Do’s and Don’ts in Singapore: Essential Travel Etiquette

Traveling to Singapore can be an exciting adventure. This city-state is famous for its mix of cultures, delicious food, and beautiful places to visit. But before you pack your bags, it’s important to know some basic do’s and don’ts to make sure you have a smooth trip. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about respecting local customs, getting around, dining, and more.

Key Takeaways

  • Respect local traditions and dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites.
  • Learn how to use the public transportation system, including the MRT and buses, to get around easily.
  • Try local foods at hawker centers but remember not to tip, as it’s not a common practice in Singapore.
  • Be aware of strict laws, such as no smoking in public places and heavy fines for littering.
  • Explore different islands and nature reserves to experience the diverse wildlife and natural beauty of Singapore.

Respect Local Customs and Traditions

Singapore local customs

When visiting Singapore, it’s important to respect the local customs and traditions. This not only shows your appreciation for the culture but also helps you blend in better with the locals. Paying attention to how locals behave can provide valuable insights into what is considered polite and respectful in Singapore.

Navigating Public Transportation

Singapore’s public transportation system is a traveler’s dream. The country’s public transportation system is amazing and will take you everywhere you want to go. It is also an economic and fast way of traveling in Singapore as the network is very well maintained and governed.

Dining Etiquette in Singapore

Hawker Centers Do’s and Don’ts

When visiting Singapore, you must experience the vibrant and diverse dining scene at hawker centers. These bustling food courts offer a variety of dishes from different cultures. Remember to ‘chope’ your table by placing a tissue packet or personal item on it to reserve your spot. This is a common practice among locals. Also, always return your tray after eating to keep the area clean.

Tipping Culture

Tipping is not expected in Singapore. Most restaurants include a 10% service charge in the bill. However, if you receive exceptional service, you may leave a small tip as a token of appreciation. In hawker centers, tipping is not necessary at all.

Trying Local Delicacies

Don’t miss out on trying local delicacies like Hainanese chicken rice, chili crab, and laksa. These dishes reflect Singapore’s multi-ethnic society and are a must-try for any visitor. Be adventurous and explore the wide range of flavors available at hawker centers and restaurants.

Laws You Must Follow

Singapore is known for its strict laws and regulations, earning it the nickname the "Fine City." As a visitor, it’s crucial to be aware of these rules to avoid hefty penalties and ensure a smooth trip. Here are some key laws you must follow while in Singapore.

Smoking Regulations

Smoking is heavily regulated in Singapore. It is illegal to smoke in most public places, including air-conditioned areas, public transportation, and within a certain distance from building entrances. Designated smoking areas are provided, and it’s important to use them. Violating these regulations can result in substantial fines.

Littering Fines

Singapore takes cleanliness very seriously. Littering, even something as small as a candy wrapper, can lead to severe fines. Repeat offenders may even be required to perform community service. Always dispose of your trash in the proper bins to avoid penalties.

Drug Laws

Singapore has some of the harshest drug laws in the world. Possession, trafficking, or consumption of illegal drugs can result in severe punishments, including the death penalty. The authorities conduct random checks, and ignorance of the law is not an excuse. Stay away from any illegal substances to ensure your safety.

Remember, unauthorized public demonstrations are illegal. You need a police permit for any public gatherings, even if you’re the only one demonstrating or protesting.

Exploring Singapore’s Islands

Traveling to Singapore offers a unique chance to explore cultural and romantic experiences in Singapore’s islands like Sentosa and Pulau Ubin. Discover the tranquility and history of St. John’s Island. Ideal for couples seeking memorable getaways.

Wildlife and Nature Reserves

Singapore is a paradise for nature lovers, offering a variety of wildlife and nature reserves to explore. Whether you prefer the safety of a zoo or the thrill of a night safari, there’s something for everyone.

Singapore Zoo

The Singapore Zoo is world-renowned for its open-concept exhibits and lush, naturalistic environments. Visitors can see animals in settings that closely resemble their natural habitats. Don’t miss the chance to see the orangutans swinging from tree to tree.

Night Safari

For a unique experience, the Night Safari offers a chance to see nocturnal animals in action. The park is designed to be explored after dark, with special lighting that mimics moonlight. It’s a thrilling way to see animals you wouldn’t normally encounter during the day.

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is a haven for hikers and nature enthusiasts. The reserve is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including some of Singapore’s last remaining primary rainforest. It’s a great place to escape the city’s hustle and bustle and reconnect with nature.

Everyone has their own way of appreciating nature. Some prefer to explore the wilds, guidebook in hand, while others would rather head for the safety of a zoo.

Best Cities to Visit

Singapore skyline

Singapore City

Singapore City is the heart of the country and a must-visit for any traveler. This bustling metropolis offers a mix of modern skyscrapers and historic temples. Don’t miss the Marina Bay Sands and the Gardens by the Bay. The city is also known for its vibrant nightlife and diverse food scene.


Jurong is famous for its industrial areas, but it also has some hidden gems. Visit the Jurong Bird Park, one of the largest bird parks in the world. The Science Centre Singapore is another highlight, perfect for families and science enthusiasts.


Tampines is a residential area that offers a more laid-back experience. It’s a great place to explore local markets and parks. Tampines Eco Green is a beautiful nature reserve that’s perfect for a relaxing day out. The area is also known for its shopping centers, making it a great spot for some retail therapy.

