Last month prior to coming to Singapore, my brother asked me and Rael, “Are you guys already familiar with the laws in Singapore?”
Rael and I shared a dumbfounded look.
Turns out, Singapore is dubbed as “The Fine City” for two reasons: 1) Singapore is an impeccable epitome of a fine state — clean, green, advanced and endowed with an array of attractions; 2) the country imposes a hodgepodge of fines.
Here are some of the things you need to know before coming to Singapore:
#1 Liquor control
Consumption of alcohol is banned in all public places from 10:30 PM to 7 AM. Retail shops are also not allowed to sell takeaway alcohol during these hours. You can, however, drink at licensed establishments like pubs and restaurants as long as you don’t create any public disturbance especially when you’re buzzed.
In Geylang and Little India, their liquor control law is more strict. Alcohol takeaway, as well as public drinking, are also banned from 7 AM on Saturdays until 7 AM on Mondays, and 7 PM on the eve of a public holiday to 7 AM after the holiday.
#2 Free city tours
This is not a law but this is something you might be very well interested in. If you are transiting through Singapore, Changi Airport offers 2 free city tours:
- ◉ City Sights Tour: Takes you around Merlion Park, Singapore Flyer, Marina Bay Sands, the Esplanade, etc. and a short stopover at Gardens by the Bay.
- ◉ Heritage Tour: Brings you to Chinatown, Little India, Kampong Glam and a short stopover at the Merlion Park. Registration booths are at Terminals 2 and 3.
#3 Gum-free zone
Gums have been banned in Singapore since 1992. In 2004, however, an exception was made for gums with health benefits (therapeutic, dental or nicotine chewing gum). These types of gums can be obtained from doctors and pharmacies. Carrying gums in your bag, though, doesn’t mean you will be prosecuted or something unless you’re bringing large quantities. Improper disposal of gum can cost up to S$1000 of fine. Spitting it out on the street is the worst crime of all.
#4 No spitting
Let’s face it. Some people are “spitters”. If you’re one of them, hold it in. Spitting in public places can issue you a fine of up to S$1,000.
#5 Keep left
Singapore is a “left lane country”. It is an unspoken rule but is considered an act of courtesy. Vehicle drivers drive on the left lane, pedestrian walk on the left, and people on escalators stand on the left and walk on the right. It’s not really a crime to stand or walk on the right side but it’s always good to follow their flow of traffic and not cause some sort of nonconformity.
#6 No littering
Singapore is impeccably clean. Not only on their “focal areas” but even on tiny alleys and non-touristy streets. It is not surprising that “no littering” is something they strictly enforce. Trash bins can be found in many corners and if you don’t see one, just keep it in your pocket or bag until you find one.
First-time offenders who throw small items like candy wrappers or cigarette butts are fined $300. Those who throw out bigger items like drink cans or bottles are considered defiant and are required to appear before the court which usually gives them Corrective Work Order (CWO). Think green vests and public cleaning.
Here’s a personal observation though: I saw 2 or 3 people litter. 1 is a taxi driver who threw something out of his car and 2 others were pedestrians, assumably locals. They were not fined at all. So I guess it really depends if someone will rat you out or if a law enforcer caught you redhanded. Still, littering should be a no-no not only when traveling in Singapore but anytime, anywhere.
#7 No jaywalking
Do not cross the street in non-designated areas. Meaning, you have to look for marked pedestrian lanes. This, however, is similar to #5. I’ve seen some people jaywalk in Little India and no one seemed bothered.
#8 Quiet after 10
Loud parties and group gatherings that cause noise after 10 PM in Singapore is considered illegal. If someone calls the police because of the noise and you have no reasonable excuse, you could be issued a fine of up to S$2,000. As of 2015, parties after 10:30 PM can be allowed given the host will secure a permit from the government.
#9 Be aware of the “bad Singaporean season”
There are times when Singapore is smothered in smog especially when there are forest fires in Sumatra. As a result, the city will experience an awful haze which is not only detrimental to one’s health but also not ideal for photographing among other things. So, always check weather forecasts for haze days and avoid traveling during these times.
Just in case you want to know, you can contact their police by dialing 999.
