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Singapore is a city-state in Southeast Asia. Founded as a British trading colony in 1819, since independence it has become one of the world's most prosperous countries and boasts the world's busiest port.
Singapore is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world for a lot of reasons. One of which is the less stringent entry requirements.
Singapore is a small island country. With a population size of over 5.5 million people it is a very crowded city, second only to Monaco as the world's most densely populated country.
However, unlike many other densely populated countries, Singapore - with more than 50% of its area covered by greenery and with over 50 major parks and 4 nature reserves - is an enchanting garden city.
Large self-contained residential towns have mushroomed all over the island, around the clean and modern city centre.
The centre of the city is located in the south — consisting roughly of the Orchard Road shopping area, the Riverside, the new Marina Bay area and also the skyscraper-filled Shenton way financial district known, in acronym-loving Singapore, as the CBD (Central Business District).
Riverside (Civic District) — Singapore's colonial core, with museums, statues and theatres, not to mention restaurants, bars and clubs.
Orchard Road — Miles and miles of shopping malls.
Marina Bay — The newest feature of Singapore, dominated by the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort (hotel, casino, shopping mall, convention centre and museum) and the Marina Barrage. The newly opened Gardens by the Bay situated next to Marina Bay Sands integrated resort is a large public garden which house two huge cooled conservatories – the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest as well as a cluster of gigantic Super Trees.
Bugis and Kampong Glam — Bugis and Kampong Glam are Singapore's old Malay district, now largely taken over by shopping
Chinatown — The area originally designated for Chinese settlement by Raffles, now a Chinese heritage area popular with tourists. Singapore's largest (arguably only) gay enclave is here too.
Little India — A piece of India to the north of the city core.
Balestier, Newton, Novena and Toa Payoh — Budget accommodations and Burmese temples within striking distance of the centre.
North — The northern part of the island, also known as Woodlands, forms Singapore's residential and industrial hinterlands. Singapore Zoo is located here.
West — The western part of the island form Singapore's residential areas with Star Vista.
Jurong— Home to Nanyang Technological University and the last housing frontier before the industrial area. Attractions include Singapore Bird Park, Singapore Science Centre and Singapore Discovery Centre.
North East — Home to many residential towns with a heart of Serangoon NEX, Hougang Mall and Compass Point
Tampines — A residential town located in the heartlands, in the far east of the island close to Changi Airport.
East Coast — The largely residential eastern part of the island contains Changi Airport, miles and miles of beach and many famous eateries. Also covers Geylang Serai, the true home of Singapore's Malays.
Sentosa — A separate island once a military fort developed into a resort, Sentosa is the closest that Singapore gets to Disneyland, now with a dash of gambling and Universal Studios thrown in.
North West — the aspiring north west that goes into the undeveloped jungles, and the military training areas (Ama Keng, Lim Chu Kang, cemeteries, Kranji Camp and SAFTI).
Each time you enter Singapore you will need to fill an immigration card. Carefully keep it after immigration clearance, for you have to return it when you exit. If you plan to visit nearby Malaysia or Indonesia, you have to repeat this process for each time you exit and re-enter.
As befits the country's main airport's major regional hub status, Changi Airport (SIN) and officially the ' airport in the world is big, pleasant and well organized, with immigration and baggage distribution remarkably fast. The airport is split into three main terminals (T1, T2 and T3).
Seletar Airport (XSP), completed in 1928 and first used for civil aviation in 1930, is Singapore's first airport. While later airports like Kallang and Paya Lebar have been closed and turned into a military airbase respectively, Seletar is still in use to this day.
Currently, Seletar Airport is only used for general aviation, so if you're flying your own aircraft to Singapore, you'll most probably land here. The only practical means of access to Seletar is by taxi and trips from the airport.
What to see
Sights in Singapore are covered in more detail under the various districts. Broadly speaking:
Beaches and tourist resorts: Head to one of the three beaches on Sentosa or its southern islands. Other beaches can be found on the East Coast.
Culture and cuisine: See Chinatown for Chinese treats, Little India for Indian flavours, Kampong Glam (Arab St) for a Malay/Arab experience or the East Coast for delicious seafood, including the famous chilli and black pepper crab.
History and museums: The Bras Basah area east of Orchard and north of the Singapore River is Singapore's colonial core, with historical buildings and museums. NUS Museum in the west is also very much worth the trip.
Nature and wildlife: Popular tourist attractions Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, Jurong Bird Park and the Botanical Gardens are all in the North and West. Finding "real" nature is a little harder, but the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (located in the same district as the zoo) has more plant species than that in the whole of North America.
Parks and gardens: The Garden City and City in a Garden are new concepts being promoted by the Singaporean government and Singaporeans take great pride in their parks and gardens.
Skyscrapers and shopping: The heaviest shopping mall concentration is in Orchard Road, while skyscrapers are clustered around the Singapore River, but also check out Bugis and Marina Bay to see where Singaporeans shop.
While you can find a place to practice nearly any sport in Singapore due to the country's small size your options are rather limited and prices are relatively high. There is a lot you can do... golfing, surfing, scuba diving, even ice skating and snow skiing...
On the cultural side of things to do in Singapore has been trying to shake off its boring, buttoned-up reputation and attract more artists and performances, with mixed success. The star in Singapore's cultural sky is the Esplanade theatre in Marina Bay, a world-class facility for performing arts and a frequent stage for the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.
In summer, don't miss the yearly Singapore Arts Festival. Advance tickets for almost any cultural event can be purchased from SISTIC, either on-line or from any of their numerous ticketing outlets, including the Singapore Visitor Centre on Orchard Rd.
For an up-do-date guide on alternative events happening around Singapore from concerts, festivals etc, visit City Nomads Singapore.