EZ-Link vs Standard Ticket vs Tourist Pass
- The Tourist Pass should be considered only if traveling to several places (exclude Sentosa) everyday for a number of consecutive days. I suspect this is not applicable for most tourists. Note that it does not include Sentosa Express.
- For those who will take the bus, or plan to visit Singapore more than once within 5 years, or is willing to pay SGD5 for convenience, consider the EZ-Link stored value card. The only downside is that it incurs a non-refundable SGD5 cost, and expires in 5 years. With EZ-Link the MRT trips have a slight discount. Unlike the Tourist Pass, you can use EZ-Link to ride Sentosa Express.
- For me, I just use the Standard Ticket to avoid paying the SGD5. The Standard Ticket can be used for 6 times – to reuse a ticket place it on the card sensor on a ticket machine, choose Add Trip on the screen, then insert coins. Obviously this is not convenient, however. There are also very few ticket machines, so prepare to queue up.
Tourist Attraction Tickets
For almost all of the tourist attractions, discount tickets can be purchased from travel agencies. Taiwanese bloggers unanimously purchase them from Skyline Travel in Chinatown. I compared its prices against other online sites such as klook. I found that the former is always cheaper than the regular prices of the latter. However, with an additional promo code there is a chance of enjoying lower prices from the latter. I still chose the former, even if going to the travel agency in person implies additional travel costs and time, because most of the tickets they sell are open date, whereas online purchases tend to require fixed dates.
Gardens by the Bay
The garden is free, but the observatories require entrance tickets. I enjoyed the Cloud Forest observatory. I went to the Flower Dome observatory at night – but there is a severe lack of lighting, so I couldn’t see the flowers clearly on a large scale, which is disappointing. Normally it should not take more than 1 hour for each of these observatories.
The OCBC Skyway costs extra, and merely provides a better view of the area. Visitors are not supposed to stay there for more than 15 minutes. Note that the OCBC Skyway is unrelated to the cloud / treetop walk of Cloud Forest – the latter is included as part of the entrance fee to the Cloud Forest.
Do not miss the free show at Supertree Grove at night.
Marina Bay Sands Light and Water Show
With proper scheduling one could watch the free Supertree Grove show, then walk to the nearby Marina Bay Sands to watch the free light and water show at night, and have dinner there. Although the actual walk should be about 15 minutes, more time should be allocated because of the crowd, and if you are not familiar with the correct path.
Normally one may take MRT + Bus 138 to go to Night Safari. As an alternative, SAex is a much more comfortable option, at a little more cost (SGD11 for a round trip at the time of this post). However, I’ve read more than one report of the SAex bus not showing up at their particular hotel, so I think it’s much safer to wait at the earliest stops in their schedule, and allows for a much greater chance of having a seat.
There is a 5:30pm bus and a 6:30pm bus – since the bus toke a little more than an hour to get there, and one should arrive at Night Safari before 7:15pm, one must take the 5:30pm bus, not the 6:30pm bus as it is too late. There is no need to book or pay beforehand, just wait for the SAex bus and get on it. Payment is collected by a conductor when you arrive at Night Safari. The conductor also sells the Night Safari tickets at SGD5 off the regular price – which is still much higher than those from travel agencies.
After arriving at Night Safari at 6:40pm, check the return times of the bus from the SAex counter. Then go to the Night Safari ticket counter and change the e-ticket purchased from any travel agency into an actual ticket. I went there on a Sunday because I had no other choice. Even though it was not supposed to be a crowded day (the official calendar only marks Friday and Saturday as crowded days), by the time I get there I see a sign of 7:15pm entry time slot being full. Luckily I was still given a 7:15pm ticket. If you see a long queue at the entrance, you should queue up there asap. Note: the tickets sold by travel agencies default to enter only after 9:15pm, and requires extra SGD5 for 7:15pm entry – as you will see below, entering at 7:15pm is a must. It makes no sense to enter at 9:15pm, as the last SAex bus leaves at 11pm.
