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Do's and Don'ts for tourists in Singapore

We don't want to be a mum, but here's an etiquette guide to exploring Singapore the right way

Fines
By Cam Khalid |
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As a gastronomical paradise with plenty of sun (and the occasional downpour) all year 'round, Singapore is unsurprisingly on plenty of travel bucket lists. But before making your way down to the Lion City, it’s about high time tourists get schooled on the much-needed lesson on how to behave in public. Take this handy etiquette guide to heart (and head) and explore the city like a local – there's a reason why it stays clean and green.

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hat sunglasses

Do dress for the weather

This is an absolute no-brainer. Remember to pack all your summer outfits suitable for Singapore's tropical climate and warm temperatures that range from 24 (rarely) to 35 degrees at most. The high humidity is expected to make you sweat too. Slap on some sunscreen, put on a hat and a pair of sunglasses, and you're ready to go. An umbrella comes in handy too, just in case it rains.

rubbish bin

Don't litter

Avoid tossing your rubbish anywhere and everywhere. There are bins in every nook and cranny of the city for you to throw them in. Also, littering can get you in trouble and fined up to from $300 up to $1,000. Done with a cigarette? Do us a solid, stub out that cig and put it in the bin. There’s a reason Singapore’s so clean and green, and for one, it's definitely not your personal ashtray. 

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escalator

Do stand on the correct side

Let's avoid any human traffic where possible. That means standing on the left side of the escalator and walking up the steps on the right side. Strolling on walking paths and not ones with the yellow bicycle signs. This unwritten rule saves you from being tutted at, or worse, in a people stampede.

 

Hainanese Chicken Rice Queue
Sara Goldsmith

Do join the queue

If there's one thing Singaporeans love, it's a queue. Whether you're waiting for the train, ordering your food or claiming a freebie, nothing gets the locals wide-eyed than seeing a queue. Join the line and not cut it, or you'll receive some unwanted attention and disgruntle.

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thank you

Do mind your manners

We’re not your mums and we shouldn’t constantly be reminding you of this: look everyone – servers and locals alike – in the eye and say 'please', 'thank you', 'sorry' and 'excuse me'. When it comes to volume, try not to shout when talking, and for crying out loud, don't spit in public. 

 

tips

Don't even think about tipping

Here’s a tip on tipping: don’t bother. You'll notice that this isn't big here, anyway. Ask for the bill and you'll find a fine print that says 'GST' (goods and services tax), as well as 'service charge' which is basically synonymous with tipping.

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cash

Do carry cash

We're not telling you to bring stacks of cash. But it's super helpful to carry some in the wallet. We get that it’s 2018 and every business is expected to accept cash, but hawker centres and street markets are pretty much old school, so cash is king. On a slightly different note, tissue packs on tables and chairs at hawker centres mean the seats are taken.

MRT
Chang Hsien via Unsplash

Don't use public transport during peak times

If you're travelling in groups, taking the trains or busses during peak times (around 8am-9am and 6pm-7pm) might run the risk of being separated. And if you don't the city at the back of your hand, you might just find yourself lost. You wouldn't want that, would you?

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woman

Do treat the elders like family

Everyone here is your uncle and auntie, and you can simply call them that. It's a form of respect and courtesy, and instead of being offended, you'll be greeted with a smile instead – give it a go!

road

Don't jaywalk on roads

Stick to the traffic lights and only walk when the green man lights up. Crossing the road during a red light is not only risky, but it may cause you a fine from $20 to $1,000.

Tourists, take note...

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