Whether it’s being able to get easy and reliable online access, make international phone calls at an affordable rate, or read a range of local and international publications in English, there’s never any reason to feel out of touch with home, or the rest of the planet, when you’re living in Singapore. The standards of telecommunications and media access the island are equal to any leading international city, and so getting, and staying, connected is a pretty straightforward business.
Singapore uses the GSM system which means that your mobile phone and SIM card from home should be compatible, assuming of course that your home provider has not ‘locked’ your phone (it is worth checking this before you leave). It’s also advisable to check that your phone will operate on the GSM 900 and 1800 frequency bands that are used in Singapore; most do, but if not, you may have to consider purchasing another phone once you arrive.
Singtel, Starhub and M1 provide mobile phone services and the coverage all over the island is excellent. All three companies offer both pre- and post-paid packages.
Pre-paid SIMS in a wide range of denominations can be purchased all over Singapore, including at convenience stores, and can be topped up almost anywhere, including iNets kiosks, SAM kiosks, some ATMs, AXS stations and online.
If you opt for a post-paid SIM card, you can apply to purchase a plan at a multitude of phone retail outlets or, perhaps more conveniently, online. There are a huge range of different packages available, designed to suit every sort of usage need:
In Singapore, like most Asian countries, numbers are viewed as propitious, and so it’s possible to choose your own mobile number from a list (a choice of premium numbers are available for a fee). If you change providers, your number goes with you.
SingTel and Starhub provide landline services to Singapore householders, and applications to have a line installed can be made over the phone (Starhub 1609, Sing Tel 1633) or online. You will need to pay a deposit and set-up fee, and provide some documentation (usually your passport); installation will then take 6-7 working days.
Both companies have special IDD rates, but many expats choose to use specialist IDD service providers to make phone calls back home, as their international rates are extraordinarily cheap.
Public phones are in plentiful (albeit diminishing) supply all over Singapore. Coins, pre-paid phone cards and credit cards can be used. Most are configured for local calls only, but there are call boxes where it’s possible to make international calls.
Singapore is one of the world’s most wired-up and technologically savvy countries, with about 85% of Singaporean households having access to broadband internet. The government here understands better than most the importance of connectivity to Singaporean citizens and commerce, and so has been constantly developing its infrastructure through the iN2015 Masterplan. The aims of this are for Singapore to become the global leader in terms of harnessing information technology to add value to the economy, and to become the most connected and IT-literate country in the world.
What all of this means for the consumer is that ultra-fast broadband is available at a reasonable price and that Wi-Fi and 3G coverage throughout Singapore mean that getting connected is never an issue.
SingNet, StarHub and M1 are the three major internet service providers (ISPs), and the competition between them is fierce, resulting in some very good deals for consumers. These major players offer packages that usually involve a 12- or 24-month contract, but if you’re looking for a more flexible option, MyRepublic and ViewQwest have monthly offers, with no contract required.
All of the terrestrial television stations in Singapore are operated by MediaCorp TV, a government company, and so there is fairly strict regulation with regards to content, especially where sex and violence are concerned. There are seven channels, broadcasting in the four official languages, although it’s also possible in some places to receive channels from Malaysia and Indonesia.
Cable TV is available through the sole provider StarHubTV (about 80% of Singapore homes are connected), meaning you can access international channels such as Discovery Channel, National Geographic, Nickelodeon, Star Sports, BBC, Bloomberg and CNN. There is also an IPTV service offered through SingTel, called mioTV, which provides over 40 different channels as well as programmes on demand, and can also be watched on your mobile or tablet. The private ownership of satellite dishes is banned.
There are over 60 SingPost post offices throughout Singapore, as well as hundreds of other outlets and 250 self-automated machines (SAMs). As well as regular postal services, post offices also offer bill paying and courier facilities.
The opening hours vary, but in most neighbourhoods you’ll find a late opening post office that has extended hours.
All of the major international courier companies have offices in Singapore. Sending parcels and packages overseas is therefore fairly convenient, although it’s always important to check customs regulations when sending goods abroad.
