Singapore, the jewel of South East Asia, is a really popular tourist destination. Most of the tourists travelling to the region have a connection flight to and from Singapore, so most of the time they try to find some days to visit this densely populated city and its various attractions. But be aware that in Singapore you must do as the Singaporeans do! Trip101 gathered 14 customs that seem normal to follow in other countries but are not accepted in Singapore. Just before you take your flight, read our guide so that you can enjoy your stay to its full extent. Scroll below for a list of things you should not do while in Singapore.
1. Avoid tipping if you're unsure
When you visit Singapore you will notice that leaving a tip is not in their mentality. When you ask for the bill you may notice a “GST” section, this means “goods and services tax”, alongside the normal “service charges”, which is something similar to tipping. So, there is no need to leave tipping money. Just go along with the bill.
2. Don't venture into restaurants without checking prices
Many tourists visit Singapore in order to visit the renowned restaurants in the city, which has a very vibrant food scene. Local dishes like Chomp Chomp are even popular and well-liked by tourists around the world. But sometimes, restaurants charge customers crazy amounts of money for dishes that are not that expensive. To avoid such an occasion, be sure to agree on the price of a dish before ordering. Better be cautious than sorry.
3. Don't smoke anywhere other than designated smoking zones
Singapore is one of the countries with the most intense regulations about smoking, worldwide. The famous Orchard Road, the country’s largest shopping district is entirely smoke-free since 2018. So, in order to smoke you need to access a specifically designated area or else you will be fined. To find such an area you just need to follow the yellow paint. Or is Singapore an opportunity to quit?
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4. Don't jaywalk
When you want to cross a road, you need to respect the traffic lights. The city of Singapore has done a great job helping pedestrians and so any noncompliance to the traffic rules comes with a hefty fine that may be 20 SGD (15 USD) up to 1000 SGD (738 USD)! Furthermore, the locals are so compliant to those rules, that it makes jaywalking really dangerous.
5. Never eat or drink when on public transport
Singapore offers you a very reliable and easy way to travel across the country, with its advanced transport system. In fact, it is one of the best in the entire world. But be aware that eating or consuming alcoholic drinks are not allowed, especially on public trains. A fine of 500 SGD (369 USD) will be issued if you get caught. Of course, a sip of water, or eating a mint or a candy is okay but that’s it!
6. Avoid using public transport during peak times
Singapore City is one of the most densely populated cities in the world and due to the advance transportation system, most of the locals use the means of public transportation multiple times per day. So it would be wise to try to avoid taking the trains or the buses during peak times, such as early in the morning, around 8 am, or in the afternoon around 6 pm - 7 pm. Being in such crowded coaches increases the risk of being separated from your friends or one can even get lost. Not an ideal situation.
7. Don't chew gum
Even though it seems odd, chewing gum is totally banned in Singapore! The only way to carry and chew gums is if there are medical reasons, or if you are having nicotine gums. Bear in mind, that if you carry gums with you, you need to have a maximum of two packs. If not, you’ll face a fine that will make every extra pack become a really expensive one!
8. Avoid outdoors in the middle of the day
Singapore is a region with warm temperature all year long with high levels of humidity, a real tropical climate. So, besides taking the appropriate set of clothes with you always keep in mind that in the middle of the day the situation is really difficult. The best thing would be to avoid hitting the streets during mid-day but to enjoy either a meal or a coffee in order to avoid unpleasant situations. Of course, don’t forget to always have with you a bottle of water, sunglasses or maybe a hat. An umbrella may come in handy as well!
9. Don't litter
The whole city of Singapore is trying to remain one of the cleanest cities in the world and so you may find bins almost everywhere. It would be great to avoid tossing your litters anywhere because besides it being bad manners if caught you will have to face a fine from 300 SGD (221 USD) up to 1000 SGD (738 USD). Remember that smoking in public and eating on means of transport is already prohibited, so it’s pretty easy to follow this rule and help to keep Singapore clean.
10. Don’t sit down just anywhere at a café or hawker market
When you want to take a break for a coffee at a local hawker market, pay attention to where you are going to sit. Look out for tables with packets of tissues on them. If you find such a table, this means that it is reserved. Sometimes, instead of for tissues, you may find an umbrella! This is a local way of reserving a table, especially in a crowded hawker market. So pay attention to avoid any misunderstandings! Should you decide to have a meal at one of the many hawker centres, look out for tables with packets of tissues scattered on them. In a local context, this indicates that the table has been “chopped”, or reserved. Probably one of Singapore’s quirkiest habits, many locals are still doing it (though they may get creative and use umbrellas instead), so keep this in mind while you hunt for a spot!
11. Don't carry durian with you in public transport
Durian is one of Asia’s most fascinating fruits and often gets flack for its odor alone. It’s become quite controversial in various parts of Singapore and Asia in general, especially when traveling from one Asian country to another. It’s considered a banned item in many public transport facilities and vehicles not just in Singapore, but as well as Hong Kong, Japan, and Thailand to name a few others.
Durian’s overpowering smell can stick to fabric and other items easily which is why even airports ban them on the plane’s carry on the compartment. So, if you like durian, best to just have it as much as you can when in Singapore and leave it be once you start roaming around in public transport.
12. Don't snack on MRT
Falling asleep in transit is normal and sometimes needing candy or gum or something to chew on help, but when in Singapore, it’s something that is considered illegal. Snacking on the train is highly forbidden, as well as sipping on drinks and can get you fined at $30 for doing so. The metro has been a “no eating and drinking” zone since 1987, so best to take taxis or walk if you wish to snack when getting to places. Singapore is a small country and rather observant of its rules and regulations, extend the same courtesy when traveling to the Lion City as a tourist.
13. Don't connect to an unsecured network
As mentioned, Singapore is very strict when it comes to enforcing its rules and regulations, so it would be most ideal to read on these laws before traveling to the country. One useful rule to note is not to connect to just any free WiFi network if you’re not using a local SIM card for data.
This is considered illegal and best to check if your “auto-discovery” is off when in Singapore as it is criminal to just connect to an unsecured network. A quick tip is to rent a mobile pocket WiFi for as long as you are in the country or buy a local SIM card with a free data allowance for fast, convenient, and legal browsing.
14. Don't do Graffiti
Graffiti has evolved into a form of artistic expression throughout the years, however, it’s not exactly the same in Singapore. Graffiti artwork in public property is highly frowned upon and is looked down on by many locals.
It can even merit you to a public caning and corporal punishment for spray painting graffiti onto public walls, cars, as well as other forms of vandalism. It’s always nice to see local art but maybe in museums and galleries, but never on a random wall at Orchard road, at least according to the Singaporean government.
When in Singapore
When visiting Singapore, you need to be aware that you are entering a clean, smoke-free environment with several everyday rules that may not apply in your country. So keep this guide so that you can behave well as a guest and enjoy your stay!
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