For Aussies gals travelling the well-trodden Kangaroo Route, a stopover in Singapore could easily equal two holidays in one. Consider a night in the Lion City as an exciting toe dip in a city that can truly claim status as a cultural melting pot. Simply choose 1 of 7 diverse Singapore neighbourhoods to base yourself in and let the stop-over immersion begin!
Singapore is a city-state measuring less than 300 square miles and spread across 63 islands. Even though it’s one of the world’s smallest countries, Singapore is an exceptionally multicultural and diverse nation. It’s also a safe option for solo travellers, and super easy to navigate.
The city is divided into many neighbourhoods, some of which are famous for welcoming tourists, while others are rarely visited by foreigners. For Australian’s flying through Changi on their way to London, Europe or South East Asia, a stopover in Singapore could not be easier. In fact it’s encouraged, with Aussies welcome to stay in Singapore for 30 days without a visa. It all happens at the airport, where travellers simply need to show their valid Australian Passport at immigration, before jumping on a bus or taxi to reach the city within 20 minutes or so.
Regarding entry and exit requirements, Smartraveller advises, “Australian travellers (ages six and above) are required to scan their thumbprints each time they arrive and depart Singapore. Travellers who have successfully enrolled their thumbprints via BioScreen during their arrival at the immigration counters will be able to use automated self-clearance when departing Singapore.”
So with immigration cleared, where to next? Take your lead from our 7 top hotel neighbourhood roundup and make the most of your Singapore sling!
Chinatown is a popular place to explore in Singapore, but it is less common for travellers to choose hotels in this area. People love to visit for the day to see the Buddhist Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum and the Hindu Sri Mariamman Temple before grabbing lunch at the world-famous Maxwell Hawker Centre (a food court with delicious local cuisine at rock-bottom prices). However, with a designated Chinatown station on the blue and purple MRT (train) lines, this is a great home base while you’re in the city. Chinatown is packed with budget backpacker hostels and design-focused boutique hotels, but it has fewer family-friendly digs than some other districts.
Traveller.com.au rates Naumi as a worthy Singapore Chinatown boutique hotel option.
This character-filled hotel, the sister property of the more upscale Naumi, offers great value to those who don’t mind missing out on a few creature comforts. Windows, for instance. Quite a few rooms in this shophouse conversion lack a lookout on to the outside world, although fresh air fans can always specify that they need a window. Given the hotel’s location on Chinatown’s Keong Saik Road, one of Singapore’s best thoroughfares for bar and cafe hopping, the window-free option at least cuts down on ambient noise. A great option for those on a budget. Rates start from $142, see www.naumiliora.com
Just north of Chinatown and bordering the Singapore River, Clarke Quay is the ideal place to stay for travellers who are looking for familiar food and drink options along with bustling year-round nightlife. Wide promenades line both side of the river and are home to countless bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Prices are high, but so is the comfort level. The neighbourhood is just across the river from Fort Canning Park and well connected to other areas of the city by the Clarke Quay MRT station on the purple line. This area is mainly home to major hotel chains that accommodate family, business and luxury travellers.
Handily located on Upper Pickering, the Parkroyal towers over Hong Lim Park and is within easy walking distance of the CBD, Raffles Place, Marina Bay and Chinatown. Clarke Quay and the waterfront attractions along the Singapore River are also close by. Rooms start from $287 a night.
Kampong Glam is a bit of a misnomer, in that its name has nothing to do with being glamorous. Rather, “glam” is derived from the Malay word for cajeput tree, hinting both at the area’s history as a less-developed community and its current status as the city’s heart of Malay culture. In Kampong Glam visitors can check out the Malay Heritage Centre, visit the Sultan Mosque or shop for carpets and tea sets on Arab Lane. The area offers fewer accommodation options than other neighbourhoods, but several of its boutique hotels are highly regarded by discerning visitors.
Plenty of boutique properties have tried their hands at converting old shophouses into boutique accommodations; few have done it as successfully as this elegant hotel. Although room sizes vary widely – a feature that is typical of shopfront conversions – clever design solutions make the most of every space. The hotel is punctuated by occasional courtyard gardens which bring light and air into the building. Its location, on the edge of the colourful Kampong Glam neighbourhood, is another bonus, with the bars and boutiques of Haji Lane just a short stroll away. Rates start from $152, see www.thesultan.com.sg
If you were planning to visit India but accidentally booked plane tickets to Singapore, have no fear. Singapore’s Little India is the closest thing you can get to an authentic Indian experience outside of the subcontinent itself. The district is full of Indian restaurants (including dozens that cater to vegetarian diners), Indian shops (including the deceptively massive, twenty-four-hour Mustafa Centre) and Hindu temples. The area really comes to life in the late afternoon, when the air cools off and locals crowd the streets to go about their daily lives. Little India is full of popular, inexpensive hostels, though its standard hotels have a reputation for being a little bit dodgy. Check a map carefully before booking, as it’s possible to be as far as twenty minutes by foot from an MRT station when you’re staying here.
