American Express -- The American Express office is located at 300 Beach Rd., #18-01 The Concourse (tel. 65/6880-1333). It's open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm and Saturday 9am to 1pm. There's a more convenient kiosk that handles traveler's checks and simple card transactions (including emergency check guarantee) on Orchard Road just outside the Marriott Hotel at Tangs (tel. 65/6735-2069). It's open daily from 9am to 9pm. An additional foreign exchange office is open at Changi Airport Terminal 2 (tel. 65/6543-0671). It's open from noon to midnight daily.
Business Hours -- Shopping centers are open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 9pm and stay open until 10pm on some public holidays. Banks are open from 9:30am to 3pm Monday through Friday and from 9 to 11am on Saturdays. Restaurants open at lunchtime from around 11am to 2:30pm, and for dinner they reopen at around 6pm and take the last order sometime around 10pm. Nightclubs stay open until 2am on weekdays and until 3am on Fridays and Saturdays. Government offices are open from 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday and from 9am to 3pm on Saturdays. Post offices conduct business from 8:30am to 5pm on weekdays and from 8:30am to 1pm on Saturdays.
Drugstores -- Guardian Pharmacies fills prescriptions with name-brand drugs (from a licensed physician within Singapore) and carries a large selection of toiletry items. Convenient locations include #B1-05 Centrepoint Shopping Centre (tel. 65/6737-4835), Changi International Airport Terminal 2 (tel. 65/6545-4233), #02-139 Marina Square (tel. 65/6333-9565), and #B1-04 Raffles Place MRT Station (tel. 65/6535-2762).
Electricity -- Standard electrical current is 220 volts AC (50 cycles). Local electrical outlets are made for plugs with three square prongs. Consult your concierge to see if your hotel has converters and plug adapters in-house for you to use. If you are using sensitive equipment, do not trust cheap voltage transformers. Nowadays, a lot of electrical equipment -- including portable radios and laptop computers -- comes with built-in converters, so you can follow the manufacturer's directions for changing them over. FYI, videocassettes taped on different voltage currents are recorded on machines with different record and playback cycles. Prerecorded videotapes are not interchangeable between currents unless you have special equipment that can play either kind.
Embassies and Consulates -- Contacts for major embassies in Singapore are as follows: U.S. Embassy, 27 Napier Rd., tel. 65/6476-9100; Canadian Embassy, 80 Anson Rd., tel. 65/6325-3240; U.K. Embassy, Tanglin Road, tel. 65/6473-9333; Australian Embassy, 391A Orchard Rd., Ngee Ann City Tower A, #15-06, tel. 65/6836-4100.
Emergencies -- For police dial tel. 999. For medical or fire emergencies call tel. 995.
Hospitals -- If you require hospitalization, the centrally located Mount Elizabeth Hospital is near Orchard Road at 3 Mount Elizabeth, tel. 65/6737-2666; for accidents and emergencies call tel. 65/6731-2218. You can also try Singapore General Hospital, Outram Road, tel. 65/6222-3322; for accidents and emergencies call tel. 65/6321-4311.
Internet Access -- Internet cafes are becoming common throughout the city, with usage costs about S$5 (US$2.95) per hour (keep in mind, if you use the Internet in your hotel's business center, you'll pay a much higher price). Almost every shopping mall has one, especially along Orchard Road, and there are cybercafes in both terminals at Changi Airport. In the Historic District, there are a few in Stamford House, just across from City Hall MRT Station. Check out Chills Café, #01-07 Stamford House, 39 Stamford Rd. (tel. 65/6883-1016; open 9:30am-midnight daily).
Language -- Singapore's four official languages are Malay, Chinese (Mandarin dialect), Tamil, and English. Malay is the national language while English is the language for government operations, law, and major financial transactions. Most Singaporeans are at least bilingual, with many speaking one or more dialects of Chinese, English, and some Malay.
Mail -- Most hotels have mail services at the front counter. Singapore Post has centrally located offices at #04-15 Ngee Ann City/Takashimaya Shopping Centre (tel. 65/6738-6899); Chinatown Point, 133 New Bridge Rd. #02-42/43/44 (tel. 65/6538-7899); Change Alley, 16 Collyer Quay #02-02 Hitachi Tower (tel. 65/6538-6899); and 231 Bain St. #01-03 Bras Basah Complex (tel. 65/6339-8899). Plus there are five branches at Changi International Airport.
The going rate for international airmail letters to North America and Europe is S$1 (US59¢) for 20g plus S35¢ (US21¢) for each additional 10g. For international airmail service to Australia and New Zealand, the rate is S70¢ (US41¢) for 20g plus S30¢ (US18¢) for each additional 10g. Postcards and aerograms to all destinations are S50¢ (US29¢).
Your hotel will accept mail sent for you at its address.
Maps -- The STB Visitors' Centres carry a variety of free city maps and walking tour maps of individual neighborhoods to help you find your way around.
Newspapers and Magazines -- Local English newspapers available are the International Herald Tribune, The Business Times, The Straits Times, Today, and USA Today International. Following an article criticizing the Singapore government, the Asian Wall Street Journal was banned from wide distribution in Singapore. Most of the major hotels carry it, though, so ask around and you can find one. I-S Magazine is a good resource for nightlife happenings. The STB Visitors' Centres carry a few free publications for travelers including Where Singapore, This Week Singapore, and Singapore Business Visitor. Major bookstores and magazine shops sell a wide variety of international magazines.
Passports -- For Residents of the United States: Whether you're applying in person or by mail, you can download passport applications from the U.S. State Department website at http://travel.state.gov/passport. To find your regional passport office, either check the U.S. State Department website or call the National Passport Information Center's toll-free number (tel. 877/487-2778) for automated information.
