How well do you know Singapore? I always find myself asking this question whenever friends I meet while traveling visit our sunny island. I’m sure most of you already know what they have heard. We’re super clean and modern, expensive, lots of rules, no chewing gum (omg they are still harping on that), MBS looks amazing (apparently it’s on many tourist brochures) and the ladies are beautiful (no complaints about that… also cause most of the people I meet are guys so sorry for the discrimination guys.).
Everyone is talking about traveling local while visiting other countries, so what is traveling local in Singapore? Other than the usual tourist attractions, what makes a visit to Singapore authentic and memorable?
With the help of big brother google and some personal experience, here’s a curated list of 5 things to do in Singapore with your overseas guest.
(1) Eat at a Hawker Centre
Since we’re such foodies, where else better to bring our guests than to a hawker centre for some local delights. Yes, our open air food centres may be hot and stuffy, but that is also part of the charm. Nothing beats walking around looking for seats while constantly being distracted by the myriad of different smells in the air. You can also show them how the tissue paper chope-ing system works!
I usually bring them to People’s Park Food Centre or Maxwell Market because it’s near town. Otherwise, any of the heartland ones are great as well. Just avoid the touristy overpriced ones. My friends were quite surprised when they found out how affordable local food can be!
(2) Explore Pulau Ubin
I was surprised when I found out how many of my local friends have never been to Pulau Ubin. Bring your guests (or even local friends) there and show them a different side of Singapore. Pulau Ubin is still largely undeveloped, though improvements to basic infrastructure have made it safer and more convenient to cycle around the island. Check out the old quarries, Chek Jawa and bike parks for a full day of activities. The residents there are really nice to talk to as well, and have plenty of stories to share. Especially the uncle at the “why you so like that” drink stall. Don’t forget to have seafood on the island or visit Changi Village after coming back!
Tip: Try leaving in the morning or on weekends. Otherwise it might be difficult to fill the bum boat from Singapore to Pulau Ubin.
(3) Take a local tour
Despite living in Singapore for over 20 years and attending a number of NE excursions in school, I must say that my local history knowledge is pretty poor. I mean, how much do we know about our early immigrants and their importance in shaping modern Singapore, or even the impact and interesting stories behind secret societies and early businesses. The ironic thing is that despite being apathetic to such things back home, most of us are at least a little interested in history and culture when we travel. So your guests probably would as well.
Local travel startup, MeGuideU, seems to have something interesting going on, as they match independent tour guides with tourists. Many of the guides design their own unique tours and the flexibility makes it easy for anyone to book. They even have a tour about our dearest Lee Kuan Yew!
I’ve been to plenty of nightclubs and bars around the World, and the party scene in Singapore is still one of the best. It may be a little expensive, but I guess that’s the price to pay for being a developed country.
Other than the popular Zouk, there are tons of places along Clarke Quay and Boat Quay. Not to mention the hipster places tucked away in the different corners of Singapore. You can even throw peanut shells at the Long Bar in Raffles Hotel. If all else fails, beer at a Kopitiam watching football on a Saturday night with the uncles seems pretty local to me!
(5) Attend a festival or event
There’s always something happening in Singapore. Festivals like Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, Thaipusam (read about my experience here), or National Day are great occasions to experience local culture.
Even if they aren’t here during one of those festivals, there are still tons of events happening every week. It may not be unique or very local, but mingling with the rest of the Singaporeans can be a very interesting experience in itself!
Check out YourSingapore for a list of festivals and events.
Drop a comment below if you have any other local experiences to share!