As a frequent traveler who loves to spend months at a time living in new cities around the world, soaking in the culture and learning to live as a local – sunny Singapore has been one of the few countries that never ceases to surprise me, no matter how often I visit.
From the incredible selection of (cheap) food found at the neighborhood “hawker centers,” to the beautiful diversity of multiple ethnicities living harmoniously on this tiny little island, to being able to easily fly to other interesting Southeast Asian cities with ease, Singapore is a city that many have dubbed as a perfect blend of “East meets West.”
Many have argued that Singapore is so tiny that it is not worth a visit, but I would beg to differ. It’s absolutely packed with activities to do and sights to explore when visiting.
“What should I pack?”
I’m glad you asked. The definitive packing list is a great place to start, and here are some considerations specific to Singapore:
Things You Should Always Pack
Sun Gear + Swimwear
I’ve always described Singapore as having Summer all year long, so always pack your best sunnies, sunblock and swimwear. They will come in handy when you hit the beaches at Sentosa or when you plan to spend the day at the Botanic Gardens – which was recently honored as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
You’ll also need your SPF30 Sunblock when you hit the pools at any of the funky boutique hotels here in Singapore, since it is always hot and humid and you may find yourself showering 3 – 4 times a day due to intense sweating. So, jumping in a pool and getting a nice tan while you’re at it is the best way to go to beat the infamous heat of the city.
Although unlikely that you’ll get a serious disease from a mosquito bite in Singapore, it is always wise to bring a small bottle of mosquito repellent. This is especially true if you plan to visit and explore the Night Safari or the Singapore Zoo. It will help you to focus on the beautiful sights instead of scratching and being irritated by the “local inhabitants” of these parks!
Because of the sweltering heat, it is extremely important to stay hydrated all of the time. Definitely pack one, or two, water bottles to last throughout the day. If you are lucky, you will come across water coolers in some of the public buildings, or train stations, to fill up your bottles again, for free, once they are empty.
You don’t want to be caught with unglamorous wet pits in any of your Instagram pictures so don’t forget to bring your antiperspirant on this trip. You can thank me later. Although toiletries are sold at most malls, packing one just saves you all of the hassle and the price of these in Singapore is astronomical in comparison to what you’re likely to find at home. Focus your time in Singapore exploring sights instead of hunting down toiletries!
Singapore uses the type G power sockets so you will need a converter if you are traveling from the United States, or any other country that doesn’t use the G power sockets.
When visiting Tiong Bahru, where a number of quirky specialty shops and cafes that serve wonderful coffee and fantastic brunch menus line its streets, don’t forget to bring an empty shopping sack so you can bag some quirky and meaningful memorabilia. A foldable daypack will do the trick and also be useful every day for carrying water bottles and moving about on the trains and around town. You want something light and versatile for exploring the city.
There are plenty of activities to do when in Singapore, whether you plan on having a picnic at the Marina Barrage, or joining the locals in a game of touch rugby at a neighborhood park, or people watching at Robertson Quay, it’s always wise to dress in comfortable and light clothes.
Cotton T-Shirts work best in Singapore, and although flip flops are tempting, a pair of comfortable sneakers might serve a better purpose as you will do quite a bit of walking.
For the ladies, skirts and dresses work best as they are cool and easy to move around in and will take you from day to night activities with ease.
I would also recommend packing one nice outfit to wear on nights out or while enjoying a good meal at any of Singapore’s fine restaurants. Singaporeans rarely dress down, so this would be a great way to fit in on some of the more fancy occasions.
The Monsoon Season: November – January
Like most countries in Southeast Asia, throughout the months of November to early January you can expect a lot of rainfall in Singapore, as it is the monsoon season. While most shopping malls and pathways are covered, walking to and from the metro could get you drenched in rain water. The good news? You don’t need to pack winter clothes as, even though it rains, the weather is still relatively warm (something my Western brain couldn’t fully comprehend).
Pack a cardigan or two – You can expect a slight breeze at night during the monsoon seasons, so a cardigan is the perfect antidote. Light and comfortable.
A light jacket – If you hate being drenched in the rain with nothing other than a t-shirt on, or if you get cold more easily than others, then packing a light jacket will do the trick, bonus points if it’s water repellent.
