ULTIMATE Guide to 48 hours in Singapore

Singapore is a place of dreams. It’s big, bold, beautiful, and a little bit mysterious. Is it a city? Country? Island? Spoiler: It’s all three! 

I found Singapore to be a wild destination. Partly due to the fact that I could only afford to spend 48 hours there and had a very packed itinerary, but also due to the fact that it’s just another worldly place. Not otherworldly the way that the Australian outback or Chilean Patagonia is otherworldly. More like futuristic otherworldly. I had never been anywhere with such a stark contrast of history meets modern – in the architecture, in the food scene, in the way that people get around the city. All of it is just WILD.  

I feel like I’ll also preface this by saying the last Asian country I visited was India and while of course I kind of knew what to expect in Singapore, knowing that it is a very developed country, I also had a hard time connecting what I was experiencing to a fully functioning city. It’s almost like I felt like the city was literally created for travelers because everything was an experience.

If Singapore is on your bucket list but feels intimidating to you, check out my ultimate guide to 48 hours in Singapore below! 

How to get to Singapore

It depends on where you are flying from, but from the U.S. there are actually a few direct flights out of the west coast. I flew directly from San Francisco, which was about 16 hours. If you live in the midwest or the east coast, expect to have a layover in LAX or SFO before heading on to Singapore. Most flights from the U.S. are also overnight to be prepared to arrive nice and early in the morning in Singapore. 

If you are already in Asia, a flight is still the easiest way to get to Singapore. It’s about a 5 hour flight from the Bali International Airport and less than that from main airports in Southeast Asia like Ho Chi Minh and Bangkok, and it’s closest to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. 

There are also direct flights from Australia from Brisbane. It’s a major travel hub and makes a great stopping off point or long layover on your way to or from other countries in Asia! 

How to get around Singapore

Singapore’s public transit system is extremely well connected and highly efficient. I used the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) to get around the city with the Singapore Tourist Pass. The Singapore Tourist Pass can be purchased at the airport for about USD$30 and gives you unlimited MRT rides for 3 days as well as unlimited rides on basic bus lines. 

This was well worth it for me, since I used the MRT to get from the airport into the city, and then at least 4 times each day to get to different areas around the city. No need to purchase this pass ahead of time, the price will be the same as if you buy it at the airport. 

If you are familiar with using public transit in any other city, Singapore will be no different. I found it really easy to read and understand the different train lines and there are plenty of maps in each station. 

Where to stay in Singapore

It really depends on the experience that you are looking for, but I can definitely recommend staying on Orchard Road, which is known as Singapore’s shopping district. It is still very close to all of the main sights, but a distinct enough area. I also don’t think I would have traveled over to this area specifically to shop, so it was fun to get a sense of the big malls and shops as part of my stay in this area. 

I stayed at JEN Orchardgateway Hotel by Shangri-La, and I can also absolutely recommend this hotel. At USD$225 per night, this was a bit pricey for me but for Singapore I felt okay spending this especially for such a short trip. 

Other areas that would be really cool and central to stay in would be Chinatown, Marina Bay Sands area, and Kampong Glam. Everything is really well connected by the MRT so it depends on how much you want to spend and what kind of experience you want! 

I felt like my hotel was reasonably priced, central, comfortable, and had a beautiful rooftop view of the Singapore skyline. I preferred being able to look at the Marina Bay Sands building rather than stay in the Marina Bay Sands hotel. Maybe next time though. 

What to do in Singapore

There is so much to see and do in this city and I feel like I made a good dent in two days, but I definitely didn’t hit everything! 

Jewel Changi Airport

The waterfall at the Jewel Changi Airport is one of the most iconic places in Singapore and it is a must see on any Singapore itinerary! I arrived early in the morning and knew that I would have to wait a few hours before the waterfall actually started flowing. I thought it would start at 8 am but it was 10 am! So I hung around at the Starbucks, and wandered around the Jewel (which is technically outside of the airport, but it is connected).

