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Get in Singapore

Posted by in on 5-15-13

Most nationalities can enter Singapore without a visa. Refer to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority [2] for current guidelines, including a list of the 30+ nationalities that are required to obtain a visa in advance. Entry permit duration depends on nationality and entry point: most people get 14 or 30 days, although EU, Norwegian, Swiss and US passport holders get 90 days. Citizens of some CIS countries (eg: Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan) can transit 4 days without a visa, if they have tickets to a third country.

Singapore has very strict drug laws, and drug trafficking carries a mandatory death penalty — which is applied to everyone, including foreigners. Even if you technically haven’t entered Singapore and are merely transiting (eg. changing flights without the need to clear passport control and customs) while in possession of drugs, you would still be hanged by the neck until dead on the next Friday after your sentencing (unless sentenced or your appeal against sentence refused on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday or if you are a foreigner when your consulate is given at least 7 days notice ). The paranoid might also like to note that in Singapore, it is an offence even to have any drug metabolites in your system, even if they were consumed outside Singapore, and Customs occasionally does spot urine tests at the airport! In addition, bringing in explosives or firearms without a permit is also a capital offence in Singapore.

Bring prescriptions for any medicines you may have with you, and obtain prior permission from the Health Sciences Authority [3] before bringing in any sedatives (eg. Valium/diazepam) or strong painkillers (eg. codeine). Hippie types may expect a little extra attention from Customs, but getting a shave and a haircut is no longer a condition for entry.

Duty free allowances for alcohol are 1 L each of wine, beer and spirits, though the 1 L of spirits may be substituted with 1 L of wine or beer, unless you are entering from Malaysia. Travellers entering from Malaysia are not entitled to any duty free allowance. Alcohol may not be brought in by persons under the age of 18. There is no duty free allowance for cigarettes: all cigarettes legally sold in Singapore are stamped “SDPC”, and smokers caught with unmarked cigarettes may be fined $500 per pack. (In practice, though, bringing in one opened pack is usually tolerated.) If you declare your cigarettes or excess booze at customs, you can opt to pay the tax or let the customs officers keep the cigarettes until your departure. The import of chewing gum is technically illegal, but in practice customs officers would usually not bother with a few sticks for personal consumption.

Pornography, pirated goods and publications by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Unification Church may not be imported to Singapore, and baggage is scanned at air, land and sea entry points. In theory, all entertainment media including movies and video games must be sent to the Board of Censors for approval before they can be brought into Singapore, but that is rarely if ever enforced for original (non-pirated) goods. Pirated CDs or DVDs, on the other hand, can land you fines of up to $1000 per disc.

 By plane

Singapore is one of Southeast Asia’s largest aviation hubs, so unless you’re coming from Peninsular Malaysia or Batam/Bintan in Indonesia, the easiest way to enter Singapore is by air. In addition to flag-carrier Singapore Airlines [4] and its regional subsidiary SilkAir [5], Singapore is also home to low-cost carriers Tiger Airways, ‘Jetstar Asia and Scoot.

In addition to the locals, every carrier of any size in Asia offers flights to Singapore, with pan-Asian discount carrier AirAsia and Malaysian regional operator Firefly operating dense networks from Singapore. There are also direct services to Europe, the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand, North America, and even South Africa. Singapore is particularly popular on the “Kangaroo Route” between Australia and Europe, with airlines like British Airways and Emirates using Singapore as the stopover point.

 Changi Air

portAs befits the country’s main airport, major regional hub status, Changi Airport (IATA: SIN; ICAO: WSSS) [6] and officially the ‘best airport in the world’ (see Skytrax (IATA: SIN; ICAO: WSSS) [7]) is big, pleasant, and well organized, and immigration and baggage distribution is remarkably fast. The airport is split into three main terminals (T1, T2 and T3).

