Sure, we're still daydreaming about that vacay to Bali. But there's certainly worst places to be than sunny Singapore! Here's how to feel like a tourist again, in our home city...
2020 was probably the longest year in expat memory. Being marooned on an island roughly the size of New York City was claustrophobic for many of us, seeing as we’re so used to cheap regional airfares and regular trips home. Yet 2020 also became the year of appreciating the small things and, with that, came the advent of exploring our own backyard, AKA being a tourist in our home city of Singapore.
Avid travellers from across the globe extolled the virtues of discovering everything off the beaten track but under our very noses… things that we might have once completely ignored. So, here are four ways to quell that wanderlust in Singapore, until we can properly travel again…
How to feel like a tourist in Singapore
1. Go island hopping
Discovering Singapore’s many islands has been one of the few highlights during this pandemic. Many people only think of the main island (also known by Pulau Ujong, its indigenous name). However, more than 60 other islands surround Singapore too! While most are uninhabited and many are not easily accessible to the general public, there are many options for an island-hopping day-venture from the ports around Singapore’s coastline. Sentosa is easy to get to by car, cable car, or monorail, and has an incredible amount to do. These include the attractions at Resorts World Sentosa, the beaches, some adrenaline adventures, myriad restaurants, golf courses and walking trails.
It doesn’t just stop with Sentosa, though. Coney Island (also known as Pulau Serangoon) and Pulau Ubin are both easily accessible from Singapore. The former via bridges, while the latter by bumboat from Changi Point Ferry Terminal. St John’s Island, Lazarus Island, Sisters Island, and Kusu Island are all accessible by ferry from Marina South Pier. Pulau Hantu and Semakau Island (Landfill Island) can be reached by chartering a boat! Discovering these islands has certainly provided some respite for us residents suffering from island fever…
2. Go for gastro tourism
Singapore’s foodie scene is diverse and wide-ranging. From hawker markets to Michelin-starred restaurants (and Michelin starred hawker stands, for that matter), the biggest difficulty is choosing where to eat next! Some of the most popular areas to eat include Dempsey Hill, Holland Village, East Coast, the Orchard area, and Robertson Quay. Diners looking for food with a view might head to one of Marina Bay Sands’ restaurants or one of the high-rises in the Central Business District.
Eating out is a big part of many international trips, and heading to your favourite restaurant (or a brand new one) is a perfect way to channel that holiday vibe while supporting local businesses. Maybe even go with a theme and eat at Thai or Italian restaurants, only to trick yourself that you’re really there.
3. Be a wellness tourist
Pre-pandemic, getting out and about to explore a destination was becoming one of the most popular ways of discovering a new place. Fret not though, there are lots of ways to do this in Singapore too!
Hiking some of the island’s many trails and parks has long been a common pastime among locals and expats alike. Singapore’s desire to be a “Garden City” has paid off and, for a small nation, there are a surprising number of places to go. Botanic Gardens, MacRitchie Reservoir, and Bukit Batok Nature Park are just a few where you can enjoy the greenery. Cycling has also become a fashionable pastime in Singapore. It’s quite normal now to see people biking all over the place. Several bike hire shops have popped up in the most popular places. Plus, there’s also SG Bike, Singapore’s bike-sharing service.
Water sports are another great way to see a place. Wakeboarding, sailing lessons, kayaking trips, and paddle boarding excursions have all seen a resurgence in recent years, offering a completely different vantage viewpoint you might otherwise be used to. If you’re feeling super adventurous, try out the water jetpack adventure at Sentosa too.
4. Go on an adrenaline adventure
Few people think of adrenaline when they head to Singapore (unless they’re talking about the rollercoasters at Universal Studios!). Being here long-term means we can explore other alternatives, such as zip-lining, bungee jumping, and the iFly at Sentosa and forest schools on the main island. There are trampoline parks and indoor climbing as well as wave simulators, paintballing, and zorbing too! If that’s all a bit tame for you, consider an escape room, axe throwing, or breaking stuff at the Fragment Room to really get your heart racing.
It’s so easy to feel stranded on a very small island, but mindset is everything. Truthfully, Singapore packs a punch when it comes to offering opportunities to keep everyone occupied – pandemic or otherwise! With all the options open to us, relative to the rest of the world, being a tourist in stunning Singapore has never been easier.
Got any other ideas on being a (local) tourist in Singapore? Let us know!
Words by Emma
Emma is a British travel expert and long-time expat living in Singapore (her tenth city) with her family of four. She’s passionate about sustainable travel, responsible tourism, family travel, and empowering expat women. She’s the mastermind behind the travel and expat blog Wanderlust and Wet Wipes. Her most popular posts range from An Open Letter to the New Expat Woman to The Best Secret Islands In Southeast Asia With Kids. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.