There are also a large number of local courier companies who specialise in delivering small packages and documents within Singapore, and most of these allow you to arrange collection and delivery online, as well as to track the progress of your delivery.
Both print and online media are subject to fairly strict government control in Singapore and the ruling party continues to maintain some rigid rules about what can and can’t be seen. This relates to both news and entertainment. Singapore ranked 154 in the world in the 2016 World Press Freedom Index.
In May 2013, the government moved to regulate internet news sites, and so a number of leading websites that regularly report on Singapore are now subject to new rules. The Media Development Authority, responsible for the control of media on the island, require such sites to apply for individual licences which are renewed annually. In effect, this means the government can order news sites to take down material to which it objects within 24 hours, or face sanctions. The grounds for government objection may relate to morality, security, public interest or social harmony. At present, these new laws relate to locally-controlled media outlets, but may in the future extend to overseas-based sites that report on Singapore. In addition, Singapore-operated news organisations are not permitted to receive foreign funding; the rationale behind this is to ensure that Singapore politics remain a matter for Singaporeans alone.
The Straits Times is Singapore’s most widely-read English-language newspaper, and is available in both print and online editions (www.straitstimes.com). It’s a serious broadsheet that offers thorough analyses of both local and international events (albeit through the prism of Singapore Press Holdings, a company closely linked to the government). Today is a free English-language newspaper that is available throughout the city, and while perhaps lacking the gravitas of the Straits Times, it is nevertheless popular and provides a good insight into local happenings. You can find it online too at www.todayonline.com.
There is no shortage of international newspapers available in Singapore, and most newsstands in expat neighbourhoods will be well-stocked with dailies, Sunday papers and leading periodicals from around the world. Getting hold of a copy of the Guardian, Paris Match, the Economist or Time magazine is never a problem, with most leading titles also publishing Asia-centric versions of their best-sellers.
The magazine scene in Singapore is lively and vibrant, with international titles, locally-produced versions of global brands, and local magazines focussing on Singapore abounding. There are magazines catering for all tastes and age groups, focussing on every aspect of Singaporean life.
Catalog Magazine is a popular Singapore title for fashionistas, with an emphasis on shopping and style. Featuring high-quality photography, there is an online edition too. Family & Life is a free magazine about the trials and tribulations of parenthood, and has good tips and listings for family days out and activities in the city. Time Out Singapore is the city’s leading listings and review magazine, also available in an online edition, and is the first stop for many visitors and new residents alike looking for entertainment. Singapore Business Review focuses on the city’s business environment and is a good source of information for upcoming conferences and business events. 8 Days is for those who thrive on celebrity gossip and showbiz news, or are looking for reviews of the latest films, music and hit TV shows.
In addition to these locally-produced titles, you’ll also find Singapore versions of a whole range of international lifestyle magazines, adapted for the local market. Some of the titles available include: Elle Singapore, Singapore FHM, Cleo Singapore, Harper’s Bazaar Singapore and Singapore Tatler.
The online publishing world is, if anything, even more diverse, with online versions of popular print titles as well as many titles designed and created for the internet marketplace. Most interests are catered for, with both popular culture and serious news getting good coverage:
is.asia-city.com – I-S, a site for news, reviews, fashion and travel
www.tnp.sg – The New Paper, a tabloid style online newspaper providing a mix of news and human interest stories
www.runsociety.com – Run Singapore, a journal for joggers and runners
Singapore has a thriving blog culture, with a bevy of regular writers on politics, international affairs, food, drink, music, art and culture, as well as the sort of random ramblings that are the essence of the blogosphere. However, as a form of both citizen journalism and social commentary, the blog is quite highly regarded in Singapore, and as a consequence it is possible to uncover much insightful thinking combined with some lively and engaging writing. There are also a number of specialist blogs that are written by and for expats that are useful sources of information for those about to move to the city.
www.expatsblog.com/blogs/singapore – a site listing blogs written by expats, featuring bloggers from all over the world making a new life in Singapore
sgblogawards.omy.sg – the site of the Singapore Blog Awards, and so it provides a useful cross-section of the best of what is available online
www.thesmartlocal.com/read/most-popular-bloggers-in-singapore – a site that discusses the nature of blogging in Singapore, and provides a list of popular blogsites
www.expat-blog.com/en/directory/asia/singapore – a further collection of popular expat blogs
ieatishootipost.sg – one of Singapore’s most well-established and well-respected food blogs, with an emphasis on finding the best the city’s hawker centres have to offer
There is an abundance of downloadable apps for both smartphones and tablets available. These vary in quality and usefulness, but the best ones can be a boon when you need information on the move.
