TRAVEL WARNINGS FOR SINGAPORE
1) Always carry your passport with you, or at least a copy of it with copy of your entry stamp. You may be taken in for questioning if you don’t. 2) Don't photograph anything that can be construed as a military target. 3) Ask for permission before photographing people. 4) Treat things related to religion with respect. 4) It goes without saying that one should not sunbathe in the parks, have picnic on museums steps, or chew gum in museums. 6) It is best to visit the tourist sights at the crack of dawn before the bus tourists arrive. 7) People tell you don’t worry, no problem when there are problems. 8) Build in extra time for doing stuff in case something goes wrong. 9) Singapore does not recognize dual nationality beyond the age of 22, and strictly enforces universal national service for all male citizens and permanent residents. 10) Singapore has not experienced significant natural disasters in recent years. Sometimes thick haze from burning fires in Sumatra in Indonesia elevated health risks for people prone to respiratory problems, and disrupting business and international flights.
11) On-the-spot fines are common, and can be given for a wide range of behaviours which are tolerated in the UK. You’ll be fined for littering and smoking in some public places. It’s also illegal to bring chewing gum into the country, except for certain medical chewing gums. 12) Thorough checks may be carried out on departing travellers’ vehicles. Fingerprints may be scanned at border exit points. 13) The use of false ID is illegal.14) There is zero tolerance for bribery. Any attempt to bribe or to otherwise prevent an official from carrying out their duties can result in arrest. 15) Acts of vandalism including graffiti carry harsh penalties such as fines, imprisonment and caning. 16) There are strict laws regarding rental of short-term accommodation.
17) Women generally don’t have any problems in Singapore. Singaporean men don't have a reputation for hassling women. There are harsh modesty laws that impose stiff punishments for harassing women (See Modesty Laws Below). 18) Mosques and Temples: Take your shoes off and dress appropriately when entering a mosque, Buddhist temple and Hindu temple. Men wearing shorts, are sometimes given robes at the entrance of a temple. Women should have their knees and arms covered.
Emergency Numbers in Singapore: Police: 999; non-emergencies 65-235-9111, 1800 255 0000; Fire or ambulance: 995; non-emergency ambulance service, 1777, 777 0000. Emergency calls are free at phone booths. The operators speak English. Flight Information – 1800 542 4422. Tourist Police: 65 6478 2123. For additional assistance or complaints, call Touristline at 1800 736 2000 (toll-free in Singapore), or (65) 6736 2000 (from overseas). Operating hours for Touristline is Monday to Friday (excluding Public Holidays), 9:00am to 6:00pm.
Measurements and Dates: Singapore, like most countries in the world, uses the metric system to measure distances and quantities and the centigrade system to measure temperature. Singaporean clothing and shoe sizes are different from American sizes. Singapore often uses the 24 hour clock (i.e 20:00 instead of 8:00pm) instead of the a.m and p.m. system. They also write their dates different, with the year preceding the month and day. August 25, 1999 is 25/8/99 not 8/25/99 as Americans write it.
Travel Advisories and Advise: U.S. State Department Advisories: Tel: Emergencies Abroad: From the U.S. & Canada - 1-888-407-4747; From Overseas - +1 202-501-4444; Report a Lost or Stolen Passport: From the U.S. & Canada 1-888-407-4747; From Overseas +1 202-501-4444. website travel.state.gov ;
British travel warnings: gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice ; Canadian travel warnings and advise: travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories ; . Australian travel warnings: dfat.gov.au/travel ; Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Travel Forum lonelyplanet.com/thorntree ; CNN Travel: edition.cnn.com/travel International SOS internationalsos.com ) Robert Young Pelton’s Dangerous Places comebackalive.com ;
Also See Health, Money, Hotels, Air Travel, Driving, Alcohol.
Safety and Security
You can contact the emergency services by calling 995 (ambulance and fire) or 999 (police). The tourism industry is generally regulated and rules with regard to best practices and safety inspections are regularly enforced. Hazardous areas/activities are identified with appropriate signage and professional staff is typically on hand in support of organized activities. [Source: Travel.State.Gov, U.S. Department of State, May 2019]
While Singapore is considered generally safe, extremist groups in Southeast Asia have launched attacks in neighboring countries. U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to Singapore and neighboring countries should exercise caution and remain vigilant about their surroundings, particularly in areas where U.S. citizens and other Westerners live, work, congregate, shop, or visit.
Singapore/Malaysia Border Crossing: You are advised to follow all entry directions, present your passports only to immigration officials, and be sure immigration officials stamp your passport with the correct date upon entering and exiting Malaysia. Lacking correct documentation or proof of entry into Malaysia may result in high fines and detention.
Messages regarding demonstrations and strikes, explosive devices/suspicious packages, and weather-related events are posted on the Embassy’s website.
Singapore has a relatively low crime rate (partly because the punishments are so harsh) and Singaporeans are generally a very law-abiding people. Violent crime almost never occurs and petty crime is rare but occurs from time to time. Nevertheless, be aware of the risk of street crime, in particular bag snatching. Take care of your passport. Leave valuables in a hotel safe if possible. Don’t leave valuables in unattended vehicles.