Figuring out which terminal your flight arrives in or departs from can be complicated: for example, Singapore Airlines uses both T2 and T3, and only announces the arrival terminal two hours before landing. Fortunately transfers are quite easy, as the three main terminals are connected with the free Skytrain service, which can be used without passing through immigration. Terminal 1 is physically connected to Terminals 2 and 3. By walking that you will not notice you’re in a different terminal except by reading the signs. Your departing terminal is more straightforward as Singapore Airlines designates T2 as departures for destinations in South East Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East and Africa while all other destinations will use T3. When you return to the airport and are leaving Singapore via Singapore Airlines, be sure to at least tell the driver your destination so he knows which terminal to take you to.

Unlike most other airports, there are no separate zones for departing and arriving passengers in the main terminals prior to passport control hence arriving passengers are free to shop and eat at the airside establishments if they are not in a hurry to meet someone or catch prearranged transportation. In addition, if they have no luggage checked-in from their point of origin, they can clear passport control at any other terminal.

If you have over 5 hr to spare there are free city tours five times a day departing from the airport. To register for any of the tours, simply approach the staff at the Free Singapore Tours (FST) Registration Booth located in:

Terminal 2: Near the escalators to North Arrival Immigration and Skytrain station at Transit Mall North, Level 2 (Near Transfer Lounge E)
Terminal 3: Next to Transfer Lounge B at Transit Mall North, level 2
If you are at Terminal 1, you can proceed to Terminal 2 for registration.
Even if stuck in the airport, there are plenty of ways to kill time, as each terminal has a unique design and the airside areas of T1, T2, and T3 are attractions in themselves. T2, arguably the most interesting, has an indoor garden, a music listening area with couches and mood lighting, a computer gaming room, a small movie theatre, paid massage services, and of course plenty of duty-free shops. T3, the newest, has a butterfly garden and plenty of natural light, but fewer entertainment options. T1 has a swimming pool for $13.91 and jacuzzi, both open until 23:00. You can travel between the main terminals without passing through immigration and, if you have no checked-in luggage to collect, you can clear passport control and customs at any terminal.

In all terminals, internet access is provided free of charge, both wirelessly and via some 200 terminals and kiosks, there are some Xbox systems set up to keep gamers entertained, and there’s live lounge music at times. There are also SingTel and Starhub payphones that offer unlimited free local calls. ATMs abound and money changers offer reasonable rates as well, although you pay a small premium compared to the city. Food options are varied and generally reasonably priced, with some choice picks including the Peranakan-themed Soup Restaurant (T2 landside), which serves much more than just soup, and Sakae Sushi (T2 airside). If you’re up for a little adventure, seek out the staff canteen at level 3M of the car park next to T2, it’s open to the public (with discounts for airport staff) and serves local food. It is relatively cheap compared to other food options in the airport but not exactly cheap compared to elsewhere in Singapore. There are also staff canteens in Terminals 1 and 3.

Terminals T1, T2 and T3 all have airside (ie accessible without passing through immigration) transit hotels. ☎ +65 65419106 or book on-line via the Ambassador Transit Hotel [8] website. A 6 hr “block” for a single/double/triple costs $73.56/82.39/110.35, budget singles (shared bathroom) $51.50, extensions $17.65 per hour. You can rent a shower (without a room) to freshen up for $8.40. The Plaza Premier Lounges [9] also offer a basic but functional gym with shower for $8.40 with a Singapore Airlines boarding pass.

From the airport there are a number of ways to get into the city:

Taxi is easiest – simply follow the signs after clearing customs. Meters are always used in Singapore and prices are reasonable. A trip to the city during the day will be between $20-$30 including $3-5 airport surcharge. An additional 50% surcharge applies between midnight and 06:00.
Limousines charge a flat $50 to anywhere in the city and are a pretty good deal after midnight, as you can skip the queue and avoid the surcharge. The same pricing applies to chartering van-sized MaxiCabs, which are good for large families or if you have lots of baggage.
Shuttle – Shared six-seater MaxiCab shuttle service to designated areas/hotels costs $7 and can be booked in advance or in the arrivals hall. 6AM-2AM, every 15-30 min.
Subway – MRT trains run from a station between T2 and T3, but you’ll need to change trains at Tanah Merah to a city-bound train: just exit through the left hand side door and cross the platform. The 30 min ride to City Hall station costs $1.90 plus a refundable $1 deposit, and trains run 05:31-23:18.
Bus – Bus terminals can be found in the basements of T1, T2 and T3. 06:00-23:59 only. Fares are less than $2.00, exact fare required (no change given) if you pay cash.
 

