Tuesday, June 4, 2024


It has been 4 long years since my last international trip and the same can be said about my blog. Since 2020, I have mostly gone on road trips and did not have anything worthy of a full-fledged blog. In 2022 we were blessed with a daughter, and we felt that if we were to continue our passion for traveling then it should include her as well. Traveling with an infant/toddler is challenging so I will try to go over what we did and how Singapore helped us make this trip easier! 

To be honest, in the good old days I would never plan a standalone trip to Singapore. I always considered it as a transit city to spend a couple of days on my way to some further destination. However, this time since our daughter was around 18 months old, we were limited by the places we could take her. It had to be something leisure and urban with tourist places at commutable distance from the hotel. Very few cities came to mind and Singapore was recommended by many folks who have visited the city.

Singapore Merlion

So, what exactly is in Singapore?

Singapore has something for everybody. Some natural, but mostly a lot more artificial. To start with, the Changi Jewel at the airport with its rain vortex and the built in forest valley is something unique to experience. Sentosa Island is a whole different world with Universal Studios, SEA Aquarium, Madame Tussauds, Luge, Cable Cars, Sensory Walk etc and would easily take 2-3 days depending on how much time (and money) you have. The Clark Quay with its promenade, shopping malls, museums, nightlife and river cruises is something that attracts the young and the old alike. Gardens by the Bay hosts an artificial treetop, an indoor cloud forest and a flower dome. The iconic marina bay sands structure and the flyer are sure to catch your eye. There are lights, water and laser shows in various parts that are not to be missed. Coming to the natural aspect, the Mandai Wildlife Reserve has the zoo (with its night safari), bird park and a river themed park that would excite the kids for sure. Not to miss the giant panda and its little one that make the visit worth your while. Singapore as with any city with immigrants has a lot of areas dedicated to each of the nationalities - Little India, Arab Street, Chinatown and so on. Each offering the best of culture and food. And finally, one cannot resist shopping in Singapore (well at least get some souvenirs).

Panda at the River Wonders park

Looks like an assorted bunch. How many days would I need to keep for Singapore?

If you want to do everything, then you would easily need 5+ days. You can cover almost everything unique in 4 days, that is if you can do ticketed attractions during the day and explore the free ones in the evenings/night. However, 5 days would be a conservative estimate to cover the best of Singapore. If you have seen Universal Studios in other countries, then you can skip it here as the theme park is almost the same across the globe.

View from the Clarke Quay ferry

How do I start planning – Flights/Visa/Stay?

Singapore has its touristy seasons, but being just a degree above the equator, it is usually hot and humid with chances of rain throughout the year. How much rain or sun depends on the time of the year you visit. As per google December-February is usually rainier compared to the rest of the year so probably any other time would be good as most activities in Singapore are outdoors. 

There are budget airlines which were around 21k roundtrip from Bangalore and full-service airlines that charged around 27k round trip for April. If you have a buffer of 2 months, then you can look out for offers or sales across airlines or websites that might give you a good deal. Air India had a 3-day sale, and we got our tickets for just 18k round trip :) 

Once you have the tickets sorted out, book a hotel through any of the websites. If traveling with family that are particular about Indian food, then look at hotels that are walkable around Little India. If you are looking to shop more during the trip, then Bugis is the place to be. For party lovers and night life enthusiasts, it is better to stay near Clarke Quay. You have accommodations available based on your budget but be prepared to pay more for smaller rooms as a decent INR 6-8k per night room would have just enough space for a bed and a wardrobe (if you are lucky to get a room with a wardrobe)! 

Indians have the option for eVisa. You can apply it yourself or go through a travel agent. The major requirements are – Photo as per specification, proof of income and proof of stay/return. Travel agents charge between 3.5k to 7k depending on whom you approach. The visa gets processed in 3-5 business days and you get a soft copy of the visa letter. Note that there is a pre-arrival health declaration that needs to be done before you land in SG. The immigration is contactless, so you have automated gates which scan your passport and take your fingerprint and let you through without having to deal with any officer on arrival. There is an assisted line for people with infants or senior citizens which can be availed too.

Mosque on Arab street

Too much to do, what about tourist packages?

I wouldn’t recommend taking any package tours unless you are totally new to foreign travel and are not courageous (or young) enough to try things on your own. Singapore is a public transport friendly city. Package tours give you cabs that cost around 5 times more than public transport. Also, the attraction tickets would be included at face value and there are cheaper alternatives that would save you a considerable chunk on those. By booking everything on your own, you save around 30-40% of the cost without losing much time or effort if you plan and follow your schedule properly. 

