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Singapore - Singapore

With a population of more than three million living in an area of 600 square kilometres, Singapore is one of the world's most densely populated cities. Housing is expensive due to the scarcity of land, and most Singaporeans today stay in high-rise apartments that cost as much as a bungalow in nearby Malaysia. This translates to expensive lodging.

Interestingly, however, the number of hotels has been snowballing and occupancy rates average more than 80 per cent. Visitors to the island can choose from a good range of accommodation. Hotels prove the popular choice, and they are concentrated in two main areas—the Colonial District and the Orchard Road shopping belt.

Colonial District—One would do well to find lodging in and around the colonial core, for this provides convenience in seeing the historical sights, the ethnic enclaves, and the restaurants and pubs along Boat Quay and Clarke Quay. Major convention centres are also within walking distance, while the Orchard Road shopping belt and the Central Business District (CBD) are just a short ride away.

If your budget allows, the more comfortable choices include the Ritz-Carlton in the Marina area (this six-star hotel boasts top-notch facilities in a central location and a view of the sea) and Conrad International (more of a business hotel but service here is excellent!). Of course, the Raffles Hotel deserves a separate mention. This hotel is legendary. In addition to wonderful service, shopping boutiques (Prada, Louis Vuitton, etc.) and good restaurants, Raffles Hotel provides visitors with an excellent tropical getaway in the city centre. Other hotels worth considering include the Marina Mandarin, Hotel InterContinental, Pan Pacific and Swissôtel The Stamford (one of the world's tallest hotels). These are brand-name hotels that provide quality service and have all the amenities associated with five-star hotels—swimming pool, gym, room service, restaurants, business centre and the like.

Those wanting something less extravagant can opt for the Allson or the Peninsula Excelsior, both of which have decent rooms, a small pool and limited business facilities. Though belonging to the same mid-range bracket, the Swissotel Merchant Court is refreshingly contemporary, with a free-form pool, an excellent fitness centre and a jacuzzi overlooking the Singapore River.

Orchard Road—Choice district to stay in if shopping is your thing. The largest concentration of hotels is found here—not surprising since the multitudes of shopping malls make it the main tourist belt. Few sightseeing opportunities are near, but with 2.5 kilometres of shopping extravaganza at your doorstep, why complain?

If money is no object, the top choices here are the Grand Hyatt (superbly landscaped, with excellent fitness facilities, popular with business professionals), Four Seasons (renowned for its unparalleled personal service) and Goodwood Park—an elegant, refurbished 1856 German recreation club built in the style of a Rhineland castle. Other luxury hotels worthy of mention include the Shangri-La, Meritus Mandarin Singapore and Sheraton Towers.

For those with a moderate budget, try the less expensive (three- and four-star) hotels such as Traders, Royal Plaza and Singapore Marriott (which is itself a landmark for its distinctive pagoda-style roof). These provide a pleasant stay and reasonably good service, with in-house restaurants and business centres. At the lower end, there are no-frills hotels like Lloyd's Inn and RELC International Hotel. However, facilities match the low price—they are basic and only sometimes comfortable.

City Fringe—Hotels around the city fringe provide good alternatives for the more budget conscious. Connection to the central areas is quick and easy—hop on a bus or train and you will be there within minutes. For those who want the comfort of an attached bath and regular no-frills lodging, get a room at Hotel Bencoolen. The chain of Hotel 81 outlets—mostly located in the slightly seedy, red-light district of Geylang—may be a little further out from the city, but they do provide comfortable, adequate lodging at a much lower price.

Budget Lodging—Backpackers are not so spoilt for choice. There are not any YHA-affiliated hostels, but there are a limited number of guesthouses, which offer dorm beds for below SGD25 a night. These include Why Not Homestay and Waffles Homestay just off the city centre, and YMCA International House—an all-time favourite for its central location between Orchard Road and the colonial district.
 
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