10 FUN FACTS ABOUT SINGAPORE
Beyond the picture-perfect skyline and the bustling city centre, there’s still so much more to Singapore for visitors to explore. Read on for curious facts you never knew about this green and cosmopolitan city.
1. It’s a city of not just one island, but 63
You might not know it but Singapore’s land area includes as many as 62 offshore islands that surround the main island. These include Sentosa (the largest of the 62 offshore islands), Pulau Ubin, St John’s Island and Sisters’ Islands. What that means for visitors: more fun in the sun!
2. It’s home to the world’s first night zoo
Singapore’s Night Safari provides a nocturnal experience like no other in the city; it’s also the world’s very first night zoo. Opened in 1994, the 35-hectare park features over 1,000 animals in their naturalistic nighttime. Hop onto the 40-minute tram ride for an overview of the park’s main attractions. Be sure to amble along the four interlinked walking trails within the park, for a zoo trip like no other.
3. It’s a city of (man-made) waterfalls
According to the Wildlife Reserves Singapore, the first man-made waterfall was built at Jurong Bird Park in 1971. Dropping from a height of 30 metres, it is said to be the tallest waterfall in an aviary to date. That’s not all. You’ll also find the world’s tallest indoor waterfall (35 metres) in Singapore at the Cloud Forest, Gardens by the Bay. This huge waterfall is the centrepiece of the misty conservatory, designed to house plant life from the tropical highlands. In 2018, there will be an even taller indoor waterfall, to be built at Jewel at Changi Airport. This new retail and lifestyle complex will feature the Water Vortex, a man-made, 40-metre-tall waterfall that will be surrounded by a lush indoor garden.
4. The locals speak Singlish, not just English
Singaporeans also tend to refer to strangers such as cab drivers and hawker centre stall owners as “Aunties” and “Uncles”. This is an endearing way of addressing older gentlemen and ladies. Do use the terms wisely, though, as it can connote the addressee’s elderly age; you would not want to offend a stranger by accident!
5. Singapore pioneered the first F1 night race
Held annually since 2008, Grand Prix Season Singapore features a gamut of concerts, racing and entertainment activities, for Formula One fans and visitors of all ages. 2018’s event marks the Grand Prix’s 10th edition in Singapore. The star event—the FORMULA 1 SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX—also made racing history as the world’s first ever FORMULA 1 night race. The twisty Marina Bay street circuit has largely remained unchanged in the years since; the track’s brightly lit floodlights also add to the spectacular night views of Singapore. According to Formula 1, the Marina Bay Street Circuit also boasts more corners (23 in all) than any other circuits on the Formula One race calendar.
6. It’s one of the world’s greenest cities
This city of skyscrapers is also one that is filled with lush greenery. Nearly half of Singapore’s land area (approximately 700 square kilometres) is under green cover. Beyond numerous parks and gardens, there are pockets of undiscovered plant life housed in the most unusual of places. For example, PARKROYAL on Pickering is known for its hotel-in-a-garden concept and its four-storey cascading vertical garden. That’s not all. There’s rich biodiversity in nature reserves, too––Singapore is home to over 2,100 native vascular plant species. The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve in particular, is said to contain more tree species in a single hectare than the total number of tree species found in North America.
7. It’s home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site––and some unique ‘VIPs’
Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015, the Singapore Botanic Gardens has a history of over 150 years since its founding in 1859; that’s more than a century older than modern Singapore itself! Its most popular attraction is the National Orchid Garden, which houses thousands of orchid species known as Very Important Plants (VIPs). Over 200 hybrid orchids in this garden have been affectionately named after visiting foreign dignitaries such as Nelson Mandela, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as well as celebrities like actors Jackie Chan, Zhou Xun and Bae Yong Jun.
Another fun fact: Singapore’s first botanic garden opened in 1822, on the slopes of the area now known as Fort Canning Hill. Measuring just 19 hectares, the garden closed in 1829 due to rising costs and its land was then used for various public projects, including an Armenian church, a school and a hospital.
8. There are tonnes of off-the-beaten track neighbourhoods to explore
Besides the history-rich Chinatown, Kampong Glam and Little India cultural districts, there are more colourful enclaves for visitors to explore in Singapore. You’ll find rows of hip eateries and stores along the Art Deco-style buildings of Tiong Bahru, as well as colourful shophouses and traditional food stalls in Joo Chiat/Katong. More up-and-coming neighbourhoods include Everton Park, which is home to coffee joints, cafés, ice cream parlours and other must-try foodie hotspots.