Tell me more about the attraction tickets. Easy to buy them online?

You can buy the tickets outside the attraction but there could be long queues. Alternatively, you can either purchase them from the website of the attractions that you are visiting or use the Klook/CityGo app. These have individual tickets or discounted prices when you buy multiple attractions. CityGo has an unlimited access pass that lets you visit anything you like based on the number of days you select. Klook on the other hand charges a flat amount based on the number of attractions you like to visit (3-10), and you save more as long as each attraction that you plan to visit costs more than INR 1.8k. So, let’s say you have 5 days and you know you can visit only 10 places then buy the 10 attraction pass for the flat fee and select any 10 entry tickets in the app. The added advantage of Klook is that you can pay in INR and avoid the pesky conversion fee and the TCS on foreign currency transactions (google to know more).

Flower dome with the Japanese Sakura Garden theme in April

Using apps means we need the internet?

Yes. Most places have WiFi but you can easily buy a SIM at the airport. Klook also has an option to prebook the SIM card and collect it at the airport for under INR 500. You get 15days of validity with 100GB of 4G/5G data. Buy one SIM and enable hotspot on your mobile for others in your group to access. You can use this number to register for services you wish to avail while in SG.

I got to Singapore and got my attraction tickets at my fingertips. How do I get around the city?

Singapore has an amazing public transit network where you can go anywhere to anywhere safely between 5am to midnight in bus/metro. Once you exit Changi airport baggage counter, head down to the MRT station to find a vending machine for EZ Link Cards. These cards come with a minimum stored value, and they can be recharged at dedicated Kiosk or any 7-Eleven stores across the city. Tickets vary from 1-3 SGD based on the distance you travel. A 5-day leisure trip shouldn’t cost you more than 25 SGD per person. The routes and bus timings are well integrated with Google maps. 

Alternatively install GoJek or Grab app for app-based taxi service. It will cost you a minimum of 7 SGD for the shortest of distances. However, for solo travellers there is a bike taxi provided by these apps. It is good to have them installed and registered with a local number just in case of emergencies. 

Cable car to Sentosa

You shifted from INR to SGD currency. How much would be required and how to procure the currency?

Unlike in other countries, it is cheaper to convert your currency in India through ThomasCook, MMT or any of the authorized Forex dealers. Every place accepts cards so you can get a multi-currency forex card with required Singapore Dollars before you leave and also some amount for cash primarily for shopping or street food. You could use your international debit/credit card but you will pay more in conversion fees and also pay extra tax for it. If you do not want to take a forex card and do not want to convert cash in India then from our experience the conversion rate was best at the airport. Note that the tap enabled forex card can be used for public transport. So one person can just use the forex card instead of spending extra on the EZ card.

A typical meal will cost 10-25 SGD depending on where you eat so I would say a conservative amount of 50 SGD per person per day to be carried in the card and another 100 SGD per person as cash to use incase of emergency or when you exhaust your card. You can always carry INR and have it converted at your hotel to SGD. As a practice never withdraw cash from an ATM as it might not be secure and you will pay a lot more charges. 

Sensory Walk @ Sentosa

Hmm, what about food? Shopping?

While food and shopping are two different topics, I would like to cover it together. Bugis is the one stop destination for shopping where you get everything from chocolates to clothes to toys. While we did most of our shopping here, we found Arab street to be slightly cheaper. Mustaffa center in little India is like DMart so if you have something from Singapore in mind then you probably will get it for cheap. Most items are sold expensive when buying in limited quantities but cheaper in bulk.

There are 7-Eleven and other retail stores in every corner so you can buy your water or soft drinks there instead of overpaying at the tourist attractions (Universal Studios also did not check our bags so we could have taken outside food instead of overpaying inside the park). We carried a water bottle and there are cold water refill stations/taps that are free. Indian food is cheapest around Little India but overpriced in the rest of the city. Vist Arab Street during the night to experience outdoor seating and authentic middle eastern cuisines. 

Most hotels do not have restrictions on getting outside food so use your local sim to register as a new user on Grab app and get offers to get food delivered to your hotel lobby when you are too tired or lazy to step out.

Street dining near Arab Street

All this is helpful, how was it with your toddler?

