Where to rest your head when visiting the Lion City, from classic luxury properties to renovated shophouse boutique hotels and new luxe and value lodgings.
Lodging in Singapore has never been “cheap,” at least compared to other Asian capitals; however, there are plenty of bargains to be had in the Lion City, whether you’re looking for top-end luxury and service or newer, moderate digs that make finding a hip budget hotel easier than ever.
There are even hostels that are havens for hard-core budget travelers. I stayed in one of these located in an office building on Beach Road (a mere two blocks from the Raffles Hotel) with three other backpackers sharing a double-bunk room for $8 per night, cash, on my first visit to Singapore, 10 years ago. Can’t say I’d do it again now, but it was a clean, convenient, affordable option at the time.
Planning Tip: When calculating your hotel costs, be sure to include Singapore’s 7 percent nightly room tax, and for higher-end properties a likely additional 10 percent service charge.
There’s no shortage of Asian luxury hotel brands in Singapore, and if you haven’t yet experienced the exceptional service that is standard for these properties, Singapore is a good place to start, especially since its dollar gives you a 30 percent savings compared to comparable stays in other international cities.
Check out the Mandarin Oriental Singapore, Pan-Pacific Singapore and Orchard, and Shangri-La Hotel Singapore and Rasa Sentosa Resort. Most of these hotels have fabulous spas, and the Shangri-La Hotel Singapore even has lush botanical gardens with more than 133,000 plants, flowers and trees. Garden tours are available on Friday mornings. At time of publishing, starting rates at these properties for the dates Aug. 13 to 16, 2009 ranged from S$220 to $S349 (about US$150 to US$240).
Whether you stay here or simply visit, the Raffles Hotel Singapore is a required stop, even to merely sip a Singapore Sling in the Long Bar, where it was concocted in 1915. One of the most classic and beautiful hotels in the world (it was built by the same owners of the equally historic Eastern & Oriental Hotel in Penang, Malaysia), the Raffles will transport you to the turn of the 20th century.
Tour its Colonial architecture and décor, taking in the soaring marble lobby and columns, crystal chandeliers, grand piano, oriental carpets, antique furnishings and sitting areas and dual-sided staircase. You’ll feel like you’re in a museum. Wait! There is a Raffles Hotel museum on site, open daily 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. I picked up a set of replica cruise-trunk stamps, circa 1910, in the gift shop as an appropriate souvenir. Rates start at S$472 (US$325, with an early booking discount).
1 Beach Road, tel, +(65) 6337-1886, www.raffles.com
Another classic Colonial building, with Doric columns to boot, and one of the top hotels in Singapore is the Fullerton Hotel. Located in the former General Post Office, this stunning property is an excellent example of a successful use-conversion, and its convenient location overlooking the Singapore River adds to its appeal. The hotel’s bar and restaurant are city hot spots. Vintage Rolls Royce cars are on hand for VIP guests.
The Fullerton currently offers a 50 percent off special for stays in its Loft (S$840, about US$575 discounted) and Fullerton (S$990, about US$675, discounted) suites, now through Aug. 31, 2009. Guests staying in suites at these rates also will have access to the hotel’s executive club, The Straits Club. Regular room rates start at S$338 (US$230).
1 Fullerton Square, tel. +(65) 6533-8388, www.fullertonhotel.com
The Regent Singapore, one of two Regent properties still managed by the Four Seasons, the brand’s former owner, is located in the quiet, upscale Tanglin district. I stayed here on my most recent visit, and it was nice to be off a main drag, yet close enough to walk to the Botanic Gardens and shops on Orchard Road. The contemporary hotel has 439 rooms surrounding an atrium center. Regent Club rooms are ideal if traveling for business, as they include access to the business center and club lounge, with a complimentary breakfast buffet, and evening cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.
My stay coincided with the annual Mooncake Festival (aka Lantern Festival or Mid-autumn Festival), the only time of the year when mooncakes are made (or so I was told); complimentary ones were delivered to my room. Rates start at S$220 for standard rooms, S$345 for Club rooms (US$150 and US$235, respectively).