Seletar Airport

Seletar Airport (IATA: XSP; ICAO: WSSL), completed in 1928 and first used for civil aviation in 1930, is Singapore’s first airport. While later airports like Kallang and Paya Lebar have been closed and turned into a military airbase respectively, Seletar is still in use to this day.

Currently, Seletar Airport is only used for general aviation, so if you’re flying your own aircraft to Singapore, you’ll most probably land here. The only practical means of access to Seletar is by taxi and trips from the airport incur a $3 surcharge.

 By road

The Causeway, with Johor Bahru on the other sideSingapore is linked by two land crossings to Peninsular Malaysia:

The Causeway is a very popular and thus terminally congested entry point connecting Woodlands in the north of Singapore directly into the heart of Johor Bahru. While congestion isn’t as bad as it once was, the Causeway is still jam-packed on Friday evenings (towards Malaysia) and Sunday evenings (towards Singapore). The Causeway can be crossed by bus, train, taxi or car, but it is no longer feasible to cross on foot after Malaysia shifted their customs and immigration complex 2 km inland.

A second crossing between Malaysia and Singapore, known as the Second Link, has been built between Tuas in western Singapore and Tanjung Kupang in the western part of Johor state. Much faster and less congested than the Causeway, it is used by some of the luxury bus services to Kuala Lumpur and is strongly recommended if you have your own car. There is only one infrequent bus across the Second Link, and only Malaysian “limousine” taxis are allowed to cross it (and charge RM150 and up for the privilege). Walking across is also not allowed, not that there would be any practical means to continue the journey from either end if you did.

Driving into Singapore with a foreign-registered car is rather complicated and expensive; see the Land Transport Authority’s Driving Into & Out of Singapore [10] guide for the administrative details. Peninsular Malaysia-registered cars need to show that they have valid road tax and Malaysian insurance coverage. Other foreign cars need a Vehicle Registration Certificate, Customs Document (Carnet), Vehicle Insurance purchased from a Singapore-based insurance company and an International Circulation Permit. All foreign registered cars and motorcycles can be driven in Singapore for a maximum of 10 days in each calendar year without paying Vehicle Entry Permit (VEP) fees, but after the 10 free days have been utilised, you will need to pay a VEP fee of up to $20/day.

Go through immigration first and get your passport stamped. Then follow the Red Lane to buy the AutoPass ($10) from the LTA office. At the parking area, an LTA officer will verify your car, road tax and insurance cover note and issue you a small chit of paper which you take to the LTA counter to buy your AutoPass and rent an In-vehicle Unit (IU) for road pricing charges (or opt to pay a flat $5/day fee instead). Once that is done, proceed to customs where you will have to open the boot for inspection. After that, you are free to go anywhere in Singapore. Any VEP fees, road pricing charges and tolls will be deducted from your AutoPass when you exit Singapore. This is done by slotting the AutoPass into the reader at the immigration counter while you get your passport stamped.

Driving into Malaysia from Singapore is relatively uncomplicated, although small tolls are charged for both crossing and (for the Second Link) the adjoining expressway. In addition, Singapore-registered vehicles are required to have their fuel tanks at least 3/4 full before leaving Singapore. Do be sure to change some ringgit before crossing, as Singapore dollars are accepted only at the unfavourable rate of 1:1. Moreover, be prepared for longer queues as Malaysia introduced a biometric system for foreigners wishing to enter that country (see Malaysia article).

In both directions, note that rental cars will frequently ban or charge extra for crossing the border.

