Eating Out in Singapore

Cheap lunchtime and dinner meals are available from hawker stands and outdoor food courts.
Cheap lunchtime and dinner meals are available from hawker stands and outdoor food courts.

From its hawker stands to its luxurious five-star restaurants, Singapore is one of Asia's best cities for dining out. The meeting point for three of Asia's biggest cultures, Singaporean cuisine is a mix of the best of Malaysian, Chinese, and Indian food. Smaller nationalities, such as the island's large Thai population, have also contributed to its reputation as one of Asia's best food capitals.

Like other Asian cities, Singapore's food scene extends from the shopping malls to the street itself, with food carts sitting alongside major streets and inside outdoor markets. Singaporeans are highly passionate about their food, and the eating culture in Singapore is very much aligned with the 'more is better' mentality – it's far from uncommon for Singaporeans to eat four or five times every day.

As a visitor, you'll notice that dining options in Singapore are divided into two very different types of offerings. The first is the city's famous selection of hawker stands, outdoor food courts that are situated on almost every major street corner. These food courts generally house around five to ten stands, each offering a well-known local dish.

Popular dishes at hawker stands include laksa, a spicy soup dish that's popular in Singapore and Malaysia; satay and grilled meats, often served with peanut or sweet sauce; and Kuay Toew, a type of Chinese-style noodles that are either fried or served in chicken broth. Most Singaporean office workers depend on these outdoor food courts for simple, cheap lunchtime and dinner meals.

For a more comfortable yet inexpensive option head to one of Singapore's many shopping malls for their indoor food courts.
For a more comfortable yet inexpensive option head to one of Singapore's many shopping malls for their indoor food courts.

Some of the larger hawker stands, such as those found in Bugis and Chinatown, offer Japanese, Arabic, and Indian dishes in addition to the standard Malay and Chinese fare. Sushi, curries, and grilled meats, all prepared in a tandoor oven, are widely available and are generally priced below their shopping mall counterparts.

Hawker stands are by far the cheapest option for eating out in Singapore, with a full meal often available for less than three dollars. Hygiene is typically excellent and it's rare to become ill after eating at a food court. Canned drinks are available, as is bottled water, along with fresh fruit juice and, at some food courts, alcoholic drinks.

The best neighborhoods for finding great hawker food are Bugis, an inner city district close to the central business district; Kampong Glam, an Arabic neighborhood to the west of central Singapore, and mixed residential-commercial neighborhoods like Geyland, which is located close to Kallang train station.

For a more comfortable yet inexpensive option, complete with air conditioning and significantly more plush seating, head to one of Singapore's many shopping malls for their indoor food courts. The malls of Orchard Road are home to some of the city's best mid-range dining options, and all of the road's major malls have their own food court, typically on the top or bottom floors.

The Isetan department store also has a range of good eating options inside, especially for those in need of an inexpensive Japanese meal. Isetan has two branches in the Orchard area, both within a short walk from the Orchard MRT station. Other buildings, such as Takashimaya, have a wide range of food stands and restaurants inside, with prices ranging from inexpensive to decidedly mid-range.

For visitors that are seeking a little at-home comfort food, chain restaurants like McDonald's and Wendy's are found all around Singapore. Prices tend to be the same as they would be in Europe or Australia, although portions are occasionally smaller. Coffee franchises like Starbucks and Coffee Bean are found on almost every street corner in central Singapore, and a refreshing cup it never far away.

For a more romantic dinner in Singapore, several options are available. The first, and one of the most famous, is to book a table at the luxurious Raffles Hotel, one of the city's most well-known and prestigious addresses. The home of the Singapore Sling cocktail, the bar here is well known both by locals and visitors as one of Singapore's most famous dining spots.

However, it's also a notorious tourist trap, particularly during the evening. If you're planning on dining at the hotel, it's best to book late in the evening – around 8PM or later. Other options for a romantic dinner include the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, which is home to Singapore's Sky Park – an outdoor swimming and dining area perched above the three hotel towers. Prices are very high, but for the once-in-a-lifetime views and great food, it's often worth it.

From inexpensive yet delicious street food to hundred-dollar-a-head meals at some of its finest hotel restaurants, Singapore is a great city for dining out and enjoying yourself. Whether you're seeking a tasty snack or an authentic meal from one of Asia's most vibrant cultures, you'll find it, often next to an equally exotic and enticing restaurant for the next night.