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The best short day trips from Singapore

You don't have to go far by land or sea to be in a totally different island when you make these day trips from Singapore

penang
Photo: Fidelia Zheng
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Take a break from city life by leaving our sunny (and hectic) island for not-so-faraway ones that are far more quaint. These day trips within Singapore and beyond provide a breathtaking change of scenery sans airport queues and hours of travelling time.

Cross the Causeway into Johor and other Malaysian towns or jet off to an Indonesian beach resort in Batam or Bintan, because who needs Bali anyway? These out-of-town spots are perfect for relaxing and refuelling away from the stress of Singapore city, coconut (or perhaps, a martini) in hand. It's time to hit the road.  

RECOMMENDED: Family-friendly activities in Johor Bahru and the ultimate guide to Bintan Island

Day trips from Singapore

penang
Photo: Poh Wei Chuen via Unsplash

Penang

A popular weekend getaway for its famous hawker food, street art, history and culture, Penang is a great pick for a quick getaway from Singapore. Whether you choose to go on a road trip with friends or catch a quick and cheap flight there, the first thing you will surely do when you reach is to go on an eating binge. 

EAT Kafe Khoon Hiang 

When in Penang, you have to try one of the most famous local offerings, char kway teow. Don't think that just because you've tasted the ones here, you've tasted it all. The charred flat rice noodles are tossed with juicy prawns, crunchy bean sprouts and scrambled duck eggs.

DRINK The Canteen At ChinaHouse

When hanging out in a new town on holiday, kicking back with a cold drink in hand and all-around chill vibes are important. At The Canteen, it's all about dressing down and enjoying the nightly live music covering genres from jazz to indie, while sipping on your favourite cocktail.

DO Penang National Park

If you have had enough of culture and the food, pack your bags and hike the Penang National Park. See the best of Penang's rainforests and beaches in this huge park. Enjoy spectacular views from canopy trails or sink your feet into the pristine sand on the beach. 

STAY Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

If it looks familiar to you, you might recognise it from an important scene in Crazy Rich Asians. The mansion also happens to be a boutique hotel with 18 personalised rooms – and all of the rooms are different and tastefully decorated with 19th-century antiques. 

If you do just one thing... Hunt for murals on the street of Penang. Penang's famous and colourful murals have made for Instagram fodder. There's one on almost every wall so get exploring and remember to snap some pics.

Kuala Lumpur
Izzudin Helmi Adnan/Unsplash

Kuala Lumpur

Leaving the city to another city? Kuala Lumpur it is. There's much to see and do (and eat) in this city that seemingly never sleeps. From suppers in the open air to fancy air-conditioned malls, the familiarity might even remind you of Singapore at times but with a myriad of new adventures waiting for you.

EAT Wong Ah Wah Restaurant

When in KL be sure to make some time for some barbeue chicken wings – possibly the best you'll ever have at this no-frills open-air zi char place at food street, Jalan Alor. While you won't go wrong with the standard dishes like salted egg yolk chicken, braised vegetables and fried rice, it's the chicken that's barbecued right in front of you that is the absolute standout. Brined overnight, the end result is a smoky, salty and just-the-right-amount of oily masterpiece.

DRINK PS150

Have fun trying to find this speakeasy in KL's Chinatown, Petaling Street. Housed in an old shophouse that was once a brother, the space is unassuming, intimate (think In The Mood For Love vibes) and romantic all at once. The drink menu is divided into five distinct eras in the history of cocktails itself: Vintage, Prohibition, Tiki, Disco and Contemporary.

DO Batu Caves

Interestingly enough, one thing to do in KL is to get out of KL. A 30-minute train ride, or 13km from the city is the majestic Batu Caves worth seeing in the flesh. Batu Caves is a limestone hill comprising three major caves and a number of smaller ones. Be prepared to be climbing steps all day and exploring the depths of several caves – remember to bring your cameras!

STAY Alila Bangsar Hotel

You're in for an urban retreat when you book a room at the new Alila Bangsar. City life away from the city will never be this chic. With tasteful and modern decor, an amazing pool with a view, pool-side yoga and impeccable room service, it's great to get away from downtown life once in a while.

If you do just one thing... If sticking to central KL is your prerogative, then all you can is shop and eat to your heart' content. Go mall-hopping along Bukit Bintang and be impressed by the sheer amount of boutiques and shops in a major mall. Ready your cards, you'll be using them lot. When it comes to food, you'll be spoilt for choice with the in-mall restaurants or venture out to Jalan Alor for a taste of hawker life in Malaysia.

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Malacca
Photo: Lung Wei/Flickr

Malacca

If you're looking for an idyllic heritage town to spend a quiet weekend in, the charming and quaint Malacca is only a few hours drive away from Singapore. Rows of shophouses, Peranakan antiques, winding laneways and plentiful of good food at every corner, this town is your dream road trip destination. There's history, heaps of culture, too much food and many happy photo opportunities to be had.

EAT Pak Putra

Despite all the guide books telling you to eat your weight in assam laksa and chicken rice balls, skip the advice and try out Pak Putra, an open-air, open-at-night-only establishment. For the best naan you'll have, amazing Tandoori chicken, and assorted curries, this is a must-go when you're in town.

