Singapore City Guide
Lying at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, the tropical island city of Singapore is a tiny but important spec in the business world. Economic success and forward thinking has evolved the former port city to being a welcome home for triathletes, despite its lack of land area. Added to this, Singapore’s geographical location and maritime proximity also helps set a uniform air temperature throughout the year, with high humidity and an abundance of rainfall occurring all year round.
To make the most of this Singpore City Guide, note two patterns within this post. The first concerns sections, which follow in this sequence:
The second pattern is to do with the detail on each venue. Exact hours aren’t indicated alongside venues unless very restrictive or seasonal, and prices are also omitted in the knowledge that no listed facility charges more than SGD 35 for day access (USD 1 ≈ 1.35). Instead, a full directory of telephone numbers is provided in the final Directory section, so you can call ahead to confirm your intended training time. The place names in the Directory link to the venue’s Google Maps profile – click on the venue’s name to generate directions with the actual app.
Orientation & Logistics
Located on the south side of the island is the Central Business District (CBD) area – the core financial and commercial hub where most of the nation’s urban planning areas are concentrated. The CDB is also home to the many gleaming commercial skyscrapers that form the unique Singapore skyline alongside the iconic Marina Bay Sands towers, Art Science Museum, Helix Bridge, Esplanade and Singapore Flyer. Aside from the daily movement of business people to the CBD, it has also become a popular spot for tourists with a wide range of options in food and hospitality, and not a bad location for a travelling athlete.
Average temperatures for the year hover between 25 to 31 degrees Celsius, with a 40% possibility of tropical thunderstorms occurring on all days. Relative humidity is a high of 70% to 80%, which is high enough to consider acclimatising to before returning to your normal training levels. Owing to its location on the Equator, Singapore doesn’t experience the four seasons, meaning that sunrise and sunset fall fairly consistency at 7am and 7pm all year round. The fluctuations in temperatures and rainfall can be summarised in these trends:
- April is the warmest month
- January is the coolest month
- November and December are the wettest months (monsoon season)
Singapore’s comprehensive public transport network means the entire island can be easily traversed with the purchase of an EZ link card from any of the Passenger Service Centres and Transit Link ticket offices located at most stations and interchanges. EZ Link cards can also be purchased online, at 7-Eleven stores or from Buzz Pods. This top-up card allows the user to travel on the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) lines as well as all SBS Transit, SMRT, TTS or GAS buses. Other forms of transport include the colourful taxis operated by Comfort Delgro and SMRT or the most popular carpool app – Grab. Most of the major training venues and facilities are within a stone’s throw from bus or train stations, which more or less removes any excuse not to make your next workout.
Singapore’s significant urban development has made space for recreational facilities, with avenues for runners networking the city. Varied terrain mixes up the challenge of covering ground within the ever constant humid conditions, while built infrastructure offers defined distances and grades to advance your training. These running recommendations focus on options within reach of the CBD area of Singapore.
Though most athletics tracks in Singapore are open to the public after school hours and on weekends, two facilities can be highlighted as the most popular among elite runners. A 1km walk from the Botanic Gardens Station on the Circle line (walkway) is the Ministry of Education (MOE) Co-Curricular Activity Branch (CCAB) stadium which features an eight-lane running track, a perfect venue to clock your speed work and interval sessions. It is also one of the most popular public training grounds in Singapore for track & field teams, triathlon squads and national athletes, largely due to its central location, broad access hours and availability of shower / changing facilities.
Located next to the iconic Singapore National Stadium and part of the Singapore Sports Hub cluster is the relatively new Home of Athletics (HOA) Kallang Practice Track which was built as a venue to cater for international and regional events, as well as the nation’s high-performance training squads (photo above). Open to the public, the track can be accessed easily from Stadium or Mountbatten Station on the edge of the CBD area. Access hours are from 5am to 10pm, and the nearby Kallang Wave Mall is a good place to grab food before or after your session.
Hugging the CBD area is the Marina Bay Waterfront, opening up a good urban pathway for runners to take on uninterrupted long runs. Runners can either take the 3.5km loop around Marina Bay west of Bayfront Avenue which, or tag on a larger 10km loop that encompasses the Gardens by the Bay, Marina Barrage, the Helix Bridge (below) and Singapore Sports Hub (passing by Kallang Basin). Day or night, runners are sure to be rewarded with spectacular views of the city skyline.
