Plan a European Holiday in 5 Easy Steps

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A Trip to The Taj Mahal

.......a truly timeless memorial to love!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Singapore - The Final itinerary ...Part4

So in hind sight, here is my final itinerary suggestion.

The 7 Day Itinerary

Day 1

Assuming this is the day you arrive, you may not have the full day for sightseeing. So keep the plan for this day flexible. You can stroll around Marina Bay Sands. Have lunch or an evening beer at a riverside bar at Clarke Quay. You may also consider taking a ride on the Hop And spend the night window shopping around the neon lights of Orchard Street. You can take it as easy as you want. Just soak in the vibes of Singapore.

Day 2

Full day at Universal Studios. The Theme Park shuts down at 6:30PM. You can then go to Little India / China Town, based on your choice of cuisine, for dinner.

Day 3

Full day at Sentosa Island. This would include the visit to SEA Aquarium, Trick Eye Museum, etc. You may consider doing Universal Studios and Sentosa on the same day. Reach early and visit the SEA aquarium in the morning. Thereafter, proceed to Universal Studios. Get back to Sentosa for some more activities, including the Laser shows after dark. However, - be prepared - it would be an extremely tiring day.

Day 4

Forenoon at the Zoo. Ensure that you reach the Zoo by 10:00AM so that you can watch the Splash Safari Show. Your Zoo trip can then be completed by Lunch. After Lunch at the food court outside the Zoo, you can hop across to the River Safari to see the Pandas if you are interested.

Thereafter, head back and reach the Gardens by the Bay by 4PM. This should give you sufficient time to see both the Domes (Flower Dome and Cloud Mountain), and be in time to watch the Light and Sound Show in the Supertree Grove at 7:45PM. If you want to spend a little more time in the zoo, that is also OK. Just reach the Gardens by 5PM latest. This should give you enough time to see the Flower Dome in daylight, Cloud Mountain at night (which is also quite good), and witness the 8:45PM Sound and Light Show.

Day 5

Visit Jurong Bird Park. Finish by Lunch. Spend the afternoon shopping. If you are not interested in too much of shopping, you can visit the Science Centre, which is also located in Jurong.

Day 6

Choose for yourself.

Religious Places - Thian Hock Keng Temple, Sultan Mosque

Museums - Chinatown Heritage Museum, Asian Civilisations Museum, Peranakan Museum, National Gallery, National Art Museum, The Intan, Battlebox

Nature - MacRitchie Nature Trail, Night Safari, Chinese and Japanese Gardens

Landmarks - Singapore Flyer, Marina Bay Sands Skypark, Esplanade-Theatres on the Bay

Day 7

Get up early and go for a morning stroll in the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Also see the National Orchid Garden, located within it. Be sure to check their website. They have regular tours and events. They also have free Orchid Garden tours every week. Try and plan your trip accordingly.

Head back to the hotel, check out and move to the airport.

As you can see, even a week is too short to enjoy all that Singapore has to offer. 
Enjoy your trip to Singapore. It is worth it.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Singapore - Planning Tips ...Part 3

Singapore, due to the generally short duration of trips, requires good planning. The high price of entry tickets, and the multitude of deals available on them, further emphasize the need for advance planning.

So here are some planning tips based on our experience to help you along.


Singapore has a plethora of options, ranging from dorms to luxury resorts, to choose from. The basic process I followed for booking remained the same as for my earlier trips and can be found here. However, the accomodation scene in Singapore has a few peculiarities you should keep in mind.
  • Due to the high value of real estate in Singapore, most rooms are very small. Do not go by the photos, which can be misleading. Most sites give the area of the room - check it to get an idea of the room size.
  • Though there are many budget options in Singapore, read the fine print carefully. Many excellent looking bargains do not provide private bathrooms. You will have to use a shared toilet. Similarly, check that you will not be sharing the room itself with others - dorm style.
  • The location of the hotel is super important. There are many options available in the Geylang area. However, this area is notorious for the prostitution business at night. So it may not be suitable for families.
  • AirBnB may be illegal in Singapore. This is as on Apr 17. Please confirm before booking.


Being a city geared towards tourism, a large chunk of your expenditure would be on entry tickets for the sights. So doing some research before buying the tickets can substantially reduce your expenses. There are various Singapore City passes available here. However, I did not find any of them to be value for money. These city passes may only be worth it if you are going on a 3 day whirlwind trip. After all my analysis, here are my recommendations.
  • Parkhopper Pass  This pass gives you access to the Singapore Zoo, River Safari, Night Safari and Jurong Bird park. Highly recommended.
  • Garden by the Bay    You save a few dollars per person on buying the combined ticket. Be sure to check the maintenance days on the website prior to buying the tickets. 
  • Sentosa 2 Day Fun Pass     This pass gives you one full day pass for Universal Studios and a day in Sentosa. It includes access to the Sea Aquarium, Madame Tussauds, Trick Eye Museum, etc. There are more than enough activities to keep you busy for two full days.
  • Klook    This is a website providing deals on various attractions. You may not need it if you have taken the Park Hopper and the 2 Day Fun pass. However, it you do not intend to spend a whole day in Sentosa, you may find combinations of passes which suit your requirement. Please keep in mind that on some deals, the actual price is a little higher as they add taxes, delivery charges, etc when you are about to checkout.


Singapore has a very efficient public transport network. It includes Metros and Buses. Taxis are another option. Though they are much costlier, it is not prohibitively high, and under certain circumstances, it may be worth the savings in time.

The ticket/pass options available for public transport include :-

  • Singapore Tourist Pass   Options include 1,2 and 3 day passes. The 3 day pass is S$20. That means each person needs to do S$6.7 worth of travelling for three consecutive days. It may be worth it for a short trip with lots of transfers. But not value for money if you plan to visit two/three places only everyday.
  • E-Z Link Card     The other option is a simple 'Pay as you Go' card. It is available at many places, including all the 7-11 General stores.

Mobile Prepaid Card

You can choose between Singtel and StarHub. Check their website to see who has a better offer during you period of stay. They SIM cards are reasonable enough for you to buy more than one, so that you can keep in touch if your group splits up. However, I would suggest that you take at least one, for getting data access on the move. This would save you tons of time and effort as you can find the best way to get from one place to another, using your apps (to be discussed in the next section). Please keep in mind that Singapore networks no longer support 2G phones.


Certain apps  I found very useful during the trip include :-
  • Citymapper     This app is similar to Google Maps, but with a focus on local transport. It is connected to the public transportation network and provides 'to the second' updates on bus and metro timings. It is extremely useful when moving around the city. However, it needs a data connection if you want bus and train arrival times.
  • SplitWise     This app allows you to split your expenses among friends. You can create groups and sync across users. You can split each expense by various methods, so that everyone can pay as convenient, and easily keep track of what is owed to each other.

Thats all for now. In the next post, we will discuss the final suggested itineraries.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Singapore - Land of Man-Made Wonders...Part 2

πŸ‘‰Lesson No.1 - Never plan a hectic schedule on the day of arrival.

This advice is simple, sensible and full of common-sense. However, in the excitement of planning, sitting in the comfort of our home, we tend to overlook this adage. We forget that there is no joy in standing even in the most beautiful place on earth, if you haven't slept well the night before. So repeat Lesson No.1 to yourself every time you review your plans.

I, of course, did not repeat it to myself. So I had planned the trip to the zoo on the day we reached.

My logic was very sound and went something like this - The aircraft lands at 7:15 AM. We should be out of the airport by 07:45, metro by 08:00 and in our holiday home by 09:00 max. One hour for bath and change, and we should be ready to leave for the zoo by 10:00.

Reality - we were dragging our luggage over cobbled paths, still not having reached the homestay at 10 AM.

So, again, repeat after me - Never, ever...............

πŸ‘‰The above debacle directly leads us to Lesson No.2 - Don't create a tightly packed schedule with each event precisely fitting into the jigsaw plan. Leave abundant amount of free time in between.

