Singapore – What to Know Before Traveling

MapSingapore is an Island nation which is one of the few countries where the capitol is same as the country. It is around 750 square kilometers including all new reclamation, with the east-west length of around 40 km and north-south length of around 20 km. Here are some important facts for the first time travelers to the Garden Island, Singapore.

Visa

Singapore offers On-arrival visa  for many nationalities. You can check further details from following link. Make sure to keep the last part of the boarding document given as it may be required to produce whenever necessary. You can find the list of countries who have On-Arrival visa here.

Weather

Singapore has almost constant weather activities all around the year. As it is located near the equator the climate is bit warm. There will be a drizzle in the afternoon which will be over in about an hour, So better be prepared if you are planning to walk or visit a park. You can use an weather app just to make sure.

Transport

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Main three transportation methods in Singapore are MRT (Mass Rapid Transit), Buses or Taxis. Singapore highly promotes the usage of Public transport. Therefore, you can experience one of the best public transportation systems there. There are even driver-less MRTs. If you are planning to travel more on public transport, it is recommended to buy a Singapore Tourist Pass, which will save you a lot!

MRTs are the cheapest option for traveling. Singapore has a good train network, covering almost every place you need to go and it is further evolving. You need a ticket to enter the MRT platform. If you don’t have a Tourist pass you can purchase a ticket from the automated machines at each MRT station, which you still can recharge and reuse to get discounts on your 3rd and 6th rides.


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Buses are the next cheap mode of transport. Traveling in the Buses will be tricky if you don’t have that re-chargeable card. Then you will need the exact amount of bus fare as there is no bus conductor. So better be aware of the bus fare and recheck your wallet for change before getting in on a bus.

Taxis are common in Singapore, but may cost you more than public transport. There are Taxi stands at common places where you can get one by being in the queue. Else you can use services like Uber.

Other than above modes of transport Walking and Cycling are the best ways to explore Singapore. Some places rent bicycles for daily basis. But with the hassle of  finding a place to safely park the bicycle I would prefer walking. Singapore has this amazing concept of sheltered walkways, which they said to have constructed shelters above more than 50% of the walkway length.

Communication

You can always use roaming facility of your mobile service provider. But I strongly suggest to purchase Starhub, Singtel or any other SIM which you can find every corner. They come with complementary Data allocation which you can use to make calls through Viber or similar methods cheaper than the standard roaming charges.

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Singaporeans are generally very open minded people. They do not have conservative mindset like most of other Asian countries. There are many ethnic groups living together in peace and harmony. There main language is Malay, but all speaks English fluently. There are certain areas named according to the ethnicity of the people who live there. China town, Little India and Arab Street are examples. But Singapore encourages people to live as mixed ethnic groups, they even try to maintain the racial balance in apartment buildings! Singaporeans don’t try to talk much, but they are social and a kind crowd. They respect their elders and take special care of the young. They are very conscious about physical health and most of them spend their evenings in a gym, working out or in doing cardio in walking tracks.

Food

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Singaporean cuisines are rich as they have all Malay, Chinese and Indian influences. There are Open areas with many food stalls called Hawker Centers everywhere you go.  Singapore encourages small scale food stalls by low rentals on Hawker center food stalls, so that they can sell meals at a lower price. That way even people with lowest incomes can survive. There are all kinds of international food chains in Singapore, but people tend to give lower preference to those as they have many more to choose from. There are middle level restaurants that the price can be high as two times the Hawker center and small scale restaurant prices and High end restaurants that you can spend a fortune for a meal!

“Do”s and “Don’t”s

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  1. Do offer your seat for elders, pregnant ladies and people with infants when you are traveling in public transport.
  2. Always use the pedestrian crossings or over passes to cross the roads.
  3. Always use the designated bins to throw garbage, else you will be fined.
  4. Singaporeans admire silence in Public transport, try not to shout.
  5. Don’t consume Chewing-gum as it is prohibited in the country, you will be fined.
  6. Don’t use or keep Drugs as it is prohibited. Singapore give death penalty to drug traffickers.
  7. Don’t eat or Drink in Public Transport, you will be fined.
  8. Don’t take Dooriyan to Buses or MRTs, you will be fined.
  9. Don’t leave tips at restaurants.

