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Singapore quick tips

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Endless shopping malls, gleaming skyscrapers and strict social order typically spring to mind among most travellers who assume that these are the complete and paltry attractions of the city state.

And while it's true that Singapore doesn't quite have the guts, grit and grime of Asian mega-cities like Bangkok and Manila, if you give the tiny island a chance you'll see it has loads more than just duty-free shopping on offer.

The economic powerhouse and chief melting pot of Southeast Asia, Singapore presents a fascinating meld of cultures, religions and languages ever so slightly beneath the shiny veneer of its somewhat characterless commercial front.

It's something of a meeting point between East and West -- it has been for centuries in its role as an important port – and you only have to scratch the surface a little to be well rewarded.

Think loads of interesting outdoor attractions, ranging from zoos to parks to beaches, mix with some of the region's best (though not cheapest) shopping, throw in some superb transport crisscrossing the lushly green island and add in a wonderful array of tasty cuisines and friendly people, and you'll come a little closer to the heart of what Singapore is all about.

The island is incredibly family-friendly, with blissfully unbroken footpaths, wheelchair access to most buildings (don't get used to that if this is the start of your Asian trip!) and a population that generally adores children. And there is plenty for kids to do too, with playgrounds and parks galore.

Singapore only won independence in 1965, after a century and a half of British rule, and a short-lived union with neighbouring Malaysia.

Today, English is almost universally spoken among the ethnically Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian populations who now call the island home.

Elements of the respective migrant cultures and identities are still present in the cacophony of languages you'll hear, along with the churches, temples, historic buildings and restored shophouses you can tour, and most importantly, the delicious food.

In between sightseeing stops, you'll never have to eat the same thing twice, or even from the same cuisine -- that goes for travellers on all budgets. Because of Singapore's complete modernisation, her local food may not seem as varied, cheap and colourful as say in Thailand, but you can still eat phenomenally for very little.


Take your pick, from Little India's sweaty hawker centres popular with locals, where for a few bucks you can eat a superb laksa, to splurging out on some of the most respected European, Chinese, or Japanese restaurants, where you might still pay less than a regular meal out at home. Singapore's chilli crab must be eaten at least once in a lifetime. (And whatever you do, don't wear white!)

With an airport often voted the world's best and excellent transport connections to all parts of the world, including cheap budget flights to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, the Philippines and, Indonesia, Singapore is well placed to ease you into your trip to Asia.

Stop for a peek, settle down in affordable Little India or Arab Street and Bugis, and spend a few days following your nose. Sentosa Island is worth a visit at least once, and nosing around the malls on Orchard Road for an afternoon will let you unearth a few retail surprises. Go for a walking tour or two and head to the Night Safari for an unusual night out. And don't forget to sip a Singapore Sling at Raffles for a splurge. Singapore may not be an exotic and raw Asian city, but there's certainly enough history and fun to go around if you know where to look.

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Feature story

10 great hostels in Singapore

10 great hostels in Singapore

In early 2014, we stayed a night in each of 15 Singapore hostels we selected from an original list of 30 we had carefully curated. From those 15 nights, we hereby present our 10 favourite hostels in Singapore. We can't say these are the best, as with more than 100 hostels in Singapore in total, we haven't stayed in them all. We can say, however, that the 10 following hostels are terrific. Some are great for families, others for flashpackers, others still for couples (yes, there are double dorms) while a select few maintain that old-school backpacker vibe some travellers love.... Read full story

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