I recently returned to Portland after spending three weeks in Singapore and Ubud, Bali. Even though I was born in Singapore and grew up in Asia, I experienced a lot of firsts on this trip.
This was my first time visit back to Singapore in almost nine years, and it felt familiar and foreign at the same time. It was my first time visiting Bali, and I stayed at a boutique yoga resort in Ubud that was perfect for a Bali first timer. This trip was also the first time I’ve truly traveled in a while. I’ve gone on short trips of a few days on my own, but that’s very different. As much as I felt like I needed a vacation after my vacation, the three weeks I spent in Singapore and Bali were exactly what I needed at this time in my life. As cliche as it sounds, I found myself again while traveling.
After recovering from jet lag, I’ve been busy editing photos and going through my notes. Here are some tips from the scribbles from my travel journal…
Travel Tips for Visiting Singapore and Bali
Travel Extra Light
I usually pack light when I travel, but I wish I had packed even lighter for this three week trip. I had read up on a few “what to pack for three weeks” guides, and I’ve found that most guides include too much clothing. My wardrobe naturally has a black, white, blue, gray color scheme for easy mixing and matching, but there were a few items that I didn’t wear. I’m glad I brought a weeks worth of lightweight underwear that I could hand wash and line dry, especially as I was showering and changing into fresh clothes twice a day in Bali. Packing a hair straightener was a foolish decision as my hair lived in a ponytail most of the time, which brings us to the weather…
Dealing with Heat and Humidity
If you visit Singapore or Bali, you will feel like you’re melting. The heat is one thing, but the humidity is what slowed me down the most. In that climate, lightweight, sweat-wicking fabrics are your friend. It’s tempting to wear flip flops, but you’ll want shoes with better support for exploring. Bring your water bottle. Pack mosquito repellent. Try to take pit stops in air conditioned areas. Don’t skip sunscreen. I wish I had thought to apply sunscreen to the tops of my feet because I ended up with a loafer tan. Don’t be like me.
Pack Laundry Bags
Remember to pack laundry bags! After years of forgetting to pack laundry bags, this item has finally found a permanent place near the top of my “to pack” list. To save space in my luggage, I always roll my clothes even when they’re dirty. I like to have multiple laundry bags: one for normal laundry, one for more delicate items like dresses, one for underwear and socks. It’s much easier to pack multiple smaller bags into a luggage than one large bag. Bags of dirty laundry are great for padding any fragile souvenirs in your checked luggage.
Maybe it’s just me, but one thing I enjoy about traveling is experiencing a city’s public transportation system. Google maps is my go-to app for navigating public transportation in most cities, and I’m a sucker for a good subway map. Singapore’s MRT is one of the best, and the bus system is great too, not to mention well air conditioned. If you’re lucky enough to ride one of the double decker buses, grab a spot in the front for a view of the city.
Before I arrived in Ubud, Bali, I was told to download Grab (Asia’s main rideshare app), but I soon learned that Grab and other similar apps are not allowed in the heart of Ubud. Renting a scooter is the easiest way to get around Bali, but I don’t have a driver’s license so that wasn’t an option for me. Instead, I relied on my hotel’s free shuttle and drivers. Booking drivers through the hotel was more expensive (typically 100,000 Indonesian rupiah, approx $7 USD for each trip), but as a solo female traveler, I felt better hiring drivers from the hotel.
Planning A Flexible Itinerary
I’m usually a Type A planner who has to have an itinerary, but I try to build in some room for unexpected detours. For this trip, I wasn’t as organized as I’ve been in the past and left a lot of planning to the last minute. When I arrived in Singapore, all I had was a rough list of things I wanted to do, eat, and see. My sister made a Google map of everything, which initially felt like overkill, but it was helpful for grouping the “must visit” spots by location. Every evening, I picked a few spots on the map and planned a flexible itinerary for the next day. Plan, but be flexible worked out very well for this trip. As you might have guessed, I mostly planned my days around where I wanted to eat. ;)
Finding Vegan Restaurants
Singapore and Bali were both extremely vegan-friendly, and I found plenty of delicious things to eat during my three weeks. I did a little research on Happy Cow, but the bulk of my restaurant list came from recommendations on other food blogs. At vegetarian restaurants, I found that dairy was sometimes an ingredient that’s not specified on the menu, so make sure you ask your server. With omnivore restaurants, I made sure to contact them to confirm that they can accommodate vegan diners before my visit.
Variety In Your Itinerary
This may seem obvious to some folks, but whenever I take a trip somewhere, I have to pause for a moment and make sure there’s enough variety on my “to do” list. If I have dinner reservations at an upscale restaurant, I’ll eat at a hole-in-the-wall mom and pop eatery for lunch. If I’m visiting museums and going shopping today, I’ll go hiking in a park tomorrow. If one day is extra busy with a back to back schedule, I’ll make sure to plan a slow day next. You get the idea.
Traveling At Your Own Pace
A follow up tip to planning an itinerary with variety is to travel at your own pace. When I got back to Portland, a few friends said to me “you did so much on your trip!” It’s true. I enjoy being constantly on the move and covering as much as possible, but I realize not everyone enjoys traveling that way. This trip has taught me that I need travel buddies or a partner who can keep up with me. And of course, they’ll have to be down for exploring restaurants. Food friends are always the best travel buddies, right?
Over the past year, I’ve gotten very comfortable with doing things alone… going to restaurants, events, concerts. I initially thought it would make me feel lonely, but I ended up feeling quite the opposite: I was glad that I did not miss out on anything I wanted to do just because I didn’t have someone to go with. It ended up feeling very empowering, and I highly recommend a good dose of alone time to everyone.
This trip to Singapore and Bali offered a balance of time with family and friends and time with myself. I know that many people have a fear of traveling alone, and I sure did at one point, but it’s a rewarding life experience, if you’re able to do it. You can meet people at your hotel (in my yoga class, I met a pair of Teresas who were best friends traveling together) or from “the apps” (ugh, no thanks), but if you booked a trip alone and didn’t invite anyone else along, I think you owe it to yourself to take some time to travel with yourself and to enjoy your own company.
I saved the most boring tip for last… don’t forget to pack your passport and other essentials like batteries and chargers for your phone and camera, as well as a power converter. You can buy portable chargers at the airport, but it’ll be more expensive there. Make sure everything is fully charged before you leave. Do your research on SIM cards before your trip, so you’re not stressing about it when you arrive. Don’t assume you’ll need a separate SIM card for each country — the SIM card I purchased in Singapore also covered Indonesia and other neighboring countries.
Brush up on your selfie game so you have some photos of yourself even when you can’t find someone to help you take one. Yes, you can use a selfie stick if you need it… I didn’t, but I won’t judge you, lol. And make sure you backup your photos regularly! When I’m traveling, I routinely do manual backups to Google Drive or Dropbox, in addition to iPhone’s iCloud backup. My iPhone broke when I was in Cancun a few years ago, and I was happy I had a good backup system.