The Lion City is a vibrant travel hub that’s brimming with culture, history, and state-of-the-art experiences. This tiny island nation is where heritage meets modernity. It’s one of those rare places in Asia where you’ll find beautifully restored historical buildings tucked in between towering skyscrapers, and junk boats ferrying passengers around a bay surrounded by superyachts.
To add to its mix of old-world charm and new-world luxuries, Singapore’s status as a melting pot of cultures means that you’re guaranteed mouthwatering food anywhere, anytime (seriously, anytime). Tuck into a lavish banana leaf feast in Little India, go hog wild on some nasi lemak and piping hot teh tarik in Kampong Glam, or chow down a Michelin-star-awarded fare in an unassuming hawker stall. But let’s say you’ve been there, done that; what’s next on your agenda? In come these 6 short trips from Singapore to add a little oomph to your holiday.
Before taking short trips from Singapore, let’s cover the practical stuff:
What language is spoken in Singapore?
Singapore is a multicultural country made up of three main ethnic groups and a host of expats who call this tropical economic hotspot home. The country’s population is majority ethnic Chinese followed by Malays and Indians, who altogether make Singapore as culturally diverse as it is, at times, socially and politically problematic.
As a result of this racial diversity, most locals are bilingual (if not trilingual), and English is the most widely spoken language in Singapore. English acts as a sort of lingua franca that allows locals to bridge communication barriers. Other languages spoken here include Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil.
But what if I’m taking a day trip from Singapore to Malaysia?
Same deal, different racial dynamics. Singapore separated from Malaysia in 1965 after a short-lived merge to create a united Malaya. This was mostly due to economic conflict, which led Singapore’s more prosperous Chinese-majority population to declare the Republic of Singapore. On the other side of the Causeway, Malays are the dominant ethnic group but English remains as widely spoken, with Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil following suit. Both countries have vastly similar cultures and food – and the same harmless social proximity clashes experienced by all neighboring countries.
What is Singapore’s currency?
Singapore uses the Singaporean dollar (SGD) which equates to around $0.73. Thanks to the country’s free-market economy, the Singaporean dollar is among the strongest currencies in Asia – and the fourteenth strongest in the world in 2020. Safe to say, Singapore is ballin’ – so if you’re not, it makes sense to take one of these short trips from Singapore to neighboring Malaysia as most locals do when they want to get more bang for their buck.
Getting around Singapore
Being just about 50 kilometers wide and 27 kilometers long, it doesn’t take much to ensure great infrastructure in Singapore. The Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) is a reliable metro system that connects most districts and neighborhoods. It’s cheap too, with one-way tickets starting at 4SGD.
Singapore’s taxis are notoriously pricey, especially after 6.00 pm when drivers start charging peak rates. You might be wondering, ‘Is there Uber in Singapore?’ and the answer is yes, but no. Uber exited Southeast Asia in 2018 but its business was acquired by its competitor, Grab. Most Southeast Asian countries have Grab as an alternative for Uber, including Singapore – and it works the same way (and some might even say it’s cheaper!).
Bikesharing in Singapore
SG Bike is the largest bike-sharing service on the island, but its coverage is limited. While it might get you around the city center, don’t expect to take epic day trips from Singapore on two wheels.
Sling on your walking shoes, it’s short trips from Singapore time
Now that you’re filled in on the
boring important stuff, it’s time to put some miles behind you and take one of these wanderlust-worthy day trips from Singapore. Whether you want to stay on the island or pop into Malaysia, or even Indonesia, these trips can be done in under a day!
1. Sentosa Island – The fun state of sun, sea, and sand
Sentosa Island is considered to be one of the most-visited spots in Singapore, not counting shopping mall-laden Orchard Road. It’s home to the famous Resorts World Singapore and Universal Studios Theme Park. Whether you’re a fan of trying to find that infamous lady luck in a world-class casino or walking along a nature trail next to a sandy beach, Sentosa Island has got you covered. Take your pick of things to do in Sentosa, which range from a death-defying giant swing to relaxing bus tours.
You can get from central Singapore to Sentosa Island in just over an hour by taking the MRT to VivoCity and transferring onto the Sentosa Express Monorail. Getting to Sentosa via cable car is arguably a more fun way to make this short getaway from Singapore center. Board the MRT towards Harbourfront Center and exit toward Harborfront Tower II to board the Sentosa Cable Car Ride – panoramic views are guaranteed!
2. Johor Bahru – One of the most popular short trips from Singapore
Johor Bahru, or JB as most people call it, is unequivocally one of the most popular day trips from Singapore. Located mere minutes away from the Lion City, this is the Malaysian state that’s connected to Singapore by the Causeway bridge. It’s considered one of the closest places near Singapore than actual places in Singapore! Many locals from both sides of the bridge live and work across the border.
This busy border town has had a relatively seedy reputation for years due to high crime rates, and though it’s done a fair bit to clean up its act lately, the notoriety of JB being dangerous is hard to shake off, especially among Singaporeans.
