For the first time in my life, I’ve made a visa run. Extending my stay in the Philippines would have cost me 7000 pesos (about $160) but by leaving the country for a few days, I could reset the clock and get 30 days on entry at no cost. A round trip ticket to Singapore cost less than $160 so instead of spending two nights there after my time in the Philippines, I made the trip last week. The day I left Manila, I was honestly not sure whether I was more excited about seeing a new country or the knowledge that I’d return to the Philippines two days later. I wound up enjoying Singapore more than I expected given that it’s a city but that may have something to do with having eaten one great meal after another.

Countless people I met while traveling advised that two or three days is sufficient for the expensive nation of Singapore and, when traveling on a budget (albeit more of a “flashpacker” than “backpacker” one), I agree. I explored on foot as much as I could: taking in Little India, Kampong Glam, Gardens by the Bay, the CBD, the high-end shops of Orchard Road, and anywhere else my feet led me. I consumed as much Indian food as I could, took advantage of ladies’ night specials at rooftop bars (many thanks to folks I met in Laos who advised a Wednesday visit for just this reason), and reconnected with friends made in Laos and the Philippines.

Kampong Glam: Singapore’s Arab quarter
Merlion: because when I think of Singapore, I think of a swimming lion.









Some I’ve met who live in or grew up in Singapore describe it as boring. I can understand that: it’s a city. An expensive one with an excellent public transportation system, clean sidewalks, planned gardens and parks, and numerous cultural enclaves. But I wasn’t bored there as there are enough neighborhoods to explore to keep one busy for days. Although my budget is helped by only having stayed two nights, I would have liked a third as I only made it to one hawker center for food and I didn’t fit in all the bars I’d have liked to see. Nor did I make it to Sentosa Island or Fort Canning. And being back in the Philippines, I’m already craving the readily available and excellent Indian food.

Gardens by the Bay with the iconic Marina Bay Sands in the background
Gardens by the Bay with the iconic Marina Bay Sands in the background
Orchard Road is lined with high end shops and reminded me of Tokyo,
Orchard Road is lined with high end shops and reminded me of Tokyo.
Atop 1-Altitude, Singapore's highest bar.
Atop 1-Altitude, Singapore’s highest bar.









Atop the Marina Bay Sands.
Atop the Marina Bay Sands.

But Singapore is an easy transit hub, one I expect to pass through sooner or later. And when I do, I’ll give myself a few more days to explore. For now, I’m thrilled to be back in the Philippines, starting to explore the island of Palawan. What do you think: was a visa run a crazy thing to do? When I make it back to Singapore, what should I be sure to include?

8 thoughts on “A visa run to Singapore

  • February 4, 2015 at 8:56 am

    Good call on seeing a different country! We would have endulged in as much Indian food as possible too..

    • February 5, 2015 at 8:54 am

      Oh how I miss the Indian food already… I love the Philippines but the food is terrible compared to what’s on offer in Singapore!

  • February 4, 2015 at 10:03 am

    Another interesting report. I prefer the Philippines. Singapore was for me like a “golden cage”!

    • February 5, 2015 at 8:51 am

      I too prefer the Philippines but admit that Singapore was better than expected!

  • February 4, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    Our “Visa Run” was to Hong Kong and we timed it for Valentine’s Day. What is the definition of a “Flashpacker” or did you mean “FlaskPacker”?

    • February 5, 2015 at 9:09 am

      An exact definition is debated but the consensus seems to be that a flashpacker is a bit older, a bit more likely to stay in private rooms than dorms, and likely carrying more technology than a traditional backpacker. In other words, better off financially but still enjoying the lifestyle of traveling in a manner unlike being “on holiday.”

  • February 4, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    I will be waiting for your Palawan entry!

    • February 5, 2015 at 8:50 am

      As soon as I have strong enough WiFi to upload photos, I’ll start coverage of Palawan. It’s beautiful here!

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