You should pay particular attention to personal belongings while in crowded shopping malls and markets, at the airport, and while traveling on public transportation. Visitors should be aware that credit card fraud is on the rise and should practice standard precautions to avoid falling victim of credit card fraud: do not carry multiple credit cards on your person; do not allow credit cards to be removed from your line of sight; avoid giving credit card information over the phone and use only secure internet connections for financial transactions. [Source: Travel.State.Gov, U.S. Department of State, May 2019]
According to OSAC: “There is minimal risk from crime in Singapore, which remains one of the safest countries in the world. Crime is generally non-confrontational and non-violent in nature. The most common crimes are those of opportunity, such as purse snatching, pickpocketing, and theft of unattended property. Violent crimes are rare. If a weapon is involved, it is likely an edged weapon (a knife or box cutter); authorities strictly control firearms, and the punishment for the possession of firearms is severe. In what appears to be an isolated and unusual incident, one U.S. citizen was the victim of an unprovoked, late-night assault in 2016 that resulted in his death. [Source: OSAC, Overseas Security Advisory Council, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State, March 2019]
“The overall rate of crime increased slightly (+1.4 percent) from 32,668 incidents in 2017 to 33,134 incidents in 2018. The increase in the number of crimes was due to a rise in scam-related cases. Internet romance fraud cases decreased by 20.1 percent. All other types of scams – such as those involving e-commerce, loans, credit for sex, and impersonation of Chinese officials – increased collectively by 36.1 percent, from 2,905 cases in 2017 to 3,954 in 2018. Reports of theft and related crimes continued an overall downward trend (-8.6 percent), decreasing from 13,431 cases in 2017 to 12,279 in 2018 (representing an all-time low). Singapore announced a period of 165 crime-free days in 2018 with zero reports of theft, robbery, or burglary.
Although Geylang and certain lower-cost government housing areas suffer from more serious crimes (e.g. mugging, loan sharking, and illicit drug use), the rate is still lower than comparable areas in the United States. Geylang is a known “red light” district, harboring prostitutes and reportedly experiencing an increase in organized criminal activity. Prostitution is legal, but various prostitution-related activities, like public solicitation, under-age prostitution, pimping, living on the earnings of a prostitute, and maintaining a brothel, are not. In practice, the police tolerate and monitor a limited number of brothels unofficially.
Incidents of victims unknowingly ingesting a drug that a nefarious individual placed in their drink occasionally occur. Individuals who decide to frequent bars and nightclubs should exercise vigilance with their drinks and should not accept drinks from strangers. The areas where bars stay open late – namely Robertson, Clarke, and Boat Quays along the Singapore River, and the Orchard Towers complex on Orchard Road – represent most likely zones for travelers to become victims of crime in Singapore, especially at night.
Pickpockets, Bar Girls and Spiked Drinks in Singapore
On pickpockets in Singapore travelscams reported: How it works: 4,000+ cases of shop thefts and pickpockets are reported annually. These are usually perpetrated by foreign crime syndicates during festive/peak travel periods. Method: they work in a gang – one onlooker, one blocks, pushes, distracts, or engages you, one grabs and the final hides the loot under a cover (e.g. jacket/newspaper) and escapes. Places to beware: Singapore Flyer, Supertree Grove, Chinatown, Orchard Road, Battlebox, Arab Street, Little India, Mustafa Centre, Kuan Yin Thong Hood Cho Temple, Sri Mariamman Temple, People’s Park Complex, Geylang Serai What to do: Passport: carry a photocopy instead of the actual one. Valuables: wallet in front pocket, small valuables in a money belt/hidden pouch, large valuables in an anti-theft bag. Travel insurance: get a good one that covers theft. [Source: Travel Scams, travelscams.org August 2019]
“You may encounter these at Orchard Towers, a building which turns into the “4 towers of wh*res at night”. Past reports: Charged thousands for a few drinks/drinks you did not order on your card without a receipt. Being approached by paid girls and paying exorbitant amounts for their drinks. Spiked drinks and then being assaulted or overcharging your cards. In 2011, there was a molest scam which has died down (e.g. woman accuses a man of molest, gets club security officers down and threatens to call the police). Places to beware: Orchard Towers. What to do: Make sure to get a receipt or check your credit card transactions if no receipt is given. Do not accept drinks that you have not seen made in front of you. Do not leave it unattended. Canned or bottled drinks are recommended as it is more difficult for someone to put a sedative inside.
One man posted: “It was a sultry Thursday night and after sharing two bottles of wine with friends I decided to grab a cab to Orchard Towers, to unwind, perhaps engage in a conversation with someone and simply socialise. The plan was to have a couple of cold beers – not to have about $20,000 put on my credit card with no recourse. Fast forward 14 hours – I awoke in my hotel room the next afternoon – not really hungover but a little “dusty” – checked my credit card to find about $20k in charges from 2am-5am. Called the bank, went to the place who charged me (and which I did not recognise) and who simply said “you had fun” – called the Police and reported it – then went to see a doctor as I thought I was going mad and had maybe been “spiked”.
