Top 5 Things Not To Do In Singapore

I spent 3 good years of my life in Singapore. All those days of searching & tasting good food, thrill weekends of photo-journey adventures and wandering about the ‘lozenge-shaped’ island country made me learn so many things about Singapore which makes it so unique. It will always be a place close to my heart for it is there where I learnt the true taste of being a wanderluster, the true taste of independence. It is also there where I met my photography ‘gang’ who made my days in Singapore a more colorful & meaningful one. If you are planning for a trip there or are already there, here are some things which you should not be doing or contemplating to be doing. Just a little something from my experience & perspective which I hope will helps other travellers;

1. Do Not Break the Law

I hear you saying ‘yeah, of course, as though I can break laws in other places’ 🙂 I am sure you would have heard how strict the laws and the enforcement of law are especially in Singapore. In my opinion, one of the reason why this is the state in Singapore is because the Singapore society is to a high extent regulated by laws which criminalize many day-to-day activities which are deemed harmless in many other countries. Activities like flushing toilets, jaywalking, littering, selling of chewing gums, possessing pornography are a few of such activities. Activities involving drugs, firearms & weapons are of course, of a different nature and way serious offence. You wouldn’t want to spoil your trip or visit to the wonderful island country by getting involved in any of these. So in a summary, here are a few serious & common offence (*deemed correct at the time of me writing & publishing this, but please do check and verify the accuracy of the following with the relevant authorities in Singapore*):-

a) Littering – governed by Singapore’s Environmental Public Health Act (Cap. 95, 2002 Rev. Ed.), section 17(1). It basically prohibits   any act of littering, including spitting, in any public place. So please don’t litter or spit anywhere other than at its respective designated place.

b) Jaywalking – governed by Singapore’s Road Traffic (Pedestrian Crossings) Rules (Cap. 276, R 24). Jaywalkers gets punished harshly in Singapore. You can get up to 3 months in prison or a fine of S$2000. Beside being an offence that could cause you part ways with some valuable Sing Dollars, it’s a habit I have always found to be reckless and somewhat selfish. I have also heard of a few cases where jaywalkers were hit and got seriously injured and even died in some cases, when I was there. Value life. Don’t jaywalk!

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(*Photo taken from Wikipedia)

c)  Possessing pornography – governed by Singapore’s Penal Code, s. 292(a) (possessing any obscene book, pamphlet, paper, drawing, painting, representation or figure, or any other obscene object).

d) Selling of chewing gum – governed by Singapore’s Sale of Food (Prohibition of Chewing Gum) Regulations (Cap. 283, Rg. 2, 2004 Rev. Ed.). Not just the act of selling, if you are bringing a large amount of chewing gums into Singapore, you would most probably stopped and asked to surrender or give those gums away. You will most probably be allowed to keep a few for your own consumption. Nothing beyond that. So be mindful of how much you are bringing in.

e)  Flushing of toilet – governed by Singapore’s Environmental Public Health (Public Cleansing) Regulations (Cap. 95, Rg. 3, 2000 Rev. Ed.), rg. 16. This one is easy, treat public toilets like you do your own toilet. Of course you are not expected to wash it 😛 but you have to flush after you are done. Mind you, this is a statutory requirement under the Singapore law. You wouldn’t want to be slapped with a fine for being ‘dirty’ like that!

f)  Misusing drugs –  governed by Singapore’s Misuse of Drugs Act. My view, just stay away completely. Don’t do drugs. Why spoil your trip with it? Singapore’s laws on drugs is one of the strictest in the world. For eg, you will be presumed to be in possession of drugs if you are holding the keys to the premise where the drug is stored or kept. So, your ‘defence’ of I was merely holding on to a fellow travellers’ key, will be of no use. Be alert of your surroundings & stay away from drugs and places associated with it, as much as you can.

Singapore has both corporal punishment (canning) & capital punishment (hanging) as punishment for serious offences.

It is because of such strict laws & enforcement that Singapore is one of the world’s safest place. The crime rate is low and incidents of violent crimes are even lower. Throughout my 3 years there, I never had to worry about my safety or that of my belongings, but having said that, a little caution & care never hurts.

2. Don’t Do The Following in Singapore’s public transport.

Singapore has got one of the most comprehensive public transport in the world. Thanks to the island’s size and the efficiencies of the public transport authorities in Singapore, getting around in Singapore is an easy & pleasant task for many tourist & travellers. The last thing you would want to do is to interrupt the smooth running of this network (God forbid!) or make someone else’ trip an unpleasant one, in any way.

Here is the excerpt taken from Singapore’s SMRT website; http://www.smrt.com.sg/,  on what is prohibited in the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) network, which should equally apply to buses & cabs.

  • Pets or animals except guide dogs accompanied by persons with visual impairment
  • Dangerous goods such as flammable liquids or gases
  • Durians
  • Sewage, waste and any offensive matter
  • Shopping carts or trolleys
  • Bulky items larger than 81cm by 58cm by 30cm in size
  • Foldable bicycles larger than 114cm by 64cm by 36cm. For more information on best times to bring your foldable bicycles, click the website link.
  • Any article station manager deems unsuitable to be brought into the station or onboard the train

Be courteous and give away your seats to those more in need of the seats, especially when you are seating in the ‘reserved seats’. I’ve seen some really ‘ugly’ people pretending to sleep or not see when a senior citizen or pregnant lady boards the train/bus. Some occupy more than one seat as though their bag/stuff ‘paid’ for the ride as well. All these are common things not to be done in any place but there are sad people like these around & you would not want to be grouped with them in any circumstances.