Traveller.com.au rates Wanderlust as a great place to stay in Singapore’s Little India.
Talk about cheap and cheerful. The compact entry-level lodgings, the so-called Pantone rooms, are as brightly coloured as their name suggests, with a clever design that makes the most of every square metre. If you are planning a longer stay, go for one of the larger Mono rooms, which offer a playful take on a basic white colour scheme. There is also a handful of whimsical loft-style suites, depicting themes including Tree and Space. Each room comes with a free mobile phone to use during your stay, pre-loaded with useful maps and apps. Rates start from $200, see www.wanderlusthotel.com
Singapore’s most famous shopping street is also home to several well-known hotels. The brand-name hotels lining this street are typically attached to high-end shopping malls where you can browse for designer handbags and luxury vehicles should the urge take hold. Orchard Road is actually one of the most accessible neighbourhoods in the city, as many of the buildings are interconnected (you’ll be thankful in monsoon season!) and it has two MRT stations on the orange line. If you stay at the west end you’ll be within easy walking distance of the Botanic Gardens, while the east end isn’t far from City Hall.
Hotel Jen Tanglin is tucked away a five-minute or so walk from Singapore’s famed Orchard Road shopping strip. The hotel is a result of a $S45 million refurbishment of the aforementioned Traders, which first opened back in 1995, and while the façade was retained its interiors were totally transformed for the 21st century in March 2016. Hotel Jen’s attractive boutique hotel-styled lobby belies the fact that, at 565 rooms, this is quite a sizeable establishment. Unapologetically pitched at millennial travellers, Hotel Jen and its lobby includes an excellent café (albeit with a clunky name), called Jen’s Kitchen On-the-go, which wouldn’t feel incongruous on your average Australian coffee strip.
Looking to step off the tourist track? Consider making newly hip Tiong Bahru your home base while you’re visiting Singapore. The neighbourhood is home to the city’s first publicly funded housing project, and in recent years it has seen an influx of trendy, independent shops, restaurants and cafés open within its borders. Foodies will want to stop by the neighbourhoods’ hawker centre, which is considered one of the best food courts in the city. Known as Singapore’s hipster haven, you’ll have your fill of edgy cafes, eggs benedict and soy lattes in Tiong Bahru. As a bonus, add a mural hunt to your agenda as you scan the streets of Tiong Bahru for all three of artist Yip Yew Chong’s intricate murals that are peppered inconspicuously along the streets. Tiong Bahru has its own MRT station on the green line, and a small collection of unique independent hotels.
In the early morning, the suits at the breakfast tables prove that business travellers have made this hotel their own. We reckon it is also a good choice for holidaymakers, who will enjoy its perch in the middle of the newly hip Tiong Bahru neighbourhood. The hotel’s shuttle service makes regular runs to destinations including Chinatown and Marina Bay Sands, and guests also enjoy free soft drinks in the mini-bar. Before heading out for a night in the city’s hot spots, enjoy a sundowner in the rooftop restaurant. Rates from $258, see www.wangzhotel.com
A reasonably new addition to the Singapore skyline is the Marina Bay Sands hotel. It’s an unmissable landmark that along with the Singapore Flyer – the world’s largest observation wheel, guides travellers to Marina Bay, Singapore’s futuristic bay-front, with its astonishing ‘stack-of-cards’ skyscrapers, giant glowing artificial trees, and domed metallic theatres. Newly reclaimed from the sea, the area is made of 3 separate Bay areas, all east of Shenton Way. Marina Bay offers a mind boggling array of attractions, making the neighbourhood a great place to stay for every kind of visitor to Singapore. Whilst Marina Bay is an easy commute from Changi Airport, travel within Marina Bay itself can be convoluted. If you want to see the attractions on the Marina Square side of the bay, then walking to them is fine. But to cross the Bay to Marina Bay Sands, you’ll need to walk a fair distance over the bridges—or hail one of Singapore’s many cabs.
Marina Bay Sands is hard to describe and even harder for the amateur to get a good photograph of. Maybe the best way to describe it is just to stick with the simple facts – a 2500-room hotel and entertainment complex, consisting of three 55-story towers, topped with a 12,400 square metre “boat” (150 metres of which is given up to a breathtaking infinity pool). As you would expect of a $6 billion-plus venture, Marina Bay Sands offers the most opulent of experiences in a city that prides itself on opulence. Find rates at www.marinabaysands.com
Whether you’re in Singapore to shop ’til you drop, immerse yourself in a new culture or awaken your taste buds like never before, one of these 7 neighbourhoods could be your ideal home base. Before reserving, remember to carefully check the price (Singapore can be expensive!) and confirm how far your accommodation is from the nearest MRT station. It’s also handy to check whether your hotel offers 24 hour concierge and is located in a safe spot, with appropriate security.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain