Singapore, Singapore: The Ultimate Guide with Kids
Singapore is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world, attracting the best international names in art, culture, and business. There are so many things to do in Singapore, you will be spoiled for choice. Here are some of the things we love doing when we are there:
Singapore with Kids - The Video
Getting to Singapore:
Getting to Singapore is easiest by air. I can emphatically say that Changi Aiport and Singapore Airlines have been best in their class for decades and continue to set the international standard. Find more information on traveling to Singapore here.
Getting Around Singapore:
Singapore is extremely easy to get around as it is small and public transportation is accessible and efficient. Taxis are cheap and most hotels/malls have taxi lines to ensure orderly conduct. Over the years though as Singapore has become more crowded and there are so many more things to do in Singapore, taxis are harder to come by than they used to be, particularly at rush hour. You can call a cab for a couple of dollars extra fee (+65 6552 1111). Other elements of the Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT), the buses and trains also run frequently and cover most parts of the city.
Where to Stay in Singapore with Kids:
Singapore is not only a tourist haven, but also a hot commercial destination with one fourth of its population being expats. Therefore accommodations choices are infinite and varied.
If you want to be part of the action (which I would hardly encourage), stay on or around Orchard Road. All the world's major brands are represented here. Sentosa is also a center with tons of things to do in Singapore.
Marina Bay Sands: If you are looking for an over-the-top experience a la Vegas, check out the new Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino. With a mall, museum, Jumperzillas, fine dining like Ku Dé Ta, and a swimming pool that straddles three buildings, you may not have time for much else in Singapore. And that may just be ok.
Resorts World Sentosa: Again, this may feel more like Disney World than Singapore, but if you are into amusement parks and all-inclusive resorts, this is your place. Universal Studios is the big attraction in this complex. Sentosa is a 15 minute drive from central Singapore and with beaches, malls and restaurants, it is practically a destination all by itself.
Serviced Apartments: There are a host of serviced apartments around Singapore for tourist and corporate use. Again, it's best to stay around the Orchard area for easy access.
Fun Things to do with Kids in Singapore:
The options are endless. Here are some of the highlights:
Amazonia: It's new and all the rage in indoor playscapes in Singapore, which is good to know if you get caught in the city on those rainy days. There is a big slide and climbing structures for older kids, a separate section for toddlers and a coffee shop for adults. It's pricey at about USD 20 for kids over 3 for two hours of play but accompanying adults are free. Glow-in-the-Dark Mini Golf is also available at an extra fee. You must carry socks. Great World City Mall has useful stores like Motherswork in case you are able to drop off the kids and want to get some shopping done.
Liliputt: Singapore-themed mini golf is a great game for the whole family. It's a bit of a shlep from the center of the city but if you find yourself with an afternoon to kill, it's fun to try your luck at the Singapore zoo or Jurong Bird Park holes. As with Amazonia, socks needed.
Universal Studios Singapore: I will say that if you are coming from the United States, you have no reason to come here. Go somewhere local. But for those of you hankering for a bit of Hollywood glam, Universal Studios Singapore is a fun amusement park to spend a half day (it's not very big so if you spend the entire day there, plan to explore some of the other parts of the Resorts World complex). Tickets are expensive at about 45 USD per adult. Kids under four go free. Look at the website for promotions, for example: we got $12 worth of vouchers per person with our Mastercard. Unlike American theme parks, the food is actually pretty cheap so it doesn't hurt as much after the initial sting.
Night Safari: I remember going here as a kid and being intrigued. It's quite small but is worth a view at minimum because of the novelty of the concept. The world's first nocturnal zoo is open from 7:30 pm on. Kids under three go free and the tram ride around the park is 40 minutes, which means you don't have to carry around the stragglers. Definitely an outing that will impress the little ones.
Singapore Cable Car: Singapore is on a quest to make everything about it "iconic" and this cable car looming high up in the sky as you head to Sentosa certainly is. Launching from the top of Mount Faber the cable car can offer you a one or two-way ride into Sentosa (Sentosa admission price is included in the ticket) and give you a sense of how much this area is developing. The kids will just enjoy the vistas!
Jurong Bird Park: The largest park in the world dedicated just to birds is worth a look-see. With penguins, parrots, parakeets and thousands of other species you've never heard of on display for educational and entertainment purposes you can count this one as a school day!
Go Go Bambini: An indoor play area for kids 5 and under, Go Go Bambini has slides, a ball pit, a cafe and much more.
Bounce: A haven of trampolines for kids 3+ and adults with dodgeball, air bags, parkour obstacle course.
Kidzania: A whole kids' town in Sentosa - the ultimate in pretend play. Let your kids do their own banking, run a hospital, shop for groceries or even fly a plane. It's expensive but worth it. Plan on spending 4 hours there but make sure to keep a close eye on your little ones.
Megazip: MegaZip in Sentosa is made up of a number of fun and adventurous parts: a long zip line from the hills to the beach, an obstacle course in the trees, a mini bungee jump, a rock climbing wall and a leap of faith jump. Best for kids 5+.
Forest Adventure: A treetop obstacle course with specially customized courses for adults, kids and little kids.
In addition, the Singapore Science Center and have been continually popular with parents over the last few years.
Where to Shop with Kids in Singapore:
Question is where not to shop? Singapore is a shopper's mecca with everything from premium designers to cheap made-in-China toys on offer. Shopping may well be Singapore's national sport. Also because the beautiful, air-conditioned and interconnected malls offer respite from the hot and humid year-round weather. Some of our favorite malls for kids are Forum (lots of upscale designer stores for kids and a Toys-R-Us), Paragon (level 5 and 6) and Ion (level B1) for all things you can think of kid-related. You will find specialty stores dedicated to swimming and organic food, or department stores that offer a bit of everything. Because of its reputation as a retail destination, Singapore offers brands from all over the world: Europe, America, Australia and of course, other parts of Asia. Definitely one of the top things to do in Singapore.
