BMW, Sony, Hewlett Packard, Facebook, LinkedIn, Apple, Google, Microsoft, General Electric and Walt Disney Company — these are just some of the Fortune 500 companies that have chosen to plant their Asian-Pacific regional headquarters in Singapore.
With its politically stable environment, business-friendly tax policies, technological readiness, widespread use of English and prime geographical location, it’s no wonder why Singapore has become a top destination for business travelers. In fact, American Express Meetings & Events named it the top city for meetings and events in Asia (again) and Business Insider says it’s the No. 1 destination to visit in 2018.
So if a trip to this island city-state off southern Malaysia is in your future, here’s everything you need to know.
Visa and entry requirements
Another reason Singapore is such a popular business destination? The lack of red tape to enter its borders. Citizens from nearly 80 percent of countries worldwide do not need a visa if they have a return plane ticket within 30 days of their arrival.
Citizens of the United States, European Union, Australia and some other countries actually can stay even longer — up to 90 days — visa-free. For stays beyond that, though, they will need to obtain one.
Visa or no visa, your passport must have at least six months validity from the date of entry as well as two full pages available for entry stamps.
Singapore’s official currency is the Singapore dollar, aka the Sing dollar. For the best rate, exchange money at a bank or an authorized moneychanger found at shopping centers around town, or get cash from an ATM. And fear not — major credits cards are accepted at most hotels, restaurants and shops.
You certainly won’t be dealing with frustrated travelers at Singapore’s Changi Airport. Quite the opposite. Ranked by Skytrax as the No. 1 airport in the world for the fifth consecutive year, this aviation hub is renowned for its efficiency. But you just may want to arrive super early anyhow; the airport boasts two 24-hour movie theaters screening the latest blockbusters for free, a rooftop swimming pool and a garden with over 1,000 live butterflies.
Another aspect about Singapore that makes it an attractive destination? How easy it is to get from one side of the 300-square-mile island to the other — it’s less than an hour from Changi Airport on the east end to Tuas on the west side. And it’s only approximately 20 minutes (30 in traffic) to get from the airport to Downtown Core and Marina Bay, where most corporate buildings and hotels are located.
To get downtown from the airport, we recommend taking a taxi or using a ride-hailing service. If it’s during peak hours, you may want to take Singapore’s Mass Rail Transit (MRT) system, which is fast and reliable.
The downtown area is small and full of one-way streets, so you may prefer walking there. Although, you may wish to hold off on that stroll until after your business meeting because of Singapore’s warm and sticky weather.
Speaking of which …
Do prepare for the weather
Because of Singapore’s close proximity to the equator, it has a tropical climate year-round, which is wonderful if you’re there for a beach vacation but “hot and humid” isn’t a great look when paired with business attire.
Fortunately, public buildings and indoor restaurants are air-conditioned to combat the 90-degree (Fahrenheit) weather you’ll be facing, but you’ll want to pack appropriate clothing, including lightweight suits and dresses, as well as an umbrella and raincoat for all the wet weather you can expect there.
Also be aware of mosquito-borne diseases. Dengue is active in Singapore and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has a travel advisory for Zika there. If you are pregnant or trying to conceive, consider postponing your trip and checking travel updates.
Despite its compact size, Singapore has a huge variety of hotels, from one-of-a-kind five-star hotels to budget boutiques where you can crash in a pod/capsule-style room.
If the sky’s the limit, Marina Bay Sands, a famous five-star property, has the world’s largest rooftop infinity pool 57 stories high with a breathtaking view of the city. Scared of heights? You can go to the other extreme and feel like you’re submerging yourself at the bottom of the sea with a stay in Resorts World Sentosa’s decadent underwater suite, where you can sit in your room and view through an acrylic panel more than 40,000 marine species swimming around in one of the world’s largest aquariums.
Don’t worry. If your travel policy doesn’t allow for such luxuries, you can enjoy a comfortable stay at any of the major hotel brands. Marriott, Hilton, Intercontinental Hotel Group, Accor and Pan Pacific (a Singaporean company) all have properties there.
And if you’re planning a longer stay, check out MetroResidences, a Singapore-based Airbnb-style service that offers furnished apartments.
Diverse culinary options
Singapore, where eating is truly a national pastime, has world-class food with influences from all corners of the globe. From Michelin-rated street eats to first-class dining options, you will enjoy diverse meals that fuse together Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian flavors — so be sure to pack your appetite when coming to this foodie paradise.
And so you know, tipping in restaurants is not customary in Singapore, but you may find a 10 percent service charge automatically added to the bill.
If you have a few hours to kill
You must check out Gardens by the Bay, an urban jungle that boasts the tallest indoor waterfall inside a dome. Or for a more authentic nature experience, visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens, a 74-hectare tropical garden with 10,000 types of plants.
A stroll through Marina Bay, Singapore’s tourism epicenter with some of the best spots overlooking the water, is a must for any first-time visitor.
To soak up the flavor of Asian culture, spend a couple of hours wandering around Chinatown and Little India.
And if all you really need is a bit of retail therapy, have your fix on Orchard Road, a bustling boulevard with nearly two dozen shopping malls.
Final word of advice
Singapore has developed a reputation for some of its laws and you can be fined for minor offenses, like jaywalking, littering and spitting in public. Contrary to popular belief, gum chewing is allowed — it’s the selling and importing of gum that isn’t.
Drinking alcohol is prohibited in all public places from 10:30 p.m. to 7 a.m., and fair warning, there are harsh penalties for drug-related crimes.
But don’t worry. As long as you acquaint yourself with local laws, you’ll have no troubles in Lion City.