Singapore always comes to mind when Filipinos talk about traveling overseas for the first time. Availability of cheap flight tickets, visa free entry, wide use of English, similarity in weather, beautiful sights and a variety of things to do make this city-state a favorite destination of many. I visited Singapore on my second overseas travel last 2017. John and I were still travel rookies back then and so little mistakes were made and our itinerary could have been better. Timing also prevented us from seeing the iconic “Merlion” so I always have this unconscious desire to come back.
Last October, I had the chance to return to Singapore for a vacation but this time I brought my sister and niece along with me. On this blog, The Daily Phil will tell you all the things you need to know before traveling to Singapore plus a detailed 5-day itinerary.
Table of Contents
- Day 1
- Jewel Changi
- Merlion Park
- Singapore Flyer
- Day 2
- Universal Studios Singapore
- Day 3
- Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum
- Gardens by the Bay
- Day 4
- Singapore Zoo
- Day 5
- Singapore River Cruise
- Pasalubong Shopping
- Day 1
- Final Thoughts
- The Daily Phil on Youtube
Philippine passport holders can enter Singapore as a tourist without a visa for a period of 30 days.
Cebu Pacific flies directly to Singapore 6 times daily. We were able to score Manila – Singapore one way tickets for only PHP 4,599.00 (3 people) last March 3, 2019, 7 months before our date of travel and Singapore – Manila one way tickets for PHP 9,000.00 (3 people) on June 12, 2019, 4 months before our date of travel. Regular roundtrip tickets would range from PHP 3,000.00 to PHP 10,000.00. Other airlines flying directly from Manila to Singapore include Philippine Airlines, Jetstar, Scoot and Singapore Airlines.
We purchased a 4G sim card with 100 GB of data via Klook for only PHP 370.00. The data is shared between 3 devices via mobile tethering and was primarily used outdoors for Google maps and updating our social media accounts. 100 GB was more than enough for our 5 day stay since we would connect to the hotel’s wifi when indoors. Most public places in Singapore like parks and malls also provide free wifi.
Singapore’s public transportation system is very comfortable and convenient. We travelled around the city by MRT and bus. Purchasing a reloadable stored value card is always the way to go for hassle free payment and seamless transfers. Singapore’s version of it is the EZ link card which costs SGD 12.00, SGD 7.00 of which is stored value for use and the minimum top up is SGD 10.00. Also, I highly suggest that you download the MRT app to help you plan your routes via train efficiently.
We booked a triple room at Tai Hoe Hotel via Agoda for only PHP 3,500.00/night. The room features 3 single beds, cable television, mini refrigerator, hair blower and basic toilet & shower. There is no breakfast provided. Tai Hoe may not be the fanciest hotel in the city but the convenience you would get from its strategic location will make up for it.
Located in the heart of Little India, the hotel is just 500 meters away from Farrer Park Station (NE line) making it easy for us to travel around the city by train. Food, basic necessities and souvenirs are within reach as the hotel faces City Square Mall and only a block away from Mustafa Center.
We landed in Terminal 4 of Changi International Airport at around 9:00 am which means we have a couple of hours to kill before our hotel check in at 1:00 pm. Changi Airport was named the Best Airport in the World by Skytrax for the 7th consecutive year since 2013. It is filled with amenities and attractions for passengers and the general public to enjoy. Singapore is not letting go of the best airport title anytime soon with the addition of Jewel Changi, a nature themed entertainment complex located in Terminal 1. From T4, we rode a shuttle bus and airport train to see The Rain Vortex, the centerpiece of Jewel Changi.
It is the world’s tallest indoor waterfall which to our dismay, was closed for a private event during our arrival. However, one will not run out of things to do in here as there are numerous shopping and dining establishments for everyone’s delight. Aside from luxury fashion brands, some notable establishments in Changi include a Pokemon Center, Shake Shack and the Canopy Park in the top level that houses some more recreational attractions for a fee.
We wanted our first meal in Singapore to be authentic so we skipped the fast food joints and looked for the staff canteen instead. It is the airport’s hawker center offering a variety of Singaporean food at reasonable prices. The good news is passengers are very much welcome to dine in here too. It is located on the carpark of Terminal 2 and can be a little bit tricky to find but the airport’s concierge pointed us to the right direction.
After checking in and settling at our place, we went to Merlion Park by taking Bus 130 bound for Shenton Way and alighted at Opp S’pore Cricket Club to see the country’s national symbol. The Merlion is a mythical creature with a lion’s head which symbolizes its nickname “The Lion City” while its fish body represents the city’s humble beginnings as a fishing village. This is probably one of the most visited and most recognizable tourist attraction in Singapore. They say that you haven’t been here if you do not have a picture with the Merlion.
Last 2017, John and I visited the city for the first time and tough luck, the Merlion was covered up due to renovation. I am so thrilled to be back this time with my family to finally have the chance to see this iconic landmark.
