We actually have been to the place for three times already, with the first two stays (2012 and 2014) being one-day-stopovers which allowed us to take the traditional tourist route from Orchard Road to the Raffles hotel (the former seat of the British governor), where we enjoyed the original Singapore Sling (20 EUR). Then, we continued to Marina Bay and the Chinatown to head up to Changi Airport in the late evening. However, only the most recent trip in April 2018, for which we reserved two full days, allowed us to explore the major city’s attractions in full. Thanks to Singapore Airlines Explorer Pass, we made it at the unbeatable price of 37 euro.
How did the country get to the place it is today?
Not many people know that Singapore was not more than a harbour village and the British military garrison yet 100 years ago. Since the Brits put their feet on the island in the beginning of 19th century, Singapore converted to one of the most dynamic, wealthy countries in the world with the most efficient education system. However, the modern image of Singapore strongly contrasts its conservative and “ancient” laws that can be seen everywhere although they do not impact “behaving” tourists.
After very brutal Japanese occupation and the related terror during WWII, Singapore became independent from Britain in 1963 as one of Malaysian districts (states). Solely 2 years later it left Malaysian Federation and begun its rapid run towards current economic position despite lack of natural resources. Nevertheless, the country had two strong assets to be successful i.e. strategic location and the skilled workforce. Not many people know that the separation of Singapore from Malaysian Federation was not at own request. It was rather a pressure from the right-wing government of Malaysia who wanted to remove the boiling boil of the country which – at that time – was impact by severe riots and strikes organized with support of red China. The fear of communism spreading onto entire Malaysian peninsula was so big that Malaysian authorities were preferring to cut off the part of the country rather than risking the communist influence spreading throughout it.
The relatively conservative laws of Singapore were providing for the solid and stable rules for business on one side although they created a set of restrictive and over-penalizing rules for the residents. Already when sitting in the airplane to Singapore and when filling the entry card, the red warnings about death penalty for drug trafficking hit your eyes. In this place it has to be made clear that Singapore takes this law very seriously and those concerned can’t count on the intervention of their embassies or even governments. This approach is not uncommon in many southeastern Asian countries. The catch is in the definition of the “drugs” because certain medications admitted by healthcare authorities in Europe or North America like xanax are banned from sale in Singapore, therefore qualifying as unauthorized chemical substance. For other medications, the travelers should seriously take the universal recommendation and have the doctor’s prescription in their wallet.
It pops up from time to time in the European that certain hooligan pranks are penalized by few whips in Singapore. If the convict is to weak to take the entire penalty, the execution is interrupted and finalized few days or weeks later. Therefore, it is important to behave in Singapore :-). It is not the place for crazy parties that get out of control.
Other examples of restrictive laws include heavy financial penalties for littering (500 euro), chewing gums being prohibited by law or smoking corners in hotels with high bar tables due to the fact that smoking WHILE sitting is also prohibited by law.
All above examples might look scary. In reality, if you observe some universal rules of normal behavior and you are careful about the medications that you carry with you, there is no risk of unpleasant situations impacting your stay. Singapore is a beautiful place with plenty of attractions waiting for your discovery. Also, one has to remember that the generally restrictive laws result in an increased protection of the tourists. The small-scale crime rate is very law and the risk to be cheated by unhonest taxi driver or shop seller is close to zero.
Actually, direct flight connections to Singapore are offered from every major place in the world. The focus should be made on finding attractive prices. There are two Asian low cost carriers offering plenty of regional connections to Singapore which are Air Asia and JetStar.
The pictures above show the view from the airplane when approaching Changi airport. Airplanes start their approach over the incredibly green Indonesian island of Sumatra to dive over Malacca and Singapore Straits with hundreds of vessels, which make you understand where the wealth of Singapore is coming from.
The Changi airport in Singapore is famous of offering the shortest processing times of 25 minutes from the airplane to the terminal doorstep. This statement is clearly exaggerated because the immigration control is taking 25 minutes at least. Please keep in mind that you might be requested to scan your hand luggage at arrival. The customs regulation of Singapore do not allow you to carry more than 1 package of 20 cigarettes even if you bought them at duty free. Cigarettes and alcohol are freely available for sale in Singapore, however they are very expensive. Some medications which do not create a problem in Europe (e.g. Xanax) are totally banned in Singapore. Before landing in Singapore you will receive an immigration form which flashes a red sentece “Drug trafficking is penalized by death in Singapore”. And they treat this law seriously. Interventions by your embassy won’t help. High skyscrapers and the modern society should not make the the drug comsumers feeling more comfortably in this country
Further description of Singapore’s attractions is provided in separate chapters.