“In the doctor’s words – “if someone came to your house and stole $20k there would be no question – it’s theft. It’s terrifying and sad that you can’t go out in Singapore without worried that you can be scammed by a system for such huge amounts and no one is held accountable.” In most other countries there is a responsibility of service of alcohol, and on merchants to take care of their customers. In Singapore it seems that there is a responsibility on merchants to steal from their customers.”
Scams in Singapore
On scams in Singapore travelscams reported: “1) Electronics shopping scams have been going on for decades with locals scammed too. Things came to a head in 2014 when a Vietnamese tourist had to kneel and beg for a refund. He was mercilessly mocked by the shop staff and it became a national scandal. Version 1 (warranty scam): high value electronics are advertised at cheap prices. Staff shows you a contract but covers up a clause about paying thousands for warranty. Most do not realize, as they trust the Singapore brand, may not be good at English, or do not bother with the terms and conditions. After you pay however, staff will hold on to your item. They now explain the clause and will not hand the item over until you pay for warranty. Version 2 (product swap): after you pay, vendor swaps your authentic camera battery/memory stick with an imitation. It is given to you in a sealed box hoping you do not check. Places to beware: Bugis: Sim Lim Square, Chinatown: People’s Park Complex, shops in the area Orchard: Lucky Plaza. What to do: If a price is too good to be true, it probably is. Visit reputable shops or big chains (e.g. Challenger, Courts, Harvey Norman)., If caught in such a scam, consult the Consumer Association of Singapore (CASE) or the police. [Source: Travel Scams, travelscams.org August 2019]
2) Restaurant scams in Singapore: Tricks (mostly around seafood at touristy areas): Scam 1: misleading prices. Scam 2: misleading portion sizes. Scam 3: menus without prices/not in English. Cases: Charged SGD $239 for 8 tiger prawns at Newton Food Circus Hawker Center. Charged $128/kg for fish and $208/kg for Alaskan King Crab at Forum Seafood Restaurant. Places to beware: Seafood restaurants at Boat Quay Newton Food Circus Hawker Center (past case appears to be an isolated one) What to do: Choose: reputable places (use food review apps: Burpple, HungryGoWhere), avoid touts. Seafood: reputable names include Jumbo Seafood, Red House Seafood, Palm Beach Seafood, etc. Check: menu (prices, fine print), itemized bill, and do not eat what was not ordered. Alternative: Klook (best day tours platform in Asia) has a couple of food tours.
3) Fake event, attraction tickets in Singapore: With the rise of p2p online marketplaces (e.g. Facebook, Carousell), there has been a rising trend of fake tickets sold online, or of sellers who disappear after receiving payment. These include tickets for tourist attractions (e.g. USS) and tickets for sold out concerts and events (e.g. JJ Lin concert, BTS concert, etc). Places to beware: Anywhere. What to do: Red flags (online platforms): really cheap prices; not doing meet-ups; claiming to be from a certain company; sending a picture of their ID to “prove” their legitimacy. Buy: direct from company/official counters, licensed retailers or day tour platforms like Klook (best in Asia) with many bestselling tickets (e.g. Universal Studios, S.E.A. Aquarium, Gardens by the Bay, etc).
4) Fake monks in Singapore: Situation: although sightings have been occasional, they have been around for more than a decade! Opening: they will offer you an amulet/pendant or a blessing, then ask for a donation of $10-$20. Set-up: they even show you a pre-filled book of donors to guilt trip you into donating. Places to beware: Anywhere What to do: Decline, real monks don’t do this.
5) Fake products in Singapore: At some street shops (e.g. in Chinatown, Bugis Street), you may see discounted fragrances sold for just a few dollars. These are simply watered down products in replica boxes. There have also been reports of fake pills, fake electronics (e.g. at Sim Lim Square) and also fake luxury products (generally sold via online platforms). Places to beware: Chinatown, Bugis Street, Sim Lim Square, pasar malams (pop up street markets) What to do: If a price is too good to be true, it probably is.
On Watered down perfumes, one person posted. On a short stopover in Singapore on my way to Australia, I was very tempted to purchase perfume that was hugely discounted. As it was Singapore, I never thought fake or watered down products would be on sale. I bought Tommy Hilfiger perfume for $8 dollars only to open the packaging at home and realize it had a weak scent which barely lasted.
“Taxi scams in Singapore: Situation: taxis in Singapore are highly reliable and scams are rare, though there have still been cases. Version 1: charging an excessive surcharge. Version 2: returning Malaysian Ringgit (lower value) as change. Version 3: at night, drivers in town may reject you if you are going out of town, as they usually have to make an “empty” trip back to town for passengers. Hence, they will claim that they are changing shifts and are unable to drive out of town. Places to beware: Central area What to do: If you face problems getting a taxi, use a taxi booking apps like GoJek, Grab or ComfortDelGro Taxi instead.
Cybersecurity Issues in Singapore
According to OSAC: “The prevalence of internet penetration and the growing use of smartphones in Singapore have contributed to an increase in cybercrime; foreign syndicates operating online are responsible for much of it. Cases under the Computer Misuse Act increased by 40.3 percent, from 858 cases in 2017 to 1,204 in 2018. Examples of such crime include unauthorized access to online accounts, unauthorized purchases using credit/debit cards, and phishing emails designed to obtain sensitive personal information. [Source: OSAC, Overseas Security Advisory Council, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State, March 2019]
“Credit-for-sex scams involve men posing as attractive women on social media in order to convince unsuspecting men to buy them gift cards in exchange for the promise of meeting, going on a date, and/or sexual services. Such scams increased by 28.7 percent, from 414 cases in 2017 to 533 in 2018. The total financial loss of such scams was approximately US $1.1 million.
