Planning an exciting Asian trip and not too sure where to stay in Singapore? Singapore is a small, vibrant city-state, and visitors are often surprised at the sheer amount of choice they have when they come to book somewhere to stay. It’s very much separated into areas – each of these areas is vastly different from the last. This charming city, which seems very cosmopolitan, and occasionally shallow at first glance, unravels into a cultural feast that will give any historical city a run for its money. Part of this is down to Singapore’s multi-cultural heritage, and this is never better displayed than in the tourist hubs of Little India and China Town which are busy, bustling, and full of cheap food and hostel options. The hawker centres are a real draw here: street food sit-down dining which is uniquely Singapore. This is one of the only cities in the world where you’ll find street food vendors with Michelin stars. People looking to experience the glitzier side of the city can head down to the Marina Bay area where fine dining and malls await you. There’s truly something for everyone in this most colourful of cities.
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Where to stay in Singapore
Wherever you choose to stay in Singapore, you’re never far from anywhere else, which makes choosing all the more difficult. Compared to other Asian cities, Singapore is on the pricier end but there is still some bargain accommodation to be found. Popular choices include Chinatown and the iconic Bugis area which offer vastly different experiences in terms of cuisine and architecture, with the nearby Arab Quarter and Haji lane being particular favourites. If you’re looking for an escape, there’s no better option than Sentosa island, a resort style space with panoramic views, beautiful beaches, and enough activities and theme parks to keep you and your family busy. Marina Bay and Orchard Road are the pinnacles of modern Singapore with fine dining, luxury malls, and the tourist attractions that make this city so iconic.
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Orchard Road – A Shopper’s Paradise
Why stay in Orchard Road
The moment you set foot on Orchard Road, you know what you’re in for: pure shopping heaven. With boutique stores, gorgeous malls, and cinema plexes, there’s no match to Orchard Road anywhere in the world. Quirky side streets with restaurants and coffee shops will keep you fueled as you make your way down the miles of options available. The crown jewel of this road is the ION Orchard Road Mall with an incredible view over the city from the 56th-floor observation deck. Your cultural option is the Cathay Gallery where you’ll find Singaporean history, old film posters, and cameras. With so much at your doorstep, it’s no surprise that this is a popular area to stay.
Why avoid Orchard Road
What makes Orchard Road so impressive is also its downfall; it’s very busy and, with buses constantly heading up and down the street and an intense amount of shoppers, it’s not a particularly relaxed environment. It’s also on the pricier end of the spectrum and the nearby food options, aside from the food courts, are not particularly authentic or affordable. You’ll also have to head elsewhere for nightlife as this is mostly a cinema and restaurant area in terms of after-dark entertainment.
Where to stay in Orchard Road
Marina Bay - The luxury hub of Singapore
Why stay in Marina Bay
With the iconic Singapore skyline all around you, staying in Marina Bay holds a great appeal. Stepping out of your hotel and drinking in the bright lights of the city is a lavish experience that never gets old. There are plenty of luxury dining options and swanky bars to enjoy. The bay is also in a perfect location for getting to the main tourist attractions in Singapore, like the Flyer, the dazzling Gardens by the Bay, and the Merlion statue. The light show on the bay is astounding so overlooking this area also provides you with a nightly spectacle of light and music to enjoy. From here you can walk to the buzzing nightlife hub of Clarke Quay or get to the central Civic District where you’ll find most of the cities museums with ease.
Why avoid Marina Bay
If you’re looking to see traditional Singapore culture, you’re not going to find any of it here. This is Singapore at its swankiest and most glitzy and is totally absent of the colonial charm of Bugis, or the winding streets of Little India. It’s a more expensive area so your dining options are limited to luxury choices and there’s no budget or mid-range accommodation to choose from so this is an area to stay if you want to splurge.
Where to stay in Marina Bay
Clarke Quay – Party the Night Away
Why stay in Clarke Quay
Clarke Quay is party central, just a short walk from the Marina Bay, it seems like a different world to the more traditional areas with Singapore’s most famous nightclubs, bars, and microbreweries spilling out onto the cosmopolitan streets. Quiet during the day, it transforms into a lively social hub where backpackers can come together and dance the night away. Foodies will be well catered for with plenty of dining options and a surprising amount of budget choices due to the happy hour and lunch deals. It’s also a perfect location to visit the tourist spots near Marina Bay, you’ll never be bored in Clarke Quay.
Why avoid Clarke Quay
Honestly, if you’re not in Singapore primarily to drink or party then this might not be the area for you, it’s noisy well into the night and has little in the way of cultural attractions or local life due to the cosmopolitan atmosphere. It’s also a bit pushy in terms of people getting you to choose their restaurant over others which can get tiring on a daily basis. Chinatown is within walking distance if you’re looking to stay somewhere with more culture but would still like access to the eating and drinking options of the Quays area.
Where to stay in Clarke Quay
Sentosa – Entertainment and Beach central
Why stay in Sentosa
Sentosa is perfect for beach lovers, golf addicts, or anyone looking for a resort style holiday. With plenty of attractions like Universal Studios, Aquariums, and Resorts World Sentosa, this is a great place if you’re coming to Singapore as a family because there’s no end to things for your children to do. If you’re tired of city life and need a space to sit back and relax in luxury with plenty of greenery this is going to be the escape you need.