1 Cuscaden Road, tel. +(65) 6733-8888, www.regenthotels.com/singapore
Renovating and converting Chinese shophouses into hip boutiques, bars and restaurants has been going on for years, and hotels are no exception.
One of the first boutique conversions (opened in 2004), the 80-room Scarlet remains one of the city’s top options for romantic, yet compact elegance. Taking a cue from the 1990s Ian Schrager/Philippe Starck model, the standard rooms are on the small side, yet well designed, with rich fabrics and lush color schemes. Some of the larger rooms have a narrow balcony. The restaurant is well worth a meal or two. Rates start at S$165 (US$113).
33 Erskine Road, tel. +(65) 6511-3333, www.thescarlethotel.com
For even more affordable and compact accommodations, check out Hotel 1929, with 32 rooms spread among five converted Chinatown shophouses. Think practical and utilitarian, but with modern design elements that make its rooms fit right into a Dwell magazine spread or model IKEA showroom: tiny, square, glass bathroom tiles; Marimekko bed covers; single shelf “workspace”; bedside sink and tub, sans walls. Rates start at S$129 (US$88).
50 Keong Saik Road, tel. +(65) 6347-1929, www.hotel1929.com
This no-frills relative newcomer is ideal for budget travelers, like me (at least when I’m not traveling for work), who are over the bunk-bed hostel stay but who want a private, comfortable place that won’t cost too much since they prefer to spend their money exploring the city as opposed to on a hotel room they’ll see only when it’s time to sleep. The Hangout @ Mount Emily has 51 private and shared rooms, air-conditioning, a computer room, lounge and complimentary tea and coffee. Luggage storage available. Rates start at S$35.30 (US$27) for a shared room, S$89.45 (US$61) for a private one.
1010A Upper Wilkie Road, tel. +(65) 6438-5588, www.hangout-hotels.com
Opened in February 2009, this 538-room property is the first Ibis, the budget brand of Accor Hotels, to open in Singapore. Ibis Singapore is located near Little India and is about 20 minutes from Changi International Airport.
170 Bencoolen St., tel. +(65) 6593-2888, www.ibishotel.com
The stylish, $24 million, 108-room Quincy hotel opened in the Mount Elizabeth neighborhood (near Orchard Road shopping) in March, billing itself the first all-inclusive hotel in Singapore. Enjoy limousine service from the airport, three meals a day, laundry service (two pieces per day), a free minibar, and more. A free minibar! Half the places I’ve stayed the past year don’t even have an overpriced minibar. Rooms are priced at a set rate for a single person, plus $60 per person per night for each additional guest. Rates start at S$228 (US$156).
22 Mount Elizabeth, tel. +(65) 6738-5888, www.quincy.com
The über-luxurious Capella Singapore resort, on nearby Sentosa island, also opened in March is. Capella is the new company from Horst Schulze, who built the Ritz Carlton into a leading luxury brand. Expect much of the same in terms of service, comfort and privacy here. The resort was designed by famed architect Norman Foster. A Rolls Royce or Mercedes Benz limousine airport pickup is available. Rates start at S$616.67 (US$422). Guests who stay three nights receive the third night free through Aug. 31, 2009.
1 The Knolls, Sentosa, tel. +(65) 6377-8888, www.capellasingapore.com
Located nearby on Sentosa is the Siloso Beach Resort, opened in 2008, which provides a lush, quiet escape from the city, complete with gardens, a waterfall, swimming pool, spa and some rooms with private decks and Jacuzzis. All rooms face the beach, the gardens or a forest. Rates start at S$180 (US$125).
51 Imbiah Walk, Sentosa, tel. +(65) 6722-3333, www.silosobeachresort.com
Note: Starting rates for all properties were based on online availability for a stay from Aug. 13 to 16, 2009 at time of publishing.