DRINK The Daily Fix

Blink and you might miss this buzzy cafe located within a gift store. You'll be surprised to find that this is no sleepy, quiet spot. Still if you do bag a spot, the coffee is the best in town. Rose lattes, ice mochas and the cold-brewed tea (ask the staff to see what's brewing for the day), it's the erfect complement to your short getaway. The kids will love the selection of fluffy pancakes in gula melaka, chocolate chip and more.

DO The Clay House

Here's a different sort of holiday shopping: it's where you take the time to make your own wares to bring home. Drop by the rustic store and pottery studio where you can sign up for a session to get your hands dirty. From sculpting to glazing, you'll be bringing home your own handmade cups, bowls, lamps, aromatherapy burners and more.

STAY 1825 Gallery Hotel

When in Malacca, stay by the river, just so you won't be too far from all the good food and good spots in town.This colonial-style heritage building is located just outside the main Jonker Street area but still close to everything. Rooms are spacious so if you're rooming with the family, there's enough sleeping space for everyone. Splurge on a room upgrade with river views, a balcony and your own personal whirlpool tub.

If you do just one thing... Besides just eating and cafe-hopping, Malacca is huge on its antique stores as well. From Chinese porcelain stools to crystals and gemstones (think agate face rollers and rose quartz stone massagers), batik and fabric stores to rattan furniture shops, it's a different kind of shopping sans malls here in Malacca.

AJ Hackett Sentosa

Sentosa

There's something for everyone at Sentosa. Whether you're a high roller looking to make your fortune, a thrill-seeker wanting to scream your heart out on a high-speed coaster, Michelin-star hunting foodie or a marine life enthusiast learning more about our ocean depths, the island has you covered. And if all that sounds a little too much for you, you can always park yourself at one of its three beaches and laze the day away.

EAT Curate

Dine at Asia's first Michelin chef showcase experience. Every quarter, a different guest chef takes over the kitchen at Curate to present his or her award-winning menu.

DRINK Tanjong Beach Club

Dig your feet into the sand as you lounge by the beach with a tiki cocktail by Tanjong Beach Club. On Sunday, DJs turn the beachfront into a dance floor from the afternoon 'til late.

DO AJ Hackett

Here's one for the daredevils. Take a leap of faith by jumping from a height of 47m at AJ Hackett, Singapore's first bungy jumping facility.

STAY W Singapore Sentosa Cove

There are plenty of family-friendly hotels and luxe cabana stays on the island but for something sexier, we recommend making the trek out to W Singapore Sentosa Cove. Located in a quieter corner of the island, the hotel is perfect for couples looking for a little privacy.

If you do just one thing... Spend the day at Universal Studios Singapore, home to Battlestar Galactica and other fun rides that get the heart racing.

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Bev C
Camera: Sony RX100 IV

Johor Bahru

Cross the causeway via public transport or in the comfort of your car from Woodlands Checkpoint and you'll find yourself in the heart of Johor Bahru. The JB immigration building is directly connected to City Square Mall, where you can find brands such as H&M and Uniqlo priced more affordable, thanks to the strong Singapore dollar. The surrounding area is also home to plenty of cool restaurants and cafés where you can while the day away.

EAT The Replacement – Lodge and Kitchen

Out of all the cafés we've been to in Johor Bahru, The Replacement – Lodge and Kitchen undoubtedly serves the best food. Try the soft shell crab bao and the piping hot churros served with your choice of dip: there's salted caramel, dark chocolate, Nutella hazelnut and salted egg yolk to choose from.

DRINK Bev C

Johor Bahru isn't exactly known for its buzzy bar scene so swap the booze out for some caffeine instead. The house special at Bev C is the espresso ice cube: shots of coffee frozen into ice cubes served with some milk.

DO Austin Heights Water & Adventure Park

Just a half an hour drive from Johor Sentral lies Austin Heights Water & Adventure Park. The family-friendly theme park is home to the Supersurf, a waterslide with six high-speed lanes.

STAY Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Johor Bahru

Conveniently situated within JB Sentral, Doubletree by Hilton makes for the perfect base for exploring the rest of the city. The modern hotel also comes equipped with a swimming pool and gym to work off those calories from all that café hopping.

If you do just one thing... Queue up for buns baked in a charcoal oven at Hiap Joo Bakery. The banana cake at this old-school institution is unbeatable too – we guarantee you won't stop at one slice.

LEGOLAND Malaysia
Photo: LEGOLAND Malaysia

Iskandar Puteri

Home to some of Southeast Asia’s most epic theme parks like Legoland Malaysia and the Hello Kitty Indoor Theme Park, the thriving city of Iskandar Puteri is well worth crossing the causeway for – especially with the kids in tow.

EAT Spice Grill

Leave the touristy eats at the theme parks behind and make the drive down to Puteri Harbour instead. There, you'll be greeted by a host of better options such as Spice Grill, a stylish Indian restaurant that also has Western offerings.

DRINK Rock Bottom Kitchen & Bar

During happy hour, Rock Bottom Kitchen & Bar offers ridiculously affordable alcohol. Think $3 drinks and Bud Light draft, those are some truly rock-bottom prices.