More stricter rules apply for certain ‘dont’s’ where you will be slapped with some ‘handsome’ fines if you do. See picture below from inside the MRT.

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(*Photo taken from Wikipedia)

3. ‘Steal’ Someone’s Seat

I hear you saying ‘how do you even do that’. Well, in Singapore you can. Have you ever noticed pack(s) of tissue papers placed on a table but there’s no one around the table? Well, that’s what is commonly known as ‘chope’ or securing the place in Singapore to have your meals. Of course you don’t see this in fine dining restaurants. I am talking about most eating outlets especially food courts and even in fast food outlets sometimes. You are expected to acknowledge that the seat is taken and not to seat there. Sometimes, you can even find work passes (tags/cards) or umbrellas. I suppose this has been in practice for a long time now. It’s like everyone, locals and even some expats, have this unwritten understanding and commonly practice it. You want to try & see what happens? I bet you, your ‘self-reserved’ seat will still be there, waiting for you! Give it a try, Singapore is unique like that.

4. Jump Queue 

This is another ‘dont’s’ that’s common and goes without saying but why does it need special mention here? Because this is Singapore we are talking about. Singapore is a small island country with an estimated 5,399,200 population as of June 2013 with a density of 7,540/km2. So you can imagine the moving around. Yet, it remains a well managed island with easy access to everywhere. You won’t find a reason to complaint ‘I missed doing this or that’ because of the crowd. You will easily find long queues everywhere, be it in the food outlets or MRT, but the waiting time is fairly short, depending on where you are and what you are doing. So don’t do what you don’t want others doing to you. This applies to driving as well. Everybody hates a ‘smart’ a** who cuts queue. Oh yeah, talking about queues brought to me to another topic on this. Just because you see a long queue somewhere especially outside a food outlet or what the local says ‘makan’ place, don’t assume it has to be because of tasty or good food. It can simply be for reasons I just wrote about earlier; you just queue everywhere in Singapore 🙂 Famous ‘makan’ place are plenty in Singapore & you can get many useful guides on its whereabouts if you Google for it. I might write about it soon too 🙂

5. A List of Do Not’s  (so in actuality, my list is not really top 5, sorry, just a way of writing – this section contains a few minor things but those that I see as equally important to not do)

a) speak to all local Singaporeans in Malay language assuming they will know it. You know how we all think its cool and nice to learn a few local words and speak with the locals in their language? Or when you try so hard to speak in a local language with a translation book in hand? Well if you do that in Singapore, you might most probably be given the look 🙂 Not all Singaporeans can converse fluently in Malay.

b) assume all Chinese you see in Singapore as Singaporeans. Singapore is a well-known tourist spot and economy hub. You see foreign Chinese there everyday, be it workers, expats or tourist just like you. Or assume vice-versa. I am saying this because I’ve seen unpleasant & awkward situations people have been put in just because of assumptions like this. There’s no harm in starting your conversation with ‘hello, are you a local?’ or something along that line. Oh well, I am sure you get what I mean.

c) take cab to places with MRT/bus access. Why burn your cash unnecessarily? As I said earlier, Singapore’s bus & MRT service are very reliable and are linked to almost everywhere in Singapore. Unless you carry luggages or the place you are heading to does not have MRT or bus service, just stick to the MRTs & buses. Taxi drivers might hate me for saying this, but seen from a traveller’s view, they will agree with me.

d) walk into a religious place eg; mosques, Indian or Chinese temples, with shoes. Many such places have signs indicating this but still some tourist just walk past them. I don’t know why actually. Could it be fear of losing their footwear or because of plain ignorance?

e) be a thrill seeker that you are & go to certain places alone. Well, I say this not because of safety factor alone (which is not of that big a factor in Singapore) but for other reasons as well. For example, there are places that you can’t do or achieve much alone. Also, if you are a believer of those super-natural elements or in other words, you believe in ghosts (oh yeah, I’m a believer), don’t risk it. Singaporeans are generally horror stories lovers and you can easily get the information on some places believed to be haunted in Singapore if you Google for it. Please stay away from these places. Why ruin your trip? Oh but of course if you are one of those brave paranormal activities investigators, please don’t let me stop you (as though I can lol!). Let me end this post by why I say this in particular. I remember clearly the day I decided to explore Ubin Island alone. I took the bus to Changi Village Terminal. I then took the bum boat to Ubin Island by paying just S$2. It was only a 10 minutes ride. I then decided to walk as I was with my camera and didn’t want to cycle pass any possible photography subject. I remember one moment being surrounded by groups after groups of tourist and locals who were there for cycle rides and for sight-seeing just like me, and then the very ‘next moment’, there was I standing alone staring at this really odd and scary tree. I had goosebumps all over and I remember how I was unable to turn away or look away for a few seconds. I am usually not easily scared like that, which explains why I went exploring alone in the first place, but this particular place, the tree, to be specific, spooked the hell outta me. I had to turn back and cut short my trip. So that’s why I am saying folks, be mindful of which place you choose to travel alone to. Ubin Island, btw, is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to in Singapore. I did after all see most of it before the tree ‘stopped’ me.

Actually, I think I will follow up soon with pictures and some write-ups of the places I travelled alone in Singapore, including Ubin Island. For now, I hope you keep in mind the ‘dont’s’ above & enjoy your trip & stay in the mesmerising Singapore.

I bid my fond adieu to you with my picture of THE Tree that spooked me. Sorry this is all that I could snap of the tree but you gotta be proud of me coz even under that ‘stressful spooky dead or alive situation’ (just being drama) I managed to take this!

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