Southeast Asia is one of the trendiest spots for travel now that the world’s borders have reopened. Famous for its gorgeous beaches, dense tropical forests, and delectable cuisine, the region is back to drawing in millions of Western tourists.
The main downside, however, is that entry restrictions remain quite restrictive, and we’re not talking about health-related regulations.
A majority of countries in the subcontinent still require Americans to pay for a visa upon arrival, and while they are quite easy to obtain, the long lines at the border and filling out of forms can be quite a hassle.
On top of that, some countries remain quite underdeveloped, and the poor availability of services and low urban safety indicators may discourage risk-averse visitors from taking the trip in the first place.
Luckily, there is one Southeast Asian nation Americans can not only enter visa-free but where security is tight and infrastructure comparable, if not better, than the Western World’s:
Singapore Is Safe And Easy To Visit
The smallest in Southeast Asia, and one of the smallest in the world, Singapore is one of the safest and easiest countries to explore in the region.
This is largely due to its friendly visa policies and high development index. Unlike some of its neighbors, which include Vietnam and Indonesia, it does not require Americans to apply for an eVisa, or a visa on arrival.
U.S. citizens – and, in fact, a majority of Westerners – can simply board a Singapore-bound flight with no requirement other than carrying a valid passport.
While they may be expected to present an outbound or return ticket upon arrival, which must be redeemed within 30 days following entry, they are not subject to burdensome visa applications nor excessive scrutiny at the border.
On top of that, Singapore is an incredibly accessible destination for North Americans and perhaps the gateway to Southeast Asia, as Changi Airport, its international airport, is a major global hub hosting numerous daily flights from the U.S.
From the U.S., nonstop flights to Singapore are available when booked through full-service Singapore Airlines, from Houston-Intercontinental, Los Angeles, Newark, New York’s JFK, San Francisco, and Seattle/Tacoma, starting from US$841 one-way.
Expect Less Cultural Shocks
Other than great connectivity, as we have covered already in our recent article on Malaysia, Singapore’s closest neighbor and the second best-developed country in the vicinity, kicking off your Southeast Asia travels with ‘safer’ options may be your best bet at avoiding huge cultural shocks.
The subcontinent is infamously known for its diverging etiquette, chaotic traffic, the less-than-stellar amenities of its three-star hotels, particularly in lesser-explored regions where you can never rule out power outages, or a broken AC in a scorching 100-degree heat, and the unfamiliar street food.
Reports of travelers who fall ill to food poisoning are becoming increasingly common, particularly on social media, and it is unlikely Southeast Asian drivers will start abiding by traffic laws anytime soon. Interestingly, Singapore exists in a bubble of its own, despite being firmly planted in the area.
Unlike the poorest members in the family, it enjoys high rates of development, and the urban infrastructure, and safety parameters, may be years ahead of America’s own, not to mention the fact that a large percentage of the population speaks English fluently, facilitating communication.
English is, after all, one of Singapore’s official languages, and Singapore is considered by U.S. authorities to be one of the safest tourist destinations.
It is just as safe as Iceland, Finland, or any other country in their Level 1 listing.
A city-state occupying a small island off the coast of Malaysia, with a population of just over 5 million, Singapore is a highly functional sovereign state boasting low rates of crime, a futuristic skyline, and excellent levels of urban mobility (you can get anywhere in no time taking the train or city buses).
The Best Airport For Layovers
From the moment you arrive at Singapore Airport, you will be mesmerized by the tiny country’s surprisingly wide array of attractions.
Often described as the best airport for layovers, it has a multitude of entertainment and relaxation options, including an indoor forest with a rain vortex, a rooftop pool with adjacent jaccuzi and spas, and a cinema.
Recently, the airport went as far as launching free city tours for passengers on a long layover, as long as they fulfill all of the below criteria:
- They must be transiting or transferring passenger at Changi Airport
- The layover period must be longer than 5.5 hours but shorter than 24 (it cannot exceed a day)
- They must register upon arrival within the transit area
- They must present their boarding passes, a valid passport, an entry visa (if required), or alternatively an entry stamp issued by Singaporean authorities, and tour booking confirmation
Arriving at the city proper, you will be mesmerized by the multiculturalism – there are over 10 ethnic groups in Singapore – and incredible contrast between native Southeast Asian architecture, British colonial monuments, and towering, gravity-defying skyscrapers.
Whether it’s a night stroll around the charming Chinatown district, where some of the best street food can be found, or a visit to the landmark Marina Bay Sands, a trio of identical hotel towers connected at the top by a 1-hectare observation deck resting atop the buildings, Singapore will blow your mind.
Low Food Poisoning Rates
When it comes to food poisoning rates, which tend to be dangerously high in other Southeast Asian nations, and a major concern for American visitors, Singapore has strict food regulations, commonly adhered to by all food providers, from independently-run food trucks in Chinatown backstreets to upscale, Michelin-certified restaurants.
According to data shared by the Singapore Food Agency, the country had had ‘no more than 26 food-borne illness cases’ per 100,000 people annually in the three preceding years.
In comparison, 3,147 individuals were hospitalized over food poisoning in Vietnam between January and December 2022, resulting in 22 deaths.
In Indonesia, where a majority of infections originate in catering services, as reported by the World Health Organization, thousands of tourists are affected every year.
Finally, you should expect the same level of comfort or even greater luxury than you experience in well-developed Western destinations during your Singapore vacation.
It is, after all, one of the most expensive city breaks, up there with New York, and even hostels and other budget accommodations are quite well-equipped (and costly).
Overnights in Asia’s popular capsule hotels will cost you US$27 per night on Booking.com, while more luxurious, five-star properties, such as the Sheraton Towers or Royal Plaza Scotts, have nightly rates starting at US$244 and US$202 for August dates, respectively.
Singapore is in the midst of a ‘luxury boom‘, and as Jonathan Finnigan, director of Cher and the Loneliest Elephant has stated in a Hollywood Reporter interview, it is ‘Asia for beginners’, proving yet again there is nowhere better to start exploring the region than the bustling city-state.
‘Asia For Beginners’
According to Finnigan, it is ‘safe’, ‘so organized’, ‘English is the national language’, and ‘everything works’, and the number of attractions keeps increasing, with 2023 set to be the year when 190-room ultra-luxurious Singapore Edition Hotel is expected to open, as well as Artyzen Singapore.
For 2024, further openings include The Standard, Singapore, and the Raffles Sentosa Resort & Spa, on the resort island of Sentosa, off the Singaporean mainland.
The latter will be the country’s first all-villa property, featuring as many as 62 private pool villas.
U.S. and Canadian passport holders can stay in Singapore as tourists for up to 30 days, more than enough time to explore the city extensively and its diverse offer.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com