Cosmopolitan Singapore has a small but well-developed nightlife, with a clubbing scene that has earned international attention and a burgeoning arts scene that delights audiences nightly with world-class music and theater performances, insightful local and cultural productions, and gritty fringe shows. After a full day of sightseeing, make sure you save some energy for nightlife, which is a window into a different side of life in the Lion City.
As you plan your trip, log onto the Singapore Tourism Board's site, at www.visitsingapore.com, as well as online ticket sales portal SISTIC, at www.sistic.com.sg, to find out about worthwhile events that may coincide with your visit. A few of the most notable are the Mosaic Music Festival (www.mosaicmusicfestival.com), held for 2 weeks every March and featuring international and local musical performers from a range of genres; The Singapore Arts Festival (www.singaporeartsfest.com), every May into June, a month-long extravaganza of international performances at various venues city wide; BayBeats (www.baybeats.com.sg), an outdoor rock festival featuring the best local alternative bands, with international indie rock guests; and the Singapore Sun Festival (www.singaporesunfestival.com), held every October, packed with events that pay homage to the finer things in life, from cuisine to lifestyle and culture.
Performances can range from highbrow orchestral productions at the city's exquisite Esplanade-Theatres on the Bay concert hall and big-budget touring musical productions at Marina Bay Sands, to informal talks about local arts at home-grown cultural centers. The offerings presented in this section will give you a terrific starting point to explore those events that interest you most.
If partying is your thing, Singapore's nightclub scene has a diverse range of possibilities, from intimate music bars to seaside chill-out cafes or glamorous clubs. The venues in this section have been selected to provide something for everyone and every mood.
Information -- Major cultural festivals are publicized by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), who will give you complete details at their Visitors Centres or on their website (www.visitsingapore.com). I highly recommend browsing the SISTIC site at www.sistic.com.sg for a complete schedule of upcoming ticketed performances, from rock concerts to children's productions, local dramas to touring ballet companies. Another good resource is the "Life!" section of Friday's The Straits Times newspaper, which lists weekend and upcoming events. Where Singapore, a free magazine with local events listings, is available at STB kiosks as well. Another freebie, I-S Magazine, promotes Singapore's clubbing lifestyle.
Tickets -- Sistic (tel. 65/6348-5555; www.sistic.com.sg) handles bookings for almost all theater performances, concert dates, and special events. Their website offers a comprehensive events schedule, with online booking and ticket payment. (Tickets can be picked up at the venue prior to the performance.) Visit them online or at one of their centrally located kiosks at The Centrepoint, Esplanade-Theatres on the Bay, ION Orchard, Millenia Walk, Plaza Singapura, Raffles City Shopping Centre, VivoCity, or Wisma Atria.
Hours -- Theater and dance performances can begin anywhere between 7:30 and 9pm. Don't be late -- at Esplanade, they turn latecomers away. Many bars open in the late afternoon, a few as early as lunchtime. Disco and entertainment clubs usually open around 6pm but generally don't get lively until 10 or 11pm. Closing time for bars and clubs is at 1 or 2am on weekdays, 3 or 4am on weekends. A few have extended hours until 6am.
Drink Prices -- Because of the government's added tariff, alcoholic beverage prices are high everywhere, whether in a hotel bar or a neighborhood pub. "House pour" drinks (made with inexpensive brands of alcohol) are between S$12 and S$18 -- this is considered cheap. A glass of house wine will cost between S$14 and S$18, depending on whether it's a red or a white. A pint of local draft beer (Tiger, brewed in Singapore) is around S$14. Hotel establishments are, on average, the most expensive venues, while standalone pubs and cafes are better value. Almost every bar and club has a happy hour in the early evenings, and discounts can be up to 50% off for house pours and drafts. Most of the dance and entertainment clubs charge covers, but they will usually include one or more drinks. Many places offer ladies' nights -- usually Wednesdays -- when those of the feminine persuasion get in for free and sometimes even drink for free, too.
Dress Code -- Many clubs will require smart casual attire. Feel free to be trendy, but avoid dressing too casual or you may be turned away. Local clubbers dress up for a night on the town, usually in fashionista threads.
Safety -- You'll be fairly safe out during the wee hours in most parts of the city, and even a single woman alone has little to worry about. You can always get home safely in a taxi, which, fortunately, isn't too hard to find even late at night, with a couple of exceptions: When clubs close, there's usually a mob of revelers scrambling for cabs. Also, after midnight, a 50% surcharge is added to the fare, so it's become common for drivers to disappear from 11pm until midnight, when they can return to work and earn more in fares.
The Bar & Club Scene
Singapore has become pretty eclectic in its entertainment choices, so you'll find everything from live jazz to acid jazz, from polished cover bands to internationally acclaimed guest DJs. The nightlife is happening. Local celebrities and the young, wealthy, and beautiful are the heroes of the scene, and their quest for the "coolest" spot keeps the club scene on its toes.
Singapore's gay clubbing scene is alive and well but still very underground. Bars come and go, so to get the absolute latest happenings, you'll have to go beyond mainstream media. The Web has listings at www.utopia-asia.com, where you'll find the best updated information about the most recent parties and hangouts. For the latest info, I'd recommend one of the chat rooms suggested at the address above, and talk to the experts. Velvet Underground, part of the Zouk complex , welcomes a mixed clientele of gay, lesbian, and straight folk.