For Residents of Canada: Passport applications are available at travel agencies throughout Canada or from the central Passport Office, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ottawa, ON K1A 0G3 (tel. 800/567-6868; www.ppt.gc.ca).
For Residents of the United Kingdom: To pick up an application for a standard 10-year passport (5-yr. passport for children under 16), visit your nearest passport office, major post office, or travel agency or contact the United Kingdom Passport Service at tel. 0870/521-0410 or search its website at www.ukpa.gov.uk.
For Residents of Ireland: You can apply for a 10-year passport at the Passport Office, Setanta Centre, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2 (tel. 01/671-1633; www.irlgov.ie/iveagh). Those under age 18 and over 65 must apply for a €12 3-year passport. You can also apply at 1A South Mall, Cork (tel. 021/272-525) or at most main post offices.
For Residents of Australia: You can pick up an application from your local post office or any branch of Passports Australia, but you must schedule an interview at the passport office to present your application materials. Call the Australian Passport Information Service at tel. 131-232 or visit the government website at www.passports.gov.au.
For Residents of New Zealand: You can pick up a passport application at any New Zealand Passports Office or download it from their website. Contact the Passports Office at tel. 0800/225-050 or 04/474-8100 in New Zealand, or log on to www.passports.govt.nz.
Pets -- Singapore requires a mandatory 3-month quarantine for all pets entering from overseas.
Police -- Given the strict reputation of law enforcement in Singapore, you can bet the officers here don't have the greatest sense of humor. If you find yourself being questioned about anything, big or small, be dead serious and most respectful. For emergencies, call tel. 999. If you need to call the police headquarters, dial tel. 1800-255-0000.
If you are arrested, you have the right to legal council, but only when the police decide you can exercise that right. Bottom line: Don't get arrested.
Smoking -- It's against the law to smoke in public buses, elevators, theaters, cinemas, air-conditioned restaurants, shopping centers, government offices, and taxi queues.
Taxes -- Many hotels and restaurants will advertise rates followed by "+++." The first + is the goods and services tax (GST), which is levied at 5% of the purchase. The second + is 1% cess (a 1% tax levied by the STB on all tourism-related activities). The third is a 10% gratuity. See the Shopping section for information on the GST Tourist Refund Scheme, which lets you recover the GST for purchases of goods over S$300 (US$176) in value.
Telephones -- Public telephones can be found in booths on the street or back near the toilets in shopping malls, public buildings, or hotel lobbies. Because most Singaporeans now carry mobile phones, public phones aren't always properly maintained. Local calls cost S10¢ (US5¢) for 3 minutes at coin- and card-operated phones. International calls can be made only from public phones designated specifically for this purpose. International public phones will accept either a stored-value phonecard or a credit card. Phonecards for local and international calls can be purchased at Singapore Post branches, 7-Eleven convenience stores, or money changers -- make sure you specify local or international phonecard when you make your purchase.
To call Singapore: If you're calling Singapore from the United States:
1. Dial the international access code: 011
2. Dial the country code: 65
3. Then dial the 8-digit number. So the whole number you'd dial would be 011-65-0000-0000.
To make international calls: To make international calls from Singapore, first dial 001 and then the country code (U.S. or Canada 1, U.K. 44, Ireland 353, Australia 61, New Zealand 64). Next you dial the area code and number. For example, if you wanted to call the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., you would dial tel. 001-1-202/588-7800.
For directory assistance: Dial tel. 100 if you're looking for a number inside Singapore and dial tel. 104 for numbers to all other countries.
For operator assistance: If you need operator assistance in making a call, dial tel. 104 if you're trying to make an international call and tel. 100 if you want to call a number in Singapore.
Toll-free numbers: Numbers beginning with 1800 within Singapore are toll-free, but calling a 1-800 number in the States from Singapore is not toll-free. In fact, it costs the same as an overseas call.
Time Zone -- Singapore Standard Time is 8 hours ahead of Greenwich mean time (GMT). International time differences will change during daylight saving or summer time. Basic time differences are: New York -13, Los Angeles -16, Montreal -13, Vancouver -16, London -8, Brisbane +3, Darwin +1, Melbourne +2, Sydney +3, and Auckland +4. For the current time within Singapore, call tel. 1711.
Tipping -- Tipping is discouraged at hotels, bars, and in taxis. Basically, the deal here is not to tip. A gratuity is automatically added into guest checks, and there's no need to slip anyone an extra buck for carrying bags or such. It's not expected.
Toilets -- Clean public toilets can be found in all shopping malls, hotels, and public buildings. Smaller restaurants may not be up on their cleanliness, and beware the "squatty potty" the Asian style squat toilet, which you see in the more "local" places. Carry plenty of tissues with you, as they often run out.
Water -- Tap water in Singapore passes World Health Organization standards and is potable.
Useful Phone Numbers
U.S. Dept. of State Travel Advisory: tel. 202/647-5225 (manned 24 hours)
U.S. Passport Agency: tel. 202/647-0518
U.S. Embassy in Singapore: tel. 65/6476-9100
Canadian Embassy in Singapore: tel. 65/6325-3240
U.K. Embassy in Singapore: tel. 65/6473-9333
Australian Embassy in Singapore: tel. 65/6836-4100
Police Emergencies: tel. 65/999
Medical or Fire emergencies: tel. 65/995
Singapore Tourism Board: tel. 65/1800-736-2000
U.S. Centers for Disease Control International Traveler's Hot Line: tel. 404/332-4559
Source: Frommers on Singapore