“Internet romance fraud – in which victims transfer money to strangers who they befriend/fall in love with online – decreased 20.1 percent, from 826 cases in 2017 to 660 in 2018. Although there was a decrease in the number of reported cases from the previous year, the net financial loss was approximately US $20.6 million (the largest of any scam category). The largest amount fraudulently obtained in a single case in 2018 was just under US $1 million. E-commerce scam cases rose 11.4 percent, from 1,907 cases in 2017 to 2,125 cases in 2018. The total amount defrauded was approximately $1.4 million. The largest amount fraudulently obtained in a single case in 2018 was close to US $51,000. “Scams involving the impersonation of Chinese officials rose 60.6 percent, from 188 cases in 2017 to 302 in 2018. The total amount defrauded was approximately US $9.5 million. The largest amount fraudulently obtained in a single case in 2018 was US $1.2 million. Loan scams rose sharply (+151 percent), from 396 cases in 2017 to 994 in 2018. The total amount defrauded was approximately US $1.5 million. The largest amount fraudulently obtained in a single case in 2018 was US $67,500. The website https://www.scamalert.sg/ provides information on the latest scams and allows the public to share their experiences. Scams can also be reported to authorities at the Anti-Scam Helpline (1-800-722-6688).”
Precautions Against Crime
If possible keep valuables (money, passport and credit cards) in a hotel safe. Some hotels charge a fee to use their safes. Also make copies of all your documents (passport, Singapore entry stamp or visa, tickets, tour vouchers), credit cards and travelers checks receipts. Keep one set with you in a different place from your originals and another set at home.
It is a good idea to have 1) a money belt or neck pouch, and 2) buttoned pockets and 3) to distribute you money and valuables among them. Visitors are advised not to carry cash in their pockets and never count money in public. It also is a good idea to keep small bills in your pocket so you don't have to pull a big wad of cash, thus displaying your wealth, to make a small purchase.
Don’t commit any crimes yourself. For example, acts of vandalism including graffiti carry harsh penalties such as fines, imprisonment and caning.
Victims of Crime in Singapore
If you are a victim of crime: “Report crimes in the case of an emergency to the local police at 999 and contact the U.S. Embassy at 6476-9100. Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes committed in Singapore. The U.S. embassy does not have authority to investigate or prosecute crimes in Singapore. [Source: Travel.State.Gov, U.S. Department of State, May 2019]
The U.S. embassy or U.S. Department of State can: 1) help you find appropriate medical care; 2) assist you in reporting a crime to the police; 3) contact relatives or friends with your written consent; 4) explain the local criminal justice process in general terms; 5) provide a list of local attorneys; 6) provide information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S. provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution; 7) help you find accommodation and arrange flights home; 8) replace a stolen or lost passport
Crime Victim Assistance: Individuals requiring police assistance should dial 999. Every district has a dedicated neighborhood police center. Any neighborhood police center, not just the district where the crime took place, will generally accept the filing of a police report. Orchard Road Shopping District Police: + (65) 6733-0000; Central Business District Police: + (65) 6334-0000. Tourist Police: 65 6478 2123.
Dealing with Police in Singapore
Singapore’s judicial system is recognized around the world for its legitimacy and impartiality under the law. Despite the emergence of cyber and economic crime, Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index ranks Singapore as the third least corrupt country in the world. The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) is an independent government agency that investigates and prosecutes corruption.
1) On-the-spot fines are common, and can be given for a wide range of behaviours which are tolerated in the UK. You’ll be fined for littering and smoking in some public places. It’s also illegal to bring chewing gum into the country, except for certain medical chewing gums. 2) Thorough checks may be carried out on departing travellers’ vehicles. Fingerprints may be scanned at border exit points. 3) The use of false ID is illegal. 4) There is zero tolerance for bribery. Any attempt to bribe or to otherwise prevent an official from carrying out their duties can result in arrest.
According to ro U.S. Department of State: “The police response to crime is professional and effective. The online platform i-Witness allows individuals to provide information about criminal activity to the police. In 2018, the police received more than 35,000 submissions from the public. [Source: Travel.State.Gov, U.S. Department of State, May 2019]
“How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment: 1) Authorities routinely hold passports and prevent the departure of people under police investigation for criminal charges. 2) Arrested or detained U.S. citizens should immediately ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy. Find more information on the U.S. Embassy webpage. The Embassy handles reports involving police harassment promptly and in accordance with prescribed regulations. 3) Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.
4) Retention of passports during police investigations: If you’re the subject of a police investigation, your passport will be confiscated by the authorities. It will be returned to you once the investigation has concluded. (if you’re convicted, it will be returned after you have served your sentence). 5) Investigations can take anywhere from a few days to six months, depending on the crime. In most cases, you aren’t allowed to leave Singapore while the investigation is ongoing. The British High Commission can’t interfere in these investigations, nor negotiate the release of your passport.
6) Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, imprisoned, or even caned. Furthermore, some laws are also prosecutable in the U.S., regardless of local law. For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website. In Singapore, you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you.
Police Enforcement and Criminal Investigation in Singapore
According to the OSAC: “Singapore’s island-wide network of police cameras has been helpful in fighting crime. To date, Singapore police have installed over 65,000 cameras throughout the country to include 10,000 cameras in public housing and parking decks as part of a program known as PolCam – a multi-year public initiative to enhance the safety and security of neighborhoods and public spaces through the use of a large network of police cameras. With the rollout of PolCam 2.0 over the next few years, authorities will progressively install 11,000 additional cameras with enhanced capabilities across the country. [Source: OSAC, Overseas Security Advisory Council, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State, March 2019]
“The Singapore Police Force (SPF) stresses the role of the private sector and the general public in effectively fighting both crime and terrorism. The SPF has established many outreach initiatives to help the average citizen report crimes. A decrease in the number of motor vehicle-related thefts, for example, may be partly attributed to the Police Vehicle on Watch (VOW) project. To date, cameras in more than 10,000 private vehicles in over 800 parking lots across Singapore serve as additional “eyes,” deterring crime, recording incidents, and providing crucial leads for police investigations. Additionally, police reported receiving more than 35,000 submissions from the public via the Police@SG mobile application that assisted in solving criminal cases.
“To counter the growing trend of scams, the SPF launched the “Let’s Fight Scams” campaign, disseminated scam crime advisories to all Singaporean households, and worked with key stakeholders in the community to educate the public against scams.”
Terrorist Threat in Singapore
According to OSAC: “There is minimal risk from terrorism in Singapore. The Singaporean government regularly cites terrorism as one of its top concerns, and is keenly aware of the threats posed by self-radicalized Singaporeans and the possibility of returning terrorist fighters. [Source: OSAC, Overseas Security Advisory Council, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State, March 2019]
“A small number of Singaporean citizens have traveled to Syria to join ISIS. Authorities have also expressed concerns that self-radicalized terrorists or from Singapore or neighboring countries may become a security issue. As part of an effort to address these concerns, the government has continued to make use of the Internal Security Act (ISA), which authorizes the arrest and detention of individuals suspected of involvement in terrorist activities for up to two years without trial. In the past two years, the government has issued a Restriction Order and/or an Order of Detention under the ISA against eight self-radicalized Singaporeans, bringing the total number of issuances since 2015 to 22.
“Singaporean officials frequently emphasize the importance of community involvement and preparedness as a critical element in national security. In 2016, the government launched a mobile app called SGSecure to prepare the community against the threat of terrorism. The app allows members of the public to receive alerts during terrorist attacks or other emergencies, to send information to the authorities, and to download information and resources on counterterrorism.
“SGSecure programs in schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, and community groups strengthen individual and institutional preparedness. Following the launch of SGSecure, Singapore’s Home Team has been training local communities to help prevent and respond to terrorist attacks. Emergency Preparedness days are held during the year to prepare first responders and the public for a terror attack. Other initiatives include the formation of neighborhood volunteer groups composed of citizens instructed on life-saving skills like CPR and the use of an automated external defibrillator.”
According to the UK government: Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Singapore. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. The Singaporean government has put in place extensive measures to combat terrorism and has arrested a number of terrorist suspects. There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time. [Source: UK government Foreign travel advice, May 2019]
According to “Countries of the World and Their Leaders”: “ In 2001, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a terrorist organization with links to Al Qaeda, planned attacks in Singapore against government and private targets associated with the United States, Singapore and other countries. These plans were disrupted and the JI organization in Singapore was dismantled. However, Singapore remains a target of interest for terrorist groups. The Department of State remains concerned because extremist groups in Southeast Asia continue to demonstrate the desire and capability to carry out attacks against locations where Westerners congregate. Terrorist groups do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. Americans residing in or traveling to Singapore and neighboring countries should therefore exercise caution, especially in locations where Americans and other Westerners live, work, congregate, shop or visit. U.S. citizens should remain vigilant about their personal security and surroundings.” [Source: Countries of the World and Their Leaders Yearbook 2009, 2008 Gale]
Security Websites: 1) National Security Institute nsi.org ; 2) Kroll Associates kroll.com/en ; 3) Control Risks Group controlrisks.com ;4) International SOS internationalsos.com ;5 )Pinkerton Global Intelligence Services. pinkerton.com ; 7) Robert Young Pelton’s Dangerous Places comebackalive.com ;
Political Violence and Civil Unrest in Singapore
There is minimal risk from political violence in Singapore. Singapore has one of the most stable governments in the world, and remains largely free of civil unrest or political violence. The government is generally competent in managing the economy, and largely free from political corruption. Although the constitution provides for the freedoms of speech and expression, the government imposes official restrictions on these rights.
The incumbent People’s Action Party (PAP) first assumed power prior to Singapore’s independence in 1959, and has won a majority in every general election since 1965. Some criticize the PAP for maintaining its political dominance in part by circumscribing political discourse and action to include the restriction of opposition parties. A constitutional provision, however, assures at least nine opposition members hold seats in parliament. Observers considered the 2015national elections, which included eight opposition parties, free and fair.
