A Guide to Singapore and Southeast Asia

Hello everyone! Well, this marks my final post for SDSU: Be International! For this one, I am going to provide a brief guide to Singapore and several other nations that I traveled to while in Southeast Asia.

Singapore: This small nation is an ideal place to study abroad. Here are some of the pros of studying or traveling there:

  • Amazing public transportation gets you anywhere you want to go.
  • People are respectful and follows the rules quite rigorously.
  • It has cheap, diverse, and delicious food (Hawker centers).
  • It’s in close proximity to other nations.
  • Everyone speaks English (the Singlish accent is unique).
  • “Lah” and “makan”are the two most important words to know in Singapore. “Lah” is used to add emphasis and “makan” basically means to eat food. Example: “I am so hungry lah, makan?”
  • It’s the place where western and eastern cultures meet.
  • There’s shopping like you have never known.

There are also a few possible cons:

  • It’s a small country.
  • Alcohol is very expensive.
  • The weather is humid all the time and cloudy and random thunder storms occur often.
  • There are no napkins at restaurants or hawker centers
  • “The Haze” fills the air. This is the result of fires from Indonesia and can be irritating. It could have an effect on you while you’re there depending on the time of year.

Things to do or try:

  • Buy Tiger Balm. It is an ointment that basically does everything from healing mosquito bites to clearing up congested noses to helping with aches.
  • Visit Marina Bay Sands observation deck and/or infinity pool.
  • Check out Gardens by the Bay and Supertree bar.
  • Experience the Singapore Flyer, the worlds largest observation wheel.
  • See the iconic Merlion statue.
  • Wander the Central Business District and Chinatown
  • Boat and Clarke Quay – do the river cruise.
  • Drink a Singapore Sling.
  • Go to one of the rooftop bars, like Altitude.
  • Visit Sentosa Island.
  • Go on a nature trek at the Southern Ridges, Macritchie Reservoir, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve or the Green Corridor track.
  • Attend the Singapore Grand Prix Formula 1 race.
  • Try some local food delights. Some of the best dishes are chicken rice, laksa, kopi, kaya toast, fish head curry, chili crab, murtabak and roti prata bread.
  • Visit nearby islands like Palau Ubin or the Southern Islands.
  • Go to an ancient amusement park called Haw Par Villa.
  • Go on a tour at Tiger Brewery
  • Visit the trendy area of Arab Street and Haji Lane. Go to the Selfie Cafe to drink a coffee with your picture on it

unnamedWith regard to the rest of Southeast Asia, I was lucky enough to visit Malaysia, Laos, Thailand and Indonesia. Here are some pointers to help you visit these locations:

  • Learn how to barter and try to enjoy it! Bartering is very common all around Southeast Asia and is a great way to get some amazing bargains.
  • Plan ahead with a general idea of what you want to do, but do not lock every single aspect of your trip down. It is better to be flexible and not have to stress about sticking to a set schedule. There were times when I landed in a new location and had not even booked a place to stay yet. This allowed me to ask around about the best places to stay and not be stuck with a bad hotel.
  • Be prepared for locals constantly asking you if you want a service or to buy something. They are all competing to earn your money, but try not to get aggravated by it.
  • Tuk-Tuks are an awesome means of transportation, but be careful using them in Thailand because they may try to rip you off. The ones in Laos are awesome and were very reliable.
  • Laos is a backpacker’s dream. If you go to Southeast Asia be sure to visit Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng.
  • Bali is paradise and you could spend an eternity there. But also visit some of the small islands near Bali to experience true paradise without all the crowds.
  • At no point did I ever feel like I was in danger, but always be wary. People are generally very kind in this part of the world, but you should always be prepared for worst case scenarios.
  • Bring more than enough medicine and supplies. There is a very good chance you will get sick at least once. I was fortunate enough to have brought everything I needed to help me when I got sick. Go to a travel doctor to be fully prepared.

Things to buy for your trip:

  • A collapsible travel canteen.
  • A micro fiber and quick dry towel.
  • A swiss army knife.
  • A mid-size travelers backpack (mine was 40 liters and was perfect).
  • Good headphones that can withstand sweat and water.
  • A journal.
  • An umbrella or light rain coat. It is very humid, so wearing a rain coat might not be comfortable.
  • A Spotify Premium account. With this, you can upload your favorite music and play it while offline so you will not need to waste data on music.
  • A GoPro or action camera.

Well, that about sums up all of my tips for anyone traveling to Singapore and Southeast Asia. It has been a pleasure posting for the SDSU Be International blog and I look forward to reading all of the future posts by Aztecs Abroad.

Remember to always stay stoked and to always stay positive!


Garrett HeinGarrett Hein is earning a bachelor’s degree in international security and conflict resolution at San Diego State University. He is blogging from Singapore this fall.

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