General Information for Tourists to Singapore
Safety & Technology
Singapore has strict laws and is one of the safest and most developed countries in the world. Crime is very rare, punishment is harsh and its one of the few countries where you can feel absolutely safe walking somewhere in the middle of the night. Nearly every inch of Singapore is brightly lighted by street lamps at all times, even the rural districts.
Every modern day convenience like WI-FI, communication services, high speed internet, 24 hour shops and personalised service will never be far away. We have sprawling malls with the biggest fashion brands, business facilities and large exhibition centres that accommodate every need and the capability to run events like the F1 circuit where for a month the city centre is turned into a beautiful racetrack. You can check out our city shopping guide and bargain shopping guide if you're keen to learn more about where to shop in Singapore.
Our public transport infrastructure is among the best in the world, and commuting through public transport is cheap, fast and easy. If that's not for you, you can always take taxi's which are significantly cheaper than western countries. For more information on our transport system check out our guide here.
Singaporeans are not as considerate as compared to western countries and we actually had a "courtesy campaign" initiative started by the government to try and improve this aspect of ours. The problem lies with our society in my opinion, as houses and cars are expensive but salary is low so from a young age Singaporeans are burdened with 30 year mortgage loans. It makes us very competitive, everyone just wants to survive and no one wants to "lose out" or get left behind. This leads to rude drivers and impatient and less courteous people. In my opinion, the courtesy campaign failed to achieve improvement and it kinda backfired and became a popular joke in our country as it showed us as people so discourteous that we needed something like this. Meanwhile the root of the problem was not addressed - the poor lifestyle Singaporeans have to live and the "rat race" mentality.
The service in top hotels and in the service industry is very different though, and among the best in the world. For more information on our culture, people and language you can check our article here. It explains common culture titbits like how Singaporean elders are addressed as "Uncle" and "Auntie" even though they have no relation to each other and why Singaporeans do not wear shoes in their homes.
Between 2010-2012, the value of 1 USD has fluctuated between 1.2-1.3 SGD. Meaning for every USD dollar changed you can $1.2-1.3 SGD back. For the most up to date currency rates for your country you can use XE.com.
Money changers are available in most shopping centres as well as hotels and the aiport. Of course, hotels usually charge a premium rate as well as the airports. For the best value it is recommended to note the airport / hotel rates, then use the local money changers around the city as a comparison who provide a better rate.
Automated teller machines (ATMs) are conveniently located everywhere and they accept major credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard. These of course are subject to their respective premium rates as well.
Tip 1: Always Compare Prices!
For stores where price tags aren't displayed, make sure to make at least 2-3 price comparisons before purchasing to ensure you aren't getting ripped off. Opportunists who see you're a tourist may try to rip you off just because they can. In some areas like Lucky Plazza, certain stores have even tried to rip locals like me off, with a store selling something at $25 and the other at just $10. Newton Circus and Sim Lim Square are two very popular places known for that so be smart!
Tip 2: Keep your receipts to claim GST refunds!
Before making payment, make sure you ask for a demo or test them yourself as you are not likely to be coming back to Singapore again that soon. For this reason you should also ensure that the promised accessories or bonus gifts are included in the package and work as they should. Before you leave, make sure you have a receipt and ensure the it matches the items you bought. You would also need to hold on to them for GST refunds.
Tip 3: Check your warranty!
Verify your ‘international warranty’ because international warranties are not standardised. If your warranty is not valid in your home country its a useless warranty. Ensure your invoice and warranty card bears your retailer’s stamp and signature.
Also note that there are no international warranties on the purchase of mobile phones. The term “worldwide local warranty” means that the warranty is available only in the country of purchase. “Worldwide” here refers to the availability of the product, not the warranty and it can be very misleading if you do not know the true definition or if a shop keeper says something to mislead you. Parallel imported items have no warranty, and retailers usually do not entertain returns, refunds or exchanges.
Tax Refund Schemes
All tourist can get a refund on the 7% Goods and Services Tax (GST) on your purchases. You usually need to spend SGD100 or more to qualify. If in doubt just ask the retailer. Note that sometimes you will be required to produce your purchases as proof at the custom inspection counter.
For cash payments: Complete and sign the refund forms issued by retaillers. Be sure to ask them if they support GST refunds before your purchase, most do. Go slightly earlier to Changi Aiport and look for the Customs Inspection Counter with your receipt and GST forms to have them stamped and approved. Proceed to the Central Refund Counter to collect your refunds in cash. 7% is $70 for every $1,000 spent and its certainly an amount worth collecting if you're buying products in Singapore.
For credit card payments: You can refund via the Electronic Tourist Refund Scheme (eTRS). Charge all your purchases to one credit card, which will be used as a Token. This Token will allow you to retrieve your purchasing history made on your credit card when applying for GST refunds at the eTRS self-help kiosks @ Changi Airport. Some retailers may not be on the eTRS and you might be issued with paper refund forms instead and when that happens follow the cash payment method as described above.
A full guide can be found here.
Visa, Customs, Legal Regulations
Entry visas are not require for most foreigners and they are automatically assigned "social visit passes" status that last up to 30 days upon arrival. To be sure its best to check with your local consular office first. If you would like to intend to stay for more than 30 days, you may apply to the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA).
The standard travel rules apply such as having a valid passport with at least 6 months validity and proof of a return or transit ticket and the necessary entry visas/permits for those countries. If you lose your passport make a police report immediately and approach your respective embassy in Singapore to apply for a replacement travel document.
Australia (25 Napier Road) – (65) 6836 4100
USA (27 Napier Road) – (65) 6476 9100
UK (100 Tanglin Road) – 6424 4200
Germany (50 Raffles Place) – (65) 6533 6002
A full listing can be found here.
Police – 999
Ambulance / Fire Brigade – 995
If you're looking for individual places, just search with our search box. Each listing has an address and an embeded "Map Display" from google, which shows you directions, how to get there and even the street view. These are other useful resources that don't depend on the google map interface if you're looking for an alternative.
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This month, the TSL team went on a journey filming and discovering 5 little known Indonesian cities truly off the beaten path. In our final episode we explored Medan, home to Lake Toba - the largest Volcanic Lake in the world and one of Indonesia's most underrated destinations. Read more about our adventures below!
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