When I planned and packed for a seven day trip to Singapore I had little idea what to expect as it was my first trip overseas. While I had travelled interstate before over the years I had no experience with customs, immigration, foreign currency or just what to expect on a long flight. Luckily I had guidance from my cousin who came with me, though she did judge me for my lack of direction and sense of surroundings (geography was never my strong point) and for not thinking my luggage through more thoroughly (I missed a lot of little items like an eye mask for the plane, sunscreen, non prescription sunnies to go with my contact lenses, moisturiser and soap).
First impressions of the travel preparation: I loved the convenience of booking the hotel and flights online. That part was familiar and straight forward for me. I did notice that you get charged a fee for booking something in a foreign currency (at least I did with Commonwealth bank) which was the only difference with booking accommodation. The currency exchange was straight forward and painless too. I went with my bank as they had a no fee promotion going at the time but I could have easily gone with Travelex as they have plenty of locations around for currency pick up if you don’t want to organise it at the airport. All I had to do was go online and purchase the amount I wanted, choose a branch to pick it up from and wait 3 business days. Easy.
Check in, customs and immigration was fine, there was plenty of signage and the staff at Melbourne Airport were friendly and helpful. I probably should have paid closer attention to where everything was located but when you’re travelling with someone who knows what they’re doing it’s easy to just go with the flow and follow along in a bit of a daze. Something tells me it will take a lot of practice for me to feel confident and familiar with the airport layout and procedures.
First impressions of the flight to Singapore from Melbourne with Jetstar: Friendly staff, no delays and no cancellation. All a great start. We had the meal package added to our ticket which was a great idea. The coffee wasn’t fantastic but the tea was fine. The first 5 hours of the flight I felt went the slowest (it took about that long to get out of Australia which wasn’t very exciting).
First impressions of Singapore: The first thing I noticed about Singapore was the weather. Having left Melbourne Winter behind me, I welcomed the thirty degree heat. It is humid there but not sticky or heavy which makes sightseeing easier to cope with.
The trains are very good and due to the heavy fine for littering ($500) and chewing gum being prohibited the streets are quite clean. I couldn’t help but compare the train station and the train system in particular to what I was used to back home and I must say I was impressed. It really put Melbourne Metro train service to shame with its safety barriers, cleanliness and lack of graffiti and vandalism. Plus, everyone seemed to wait patiently.
After settling into the hotel (Ibis on Bencoolen) I noticed that they provided creamer but no milk and a combination of 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner but no soap. Luckily there was a fantastic 7 Eleven right next door which stocked both.
A lot of shops open after 10am or 11am but stay open until around 10pm or later which is a nice change from the usual 5pm closing times in Melbourne suburbs (with the exception of Thursday and Friday late night shopping til 9pm). We had plenty of time for a rest before venturing out for a look around and find some dinner. Ironically, after roaming around for something to eat and looking at a lot of places we ended up having dinner at the hotel the first night. The service was excellent. Oh, I should mention, when budgeting for food keep in mind some places charge a service fee and 7% GST onto the bill.
All in all Singapore left a good first impression. I had no disasters and no great expectations that were dashed. Singapore proved to be a good travel destination for an uncertain traveller like me.