Tips to Stay Safe in Singapore | Top Universities

Tips to Stay Safe in Singapore

By Mathilde Frot

Updated November 27, 2020 Updated November 27, 2020

Don’t let the glitz and multiculturalism fool you, Singapore is a city of rules. Sure, it has a spectacularly low crime rate, great universities and immaculate pavements, but western students in particular can expect to experience a culture shock. Here, being caught with cannabis or gum on your person carries the threat of jail or a harsh fine. Don’t let the island’s draconian drug laws and fining systems take you by surprise like they have many an unsuspecting tourist. Ahead of the launch of the QS Asian University Rankings 2021, we thought we’d take a look at some of the things all visitors to Singapore should be aware of.

Get medical insurance

Singapore’s healthcare system isn’t single payer, so you’ll need to cover your own medical costs. When comparing health-care insurance providers, make sure you pick one that covers an air ambulance if you need to be flown home, all of your medical bills (because they do add up) and repatriation of you and your family (if applicable) in the event of an illness, injury … or *cough* death.

Take precautions against mosquito-borne illnesses

There are occasional outbreaks of dengue fever in Singapore, an illness which can be treated but is fatal if undiagnosed. Also watch out for chikungunya virus which is prevalent year-round. Wearing long clothing and deet-based spray repellent on your skin will help you avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Protect yourself against the Singapore haze

Every year, Singapore “fogs” zones susceptible to dengue with a pesticidal mist that may have toxic effects. On top of this, Singapore experiences high levels of haze from June until October that may have an impact on your health. So, monitor Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) updates and follow health advice from the Singapore government.

Obtain proof that you do not have TB and HIV

Your university will probably cover this in more detail, but you will need an official medical certificate from your home country, certifying you don’t suffer from HIV or tuberculosis. Without this, you won’t be admitted to your school.

Recreational drug use in Singapore is punishable by death

Indeed, while recreational cannabis consumption is legal in certain parts of the world such as the US states of Oregon, Alaska and most recently California, possession of even very small quantities of drugs such as cannabis can lead to imprisonment, corporal punishment or the death penalty. Don’t take the risk.

Corporal punishment is prescribed for rioting, drug violations and graffiting

Before you take to the streets holding up a placard with a pithy political slogan, or a can of spray paint to tag a wall, bear in mind it can lead to judicial caning. You’ll also want to make sure you don’t overstay your visa, as this could result in the same punishment.

Drink-driving in Singapore can mean 10 years in prison

Obviously, you shouldn’t be drink-driving, but this is especially true in Singapore, where traffic police routinely carry out breath-tests and any offences can result in long prison sentences.  

Police give fines on-the-spot for bringing chewing gum into the country

To people from other countries, this can seem both petty and ridiculous, but it’s one of many small things Singaporean officials have clamped down on. Also avoid drinking in public spaces after 10:30pm, jaywalking, smoking in public spaces, littering and drinking on the train. You’ll eventually get used to all of these restrictions, but to start with you’ll want to be on your guard to avoid heavy fines.

Avoid street gatherings and demonstrations

Police permission is needed for certain public gatherings in Singapore, so don’t put yourself at risk needlessly by attending protests and street gatherings.

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Lead image: Nicolas Lannuzel (Flickr)

This article was originally published in October 2017 . It was last updated in November 2020

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Written by

I'm originally French but I grew up in Casablanca, Kuala Lumpur and Geneva. When I'm not writing for QS, you'll usually find me sipping espresso(s) with a good paperback.

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