My Transport SG (Apple and Android)
The best travel app available, that gives a huge array of information on getting around Singapore, with features such as: real-time bus arrival information; real-time parking lot availability; live expressway traffic images; detailed maps of cycling paths; and a whole lot more.
ComfortDelGro Taxi Booking (Apple and Android)
A great app for booking a cab, it will store your favourite locations, keep a record of your bookings, and update you on booking status so that you know how far away your taxi is.
iChangi Airport (Apple, Android, Blackberry and Windows)
A comprehensive app that is especially useful if business means that you’re in and out of Changi quite often. The best features include being able to enter your flight information and receive live push updates and being able to find out when a flight is expected to land.
Singapore Rail Map Lite (Apple)
A versatile, interactive travel map that includes a route planner feature, a index of stations, overviews of all MRT and LRT lines, GPS support, and Apple Maps integration. All journeys routes include how long it will take, and the day/night versions of the maps are a nice touch.
My SG Bus (Apple)
Produced by a local developer, this intuitive app enables you to search for your bus’ arrival time and shows which buses serve which stops, while the iFav system lets you retain the routes you use frequently. A clear and easy-to-read layout makes this a highly practical app.
Moobitaxi (Apple, Android and Windows)
A cab booking app that connects to multiple cab companies, taxis can be booked simply with just two taps, and by checking in you immediately make your location known to any taxi driver nearby. You get real-time updates on your booking status, as well as a map showing all nearby taxi stands.
Easi Book (Apple, Android and Windows)
An app for booking international bus journeys, perfect for if you want to travel to Malaysia. All bus companies are included, and you can choose your precise seat. No paper ticket is issued—instead, you simply show your booking record on your mobile or tablet and you’re good to go.
HungryGoWhere (Apple and Android)
You can search for restaurants by cuisine, price, location, or according to the occasion. The information is useful and the images well presented, and you can use the app to makes reservations, receiving a notification to remind you about your booking. This is certainly one of Singapore’s best foodie apps.
McDelivery (Apple and Android)
It’s been a long day, the kids are tired, and you want some good old fashioned junk food, but don’t have the energy to go out. Never fear, the McDelivery app means that McDonald’s will deliver to your door, without you having to lift a finger.
Singapore Post (Apple and Android)
An extremely practical and useful app, this allows you to track the delivery of registered and courier items, gives post office, SAM and posting box locations, enables you to calculate postage costs, and to find out the postcodes of specific locations.
The Straits Times (Apple and Android)
One of the best news and information apps, that gives you a number of options as to how you want to read articles, as well as whether you want to focus on local or international news. You can enter key words so that you receive notifications when these topics are published.
Resort World Sentosa (Apple and Android)
A great family app for trips out to Sentosa that helps you find your way around Resort World with a GPS-activated map. You’ll also find show and ride waiting times, and the Photo Booth feature allows you to post fun photos easily on Facebook and Twitter.
Walk Singapore: Bras Basah. Bugis (Apple and Android)
A great guided walking route app focussed on the arts and cultural precinct of Bras Basah and Bugis. Dedicated to museums, national monuments and other places of cultural significance, this is an informative app that helps you to find some of Singapore’s less flashy locations.
Singapore Maps and Walks (Apple and Android)
Available in both a Lite (i.e., free) and full version, this app gives you a range of themed walking tours to follow (usually around 2 hours in length and showing you about 10 sites), as well as enabling you to find street names and restaurant locations. The tour route maps in the full version also include turn-by-turn directions.