Business Travel expert Mark Frary's travel guide to Singapore,. Need a great value hotel? want to know the city's movers and shakers on Twitter? Looking for ways to spend your down-time in Singapore?  The answers are all here.


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With its low tax regime, stable government and highly educated, affluent population, Singapore often tops the lists of best places in the world to do business. It's not hard to see why.

Singapore is one of the world’s leading financial centres but it was not always so. Under British rule, the country became a strategic trading post in Asia but it was not until after independence from Malaysia in 1965 that the country made the advances necessary to become a financial powerhouse. The country is now home to more than 120 banks, mostly foreign, and almost 500 trading companies and funds. Assets under management in the country are growing rapidly and stood at S$1.82 trillion at the end of 2013. Trade of physical goods still matters. The Port of Singapore is the third busiest in the world, handling more than half a billion tonnes of cargo each year. The water is also important in the city’s events calendar. In April, the city is host to both the Singapore Yacht Show and the leading regional maritime conference and exhibition Sea Asia. The country has a fast-growing pharmaceutical and biotechnology sector, buoyed by government investment to attract companies in the sector and awards to individual scientists to encourage them to base themselves in Singapore for their research.

Singapore’s GDP per capita is one of the highest in the world, at more than $78,000. According to the World Bank’s annual ranking, the country is the easiest in the world in which to do business while PwC’s Cities of Opportunity survey ranks the city as third in the world in terms of economic opportunity behind London and New York.

gardens-by-the-bay

Express Essentials

More than a million people pass through Heathrow each year en route to or from Singapore, making it one of the top 15 routes from the airport. Singapore Airlines has four flights from Heathrow Terminal 2 throughout the day to Singapore's Changi airport, two using 777s and two with A380s. British Airways operates two services from Terminal 5 every evening, one on a 747 and one on a 777. The journey from Changi to the city takes around 30 minutes by taxi and costs between S$18.00 (£8.60) and S$38.00 (£18.20) depending on traffic and time of day. Changi is also on the MRT metro system but a trip to the centre of the city requires a change at Tanah Merah station. Fares are based on distance travelled and a single to the central business area costs around S$2 (£0.95).

The MRT is well maintained, has a comprehensive network and offers a good way to get around the city state at reasonable prices. Taxis are also considered good value.

Singapore Skyline

Culture Shot

Singapore’s culture is a vibrant mixture of influences from Malaysia, China, India and Britain. All of these cultures have left their imprints on Singapore in its journey from a fishing village 700 years ago to the world metropolis it is today. To understand that journey, a visit to the National Museum of Singapore is a must. The truly excellent Asian Civilisations Museum puts this heritage into the wider perspective of Asia as a whole. Over the past 20 years, the Singapore Art Museum has put together an unrivalled collection of contemporary Asian art. The collection is housed in a beautiful former Catholic boy’s school on Brah Basah Road and the museum invests heavily in emerging artists.

If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle, Singapore’s public gardens are remarkable. The Botanic Gardens cover almost 200 acres of central Singapore and offer welcome respite from the city. The highlight is undoubtedly the National Orchid Garden, home to thousands of different species. The Gardens on the Bay, created from reclaimed land as part of the Marina Bay development, opened recently and features kingfisher lakes, a flower dome and a remarkable cloud forest.

Pools-Marina-Bay-Sands

The Black Book

Hotels are expensive in Singapore – an average of £174.12 per room night in 2014 according to business travel management company HRG.

The Marina Bay Sands hotel has quickly become a Singapore icon since it opened in 2010 - as it should given its multi-billion dollar price tag. The hotel has more than 2,500 rooms and features a remarkable Sky Park that stretches across its three towers 57 storeys high with a 150-metre long infinity swimming offering incredible views.

There is Raffles of course. Even after 125 years, it is still wowing visitors with its grand atmosphere and incredible levels of service. A Singapore Sling in the hotel’s Long Bar is the classic Singapore experience, but it's not cheap.

Wangz wrapped in a steel skeleton, and Hotel 1929, in a row of converted shopfronts, are quirkier options if you like more design in your choice of place to stay. And there are cheaper options. The Ibis Singapore on Bencoolen is well located in the Bugis area of the city and rates start from S$128 (£61).

Open-air food markets, or hawker centres, are in Singapore’s DNA and you cannot visit the city without trying chicken rice, chilli crab or pepper crab. The centres at Newton and Lau Pa Sat are among the best to visit. The latter, in the heart of the CBD, has been around since the 19th century and is packed with business people at lunchtime and Singapore residents and tourists at night.

If you are looking for a cafe with free wi-fi, you’re in luck. The free Wireless@SG programme, run by the government and several operators, is available in locations throughout the city.

Lau Pa Sat

Business Insiders

Singapore is dynamic and intriguing. Get under the country’s skin by following these influencers on social media:

  • An authority on Singaporean hawker food, Dr Leslie Tay runs the ieatishootipost food blog. You’ll be hungry after reading it
  • Lee, aka the Blogfather of Singapore, aka Mr Brown takes a satirical swipe at Singaporean life on Twitter
  • The Twitter feed of FT’s Asia correspondent Jeremy Grant is a good source of business news and local observations
  • Wong Maye-E, an Associated Press photojournalist based in Singapore, has a keen eye for colour, character and composition. Follow her on Instagram
  • Time Out’s Singapore staff curate a great feed of events, places to eat and more @TimeoutSG
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