DO Legoland Malaysia

Spend a day (or two) at Legoland Malaysia, the country's first international theme park. Ride the towering roller coasters or immerse yourself in a captivating 4D movie experience. Whichever the case, the impressive park promises to fascinate both children and adults alike.

STAY Hotel Jen Puteri Harbour

Aside from its incredibly convenient location, Hotel Jen at Puteri Harbour also offers a luxe infinity pool overlooking the glistening marina.

If you could do just one thing... Get more for less at Southeast Asia’s first luxury premium brand outlet – Johor Premium Outlets. The retail paradise houses internationally-renowned designer brands like Burberry, Coach and more.

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The Els Club Desaru Coast
Photo: James Lovett

Desaru

Spellbinding white sand beaches and azure waters render this relatively underrated island the perfect place for a fulfilling getaway. Simply hop on a 30-minute ferry ride from Changi Ferry Terminal to unravel the diverse offerings of Desaru – everything from ostrich farms and fruit plantations to posh golf courses.

EAT Jade Garden Seafood Corner

Treat yourself to a decadent seafood dinner at Jade Garden Seafood Corner – expect succulent lobster and bamboo clams, to name a few.

DRINK Beach Hut

Located within Lotus Desaru Beach Resort, this shack along the coast is a restaurant by day and bar by night. Grab a coconut or beers by the bottle.

DO The Els Club Desaru Coast

The sprawling club consists of 45 holes spread across two world-class golf courses. The stunning Ocean Course offers a range of customisable golf lessons at its academy for both serious golfers and beginners alike.

STAY Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast

Choose from one of the renowned hotels housed at Desaru Coast – a unique integrated destination resort that spans across a pristine beachfront. In particular, the Hard Rock Hotel entices with “rock star” treatment for vacationers and business travellers alike.

Batam Montigo Resort

Batam

Take a ferry across the Singapore Strait to the charming Indonesian island of Batam. From serene beaches to an enthralling nightlight scene, this oft-overlooked island makes for a more than a decent getaway. Look past its sleazy reputation to unearth an array of exciting activities unique to the alluring destination.

EAT Golden Prawn 933

Head over to Golden Prawn 933 for a leisurely lunch that guarantees to satisfy. Serving up delectable plates of affordably priced freshly-caught seafood, the renowned restaurant proves that it’s worth the hype. Alternatively, join fellow tourists as they flock to the iconic A&W café for authentic root beer floats – creamy vanilla soft serve atop fizzy root beer.

DRINK Brewsky & Co

Pay a visit to one of the island’s reputable microbreweries. Brewsky & Co has delicious cocktails and great bar games as the cherry on top.

DO Batam Cable-ski Park

If you’re looking for adventure, choose from a variety of exhilarating water sports. In particular, opt to go jet skiing at Batam Cable-ski Park. Prices start from $25 for a one-hour pass but opt for the full-day pass that's priced at $65.

STAY Montigo Resorts The distinctive white and blue colour palette of Montigo Resorts’ façade affords you the luxury of experiencing a slice of Santorini without having to catch the dreaded 17-hour flight. If that wasn’t enough to warrant your stay, the posh villa-style resort boasts an exclusive private pool with unparalleled views of the surrounding Nongsa waters.

If you do just one thing… Relish a fragrant slice of one of Indonesia’s famed traditional specialties, Kueh Lapis – an indulgent layered cake – from the revered Layers Batam. Its range of conveniently located outlets include Nagoya Hill Mall and Batam Center Point.

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Banyan Tree, Angsana Bintan

Bintan

Long established as an upscale playground for the spendthrift, the idyllic archipelago is spoiled with pristine beaches and picturesque landscapes. Yet, hidden amidst an abundance of high-end luxury resorts are rustic old-school fishing villages that intrigue with their grit. It’s nice to know that a mere 50-minute ferry ride from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal can transport you to a versatile and multi-faceted holiday destination like Bintan.

EAT Nasi Padang

Experience Indonesian-style Nasi Padang in its most authentic form as you tuck into the generous servings at Pujasera Food Centre’s Lamak Basamo or Rumah Makan Sederhana in Tanjung Pinang.

DRINK Silk

Touted as Bintan’s veteran nightclub, Silk promises a night to remember as you immerse yourself in live band music with a jazzy beverage in hand.

DO Air Adventure

Learn to fly at Air Adventure, a flying club at Lagoi Bay. But if all that sounds a little too ambitious for you then opt for a 20-minute ride on a seaplane that will accord you stunning views of the island. There's even an option to purchase a video recording of your flight so you can take your memories home.

STAY Banyan Tree Bintan

Tucked away in a verdant rainforest, the lavish villas of Banyan Tree Bintan offer breathtaking views of the South China Sea and a tranquil atmosphere. In line with its luxurious setting, hotel staff provide impeccably intuitive service catering to every need and want.

If you could do just one thing… Embark on a rejuvenating eco farm tour conducted by BRC Tours – have a hand at harvesting seasonal crops and relish farm-to-table rojak comprising of house-grown fruits and vegetables.

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