Singapore is stroller friendly. Buses and metros have dedicated slots to lock strollers and seats dedicated to the person with the kid. Every tourist attraction has a separate entry/ramp for strollers and there are dedicated areas for keeping the strollers when the venue has stairs or terrain not suitable for it. There are elevators to access the overwalk bridges and to access the metro platforms. So as long as your kid is comfortable in a stroller, you can have a really effortless trip (not fully effortless as the kid itself is a lot of effort and this just eases things). We had carried ready to eat food and hot water flasks with us. There are public restrooms with diaper changing stations everywhere. We bought fruits from the retail stores and that kept my daughter fed throughout the day. 

Kids under 2 are treated as an add-on for flight tickets so are charged a fixed fee. Due to the promo fare, AirIndia charged 600 INR for my daughter's round trip. Apart from this the only other money we spent on her was for the eVisa and insurance (optional, but we always buy travel insurance when going abroad). All transit and entry tickets are free for kids under 3 in Singapore so considering the overall amount we spent, she literally traveled for free :) 

Most indoor attractions have Air Conditioning and outdoor attractions have waiting areas with shade and fans. Due to the heat, we usually start the day late so that we get more time outdoors in the evening when it is cooler. So we planned to visit indoor places during the day and then take a good stroll in the evening for the outdoor places. 

We had my brother’s family and my mother traveling along with us so we had help during the entire trip. I would highly recommend taking grandparents or uncle-aunts along with you for trips with a toddler :D

#BabyShenoy chilling :)

Lots to consider with a toddler, so what did your itinerary look like?

Day1: Left Bengaluru at midnight and landed at 830am in Changi Airport. Freshened up and waited at T1 for the rain vortex at Changi to start. It starts at 10am on weekends and 11am on weekdays. We also visited the artificial forest around the waterfall but did not do any other activities at Changi. We ate breakfast at McD (no veg but egg items available) next to the rain vortex. Alternatively, T3 has a food court with an Indian restaurant which you can visit before you enter through immigration. We took the MRT to our hotel and rested until evening. We took the bus to Marina Bay Sands and witnessed the light show at Gardens by the bay and then ended the day with dinner at Little India.

Changi Jewel - Rain Vortex

Gardens by the bay

Day 2: Spent the entire day at Universal Studios in Sentosa. Witnessed the Wings of Time show after Universal closed and had dinner near the beach station. The newly opened Sensory Walk is a good 30 mins-1hr walk from Beach Station to the Universal Station. We reached the hotel around 11pm.

Universal Studios

Wings of Time Show

Day 3: We went back to Sentosa to visit SEA Aquarium and Madame Tussauds. On the way back we took the cable car ride to Mount Faber and continued on to the city. We ended the day early and went for the first round of shopping in Bugis.

SEA Aquarium

Day 4: We visited the Pandas in River wonders and the Zoo. This is in the national park outside the city limits so it took a while to reach there. Most people would recommend doing the night safari but we felt it would be too crowded and scary for our toddler so we came back after visiting the zoo. We did the river cruise along the promenade and ended the day with dinner by the river at Clarke Quay. 

Dinner by Clarke Quay

Day 5: This was the last day and we had one attraction pass left. We wanted to go to the Ice Cream Museum but then coming from the city of Ice Cream (Mangalore) we thought we would take the BigBus hop-on-hop-off tour as it would cover the entire city. We started with breakfast at Paakashala in Little India and then went through Chinatown. We visited the cloud forest and flower dome and had a picnic in the garden. We then went to the iconic Merlion for some photos. Having covered most tourist places we just sat on the BigBus and saw the entire city from the open roof top. We visited Bugis again for shopping and ended the day and the trip with some good Lebanese food on Arab Street.

Indoor waterfall at Cloud Forest

Day 6: Morning flight back to Bengaluru.

Anything else that we should know about? 

There are a lot of things in Singapore and almost everything costs money so be prepared to stretch your budget a bit. There are a lot of instagram reels and youtube vlogs which will present you with a lot more information so make sure to check them out before you decide on your itinerary! Most people combine Singapore with Malaysia with a cruise option between the two cities, so if feasible add a couple of days more and you can visit two countries with just a little extra cost. There are a lot of places to take photos, so once you are done taking photos, just stand back a bit and soak in the atmosphere (we tend to forget to enjoy the moment in the mad rush to take instagrammable photos). 

Thanks to Mukesh Kini and Ananth Kamath who patiently answered all my questions and helped us prepare a good itinerary. Special thanks to my brother Gowrish who did the visas, handled currencies and pushed us to take this trip together :)

All of us @ Madame Tussauds :) 

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