Must Visit Places

  1. Gardens by the Bay (Trip report will be uploaded soon)
  2. Marina by the Bay (Trip report will be uploaded soon)
  3. Sentosa Island (Trip report will be uploaded soon)
  4. Jurong Bird park
  5. Singapore zoo, River Safari and Night Safari (Trip report will be uploaded soon)
  6. China Town, Little India, Arab Street (Trip report will be uploaded soon)
  7.  Singapore Botanical Gardens and National Orchid Gardens (Trip report will be uploaded soon)

Special Articles

  1. Singapore Food Hunt (Trip report will be uploaded soon)
  2. Shopping in Singapore (Trip report will be uploaded soon)
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Lankapatuna

Map

Crew : 4

Transportation : Van

Duration : Few Hours (Around one hour spent on the location)

 

 

We were on Trincomalee and was Traveling towards Seruwawila when we remembered that the Historical Place, Lankapatuna is nearby. The “Samudragiri Viharaya” is said was built on the exact place where prince “Dhantha” and princess “Hemamala” landed with the Sacred “Tooth Relic”, the left canine tooth of lord Buddha.

Legends say that Indian princess Hemamali hid the relic in her hair and the royal couple landed in Lankapatuna, Sri Lanka after disguising themselves as Brahmins. Ruins of historical importance are said to be scattered in the Land around The Samudragiri Viharaya.

Unfortunately most of the ruins were destroyed by the LTTE during war time and they have  used the Lankapatuna area as their (sea tiger) Navel Base and the Rock which the pagoda is situated to build their communication tower. Reports say that there were many operations to remove the mines and other booby traps from the surrounding area after the war.

We were near Verugal when we decided to visit Lankapatuna, so wee took the Gravel road from Verugal to western point of the Ullakalie Lagoon. The bridge linking two points of the Lagoon has been destroyed during the war, Now there is a boat service by a local as well as Sri Lanka Navy. We used a boat and it cost us only 200 rupees (Saw that the boat rider didn’t even charged from the school children who were going back to their homes after school by the boat) for both.  The boat ride was up and down trips short but fascinating as the golden rays reflected on calm lagoon water. The temple premises is maintained by the Sri Lankan Navy. There are some stone stairs towards the pagoda. The view from the bottom of the pagoda was amazing and we spent some time there enjoying the view, before we came back to the dock for our boat ride back to the van.

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Wilpattu, The Land of Ponds..

It was a while we, University friends  went on a trip. So we decided it’s time. Our initial suggestion was Wilpattu, and it was seconded by all without any hesitation. Then we tried to reserve a wildlife department bungalow inside the national park, so that our transportation time will be minimized while we have full time viewing access to the National park. Then we heard the bad news, all wildlife department bungalows were booked one and half months early. There were few discussions to change the destination, but all were disappointed with the situation. One day a friend came with a good news, He was able to reserve few rooms in a nearby place to wilpattu through a contact. So the planning began. We thought of utilizing a full day to travel inside Wilpattu. So we have spare 12 hours on the day we are travelling from Kandy. One came up with the suggestion, Thonigala and we thought of spending the rest in Picturesque Kalpitiya Beach. We hired a Van and started our trip around 7 am since we had a lots of spare time. It was around 9 am when we stopped at Kurunegala to pick one of our friends and to have the breakfast. Around 11.30 we reached Thonigala, and we spent quite long time taking photographs and wandering around the Lake near Thonigala inscript. Then we travelled to puttalam and the large portions of breakfast kept us going around 2.30 pm without stopping for the lunch. We didn’t planned for a place to have the lunch since it is hard to predict exact time and location when there are many photographers in the group. 😀 We searched for a place nearby and finally “Foursquare” came for the help. It suggested about a hotel nearby, called “Palmyra Village Hotel”. We just went there because we were lack of options since it is too late for lunch. But the food was great (To the standards of a local boutique hotel) and we had Seafood Fried Rice, Which is their identity. It was a long lunch as we had a lot to talk and needed a break from sitting inside the van.