With its 5km flat, two-way stretch, East Coast Park is a great place for clocking 10km runs along the sunny Singapore coastline topped with a light sea breeze. The route is used regularly for running races, including the annual Sundown Marathon. East Coast Park is easy to navigate and there are plenty of public toilets, vending machines and food stalls along the entire stretch.
If you have more time on your hands and want to explore Singapore’s trails, head three miles north to the centre of the island the route the MacRitchie Reservoir Loop. The easily accessible 10km reservoir loop is largely undulating and runners are mostly sheltered from the scorching sun by the dense foliage along the trail. It’s almost impossible to get lost there on weekend mornings with the large numbers of runner making their way round. Lockers and shower facilities are available at the entrance to the park near to the Mushroom Café.
As a country without national parks or mountains of any sort, athletes seeking to get some proper incline during training usually turn to the slopes of Mount Faber Park to get their hill repeats done. Mount Faber is home to Singapore’s highest point (105m), so a number of routes have been paved to ease the short climb climb to the top. A 1.4km / 5% ascent cuts up from the north side of the Park, while a 1.6km / 3.1% climb comes in from the West. Have a look at the route profiles and decide according to the climb and distance of your intervals, enjoying the panoramic view from the top of the hill when you can.
Social and recreational runners can choose between run squads organised by big running brands (Adidas Runners SG, ASICs Running Club), while competitive runners might consider joining established groups such as MacRitchie Runners 25 (MR25) or F1 Runners. Each arrange weekly training sessions and long runs, and MR25 also organise a handful of races through the year. Clubs don’t charge for accessing their sessions so you simply have a look on their respective websites for runs that match your dates, then show up.
Given the size of Singapore, it’s tricky to find long stretches of roads where you don’t have to un-cleat and stop for a traffic light every few hundred metres. Some enclaves are accessible once you roll out of the CBD and enter less populated areas. The cyclable 120km perimeter of the island of course invites some athletes to consider the entire circumnavigation, usually guided by one of the social cycling groups.
Located on the east side of the Island near the Changi International Airport, Tanah Merah Coast Road is a 10km on-road cycling lane that stretches from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal to Changi Ferry Terminal. It is a one-of-a-kind cycling route on the island that features a 2m-wide red tarmac lane demarcated by raised chevron markings on the side. This is a popular spot for cyclists to get in proper time trial efforts, thanks to the wide berth of the cyclist-only allocation, not usually a theme on normal roads.
Head further north and you’ll discover the Seletar Link Loop – a 13km loop that brings riders round the Seletar Aerospace Park / Airport and across a couple of dams and bridges that link up the two islands Punggol Timor and Punggol Barat. A handy place to clock mileage, the wide smooth roads are relatively car-free, especially on weekend mornings, so offering the best “countryside” views Singapore has to offer.
At the start of the busy Dunearn Road, take a turn that leads into a quiet stretch of road surrounded by nature, also the home of one of the many military bases in Singapore. Rifle Range Road is a 6.8km loop (3.4km one way) that features a series of short climbs, equating to about 70m elevation per loop, ideally suited to triathletes looking to get some strength or hills intervals in.
Further hills can be found through connecting the southern climbs, located along the west coast highway. Pull them all together the create a total distance of anywhere from 20km to 30km. They consist of the following climbs:
- South Buona Vista (SBV) Road: a 2km climb with a gentle gradient and several gradual switchbacks. Climb to the top and enjoy the fun technical descent back down.
- Vigilante Drive (Entrance near bottom of SBV): Short 600m climb that features one of the sharpest ascents Singapore has to offer, an average 17-18% gradient for about half the climb.
- Pepys Road – Short 600m climb
- Henderson Road – 1km climb with very gentle gradient
- Telok Blangah Green – accessed along Henderson Road, the short but steeper 750m climb takes you on a loop at its peak that brings you back to the start.
Mount Faber (Kampong Bahru Road or Pender Road Entrance) – attempt loops up and down the peak of Singapore’s biggest climb. KBR is the steeper side.
There are plenty of cycling groups that start from all round the island but there are three groups to keep a close eye on who organise regular rides almost every single day of the week. Mostly obvious are the rides from British cycling brand, Rapha, published on their ride calendar for the Singapore Chapter (toggle to the right through the alphabetical list of chapters, if viewing this in a desktop view).