Public demonstrations are legal only at Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park. Most outdoor public assemblies require a police permit. Singapore amended its laws in 2017 to forbid foreign nationals who are not permanent residents from observing permitted public demonstrations, assemblies, and processions at Speakers’ Corner. The law does not distinguish between participants and observers, so authorities may consider anyone at Speakers’ Corner as part of an event. Penalties may be severe, including large fines and/or imprisonment.
Drugs and Illegal Drugs in Singapore
Singapore has the strictest drug laws in the world. Drug traffickers—including foreigners—have been hanged. Possessions of drugs, even marijuana, can land one in jail for a long time or even result in execution. Possession of even very small quantities can lead to imprisonment, heavy fines and/or corporal punishment (caning). Trafficking charges may be brought based on the quantity of illegal drugs in a subject's possession, regardless of whether there is any proven or demonstrated intent to distribute the drugs. Singapore has a mandatory death penalty for many narcotics offenses. Singapore police have the authority to compel both residents and non-residents to submit to random drug analysis, and do not distinguish between drugs consumed before or after entering Singapore in applying local laws.
Despite strict laws with severe punishment, drugs exist in Singapore. Methamphetamines, heroin, and new psychoactive substances are the top three categories of illegal drug use in Singapore. Drug arrests in Singapore increased by 11 percent in 2018; of those, 40 percent were first-time offenders and nearly two-thirds of them were under the age of 30. Authorities enforce severe penalties for narcotics trafficking, up to and including the death penalty and corporal punishment even for the distribution of small quantities of drugs. [Source: OSAC, Overseas Security Advisory Council, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State, March 2019]
According to the U.S. Department of State: The death penalty exists for certain offences, including murder and drug trafficking. Trafficking is defined by possession of drugs above a certain amount (500g in the case of cannabis). There are severe penalties for all drug offences in Singapore, including possession. The Misuse of Drugs Act sets out the definitions. [Source: Travel.State.Gov, U.S. Department of State, May 2019]
“Singaporean authorities may conduct unannounced drug tests and property searches, including upon entry into the country, on foreign citizens who are suspected of consuming or possessing illegal drugs. Police may require you to provide a urine or blood sample on short notice. A positive finding or an unwillingness to participate can lead to a denial of entry into Singapore, detention and/or confiscation of your passport while under an investigation. Singaporean authorities may arrest and convict any permanent residents of Singapore even if they have consumed illegal drugs outside of Singapore.”
Some prescribed and over the counter medicines available in the U.K. and U.S. are considered controlled substances in Singapore. You must apply for prior authorisation and a permit at least ten working days before your travel date from the Singapore Health Sciences Authority in order to bring any such medication into Singapore. For medicines that do not contain a controlled substance, you may bring up to three months’ supply into Singapore without prior approval, but must bring supporting documents such as a letter from your doctor or a copy of the prescription as proof that the medicines are for your personal use. For more information, please consult the Health Sciences Authority website. If you have questions please email email@example.com . [Source: UK government Foreign travel advice, May 2019]]
Drinking and Smoking in Singapore
The legal drinking age in Singapore is 18 years old. This means that only those aged 18 and above will be able to buy or consume alcoholic beverages from a business licensed to sell alcohol such as restaurants or supermarkets. There is no law penalising persons who drink while underage. Responsible is on those who sell it. A licensed liquor seller who is caught sells alcoholic beverages to a person under the age of 18 or allows him to consume alcohol in their licensed premises faces a fine of up to $5,000 and may loose its license if caught repeatedly.. [Source: singaporelegaladvice.com]
Drunk and disorderly conduct is treated seriously, and can lead to a fine or imprisonment. As of April 2015, it is illegal to drink alcohol in a public place between 10:30 pm and 7:00 am. The areas of Geylang and Little India are designated as “Liquor Control Zones” where drinking in public places is prohibited all weekend, on public holidays, and on the eve of public holidays. Under the Liquor Control Act, you could be fined up to SG$1,000 for consuming alcohol in a public place during prohibited hours. [Source: UK government Foreign Travel Advice, May 2019]
Convicted drunk and disorderly conduct offenders may face the following penalties, depending on the severity of the crime: up to SGD5,000 (about £2,500) in fines up to 15 years’ imprisonment, caning If you ignore drinking in public places restrictions you could be fined up to SGD1,000 (approximately £500). if you’re a repeat offender, you could be fined up to SGD2,000 (about £1,000) or sent to prison for up to 3 months.
Smoking is illegal in most public places. This law is strictly enforced. There is no smoking in shopping centres, restaurants, entertainment outlets, cinemas, the SMRT (Singapore Mass Rapid Transit system), public buses, taxis and in lifts. Recently, the smoking ban has also been imposed on public eateries and within a five-meter radius from most building entrances, except for allocated smoking areas that are clearly marked with bright yellow paint. A maximum fine of S$1,000 may be imposed on first-time offenders.