 By bus

Direct to/from Malaysian destinations There are buses to/from Kuala Lumpur (KL) and many other destinations in Malaysia through the Woodlands Checkpoint and the Second Link at Tuas. Unfortunately, there is no central bus terminal and different companies leave from all over the city. Major operators include:

Aeroline, ☎ +65 62588800, [11]. Luxury buses with meal on-board, power sockets, lounge area etc, to Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya. Departures from HarbourFront Centre. From $47 one-way.  edit
First Coach, ☎ +65 68222111, [12]. No frills, but the buses have good legroom and use the Second Link. Another selling point is convenient public transport: buses depart from Novena Square (Novena MRT) in Singapore and arrive right next to Bangsar LRT in Kuala Lumpur. $33/55 single/return.  edit
NiCE, ☎ +65 62565755, [13]. Over 20 daily departures from Kuala Lumpur’s old railway station. Double-decker NiCE 2 buses (27 seats) RM80, luxury NiCE++ buses (18 seats) RM88. Departures from Copthorne Orchid Hotel on Dunearn Rd.085297589379 berastagi north sumatra  edit
Transnasional, ☎ +60 2 62947034 (Malaysia), [14]. Malaysia’s largest bus operator, offers direct buses from Singapore through the peninsula. Departures from Lavender St. Executive/economy buses RM80/35.  edit
Transtar, ☎ +65 62999009, [15]. Transtar’s sleeper-equipped Solitaire ($63) and leather-seated First Class ($49) coaches are currently the best around with frills like massaging chairs, onboard attendants, video on demand and even wifi. More plebeian SuperVIP/Executive buses are $25/39, direct service to Malacca and Genting also available. Departures from Golden Mile Complex, Beach Rd (near Lavender MRT).  edit
Most other operators have banded together in two shared booking portals. Many, but by no means all, use the Golden Mile Complex shopping mall near Bugis as their Singapore terminal.

Easibook, ☎ +65 64440745, [16]. Six bus companies including major budget operator Konsortium.  edit
Bus Online Ticket, [17]. Another six companies, including major operator Fivestars Express, Hasry Express and AirAsia-affiliated StarMart.  edit
In general, the more you pay, the faster and more comfortable your trip. More expensive buses leave on time, use the Second Link, and don’t stop along the way; while the cheapest buses leave late if at all, use the perpetually jammed Causeway and make more stops. Book early for popular departure times like Friday and Sunday evening, Chinese New Year, etc, and factor in some extra time for congestion at the border.

An alternative to taking a direct “international bus” is to make the short hop to Johor Bahru to catch domestic Malaysian long-distance express buses to various Malaysian destinations from the Larkin Bus Terminal. Besides having more options, fares may also be lower because you will be paying in Malaysian ringgit rather than Singaporean dollars. The downside is the time-consuming hassle of first getting to Johor Bahru and then getting to Larkin terminal on the outskirts of town.

The most popular options to get to/from Johor Bahru are the buses listed in the table. There’s a pattern to the madness: Singaporean-operated buses (SBS, SMRT, SJE) can only stop at one destination in Malaysia, while the Malaysian-operated Causeway Link [18] buses can only stop at one destination in Singapore. Terminals aside, all buses make two stops at Singapore immigration and at Malaysian immigration. At both immigration points, you must disembark with all your luggage and pass through passport control and customs, then board the next bus by showing your ticket. Figure on one hour for the whole rigmarole from end to end, more during rush hour.

 By train

Singapore is the southern terminus of Malaysia’s Keretapi Tanah Melayu (Malayan Railway or KTMB) [19] network. There are two day trains (the Ekspres Sinaran Pagi and Ekspres Rakyat) and a sleeper service (Ekspres Senandung Malam) daily from Kuala Lumpur, and also a day train (the Lambaian Timur departing Singapore at 4:45AM) and sleeper (Ekspres Timuran departing at 6PM) daily along the “Jungle Railway” between Singapore and Gua Musang (Lambian Timur) or Tumpat (Ekspres Timuran), near Kota Bharu in the East Coast of Malaysia. Trains are clean and fairly efficient, but slower than buses. See Malaysia#By train for details about fares and travel classes.