Aside from the waterfall, the Jewel is well worth it to just walk around and see the shops, grab a coffee, and admire the view of the biggest indoor waterfall (in the world?) from multiple angles! 

Pay attention to when your flight leaves so you know whether to make the stop right when you land or right before you leave Singapore. My flight to Indonesia left Singapore at 6 am so I knew that I wouldn’t be able to see it then, so it was worth it for me to wait around a few hours after I first landed in Singapore before the water actually turned on.

A sunset boat ride around the waterways in the city

This boat ride takes you past some of the big attractions in Singapore, the MerLion fountain and the Marina Bay Sands building to name a few. Personally, I think the Marina Bay Sands building was the most beautiful from the water. Tickets can be purchased on site at Clark Quay for the Singapore River Cruise Experience. Google maps was super accurate on this one, so just type in Singapore River Cruise and it will take you to the ticket counter where you can buy a ticket for right then, or for later in the day to come back. 

You can also book ahead of time with GetYourGuide!

Hunting for murals in Chinatown

Chinatown is busy and beautiful and is very easy to get to on the MRT. Even if you only spend an hour or so in this area, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the many different murals that are hidden in the alleyways of this part of town. They are all very realistic and it’s fun to pose for a picture next to the life size characters of the murals! There is also a beautiful temple in Chinatown and many stands to buy snacks or produce. Also this activity is completely free!

Gardens by the Bay

This is an absolute must for anyone visiting Singapore. The SuperTrees are known worldwide and they definitely did not disappoint. It’s completely possible to enjoy Gardens by the Bay without paying a dime (which is what I did). But you can also pay to see some of the exhibits like the Cloud Forest or the Flower Dome – they looked really cool and if I had more time I may have done that. The combo ticket for these exhibits is about USD$50. There is also a skywalk between the supertrees, which I was planning on doing but also ran out of time. The tickets for that are about USD$12. 

I highly recommend visiting during the day AND at night. The daytime is amazing to see all of the flowers and read about what the supertrees actually do, and the different ways that the elements of the complex support environmental health. 

At night, there is a light show that is very popular but I actually opted to go right after the light show ended. I am SO glad I did this, because I literally ran into the hordes of people leaving the light show on my way there and by the time I arrived, the clearing between the trees was practically empty. I was able to sit there for a while in relative peace and quiet and just enjoy the lights on the trees. I was a bit nervous that the lights would shut off before I arrived, but they stayed on until about 10 pm. 

Kampong Glam

This area is known as the muslim quarter as one of the main attractions is a large (and beautiful) mosque. Haji Lane in this area is a famous street for cute shops and cafes and souvenirs. I enjoyed walking around here for a little bit, but I actually found it to be the most crowded and in your face touristy. Each of the cafes had someone out front trying to get customers to come inside. 

I had lunch at a place called the Coconut Club, which I totally would recommend! It is kind of on the outskirts of this region so it was quiet and delicious. 

This is a nice area to wander for a bit, but if you are short on time this is one place you could cut!

Hawker Centres

My one regret from my trip to Singapore is that I didn’t set foot in any of the Hawker Centres. These are like large indoor food halls with cheap, local foods. I just didn’t have the time and didn’t prioritize it but I would recommend looking up a few of the popular spots when planning a trip to Singapore! 

Relaxation

For me, this was the first destination on a six week long trip and I wanted to prioritize some rest so I made sure to give myself an afternoon of pool time. It’s important to not overdo it and build in some down time so you can be sure to enjoy the things you really want to do.

Also Singapore is HOT, and I really did need some time out of the sun. When your pool has a view of the Singapore skyline, it’s easier to take a breather and order a classic Singapore Sling and just soak up the fact that you’re in Singapore! 

Singapore is totally doable in just a few days, and for those on a budget I wouldn’t recommend staying any longer! It’s a great place to plan a long ‘layover’ on your way to another country in Southeast Asia, especially from the U.S. 

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