Why avoid Sentosa
The main downside for Sentosa is the distance from the mainland, you have to take a yacht or cable car so if you’re looking to explore the city then it’s a bit far to travel to and from easily, particularly at night, and it lacks a lot of the charm that Singapore is known for. There’s not much in the way of shopping and because the island is set up like a resort or theme park, the accommodation and restaurant options are high-budget and catered to tourists.
Where to stay in Sentosa
Chinatown - Chinese Markets and Exquisite Food
Why stay in Chinatown
Busy and vibrant, Chinatown is one of the main tourist hubs of Singapore. An amazing spot for buying souvenirs, there are bargains to be had here and some unique shops that you wouldn’t expect like the Tintin store next to traditional Chinese medicine stores. If you like temples, colourful shop-houses, cheap and delicious food at the hawker centres, and want to be in the heart of the backpacker community then this is the area for you. The night markets are a huge draw to this area and as an added bonus Chinatown is within walking distance of the famous Raffle Hotel and Clarke Quays so you can carry on the fun well into the night.
Why avoid Chinatown
Chinatown is an ideal area in terms of location and price so there are very few downsides. The main disadvantage is how popular it actually is, it gets very busy particularly in the evenings and on weekends. It’s not the place to stay if you’re looking for a quiet and relaxing getaway. Although, you’re in close proximity to the more cosmopolitan areas but the malls and eateries nearby are more traditional and occasionally old-fashioned.
Where to stay in Chinatown
Little India – Enjoy authentic Indian food and markets
Why stay in Little India
There are so many reasons to stay in Little India, for one it’s the best way to experience Indian culture outside of India and explore the unique Singapore Indian culture. If you love Indian food, then this is an authentic foodie paradise teeming with restaurants to choose from at budget prices. This is a real cultural hub, the architecture and lifestyle is very traditional and there is an array of temples to explore – including the stunning Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple and the Mustafa centre for some bargain shopping. You can also walk to the historical area of Bugis and some museums nearby. The area is very popular with backpackers so there are some great budget options.
Why avoid Little India
Much like Chinatown Little India can get absolutely packed, particularly on the weekends so there’s not much rest bite in this area if you’re looking to chill out. The accommodation is generally budget and the area is traditional so you won’t find any of the glitzier buildings near here and luxury accommodation is harder to find. Little India is also a little awkward in terms of location so you may find yourself on the MRT a little more staying here, although two major lines run through the Little India station so it’s not a major issue.
Where to stay in Little India
Bugis & Kampong Glam – Youthful, arty centre and Arab Food
Why stay in Bugis & Kampong Glam
Staying in Bugis & Kampong Glam is perfect for people who love contrasts right on their doorstep. Often grouped together as one blend seamlessly into the other, they couldn’t be more different. Kampong Glam is also known as the ‘Arab Quarter’ and is an absolute dream if you love bazaars and Middle Eastern food with a mixture of street food and sit-down restaurants. This is also where you’ll find the infamous haji lane, a favourite among hipsters where you’ll find all the boutique and vintage stores, music bars, vegan restaurants, hip cafes, and juice bars. There’s a youthful vibe in Kampong Glam that’s very addictive. You’ll be able to see the Sultan Mosque while you’re there. The Bugis strip is full of malls, the popular street market, and more luxury dining options which compliments the more traditional Kampong Glam. You’re also in walking distance of Little India. This is a real tick all the boxes area.
Why avoid Bugis & Kampong Glam
The area is little further away from the tourist sights of Singapore so much like if you stay in Little India you may find yourself on the MRT more than you’d like, particularly if you want to explore the Marina Bay area. You’ll also find fewer taxis, especially at night, and while there is a nightlife scene around Kampong Glam it’s quite small so you may find travelling to the clubs and finding the taxi situation to be a bit of an issue.
Where to stay in Bugis & Kampong Glam
Civic District- Central area with a bit of everything
Why stay in Civic District
Civic District is about as central as you can get, this is where you’ll find museums, the government buildings, shopping malls, and fine dining restaurants. If you’re looking to explore Singapore’s history or art galleries this is a great area for you. You’ll also be able to walk to the wonderful Orchard Road, party in Clarke Quay and walk back, and explore the attractions at Marina Bay Sands at your leisure. There’s no end to the things you can do here and you’ll spend far less time on public transport being based in this area but if you do want to take trips then you in a perfect place for all the main bus routes and MRT lines. There’s a real open feel to Civic District with wide streets, large green spaces (including the famous Fort Canning Park) and architecturally impressive buildings to admire.
Why avoid Civic District
There are very few downsides to the Civic District but the main one is that it’s not particularly budget-friendly, especially in terms of accommodation. The area is definitely one of the more high-end parts of Singapore which is largely due to its excellent location. The dining options are more geared towards the a la carte and less towards the street food culture of the city too so if you’re a foodie looking for the more traditional eats you may find yourself looking elsewhere. There’s not much nightlife in this area so you’ll find yourself heading out of the area to party but the great transport links make it easy to come back to at night.
Where to stay in Civic District
Originally from the UK, Jessica started working and living abroad in East Asia in 2014. She started her travel and culture blog a year ago and hasn't looked back. She now slow travels around the world with her partner working as freelance writers. You can read more about her on her blog, Books and Bao.