Before coming to Singapore, I wanted to see how it was laid out as a city and where the cool places to be were. I couldn’t find a good guide anywhere! I know mine isn’t the best but I did learn a lot while there (staying with local friends) and they helped me organize this. I’ve since been back three times now, so trust me when I say I know where to stay in Singapore depending on what you want t odo!
Tiny Singapore is divided into many neighborhoods that encompass the diverse people of the country. In such a small place you have Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and more getting along peacefully.
The varied cultures make this an ideal destination for travelers because it allows you to see more of the world while staying in one place. Kind of like “Beers of the World” at Disney Land, but better.
Where to Stay in Singapore: A Neighborhood Guide
I’ve put together this Singapore neighborhood guide to help you get around. Everything is really close and easily accessible using the MRT (train), although walking might be a bit of a mission. Uber often has surge prices and you can opt to use Grab app if you want to go by taxi at a lower rate.
If you’re looking for where to stay in Singapore on a budget, Little India is said to be the cheapest area to sleep. This is THE place for backpackers from bars to food. For backpackers on a budget in Singapore, the prices are still going to be a little out of reach. If you’re only passing through give yourself about 30-60 minutes here to wander around and shop.
this is not anything like India, and is definitely not dirty although by Singaporean standards it is
Similar to India?
Stepping out of the cab into Little India was pretty funny for me.. I’d read that it’s “dirty” and “like the old Singapore” but compared to “Real India”, it was clean and crisp! They sold Indian clothing, gold, electronics, bindis, and Indian sweets/food along the roads… at much higher prices that India. I feel a little bad saying it, but most of what I saw here was junk.
we didn’t quite understand this restaurant… jungle themed but they are Native American, no!?
I love the puja flowers, and the sticks of clothing hanging out the windows
The gems were priced literally 10 times what they cost in India. I was quoted 200 SD for a very small moonstone pendant that should have cost maybe 20 SD, maybe less. She brought the price down to 50, which was still too high.
Eyebrow threading was about 15 SD whereas in India it cost me 20 rupees (about 30 cents) last time. The guidebooks say Little India is the cheapest, but actually you can get threading done for 12 SD at the big shopping malls so don’t assume Little India will have best prices on everything. If you do get threading be sure to ask for tea tree oil after! There were signs for massage, reflexology, and Ayurveda treatments at higher than average prices, especially for an Indian market. Singapore is so far the most expensive place I have traveled.
proper Indian snacks
Check here for hotels in Little India & here for Airbnbs
Bugis is the most bustling area of Singapore with its many shopping malls, markets, and places to eat.
year of the horse
The next stop for that day was Bugis. Luckily Dom, Ben’s university friend, has lived in Singapore for 3 years and was the perfect tour guide. It helped that his girlfriend is Singaporean! Although small (like everywhere in Singapore), I liked Bugis more than Little India and China Town.
Be sure to try some juice here! I explain how strange Bah Long Long is in my foodie post on Singapore.
We got a couple snacks here. Peanut balls and a spring roll. The peanut ball had a yummy exterior and middle, but the layer in between was very strange. The spring rolls were the freshest I have ever had!
Here is where you will find the “greatest electronic mall of all time”: Sim Lim Square. I actually thought it was a lot of scams.
instead of fancy electronics, I was content with this ice cream wafer sandwich (I could have had it between two slices of colorful bread too!)
The boys were worn out from touring around with me, so they sat at one of the street bars to down some Tiger beer, while I wandering through China Town. I have to say I was mildly disappointed. Maybe I’m just over shopping in tourist places, but it is really overpriced junk. T-shirts, plastic crap, Chinese slippers and robes made from bad material but priced as if it were real silk. There was such a variety of chopsticks I was almost tempting to buy some.
Two things I did want to buy, but never got around to it:
- The waving cat. Too cute! And I don’t even like cats. 3-10 SD.
- My name or Ben’s written in Chinese. I know it’s something you do at amusement parks… but it looks so beautiful when illustrated. 20 SD.
crappy watches and “perfume” trinkets… drunk Ben and Dom bought 40 dollars worth of watches and wore them the rest of the day.
Check here for hotels in China Town & here for Airbnbs
As you can imagine from the previous places, this is all Arab! The street is lined with delicious food and people smoking hookah. I’m partial to Persian food, but we saw Moroccan, Turkish, and many other countries represented. There are bars here with live music. We spent one evening here for dinner and drinks. Check out the huge Sultan Mosque– it’s beautiful at night.
Check here for hotels in Arab Street & here for Airbnbs
As for Shopping you have the famous Orchard road with 20-plus malls and Vivo city, which is on the way to Sentosa. Because shopping is one of my favorite ways to burn money, and Massy, my friend and local fashion designer told me the ins and outs, I’ve written up a separate post dedicated to shopping in Singapore.
Check here for hotels in Orchard Road & here for Airbnbs
Clarke Quay & Robertson Quay
Near each other, these both have bars and restaurants along the river. There are loads of expats here, delicious brunch, and great spots to watch soccer games or people watch. More on what we got up to here in my post about Singapore’s food.
Check here for hotels in Clarke and Robertson Quay & here for Airbnbs
Marina Bay & the Financial District
photo credit: flickr
photo credit: flickr. I took some but none turned out well :(
This is talked about in more detail over here on my post about Singapore’s abundant nightlife, but you can go to the Marina Bay Mall during the day and see the Gardens by the Bay. We chose to go at night so we could see it all lit up after the laser show! This is one of the most memorable times I had in Singapore when we went to the Lantern in The Fullerton Bay Hotel for drinks and to see the show, then after went to Ku-deta, the most well-known bar in Singapore on top of the most well-known building.
Check here for hotels in Marina Bay & here for Airbnbs
We took a cab from Dom’s place to Vivo City Mall, where we caught the Sentosa Train out to the beach for 4 dollars. There are 2 stops on the way, the first being Universal Studios. At the last stop called Beach Station you will get off if you want the beach, pretty self-explanatory. We only spent an hour at Sentosa. We live on a beach, so I didn’t want to waste the small amount of time I had in Singapore getting a tan. It’s completely man-made and seems a lot like an amusement park. Prices are much higher than in town- and that’s saying something.
If you’re looking for where to stay in Singapore with a family of younger kids, Sentosa might be a fun choice with all the adventurous things it has to do.
There are loads of activities to do at Sentosa:
Skyline Luge, starting at 8 dollars looked fun but a little to slow for us. WaveHouse looked very cool and Ben was all set to try his hand until he was informed he couldn’t without a passport.
TIP: Take your ID with you!
Other options include trapeze, rock walls, and resorts that offer spa services.
You can stay the night there at one of the resorts and the beachside restaurants have many intercontinental options. Sentosa was not my favorite place; I found it strange how artificial it seemed. There were trolleys taking people around like at Cedar Point between the two beaches: Siloso and Palawan. I think if I lived in Singapore I’d go on the weekends because it’s a nice break from city life, but as a tourist with limited time, I do see it as a little bit of a tourist trap. If you have the money go there and drink all day and the time to chill out by the sea, then you should definitely go. If you are a backpacker with limited time and budget, this might be something to skip.
Check here for hotels in Sentosa & here for Airbnbs
Have you been? Which of the Singapore neighborhoods do you think is best?
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