All Your Questions About Singapore Answered

By Ashley Friedman

Experience southeast Asia in the Lion City

All Your Questions About Singapore Answered

Don't be fooled by its size – for a small island, Singapore packs an impressive amount of culture, history and natural beauty. From manicured waterfront gardens and elegant shopping centers, to scrappy all-night markets and tiny temples, Singapore is a land of compelling contradictions.

Q. What language is spoken in Singapore?

A. The official languages of Singapore are English, Malay, Tamil and Mandarin Chinese, although travelers coming from the United States will be relieved to learn that the majority of people in Singapore are fluent English speakers.

Q. Is Singapore a country?

A. Singapore is a country. It's also a city and an island. The location is actually the only city-island-nation on the globe.

Q.  What is there to do in Singapore?

A. Singapore is home to one of the world's cleanest and most bustling financial capitals. The city is a futuristic, pulsing urban center with bright lights, skyscrapers and nightlife. The city is filled with architectural icons, and shopping and dining opportunities abound, but the natural beauty of the island is a large part of experiencing the country.

Gardens by the Bay is an astonishingly detailed and beautifully designed waterfront horticultural destination that includes three separate and distinct gardens, event spaces, restaurants and a children's garden. Singapore's Night Safari is a unique after-dark experience, where you can board a tram or head out on walking trails through a rainforest exhibit where you can observe animals, birds insects and other natural wonders as dusk descends. Or head to the Singapore Zoo which features a tremendous 20,000 cubic meter indoor rainforest. Visitors looking for more of a relaxing vibe can visit Sentosa, a popular resort area on a small island off of Singapore's southern coast. Beaches, outdoor bars, dining and shopping complement the dramatic panoramic views that stretch all the way to Indonesia.

  • Night Safari provides an opportunity to observe the habits and rituals of the animals of the rainforest at dusk. Personal tour guides accompany each tram giving details about the wildlife and environment.
  • Sentosa includes golf, spas, shopping and gourmet dining. Swim with dolphins, interact with birds in a dedicated amphitheater, and visit the butterfly park and insect kingdom. The adventurous can enjoy the feeling of free fall in the indoor skydiving wind tunnel.
  • Singapore Zoo has enormous enclosures where animals roam freely in a rainforest setting, plus daily shows and performances, and the chance to watch animals feeding.

Q. Is it illegal to chew gum in Singapore?

A. There is a ban on selling chewing gum in Singapore, with the exception of nicotine gum. While it is not illegal to possess chewing gum, tourists who spit it out and leave it in public as litter can face hefty fines.

Q. Why is Singapore so rich?

A. Singapore is often referred to as the 20th century's greatest economic success story. Though the country has almost no natural resources and very little land, the country fashioned itself as a major manufacturing and financial center following its independence from Malaysia in 1965. As an independent nation, Singapore dealt with housing and unemployment crises early on that threatened to sink the small country. However, free market economic policies and heavy government investment in sectors like finance, electronic manufacturing, shipbuilding and banking at the country's modern founding helped to set up the nation for financial success. By the end of the 1990s, Singapore was a tremendously prosperous nation with strong links to international trade, and with one of Asia's highest GDPs. Singapore has strong social and health care programs, which keep poverty at a lower rate than in most developed nations.

Q. What does Singapore mean?

A. Singapore is the country's English language name, derived from the Malay name "Singapura," which is a derivative of the Sanskrit words sima (meaning lion) and pura (meaning city). Singapore can be said to mean "Lion City".

Q. How big is Singapore?

A. Singapore has a population of 5.6 million residents, which is more than twice the population of the city of Chicago; however, its area is only 277.6 square miles, slightly smaller than the United States city of Lexington, Kentucky.

Q. Who established the colony of Singapore?

A. The founder of Singapore as a colony was Englishman Sir Stamford Raffles who made it a British colony in 1819. The area remained under British rule (with the exception of a period of occupation by the Japanese during World War II) until 1963 when it merged with Malaysia two years before becoming an independent republic.

Q.  What type of government does Singapore have?

A. Singapore is structured as a democratic parliamentary government, with a president who is the head of state, the prime minister who is the head of government, and a cabinet of parliament members who exercise legislative power.

Q. Is Singapore safe?

A. Crime in Singapore is very low, but the laws there are strict. Littering or vandalism can carry a prison term, homosexuality remains illegal, and any and all drug offenses are punishable by death. The life expectancy in Singapore is the 3rd highest in the world, and violent crime is a rarity.

Q. When is durian season in Singapore?

A. Durian, a popular tree fruit with a spiky exterior and and a custard-like interior, is in season typically between June and August, with a smaller possibility of a harvest in early spring.

About the Author

Ashley Friedman graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 2003 with a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and Social Sciences. She has experience writing copy for the websites of creative professionals, and regularly contributes to several blogs covering popular culture, travel, food, and social action.