Momaboard Tip: Prices in Singapore are not always cheaper. But ask the salespeople for "promos" - that's where all the good deals come in.
Where to Eat with Kids in Singapore:
One of the other top things to do in Singapore is eat. Every cuisine from Italian to Moroccan is represented, but naturally, what's considered "Singaporean" food, a cross between Indian, Thai and Malay with its own blend of ingredients and flavors reigns supreme. It is worth noting that at Chinese restaurants pure vegetarians may suffer because most everything has a fish sauce or base. And something listed as "vegetable dumpling" on a menu simply means that it has vegetables in it, along with some meat, most likely pork. Therefore, be prepared or stick to the more obvious choices such as pasta or Indian (Little India in Singapore is large and well-populated with stores and restaurants).
Some local chains worth trying:
Din Tai Fung: Dumplings baby! In all types of sauces, with every kind of filling you could imagine. Their regular menu also includes rice and noodles for the little ones not feeling so dumply. Din Tai Fung is a Taiwanese chain that has been heralded as one of the Top 10 Best Restaurants so really, you can't go wrong. It's quick, reasonable (unless you have the black truffle dumplings like we did) and the kids will enjoy watching the dumplings being made through the glass doors of the centrally located and exposed kitchen. There are Din Tai Fung outlets all over Singapore, including at the Marina Bay Sands and Universal Studios.
The kids love watching dumpling-making at Din Tai Fung:
Crystal Jade: Crystal Jade has been my go-to for years in Singapore. There are four different kinds, each with a slightly different focus: Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao specializes in dumplings and la mian (noodles in a spicy broth); Crystal Jade Palace offers your regular selection of dim sum, Crystal Jade Golden Palace (only at Paragon) is the most formal offering authentic Cantonese cuisine. The newest, Crystal Jade Kitchen is a more casual mix of the above offering home-style roasts, noodles and dim sum. Again, you can't be at a mall in Singapore without stumbling into a Crystal Jade, which is a good thing!
Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck: The best in the business, for peking duck. The restaurant, located on level 5 of Paragon is quite formal although it does welcome children. The menu is extensive and fantastic but you do have to reserve your duck in advance. Our kids were ridiculously badly behaved at this restaurant so we banished them to the outdoor play area just outside. That's the beauty of Singapore. Also this level happens to be the one-stop-shop for all things kids (see Shopping).
Hawker Centres: Traditional Singaporean seafood such as chili crab and sting ray is best found at the hawker centres. Although on the surface a complete departure from Singapore's pristine appearance, the hawker centres are a little less well-coiffed, but much beloved. Try everything from dim sum to satays to rice and noodles and roti prata (all kid-friendly) and then get a little more adventurous with the spicy stuff. Some of the most popular hawkers are Newton and Adam Road Food Centre. Carry cash, wet wipes and avoid the bathrooms.
Tips for Travel to Singapore with Kids:
- Singapore is tremendously kid-friendly with high chairs in most restaurants and play areas in most major malls.
- Singapore charges a 7.5% GST which can be refunded at the airport for tourists. If you spend over SD100 at a store, ask for a GST refund and they will process the necessary paperwork for you. Once you get to the airport head to the GST counter where they may ask you to show your goods. After immigration you can collect your refund in cash or back on your card.
- Changi airport is amongst the best in the world in terms of efficiency, retail, and facilities. Get a free foot massage on the long walk to your gate like I did!
- Car seats are not mandatory and taxis won't have one
- Singapore takes its hygiene pretty seriously so don't be alarmed if they take your child's temperature before entering a playspace
- A quarter of Singapore's population is expatriates which is why you see so many Caucasian people around.
- The primary language is English (albeit highly accented to be known as Singlish) which makes it a dream to navigate
- The weather is hot and humid all year but it can get chilly in the highly effective air conditioning all over the city so carry a light sweater for the kids (and yourself)
- Most people living in Singapore have live-in help since labor is extremely cheap. Same reason you can get a fantastic massage at a quarter of the price you would in the West. Bliss.
Six Reasons to take the Kids - So Many Things to do in Singapore
When I was single, I thought Singapore was one of the dullest places on the planet, but once I had a child, I have begun to think of it as heaven on earth, from a baby-friendliness perspective, of course. Here's why:
1) It's clean and safe. Everything about Singapore is neat and functional. It often has a reputation for being "sterile" but as we parents know, you can't be germ-free enough when you are traveling with kids! Besides, take a walk to one of Singapore's bustling hawker centers if you want a taste of the spicier side of things.
2) Getting around is easy. Cabs are easy to hail (except during rush hour) and all malls have very well-organized taxi stands. You can even call a cab if you are having trouble for a small fee (S$2.50-3.00). The underground subway (MRT) is also easy to navigate and well-maintained, with elevators leading down and up from the platforms.
3) Most baby brands are represented in Singapore, because of its location in Asia Pacific and its popularity with Europeans. You can buy baby food, diapers, bottles, and everything else you need at well-stocked pharmacies and supermarkets.
4) English is the primary language (although the accent can be a bit tricky to decipher).
5) Domestic help is very common and easily available which means that you can go to restaurants, malls, coffee shops and find children left in the care of their attendants, giving mum and dad some time off. Further, all domestic help is well-regulated by the Singapore government, reducing the risk of criminal activity.
6) A quarter of Singapore's population is expats, enabling the influx of varied influences into its food, culture and social dynamics.
The downsides: the weather is hot and humid all year around, and real estate is ridiculously expensive.
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