttons Bay Hawker Center. This was the first time we had every seen a hawker station, and in hindsight we do realize it was quite small, however the food selection was amazing. Because it’s so close to Marina Bay, I highly recommend coming here for cheap eats, especially if you are trying to maintain a budget while visiting Singapore. There was a huge selection of Singaporean food and we honestly didn’t know where to start – so we opted for some curry, laksa and noodles. Of course, you need to also try out some of the fresh juices which are sold for about $1 at the stalls as well. Makansutra Gluttons Bay wasn’t quite busy yet (I guess it was still considered early), however once we ordered and sat down, this is when the tables started getting full.
The food: We had visited a stall called Kebabchi and ordered paneer Karahi ($12 SGD) and garlic naan ($3 SGD), which cost a total of $15 SGD. We also visited another stall called Old Satay Club and ordered a Spicy Noodles dish ($7 SGD) as well as a vegetable Murtabak ($6 SGD), which is a Singaporean stuffed pancaked, which cost only $13 SGD total. We also ordered a sour plum juice and cane sugar juice, which cost $1 SGD each, for a total of $2 SGD. This is when we realized that we can really stretch our money while eating at Hawker centers and completely fell in love with this concept.
After dinner, it was about 9PM and we were ambitious and wanted to check out Raffles Place, however we didn’t get the chance to on this trip, but hopefully will in the future.
Since I had made some breakfast cookies to have on the plane, we had leftovers so we had these and some tea in our hotel room before leaving for the day of sightseeing.
Our first stop was the Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple. When we arrived, it was actually closed for renovations so I was only able to get a few photos of the outside. It is beautiful temple, and to get a good photo of the outside, you actually have to take it from across the street. This is a temple you should add to your itinerary.
The next stop was to visit Chinatown, specifically the Buddha Tooth Relic temple. This template is quite large and there are lots of things to look at inside. If you’re luck you can also get a glimpse of the monks in prayer. At the front, they do offer wraps to cover yourself if you are wearing shorts and a tank top, but I knew we were going to visit lots of temples on this trip so I packed myself a kimono to wear.
Since this temple is right in Chinatown, we walked around a little bit to check out the souvenir shops and to grab a cold drink at one of the local stands. Since it was still quite early in the morning (around 10AM), a lot of the stalls were still closed so be sure to come back later once everything has opened up.
The next stop was Tanjong Pagor, which is filled with lots of little coffee shops and pretty buildings. There are also park benches where you can sit and relax and enjoy the views. We had stopped by a local coffee shop and sat in the shade in the park to relax and enjoy the scenery.
Luckily for us, Maxwell Hawker Center was close by, and since it was only 11am we decided to have an early lunch. I am glad that we came early because there wasn’t too many people and it was easy to grab a seat. This place is huge with lots of stalls to satisfy any craving. We had ordered laksa as well a “carrot cake” dish which is really just fried daikon, which is my favourite. If you want to try some Hainanese chicken rice, you’d want to check out Tian Tian, which was made famous by the late Anthony Bourdain. We didn’t get a chance to check it out since the line up was already very long and we had a full day of sight seeing ahead of us – however we look forward to our next trip to Singapore to try out a lot of the food we missed out on.
Our next stop was to visit the skylight views of the Pinnacle @ Duxton. There are lots of condo buildings that make up this complex, and since we were visiting during off peak season, it was hard to find the admissions office. You do have to buy a ticket, where they provide you with a fob to enter the elevators to visit the views. Once you arrive at the top level, it’s actually very quiet. All of the condo buildings are connected from the top floor so that you can easily walk around – however your fob only gives you entry and exit access from one of the buildings so you do have to make your way back. You get a view of the entire city, and it looks like there is even a tram available that drives around the entire building, providing you with views without having to walk all of the condos. There is also a garden in one of the sections and it was strange to see so many birds this high up. After descending back down to ground level, there are also free areas around the buildings where you can walk around and visit as well.
By the time our visit as over, it was around 2:30PM and the heat was excruciating. We decided to walk back to Chinatown to see if there was any place where we could cool down and luckily we found Mei Heong Yuen Dessert. Luckily for us, there was no line up and we were able to get a seat at the back of the restaurant where there was a nice breeze. We ordered a mango lychee shaved ice to share and it was just what we needed. I wish I could go back and order more desserts, but that will be for another trip!
After our little break, we headed back to our hotel to freshen up since we had our friend’s wedding to attend at The Fullerton Hotel.
Access the walking tour map here.
Today was a half day in Singapore since we had an 8PM flight to Phuket, Thailand. Since our checkout was at 12PM, we were able to leave our luggage at the front desk until we had to leave for our flight. We started our morning off at around 10AM and we headed over to Marina Bay Sands. We decided to walk towards Elgin Bridge for the sights as well as stopping by a 7-Eleven to pick up some onigiri as a morning breakfast.