9. There’s always something to celebrate in Singapore
Fret not about finding fun new things to do. There are cultural festivals, major sports, lifestyle and arts events held all year round in the city to keep you entertained. The annual HSBC World Rugby Singapore Sevens (April) and WTA Finals Singapore (held by the Women’s Tennis Association in October) are hosted at the S$1.3 billion Singapore Sports Hub. Come July, get set for a shopping spree during the Great Singapore Sale, which kicks off every year in June. In July, foodies are in for a treat with the Singapore Food Festival, where they will get to savour uniquely Singaporean dishes as well as the best of Mod-Sin (Modern Singaporean) cuisine, which gives a modern twist to traditional flavours.
10. The Lion City may actually have been inspired by a tiger
You may have heard about the Merlion, Singapore’s iconic emblem. The Merlion is a mythical creature with a lion’s head and a fish’s tail. What you might not know: the Merlion was partly inspired by the city’s Sanskrit name, Singapura, which means ‘lion city’. This Sanskrit name is thought to have been given by a Sumatran prince Sang Nila Utama, who ruled Temasek, a settlement on the Singapura island during the early 14th century. While hunting for animals, the prince spotted a strange creature moving quickly, which was identified as a lion by his advisors. However, there were no records of lions native to Singapore. It might have been a tiger that he saw, for tigers used to be found in the wild in Singapore, up until the 1930s.
October (as well as November) is considered pre-Northeast Monsoon season. During this month, a cool sea breeze helps to slightly reduce the afternoon heat, although average high temperatures remain a constant 31°C. Storms often occur in the evening, with showers that are typically sudden and heavy, but often only last for a short time; winds generally remain reduced. Have a backup plan in case the rain is too heavy on any given day, but keep in mind that an umbrella will usually keep most of the rain off allowing you to enjoy everything as usual. (Average Max Temperature: 31°C. Average Precipitation: 191mm.)
The Singapore dollar is used here and notes come in denominations of S$2, S$5, S$10, S$50, S$100, S$1,000 and S$10,000. Coins come in 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents and S$1. Most hotels, restaurants, shops and car rental agencies accept major international credit cards. Most cash or credit cards with a PIN can access cash from ATM’s. Please visit www.xe.com for current exchange rates.
You will be able to speak English to Singaporeans, most of whom are fluent. Many Singaporeans also speak an additional language, usually Mandarin Chinese, Malay or Tamil.
Tipping is appreciated, but not necessary when you experience good service, many restaurants and hotels automatically impose 10 percent to your bill.
You can drink water straight from the tap as the water in Singapore passes World Health Organization standards. You can also buy bottled water easily.
The standard electrical current used in Singapore is 220-240 volts AC (50 cycles) and you can use power plugs with three square prongs.
Singapore has a 7% Goods and Services Tax (GST). Apply for your GST refund using the Electronic Tourist Refund self-help kiosks (eTRS kiosks) found at Changi Airport. Click here for eligibility criteria and details.
SHOPPING & TAX REFUNDS
Shopping hours are daily 10.00am – 9.30pm. Tourists can claim a refund on the 7% Goods and Services Tax (GST) paid on your purchases if you spend more than $100 at participating shops. To know whether a shop is participating in the Tourist Refund Scheme, look for a “Tax Free” shopping logo or sign displayed at the shop. You can also check with the retailer about whether your purchases are eligible for the GST refund.
Singapore is very well connected by its train and bus system. Pedestrian walkways are around most of the island, and it is safe.
- a) By Train: Singapore’s MRT (mass rapid transit) system is probably the fastest way to zip around the city. The extensive rail network means that most of Singapore’s key attractions are within walking distance from an MRT station.
- b) By Bus: Singapore’s bus system has an extensive network of routes covering most places in Singapore and is the most economical way to get around, as well as being one of the most scenic.
- c) By Taxi: Taxis are comfortable and especially handy if you want to go to places not accessible by the bus or MRT. Cabs here are metered, but there may be surcharges depending on when, where and which company’s taxi you board. If you wish to book a cab, you can call a common taxi booking number, 6342-5222 (UBER or GRABTaxi also available)
USEFUL PHONE NUMBERS
Police – 999
Ambulance – 995
Fire Brigade – 995
Flight Information – 1800 542 4422
Please be advised that IAF and/or ILAC cannot be held liable for any unforeseen circumstances such as travel delay, loss of luggage or medical expenses incurred whilst at the IAF-ILAC Joint Annual Meetings. We strongly recommend that you obtain travel insurance before traveling.
Smoking is not permitted in most indoor locations in Singapore, as well as eateries, entertainment centres (including night spots), sports and recreation facilities, healthcare facilities and on modes of transport. However, certain premises have designated areas for smoking, typically demarcated with a yellow box.