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The Big 3 — Chinese, Malays and Indians — get all the press, but there are plenty of other communities with their own little neighbourhoods or shopping malls in Singapore:. Malay may be enshrined in the Constitution as the national language, but in practice the most common language is English, spoken by almost every Singaporean under the age of 50 with varying degrees of fluency.

English is spoken much better here than in most Asian neighbours. English is also the medium of instruction in schools, except for mother tongue subjects e. Malay, Mandarin and Tamil , which are also required to be learned in school by Singaporeans.

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In addition, all official signs and documents are written in English, usually using British spelling. Mandarin is spoken by most younger Singaporean Chinese while Tamil is spoken by most Indians. Like English, the Mandarin spoken in Singapore has also evolved into a distinctive creole and often incorporates words from other Chinese dialects, Malay and English, though all Singaporean Chinese are taught standard Mandarin in school. Various Chinese dialects mostly Hokkien, though significant numbers also speak Teochew and Cantonese are also spoken between ethnic Chinese of the same dialect group, though their use has been declining in the younger generation since the s due to government policies discouraging the use of dialects in favour of Mandarin.

Other Indian languages, such as Punjabi among the Sikhs, are also spoken. The official Chinese script used in Singapore is the simplified script used in mainland China. As such, all official publications including local newspapers and signs are in simplified Chinese and all ethnic Chinese are taught to write the simplified script in school. However, the older generations still prefer the traditional style, and the popularity of Hong Kong and Taiwanese pop culture means that most youth can read traditional Chinese.

However, the distinctive local patois Singlish may be hard to understand at times, as it incorporates slang words and phrases from other languages, including various Chinese dialects, Malay and Tamil as well as English words, the pronunciation or meaning of which have been corrupted. Resist the temptation to sprinkle your speech with unnecessary Singlishisms; it sounds patronizing if you do it wrong, which is highly probable.

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When asking for help or directions, it should be noted that due to an influx of foreign workers and immigrants in recent years, there is a chance you might be asking somebody who has not been in Singapore for all that long. In extreme cases, one might even encounter a person who barely speaks any English or is downright unfriendly.

Unfortunately it is difficult to determine at a glance who you should or should not ask for directions, but do not be afraid to try asking another person if the first answer you get is not satisfactory. A guaranteed way of finding someone willing to help would be to ask a teenager. As a result of compulsory English education, all teenagers speak English and will definitely be able to help.

Rest assured that most bona fide Singaporeans would also be more than happy to help. Western television shows and films are shown in their original language with occasional subtitles into Mandarin. Television programmes and films that originate in other parts of Asia however, are dubbed into the language of the channel they will be shown at. This especially applies to programmes and films originally in the Cantonese language, in which case government policy mandates them to be dubbed into Mandarin English subtitles are shown during primetime hours.

Carry around with you a copy of the train network so you know how to get to places without having to go to the train station or look online. The train network is quite complicated and there can be a number of different routes to get to 1 place. Singapore is notoriously expensive for hotel accommodation.

H. Aveling, The Pilgrim (transl. of Ziarah, by Iwan Simatupang) - Persée

Backpacker options are affordable and clean. For water sports in particular, the busy shipping lanes and sheer population pressure mean that the sea around Singapore is murky, and most locals head up to Tioman Malaysia or Bintan Indonesia instead. Singapore may be a young country but it has a constantly evolving artistic landscape that draws its influences from its unique heritage of East and Southeast Asian culture, with a good mix of western touch.

The Renaissance City Project was initiated in by the Singaporean Government to establish Singapore as a regional city of the arts to cultivate artistic interest and culture. Today, Singapore sees itself flourishing in the third phase of the renaissance city project with new museums, international galleries and art fairs entering the local artistic landscape. And in , fourteen international galleries arrived at the shore of Singapore housed at The Gillman Barracks, a new artistic area. The city state is also anticipating the inaugural opening of The National Art Gallery in ; the largest visual arts institution in Singapore and also one of the largest regionally, focusing on modern Southeast Asian art through its collection.

On the cultural side of things to do in Singapore has been trying to shake off its boring, buttoned-up reputation and attract more artists and performances, with mixed success. On the upside, any bands and DJs touring Asia are pretty much guaranteed to perform in Singapore. For an up-do-date guide on alternative events happening around Singapore from concerts, festivals etc, visit City Nomads Singapore. Singapore has two integrated resorts with casinos.

A driver license from your home country will not work. Besides the casino, there are other forms of legalised betting which are more accessible to the locals.

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This includes horse racing, which is run by the Singapore Turf Club on weekends, as well as football soccer betting and several lotteries run by the Singapore Pools. Mahjong is also a popular pastime in Singapore. However, this remains pretty much a family and friends affair, and there are no mahjong parlours. Despite its small size, Singapore has a surprisingly large number of golf courses, but most of the best ones are run by private clubs and open to members and their guests only.

