Area Codes -- Singapore's country code is 65. Tiny Singapore has no regional area codes.
Business Hours -- Shopping centers are open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 9pm and stay open until later on some public holidays. Banks are open from 9:30am to 4pm Monday through Friday and from 9am to 12:30pm on Saturday. Restaurants open at lunchtime from around 11am to 2:30pm, and for dinner they reopen at around 6pm and take the last order sometime around 10pm. Government offices are open from 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday and from 9am to 1pm on Saturday. Post offices conduct business from 8:30am to 5pm on weekdays and from 8:30am to 1pm on Saturday. Some keep extended hours until 8pm.
Doctors -- All hotels have an English-speaking general practitioner on call.
Drinking Laws -- The legal age for purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages is 18; proof of age is rarely requested.
Electricity -- Standard electrical current is 220 volts AC (50 cycles). Local electrical outlets are made for plugs with three square prongs. Consult your concierge to see if your hotel has converters and plug adapters in-house for you to use. If you are using sensitive equipment, do not trust cheap voltage transformers. Nowadays, a lot of electrical equipment -- including laptop computers -- comes with built-in converters, so you can follow the manufacturer's directions for changing them over.
Embassies & Consulates -- Contacts for major embassies in Singapore are as follows: Australian High Commission, 25 Napier Rd. (tel. 65/6836-4100; www.singapore.embassy.gov.au); British High Commission, 100 Tanglin Road (tel. 65/6424-4200; http://ukinsingapore.fco.gov.uk); Canadian High Commission, One George St. #11-01 (tel. 65/6854-5900; www.singapore.gc.ca); and U.S. Embassy, 27 Napier Rd. (tel. 65/6476-9100; http://singapore.usembassy.gov).
Emergencies -- For police, dial tel. 999. For medical or fire emergencies, call tel. 995.
Hospitals -- If you require hospitalization, the centrally located Mount Elizabeth Hospital is near Orchard Road at 3 Mount Elizabeth (tel. 65/6737-2666); for accidents and emergencies, call (tel. 65/6731-2218). You can also try Singapore General Hospital, Outram Road (tel. 65/6222-3322); for accidents and emergencies, call (tel. 65/6321-4311).
Language -- Singapore's four official languages are Malay, Chinese (Mandarin dialect), Tamil, and English. Malay is the national language, while English is the language for government operations, law, and major financial transactions. Most Singaporeans are at least bilingual, with many speaking one or more dialects of Chinese, plus English and some Malay.
Legal Aid -- If you find yourself in trouble in Singapore, the first thing you should do is consult your home embassy or high commission. However, for serious offenses, do not expect much help. Singapore shows little leniency to foreigners who break local laws, and officials from your home country are oftentimes powerless to assist.
Mail -- Most hotels have mail services at the front counter. Singapore Post (www.singpost.com.sg) is very reliable and has centrally located offices that include: #B2-62 ION Orchard, 3 Orchard Turn (in Singapore, 4-digit hotline tel. 65/1605); Chinatown Point, 133 New Bridge Rd. #0241/42/43/44 (tel. 65/6538-7899); Change Alley, 16 Collyer Quay #0202 Hitachi Tower (tel. 65/6538-6899); and Suntec City Mall #03-01/03, 3 Temasek Blvd. (tel. 65/6332-0289). Plus, there are four branches at Changi International Airport.
The going rate for international airmail letters to North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand is S$1.10 for 20 grams, plus S35¢ for each additional 10 grams. Postcards and aerograms to all destinations are S50¢.
Your hotel will accept mail sent for you at its address.
Newspapers & Magazines -- Local English newspapers available are the International Herald Tribune, The Business Times, The Straits Times, Today, and USA Today International. The Asian Wall Street Journal has limited distribution in Singapore. Most of the major hotels carry it, though, so ask around and you can find one. I-S Magazine is a good resource for nightlife happenings. The STB Visitors' Centres carry a few free publications for travelers, including Where Singapore, This Week Singapore, and Singapore Business Visitor. Major bookstores and magazine shops sell a wide variety of international magazines.
Packing -- In the tropics, it's best to wear loose-fitting clothes that are made of natural materials. Expensive restaurants require "dress casual" wear, meaning collared shirts and long trousers for men, and slacks and blouses, skirts, or dresses for women. I recommend packing a light jacket or sweater, as many shopping malls, theaters, and restaurants are air-conditioned and are sometimes cold. For shoes, slip-ons are the easiest when touring temples and mosques, which require you to take them off at the door. An umbrella is necessary year-round. For more helpful information on packing for your trip, download our convenient Travel Tools app for your mobile device. Go to www.frommers.com/go/mobile/ and click on the Travel Tools icon.
Police -- For emergencies, call tel. 999. If you need to call the police headquarters, dial tel. 1800/255-0000.
Smoking -- It's against the law to smoke in public buses, elevators, theaters, cinemas, shopping centers, government offices, and taxi queues. In addition, all restaurants, hawker centers, bars, and nightclubs are smoke-free, with the exception of designated smoking areas. Establishments with outdoor seating can allocate 20% of this space for a smoking area. Nightclubs can have smoking rooms inside their premises, but this room cannot exceed 10% of the club's total floor space. It is not legal to bring any quantity of duty-free cigarettes into Singapore.
Taxes -- Many hotels and restaurants will advertise rates followed by "++." The first + is the goods and services tax (GST), which is levied at 7% of the purchase. The second + is a 10% gratuity charge. The GST Tourist Refund Scheme lets you recover the GST for purchases over S$100 in value.
Time -- Singapore Standard Time is 8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). International time differences will change during daylight saving or summer time. Basic time differences are: New York -13, Los Angeles -16, Montreal -13, Vancouver -16, London -8, Brisbane +3, Darwin +1, Melbourne +2, Sydney +3, and Auckland +4. For the current time in Singapore, call tel. 1711.
Tipping -- While tipping is not exactly discouraged at hotels, at bars, and in taxis, it is not the norm here. A gratuity is automatically added into guest checks, but servers rarely see any of it. While tipping is not expected, I typically leave the small bills behind in restaurants and bars, I tell the cabbie to "keep the change," and I always give bellhops at least S$2 per bag in all hotels. It is always appreciated.
Toilets -- Clean and safe public toilets can be found in all shopping malls, hotels, and public buildings. Smaller restaurants may not be up on their cleanliness, and beware of the "squatty potty," the Asian-style squat toilet, which you see in the more "local" places. Carry plenty of tissues with you, as they often run out. Very rarely will you still find a pay toilet around. If you do, it's usually S$.20 per entry, S$.30 if you'd like tissue.
Visitor Information -- The long arm of the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) reaches many overseas audiences through its branch offices, which will gladly provide brochures and booklets to help you plan your trip, and through its detailed website, at www.yoursingapore.com.
After you arrive in Singapore, several visitor centers are staffed to assist, beginning with information desks at the Arrival Halls in Terminals 1, 2, and 3 at Changi Airport, open daily from 6am to 2am. Other visitor centers are located in the city as follows: at the junction of Orchard and Cairnhill roads (cater-cornered from the Meritus Mandarin Hotel), open daily from 9:30am to 10:30pm; in Little India at the InnCrowd Backpackers' Hostel, at 73 Dunlop St., open daily from 10am to 10pm; and at Suntec Galleria, open from 10am to 6pm daily.
STB operates a 24/7 information hotline that is toll-free within Singapore, at tel. 800/736-2000. STB has up-to-date information, but if you need accurate information about travel timetables, I recommend you call airlines, ferry services, bus companies, or train stations directly.
Water -- Tap water in Singapore passes World Health Organization standards and is potable.