What makes Singapore a unique country to travel to?
Singapore is a small, stable, highly developed country with an elected parliamentary system of government. Tourist facilities are modern and widely available. Singapore's resident population of over five million inhabitants comprises 75% Chinese, 14% Malay, 9% Indian, and 2% others. English is widely spoken. Criminal penalties are strict and law enforcement rigorous; see sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Special Circumstances, and Criminal Penalties below for further details.
The crime rate in Singapore is generally low. Even so, you should exercise caution when in congested areas and pay particular attention to personal belongings while in crowded shopping malls and markets, at the airport, and while traveling on public transportation. To avoid falling victim to credit card fraud, you should not carry multiple credit cards on your person, not allow credit cards to be removed from your sight, avoid giving credit card information over the phone, and use only secure Internet connections for financial transactions.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, as not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them, you may also be breaking local law.
Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. While you are traveling in Singapore, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. If you break local laws in Singapore, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not in Singapore. In Singapore, you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. Driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. In Singapore, you can be arrested for jaywalking, littering, or spitting. Commercial disputes that may be handled as civil suits in the United States can escalate to criminal cases in Singapore and may result in heavy fines and prison sentences. There are also some things that might be legal in Singapore but still illegal in the United States. You can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States.
Mandatory Caning Sentences: Singapore has a mandatory caning sentence for vandalism offenses. Authorities in Singapore may also impose caning for immigration violations and other offenses. Singaporean authorities do impose these sentences on foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens. Males over the age of 50 and women are not subject to caning.
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. They do not distinguish between drugs consumed before or after entering Singapore in applying local laws. In Singapore, detained U.S. citizens have been surprised when they were arrested for violations that would not have resulted in arrest in the United States.
There are no jury trials in Singapore. Judges hear cases and decide sentencing. The Government of Singapore does not provide legal assistance except in capital cases; legal assistance may be available in some other cases through the Law Society.
Carrying Firearms: There are very strict penalties for those who possess or carry arms, or who commit crimes with arms. 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 projectiles can be discharged or from which noxious liquid, flame, or fumes can be emitted, and any component thereof. This definition also includes any bomb or grenade and any component thereof. The unlawful possession of any arm or ammunition, including a single bullet in your luggage as you transit the airport, could result in imprisonment and caning. If you are convicted of committing a crime with an arm, you could receive punishment which could result in the maximum penalty of imprisonment for life and caning.
Engaging in sexual conduct: In Singapore, local law prohibits causing or encouraging prostitution of, or engaging in sexual relations with, a female below the age of 18. An indecent assault against anyone, male or female, regardless of age, is also prohibited. If you are convicted of facilitating or abetting the prostitution of any woman or girl, you could be sentenced to imprisonment of up to five years and a fine, or both. If the crime involves a female below the age of 16, you face an additional charge carrying a possible sentence of imprisonment of up to three years and a fine, or both.
Singapore enforces strict laws pertaining to the propriety of behavior between people and the modesty of individuals. The Singaporean law “Outrage of Modesty” is defined as an assault or use of criminal force on any person with the intent to, or the knowledge that it may, outrage the modesty of that person. Penalties may include imprisonment for up to two years, a fine, caning, or a combination thereof. Men are sometimes accused of inappropriately touching other people, often women, resulting in their prosecution and punishment under this Singaporean law. Scams involving a claim of outrage of modesty are thought to exist, and male travelers should be very cautious when frequenting popular nightspots.
Arrest notifications in Singapore: If you are arrested in Singapore, authorities of Singapore are required to notify the U.S. Embassy of your arrest. If you are concerned the Embassy may not be aware of your situation, you should request the police or prison officials to notify the Embassy of your arrest.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Good medical care is widely available in Singapore. Doctors and hospitals expect immediate payment for health services by credit card or cash and generally do not accept U.S. health insurance. Hospitals may require a substantial deposit before admitting you into the hospital for any major medical treatment. The U.S. Embassy cannot provide a letter of guarantee for payment. Recipients of health care should be aware that Ministry of Health auditors in certain circumstances may be granted access to patient medical records without the consent of the patient, and in certain circumstances physicians may be required to provide information relating to the diagnosis or treatment without the patient's consent.
Despite vigorous mosquito eradication efforts, Singapore has had occasional outbreaks of mosquito-transmitted illnesses, such as dengue fever and the viral disease Chikungunya. For the most current health information regarding disease outbreaks in Singapore, visit the CDC’s website.
If you visit Singapore during a pandemic such as the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, you should expect that the Singapore government may order you to quarantine if you exhibit symptoms or have had contact with someone who has exhibited symptoms. Also, you should expect that you may be subject to quarantine if you were seated within several rows of a potentially infected person on a plane or public area or have recently traveled to countries more affected by the pandemic. You should also expect to encounter screening in public facilities such as the airport, hospitals, and museums. Please visit Singapore's Ministry of Health website for the most up-to-date information on infectious diseases in Singapore.
During the summer months, Singapore frequently experiences haze and air pollution caused by forest fires and the burning of agricultural waste in neighboring countries. Air pollution during these periods can reach levels considered hazardous to health. Please visit the website of Singapore’s National Environment Agency for the latest information on air pollution level.
Safety and Security
Threats of Terrorism: In 2001, plots were uncovered whereby Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a terrorist organization with links to Al Qaeda, identified several Singapore government and private targets associated with the United States for possible attacks. These plans were disrupted, and the JI organization in Singapore was largely dismantled. While there have been no attacks against U.S. facilities or citizens in Singapore or against Singaporean government facilities, extremist groups in Southeast Asia have launched attacks in neighboring countries and U.S. citizens traveling in the region should closely monitor the Bureau of Consular Affairs website for the latest Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts. The Department of State remains concerned, however, that terrorist groups in the region could conduct attacks against locations where Westerners are known to congregate. Terrorist groups do not distinguish between official and civilian targets, and U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to Singapore and neighboring countries should therefore exercise caution and remain vigilant about their surroundings, particularly in areas where U.S. citizens and other Westerners live, work, congregate, shop, or visit.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Singapore, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Singapore is provided for general reference only and may not be completely accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Singapore has a highly developed and well-maintained road and highway network. Driving is done on the left-hand side of the road. Motorists should be particularly aware of motorcyclists, who often ignore lane markings. Public transportation and taxis are abundant, inexpensive, and reliable. All bus stops and trains have panels indicating all routes and stops. You should consider using these forms of transportation. The Automobile Association (AA) of Singapore provides roadside assistance, and the Land Transport Authority has rescue vehicles on the road at all hours. In addition, closed circuit cameras monitor all major roads. As with all laws in Singapore, those involving traffic rules, vehicle registration, and liability in case of accident are strictly enforced, and failure to follow them may result in criminal penalties.