About Singapore

Singapore officially the Republic of Singapore, sometimes referred to as the "Lion City", the "Garden City" or the "Little Red Dot", is a sovereign city-state in Southeast Asia. It lies one degree (137 km) north of the equator, at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, with Indonesia's Riau Islands to the south. Singapore's territory consists of one main island along with 62 other islets. Since independence, extensive land reclamation has increased its total size by 23% (130 km2) and its greening policy has covered the densely populated island with tropical flora, parks and gardens.

Stamford Raffles founded colonial Singapore in 1819 as a trading post of the East India Company, but after its collapse and the eventual establishment of the British Raj, the islands were ceded to Britain and became part of its Straits Settlements in 1826. During the Second World War, Singapore was occupied by Japan. It gained independence from the UK in 1963 by federating with other former British territories to form Malaysia, but separated two years later over ideological differences, becoming a sovereign nation in 1965. After early years of turbulence and despite lacking natural resources and a hinterland, the nation developed rapidly as an Asian Tiger economy, based on external trade and its workforce.

Singapore is a global commerce, finance and transport hub. Its standings include: the most "technology-ready" nation (WEF), top International-meetings city (UIA), city with "best investment potential" (BERI), second-most competitive country, third-largest foreign exchange market, third-largest financial centre, third-largest oil refining and trading centre and the second-busiest container port. The country has also been identified as a tax haven.

Singapore ranks 5th on the UN Human Development Index and the 3rd highest GDP per capita. It is ranked highly in education, healthcare, life expectancy, quality of life, personal safety and housing. Although income inequality is high, 90% of homes are owner-occupied. 38% of Singapore's 5.6 million residents are permanent residents and other foreign nationals. There are four official languages: English (common and first language), Malay, Mandarin and Tamil, though almost all Singaporeans are bilingual.

Singapore is a unitary multiparty parliamentary republic, with a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government. The People's Action Party has won every election since self-government in 1959. The dominance of the PAP, coupled with a low level of press freedom and restrictions on civil liberties and political rights, has led to Singapore being classified by some as a semi-authoritarian regime. One of the five founding members of ASEAN, Singapore is also the host of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Secretariat and a member of the East Asia Summit, Non-Aligned Movement and the Commonwealth of Nations.

Capital Singapore
Largest city Bedok
Official language and national language English, Malay, Huayu Mandarin, Tamil
Area 719.1 km2 (277.6 sq mi)
Population 5,607,300
Currency Singapore dollar (SGD)
Time zone MSST (UTC+8)
Country Code +65

The Do’s and Don’ts of Traveling to Singapore

Singapore is a tolerant country for the most part – at least in terms of cultural diversity. One thing is for sure: you won’t see a mob crowding around if you unwittingly break one of the local taboos. That is not to say that anything goes here, though. Before you start navigating your way around Singapore, it is best that you take a look at our list of Do’s and Don’ts.

DO’s

• DO ask for the price before you order any food
. This is especially important in smaller places, and for items listed at seasonal price – prices can often be surprisingly high, despite the establishment’s humble appearance. This is particularly relevant when ordering seafood. Some fish or crab dishes can easily be priced in the hundreds, even at small coffee shops. It’s better to ask before you order, lest you fall off your chair when the bill arrives. You might save yourself some embarrassment, particularly since some smaller eateries do not accept payment other than in cash.

• DO get a copy of the local MRT (Mass Rapid Transit, aka Metro, aka Subway) guide. 
You can download the guide at www.smrt.com.sg or pick it up at any MRT station. MRT is the most popular and probably the most convenient mode of transportation in Singapore – especially during peak hours, when traffic jams are the order of the day. By studying the MRT guide, you will discover that many of the local tourist attractions are accessible by train, saving you quite a bit in the way of transportation expenses.

• DO look out for packets of tissue paper or umbrellas on tables. 
Before you sit down at a table in a hawker centre or coffee shop, check for packets of tissue paper or umbrellas. Singaporeans have a peculiar habit of reserving their seats with these items, while they queue up for food. If you don’t want to get into an ugly confrontation, best you steer clear. Especially true in crowded hawker centres during lunch time, when tables are prime real estate!

• DO bargain. 
Always bargain a little, especially when you’re not in a fixed-price outlet such as one of the larger chain stores. Don’t expect the sort of monumental savings you’d find in Bangkok or Taiwan, though. At best, sellers will reduce their prices by 10% or so; if you push your luck too far, you might end up offending. When shopping in places like Lucky Plaza or Sim Lim Tower, all bets are off – bargain away! Feel free to shop around, since many vendors sell the same items, and price disparities between shops will surprise you. Be forewarned, some shops have a reputation for overcharging – so be sure you ask around and get a feel of the market rate before zooming in for the kill.

