Singapore is renowned for having some of the cleanest streets in the world, largely due to a 50,000-strong cleaning workforce employed to keep the streets clean. Singapore is also known for its strict laws on littering, spitting on the streets, vandalism and public urination that can result in heavy fines and/or a punishment called Corrective Work Order, where offenders are required to pick up litter in public wearing a bright vest.
Singapore has a reputation as the Garden City, evident in how well manicured and lush the public spaces and even the roads are. While much of the agricultural and wild landscapes were cleared to make way for the growing population, efforts have been made to introduce some greenery into the concrete jungle – besides public parks amidst the tall buildings, you will often seen flowers and bushes lining the overhead bridges, or tall shady trees planed along the central divider of the expressways.
Many people remember Singapore as that place you can’t chew gum in, a rule implemented in 1992 to combat the disruptions gum was causing on the then-newly launched subway system, and involved heavy fines to anyone caught sticking their gum in unwanted places. While rules are generally more relaxed today and you can bring in gum for your own consumption, you still will not find gum sold anywhere around the island unless you visit the pharmacy with a doctor’s prescription for nicotine or dental gum.
Singapore’s skyline has changed dramatically in the last 10 years with the introduction of Marina Bay Sands – can you believe that this entire Marina Bay area used to be an empty plot of reclaimed land and sea water? The view is especially beautiful at night where you can find other iconic structures like the Esplanade, Helix Bridge, Merlion and the numerous skyscrapers of the Central Business and Marina Bay Financial Districts all lit up, the temperature perfect for an after-dinner stroll.
Tourist t-shirts often call Singapore a ‘fine city’ thanks to the number of laws and regulations that can result in a hefty fine if flouted, these can range from smoking in no-smoking areas, jaywalking or even eating and drinking on the MRT. More serious infractions like robbery, vandalism or drug trafficking in Singapore can result in jail sentences, but also corporal punishment like caning or even a death sentence.
One of the tourist must-dos in Singapore is to head to Long Bar at the iconic Raffles Hotel for a Singapore Sling cocktail and the novelty of throwing all your peanut shells on the floor. This pretty cherry-pink cocktail consisting of angostura bitters, grenadine and gin among other liqueurs was invented by a bartender back in the early 1900s and became the quintessential ‘Singaporean drink’ that visitors had to partake in on a Singaporean vacation.
Located almost upon the equator, Singapore’s temperatures usually range from 28-34 degrees Celsius all year round and feels like summer all year round. There is also high humidity which can mean a lot of sweating, which is why many locals prefer to hide in indoor air-conditioning during the blistering midday heat. Expect short torrential rainfall just about anytime of the year as well, though it usually picks up during the monsoon period at the end of the year.
Orchard Road is perhaps the most busy stretch of road in Singapore, a 2.2km stretch with many luxury shopping malls lining the road on both sides, and sees locals and tourists alike crowd the malls on weekends. These days, almost every major district in Singapore has a mall of its own, often a popular hangout spot for nearby residents who want to grab a bite, do a spot of shopping or just enjoy the air-conditioning comfort on a hot afternoon.
Singapore’s Changi Airport is one of the best places to have a layover, a large modern facility with amenities like a free cinema, flower gardens and even a swimming pool for visitors arriving or passing through Singapore. Changi Airport is also the base for national carrier Singapore Airlines, famed for its iconic Singapore Girl flight attendants and service that consistently garners global recognition as one of the best airlines to fly with.
Hotels and activities in Singapore may not always be the cheapest, but visitors love that its street food has remained relatively cheap while having high hygiene and quality. Locals and tourists alike brave the humidity to feast in any of the country’s many hawker centres, filled with a large variety of local and regional food stalls – a favourite way to experience Singaporean culture. Some of Singapore’s best hawker food stalls have even managed to garner Michelin stars, a world first.
If there is one Singaporean who people around the world can name, chances are that it is Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew. Often regarded as the founding father of independent Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew was known for his frankness and hard edge, and was the driving force behind instituting some of famous things Singapore is known for listed in this article, like the garden city and strict laws. His passing in 2015 was a day of national mourning for the country, and his son Lee Hsien Loong is currently Singapore’s third prime minister.