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“Singaporeans recommend” – a guide to an immersive authentic local experience

You’ve done extensive research in planning a trip to Singapore: you’ve trawled through multiple travel websites telling you all about the iconic attractions in Singapore, hotels in Singapore and the best restaurants in Singapore. While many of these are definite must-visits, if you’re looking for that off-the-beaten-track authentic Singapore experience, then we’ve got you covered.

Here are 10 things to do in Singapore, as recommended by Singaporeans themselves.


Indulge in local hawker fare

As Singaporeans, we take pride in our country being a gastronomic paradise. We’ve got quite an impressive number of Michelin-starred restaurants for such a small city-state, but some of the best food in Singapore come in the form of extremely affordable hawker dishes that are a syncretic mix of regional Straits and immigrant influences. Hawker dishes highly popular among locals include BBQ seafood at Newton Food Centre, Minced Meat Noodles (‘Bak Chor Mee’) at 85 Fengshan Centre and Fried Hokkien Prawn Noodles at Chomp Chomp Food Centre.

Tip: if you’re already planning on coming down to Resorts World Sentosa, authentic Straits hawker food is conveniently available at Malaysian Food Street.

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Try ordering traditional coffee/tea

You can’t say you’ve truly experienced Singapore without trying the local brew of ‘Kopi’ (coffee) or ‘Teh’ (tea) at ‘Kopitiams’ (coffee shops). You can order these sock-filtered cups of Kopi/Teh in no-frills black, with varying levels of evaporated milk, sugar, and sweetened condensed milk using a combination of terms. Because it originated as a Straits creole of Malay and Hokkien (a Chinese dialect), mastery of the Kopi/Teh vocabulary can be tricky even for locals. This is the real deal when it comes to coffee in Singapore, so try your hand at ordering a cup!

Tip: if it’s your first time, make your order in English but ask your server what the locals call it. Or start with the ‘less sweet coffee’ by saying ‘Kopi siu dai’.

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Shop till you drop

As the cosmopolitan financial hub of the region, Singapore is home to many international high and street fashion brands. Locals generally head to specialty malls/precincts – such as Queensway Shopping Centre for sporting goods, Sim Lim Square for electronics or Haji Lane for Bohemian boutique stores.

If you’re shopping in Singapore with no particular item in mind, head over to the country’s largest shopping mall, VivoCity. It provides a less hurried shopping experience compared to Orchard Road, but still has many of the brands you love.

Tip: bargaining is generally uncommon in Singapore, but slight negotiations may be made in small family-owned businesses; don’t do it in shopping malls!

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Get your adrenaline pumping with thrilling activities

The country may be small but thrilling activities can still be found in Singapore, especially on Sentosa Island. While you cannot skydive outdoors here, there is still a space for those looking to experience skydiving – iFly Singapore, the world’s largest wind tunnel for indoor skydiving. Or slice through the air on the MegaZip for a bird’s eye view of Sentosa as you go from a high point on the island to the white sands of Siloso Beach.

Perhaps even learn how to dive, or dive with sharks at Adventure Cove Waterpark. If someone tells you Singapore is boring, point them here.

Tip: be sure to check with the relevant operators if any of your existing medical conditions may put you at risk.


Have a day out at the beach

It would be certainly be a waste to fly all the way here and not spend a day at one of the beaches in Singapore. One of the popular weekend hangouts for locals is East Coast Park, where they go for barbecues, picnics, cycling and beach sports. However, many who wish to get away from the bustle of city head over to the beaches in Sentosa instead.

Tip: if you’re looking to avoid the crowd, avoid heading to the beach on weekends and during the school holidays in June and December when they are generally more crowded.

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Get around Singapore the green way

In a bid to encourage an active lifestyle among locals, the Land Transport Authority launched in early 2017 oBike – Singapore’s first station-less bike rental platform – to make bicycles more accessible and provide a viable, healthy and environmentally friendly option to getting around Singapore. With oBike, track the nearest available bike via your smartphone’s GPS and hop on and off one virtually anywhere in the city!

Tip: if you do not like cycling on pedestrian walkways, head over to Sentosa for a 12km network of on-road bicycle lanes – the first of its kind in Singapore.


Take OOTDs against Insta-worthy backdrops

In this age of social media, if you haven’t posted a photo of it, you haven’t been there. From ancestral Chinese homes to colonial buildings left behind from an era of Commonwealth rule, Singaporeans are pretty much spoilt for choice when it comes to hipster OOTD backdrops. Interestingly, the themed sets at Universal Studios Singapore still remain some of the most visited photo spots in Singapore amongst not only tourists, but locals as well.

Tip: these photos are best taken when there is still natural light, so don’t wait till its dark.


Join in the festivities

Each of the ethnic and religious festivals in Singapore is unique in its own right. Notable Chinese festivals include Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival (also known as the lantern festival) where locals head over to Chinatown for bazaars selling goodies and lanterns respectively. The fasting month of Ramadan is a big event for Muslims, but even non-Muslims are welcomed to partake in the month-long night market (which has seen hipster foods like the rainbow burger and unicorn tears) at Geylang Serai. The Hindu festival of lights, Deepavali, boasts an annual display of vibrant coloured lights along Little India that attracts locals and tourists alike.

Christmas is another big item on the calendar with celebrations held all over the country, including festivities at Resorts World Sentosa, and a grand display of Christmas lights along Orchard Road.

Tip: these festivals occur on different dates each year, according to the respective ethnic and religious calendars. Be sure to do a quick search of the dates if you wish for your trip to coincide with them.

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Soak in the nightlife in Singapore

If you’re a nocturnal party animal, you wouldn’t want to miss ZoukOut Singapore, Asia’s largest dance music festival at the beach towards the end of every year. In fact, ZoukOut has been such an iconic event that many young adults in Singapore consider it an annual affair. Throughout the rest of the year, there are plenty of bars along Clarke Quay, Telok Ayer and St. James Power Station that Singaporeans head to for chill late nights out with friends.

Tip: under the Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Act, drinking in public outside of establishments licensed to sell alcohol after 10.30pm is illegal.

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Catch fireworks display on New Year’s Eve

As with most cosmopolitan cities, fireworks in Singapore are a huge (explosive) deal – especially on New Year’s Eve. If squeezing with thousands for the New Year countdown is not your thing, then here are several locations around Sentosa Island for an up-close pyrotechnic display to usher in a new year.

Tip: make your choice based on the type of viewing experience you’re looking for – a romantic one, one for families, or one for party-goers.

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