Singapore Travel Guide
For first-time senior travellers to Asia, there is no better place to start than the island state of Singapore. It’s quieter and more orderly than Hong Kong, and provides an introduction to Asian culture whilst still being very ‘western’ in terms of the number of people who speak English, the amount of English signage around the island, and the availability of familiar western food.
It’s also the safest country in Asia and one in which seniors are not going to feel overwhelmed as they might if their first visit was to Bangladesh, India or the Philippines. However, Singapore is the most expensive country in Asia, so it is not the best destination for the budget traveller.
There are probably more things to do for seniors in Singapore than any other comparable sized place in Asia. The country is only 720 sq km in area but boasts the best tropical botanic gardens and orchid garden in the world, as well as an airport that is consistently voted as the best in the world.
For more experienced senior travellers for whom budget is not an issue, Singapore offers some of the best hotel accommodation, dining, shopping and leisure experiences in Asia. It’s also one of the easiest cities to reach because there are direct flights to Singapore from nearly 100 countries.
Gardens by the Bay
The first stop for most first-time senior travellers to Singapore is the iconic Gardens by the Bay. It’s one of the world’s top 20 most checked-in places on Facebook, and it’s a great destination for seniors because the massive Flower Dome conservatory offers a welcome respite during the day from Singapore’s heat and humidity.
It’s the largest greenhouse in the world and microclimate inside is intended to replicate a dry Mediterranean climate (around 24°C). The Flower Dome features floral displays from around the world, many of which are changed and refreshed throughout the year.
Next to the Flower Dome is the Cloud Forest, contained within a slightly smaller but much taller conservatory. The temperature is the same (around 24°C) but the humidity is higher because the microclimate replicates that of a cool-moist tropical montane region.
A 35 metre high waterfall creates a fine mist in which species of orchids, ferns and other plants from the tropical cloud forests thrive. The Cloud Forest conservatory is a little more difficult for seniors to negotiate than the Flower Dome, but there is an elevator to the top of the waterfall, from which visitors can walk down ramps that are suitable for wheelchairs.
The other area of the Garden by the Bay complex that most visitors want to see is the Supertree Grove. These man-made structures provide a supporting platform for vertical gardens featuring climbing plants and those that grow without requiring any soil. The Supertree Grove is best visited at night when the weather is cool and the supertrees are illuminated with coloured lights.
Most organized tours of Singapore include 2-3 hours or a half-day at the Gardens by the Bay, but many seniors happily spend a whole day there. The complex has some excellent eating places and clean restrooms.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
For those who like to feel close to nature, Singapore offers not only the Gardens by the Bay, but also what many consider to be the best botanic gardens in the tropical world.
Located just to the north of the city centre, the Singapore Botanic Gardens are open every day of the year. Entry is free and the Gardens have several excellent restaurants for either lunch or dinner, and three souvenir/gift shops.
The National Orchid Garden – also rated as one of the best in the world – is located inside the Botanic Gardens. There is a nominal entry fee of $1 for seniors.
Whilst Singapore has an excellent zoo, it’s the adjacent Night Safari that provides an attraction that is different to what can be experienced in most other countries.
The Night Safari provides an opportunity to see nocturnal animals in enclosures that replicate their natural habitat under dim ‘moonglow’ lighting.
The Night Safari makes for a relaxing visit because it’s quieter than the daytime zoo and cool during the evening hours. It is open from 7.15pm to midnight. The park can be seen from trams that tour the enclosures, so for seniors there is not a lot of walking involved.
Jurong Bird Park
Many cities of the world have bird parks, but few have walk-in aviaries as large as those at the Jurong Bird Park, The four free-flight aviaries provide a unique opportunity to get up close to the birds, and are great for bird photographers who don’t have to shoot through metal bars or wire mesh.
The Jurong Bird Park, which is the largest in Asia, is home to around 3,500 birds of 400 species and is spread over 20 hectares. There is a tram that runs around the perimeter of the park, so most of the aviaries and other enclosures can be visiting without a lot of walking.
Whilst this popular theme park is targeted primarily at youngsters and families looking for an ‘adrenaline pumping time’ (as the Universal advertising describes it), there’s still plenty to do for seniors at Universal Studios. The Madagascar riverboat ride is one that shouldn’t get the adrenaline pumping too much.
There are also stage shows, movies street entertainment, and plenty of eating places to rest tired feet. The WaterWorld outdoor show is also worth watching, but check show times in advance.
Singapore boasts many modern shopping malls throughout the island, but the city centre’s main shopping street, Orchard Road, is still worth a visit at any time. Even if not shopping, it’s a pleasant place to stroll at night, and in December there is an impressive display of Christmas lights.
There are also many excellent restaurants in the large and small malls along the 2 km length of Orchard Road. For those on a budget, the food courts in these malls provide a wallet-friendly place to have lunch or dinner.
Best months to visit Singapore
As Singapore is close to the equator, temperature and humidity doesn’t vary much through the year. It’s effectively summer all year with temperatures around 30-32°C during the day and 24-26°C during the night. May and June may feel slightly hotter than other months.
It rains every month but usually the second half of the year is wetter than the first half with November and December being the wettest months. Most of the rain comes in the form of afternoon thunderstorms.
Humidity is high year-round and visitors from temperate and dry climates may need a few days to adjust. Humidity is usually more than 90% in the morning, although it can drop to around 60% in the afternoon if there is no rain.
Currency and exchange rates
The Singapore dollar is one of Asia’s strongest currencies and widely traded throughout the region. There are exchange booths in the arrivals hall at Changi airport. However, as is the case with most airport money changers (because they have higher overhead costs), rates are 2-6% worse than in the city, depending on the currency being exchanged, so exchange at the airport only what is required for immediate needs.
Header image: Engin Akyurt