Joy Riders Singapore are one of the biggest groups in Singapore and they have weekday rides leaving from the “long house” food centre along Upper Thompson Road in the early hours of the morning (5am) every day. Depending on your fitness and ability, there are usually two to three packs with the first to roll being the fastest group (be warned this is usually a hammer ride!). They also organise regular steady paced weekend long rides.
West Coast Riders (Facebook Group) are the perfect group to cycle with if you struggle to get up early in the morning. Like Joy Riders, they are a large group of cycling enthusiasts who hold regular weekday and weekend rides with varying intensities. The only difference being that the WCR rides are held in the late evening and roll off from the small road beside West Coast Park McDonald’s.
If the humidity or chance of rain becomes too overwhelming for you, hop inside and train with Athlete Lab. Their indoor cycling studios are some of the best around, offering comparable resistance, cyclo-cinema scenarios and in-class competition (including drag resistance).
To rent full carbon road bikes in Singapore, look to Valley Cycles, a bricks and mortar to the north-west of the CBD. They’re bikes aren’t listed on their website, but they have a decent fleet that is available on request. Email your frame size and dates to Stephen Ames (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get a feel for options. Per day prices are graded, descending depending on how long you are looking to rent for (ballpark, one week is $350).
Swimming is a huge sport in tropical Singapore, meaning that full-sized lap pools are easily accessible with very reasonable entry and concession rates. Technical swimmers should note that public pools in Singapore do not allow the use of hard hand paddles and flippers / fins, but soft hand gloves and pool buoys / kick boards are allowed. Most pools also have designated lanes for lap swim according to speed.
The OCBC Aquatic Centre located at the Singapore Sports Hub contains the island’s only public accessible 50m indoor lap pools but it is a gem (photo above). In fact, the facility is home to two Olympic sized 50m pools – one main competition pool where international events are held, and another training pool. Its liberal opening hours coupled with the new and well-maintained facilities make it a popular choice for athletes to train in. Entry tickets can be bought right at the turnstile entrance and it is easily accessible by foot from Stadium MRT station (Circle Line).
Just beside the CCAB running track is the CCAB Swimming Complex, a 50m lap pool located just at the end of the hockey training pitch. The ticketing counter is on the opposite side of the pitch from the path to the pool entrance, so look out for these as you approach. Even though the CCAB pool is only open in the evening from 6 to 9pm, it is a popular location for working professionals, due to its relatively close proximity to town.
Every district in Singapore has its own outdoor swimming complex that charges the same entry rates island-wide. Some slightly more easily accessible ones from town would be the Bishan or Toa Payoh Public Swimming Pool by the Red Line.
The most popular venue for getting some open water swimming would be at Sentosa Island, with the Tanjong Beach Lagoon being the most ideal location to get in some proper laps (400 to 500m from one end to another) and with points to practice sighting along the way. Most people usually just leave their stuff by the lifeguard tower located at the start of the beach and head in for a swim, although it is recommended that you go with a group for safety reasons.
There are a wide variety of choices for open water swim groups and sessions. Firstly, signing up for open water clinics with local event organisers, or coaching academies with coaching such as Metasport Singapore and Second Wind Academy. Alternatively join local triathlon clubs Brave Coaching or Seamonsta as a member to join their sessions that are part of their triathlon training plan.
CrossFit has penetrated Singapore very well, with a number of gyms to choose from. Each make their efforts to specialise in different variations, not all offering access to drop-ins. CrossFit Mobilus is one of the better gyms and has demonstrated enough foresight by integrating an adjacent space that is dedicated to Open Gym. This distinguished space is the MobAnnex, No real need to consider hours here – the gym is available from 6:30am to 6:30pm weekdays, and mornings on weekends. Check exact times on their website and make sure to book your slot in advance.
Sleeping & Eating
Singapore’s post-War development and high standards has guided the nation to being a leader in international tourism and hospitality. In food, popular Singapore delicacies include the fried carrot cake, fried kway teow, chicken rice, hokkien noodles and laksa. However, a self-considerate athlete might want to veer towards the economical rice or vegetarian stalls where you can mix and match from a wide variety of sides, and make a subtle gesture in favour the brown rice option.