Social Etiquette

social etiquette in Singapore

When visiting Singapore, understanding and respecting social etiquette is crucial for a smooth experience. Discover essential cultural and etiquette tips for newcomers to Singapore to blend in seamlessly with the locals.

Meeting New People

When meeting someone new, a simple handshake is usually appropriate. Always greet with a smile and make eye contact. Remember to use polite phrases like "please," "thank you," and "excuse me." Avoid discussing sensitive topics such as race, religion, and politics to prevent any unintentional offense.

Public Displays of Affection

Public displays of affection are generally frowned upon in Singapore. While holding hands is acceptable, more intimate gestures should be reserved for private settings. This helps maintain a respectful atmosphere in public spaces.

Respecting Personal Space

Singaporeans value their personal space. When in public, avoid standing too close to others, especially in queues or crowded places. Pay attention to how locals behave and follow their lead to ensure you are respecting their boundaries.

By observing these social norms, you will find it easier to navigate Singapore smoothly and enjoy your time in this vibrant city.

Shopping Tips

Bargaining in Markets

One of the best budget travel tips for Singapore is to negotiate wisely. This is especially true in places like Bugis Street or Chinatown, which are almost like street or flea markets. The prices of items are quite low, but if you don’t learn to bargain, you might end up with nothing. Be sensible with your bargains and always be polite.

Tax Refunds

Another useful tip is to claim a 7% GST refund at the airport when you leave. This is possible if you spend more than S$100 at participating stores like Fossil or Charles & Keith and have all your receipts. Make sure to keep track of your purchases to take advantage of this refund.

Popular Shopping Districts

Singapore is a shopping paradise with many top-notch retail destinations. Some of the most popular shopping districts include Orchard Road, Marina Bay Sands, and VivoCity. Each offers a unique shopping experience, from luxury brands to local boutiques.

Discover shopping paradise in Singapore with our expert guide! Explore top-notch retail destinations and find out what to buy during your unforgettable trip.

Carry Spare Change

There will be several times during your trip when you will need to pay in change, from shopping in the famous street markets to getting a $1 drink. While you may not have an issue while shopping, you will almost certainly need exact change when using the bus in Singapore.

Wear Comfortable Shoes

Shopping in Singapore often involves a lot of walking. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes to make your shopping experience more enjoyable. Whether you’re exploring the bustling markets or the sprawling malls, your feet will thank you.

Tech and Connectivity

Using Public Wi-Fi

When in Singapore, staying connected is easy with the Wireless@SGx app. This app allows you to connect to various hotspots scattered throughout public places in the city. However, be cautious and avoid using unauthorized Wi-Fi networks, as it is punishable under Singapore’s Computer Misuse & Cybersecurity Act.

Local SIM Cards

For uninterrupted access to emails, documents, and other online services, consider getting a local SIM card. With eSIM technology, business travelers can seamlessly switch between different mobile networks. You can purchase SIM cards at the airport, convenience stores, or mobile shops. They offer various plans to suit your data needs.

Navigating with Apps

Singapore is a tech-savvy city, and there are numerous apps to help you navigate. Apps like Google Maps, Grab, and Citymapper can assist you in finding your way around, booking rides, and checking public transport schedules. These apps are user-friendly and can make your travel experience smoother.

Staying connected in Singapore is straightforward with the right tools and knowledge. Make sure to use authorized networks and consider local SIM options for the best experience.

Safety Tips for Tourists

tourists in Singapore

When visiting Singapore, it’s important to stay safe and be aware of your surroundings. Here are some essential safety tips to keep in mind during your trip.

Cultural Sensitivities

When visiting Singapore, it’s crucial to be aware of cultural sensitivities to ensure a respectful and enjoyable experience. The city-state is a melting pot of various cultures, and understanding these nuances can help you navigate social interactions smoothly.


Traveling to Singapore can be an amazing experience if you know what to do and what to avoid. By respecting local customs, trying out delicious foods, and exploring the beautiful islands and cities, you can make the most of your trip. Remember to be mindful of the laws and etiquette to ensure a smooth and enjoyable visit. Whether you’re there for the wildlife, the food, or the vibrant culture, Singapore has something special for everyone. So pack your bags, follow these tips, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some local customs to be aware of in Singapore?

In Singapore, it’s important to respect local customs such as removing your shoes before entering someone’s home and dressing modestly when visiting religious sites.

How should I behave on public transportation?

When using public transportation like the MRT or buses, always give up your seat for the elderly, pregnant women, and people with disabilities. Also, keep noise levels down and avoid eating or drinking.

Is tipping expected in Singapore?

Tipping is not a common practice in Singapore. Most restaurants include a service charge in the bill, so additional tipping is not necessary.

What are the rules regarding smoking in Singapore?

Smoking is banned in most public places in Singapore, including restaurants, shopping malls, and public transportation. There are designated smoking areas where you can smoke.

What should I know about Singapore’s drug laws?

Singapore has very strict drug laws. Possession, use, or trafficking of drugs can result in severe penalties, including the death penalty.

Can I bargain when shopping in Singapore?

Bargaining is generally not practiced in most stores in Singapore, but you can try to negotiate prices in markets and small shops.

Is it safe to travel alone in Singapore?

Singapore is considered one of the safest cities in the world, making it safe for solo travelers. However, it’s always good to stay alert and follow basic safety precautions.

Are there any cultural sensitivities I should be aware of?

Avoid discussing sensitive topics like race, religion, and politics. Always show respect when visiting religious sites and ask for permission before taking photos of people.

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