When asked to design a trip for clients who have never been to Asia, we often recommend Singapore as the first stop. With its British colonial history and modern success as the world's fourth largest financial centre, Singapore is an easy introduction to the region. The city state is a clean, safe destination with plenty of green space (10% of land is set aside for parks and nature reserves) amongst the high-rise buildings. English is widely spoken and getting around is very easy, whether using the plentiful cheap taxis or efficient metro system. With numerous top hotels, including the famous Raffles, iconic Marina Bay Sands and properties from all the top chains, the main problem is deciding where to stay!
The local cuisine reflects the melting pot of Chinese, Indian and Malaysian people who originally settled, including popular dishes such as Laksa (thick rice noodles, egg and prawns in a rich coconut curry sauce), chilli crab and Hainanese chicken rice. Hawker centres offer hygienic street food at very affordable prices or, for the other end of the spectrum, try Shinji by Kanesaka's 450 SGD (US$350) tasting menu of Japanese delicacies.
Singapore is located just one degree north of the equator and has a tropical rainforest climate. There are no distinct seasons with year-round temperatures of 22-35 C, average humidity of 75% and no shortage of rain. The monsoon season is November to January and hottest months are April to May. Showers tend to be short-lived but heavy and rain tends to occur most days with thunderstorms on 40% of days. If you do get caught in the rain, we advise enjoying the refreshing drops and drying in the sun later. Be aware that forest fires in Indonesia often cause a smoky haze in Singapore from June to September, although this is the best time to visit the state if you want to have the lowest chance of heavy rainfall.
One thing to note is that Singapore is 8 hours ahead of GMT, an hour ahead of Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand. There is no daylight saving in practice, so the time is the same year-round.
The Singapore dollar is currently worth around $0.70, £0.45 or €0.65, so for travellers from the UK, it is easy to simply halve the price advertised to convert to pounds. A night in a 5* hotel starts at around 220 SGD with plenty of choice at the 300 SGD mark and Raffles generally costing upwards of 1000 SGD. Naturally, prices soar during high occupancy periods, such as the Singapore Formula 1 motor racing Grand Prix or Chinese New Year, so make sure to book early. Note that rates quoted on hotel websites tend to exclude the 10% service charge and 7% tax.
Visitors from the USA or European Union can visit Singapore for up to 90 days without a visa. Citizens of Canada, Australia, South America, Central America and most of Africa can visit Singapore visa-free up to 30 days. All visitors must have a passport valid for 6 months at entry and an onward ticket out of Singapore.