With heavy influences from Malay, Chinese, Indonesian, Indian and British cuisines, the restaurant scene in Singapore is far from dull and fusion food is the order of the day. Street vendors are common in this bustling city for a tasty meal on the go, and most specialise in one dish with favourites including fish head curry or Mee Goreng (yellow egg noodles stir fried with ghee, tomato sauce, chilli, egg, vegetables and various meats or seafood). Seafood such as prawns, oysters, crabs and lobsters are also popular dishes on most Singaporean menus and traditional dishes such as laksa (soup), popiah (spring rolls), and satay (barbecued meat skewers) are worth trying. Those with a sweet tooth will enjoy the sugary desserts like kuih (steamed cakes), bubur cha-cha (coconut milk soup), and ice kachang (shaved ice with sweet red beans).
Hawker centres are the cheapest places to eat, and come with their own unique atmosphere, which is somewhere between a market and a food court. Prices are low and the food is generally very good, so it's a great way to try a lot of dishes. Find a table first, and many stalls will deliver your food to you. Popular hawker centres include Newton Circus, Glutton's Bay, and Lau Pa Sat, as well as several options in Chinatown.
Singapore has its share of international fast food chains, but local takeaway options worth trying include Bengawan Solo's Chinese pastries, Old Chang Lee's deep-fried curry puffs, and the traditional Singaporean breakfast at Ya Kun Kaya Toast.
Singapore's more upmarket restaurants have a lot to offer as well, with plenty of variety. A special focus is on Chinese cuisine and seafood, however. Head to the Orchard Road area and the historic district for eateries of every nationality, or for a trendy night out a trip to Boat Quay or Clarke Quay along the riverfront is a must.
Restaurants will often display the prices with plus signs ($19.99++) indicating that service charges and sales tax are not included and will be added to the bill. Tipping is not typically practiced in Singapore, and is officially discouraged by the government.
In Singapore, shopping is said to be the national sport, strongly supported by numerous shopping areas, malls and markets; at the mid-year Great Singapore Sale, the whole island offers fantastic shopping discounts. Despite its reputation as an international shopping destination, however, pretty much everything sold in Singapore is made somewhere else, so don't expect to find authentic local goods or handmade treasures. If ethnic goods are what you're after, Chinatown sells Chinese items like seals and painted fans, and Geylang Serai and Little India offer a range of Malay and Indian goods. Colourful Peranakan clothing and artwork is available in Katong.
Low import taxes mean there are bargains to be had, but if you've come to Singapore in search of bargain electronics or computers, it pays to do some research ahead of time so you don't end up paying more than you could have. Singapore's consumer protection laws are good, so most shops are honest and fakes are not openly sold.
Orchard Road is the main shopping area and features mall after mall of fashion, furniture and cosmetic shops. There are countless stores offering every imaginable form of electronic device shoppers might require, and the street markets and smaller shops sell good souvenirs. There is also late night shopping on Orchard Road every Saturday till about 11pm.
Exhibitions, fairs and garage sales take place often and offer many discounted goods. Wet Markets smell bad but sell well-priced fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, spices and flowers. The general opening hours for shops are from about 9am to 10pm, but many shops (especially those in Suntec City and Funan IT Mall) do not open before 11am.
With so many choices on offer, it can be a difficult task deciding what to do for an evening out in Singapore, and hard to know how best to experience the city's nightlife. From cultural performances and traditional dancing and music venues to nightclubs, bars and upmarket lounges, Singapore is a city that never sleeps.
Start an evening out at one of the many international touring Broadway shows or head to one of the nightlife hubs of the city, such as Boat Quay, where a variety of bars, karaoke bars, clubs, discos and lounges can be found, as well as some of the city's glitterati, who can be seen hanging out and mingling with the who's who. Muhammad Sultan Road is another key area where clubs and bars are scattered. The Zouk complex is one of the best places to go if you're looking for gay and lesbian clubs and bars. One of the largest and longest-running clubs is the sprawling Zouk in Jiak Kim Street, which hosts visiting international artists and has a variety of floors ranging from house to hip hop, pop and even a dinner-dance area. Clarke Quay is the place for hardcore clubbers. There are other areas of the city that have become eclectic in their entertainment choices and live jazz, acid jazz, international guest DJs and live music is easy to come by. Sentosa has a number of cocktail bars on the beach, and the Central Business District has plenty of chic nightclubs.
Singapore is a relatively safe place at night, even for women alone. Many clubs stay open until very late, closing at about 2am on weekdays and 4am on weekends. Taxis can be found fairly easily, but be prepared for a rush of people, and an increase of fares after midnight when the clubs start to close. Drinking in Singapore is an expensive pastime as the country's heavy sin taxes push the price of drinks up.