#11 Smoking Act
Smoking is prohibited in many places in Singapore: indoor public places, children’s playgrounds, outdoor public facilities, overhead bridges, bus shelters, public transportation vehicles, covered walkways, common areas in residential buildings, etc. Punishment can range from a fine of S$150 to S$1,000. Thankfully, signboards are available almost everywhere to make locals and tourists well informed.
#12 Display of same-sex relations is considered a crime
It’s time to discreet in the Lion City. Singapore has a legislation called “Outrages on Decency.” This law criminalizes homosexual relations and can slap offenders up to two years in prison.
#13 Always clothe yourself at home
Do you know that walking around naked even in the premise of your own house is prohibited? Apparently, the Singaporean government considers this act a form f pornography. So if you’re taking your clothes off at home, always always close your curtains or drape yourself with a towel.
#14 Vandalism is a serious crime
The crime of vandalism covers painting, drawing, writing, inscribing and putting any marks to any private or public property without proper consent. Damaging, destroying and stealing public property is also included as well as putting on posters, banners, flags, and placards. Offenders of this crime do not only get issued a fine but also jail time and 3 to 8 strokes of caning.
#15 Keep your pee off the elevators
I know this is something people already know. Urinating in elevators is prohibited. We don’t even need a law for that, right? While it’s frowned upon and considered a breach of property in most countries, in Singapore, it is highly unlawful. Their elevators are equipped with Urine Detection Devices (UDD), which set off an alarm when urine is detected. This alarm locks down the elevator doors until police arrive. Fine for offenders can range from S$150 to S$500.
#16 Connecting to Unsecured WiFi is illegal
I know, I know. Sometimes we get so desperate to harbor free wifi that we sometimes get tempted to connect to someone’s unprotected wifi. But HEY, if you start thinking about it, STOP. Doing so is considered a type of hacking in Singapore. In fact, there was a case of a teenager being sentenced to 3 years in prison for connecting to their neighbor’s wifi.
In Singapore, WiFi is ample almost everywhere. If you have a Singaporean SIM card or local number (or even if you’re just using your own international number but you have to be on roaming because a code will be sent to that number for verification), you can use it to register on free wifi connections. Also, some train stations and malls offer free WiFi.
Here are some of the train stations with free WiFi in Singapore:
- ◉ Changi Airport
- ◉ Bayfront
- ◉ Bugis
- ◉ Clark Quay
- ◉ City Hall
- ◉ Esplanade
- ◉ Promenade
- ◉ Raffles Place
- ◉ Farrer Park
- ◉ Harbourfront
- ◉ Fort Canning
- ◉ Marina Bay
- ◉ Outram Park
- ◉ Orchard
- ◉ Tanjong Pagar
- ◉ Woodlands
#17 Feeding pigeons
If in some parts of Europe and US people are allowed to share their crumbs to pigeons, this is totally not allowed in Singapore. Offenders will be fined S$500. Ohmy.
#18 No snacking on the MRT, and definitely no durian!
Yes, many countries allow passengers to nibble on something or drink some water while on board the train. In Singapore, however, this is a no-no. In fact, a woman in 2009 was fined S$30 just for popping a candy into her mouth. Durians are also not allowed in public transportation vehicles, even if you’re not going to eat it.
#19 Strictly no to drugs
In Singapore, the police is authorized to run random drug testing on anyone — both locals and tourists. Punishment can range from S$20,000 fines up to 10 years in prison or worse, death penalty.
#20 Annoying music?
I’ve read about this that one should never cause annoyance to anyone in Singapore by singing (especially with explicit content) or playing a musical instrument. Doing so is punishable by law of up to 3 months in prison. Yikes!
#21 No tissue, not taken
If you go to hawker centers and you’d like to reserve a seat or table, just leave packets of tissues on it and people will know it’s taken. If you go around and see tables/chairs with these tissues, do not attempt to snag the seat/table as it means it is currently reserved. Sometimes, tissue is not used but instead, they leave umbrellas, shopping bags, etc.
#22 Tipping is not necessary
It’s not customary to tip in Singapore. But if you feel like giving some, it’s not really illegal so go ahead.
#23 Flying a kite should not interfere with traffic
It makes a lot of sense because messing with traffic can cause many fatal things. Offenders of this law will be fined at least S$5,000.
Truly, Singapore is a fine city. Pun intended. Just knowing these basics and you’re all set!6