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It was around 3 pm when we reached to Kalpitiya beach, and we just jumped into our swimwear and walked to the sea. The sun was burning hot and that made harder for us to walk on the sand. We knew that Kalpitiya is one of the world famous Kite Surfing destinations but didn’t realized it is that much interesting until we saw it. The famous Kite Surfing Lagoon was just a Beach stripe away and the scenery of people riding Huge Kites, attracted us to the lagoon. It was an awesome feeling even just to watch them surfing and one item was added to the bucket list 😛 We came back to the beach and stayed dipped in the sea water to avoid the harsh rays of the burning sun until around 5.30 pm. We had to leave Kalpitiya at that time as we had to find a place to have our dinner and to buy some food to bring to our accommodation. It was around 7.30 pm when we reached back to Puththalam and brought some food to have on the safari jeep ride as well as to prepare breakfast and lunch for the next day. Most of us had a light dinner and hurried to our accommodation. We reached there around 9 pm and it was surprisingly closer to the Wilpattu National Park. It is Just in front of the Park Gate and was in very good condition. We thought of going to sleep early as we are supposed to wake up in the morning. Then we got an invitation from another group who was staying at the same place to join with them for a BBQ. As we had a light dinner and they seemed very nice people, we couldn’t decline the invitation. Most of them are from the same professions as ours and all are wild life enthusiasts. We stood awake talking with them until it was midnight and finally decided to sleep. Beds were comfortable and as fans worked full time to cool down the heated air to a bearable level, we had a 6 hour long sleep under the cover of mosquito nets.

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As our friend and the accommodation caretaker promised, there was a safari jeep ready in front of the “Wilpattu Holiday Home” exactly ay 6.30 am. Caretaker and his wife had prepared Noodles for Breakfast and Kadala (Peas) from the things we provided them last night. We just had some snacks before starting the jeep safari and planned to have the breakfast near “Kumbuk Willu”. For some reason there wasn’t a Wildlife department guide/tracker available so we decided to continue the journey as we could use our experienced safari jeep driver as the guide since he was born and raised in the wilpattu area. There were three friends among us who usually take part in wildlife observation tours with the group “Haritha Diyatha” and it was a huge advantage for us as they had the knowledge about wildlife in wilpattu as well as they had required sources (Books and Leaflets) when we need to search about the animals we observed. One of those friends told us to focus on every single bird, insect and reptile we see as then we can make this trip worthwhile, even if we didn’t see any mammals. We all agreed that it is a good idea because we heard that no one has seen any leopard in past two days. Our driver had a hard time driving the jeep 1cm forward and 2 cms backward all the way along the journey to give us a better view of birds as 6 out of 9 of us had DSLRs or Bridge Cameras aiming out of the safari jeep. We reached “Kumbuk Willu” around 10.30 am and had our breakfast there. We saw a giant elephant enjoying some kind of grass on the water bed of “Kumbuk willu” few feets away from us only after finishing the breakfast. We observed few “wali kukulo” who were waiting to feed on any leftovers of the travelers meals. It was comparatively clean and free from polythene but still we saw few biscuit packets and lunch sheets here and there.

In the evening we went to see “Thambapanniya”, where the King “Vijaya” has first set his foot on this island as legends relate. The name “Thambapanni” means “Tin (Lead- plumbum) colored soil”. Actually the soil still looks a like and there we observed some kind of different soil/ rock formations, which we couldn’t explain from the little geology knowledge we had. We had our lunch nearby, and started the evening safari. We were lucky enough to see Few dozens of Bird species, Few Reptiles and mammals. That includes Deer, Wild Boar, Elephant, Water Buffalo, and a baby Sloth Bear at last 🙂

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Road Trip to Hikkaduwa

CaptureCrew : 3

Transportation : Car

Duration : Half a day

 

After a long time we got a free afternoon on a weekday. Thought of few options but finally settled with the favorite destination Hikkaduwa AKA “Hikka”. It is one of the top tourists attractions and you can see the social and infrastructural settings that are developed to facilitate the enormous local and foreign crowd during the season. The famous Coral reef & its Sea life, Sea turtles and affordable cottage hotels just in front of the sea are the key tourist attractions.

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We started our trip around 1 p.m. from Nugegoda. There was only three of us so we used one of my friends’ car. There were two options for the route. One is using the Colombo – Galle (A2) road and the other is Southern (E1) expressway. Since we had no hurry and it was a poya day (Less traffic in Galle road) we chose Colombo – Galle road. We didn’t had our lunch before starting the road trip, so bought some junk food and filled one back seat (one of us was sitting on the other seat, otherwise we could have bought some more 😀 ).

