Quick Guide to Singapore: Visa-free travel for South Africans

2018-06-18 16:41 - Kavitha Pillay
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Singapore. (Photo: iStock)

Singapore boasts a city paradise like no other country.

One of Asia's most technologically advanced countries, the island city-state just off Malaysia boasts efficient transport systems, diverse cultures and blends of man-made and natural sites against a backdrop of skyscrapers that reflect stunning sunsets.

SEE: Tiny Singapore has world's most powerful passport

Although the exchange rate is a bit steep for South Africans, this visa-free country is a must-visit destination for anyone who wants a luxurious south-east Asian escape.

From exploring exquisite gardens and splashing out at resorts, to seeing the world from fantastic new heights and trying out all sorts of new tastes, Singapore is a tiny melting pot of many cultures with a massive offering for locals and visitors alike.

If you'd like to explore this part of the world, read this to help you get started.

Visa requirement: No. Visa-free for South Africans staying less than 30 days. For visits more than 30 days, apply for extensions while in Singapore at the Singapore Immigration Department.

Medical requirements: No special vaccines needed.

National Carrier: Singapore Airlines.

Airport Hub: Singapore Changi Airport.

Flight Route: Direct flights from Johannesburg with Singapore Airlines, SAA, Emirates, Qatar, or connect from Cape Town or Durban.

Currency: Singapore Dollar - 1 Dollar = R11.45.

Travel adapter: Type C and M.  South Africa uses Type C, D, M, N 

Time Zone: 6-hours ahead of SA (GMT +8).

Public Transport: Uber is available in Singapore, although the three main modes of public transport are the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), buses and taxis. Buses are most common, followed by the MRT and taxis respectively. Invest in a bus card for the cheapest and most reliable form of transport around Singapore.

Climate: Singapore is situated near the equator and has a tropical climate, lots of rainfall, and high temperatures and humidity throughout the year. November to January are the wettest months, while the hottest months are May and June.

Best time to visit: February to April - between the summers and winters are pleasant with milder temperatures, offering outdoor activities.

Languages: English, Malay, Tamil, Mandarin Chinese.

Useful Phrases: While Singapore has four official languages and English is the most commonly spoken, Mandarin Chinese is the next most common language. It will be advisable to know some useful phrases in Mandarin during your travels:

  • Hello - Nihao (Nee how)
  • Thank you - Xièxiè (Shieh-shieh)
  • You're welcome - Bù kèqì (Boo kuh-chi)
  • Good morning - Zao (Zhow)
  • Goodnight - Wan'an (One-un)
  • How much? - Duo shao? (Dwuh shauw?)
  • Too expensive - Tài guìle! (Tie gway luh!)
  • Make it cheaper - Piányí yi dian. (Pian-yee yee dian.)
  • Yes - Shì (Sheh)
  • No - Bù shì (Bu-sheh)

Food to try: With a mix of cultures, Singapore’s traditional foods include a unique mix of Asian cuisine, combining Chinese, Indian and Malay flavours and techniques. Here are some foods you must try:

  • Prawns in coconut milk: Any prawn dish cooked in coconut milk is a must try - even if it is with Italian pasta rather than Asian rice noodles.
  • Chicken Satay: Grilled chicken skewers of chicken, served with peanut sauce.
  • Coconut water: Whether served cold or as is, as coconut water is extremely refreshing. In most cases, it is served with a spoon so that you can scoop the soft inside and enjoy as a snack.
  • Tropical fruit: Enjoy a variety of tropical fruit such as durian, jackfruit, types of litchi and bananas.

Traveller24 tip --> While durian tastes like a mix of mango and pawpaw, it smells like rotting onions on a bad day. In fact, the stench is so awful that eating durian in public is banned and you can get fined if you don’t obey this!

  • Ais kacang: This refreshing and surprisingly delicious type of dessert contains crushed ice, beans, a type of jelly grass and sweet corn, covered with evaporated or condensed milk, rose syrup and other syrups to add colour.
  • Laksa: A mix of Chinese and Malay cuisine, curry Laksa uses vermicelli, coconut milk, beancurd puffs and fish slices.
  • Briyani: Find 'Little India' in Singapore to try this Indian dish of rice, meat and spices.

Travel tips

What to pack:

  • Your passport, arrival and return tickets, adequate money.
  • A camera, notebook/ tablet or smartphone, power-bank to stay charged on the go.
  • Comfortable, lightweight, and casual clothes.
  • Comfortable sandals, sneakers and strong shoes if you decide to go on hikes.
  • A hat, sunscreen, sunglasses.
  • An umbrella/ rain coat during the rainy season.
  • Hand sanitiser, tissues, wet wipes, insect repellent, prescription medication.
  • Binoculars for safaris/sightseeing, waterproof bag to store personal belongings when on boat cruises/ water activities.

Tips while exploring:

  • Learn the common phrases in the local language and about local culture, and respect cultural norms.
  • If you’ll be visiting temples, wear more modest attire covering your shoulders and legs.
  • You are not allowed to smoke in all air-conditioned places - there are designated smoking areas in some malls and open-air restaurants.
  • You can drink water straight from the tap as Singapore's water passes World Health Organisation standards.
  • Tipping is encouraged when you get good service.

Must-visit places

Sentosa: This island resort is connected to the city by road, cable car, pedestrian boardwalk and monorail. Boasting breathtaking views from Sentosa Station's Tiger Sky Tower, there's also Palawan Beach and Tanjong Beach to enjoy, as well as Universal Studios.

Universal Studios: This theme park in Resorts World Sentosa features 24 rides, shows and attractions in a number of themed zones. 

Marina Bay: Situated in central Singapore, pay a visit to the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel, head to the rooftop and enjoy a drink while taking in city views of Marina Bay from this magnificent height.

Gardens by the Bay: An out of this world massive indoor nature park in central Singapore, the park consists of thousands of species of plants, three waterfront gardens and exhibits that will take your breath away - certainly a must-visit spot for flora-lovers.

Clarke Quay: This historical riverside quay in Singapore boasts shopping centres, restaurants, clubs and pubs and is the place to be for enjoy Singapore's night life.

Singapore Flyer: A giant Ferris wheel, the Singapore Flyer allows visitors to see some amazing views of Marina Bay harbour, the city and other skyscrapers.