See the Singapore Golf Association for the full list; alternatively, head to the nearby Indonesian islands of Batam or Bintan or up north to the Malaysian town of Malacca for cheaper rounds. The inaugural F1 Singapore Grand Prix was held at night in September , and will be a fixture on the local calendar. The F1 Organizers have confirmed that the night race will be extended till Held on a street circuit in the heart of Singapore and raced at night, all but race fans will probably wish to avoid this time, as hotel prices especially room with view of the F1 tracks are through the roof. Besides being a uniquely night race, the carnival atmosphere and pop concert held around the race ground as well as the convenience of hotels and restaurants round the corner, distinguish the race from other F1 races held remotely away from urban centres.

The Singapore Turf Club in Kranji hosts horse races most Fridays, including a number of international cups, and is popular with local gamblers. The Singapore Polo Club near Balestier is also open to the public on competition days. There are also numerous shops offering traditional Chinese massage, which are mostly legitimate.

Traditional asian-style public baths are non-existent. When looking for beauty salons on Orchard Road, try out the ones on the fourth floor of Lucky Plaza. They offer most salon services like manicures, pedicures, facials, waxing and hair services. A favorite of flight crew and repeat tourists due to the lower costs as compared to the sky high prices of other salons along the shopping belt.

Shop around for prices, some of the better looking ones actually charge less. When in the Bugis or Kampong Glam walking belt, a good stop to rest weary feet would be at one of the many nail parlours in the area. Manicures or pedicures are very affordable in Singapore and most salons maintain a high level of hygiene. Forget your tiny hotel pool if you are into competitive or recreational swimming: Singapore is paradise for swimmers with arguably the highest density of public pools in the world.

They just come from nearby housing complexes for a few hours to chill out, read and relax in the sun.

Most are open daily from , and all feature a small cafe. Just imagine swimming your lanes in the tropical night with lit up palm trees surrounding the pool. Perhaps the best is in Katong Wilkinson Road, on the East Coast : after the swim, stroll through the villa neighbourhood directly in front of the pool entrance and have at look at the luxurious, original architecture of the houses that really rich Singaporeans live in.

The East Coast Park has a scenic coastline that stretches over 15km. Sentosa island also has three white, sandy beaches — Siloso Beach, Palawan Beach and Tanjong Beach — each with its own distinct characteristics, and also very popular with locals. Besides the more regular water sports such as waterskiing, wakeboarding, windsurfing, canoeing and etc. While obviously not the best place on Earth for skiing, sunny Singapore still has a permanent indoor snow centre — Snow City offers visitors to the region a chance to experience winter.

Visitors can escape from the hot and humid tropical weather to play with snow or even learn to ski and snowboard with internationally certified professional instructors. There are several enjoyable things that not even many locals know about. If you are in the mood of doing sport, consider the MacRitchie, an artificial lake with a 11km of running trails featuring jungle, monkeys, lake and turtles. Goods and services tax GST , where applicable, is required by law to be included in the listed price of goods except for major hotels and some restaurants.

When you see NETT, it means it includes all taxes and service charges. Travellers cheques are generally not accepted by retailers, but can be cashed at most exchange booths.

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Currency exchange booths can be found in every shopping mall and usually offer better rates, better opening hours and much faster service than banks. The huge 24 hr operation at Mustafa in Little India accepts almost any currency at very good rates, as do the fiercely competitive small shops at the aptly named Change Alley next to Raffles Place MRT.

For large amounts, ask for a quote, as it will often get you a better rate than displayed on the board. Rates at the airport are not as good as in the city, and while many department stores accept major foreign currencies, their rates are often terrible. Budget travellers should note that Singapore is much more expensive than the rest of Southeast Asia and should budget accordingly if planning to spend time in Singapore. In general, prices in Singapore are about twice as high as in Malaysia and Thailand and times as high as in Indonesia and the Philippines. Except in off the beat markets, haggling is not common in Singapore and is frowned upon but asking about discounts is ok. While at a smaller shack haggle away. Ripped off by a shop? The Small Claims Tribunal at 1 Havelock Sq also has a special expedited process for tourists that can solve simple cases within 24 hours. Shopping is second only to eating as a national pastime, which means that Singapore has an abundance of shopping malls, and low taxes and tariffs on imports coupled with huge volume mean that prices are usually very competitive.

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Most shops are open 7 days a week from 10AMPM, although smaller operations particularly those outside shopping malls close earlier — 7PM is common — and perhaps on Sundays as well. Mustafa in Little India is open 24 hours a day, days a year.

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Keep an eye out for the Great Singapore Sale , usually held in June-July, when shopping centres pull out all stops to attract punters. Many shops along Orchard Road and Scotts Road now offer late night shopping on the last Friday of every month with over retailers staying open till midnight. At the shop you need to ask for a tax refund cheque. Before checking in at the airport, present this cheque together with the items purchased and your passport at the GST customs counter. Get the receipt stamped there. Then proceed with check-in and go through security. On the air side, bring the stamped cheque to the refund counter to cash it in or get the GST back on your credit card.

See Singapore Customs for the full scoop. Eating habits run the gamut, but most foods are eaten by fork and spoon : push and cut with the fork in the left hand, and eat with the spoon in the right.