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Singapore Singapore

Singapore General Information

Land & Climate

Location

Region
Southeast Asia

Neighbours
An independent city-state on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore is comprised of one major island—Singapore Island—and more than 50 adjacent islets. The narrow Johore Strait separates Singapore Island from Malaysia on the north. On the south, Singapore Strait, an important shipping channel, separates the island from the Riau Islands of Indonesia.

Area
648 square kilometres (250 square miles)

Size Comparison
About one-ninth the size of Brunei
 

Topography

Low-lying Singapore has no prominent relief features. A central area of hills rises to a maximum elevation of 174 metres (571 feet). Coral reefs are found in some coastal areas, and many short streams drain the island.

 

Climate

Singapore has a wet tropical climate, with an average annual temperature of 27°C (81°F). The average annual rainfall is 2,400 millimetres (95 inches); the wettest months are November, December, and January.


 

The People


Population

      
About 76 per cent of the people in Singapore are Chinese, 15 per cent are Malay, and about 6 per cent are Indian. The population density is extremely high with more than 5,314 persons per square kilometre (1997) (13,763 persons per square mile). Singapore also has the distinction of being the most urban society in the world—the entire population lives in areas that are officially classed as urban. In the past, the multicultural makeup of the country has led to some racial conflicts. However, the government has been remarkably successful in promoting racial harmony and national unity.

Language


Singapore’s multiplicity of languages reflects its racial diversity. Malay, Chinese, Tamil, and English are all official languages. Malay is the national language, whilst English is the language of administration. All Singaporeans are expected to learn English, which is widely used in science, technology, commerce, and tourism. The Chinese speak a number of different dialects (Hokkien, Chaozhou, and Cantonese, amongst others), but Mandarin (also called Putonghua) is gradually replacing all other forms of Chinese. Most Singaporeans are bilingual or multilingual. The government encourages the use of all the languages, not just English, to maintain traditional cultures and values.
 

Religion


Singaporeans enjoy freedom of worship, although some religious groups have not been allowed to organize because they are considered anti-government. Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Judaism, as well as a number of smaller religions, are all practised in Singapore. About half the people, most of whom are Chinese, are either Buddhist or Taoist. Many actually practise a combination of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Nearly all the Malays are Muslim. Ten per cent of the people are Christian, most of them from the Chinese or European communities. About 5 per cent are Hindu. A significant minority, many of them Chinese, are either atheist or agnostic. All the religions coexist in harmony, with Buddhist and Hindu temples next to Muslim mosques and Christian churches. There are two synagogues.


Travel Info


Customs & Duties


Passports
Foreigners who would like to enter Singapore need a valid passport.

Visa
Generally tourists may stay 30 days in Singapore with a social visit pass. If you would like to extend your stay, apply at the Singapore Immigration Department. Visitors from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand don't need to have a visa.

Customs
Singapore forbids import of the following items: firearms, firecrackers, and explosives; cigarette lighters that look like firearms; endangered species and their by-products; chewing tobacco; obscene articles, publications, videos, and computer software; reproductions of copyrighted materials; treasonable materials; and toy coins and currency notes. There are no restrictions on the amount of real currency you can bring into Singapore. If you have any questions about what constitutes treasonable or obscene materials, direct inquiries to the Customs Duty office at Singapore Changi Airport, Terminal 1 (65 542 7058)
 

Currency, mail, telephone, etc


Currency
The currency used in Singapore is the Singapore dollar also known as the Sing dollar. In stores prices are marked as S$. Notes are issued in denominations of S$1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $500 and $1,000. The denominations of the coins are 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent and S$1. The Brunei currency is accepted as equal to the Singapore dollar because they have a currency interchangeability agreement. Other than the Singapore Dollar and Brunei currency, the US and Australian Dollars, Yen, Deutsch Mark and British Pound are also accepted in most major shopping centers and big departmental stores. All banks and hotels offer to exchange money but you will always get a better rate if you go to one of the many authorized moneychangers that can be found at any place. Establishments all around accept major cards like American Express, Diners Club, Japanese Credit Bank, Master Card and Visa in Singapore. Should any shop insist on adding a surcharge, contact the respective card company to report the errant shop-owner.

Mail
Postcards and aerograms to all destinations are S50 cent. All other information you can obtain at the post offices. Most hotel also have post services at the front counter.

Telecommunications
International Direct Dialing (IDD) or trunk calls may be dialed direct using area codes or assisted by an operator. The country code for Singapore is 65.

Business Hours
Banks: 9.30 am - 3.30 pm (Mon to Fri) 9 am - 11 am (Sat), Shopping complexes: 10 am - 8 pm (Mon to Sat)

Time
Singapore is 8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

Electrical Supply
Electric supply is on a 240-volt 50-cycle system.

What to Wear
As Singapore's climate is sunny almost year round, light clothing is ideal.

Etiquette
When staying in Singapore it is very important to drink plenty of water because of the heat and humidity. It is perfectly safe to drink water straight from the tap. Try to avoid drinks as tea, coffee, colas and alcohol because those drinks dehydrate the body.

Concerning the food there shouldn't be any problems 'cause all fruits and vegetables should be washed to rinse away any bacteria.

There are no specific vaccinations required for a visit to Singapore and there is no risk of malaria although people should be aware there is a risk of dengue fever. Mosquitoes also carry this virus and the symptoms are sudden fever and red spotty rashes on the body. When noticing these symptoms please go immediately to a doctor. The best protection is to wear insect repellent and wear long sleeved clothes.
 

Holidays

      
The national holidays include International New Year (1 January), Chinese New Year (date varies according to the Chinese lunar calendar, usually in February), Easter (including Good Friday), Labour Day (1 May), Vesak Day, Singapore National Day (9 August), and Christmas Day (25 December). Vesak Day, during the fifth lunar month, celebrates the birth, enlightenment, and attainment of nirvana of Buddha. It is the holiest of Buddhist holy days and is celebrated with candlelit processions around temples and the decoration of homes with paper lanterns. National Day commemorates Singapore’s gaining of independence in 1965. A dazzling parade flows through the streets, and traditional dances and fireworks are featured in the celebration. Hari Raya Puasa is a feast at the end of the Islamic month-long fast of Ramadan. This feast in Singapore is unique because other religions are welcome to join in a celebration that expresses tolerance and renewal. Hari Raya Haji is a holy day of prayer for Muslims who have performed the pilgrimage to Mecca (Makkah), which is one of the tenets of Islam. Animals are ritually sacrificed, and the meat is distributed to the needy at mosques and public stadiums. Deepavali (Festival of Lights) is important to Hindus and Sikhs and celebrates the triumph of light over darkness. Thousands of lights decorate shops and homes from mid-October to mid-November, and the festival is celebrated by all people in Singapore as a time of goodwill. Although the International New Year is observed, the Chinese New Year is a much more impressive celebration. Traditional activities engaged in at this time include making offerings to household gods, cleaning the house, settling personal debts, wearing new clothes, and enjoying special meals. The colour red, bright lights, and noise (including firecrackers), all thought to frighten away evil spirits, have become the hallmarks of this celebration. The Festival of the Nine Imperial Gods, in the first nine days of the ninth lunar month, derives from an ancient Chinese cleansing ritual. Elaborate symbolic rites are observed at this time; for example, to enter a temple, one must cross a specially built bridge, and it is believed that the evils of the year are shed as one crosses the bridge.