Don’t forget your umbrella – Of course, you can expect a lot of rainfall during the monsoon seasons, so packing an umbrella will help you to stay dry and safe. My favourite one during travels is the Lewis N. Clark Automatic Travel Umbrella. Cheap and handy.
Rain covers are important – Especially if you’re traveling with expensive equipment like a camera or laptop. The last thing you need is to spoil your travel gear, and the Tortuga rain covers, which are designed to fit the Tortuga Backpacks perfectly, are some of the best out there. They are a great option for a trip like this one (especially if you are planning to travel during the monsoon season).
Miscellaneous Items to Pack
Penny Board – One of my favourite things to do in Singapore is to cruise along the empty and smooth roads at night. As Singapore is an extremely safe city, no one will bother you as you whiz through the streets, at 3 a.m., without any of the heat to slow you down. If you don’t want to carry one along, buy one when you arrive.
Camera or iPhone – Who travels without a camera these days? Almost no one. But just to be safe, make sure to bring along your digital camera (my favourite is the Sony RX100 M4) or be prepared to snap away on your iPhone or other smartphone camera. If you’re in the market to buy a camera, Singapore is a great place to shop for one, too.
ID card with you at all times – Since Singapore is known to be one of the safest countries in the world, you might be asked to show your ID card to the local police if found out and about late at night. So make sure you have your ID card, or passport, with you at all times.
Wet wipes – They will come in handy, especially after a long day of exploring, or for a quick hand wash at a hawker stand before lunch.
An empty stomach – For all of the amazing food that you will discover and eat!
Apps For Singapore
Singapore is an ultra modern city, so all of the apps you might be familiar with are, for the most part, available. Downloading a few of these would definitely make your daily commute between places easier. In general, getting around in Singapore with its excellent public transport is a pleasant experience and quite affordable. Avoid the early morning rush hour from 8 – 9:30 a.m. unless you don’t mind being squashed like a can of sardines!
Google Maps – What better way to find your way in and around the city than Google Maps? If you’re planning to walk to your chosen destinations then Google Maps is your safest bet.
Uber – If you’re already an Uber user (who isn’t?) then you’ll be happy to know that the app is ready and available in Singapore. The easiest way to get around by far.
Grab Taxi – Southeast Asia’s largest mobile taxi booking app.
MyTransport Singapore– From bus schedules to the subway map, MyTransport has everything you need to get around hassle free.
HungryGoWhere – It says it all in the name. Hungry and looking for a place to eat? The HungryGoWhere app will show you some of the local food gems you probably won’t find on Google, or any other search engine.
Tiong Bahru – I love it. There are cafes that serve wonderful coffee and fantastic brunch menus. There is a bookshop that curates some of the more interesting local titles, and despite the obvious hipster vibe to these shops, it is set in contrast to the old and funky aesthetic of the neighborhood. This is must visit for anyone travelling to Singapore.
Al Azhar Food Court (24 hours) – Since I love Asian food so much, this is probably my favourite place to visit. You can find all the food in the world here, and not only is it inexpensive but also extremely high quality (plus it’s open all night long). I recommend eating Nasi Lemak, Char Kway Teow and a Milo Dinosaur to quench your first!
Coney Island Park – Want to disconnect from modern city life and re-connect with nature? Coney Island is the place to visit. The park is 50-hectare, ecologically sustainable, has diverse wildlife and a great place to go bird watching or cycling.
Singapore’s very first trampoline park – Travelling with kids? Then they’ll have the time of their lives at Amped Trampoline Park.
Packing for Singapore rarely changes throughout the year as it is relatively warm most of the time.
- Cotton t-shirts, light sneakers and swim wear are a must
- Dresses go from day to night smoothly, keeping you cool
- Pack one nice outfit, Singapore dresses up
- A light jacket is recommended during monsoon
- Sunblock, mosquito repellent and antiperspirant are cheaper at home and packed along
- Water bottles are a must
- Load your phone with the latest apps to make your travel in and around Singapore easier
- Carry your ID with you at all times
Have you been to Singapore? What do you recommend packing? Do you have a favourite place, or app to recommend?
Image: Mike Enerio (unsplash)