• DO dress appropriately. 
It is hot and humid in Singapore, so we suggest you pack light cotton clothing. Don’t go to the other extreme, though. A large proportion of the Singaporean population is somewhat prudish; if you step into any religious building, a show of too much skin is not going to endear you to the inhabitants.

DON’T

• DON’T litter. 
At any given time, there could be a National Environment Agency (NEA) officer nearby, dressed in plain clothes and mingling in the crowd. If you are a first offender, you will be slapped with a $120 fine (or thereabouts – even fines are subject to inflation). You will also be required to watch an educational video on the evils of littering. Repeat offenders can be forced to participate in a Corrective Work Order. As the name suggests, this is work done to clean up a mess, usually in a public area such as a park, all to teach you to appreciate the hard work that goes into keeping the environment clean and beautiful. So unless you want to ruin your vacation, just don’t litter.

• DON’T vandalize. 
This includes graffiti of any sort, no matter how artistic you might consider it. Singapore’s attitude toward vandalism is considerably stricter than in many other countries. Offenders may be jailed and even caned, as some recent incidents involving young foreigners have demonstrated.

• DON’T feel obligated to tip. 
It is not considered bad manners to tip, but doing so is simply not part of the culture here. It is definitely not like the West, where you’re often expected to tip, even if you aren’t impressed with the service received. In restaurants here, a service charge of 10% is levied on top of your purchases – it is simply included in your bill. It is not the norm to tip taxi drivers, and they do not expect it. Of course, you are still welcome to tip if you so desire.

• DON’T stuff your wallet with cash. This isn’t meant to say you need to be concerned about pickpocket-infested streets. It’s just that there is no real need to carry much cash. Most restaurants and larger stores accept Visa and MasterCard. If you wish to use American Express, Diners Club, JCB or UnionPay, it’s a good idea to ask in advance about whether your card will be accepted. (Most food and beverage outlets do honour American Express and Diners Club.) Even if you find your card won’t be accepted, in Singapore you are never far from a Cirrus or Plus ATM.

• DON’T throw away your receipts
. This is a matter of potential savings. At the airport, before you depart, you may be able to reclaim Goods and Services Tax (GST) you’ve paid for certain items during your visit. The current GST rate is 7%, so the amount you’re entitled to reclaim can be substantial – especially if you’ve spent hours at Orchard Road.

Demographics

As of mid-2015, the estimated population of Singapore was 5,535,000 people, 3,375,000 (60.98%) of whom were citizens, while the remaining 2,160,000 (39.02%) were permanent residents (527,700) or foreign students/foreign workers/dependants (1,632,300). According to the country's most recent census in 2010, nearly 23% of Singaporean residents (i.e. citizens and permanent residents) were foreign born (which means about 10% of Singapore citizens were foreign-born naturalized citizens); if non-residents were counted, nearly 43% of the total population were foreign born.

The same census also reports that about 74.1% of residents were of Chinese descent, 13.4% of Malay descent, 9.2% of Indian descent, and 3.3% of other (including Eurasian) descent. Prior to 2010, each person could register as a member of only one race, by default that of his or her father, therefore mixed-race persons were solely grouped under their father's race in government censuses. From 2010 onward, people may register using a multi-racial classification, in which they may choose one primary race and one secondary race, but no more than two.

90.3% of resident households (i.e. households headed by a Singapore citizen or permanent resident) own the homes they live in, and the average household size is 3.43 persons (which include dependants who are neither citizens nor permanent residents). However, due to scarcity of land, 80.4% of resident households live in subsidized, high-rise, public housing apartments known as "HDB flats" because of the government board (Housing and Development Board) responsible for public housing in the country. Also, 75.9% of resident households live in properties that are equal to, or larger than, a four-room (i.e. three bedrooms plus one living room) HDB flat or in private housing. Live-in foreign domestic workers are quite common in Singapore, with about 224,500 foreign domestic workers there, as of December 2013.

The median age of Singaporean residents is 39.3, and the total fertility rate is estimated to be 0.80 children per woman in 2014, the lowest in the world and well below the 2.1 needed to replace the population. To overcome this problem, the Singapore government has been encouraging foreigners to immigrate to Singapore for the past few decades. The large number of immigrants has kept Singapore's population from declining.