It’s amusing to watch tourists pose and open their mouth wide to create an illusion that their drinking the water flowing out of it. The Merlion faces the Marina Bay which is also surrounded by other architectural gems of the city such as The Esplanade, Art Science Museum and Marina Bay Sands.
After sunset, we walked our way to Singapore Flyer from Merlion Park for about 10 min. The city’s big Ferris wheel is like South East Asia’s version of the famous London Eye. John and I also tried this out back then and we had a great time so I was excited for my sister and niece to give it a go. Admission costs SGD 33.00. The capsule is spacious and can accommodate more or less 15 people. It’s mostly made with glass so one can have a clear 360 view of the surroundings.
It’s always a good idea to see places from up above at night time and be amazed by the city lights and Singapore is no exception. I bet that the view is just as wonderful during daytime though. Some of the notable landmarks that caught my attention were Marina Bay Sands, the Flower Dome and the Supertrees in Gardens by the Bay. Coincidentally, the super tree light show was on going when we were aboard so it was a treat to see it happening from up above.
After the capsule reaches the highest point of the wheel, the slow descent facing Marina Bay will provide the most breathtaking view of the trip. The entire cycle lasted for about 30 min.
Universal Studios Singapore
We dedicated Day 2 for Universal Studios SG. We did it on a Friday because the crowds will be worse if we went on a weekend. This decision indeed paid off as there were less people in the park compared to my experience the last time. I would say our average wait time in lining up for rides was around 10 min (not bad). We purchased our tickets via Klook for only PHP 2,560.00.
USS is the second of its kind in Asia and features 28 rides across 7 themed zones. Since it would be impossible to try all of it in just one day, we decided to just go for the attractions with the most favorable reviews online to make sure that queuing time will be worth it. Some of the attractions we checked out were:
1) Transformers: The Ride, a 4D dark ride motion simulator
2) Revenge of The Mummy, a high speed indoor roller coaster
3) Puss in Boots’ Giant Journey, a family roller coaster
4) Shrek 4D Adventure, a 4D presentation with effects
5) Canopy Flyer, a suspended roller coaster
6) Waterworld: A Live Sea War Spectacular, a live action performance based on the Hollywood film starring Kevin Costner
My favorite would have to be Water World. I missed this the last time I was here and later found out that it’s one of the must see shows so I am glad to catch it this time. The special effects and stunts that the performers pulled off where death defying, thrilling and exciting. The experience was like watching a live action-suspense Hollywood movie. The screams, squeals, “ooh’s” and “aah’s” of the audience says it all.
If you are someone who is into extreme rides then don’t miss Battlestar Gallactica, a high speed rollercoaster with several loops and sharp twists and turns. I tried CYLON (the inverted one) the last time I was here and it’s one of the scariest rides I have ever tried in my life. There were a couple of moments when I felt like passing out while in midair. My sister and niece didn’t want to try it this time and I am not sure if I wanted to try it again either.
We had lunch at Goldilocks (no, not the Pinoy bakeshop hehe) which primarily served fried chicken. We ordered the “Mama Bear” meal for SGD 16.00 which consists of 2 pieces of fried chicken, tater tots and soda which is refillable with any concessionaire inside the park. We checked out 2 other food places before deciding to dine here. I think we made the right decision because it is one of the cheaper options and the serving size is big. Prior to coming to the park, we purchased a meal discount voucher worth SGD 5.00 via Klook for PHP 114.00 bringing down the meal’s cost to SGD 11.00 each.
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum
We travelled to Chinatown to do a little bit of souvenir shopping, eat at a hawker center and visit the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. This is a relatively new temple, established last 2005 but has quickly become one of the most visited places in Chinatown. Buddha’s relic which was found in 1980 in Myanmar is displayed in the 4th floor of the temple.
The other levels of the building features worship areas and museums. Buddhism is practiced by 33% of Singapore’s population. To get here, take the MRT and alight at Chinatown station of the NE or Downtown line then walk for about 5 min.
Gardens By The Bay
One of the newer attractions that was built to turn Singapore into a “City in a Garden” is a nature park called Gardens by the Bay. To get here, alight at Bayfront MRT station of either Circle or Downtown line. We purchased our tickets via Klook for PHP 871.00 each which includes access to its 2 conservatories.
The first one we checked out is the Flower Dome, the largest columnless greenhouse in the world that features flowers and plants from 5 continents. Lots of Instagram worthy subjects in here but it was a very crowded Saturday afternoon so it was a challenge to take a decent photo. But if you love gardening, you will have a great time just looking at the landscape, both grand and intricate.
We crossed over to the second dome, The Cloud Forest which features a man-made “Cloud Mountain” that replicates the tropical mountains in terms of climate and vegetation.