The minimum age for the purchase, use, possession, sale and supply of all tobacco products in Singapore is 19 years old. This will be raised to 20 years old in 2020. Failure to comply carries fines. Along Orchard Road smoking is only permitted in designated smoking areas. You can’t bring vaporisers, like e-cigarettes, e-pipes, e-cigars, and refills into the country. These items are likely to be confiscated, and you could be fined or sent to prison. [Source: Travel.State.Gov, U.S. Department of State, May 2019]
Firearms and Weapons in Singapore
Singapore customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary import and export of weapons. Singapore customs authorities' definition of “weapon” is very broad, and, in addition to firearms, includes many items which are not necessarily seen as weapons in the United States, such as dive knives, kitchen knives, handcuffs, and expended shell casings. Carrying any of these items without permission may result in your immediate arrest. All baggage is x-rayed at every port of entry, so placing such items in checked baggage will also be inspected for regulated items.
Singaporean authorities define “arm” as any firearm, air-gun, air-pistol, automatic gun, automatic pistol and any other kind of gun or pistol from which any shot, bullet or other missile can be discharged or from which noxious liquid, flame or fumes can be emitted, and any component part thereof. This definition also includes any bomb or grenade and any component part thereof. The unlawful possession of any arm or ammunition could result in imprisonment and caning. Any person convicted of committing a crime with an arm could receive punishment which could result in the maximum penalty of imprisonment for life and caning. [Source: Countries of the World and Their Leaders Yearbook 2009, 2008 Gale]
Stringent controls are imposed on the importation of firearms. Licenses are issued only to members of the Singapore Gun Club or the Singapore Rifle Association.
Modesty, Sex and Pornography Laws in Singapore
Singaporean law strictly prohibits rude and disorderly behavior – particularly when directed toward women. Police firmly enforce rules against such behavior, known as “Outrage of Modesty;” severe penalties include corporal punishment and imprisonment. You should avoid any action that could be interpreted as molestation. Scams involving false claims of molest are thought to exist. See Local laws and customs [Source: Travel.State.Gov, U.S. Department of State, May 2019]
“Outrage of Modesty” is defined as an assault, or use of criminal force on any person, intended to, or knowing it to be likely to, outrage the modesty of that person. Men are sometimes accused of inappropriately touching other people, often women, resulting in their prosecution and punishment under this Singaporean law. According to OSAC: “Singapore saw an 11.9 percent increase in “Outrage of Modesty” (OM) offenses – a charge typically used to describe rude or inappropriate behavior – in 2018. The majority of incidents occurred on public transportation and at popular nightlife venues. With the exception of scams and OM cases, the overall crime rate dropped slightly (-1.9 percent) from 27,863 incidents in 2017 to 27,338 in 2018.” [Source: OSAC, Overseas Security Advisory Council, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State, March 2019]
Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. In Singapore, local law prohibits causing or encouraging prostitution of, or engaging in sexual relations with, a female below the age of 16. An indecent assault against anyone, male or female, regardless of age, is also prohibited. Those convicted of causing or encouraging the prostitution of, or the commission of unlawful sexual relations with, or the indecent assault on, a female below the age of 16 years could be sentenced to imprisonment of up to 3 years and a fine of $2,000 or both. [Source: Countries of the World and Their Leaders Yearbook 2009, 2008 Gale]
LGBT Laws in Singapore
Singapore does not recognize same-sex unions. The Penal Code criminalizes male same-sex sexual relations, and prescribes a sentence not exceeding two years for those found guilty under this law. The government has stated that it will not enforce this section of the Penal Code, but it remains on the statute books. The government issues permits for public events that openly champion LGBTI issues on a limited basis, but new regulations restrict foreign involvement. [Source: Travel.State.Gov, U.S. Department of State, May 2019]
Male homosexual acts are illegal in Singapore, but in a statement to Parliament in 2007 Singapore’s Prime Minister stated that ‘the government does not act as moral policemen’ and that ‘we do not proactively enforce’ the law on this issue. Openly gay and lesbian support groups and social venues exist. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
The Penal Code criminalizes any “act of gross indecency” between two men. LGBTI individuals may have difficulty gaining employment in certain sectors of the civil service. The Ministry of Manpower does not issue dependent passes (work permits) to partners in lesbian and gay relationships, even if legally married in another country.
Consumer Advisory in Singapore
Most Singapore retailers have fair business practices, but there are a small number of shops and restaurants that might make your shopping experience less than ideal. Here are some smart shopping tips to ensure that your retail experience is a pleasant one. [Source: yoursingapore.com, Singapore Tourism Board]
1) Always do price comparisons to get the best deals: Prices can vary widely between shops because distributors are not obliged to abide by each product’s Recommended Retail Price (RRP). Ask the retailer also if the 7 percent Goods and Services Tax (GST) applies. Also note that purchases above SGD100 in a single receipt entitle you to GST refunds if you leave Singapore by air. Please read the section on the GST Refund Scheme for more information.
2) Note that purchases made are usually final: In Singapore, retailers generally enforce strict return, exchange or refund policies the moment payment is made. Always ask your retailer about their policies before making payment for your purchase.
3) Check receipts or invoices for accuracy: Do remember to ask for a receipt of invoice whenever you make a purchase, and keep it for reference. Also check that prices and item descriptions are correct to ensure that you do not pay more than what is required. Remember to check that gifts, when applicable, should be indicated as such.