Languages

Singapore has four official languages: English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil. English is the common language, and is the language of business, government, and the medium of instruction in schools. Public bodies in Singapore, such as the Singapore Public Service, (which includes the Singapore Civil Service and other agencies), conduct their business in English, and official documents written in a non-English official language such as Malay, Chinese or Tamil typically have to be translatedinto English to be accepted for submission.

The Constitution of Singapore and all laws are written in English, and interpreters are required if one wishes to address the Singaporean Courts in a language other than English. English is the native tongue for only one-third of all Singaporeans, with roughly a quarter of all Singaporean Malays, a third of all Singaporean Chinese, and half of all Singaporean Indians speaking it as their native tongue. Twenty percent of Singaporeans cannot read or write in English.

Singaporeans are mostly bilingual, with English as their common language and usually the mother-tongue as a second language taught in schools, in order to preserve each individual's ethnic identity and values. The official languages amongst Singaporeans are English (80% literacy), Mandarin (65% literacy), Malay (17% literacy), and Tamil (4% literacy). Singapore English is based on British English, and forms of English spoken in Singapore range from Standard Singapore English to a colloquial form known as "Singlish". Singlish is discouraged by the government.

English is the language spoken by most Singaporeans at home, 36.9% of the population, just ahead of Mandarin. Nearly half a million speak other varieties of Chinese, mainly Hokkien, Teochew, and Cantonese, as their home language, although the use of these is declining in favour of Mandarin and English. Singapore Chinese characters are written using simplified Chinese characters.

Malay was chosen as a national language by the Singaporean government after independence from Britain in the 1960s to avoid friction with Singapore's Malay-speaking neighbours—Malaysia and Indonesia. It has a symbolic, rather than functional purpose. It is used in the national anthem "Majulah Singapura",in citations of Singaporean orders and decorations, and in military commands. In general, Malay is spoken mainly within the Singaporean Malay community, with only 17% of all Singaporeans literate in Malay and only 12% using it as their native language. While Singaporean Malay is officially written in the Latin-based Rumi script, some Singaporean Malays still learn the Arabic-based Jawi script as children alongside Rumi, and Jawi is considered an ethnic script for use on Singaporean Identity Cards.

Around 100,000, or 3%, of Singaporeans speak Tamil as their native language. Tamil has official status in Singapore and there have been no attempts to discourage the use of other Indian languages.

Religion

• 33.2% Buddhism

• 18.8% Christianity

• 18.5% no religion

• 14.0% Islam

• 10.0% Taoism and folk religion

• 5.0% Hinduism

• 0.6% Others

Culture

Despite its small size, Singapore has a diversity of languages, religions, and cultures. Former Prime Ministers of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, have stated that Singapore does not fit the traditional description of a nation, calling it a society-in-transition, pointing out the fact that Singaporeans do not all speak the same language, share the same religion, or have the same customs. Even though English is the first language of the nation, according to the 2010 census, 20% of Singaporeans are illiterate in English. This is however an improvement from 1990, when 40% of Singaporeans were illiterate in English.

From 1819, it served as a trading port for British ships on their way to India. Being a major trading hub and its close proximity to its neighbor Malaysia, Singapore was prone to many foreign influences, both from Britain and from other Asian countries. Chinese and Indian workers moved to Singapore to work at the harbor. The country remained a British colony until 1942.

When Singapore became independent from the United Kingdom in 1963, most Singaporean citizens were uneducated labourers from Malaysia, China and India. Many were transient labourers, seeking to make some money in Singapore, with no intention of staying permanently. There was also a sizeable minority of middle-class, locally-born people—known as Peranakans or Baba-Nyonya—descendants of 15th and 16th-century Chinese immigrants. With the exception of the Peranakans who pledged their loyalties to Singapore, most of the labourers' loyalties lay with their respective homelands of Malaysia, China and India. After independence, the government began a deliberate process of crafting a Singaporean identity and culture.

Each Singaporean's behaviours and attitudes are influenced by, among other things, his or her home language and his religion. Singaporeans who speak English as their native language tend to lean toward Western culture, while those who speak Chinese as their native language tend to lean toward Chinese culture and Confucianism. Malay-speaking Singaporeans tend to lean toward Malay culture, which itself is closely linked to Islamic culture.

Racial and religious harmony is regarded by Singaporeans as a crucial part of Singapore's success, and played a part in building a Singaporean identity.

The national flower of Singapore is the hybrid orchid, Vanda 'Miss Joaquim', named in memory of a Singapore-born Armenian woman, who crossbred the flower in her garden at Tanjong Pagar in 1893. Many national symbols such as the Coat of arms of Singapore and the Lion head symbol of Singapore make use of the lion, as Singapore is known as the Lion City. Singapore is also known as the Little Red Dot. Major religious festivals are public holidays.