This lesson was especially painful because I thought that my plan was very relaxed compared to my previous attempts. Unfortunately I had not loosened enough.

With the schedule of the first day unfinished, we had just packed even more into the rest of the days. And since there really wasn't any slack in them, the plan just got a whole lot more hectic.

What We Finally Saw

So enough lessons for the day - let us get on with what we actually did see. Here is our final, actually implemented, boots on ground, itinerary.

Tue Oct 11, 2016

  • Reached Singapore

  • Trudged to the homestay
  • Strolled in Marina Bay Sands
  • Art-Science Museum

Wed Oct 12, 2016

Full Day
  • Universal Studios

  • Dinner at Little India

Thu Oct 13, 2016

Full Day
  • Sentosa Island

Fri Oct 14, 2016

Forenoon / Afternoon
  • Singapore Zoo & River Safari

Late Evening
  • Gardens by the Bay
    • Cloud Mountain & Supertree Grove

Sat Oct 15, 2016

  • Botanic Garden & Orchid Garden

  • Shopping

Late Evening / Night
  • Night Safari

Sun Oct 16, 2016

  • Jurong Bird Park

  • Clarke Quay / Riverfront

  • Marina Bay Sands – Laser Show

Mon Oct 17, 2016

  • Gardens by the Bay (Flower Dome)

  • Mariamman Temple

  • Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

  • Masjid Jamae

  • Lau Pa Sat

Tue Oct 18, 2016

Early Morning
Return Flight

Planning Tips

Though we enjoyed this itinerary, here are a few suggestions based on our experience.

  • The ArtScience Museum can be given miss. Though, there were a few installation which were great, the overall experience wasn't. It is probably a good place to visit if you are in the city for a long time. However, in case of a short trip, the time may be better spent in other places. The museum is located in the Marina Bay Sands waterfront, and a photograph with its unique architecture is probably enough.
  • Try and visit the Universal Studios on a weekday as the crowd can have a major impact on your experience. More people would mean that you would have to spend more time in the queues for each ride. Passes are available for skipping the queue, but they increase your costs. In my experience, the passes are not required on weekdays. We did have to wait for over 45 minutes for the main roller-coaster ride. However, the wait for other rides were very less. All attractions have a board outside showing the approximate wait time. I would suggest that you time your visit to the main roller-coaster either first if you reach early, or later in the afternoon when the crowds have spread out. The park closes at 6 PM, so plan what rides you want to take so that you don't miss any.
  • The Singapore Zoo is not very large. Half a day is more than enough. However, one of it's main attractions, especially for kids, is the live shows. There are four different shows, each held twice a day. The latest timings and details can be checked here. Among these shows, the Splash Safari Show featuring a Seal is very popular. This show is held at 10:30 AM and 5 PM. So plan your visit to be there by 10 AM (cater for walking time from the gate to the amphitheater) so that you can see all the shows and head back to the city for lunch. If leaving early is not an option, plan for an afternoon visit, reaching at around 2 PM. Reaching there after 11 AM leaves you in the awkward position of whiling away your time till 5 PM, when the Splash show is held. You, thus, end up using an entire day instead of half a day.
  • The River Safari is a zoo with a focus on river ecology, including riverine fish. It is not particularly great. However, they have a pair of Giant Pandas - Kai Kai and Jia Jia. So if you want to see Pandas, this is the only place to see them in Singapore. And knowing what most tourists come to see, they have smartly laid out the place in such a way that you have to walk through all the exhibits before you reach the Pandas, at the far end. So your call. If you have bought a Multi-Park Pass (more on this later), this can probably be a dash to the Pandas and back.