We spent the morning walking around Marina Bay sands where there were lots of people taking breaks and eating lunch. The heat was getting pretty unbearable so we decided to take a lunch break at the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. This mall is pure luxury and this is where I finally understood “Crazy Rich Asians” because all of the stores were high end. Luckily for us, however, the food court offered lots of variety at affordable prices. We ordered a Chicken Katsu ($7.80 SGD) and a Scallop and Chicken Katsu ($9 SGD) from Rasapura Master. In total, lunch was pretty affordable at $16.80 SGD.
After lunch, we walked around the mall for a bit before heading back to our hotel to grab our luggage. From our hotel, we took the subway to the airport, which was about an hour ride, and then waited for our international flight to Phuket.
This was our last leg of our Singapore trip since coming back from Indonesia. Since we had relaxed quite a bit in Bali, we were fully refreshed and I had a full day planned ahead of us.
Our first stop was walking over to Little India to check out Tekka Market. Since it was still quite early, we decided to head over to Ananda Bhavan, known for their vegetarian breakfasts/brunch. When we got to the restaurant, there was quite a few people already and no available seats, so we shared a table with a father and son duo, who were both very nice and made small conversation with us. There was also a lot of people who came in for take out or to check out the bakery at the front of the shop. We ordered a Mint Masala dosa ($4.50 SGD) as well as the Indian Thali with naan ($9.50 SGD) which cost a total of $14 SGD which was a great deal. The dosa was large and delicious. Thali’s are also my favourite because there is so much variety and you get to sample so many different curries.
After brunch, we walked back to Tekka market and roamed around, taking a look at all of the different shops that sold anything from clothing to snacks and even electronics. Luckily, it was the end of our trip and we were all shopped out otherwise I’m sure I would have wanted to bring back so many snacks and spices from Tekka market.
After exploring Tekka market, we walked over to Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple which was about a 5-minute walk. This temple is very majestic and you can stand there just staring for 30 minutes, looking at all of the details on the temple.
After taking a few photos, we decided to walk over to Sultan Mosque on Arab Street, which was only about a 15-minute walk. We spent the afternoon here since Arab street and Haji lane in itself were also tourist attractions. Since we had spent a lot of the time outdoors walking around, we made our way over to Fika Swedish Café where we went to cool down and rest. We ordered their Dirty Chai to share, which was topped with whipped cream and was a great little afternoon treat.
We made our way over to Bugis Junction, which was an 8-minute walk from Arab street. This mall was huge and we spent the remainder of our afternoon here walking around and exploring. I was looking for some Asian snacks to bring back for friends and family, and Sean was on the look out for video games so we had fun walking around and hunting for these goods. You can really spend all day here just walking around, having bubble tea and just enjoying the AC.
After this, we took a grab and visited Lau Pa Sat hawker center (featured in the Crazy Rich Asian book, not the movie) for dinner. This place is worth a visit when visiting Singapore. In general, visiting hawker centers are a very budget friendly way of enjoying your visit in Singapore where you really stretch your dollar and try out all of the cuisine the country has to offer. At Lau Pa Sat specifically, there were actually more people outside than inside, with lots of vendors grilling meats and seafood with patrons sitting on picnic benches. We opted to go inside since were trying to eat as plant based as possible on this trip, and ordered some laksa and noodles with a side of beer. The inside was quiet with half of the stalls closed, however there was still lots of selection to choose from.
After dinner, we decided to walk back to our hotel, and swung by Chinatown to see all of the night shops as well.
Access the walking tour map here.
This was our last day in Singapore and it was a full day. Our flight was leaving the next morning at 8 AM, so we decided to make the most out of our last day. We had originally planned to visit Sentosa Island Beach and Tanjong Beach, but we were so tired from the day before that we took it easy today. We spent the majority of the afternoon walking around the free gardens of Gardens by the Bay. We originally were going to go into the paid section after visiting the free section, however there was so much to look at that we ended up just spending the entire time exploring the free section. There is also a little water park area, which is great for kids to cool down. Everything about this place is instagramable so be sure to take lots of photos. I regret not taking more, but the heat was getting quite unbearable that it was easier to just walk around and relax.
After vising the Gardens, we went back to our hotel to shower and freshen up since we were so sweaty from the day. We also decided to have an early dinner at 100 AM, which is the mall attached to our hotel. We had ramen at Bachmann, which was rated a 3 Michelin star, which is what caught our eye initially. We ordered an Oriental ramen ($16 SGD) and a Shoyu ramen ($16 SGD) for a total of about $38 SGD after tips and taxes. The ramen was pretty good but for the price we would have preferred to check out another hawker center.
After dinner, we walked over to the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands to check out the light show. The light show is offered every night from 8PM – 9:30 PM with the best views from the Event Plaza in front of the Shoppe. Be sure to get there early so you can get a seat right up front. We got there around 7:30 and it was already packed full of people, but luckily, we found some seats by the steps. It was a great way to end our trip!