KTMB tickets in Singapore will be charged in dollars, while those bought in Malaysia will be charged in ringgit at a 1:1 rate. A ticket which costs RM10 (2.32 Euros) in Malaysia will thus cost $10 (5.75 Euros) if bought in Singapore. There are three ways to avoid paying double:

1.Book your tickets as return tickets from Malaysia. For example, Kuala Lumpur-Singapore-Kuala Lumpurwill be charged at the ringgit rate.
2.Cross the border by road and then board the train at Johor Bahru. Note that making a reservation is highly advisable; the easiest way is to book online.
3.Buy the cheapest ticket you can from Singapore to JB, then your ‘real’ ticket from JB onward. Change to your ‘real’ seat after crossing the border.
4.Book your tickets online at KTMB’s web-site, but it has to be done 48 hours in advance.
The small colonial-era railway station in Tanjong Pagar at the southern edge of the CBD has closed down on 30 June 2011, and all KTMB trains now depart from the Woodlands Train Checkpoint near the Malaysian border. This means that immigration formalities go back to normal international practice – Singapore immigration followed by Malaysia immigration at Woodlands, then Malaysia stamps you in at Woodlands. In the reverse direction, Malaysian immigration checks are carried out on board the trains at Johor Bahru, and the train then heads for Woodlands where Singapore customs is located.

 By taxi

Singapore is one of the few countries that you can enter or leave by taxi. While normal Singaporean taxis are not allowed to cross into Malaysia and vice versa, specially licensed Singaporean taxis permitted to go to the Kotaraya shopping mall (only) can be booked from Johor Taxi Service ☎ +65 62967054, $45 one way), while Malaysian taxis, which can go anywhere in Malaysia, can be taken from Rochor Rd ($32 to charter, or $8/person if you share with others). In the reverse direction, towards Singapore, you can take taxis from Kotaraya to any point in central Singapore ($30) or Changi Airport ($40). The main advantage here is that you do not need to lug your stuff (or yourself) through Customs at both ends; you can just sit in the car.

A combination ride from anywhere in Singapore to anywhere in Malaysia can also be arranged, but you’ll need to swap taxis halfway through: this will cost S$50 and up, paid to the Singaporean driver. The most expensive option is to take a limousine taxi specially licensed to take passengers from any point to any destination, but only a few are available and they charge a steep RM150 per trip. Advance booking is highly recommended, ☎ +60 7 5991622.

 By boat

Ferries link Singapore with the neighbouring Indonesian province of Riau Islands and the Malaysian state of Johor.

Singapore has five ferry terminals which handle international ferries: HarbourFront (formerly World Trade Centre) near Sentosa, Marina Bay Cruise Centre in Marina Bay, Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal on the East Coast, as well as Changi Ferry Terminal and Changi Point Ferry Terminal, both at the eastern side of the island near the airport.

Getting to/away from the ferry terminals:

HarbourFront FT: Located next to HarbourFront MRT station.
Marina Bay Cruise Centre: The shuttle to Marina Bay MRT station is the obvious choice.
Tanah Merah FT: Get off at Bedok MRT station and catch bus No. 35 to ferry terminal.
Changi FT: No bus stop nearby, take a taxi from Changi Village or Tanah Merah MRT.
Changi Point FT: Take bus No. 2, 29 or 59 to Changi Village Bus Terminal and walk to the ferry terminal.
 To/from Indonesia

To/from Batam: Ferries to/from Batam Centre, Batu Ampar (Harbour Bay), Sekupang and Waterfront City (Teluk Senimba) use HarbourFront FT, while ferries to/from Nongsapura use Tanah Merah FT. Operators at Harbourfront include:

Penguin, ☎ +65 6271 4866 in HarbourFront ☎+62 778 467574 in Batam Centre ☎+62 778 321636 in Sekupang ☎+62 778 381280 in Waterfront City [20]. Virtually hourly ferries to/from Batam Centre and Sekupang, fewer ferries to/from Waterfront City. $16/20 one-way/return before taxes and fuel surcharge.
Indo Falcon, ☎ +65 6278 3167, [21]. Hourly ferries to Batam Centre, fewer to Waterfront City. This company does not operate to/from Sekupang. Similar fares.
Berlian/Wave Master, ☎ +65 6546 8830. Operates 16 trips to/from Batu Ampar. Fares are similar to the other companies.
Dino/Batam Fast, ☎+65 6270 0311 in Harbourfront ☎ +62 778 467793, +62 778 470344 in Batam Centre ☎ +62 778 325085, +62 778 3250856 in Sekupang ☎ +62 778 381150 in Waterfront City, [22]. Also hourly ferries to/from Batam Centre, fewer ferries to/from Sekupang and Waterfront City. $14/20 one-way/return before taxes and surcharges.
At Tanah Merah:

Dino/Batam Fast, ☎ +65 6270 0311 in Singapore ☎ +62 778 761071 in Nongsa, [23]. Around 8 ferries daily to/from Nongsa, the resort area on the northeastern tip of Batam. $16/22 one-way/return before taxes and surcharges.
To/from Bintan: All ferries for Bintan use Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. For Tanjung Pinang, there are total of 6 ferries a day, increasing to 9 during weekends. $25/35 one-way/return before taxes and surcharges. Operators include:

Dino/Batam Fast, ☎ +65 6542 6310 in Tanah Merah, [24].
Penguin, ☎ +65 6542 7105 in Tanah Merah ☎+62 771 315143 in Tanjung Pinang ☎ +62 770 696120 in Lobam, [25].
Indo Falcon, ☎ +65 65426786 in Tanah Merah, [26]
Berlian/Wave Master, ☎ +65 6546 8830 in Tanah Merah.
For Bintan Resorts (Bandar Bentan Telani), Bintan Resort Ferries, ☎ +65 6542 4369, [27] operates five ferries from Tanah Merah FT on weekdays, increasing to 7 during weekends. $34.60/50.20 one-way/return peak period, $26.60/39.20 one-way/return off-peak including taxes and fuel surcharge.

To/from Karimun: Tanjung Balai is served by Penguin and IndoFalcon from Harbourfront, with six ferries total on weekdays, increasing to 8 during weekends. $24/33 one-way/return including taxes and fuel surcharge.

 To/From Malaysia

Ferries shuttle from Singapore to southeastern Johor and are handy for access to the beach resort of Desaru. The scheduled ferry service to Tioman was discontinued in 2003.

Pengerang: Bumboats shuttle between Changi Point Ferry Terminal at Changi Village, 51 Lorong Bekukong, ☎ +65 6545 2305, +65 65451616, and Pengerang, a village at the southeastern tip of Johor. Boats ($10 per person, $2 per bicycle one-way) operate 07:00-19:00 and leave when they reach the 12-passenger quota.
Sebana Cove Resort, Desaru: Ferries to/from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal operated by Indo Falcon, ☎ +65 6542 6786 in Tanah Merah. Three ferries daily except Tue. $48(A)/38(C) return including taxes and fuel surcharge.
Tanjung Belungkor, Desaru: Cruise Ferries ☎ +65 65468518, +65 65468675, Operates passenger ferries from Changi Ferry Terminal three times daily, departures at 10:00, 17:00, 20:00 $22 return. The previous car ferry service has been suspended.

 Cruises

Star Cruises offers multi-day cruises from Singapore to points throughout Southeast Asia, departing from HarbourFront FT. Itineraries vary widely and change from year to year, but common destinations include Malacca, Klang (Kuala Lumpur), Penang, Langkawi, Redang and Tioman in Malaysia, as well as Phuket, Krabi, Ko Samui and Bangkok in Thailand. There are also several cruises every year to Borneo (Malaysia), Sihanoukville (Cambodia), Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) and even some 10 night long hauls to Hong Kong. An all-inclusive 2 night cruise may cost as little as $400 per person in the cheapest cabin class if you book early, but beware the numerous surcharges and note that non-residents may be charged significantly higher rates.

Singapore is also a popular stop for round-the-world and major regional cruises including those originating from as far as Japan, China, Australia, Europe and North America. Many of those cruises embark/disembark passengers here, while others pay port visits. Check with cruise companies and sellers for details.

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