Visiting a zoo at night is a unique experience. In spite of the age of this attraction, it is still very crowded. Most of the blogs I read said to queue up for the tram right after entering the zoo, then come back for the 8:30pm show. This did not work for me – the 8:30pm show was full when my tram ride finished at about 8:15pm. So I went on to the walking trails, which normally takes 80 minutes. I came back at 9:28pm and find that the 9:30pm show was full, again, and this was the last show of the day (for a day that is not marked to be crowded). Based on this experience, I would recommend queuing for the 7:30pm show right after entering the zoo, and get on the tram only after watching the show.
In my case, the return SAex bus at 10:20pm was almost full at 10:07pm, so it actually departed at 10:10pm. I would recommend people report to the SAex counter at least 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time. I believe the return stops are different from the arrival bus schedule, and are not shown on their web site, so you will have to confirm with the counter staff to learn the appropriate stop for you.
The best way to get to Sentosa is Sentosa Express from VivoCity L3 at HarbourFront MRT. Note that only the trip from VivoCity to Waterfront station costs money. Within the Sentosa island it is free, as is going from Waterfront station to VivoCity. To pay even less it’s possible to walk there but I have not tried it.
The alternative way is to take the cable car from HarbourFront. This is expensive even with the discount tickets from travel agencies. It takes the longest time. The cable car station is actually not close to Sentosa Express station at VivoCity – so it takes an even longer time to find the station. It is not the start of the line, so I had to queue up and wait for multiple cable cars before I could get on one, especially with people already in the cable cars refusing to share their ride, despite the regulations. It is very important to note that the cable car does not stop anywhere close to Universal Studios, so it is definitely the wrong transportation for a day in Universal Studios.
Since Universal Studios take a full day, to visit the other attractions it will require another day or half. If you buy those travel agencies packages with Universal Studios plus another attraction, make sure both are open date or are scheduled on different dates.
I purchased the Fun Pass 5 ticket that covers any 5 low-price attractions. However, there are two problems with Fun Pass. Firstly, the travel agency version of Fun Pass does not include the Sentosa line cable car (which was not a problem for me because I bought the Mount Faber line + Sentosa line cable car round trip ticket separately). The second problem is that using Fun Pass to visit S.E.A. you are forced to redeem it with K-Live. The Sentosa web site also fails to mention that using Fun Pass, S.E.A. must be visited first before K-Live, screwing up my planning.
The following 5 attractions are what I visited using the Fun Pass 5 ticket.
I have always loved visiting aquariums. S.E.A. is one that should not be missed. It is large enough and have lots of species. Since it is quite popular, it is best to go there early. When I leave at 12:30pm there is noticeably more people coming in than I went in at 11am.
In spite of one positive review of K-Live I’ve read, it is obvious why people was forced to redeem S.E.A. with it when using Fun Pass. Nobody goes to watch K-Live, because it is merely a projection of Korean bands (mostly handsome and young boys), together with a dance sequence and worthless CG-based magic. I thought hologram projection should be 3D, but no, it looks like 2D projection on a transparent glass that allows additional projection layers in front and back of it. To make things worse it’s got a lot of filler materials that wastes time. The show I watched only had 9 people including ourselves. 5 of them left in the middle of the show.
The only good thing I can say about it is that the projection is really vibrant and so the picture quality exceeded my expectation, but in 2D only. I think only Koreans and people really interested in Korean bands may consider spending time in this attraction. If I had known this before I might not buy the Fun Pass in the first place.
4D Adventureland Extreme Log Ride
The Extreme Log Ride is more or less what I expect for a motion simulator ride. Basically it works like a virtual roller coaster. However, the graphics are seriously dated to the point that a smartphone game can show a much better picture than it. I would rate it lower than typical motion simulator rides in theme parks.
Luge and Skyride
Luge is a kind of vehicle that allows one to ride it downhill. I find it fun, and recommend people to try it if they have not tried it before. It also includes a skyride uphill – warning: skyride lacks safety belt. Inappropriate body movement could certainly lead one to slide out of the chair and suffer from a fatal drop. Subjectively I feel that this is more dangerous than a roller coaster, which always includes tight safety harness. For this reason I would suggest parents not take their young kids to skyride.
