Our Story

About Singapore

Singapore is a city-state in Southeast Asia. Founded as a British trading colony in 1819, since independence it has become one of the world’s most prosperous, tax-friendly countries and boasts the world’s busiest port.

Singapore is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world for a lot of reasons, one of which is the less stringent entry requirements.

Combining the skyscrapers and subways of a modern, affluent city with a medley of Chinese, Malay and Indian influences along with a tropical climate, tasty food from hawker centres, copious shopping malls, and vibrant night-life scene, this Garden City makes a great stopover or springboard into the region.

History

The old Keppel Harbour in Singapore

A long time ago, Singapore was once known as Sea Town.

While the earliest known historical records of Singapore are shrouded in time, a third century Chinese account describes it as “Pu-luo-chung”, referring to “Pulau Ujong” which means the “island at the end of a peninsula” in the Malay language. Later, the city was known as Temasek (“Sea Town”), when the first settlements were established from AD 1298-1299.

During the 14th century, this small but strategically-located island earned a new name. According to legend, Sang Nila Utama, a Prince from Palembang (the capital of Srivijaya), was out on a hunting trip when he caught sight of an animal he had never seen before. Taking it to be a good sign, he founded a city where the animal had been spotted, naming it “The Lion City” or Singapura, from the Sanskrit words “simha” (lion) and “pura” (city).

The city was then ruled by the five kings of ancient Singapura. Located at the tip of the Malay Peninsula, the natural meeting point of sea routes, the city flourished as a trading post for vessels such as Chinese junks, Arab dhows, Portuguese battleships, and Buginese schooners.

Boats at the old trading port along Singapore River
The Raffles Effect
The city’s strategic location made it an ideal trading hub.
Modern Singapore was founded in the 19th century, thanks to politics, trade and a man known as Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles.
During this time, the British empire was eyeing a port of call in this region to base its merchant fleet, and to forestall any advance made by the Dutch. Singapore, already an up-and-coming trading post along the Malacca Straits, seemed ideal.
Raffles, then the Lieutenant-Governor of Bencoolen (now Bengkulu) in Sumatra, landed in Singapore on 29 January 1819. Recognising the immense potential of the swamp-covered island, he helped negotiate a treaty with the local rulers and established Singapore as a trading station. The city quickly grew as an entrepot trade hub, attracting immigrants from China, India, the Malay Archipelago and beyond.
In 1822, Raffles implemented the Raffles Town Plan, also known as the Jackson Plan, to address the issue of growing disorderliness in the colony. Ethnic residential areas were segregated into four areas. The European Town had residents made up of European traders, Eurasians and rich Asians, while the ethnic Chinese were located in present-day Chinatown and south-east of the Singapore River. Ethnic Indians resided at Chulia Kampong north of Chinatown, and Kampong Glam consisted of Muslims, ethnic Malays and Arabs who had migrated to Singapore. Singapore continued to develop as a trading post, with the establishment of several key banks, commercial associations and Chambers of Commerce. In 1924, a causeway opened linking the northern part of Singapore to Johor Bahru.
British soldiers signing the document to surrender Singapore over to the Japanese on 15 February 1942
War and Peace
Allied forces surrendering in 1942.
Singapore’s prosperity suffered a major blow during World War II, when it was attacked by the Japanese on 8 December 1941. The invaders arrived from the north, confounding the British military commanders who had expected an attack by sea from the south. Despite their superior numbers, the Allied forces surrendered to the Japanese on Chinese New Year, 15 February 1942. It was the largest surrender of British-led forces in history. The island, once feted as an “impregnable fortress”, was renamed Syonan-to (or “Light of the South Island” in Japanese).
When the Japanese surrendered in 1945, the island was handed over to the British Military Administration, which remained in power until the dissolution of the Straits Settlement comprising Penang, Melaka and Singapore. In April 1946, Singapore became a British Crown Colony.
A group of soldiers marching in celebration of Singapore's Independence Day on 9 August 1965The Road to Independence
Singapore has come a long way to become what it is today.
In 1959, the growth of nationalism led to self-government, and the country’s first general election. The People’s Action Party (PAP) won a majority of 43 seats and Lee Kuan Yew became the first prime minister of Singapore.
In 1963, Malaysia was formed, comprising of the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo (now Sabah). The move was meant to foster closer ties. However, Singapore’s merger proved unsuccessful, and less than two years later on 9 August 1965, it left Malaysia to become an independent and sovereign democratic nation.
Today, many slices of Singapore’s multi-cultural, colonial and wartime past are preserved in and around the city. You can visit monuments, museums and memorials, or for a real trip through time, take a walk along a heritage trail.

Iconic Landmarks

CHIJMES

CHIJMES architectural façade

Now home to an array of shops, bars and restaurants, CHIJMES used to be a Catholic convent school way back in the 1800s. The compound houses several buildings of varying architectural styles and set up during different points in history, such as an orphanage, a dormitory and a Gothic Chapel.

The complex was renamed CHIJMES in 1990, a reference to the convent’s acronym and the sound of its tower bells. After redevelopment work, CHIJMES has grown into the well-loved dining and nightlife enclave that it is today.

CHIJMES. 30 Victoria Street, Singapore 18796.
Daily 9.30am-6.30pm. Opening hours vary for individual businesses.

Helix Bridge

Helix bridge with MBS in the background with starburst
Opened in 2010, the Helix Bridge is the longest pedestrian bridge in Singapore and serves as a link way between Marina Centre and the Bayfront area. Its unique form is modelled after the double helix DNA, symbolising “life and continuity, renewal and growth”. Look out for the pairs of coloured letters ‘c’ and ‘g’, as well as ‘a’ and ‘t’ on the bridge, which represent the four bases of DNA—a fun detail that will please the science geeks among us.

