6 tips for discovering Singapore like a local

Singapore has long been a favored stopover for Australians jetting off to Europe. A place to stretch your legs, pick up some duty free, and maybe head out for a Singapore Sling at Raffles if you had time.

However, there’s more to the Lion City than just a stopover.

Beyond the orchid-lined corridors of Changi is a rich and multicultural city; a destination where Asia’s most intoxicating cultures are united in one place. In fact, there’s so much to see, do, touch and taste you could skip Europe altogether and be wholly satisfied.

The Supertrees of Gardens by the Bay are just one of Singapore's enchanting sights.

The Supertrees of Gardens by the Bay are just one of Singapore’s enchanting sights.

Lavish hotels and moody cocktail bars, intriguing museums and Michelin rated restaurants, not to mention theme parks that’ll get your heart racing, are just a teaser of what lies in store.

First though, you need to get to Singapore to experience it. National carrier Singapore Airlines – operating more than 100 non-stop flights per week from seven Australian cities – is the perfect way to do it.

From the moment you check in, the Star Alliance member rolls out the red carpet, delivering a locally infused five star experience that whets the appetite for what awaits on touchdown.

With a flight time just over five hours from Perth, or around eight from Sydney or Melbourne, there’s ample opportunity to enjoy the airline’s renowned hospitality, comfort and cuisine, together with recent enhancements designed to offer a deeper cultural connection.

The onboard experience has seen notable upgrades too, with passengers treated to a new ‘multi-sensory journey’, featuring a signature perfume and soundtrack inspired by the intricate ‘Batik’ floral motif of its iconic uniform.

Cuisine has been taken to greater heights too, with fresh menus and even hawker centre-inspired dining on selected routes.

On arrival into vibrant Singapore, the dazzling delights of the city are yours to discover.

1920s-inspired Atlas Bar has been consistently voted among the world's best.

1920s-inspired Atlas Bar has been consistently voted among the world’s best.

After ticking off well-known sights like Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay, it pays to ask a local: ‘Where to next?’ After all, they live and breathe the city, with insights that’ll take you far beyond the tourist trail. Many are only too happy to point you in the right direction.

Here are some local tips to get you inspired.

Tip #1 – Side step the main restaurants

Chinatown is the city’s most renowned cultural neighbourhood. Visitors regularly flock to the shophouse-lined main street for lunch and dinner, drawn by the bountiful feast on offer. But, just one road back on Mosque Street is Si Wei Mao Cai, a classic Sichuan restaurant favored by locals for its rich and authentic flavours. They don’t turn down the spice for tourists.

Chinatown is home to some stellar restaurants, especially just off the main drag.

Chinatown is home to some stellar restaurants, especially just off the main drag.

Tip #2 – Check out Redhill market and hawker center

Hawker centers are a uniquely Singaporean experience. You’ll find these street food halls dotted right across the city, with locals often stopping by for every meal of the day, thanks to the variety of top-quality dishes – Chinese, Indian and Malay – at very reasonable prices.

Redhill is one of the city’s oldest hawker centers and fresh food markets, though it slips under the radar for many travellers.

For the full experience, visit on a Sunday morning, when the locals do their shopping. They’ll typically stop for a ‘kopi’ coffee and pick up some breakfast too.

Kopi (coffee) and kaya toast are Singaporean breakfast staples.

Kopi (coffee) and kaya toast are Singaporean breakfast staples.

Tip #3 – Explore the ‘islands less travelled’

Though it is an island nation, Singapore is not just a single land mass. There are multiple smaller ones dotted around its fringe. Sentosa is the best-known, but it’s worth exploring some of the lesser-known alternatives such as Sisters’, St John’s, and Kusa (Tortoise) islands.

These islands are all accessible by ferry from the Marina South Pier, or you can charter a private boat to visit them all, then drop anchor and watch the sunset set the sky ablaze.

Singapore is home to some gorgeous beaches and little-known islands.

Singapore is home to some gorgeous beaches and little-known islands.

Tip #4 – Taste your way through Michelin-rated street eats

Singaporeans don’t eat to live, they live to eat. It makes sense too when you consider the quality that’s on offer – there are almost 50 starred restaurants in the local Michelin Guide.

But, if you’re in the mood for something a little more rustic and authentic, check out the Michelin Singapore Bib Gourmand Selection, which rounds up the best street food in town.

Fried Kway Teow Mee in Outram Park, listed in the Michelin Singapore Bib Guide.

Fried Kway Teow Mee in Outram Park, listed in the Michelin Singapore Bib Guide.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum is one of Chinatown’s most frequented attractions. Instead of viewing the grand Buddha on the ground floor and leaving, as most visitors tend to do, make your way up to the rooftop garden.

There you’ll find a peaceful oasis home to the 10,000 Buddha Pavilion, which houses a prayer wheel engraved with intricate scriptures.

A rooftop garden is hidden in plain sight atop the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown.

A rooftop garden is hidden in plain sight atop the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown.

Tip #6 – Get on your bike at Pulau Ubin

A short boat ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal is the island of Pulau Ubin. In decades past it was quarried for granite to build some of the city’s famous buildings. These days, life moves at a much slower pace, with the island a time warp to the 1970s, when the quarrying ceased. It’s a relaxed, low-key escape where you can rent a bike and explore one pedal at a time.

Pulau Ubin is Singapore's answer to Rottnest, with bicycles the only method of transport.

Pulau Ubin is Singapore’s answer to Rottnest, with bicycles the only method of transport.

What else is worth seeing? You’ll just have to hop on a plane and find out for yourself.

With Singapore Airlines, the best of the Lion City and beyond is yours to discover.

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