Singapore has a reputation as a nanny state. However, the government places heavy emphasis on meritocracy, where one is judged based on one's ability.

Festivals

Thaipusam
Overly squeamish folks might shy away from this Hindu festival. In Little India, along Serangoon Road and Tank Road, the large procession sees some brave devotees carry spiked kavadis (portable altars) that pierce through their torsos as a tribute to Lord Subramaniam, the protector. To prepare for such a gruelling feat, they pray and fast up to 48 days before. On the less extreme end, devotees can also be seen carrying simple wooden kavadis or pots of milk.
When: 31st of January 2018

Chinese New Year
The Lunar New Year is the most important period on the Chinese calendar. To welcome the New Year, Chinese families banish bad luck by spring-cleaning, and welcome good fortune with red and gold decorations and brand new clothes. Throughout the 14 days of festivities, families visit friends and relatives to eat dinner (steamboat is a popular choice), exchange oranges for prosperity and give kids red packets (hong bao). From 30 January to 19 March, Chinatown will also be bustling with folks buying traditional snacks, decorations and more. Celebrations not to be missed included the Chingay Parade and the 8th International Lion Dance Competition.
When: 16 February 2018

Vesak Day
Traditional chanting, tranquil candlelight processions and offerings of joss sticks, flowers and candles all take place at shrines and temples during Vesak Day, as Buddhists celebrate the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha. During this day of self-reflection, many Buddhists also opt to do good deeds like giving out cash and food to the needy, or setting free caged birds.
When: 29th of May 2018

Dragon Boat Festival
Crowds munching on sticky rice dumplings (zongzi) will be streaming to this exciting event that originated in China over two thousand years ago and now takes place in Chinese communities all over the globe. A festival of many names, it’s also known as Duanwu, Tuen Ng and Double Fifth Festival (falling on the fifth day of the fifth month). Head to Bedok Reservoir for the prestigious Dragon Boat Racing Festival, where competing teams will paddle furiously to the finish line in time with the intense beat of drums.
When: 18th June 2018

Hari Raya Puasa
At the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, Muslim families celebrate by wearing eye-catching new baju kurungs (tradititonal malay clothing) and visiting their families for a huge home-cooked feast. Non-observers can visit the nightly bazaar at Geylang Serai, which runs throughout the fasting month. The countless stalls there sell all kinds of sweet and savoury snacks, ethnic clothes, jewellery and more.
When: 25th of June 2017

National Day
As Singapore celebrates their 50th year of independence, the Float at Marina Bay will host the sensational National Day Parade with dazzling bursts of fireworks, amazing choreographed dance routines, floats and lots of cutting-edge surprises all through the night.
When: 9 August 2017

Hari Raya Haji
This festival of sacrifice is celebrated exactly how it sounds. Following prayers from male volunteers at mosques around Singapore, worshippers sacrifice sheep, cow and goats to symbolise Prophet Ibrahim’s sacrifice. The meat is then carved up and given out to family and friends of the person who offered the animal, with a third of it traditionally distributed to the needy.
When: 1st September

Mid-Autumn Festival (aka Lantern Festival)
Celebrated on the day the moon is at its brightest, this light-hearted festival sees local Chinese families coming together in parks and gardens to feast on traditional mooncakes, pomelos and Chinese tea. For kids, the best part of this festival is playing with colourful lanterns – from traditional ones lit by wax candles to plastic or cellophane types in the shape of cartoon characters, animals and more. Chinatown’s streets also come alive with lion dances, dragon dances, night markets, traditional percussions and more.
When: 4th of October 2017

Deepavali
Little India will be overflowing with vibrant lights, kaleidoscopic arches, busy bazaars and Indian delicacies during this “festival of lights”, which commemorates the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil. Join in the joyous atmosphere and take the chance to shop for intricately sewn saris, heady Ayurvedic massage oils and more.
When: 18th of October 2017

Climate

Singapore has a tropical rainforest climate with no distinctive seasons, uniform temperature and pressure, high humidity, and abundant rainfall. Temperatures usually range from 22 to 35 °C (72 to 95 °F). While temperature does not vary greatly throughout the year, there is a wetter monsoon season from November to January.

From July to October, there is often haze caused by bush fires in neighboring Indonesia, usually from the island of Sumatra. Although Singapore does not observe daylight saving time (DST), it follows the GMT+8 time zone, one hour ahead of the typical zone for its geographical location.

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