4) Verify what your ‘international warranty’ covers: International warranties are not standardised, and you should always ask and verify that your warranty is valid in your home country. Ensure that both your invoice and warranty card bear your retailer’s stamp and signature. In the case of electronic goods, note down the product’s serial number as well.
Also note that there are no international warranties on the purchase of mobile phones.
A “worldwide local warranty” means that the warranty is available only in the country of purchase – “worldwide” here refers to the availability of the product, not the warranty.
Parallel imported items have no warranty, and retailers usually do not entertain returns, refunds or exchanges.
5) Check before leaving the store: Before making payment, make sure that you test the item you wish to purchase, and take time to check that the promised accessories and peripherals are included in the package, and work as they should.
Religion and Handicapped Issues
Singapore has established a comprehensive code of standards for barrier-free accessibility, including facilities for persons with physical disabilities, in all new buildings and has mandated the progressive upgrading of older structures.[Source: Travel.State.Gov, U.S. Department of State, May 2019]
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Singapore has established a comprehensive code of standards for barrier-free accessibility, including facilities for persons with physical disabilities, in all new buildings and has mandated the progressive upgrading of older structures. The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and implementing programs and services in the disability sector.
The Singapore Convention of Jehovah’s Witness and the Unification Church continue to be banned by the Singapore government. Both public and private Jehovah’s Witness meetings are illegal in Singapore. It is also against the law to possess any Jehovah’s Witness publication, including a Jehovah’s Witness bible. Similar measures exist against the Unification Church. All written materials published by the International Bible Students Association and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, publishing arms of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, remained banned by the government.
Rules and Harsh Penalties in Singapore
Rosemary McClure wrote in Los Angeles Times: “Most visitors are impressed by Singapore's physical appearance: No graffiti, no trash, no homeless asking for a handout. Strict laws keep it that way. As my guide said, "I don't break the law, and I don't like people who do. So why should I care if the laws are strict?" But some laws are surprising. For instance, feeding pigeons could result in a costly fine, and selling gum could land you in jail for two years, according to Singapore Statutes Online. Jaywalking, littering or spitting can result in arrest. Vandalism offenses draw mandatory caning. Immigration violations can result in imprisonment, caning or fines. Sex crimes, or sexually inappropriate behavior, including making lewd comments to women who find it offensive, may result in fines or imprisonment. [Source: yoursingapore.com, Singapore Tourism Board]
There are strict penalties for things like littering and gum chewing. There is S$600 fine for not using a cross walk and $285 for walking across a bus parking area. Repeat jaywalkers face a $1,470 fine or six months in jail. Litterers are not only fined US$1,000 for their offense, they have been humiliated by having their pictures splashed across the pages of government-owned newspapers and have been required to clean up litter in public places using plastic gloves and wearing a vest that has “Corrective Work Order” printed on the back.” Despite these rules Singapore has its share of litterers. You can see trash lying around housing projects. After outdoor celebrations sometimes there are cans and bottles and litter everywhere.
Elizabeth Weiss Green wrote in U.S. News & World Report, “When Singapore residents call their hometown a "fine city," they're not bragging about their looks. But the fines they mean-big-dollar punishments for "antisocial behavior" like spitting-can make the city look finer, too. Drop trash on the ground in this Southeast Asian city, and you'll pay $1,000. You'll also get a "community work order," forced labor designed to shame people the government deems litterbugs. The result: Trash's life span is short. [Source: Elizabeth Weiss Green, U.S. News & World Report, March 18, 2007 ^~^]
“The country's litter laws go back to 1968, when its authoritarian prime minister tried to force civility on his country en masse with a "Keep Singapore Clean" campaign. Laws got tougher in 1987, with higher minimum fines, and again in 1992, with the work-order program, which has offenders pick up trash for no pay or else face a $5,000 fine. "Work is to be done under the full glare of publicity as otherwise the deterrent effect would be lost," says Maggie Chia, a customer- service worker with the country's National Environment Agency. ^~^
There are also heavy fines for spitting in public ($1000), urinating in public ($1000), picking flowers ($500), wasting water $500), feeding birds ($1000), and tossing away cigarette butts $500). Many Singaporean public housing units have elevators are outfit with a “Urine Detection Device,” which atomically notifies police and shuts down the elevator if someone urinate sin it.
Singapore’s anti-spitting laws were enacted in part to help the city-state reduce tuberculosis because it was believed that spitting helped spread disease. Wayne Arnold wrote in the New York Times, “Spitting, believed to aid the spread of tuberculosis, has been outlawed here since British colonialists tried in vain to quell what the port's Chinese immigrants once considered as natural as breathing. Chinese immigrants believed that keeping phlegm in the throat was unhealthy and that spitting could ward off bad luck or ill will. Spittoons were common around Singapore, and in his memoirs Lee Kuan Yew, the former prime minister and statesman, recalled how with difficulty the government tried to eliminate the practice after independence. In 1984, the government began a major effort to eliminate spitting. After warning that it would begin enforcing the anti-spitting laws, the government fined 128 people for spitting that first year and another 139 in 1985, up from just 1 in 1983.[Source: Wayne Arnold, New York Times, June 11, 2003]
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Singapore tourism websites, Singapore government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in August 2020