By Peter Needham
|Singapore may well have been designed to suit visiting families. Safe, friendly and compact, hi-tech yet exotic, the country is easy to get around and crammed with attractions. Holidays there are easy to find – many travel packages wrap Singapore with visits to Malaysia or Indonesia’s Bintan Island – but Singapore works well on its own. Explore Holidays showcases the best of Penang, Langkawi and Singapore – including two new options to Singapore’s fabulous Sentosa Island. Qantas Holidays offers a Singapore and Sentosa Getaway holiday that allows you to choose you own options and extend your stay. Creative Holidays runs trips to Singapore in connection with SuperStar Gemini cruises, or on its own. |
Singapore’s clean and efficient MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) subway ties in well with its SBS bus network. Some 2400 public transport buses run 192 routes. Shopping – for adults and for kids – is justly renowned. Be warned, Singapore offers no fewer than four Toys R Us stores! Wherever you head, you’ll have no trouble with food. Dining is diverse and delicious – everything from cheeseburgers to traditional Malay fare like nasi padang (rice served with vegetables and fish, chicken or eggs).
Jurong BirdPark is a wildlife knockout. If travelling with a toddler, you might consider seeing the park on the panorail – air-conditioned transport that cuts out a lot of walking. Some 1500 African birds fly freely around the Waterfall Aviary. Jurong even has its own version of Phillip Island’s penguin parade – the penguins waddle around a simulated Antarctic environment. To reach the bird park by public transport, take the MRT to Boon Lay Station (EW27), then switch to SBS bus 194 or 251.
Singapore Zoo is designed on the “open” principle, covering 28 hectares. Kids love the baby animals, including some threatened ape species born in the zoo, such as proboscis monkeys, douc langurs (found in the rainforests of Vietnam and Laos), white rhinos and orang utans.
Another big hit with kids is the Night Safari, next to Singapore Zoo. Once again, you can choose between walking or the easy option – a tram ride. Either way, you’re venturing among 900 animals (135 different species) spread around eight zones designed to resemble separate geographic regions. Giraffes, fishing cats, tapirs, lions, tigers, rhinos, even bongos (a type of forest antelope), live here. When you hear the strange and melancholy rising whoop of the striped hyena, you are not listening to a recording. To get there, catch the MRT to Choa Chu Kang Station (NS4), then board SMRT Bus 927 to the zoo. Or take the MRT to Ang Mo Kio Station (NS16), then board SBS bus 138.
Singapore Science Centre is a whiz-bang wonder. Children just love its interactive nature. Over 850 exhibits include 35 sculptures and displays in a garden setting. Don’t miss the Omni-Theatre with its virtual voyage simulation experience. Reach the Science Centre by catching the MRT to Jurong East Station (EW24/NS1) then SBS bus 335.
Sentosa, in Malay, means Isle of Tranquillity. This is Singapore’s pleasure island, easily accessible via a causeway from the main island. Waking up in a Sentosa hotel and looking out your window at sunrise is an enchantment as you gaze at palm trees, little manmade islands, an aquamarine sea and ships of all nations anchored off Singapore. Underwater World on Sentosa includes an 83-metre long tunnel you can stroll through while schools of fish, eagle rays and sharks glide all round. Fort Siloso, built by the British in the 1880s, offers underground tunnels, artillery nests and bunkers. Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom is another Sentosa winner. Sigh at exquisite butterflies like Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing – considered by many butterfly fanciers to be the world’s most beautiful species. Then confront rhino beetles, giant spiders and other creepy-crawlies in a 70-metre-long cave, guided by fireflies. Screech! You can touch giant scorpions, beetles and stick insects. Not for everyone, but a lot of fun for some!
Contact: Singapore Tourism Board
Phone: 02 9290 2888
Getting there: Flights to Singapore from the East Coast of Australia take about 7½ hours; from the west coast, about five hours.
Visas: Australian passport holders need no visa if staying up to 90 days (30 days for New Zealand passport holders). Passports must be valid for six months after entry to Singapore and visitors must possess onward or return tickets to their next destination and sufficient funds for their stay.
Language: Malay, Mandarin, Indian and English are all official languages. English – widely spoken in shops, restaurants, hotels and most taxis – is the language used in business and administration.
Weather: Always warm and humid. Average temperatures range between 23 and 32ºC. Rain falls throughout the year, more consistently during the November-to-January monsoon season.
Cultural tips: Tipping is unusual in Singapore. As a rule, tip only for special personal service, although adding 10% to the bill at an upmarket restaurant (provided it hasn’t already added a service charge) is reasonable. Cheaper eateries don’t expect tips.
Currency: AU$1 = about SG$1.12 .
Health: Singapore is clean with high hygiene standards. Tap water is safe to drink.
Accommodation: Singapore offers a wide variety of accommodation at all price levels. For a comprehensive list, plus contact details and interactive booking facilities, access www.visitsingapore.com/publish/stbportal/en/home/apps/hotel_search.html
More information: www.visitsingapore.com/au; www.smartraveller.gov.au/zw-cgi/view/Advice/Singapore; www.qantas.com.au/content/dyn/holidays/home; www.creativeholidays.com.au; www.exploreholidays.com.au