Singapore Guide for Business Travelers
Singapore has always been on my bucket list. Singapore blends its reputation as a financial business capital with its tropical climate and beautiful locale, creating a diversity of experiences within its islands. Known for incredible skyline views, fine dining, and a plethora of shopping, there is plenty to take in during your next business trip, beyond the typical tourist attractions and in spite of your busy schedule.
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When preparing for a business trip to Singapore, packing a smart capsule wardrobe is key. I cannot recommend comfortable walking shoes enough! Between work and meetings, you’re going to want to explore, and in Singapore that means walking through the really colorful neighborhoods.
I discovered white outfits were a great look for hopping into pictures with these colorful buildings and letting them steal the show. For as corporate as Singapore comes across, it felt fairly casual to me. I think that’s thanks to all the expats living there now. I wouldn’t recommend wearing business formal attire outside of your meetings, if you can help it. It’s too hot and humid for that.
From San Francisco, I flew Singapore Airlines to take advantage of their direct flight. This was the first time in several years that I flew coach for an international trip, so I have to admit it was an adjustment to not have a lie flat. For that reason, the extra legroom space in premium economy was much appreciated, and on this particular flight since I didn’t have anyone seated next to me, so I was able to spread out a bit. Even though we were in premium economy, we had plenty of space to tuck away our carry-on and other belongings.
As for service, the boarding process was extremely organized and efficient, which I appreciate as a business traveler. During the flight, the attendants were all super friendly and helpful. The entertainment system and internet worked really well, which are both very important for a 19-hour flight.
Where to Stay
For this trip, I stayed at Hotel G Singapore. Normally I’d book a hotel downtown, but if I’d done that, I would have stayed downtown and not ventured out to the neighborhoods. Hotel G was well-located for getting around to downtown easily, plus it gave us an opportunity to see the other neighborhoods and experience various street markets.
Singapore, as a whole, seems to take hospitality seriously, and Hotel G was no exception. I blew the fuse in our hotel room, breaking my breast pump (#workingmomproblems), and the hotel staff not only fixed our fuse at 4am, but they also helped me figure out where I could replace it at a local women’s hospital. I was also impressed with the hotel’s amenities that go above and beyond the standard. In the room, they give you a shave kit with shaving cream and lotion – this is often overlooked but incredibly helpful for traveling to a tropical destination.
I was most impressed with the cell phone that Hotel G provides in every room. This saved us. We used their cell phone for navigating around the city, saving the battery life and data on our own personal phones. Each morning we put our routes into the maps on the cell phone, which allowed us to make the most of the free time we had to explore. We could also make local phone calls, for making dinner reservations for example, for free. The phone even had a taxi app, which allowed us to call a taxi as easily as requesting an Uber or Lyft.
Speaking of food, I think the best and cheapest food I’ve had in my life was in Singapore. We found great Indian food near Hotel G at a spot called Al-Jilani Restaurant. My husband, who tagged along on this trip, has a general rule that if there’s a long line at a restaurant, we get in that line. That’s how we found this spot. We actually had our THIRD dinner of the night because we didn’t want to pass up trying the food that everyone was lining up for. It was the best chicken biryani I’ve ever had.
Another time, I got into a long line at the Maxwell Food Centre for a stand that wasn’t even open. We were told to go here for the best chicken rice, so while my husband stood in line for that, I stayed in the mystery line. I asked the lady in front of me what we were waiting for and she said it was the best roast duck. Sure enough when we finally got it, it was the BEST. ROAST. DUCK.
The food at Maxwell Food Centre is so good for $5 that you don’t need to drop big money on Michelin star restaurants to still get an amazing meal. We also checked out the Chinatown Food Centre where we ate the fish head stew with spicy sauce.
Sticking with the cheap food theme, we had to find the fast food place with a Michelin star! Liao Fan Hawker Chan started as a stall in the Chinatown Food Centre, and is known for its soy sauce chicken rice and roast pork.
Sadly we didn’t research the hours and got there 10 minutes after they closed at 8 PM. Put this on your list for dinner and don’t make the same mistake we did! For more Michelin star dining, take the cable car to Sentosa where they have 5 Michelin star restaurants on the island.
Another classic for Singapore is chili crab. We had dinner one night at Jumbo Seafood, which serves up a classic version of the dish with a chili sauce that is thick, sweet, and spicy. If you’re looking for a place for a business lunch meeting, Spago, is a classic and well-known spot. There were a lot of people dining there and doing business when we visited for lunch. If you’re looking to grab drinks with a client, be aware that across the board, liquor is very expensive in Singapore.
What to See and Do
Although Singapore is known for its shopping malls, I recommend prioritizing sightseeing over shopping. I found the shopping on Orchard Road boring since you can find all the same brands in the US. If you are there to splurge though, it’s great for luxury shopping.
When you stop by the Gardens by the Bay, which you should do at night, go up to this bar. It’s above one of the super trees and has better views of the city than Spago. It costs $40 per person to go up the elevator, and the fee comes with a drink. While this place is not handicap accessible (after the elevator, you take additional stairs to the roof), you’ll find phenomenal views of the city with a relaxed jazz setting, and can even order light bites.
If you have a free day, head over to Sentosa island by cable car. It was a really cool experience flying over the bay, costing just $35 per person. We started at Faber Mountain and rode the cable car to Sentosa Island. You can also hop around the island in these cable cars – just make sure you pay for the full pass. While the island is more touristy (Universal Studios and Hard Rock are there), it is good if you are traveling with you family, and like I mentioned before has a whopping 5 Michelin star restaurants!
If you like those instagram friendly museums (Ice Cream Museum, Color Factory), stop by the Trick Eye Museum on Sentosa. I learned about it from a middle schooler, and as she explained, through optical illusions, your photos make it look like you’re part of the art. My husband and I enjoyed lots of fun photo ops. Just make sure you download the app before you go so you can get animated shots as well.
When you have some free time, wander the colorful neighborhoods and snap a few Instagram photos. It was harder to get taxis in these residential areas – even with the phone app – but there are bikeshares everywhere! I easily downloaded the ofo app and we grabbed some bikeshare bikes. It was super easy and super cheap.