Personal Security and Public Hygiene
Singapore is one of those few countries in the world where people can walk about all night freely and without fear. Thefts are rare but it is still better to be safe than sorry so leave valuables indoors or in the safe deposit facilities available at hotels and hostels. Pickpocketing can be a problem for tourists in crowded places like Chinatown but instances of it happening have fallen in recent times. Still, it pays to be careful with your wallet and passport when visiting crowded places. In the unfortunate event that you do fall victim to a crime, there are numerous police posts and police stations located throughout the island. The number to call is 999 for the police and 995 for an ambulance.
Natural disasters are almost unheard of in Singapore as there are no fault lines in the vicinity and the surrounding landmass shields the island from tsunamis, typhoons and tornados. Thus there is no need to fear being inconvenienced by a natural disaster.
Singapore has a high standard of public hygiene. The streets are much cleaner than what is found in other Southeast Asian nations. It is not common to see litter or rubbish on the ground; littering is punishable by a fine, and yes, this is enforced. Public toilets are also relatively clean and available all over the island. You do not need to pay a nominal fee for using public toilets. A tip for visitors would be to use toilets in McDonald’s if there are no public toilets in the vicinity. The toilets in McDonald’s are clean, free and the staff are usually free-and-easy with this practice. Of course, the standard of hygiene is not strictly uniform but it's still above average. Also, tap water is safe to be consumed without boiling so you needn't worry about buying bottles of mineral water.
Tropical Illnesses and Ailments in Singapore
Being a tropical country, a number of illnesses and ailments specific to the tropics are found in Singapore. These include dengue fever, heat exhaustion, prickly heat and sunburn. In recent years, SARS and the H1N1 flu virus have also struck the island. Yellow fever has more or less been eradicated from Singapore so the Singapore customs and immigration authorities usually require proof of vaccination against it if a visitor is from a country where the disease still strikes.
Dengue fever is spread by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. The tropical climate of Singapore makes it an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes, but it's not as bad as it sounds because the Singapore government has introduced many measures to combat the spread of Dengue Fever seriously. With proper treatment, a person with dengue fever can recover after 10 days. More severe forms of the illness are dengue haemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome, which can be fatal. Anyone suspected of infection should seek medical treatment as soon as possible.
Heat exhaustion or heat stroke is a common ailment among visitors to Singapore. Warm and humid weather can cause dehydration if you're not drinking enough water. Severe dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion or sunstroke. Try to limit your exposure to the sun, use sunscreen liberally, consume sufficient liquids, avoid strenuous activities and wearing a hat when going outdoors.
Prickly heat and sunburn are other ailments caused by the high temperatures in Singapore. Prickly heat is caused by excessive perspiration trapped under the skin which results in an itchy rash. People who perspire easily should watch out for this. To prevent it, simply bathe frequently, keep the skin dry, stay in air-conditioned places or use medicated talcum powder.
The relatively recent SARS and H1N1 flu virus have more or less disappeared from Singapore but the fact that they did pass through means it is better to be safe. Symptoms of SARS include flu-like symptoms, high fever and muscle aches. H1N1 is characterized by high fever, coughs, severe headaches and fatigue. People who suspect they may be down with either disease must seek immediate medical treatment as there might be a need to quarantine to prevent the spread of the disease. Besides, it's also the socially responsible thing to do.
Medical services in Singapore are of a high standard with all hospitals using up-to-date techniques and state-of-the-art equipment. Medical staff is also well-trained and almost all are fluent in English. Pharmacies are easily found throughout the island and they are well-stocked with popular brand names. Pharmacists can also recommend medical products for less serious ailments like stomachaches and headaches. Private clinics are aplenty and most have fluent English-speaking staff. For more serious cases, visitors can go to the hospitals. There are four public hospitals and a number of private hospitals. Singapore is trying to become a medical tourism hub and so medical services and facilities have been improved to make it more convenient for foreigners in recent years.
Other than western medicine, oriental medicine is also easily available in Singapore. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can easily be found in places like Chinatown where there are a large number of traditional Chinese medical halls housing Chinese physicians known as sinseh. If you favour alternative treatments, foot reflexology and aromatherapy shops can be easily found in the city centre.
Travellers with Disabilities
Singapore has become increasingly disabled-friendly in recent years. Ramps, lifts and other facilities catering to the disabled have been installed all over the island. All MRT stations are equipped with lifts to accommodate those on wheelchairs. The number of buses that are wheelchair-friendly are on the rise. Most public buildings, shopping centres and cinemas have been designed with the disabled in mind and so ramps and disabled-friendly toilets are a common sight at these places. Singaporeans are also generally gracious and will usually give way or offer a helping hand to people in wheelchairs or the disabled.