Mention to any local that you’re popping into JB for a getaway from Singapore and you’ll be met with a barrage of “Why? You want to get robbed ah?” or “You siao ah?” But don’t let that deter you from exploring this up-and-coming city. Apart from being one of the easiest day trips from Singapore you can take, JB is a trove of delicious food and cultural monuments. From the famous Johor fish head curry to the blindingly white, colonial-era Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque, and LEGOLAND Malaysia, JB is fun for half the price. Consumer goods are cheap and you can actually chew gum here. In fact, when you’re on your way back to Singapore, passing by all those warning signs at the border, you might find yourself thinking, “No, actually you siao lah.”
PS: Siao means crazy. It’s used as a sarcastic reply when someone wants to take on an impossible task or do something unconditionally dumb.
3. Pulau Ubin – Bumboats, mangroves, and kampongs, oh my!
Day trips from Singapore don’t get much better than this. Pulau Ubin is a mangrove-rich Eden just a stone’s throw away from the city-state’s urban sprawl. If you’re a sucker for beautiful coastline, outdoor activities, and fauna-filled wetlands, this is a must-do.
Board a bumboat from Changi Point Ferry Terminal and bob for 10 minutes or so on the deep, green sea until you reach Singapore’s last kampong (village) on Pulau Ubin. This place is a time capsule that’ll take you back to the early days of the country when it was just a humble fishing village.
Once on the island, set out to discover the Chek Jawa Wetlands and or walk along wooden paths that loop over the tidal flats and mangrove-rich forest. This is a birdwatcher’s paradise, and one of the closest places near Singapore to see some real nature.
4. “You have to go to Batam!” – said every Singaporean ever
Batam is a local favorite for short trips from Singapore. This small Indonesian island is just 20 kilometers away from Singapore by ferry. Think Sentosa with a little less glitz and glamor – and a fraction of the price – Batam has casinos, massive shopping malls, water sports, and even a thriving nightlife scene.
Locals and expats alike opt for this easy getaway from Singapore to enjoy the finer things in life while setting foot in a whole new country. In all honesty, this is a strange place to visit; Batam has an aura of transience, with everything feeling like it was purpose-built to entertain their rich neighbors one island over. This industrial boomtown’s identity is built upon that of Singapore’s, with the driving aim for Batam’s development being “to become the Indonesian version of Singapore”.
5. Sisters Island – Myths and Reefs
Make like Robinson Crusoe and lose yourself in the secluded wilderness of Sisters Island. These two specks of land separated by a narrow channel are teeming with marine life and are just a short ferry ride away from the main island. It’s an uncommon choice of day trips from Singapore, making it less crowded than most other places near Singapore.
Sisters Island is shrouded in a local myth that involves – you guessed it, sisters. The legend goes that many centuries ago, two beautiful sisters lived near the island. One day, a group of pirates spotted one of the sisters and decided to kidnap her to make her his wife. Distraught, the sisters wept in each other’s arms until the pirate chief pulled them apart. The sister who was left behind swam after the pirate ship, and as she did, the sky turned dark and stormy, and she sank beneath the waves. Seeing this, the kidnapped sister broke loose from her captors and jumped into the sea to join her drowned sister. The next day, two islands appeared in the spot where the sisters had drowned.
You don’t always get such exciting stories to accompany your short trips from Singapore, but it does add an element of mystery to the country’s most coral-rich island. Sisters Island is a popular place for camping, snorkeling, and kicking back in relative remoteness while planning your next getaway from Singapore.
6. Malacca – Nyonya food, colonialism on steroids… and more food
Malacca is always a good idea. It is an undisputed fact that nobody has ever taken a day trip from Singapore to Malacca and had a bad time. Malaysia’s historic capital is just a three-hour drive from Singapore and it’s a feast for the eyes – and also an actual feast! Thanks to its unique Peranakan heritage (an ethnic group defined by its assimilation of Malay and Chinese cultures), Malacca has a social dynamic that’s rarely seen elsewhere – not to mention, a plethora of photogenic buildings from bygone eras.
Make sure to visit the A Famosa ruins to learn about the battles that took place here in the 1400s, then check out the Stadthuys to get a glimpse of the city’s Dutch heritage, and wander around the hauntingly beautiful Church of Saint Paul, the oldest church structure in Southeast Asia. A personal favorite is taking an eerily peaceful walk through the crumbling Dutch cemetery. Malacca will steal your heart whether or not you’re a history buff.
Nyonya food is what Malacca is all about. Nyonya cooking blends Chinese spices and Malay/Indonesian cooking techniques to create a whole new taste you didn’t know existed on the flavor spectrum. So, if you’re feeling famished, I’ve got three words for you: chicken rice balls. This is a Malaccan staple that consists of fragrant rice cooked in rich chicken stock and spices that are then shaped into golf-sized balls. They’re served alongside perfectly tender Hainanese chicken and/or roasted pork. While you’ll be hard-pressed to find bad chicken rice balls anywhere along Jonker Street, Hoe Kee Chicken Rice is a tried and true favorite. Feeling full after your meal? You have absolutely no right to when Jonker 88 is just a few minutes away. Got a thing for spicy food? Grab the laksa! Got a sweet tooth? Get the palm-sugar drenched cendol. Love heritage interiors? Grab a selfie inside!
Now that you’re clued in on all the best short trips from Singapore, you’re guaranteed to get the most out of the Lion City during your stay. We don’t recommend casting your net too wide and attempting to drive from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur as one of your day trips from Singapore. The places listed here are all under three hours to reach – with some as close as 30 minutes from the city, yet feeling like a world away