Helix Bridge. Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 038981.
Daily 24 hours.

Merlion Park

Sunset wide angle shot of Merlion looking out to Marina Bay Sands and ArtScience Museum
Catch a glimpse of Singapore’s most majestic icon, the Merlion, a mythical creature that’s half-fish and half-lion. The Merlion combines two elements of Singapore’s identity—its body symbolises the fishing villages of Singapore’s past, while its lion head is a symbol of Singapura (“lion city” in Sanskrit).
The Merlion, built by local craftsman Lim Nang Seng, was unveiled on 15 September 1972 by then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. The icon was originally positioned at the mouth of the Singapore River, but was later moved to its current spot overlooking the bay at the Merlion Park.
Merlion Park. One Fullerton, Singapore 049213.
Daily 24 hours.

Marina Bay Sands®

A shot of Marina Bay Sands and the ArtScience museum at dusk
First opened in 2011, Marina Bay Sands® has established itself as one of Singapore’s most versatile attractions. You can opt for a luxury stay at their 55-storey hotel, shop till you drop at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands®, or soak up a little art and culture at the ArtScience Museum™.
Marina Bay Sands®’ sloping towers and sky-high Infinity Pool have interesting stories behind them, too—Tower 1 of the hotel has a 26-degree slope, which is considered prosperous since the individual digits add up to 8, a lucky number in Chinese culture; and the Infinity Pool is an auspicious symbol of a lake at the top of a mountain.
Marina Bay Sands®. 10 Bayfront Ave, Singapore 01895.10 Bayfront Ave, Singapore 01895.

The Istana

The Istana, which means ‘palace’ in Malay, is the official residence and office of the President of Singapore. The iconic venue is where the President receives and entertains state guests, and is also home to the Prime Minister’s office.
Standing on what used to be a nutmeg plantation, the Istana grounds are a sanctuary of flora and fauna amidst the bustle of the city. Be sure to time your trip to The Istana, as its grounds are only open to the public on selected days each year.
Istana. Orchard Road, Singapore 238823.
More information on visiting days and hours here.

Getting Around

By Train

Singapore’s MRT (mass rapid transit) system is probably the fastest way to zip around the city. The extensive rail network means that most of Singapore’s key attractions are within walking distance from an MRT station.
An incoming Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) train on the rail track
Visitors can use the following options for MRT journeys:
1. Get a Singapore Tourist Pass (STP), a special EZ-Link stored-value card which will allow you unlimited travel for one day (S$10), two days (S$16) or three days (S$20).
The Pass can be bought at the TransitLink Ticket Office at selected MRT stations listed here, or at the Concession Card Replacement Office at Somerset station. They are also available 24 hours daily at the Automated STP Kiosks at Changi Airport MRT Station (Terminal 2 and 3) near the Transitlink Ticket Office.
2. You can also use your foreign-issued Mastercard® and Visa contactless bank cards issued outside of Singapore for the payment of public transport fares in Singapore. Foreign admin fee applies, please refer to TransitLink’s SimplyGo website for more information.
3. Adult Stored Value Smartcard (EZ-link / Nets FlashPay)
4. Single Trip Tickets
Singapore’s trains and stations are accessible to wheel chair users and the visually impaired, as well as families with strollers.

By Bus

Singapore’s bus system has an extensive network of routes covering most places in Singapore and is the most economical way to get around, as well as being one of the most scenic.Two double-decker public buses on the road
You can pay your bus fare using an EZ-Link stored-value card or the Singapore Tourist Pass (STP), which you tap on the card reader located next to the driver as you board. You can also use your foreign-issued Mastercard® and Visa contactless bank cards issued outside of Singapore to pay for your ride. Do remember to tap your card again, on the reader located at the rear exit, when you alight. You can also pay in cash but you will need to have exact change.
Most buses in Singapore have air-conditioning – a welcome comfort in a tropical city.

By Taxi / Ride-Hailing

Cross junction at Chinatown neighbourhood
Taxis are comfortable and especially handy if you want to go to places not accessible by the bus or MRT. Cabs here are metered, but there may be surcharges depending on when, where and which company’s taxi you board. To get a rough idea of the final fare, check with the driver on the surcharges and ask for a receipt at the end of the trip. You can hail a taxi by the roadside at most places, or by queuing for one at taxi stands found at most shopping malls, hotels and tourist attractions. If you wish to book a cab, you can call a common taxi booking number, 6-DIAL CAB (6342-5222), and your call will be routed to an available taxi company’s call centre.
Alternatively, ride-hailing app such as GRAB and GOJEK are available right at your fingertips. They run by “dynamic pricing”, which is adjusted to balance the demand and supply of drivers and passengers.
If you need to pay an inflated rate for your ride, there’ll be a little thermometer icon next to the fare. Simply download the application and start using it on mobile.

Singapore Visitor Centre

Drop by the Singapore Visitor Centre to get more information about Singapore, purchase tickets to attractions, tours and check out interactive events.

The Singapore Visitor Centre is set in a two-storey conserved Peranakan shophouse in the heritage-rich Emerald Hill area. The centre provides services like the sale of tours, attraction, event tickets and booking of accommodation. Key feature of the SVC is the use of technology to help visitors. There are four interactive kiosk that allow visitors to browse and put together a digital itinerary. This personalised itinerary can be printed or emailed to visitors. Besides this, there are also two large screens that display a variety of places of interest and events in Singapore. Complimentary WiFi is also available within the SVC. On top of this, check out the Singapore Experience Lab, an interactive showcase of Singapore’s hidden gems and must-dos for visitors. There are also on-going interactive events curated for visitors who are keen to find out more about our culture.