Located along Shenton Way road in the CBD area, The AutoBus is every bicycle enthusiast’s dream come true – a bicycle-themed café that serves up healthy salad bowls that you can customise to your preference, as well as classics such as a Full English breakfast or “Egg Bennies”. To top it off, AutoBus also serve pretty good coffee and tea, while bike racks outside the café, apparel, spares and shiny frames meet a cyclist’s pet paranoias. See the photo above for the ultimate unison.
The perfect place for a post-ride coffee after some hard loops around Seletar is the quaint little Soek Seng 1954 Bicycle Cafe located next to Seletar Airport. The Cafe’s menu includes flavours from both the east and west and gives diners unobstructed views of the private jet runway and clean skies away from the busy city. The owner is a vintage bike collector and has made the effort to decorate the venue according to the theme. Soek Seng have plenty of space to rack your bicycles and even a simple Shimano workstation located outside for riders to use.
If you do cycle to the Seletar area, pay the famous Jalan Kayu Roti Prata stalls nearby a visit – either Thohirah (258 Jln Kayu) or Thasevi Food (237 Jalan Kayu). At each stall you’ll find a popular post-ride breakfast for locals when paired with a cup of ‘kopi’ (coffee) or ‘teh-tarik’ (pulled-tea). Western tourists will be more familiar with the industrial-chic interiors of Common Man Coffee Roasters (CMCR), also somewhere for a healthy bite. Their newer Common Man Stan venue is also worth seeking out, and CMCR are represented at Grounded.
“Zi Char” restaurants are extremely popular in Singapore, essentially Chinese restaurants or stalls that provide a wide selection of delicious local “home-cooked” dishes that go with plain rice. These can be found on street corners throughout the island, but popular ones nearer to the CBD area include Keng Eng Kee and Yua Yu Wee Restaurant (462 Upper East Coast Rd, no website). Seafood restaurants along the East Coast Road used to be the sole the hotspots for famous Singapore Chilli Crab and its saucy variations with “man-tou” (Fried Buns), but you’ll be able to find these local favourites at “Zi Char” restaurants now too. If you want to settle into a calmer pace but also sample dishes with Chinese influences, head to Morsels where head chef-owner Petrina Loh has built a verdant oasis on Dempsey Hill (see one dish below).
Hawker centres or food courts can be found throughout Singapore. Tourists are usually spoilt for choice because every centre has a wide variety of ethnic cuisines to choose from. Popular food centres are Newton Food Centre, Kovan Food Centre and Bukit Timah Food Centre – their famous stalls have been dishing out local cuisine for generations. If you are seeking healthier options, like the adjacent Amoy and Maxwell Food Centres have stalls that allow you to build your own salad bowls and add fresh fruit juice / smoothies.
Another fine dining option to pair with Morsels is Whitegrass, a restaurant which shifts its focus towards Japan and South-East Asia, also in a calm setting with modern finishes. Australian chef-owner Sam Aisbett adds a third dimension to Whitegrass’ influences, and a Michelin star too. Opened in January 2016, Whitegrass is relatively new to the restaurant scene, but has already worked its way into Asia’s top-50 restaurants.
A visit to Singapore is bound to widen a perspective on urban design and transport, so extending this to hospitality would be natural extension of a trip. The affordable design hotel, Wanderlust Hotel, is bound to impress, made of eclectic rooms that re-interpret normal rules of regulated interior design. Have a flick through their website, since this certainly isn’t for everyone. See the image below, for instance.
400m from Fort Canning Park is Lloyd’s Inn, a minimal hotel that is embedded into a natural setting. Its cool interiors are broadly white-washed, with eight room types scaling from Standard through Premium, Deluxe and Suite. Some rooms can be twinned and Suite rooms have bath tubs. Though Lloyd’s Inn has an rooftop, outdoor patio and dipping pool, there is no gym to speak of. Look to CrossFit Mobilus mentioned within the Gym section, they are only located just one mile away, in the direction of CBD.
Set in the Novena district 6km north of Marina Bay Waterfront is The Ramada Singapore at Zhongshan Park. As easy as it is to travel into town via the complimentary shuttle service provided by the hotel, guests will also find that the area around the hotel brimming with famous local fares and public attractions to explore. The hotel’s training facilities include a 30m outdoor swimming pool, open from 7am to 10am, and a gym with barbells, dumbbells, treadmills, stationary bike and a cage, open 24 hours a day.
East Coast Park: no number
Mount Faber Park: no number