  • The Gardens by the Bay comprises of the Flower Dome, Cloud Mountain and the Supertree Grove. You can easily spend an hour in the Flower Dome, assuming you like plants. The Cloud Mountain would need at least 45 minutes to walk through. It is a twenty minute walk, or 5 minute cart ride (if you pay for it) from the ticket counter to the domes. The Light and Sound show at the Supertree Grove, held every evening at 7:15 and 8:15 PM, is also a must watch. So my suggestion is to visit them later in the afternoon, say around 4 PM. You have around 3 hours to see the Domes, and exit them just in time to see the Light and Sound show.
  • And finally, keep aside at least one entire evening just for strolling around the Riverfront, Orchard Street, etc.
In the next post, I will discuss the details of expenditure, money saving tips and suggest an itinerary for you, based on our experiences.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Singapore - A Land of Man-Made Wonders

Singapore is a wonderful holiday destination for the entire family, with the focus being on the kids. For such a small country (4716 times smaller than India), it has a lot to offer. In fact, Singapore is among the Top 5 tourist destinations in the world and got over 10 million visitors in 2015. In comparison, India, with all it's history, culture, architecture, mountains, beaches, etc managed to attract only 8 million the same year.

And amazingly, most of the attractions have literally been created from what was once a swamp, by sheer human ingenuity and engineering. Even the nature reserves have probably been meticulously designed to give it a 'natural look'.πŸ˜‡

We recently went to Singapore for a week long holiday. In the next few posts, I will give you my planned itinerary, the problems and what we actually managed to do and, finally, a better itinerary incorporating the lessons we learn't. I desist from calling the final proposal an ideal itinerary because I am learning with every new trip that 'No itinerary survives contact with the first day of the holiday'

At the end of every holiday, I spend a few days agonizing over the mistakes, lost opportunities and how we could have done it better. That is followed by the blame-game - didn't plan enough, the weather didn't cooperate, didn't anticipate travel time, etc. But finally, in life, I hope to reach the stage where I remember both the good and not so good parts of the holiday as an experience to cherish. A holiday is a journey, and not a destination with a tag of success or failure.

Duration.     How many days is good enough to see Singapore? The answer, as always, is subjective. But suffice to say that there is enough to keep you and your family occupied even on a month long trip. Unfortunately, we tend to club Singapore with a trip to Malaysia and Indonesia. This leaves only a few days in Singapore, which I think is grossly insufficient. The logic of going to Malaysia, at least for Indians, has always been that we should see it since we have gone all that far. However, this is no longer a valid argument as the cost of an air ticket from India to Malaysia/Singapore is comparable to the cost of going from Singapore to Malaysia. The Visa charges remain the same. So there really isn't any great saving by going to both in the same trip. Each place deserves your undivided attention.

Planning.     Our methodology for booking Hotel rooms and air tickets remained the same as that in our trip to Europe. The details can be found here.

Visa.    You can apply for a visa only 15 days in advance. For getting a visa, the hassle-free method is to download the list of authorized agents provided at the  Singapore High Commission website. Select the agent closest to your place from it. The visa application, Form 14A, can be downloaded from the same site. There are some specific requirements for the passport size photos which is also available on the website. However, most agents have a photographer available nearby providing the necessary services. It took just 2 days to get the Visa.

Planned Itinerary

After considerable deliberation, we decided to go for a 6 day trip. All our planning indicated that it may be too less. Our earlier experience of a minute-to-minute plan going awry had persuaded us about the importance of free time in any travel arrangement. However, the constant litany from others, who had been to Singapore, saying that the duration was too long, dissuaded us from increasing it further. The final itinerary when we left Indian shores was as follows -

Tue Oct 11,
Reach Singapore
Singapore Zoo,
River Safari 
Wed Oct 12,
Full Day
Sentosa Island
Late Evening/ Night
Little India
Thu Oct 13,
Full Day
Universal Studios
Late Evening/ Night
China Town
Fri Oct 14,
Asian Civilisations Museum
Gardens by the Bay
River Cruise
Sat Oct 15,
Jurong Bird Park
Botanic Garden
Night Safari
Sun Oct 16,
ArtScience Museum
Chinese and Japanese Gardens
Lau Pa Sat
Mon Oct 17,
Singapore Flyer
Peranakan Museum
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
Chinatown Heritage Centre
Tue Oct 18,
Early Morning
Return Flight


It did not even survive the first few hours in Singapore.