Wings of Time
This is yet another light and water show, but it is even better than the free show at Sands. Includes some fireworks effect. With some wind in the open area and the large amount of water it uses, it feels like rain hitting our faces. Beware that at night the Sentosa Express have long queues, so getting from one place to another could take much longer time.
Crane Dance is a free show at Sentosa, but unfortunately it did not fit in my schedule. I mentioned it here because I think that most people would be able to schedule it in their visit to Sentosa.
I purchased a package of MegaZip + MegaJump from a travel agency. MegaZip is a zipline attraction. I suspect zipline has higher accident rates than bungee jump. If one tries to google zipline accident it is really scary. Even MegaZip had a serious accident in 2011. However, it is precisely this accident that caused its safety measures to be improved very much. With my MegaZip experience, my safety harness was double or triple checked. There is also a net under the beginning portion of the zipline, so if somebody is not hooked properly and dropped for whatever reason, they would fall into the net safely. All the staff also wore safety belt. So I had the feeling that it was as safe as it could be. My only surprise is that a whole lot of waiting is required (I went there on a Saturday) – waiting for a staff to help us wear the safety harness, waiting for the vehicle to take us uphill, queuing for our turns, waiting for double check, etc. I suggest reserving 2 hours for it.
(If I did not need to do the MegaZip I think slightly more than half a day would be enough for me for the 5 Sentosa attractions.)
It is a little scary to jump, but the descent speed is actually lower than I expected. Once I jumped it feels like I’m descending relatively slowly as I was pulled by the safety harness at all times.
Enjoying Universal Studios Singapore without buying Express Pass
Previously I wrote an article on Enjoying Universal Studios Japan without buying Express Pass. With Universal Studios Singapore, it is mostly similar but with one significant difference – it is simply much less crowded in Universal Studios Singapore, so on non-crowded period it has a really short opening hours, e.g. 10am-6pm. This objective is much easier to accomplish here. The main points are:
- Buy tickets that allow direct entry from a travel agency beforehand.
- Pick a weekday that is not Singapore holiday, Chinese holiday, Hong Kong holiday, Korean holiday, or Japanese holiday. However, this means no parade.
- Do not take the cable car, as it does not stop near Universal Studios. Most people should take Sentosa Express to the Waterfront station.
- Accept that without an Express Pass, it is probably impossible to enjoy all attractions. However, I believe for most people it is possible to enjoy all the important / good ones.
- Queue up for entry before the opening time.
- Once opened, get to the Transformers attraction right away. It merely toke slightly more than 30 minutes to queue up. (It should have been less, but I was not as early as I planned to, because all the Sentosa Express ticket machines were closed, and I could not get on the first Sentoa Express.) The other time when the queues are shorter may be during the last hour of the opening time.
- Make use of single rider queue if possible.
- Do shopping only after the closing time – the closing time merely refers to the attractions, not the shops.
- Do not forget to use the meal coupon that came with the ticket! (I forgot!)
Crab is a famous cuisine at Singapore. Most people recommend going to the Geylang (red-light) district for lower prices and better cooking, but I did not have time to go there and walk a long way to find the restaurants, so I booked one near to a MRT station instead – Long Beach King. They screwed up my web / e-mail reservation – the head office confirmed my reservation but the restaurant never received it and suspected I booked another branch incorrectly. Anyway, that was on a weeknight so there were vacant tables anyway.
The Black Pepper Crab tasted excellent, had more meat than I expected, and the other dishes were done well too, at a price that reflects their quality. Since their web site does not show the prices properly, here it is. For the lowest priced 2-person set menu with crab: (SGD168 2-person set + SGD0.3 * 2 tissue + SGD4 pickles + drinks) * 1.1 service charge * 1.07 GST. A more expensive 2-person set menu at SGD228 includes both a crab and a lobster.
Pandan Chiffon Cake
Do not forget to buy Pandan Chiffon Cake at Bengawan Solo as a souvenir. The outlet at Changi airport terminal T2 is inside the transit area, so you don’t need to pay for GST by buying it there. We bought five of those cakes! (The one at T3 is not inside the transit area, I’m not sure about the one at T1. If you need to go from one terminal to another, leave time for round-trip waiting for the Sky Train and some walking.)
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