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With the success of Crazy Rich Asians in US cinemas in late summer 2018, many travelers have added the Southeast Asian city-state of Singapore to their bucket lists. The city has long been synonymous with international banking, business trips and fast-paced city life. But in reality, it’s not just for suited-up travelers or those on a connection to other destinations in Asia or beyond. Singapore is an exciting family destination by itself, ideal for both younger and older kids, and a perfect introduction to Asia. It’s multicultural, tropical and vibrant, yet without the scary traffic and some other elements that can make traveling with kids in many other parts of Southeast Asia seem more daunting. (Here are the best ways to get to Singapore using points and miles and if you’re really going all-out, don’t miss TPG‘s ultimate guide to the new Singapore Suites.)
My 1-year-old daughter has been to Singapore with me twice — once at 4 months old, the next at 13 months — and it’s an easy and fun city for kids. Here are seven reasons why families with kids of all ages should consider Singapore as their next destination in Asia.
Singapore’s Famous Cleanliness and Safety
After banking, Singapore is perhaps best known around the world as an exceptionally neat and tidy city. The rumors are largely true. The government imposes steep fines on anyone caught littering, as well as not disposing of chewing gum properly, urinating in elevators or failing to flush a public toilet. And, yes, spot checks are made. The result is a city that’s significantly cleaner than cities in its neighboring countries (Thailand and Malaysia are its closest neighbors). Heck, Singapore is cleaner than most Western cities, too.
Importantly, food and water hygiene standards are high, meaning parents can relax and not have to be overly vigilant about what little ones are putting in their mouths. Tap water is drinkable, too. Just keep in mind that Singapore is a tropical country, so rules-of-thumb about not eating food that’s been sitting around unrefrigerated should apply.
A major advantage that Singapore has over most of its Southeast Asian neighbors is its traffic conditions. It’s a large city, so roads are busy and you can get stuck in traffic, especially during rush hours or during and immediately after heavy rain. But, drivers by and large follow the rules, and rules are strictly enforced. So, taking kids around the city isn’t the hair-raising experience that it can be elsewhere in the region. It’s no surprise to anyone who’s been to Singapore that it officially has the best infrastructure in the world, according to Mercer’s 2017 Quality of Living survey.
If other kids are anything like mine, animals are a major highlight at home or abroad. Singapore has several animal-focused attractions that both kids and parents will love. The famous Singapore Zoo is set in a rainforest at the edge of the city. It was among the first zoos in the world to shelter animals in habitats that resemble their natural environments. It’s home to 16 endangered species (and many more that aren’t endangered) and also contains the largest population of captive orangutans in the world. The zoo is very popular and can get crowded. To avoid having to wait in long lines, purchase your tickets online ahead of time.
The organization behind the zoo also runs the Night Safari, River Safari and Jurong Bird Park. The main zoo and the River Safari are part of the Singapore Stopover Holiday package, a deal for travelers flying with Singapore Airlines or Silk Air. The packages, which include hotels, free entry to numerous attractions, and several hop-on hop-off bus routes, and are excellent value for money for travelers passing through Singapore for at least 24 hours on the way somewhere else.
Pools and Waterparks
Singapore is a tropical country, so it’s hot and humid year-round. Therefore, many hotels in all price categories have pools. Top-end hotels, such as the Grand Hyatt, Hilton Singapore and the Marriott group have gorgeous pools with plenty of lounge chairs and special features like kiddy pools, shaded areas and bars. But, even lower-end hotels often come with a decent pool that kids will love cooling off in.
If a hotel pool isn’t enough, there’s also the Adventure Cove Waterpark on Sentosa Island. This awesome place has the expected waterslides and pools, as well as areas where visitors can snorkel with fish and other sea life. If you can’t make it to the wilds of Indonesia or the Philippines for some proper Southeast Asian snorkeling and diving with your kids, this is a fun alternative. You can find lots of suggestions for where to stay on points in Singapore here.
Singapore is a blend of Malay, Chinese and South Indian cultures, as well as other cultures. For visitors, this means there’s diverse architecture and cuisine to explore. Kids will be fascinated by elaborate South Indian Hindu temples, incense-filled Chinese temples and vibrant shopping streets selling food and everyday items of the different communities. Plus, adventurous little eaters will enjoy noodle soups, fried rice, Indian curries and all kinds of tropical fruit. Pickier eaters will still be able to find familiar favorites like burgers, chicken nuggets, sandwiches and spaghetti, as you can find whatever you want in Singapore. Neighborhoods like Chinatown and Little India are the places to go for interesting food, and the whole gamut can be found in the food courts of shopping malls (of which there are many in Singapore).
Green Spaces, Gardens and Parks
For a big city jam-packed with steel and glass skyscrapers, Singapore is also home to a refreshing range of green spaces. At the incredible Gardens by the Bay, kids can let loose in the indoor and outdoor spaces that span more than 247 acres; a canopy walk through the Supertree Grove is an unmissable experience, although parents who are afraid of heights might want to stay below. If you have older kids, an evening trip is especially enjoyable as the Supertrees are lit up.
The Singapore Botanic Gardens is another must-visit spot with kids. It’s a massive green area with dozens of smaller gardens within, including a dedicated children’s garden (the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden) with a suspension bridge, a farm and an orchard. A perfect combination of adventure and learning for kids.
Singapore is full of museums, and while older kids may be interested in a wide variety of them — including the Asian Civilisations Museum and the National Museum of Singapore — some museums are heavily geared toward kids of all ages. The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum displays life-size dinosaur and whale bones, and the Science Centre Singapore shows nature and science-related films in its enormous domed Omni-Theatre. Plus, museums are a great place to retreat to when the heat and humidity outside gets a bit much.
Rides, Rides, Rides
When little (and big) legs get tired, there are many ways to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride in Singapore. Cruise on a bumboat (barge) down the Singapore River, while looking up at the modern skyscrapers and colorful colonial-era buildings on both sides of the river. Kids will love spotting the Merlion, the half-fish half-lion symbol of Singapore, with water squirting out of its mouth.
Alternatively, hop into a cabin on the Singapore Flyer, a huge Ferris wheel that takes about a half-hour to do a full rotation, with panoramic views of Singapore from the top. For a full day out, head over to Sentosa Island (an attraction in itself, with theme parks and beaches) on the Singapore Cable Car. To navigate the colorful, congested streets of the central city without getting frazzled, book a trishaw tour; the Trishaw Uncle tour company runs tours on these cycle-powered vehicles through several routes, and kids love the novelty factor.
Although Singapore has long been a favorite stopover destination for Australians and New Zealanders traveling further afield via Asia, there are so many other things to do here that it’s worth making time for the little country itself — especially if you’re traveling with kids. For more details on how to get there, what to do and where to stay, see three ways to do Singapore on points. If you aren’t ready to make Singapore your final destination, you can at least take advantage of the free tours if you have some time to burn on your next longer connection through Changi.
Know before you go.
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