Business Travel in Singapore

A Hot Tip about Business Travel in Singapore

Posted on: 23 Feb 2010

Business Customs

Business discussions are usually conducted in a very straightforward manner. English is widely spoken and most businesspeople are skilled and technically knowledgeable. Most agents/distributors have visited the United States and often handle several American product lines. Corruption is virtually non-existent.


Many Singapore business people are of ethnic Chinese background, and many of them will have “Western” first names (e.g., Nancy Goh). Those who do not will have only their Chinese name on their business card, in which case the family name is listed first. Mr. Chan Yiu Kei would be addressed as “Mr. Chan” and Ms. Wong Ai Lan as “Ms. Wong.”


The names of business people of Malay or Indian descent are written and spoken as given name followed by family name. For the sake of politeness and respect, it is wise to address a businessperson by the last name rather than the first name until invited to use a given name. When in doubt it is not impolite to ask. The common and polite Singaporean phrase is ‘How shall I address you?’


Business cards are a must as they are immediately exchanged during business and social meetings. The East Asian practice of presenting a business card with both hands is observed. There is no need to have special business cards printed in Chinese.


Located a few degrees from the Equator, Singapore has a constant tropical climate year-round. Daytime temperatures average between 85 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Humidity is very high and rain showers are frequent. Temperatures at night average between 76 and 80 degrees. All public buildings, indoor restaurants and taxis are air-conditioned. Summer-weight suits/dresses, several dress-shirts, and an umbrella are recommended for the traveler. Singapore business dress is a long-sleeved shirt and tie for men, although one will not be out of place without a tie. Some formal meetings call for a coat and tie. Businesswomen wear light-weight attire. Evening dinner-dress is a shirt and tie for men but there isn’t a strict dress code for women.


Tipping is not customary in Singapore. Restaurants automatically add a 10% service charge and a 7% goods and services tax (GST) to the bill. Singapore's unit of currency is the Singapore dollar. Travelers' checks and currency may be exchanged in the baggage claim area at Changi Airport (at a reasonable rate) or at any hotel (at a less favorable rate). Singapore features dozens of Government-authorized "money changers" located in major shopping centers, offering competitive rates and they will usually accept U.S. travelers' checks as well as major currencies. International credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants and retail shops. ATMs that accept U.S. cards are widely available.


Travel Advisory

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.


Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.


While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than those in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Singapore laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.


There are strict penalties for possession and use of drugs as well as for trafficking in illegal drugs. Visitors should be aware of Singapore's strict laws and penalties for a variety of actions that might not be illegal or might be considered minor offenses in the United States. 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.


Singapore customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary import and export of items such as weapons, illegal drugs, certain religious materials, pornographic material, videotapes, CDs, DVDs and software. Singapore customs authorities’ definition of "weapon" is very broad, and, in addition to firearms, includes many items which are not necessarily seen as weapons in the United States, such as dive knives, kitchen knives, handcuffs and expended shell casings. Carrying any of these items without permission may result in immediate arrest. All baggage is x-rayed at every port of entry, so checked baggage will also be inspected for regulated items.

Generally, there are four types of dutiable goods in Singapore: alcoholic beverages, tobacco, gasoline and motor vehicles. Travelers entering Singapore at any port of entry must approach an Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officer at the "Red Channel" for payment of duty (e.g. alcohol and tobacco) and goods and services tax (GST) if you have dutiable goods which exceed the GST relief or duty-free concession. It is an offence to proceed to the "Green Channel" for clearance if you have items that are subject to payment of duty and/or GST.


Visa Requirements

A valid passport is required. U.S. citizens do not need a visa if their visit is for business or social purposes and their stay is for 90 days or less. Travelers to the region should note that Singapore and some neighboring countries do not allow Americans to enter under any circumstances with fewer than six months of validity remaining on their passport. Female U.S. citizens who are pregnant when they apply to enter Singapore for a social visit are no longer required to make prior application through the nearest Singapore overseas mission or to provide documentation from a U.S. Embassy concerning the nationality the child will acquire at birth.


Specific information about entry requirements for Singapore may be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of Singapore at 3501 International Place NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel. (202) 537-3100.


U.S. companies should note that Singapore is part of the Visa Waiver Program and that eligible nationals of Singapore are able to travel to the United States without a visa for tourist and business travel of 90 days or less provided they possess an e-passport and an approved authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Third country nationals living and working in Singapore may have to obtain a visa before visiting the United States.




Telecommunications and Internet facilities in Singapore are state-of-the-art, providing high-quality communications with the rest of the world. Public telephones accepting cash cards or cash are located throughout the country. For mobile phone users, third generation (3G) networks and services were rolled out in early 2005. Consumers can currently receive wireless data through their mobile phones at speeds of up to 7.2 megabits per second (Mbps). Singapore mobile operators are in the process of upgrading their 3G networks to increase the wireless data speeds up to 21 Mbps in 2009. 'Cyber cafes' are popular and Internet connections are available in most hotels.


Internet users can go online for free at more than 7,400 Wi-Fi hot spots island-wide. The wireless broadband service dubbed Wireless@SG, enables people to go online at public places such as shopping malls, town centers and the business district.


Besides a nationwide broadband network infrastructure, Singapore is well connected by multiple satellite and submarine cable systems with more than 30 Tbps of potential capacity supporting international and regional telecoms connectivity. It has more than 100 Gbps of direct international internet connectivity to economies such as the US, China, Japan, India, as well as some countries in Europe and ASEAN.



Situated at the crossroads of international shipping and air routes, Singapore is a center for transportation and communication in Southeast Asia. Singapore Changi International Airport is a regional aviation hub served by over 80 airlines linked to 189 cities in 60 countries worldwide. The airport now has a dedicated low-cost terminal for budget airlines and the third terminal commenced operations in 2008 which increased the airport’s capacity to 22 million passenger movements per annum. Singapore was the world's busiest container port in 2007. The country is also linked by road and rail to Malaysia.


Taxis are abundant, metered, inexpensive and air-conditioned, and most drivers speak English. Drivers should be given place names for the destination as these are often more familiar than street names. Traffic flow is good. The Government limits the total number of cars on the road through heavy fees/taxes and imposes a surcharge on vehicles entering the Central Business District during peak hours. In addition, an exceptionally clean, efficient subway system links the major business/shopping areas.



Good medical care is widely available in Singapore and high-end medical tourism is a growing business. Doctors and hospitals expect immediate payment for health services by credit card or cash and generally do not accept U.S. health insurance. Recipients of health care should be aware that the 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.


MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see information on medical insurance overseas.





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Posted: 23 February 2010

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