At the start the road is wide and had little traffic but as we pass by, the road got little narrower and traffic was less. Most of the time there is a single straight line (where you can’t overtake) to divide the road which is in between houses and boutiques made closer to the road end. Once in a while we saw the sea on the road side until Kaluthara, where one of the most visited giant pagoda is situated nearby the bridge over river “Kalu”.

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After that the beach, sea and giant coconut trees were frequent on one side of the road. Luxurious giant hotels was in the vicinity surrounded by small cottage hotels and restaurants. We arrived to Hikkaduwa around 2.45 p.m. which is more than the normal traveling time because we couldn’t resist stopping by each attractive spot on the shore on the way.

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We parked the car in front of a restaurant which we have visited earlier. Then it was all about swimming, enjoying the sea breeze and sun. It took nearly 3 hours to sunset and only then we felt hungry. we came back to the restaurant and had a coffee on the sea shore even before changing our cloths. The sunset created a breathtaking view.

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Then we had a shower, changed the cloths and enjoyed an early seafood dinner before heading back to Colombo via the southern expressway.

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Arugam Bay

MapCrew : 11

Transportation : Public Bus and a hired Van

Duration : Two Days

After a long time we have planned to go on a trip to Arugam Bay. Me and three other friends rushed to the Colombo – Panama CTB Bus, which leaves colombo fort bus stand at 7 pm while other seven friends started their journey around 4 pm from Kandy by the hired Van. The bus was too crowded but fortunately we have reserved our seats in the morning of the same day so we had seats though we arrived to the bus stand in the last minute. Most of the people were to Rathnapra and Awissawella and almost only the people who were seated were left after passing Rathnapura.

The bus took nearly 8 hours to reach Pottuvil Town after stopping at two places to eat, rest and refresh. Our friends who came by the van were arrived two hours earlier even after stopping at one friends’ house for dinner in Monaragala. We just went to sleep after having a bath though we slept almost all the way down to Pottuvil. It was around 8 am when we all got up and prepared to explore the east cost. Before starting our journey, we had parata for breakfast in a small cafe in Pottuvil town and then went straight to Kudumbigala Aranya. Kudumbigala aranya is a place where Buddhist monks use to Meditate and stay apart from the disturbances of the secular world. The route to Kudumbigala is through the Kumana National Park, which has the highest Bird density among all the National parks in Sri Lanka. We were fortunate to see a Fox, Crocodile, Monkeys, Sri Lankan Junglefowl (Gallus lafayetii), Peacocks (Peafowl) and many other birds that i haven’t seen earlier. The Friends came by the van have seen couple of elephants in the previous day evening.

Kudumbigala aranya is surrounded by a heavy grown forest and there is a pathway to the top of the small hill, which a vehicle cannot access. The path was looked that it is being swept daily. The surrounding is calm and it was surprisingly cool environment.
On the top of the hill there are ruins of a pagoda, and a newly built statue of Lord Buddha. There weren’t many people in Kudumbigala at the time we visited. The monks were at the “Daana shalawa” (a place which has built to serve food to the monks) when we go there.

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Then we went to “Balum Gala” which is near the Kudumbigala. It is said that this place has been used to communicate with distant places by smoke or voice signals since a vast area is visible to that place. After a long photo shoot we came back to Pottuvil town to have the lunch. We went to a place called Village Hut, where accommodation is provided in small tree houses. Since it was almost the evening we had to wait for some time until they prepare our lunch. So we thought of playing beach rugby. After some time we went back there. The food seemed tastier as we were starving. After the lunch, we went to Arugam Bay by our van and played until we were dead tired. Since it was the off season there weren’t much surfers. We had the chance to pull few fishing boats to the sea shore. Then we came back to our lodge to have a wash and refresh before going to have the dinner. We found a decent place called Bay Vista to buy the dinner (But the food was a bit over priced). People there were good and friendly. We came back to the lodge at around 11 pm and all went to sleep straight away.

After having a good nap we woke up a little bit earlier than the previous day and left pottuvil early in the morning even without having the breakfast. One of our friends live in Monaragala and he invited us to have brunch there. The food which was made by my friend’s Mom was tasty and all ate more than they could. 🙂 He gave us steamed corn to eat on the way. We arrived Kandy around 4 pm even after stopping at another friend’s house in theldeniya for tea.

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