It even comes with a manmade waterfall. We took an elevator ride to the top and walked our way down to the plateau. Each level features plants that are abundant in such elevation. This activity will be a challenge for those who are afraid of heights like my sister. The path is see through and sometimes hidden underneath thick mist as if you are walking on clouds. Don’t forget to bring a jacket when inside the domes as it is quite cold.
In the evening, we walked our way towards the Supertree Grove. More or less 10 vertical gardens were turned into tree like structures that also generate energy for the park. You can access the OCBC Skyway to get a panoramic view of the trees from above or watch out for the magnificent lights show that happens twice every night. That night, the lights twinkled to the tune of Disney hits much to the delight of the kids.
We woke up early the next morning for Singapore Zoo, a first visit for all of us. To get here, ride the MRT until Khatib station in the North South line. Then you can either take a city bus or a shuttle that will drop you right in front of the zoo. We purchased our tickets via Klook for only PHP 1,100.00 each.
Singapore Zoo measures 24 hectares and features 2,400 animals, 34% of which are threatened species. It is divided into 12 zones representing animals by class and geographical region, from Iguanas to Elephants, from Australasia to Wild Africa. There are shuttle buses that go around the zoo, picking up and dropping visitors in between zones.
I was like a kid on a school field trip trying to get a glimpse of all the animals that I only get to see on Discovery Channel. The stop we made at Wild Africa was the best for me and we wandered there the longest. We saw some rhinos, giraffes, lions, gorillas and cheetahs which was really fascinating. I also saw a huge Siberian Tiger relaxing in the water. Make sure to check the show schedules as they are very entertaining. We were able to catch the Elephant Presentation and the venue was packed.
What I like about this zoo is its “open concept“. The animals are not contained in a cage but a large area that is very similar to their natural habitat. The only thing that stands between them and the visitors are either a fence that’s only up to the waist tall, not obstructing the view, or a waterway that acts as a barrier in the same manner. Some animals are actually roaming around the premises freely such as macaques, peacocks and a few other non-flying birds.
The zoo is very well maintained, the animals look healthy and the staff are friendly. I had low expectations before coming here but it turned out to be a really fun experience for us. I am sure kids of all ages will enjoy the Singapore Zoo.
Singapore River Cruise
Our last activity in the city is the Singapore River Cruise. We purchased our tickets once again via Klook for only PHP 834.00. To get to the starting point of the cruise, take the MRT and alight at Clarke Quay station. The ticket booth is about 5 min away by foot from the station and is next to G-MAX Reverse Bungee Jump. We opted to do this at night because the heat during daytime is just unbearable but more importantly, the Singapore city lights glow beautifully during night time.
The cruise will pass by several iconic and historical landmarks along the Singapore River and Marina Bay including Raffles Hotel, Merlion Park, Singapore Business District, Marina Bay Sands, The Esplanade, Helix Bridge and Art Science Museum among others. There is also an audio/video presentation playing on board providing trivia while passing through every point of interest. We sat on the open area at the end of the boat to get a better view and feel the cool breeze.
It’s interesting to see the city from a closer point of view as oppose to looking at everything from up above when we were at the Flyer. It was also a time for us to just relax and reflect on the amazing experiences we’ve had over the past few days. It was the perfect way to conclude our Singapore adventures.
Singapore is also known in South East Asia as a shopper’s paradise with lots of luxury brands and retail outlets. We went to Changi City Point just outside of Expo MRT station, a mall that is known for having lots of factory outlets such as Adidas, Nike, Giordano, etc. We were able to buy sneakers for less than PHP2,000, tops for as low as SGD 5.00 and saved a lot on discounted sportswear.
If you want to bring home food as souvenir, Value Dollar is the place to be as it is filled with lots of imported snacks and chocolates sold at very low prices. There are hundreds of Value Dollar stores spread out across the city. We found one inside City Square Mall which is just beside our hotel.
Another option you have is Mustafa Center, a supermarket in Little India that has everything you will ever need and more, from regular grocery items, imported goods to traditional snacks. They have a huge section dedicated to perfumes and scents sold at lower prices compared to the malls back at home.
I am so happy to be back in Singapore and experience things that I missed the last time such as the Singapore Zoo, Water World in Universal Studios and to finally see the Merlion in Marina Bay. I am also glad to introduce the city to my family and I can tell that they had a blast. Singapore is definitely a great choice for first overseas travel due to its proximity, convenient public transportation, amazing attractions and delicious cuisine.
It truly is a “City in a Garden” with its perfect blend of skyscrapers and lush greeneries. I am a little disappointed though that I didn’t get to see the Rain Vortex in Jewel Changi. We didn’t have the chance to check it out on our flight back home as we were running late. I guess I still have a reason to come back in the future.
The Daily Phil on YouTube
We made a Singapore Travel Vlog on our YouTube channel, The Daily Phil. Make sure to check it out to see an up close preview of what the city has to offer.
This is The Daily Phil, conquering the world, one country at a time, using a Filipino passport.
Until next time, Travel Now, Bills Later!