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EXPLORING INDIA : From Kaziranga to the Himalayas to the desert of Jaisalmer to the backwaters of Allepey to the sun baked coral beaches of Lakshadweep....A first hand account of exploring this beautiful country.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Singapore and Malaysia : Should you be on a package your or not


A package suits the tourist, not the traveler. Packages seriously restrict one’s mobility. Travelling on your own gives you the tremendous flexibility of having your own schedule and visit all places you want to visit. 99% of my travel in India has been without any package and had not faced any problem. Thus I decided to take this experiment a step further on my first family vacation abroad. This article is the first on the series about my 9 day trip covering Singapore and Malaysia without any package.

Cost Benefit : What you do not get in a package

Business district at night
If you think that travelling on your own would be cheaper, then you are probably wrong. The cost would roughly be the same which you pay for a regular tour package. But on your own can cover almost everything ‘must visit’, and may be even squeeze an additional night. That’s why its great value for every rupee you spend..

I had covered Singapore (4N 4D), Langkawi (2N 3D) and KL (2N 2D). The all inclusive cost per head was almost Rs.40K (in Oct, 2010). No package would offer you 8 N 9 D or one that include Langkawi at this price. What you normally get around 45K is 3N Singapore, 2N KL and 2N Genting. While Lakngawi is about an hour’s flight from KL, Genting is just couple of hours drive from KL. Whereas all my internal travel was by air.

For local sightseeing at Singapore, the packages will hand you the basic ticket of Hippo Ho-Ho bus ticket. It generally does not include Singapore Flyer ticket. We bought package ticket of Hippo which included Flyer ticket costing about S$30 per head.

Trip to Sentosa is included in most packages. The rides and shows offered in Sentosa in a package are cleverly bundled. They include all cheap and free shows, e.g., Song of the Sea @S$10 is the cheapest show. Similarly Dolphin show is part of Underwater World ticket. There are numerous options of ticketing available at Sentosa. Tourists are normally ferried to Sentosa by bus which is the cheapest mode of going to Sentosa. Next best is the Sentosa Express train that operates from Vivo City mall. But we went their by the best possible way – the Jewel Box cable car. As this starts from the popular Vivo City mall, one could spend time in the mall. The Sky Park located on 3rd floor is a very good spot to spend some time and enjoy the nice breeze with the magnificent view it offers.

Most packages do not offer you trip to Jurong Bird Park in Singapore. This is one must see attraction. This is because going to Jurong involves separate transportation. The Zoo and Night Safari are at same place and hence no transportation is involved between these two.

So what additional items we got by spending almost the same amount: At least 1 extra night, Jurong Bird Park, To and fro cable car ride to Sentosa, experience local flavour with MRT travel, saw the Merlion both in daylight and at night, visited the Opera house and witnessed a performance, walked along the boat quay and Clark’s quay, had food of choice at Indian restaurants (not buffet meals) ….actually the list goes on and on. So you decide.

How you plan :

1)  When you are travelling on your own, you need to plan well in advance. Keep looking for cheap offers by airlines like Air Asia. Once you book India – KL and back tickets, plan other segments of travel and keep booking tickets periodically so that you do not feel the load on your pocket. You will be able to space out your expenditure on ticket this way. Book all tickets prior to 3 months of travel date to get best deal.
2)  Start booking hotels at least up to a month before arrival. This can also be done periodically. It is always better to book directly with the hotel.
3) My suggestion here is to compare price with various sites like Agoda, Hotels Combined, etc. Options are unlimited. Shortlist the hotels depending on what you are willing to pay. Read about them Tripadvisor. Then compare the prices with hotel’s own website. Book wherever you find it cheapest. Sometimes it is cheaper on sites like Agoda while on other occasion’s hotel’s direct site may turn out to be cheaper. An advice: if hotel is very cheap at Singapore, it may be located at a red light area. So be careful.
4)  Visa : Apply at least 15 days before departure. I found that the best deal in Delhi is provided by Riya Travels which is an authorized / approved agent by Malaysia and Singapore High Commission. For Malaysia visa they charged Rs.850/- as against Rs.1200/- by Thomas Cook or Cox & Kings. The bigger the name of the travel agency, the more you pay.
5)  Forex : Riya Travels offers good rate. You can also do your research with various agencies. But bigger the name of the operator, the costlier the forex will be. Infinity Centrum also offers good rate. I got my forex from Centrum. Get your forex at least 48 hours before departure. Carry only the amount you need. Otherwise, you will loose a couple of thousand rupees only in exchanging unused currency. You can always safely carry USD and make sure to carry only bigger notes like 100 or 50 dollars as they gets you best exchange rate.
6)  Do your research of the places you will be visiting. Download maps. Make your own schedule of sightseeing. Always keep a plan B ready.

Get, Set, Go :

Despite all these I had butterflies in tummy on landing at Singapore. On an alien place, with family in tow, I had a few anxious moments once I got out of the airport. Got into a taxi for Little India. Barely a couple of hours down the line I was so much at ease, as if I was travelling somewhere in Delhi.

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posted by Rupankar Mahanta at 2:31 PM

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At March 31, 2012 10:15 PM, Anonymous Ramesh said...

Sir, a well researched article. Can you please let us know the hotels you stayed and the cost involved ? Thanks in advance.

At March 31, 2012 10:51 PM, Blogger Rups said...

At Singapore I had stayed at Madras Hotel, Tekka. It is at Little India. Decent no frill hotel with breakfast. Lots of Indian restaurants around the hotel. At KL, I had stayed at Corus Hotel which is 500m from the Twin Towers. At Langkawi I had stayed at Malibest Resort. Will be putting up additional posts on Singapore and Malayasia.

At April 02, 2012 9:07 PM, Anonymous Ramesh said...


At April 08, 2012 7:39 PM, Anonymous Rathnashikamani said...

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At July 25, 2012 10:52 PM, Anonymous Anuj said...

Great article.....Very helpful

At August 13, 2012 12:47 PM, Blogger SBLT - Sri Bhagyalakshmi Travel Access said...

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At August 13, 2012 12:48 PM, Blogger SBLT - Sri Bhagyalakshmi Travel Access said...

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At September 05, 2012 6:24 PM, Blogger sofia said...

The tour destination is really world famous tourist destination, the place is gifted with natural beauty, pleasing atmosphere, nice culture, which give peaceful to its tourist. One can enjoy their tour with their family and friends for long time memorable vacation.

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At October 10, 2012 2:43 PM, Blogger Rupali Vachha said...

"I have had a few bad experience is Singapore when I was traveling with a group of friends & we didn't opt for a package, We were doing everything on our own.

Food especially was a major problem. Though you save a lot on things when you plan your holiday on your own, but you have come out of your comfort zone if you don't opt for a tour operator.

I'd recommend going to such places with a popular tour operator like Cox And Kings or SOTC."

At October 18, 2012 8:02 AM, Anonymous Only Exclusive Travel said...

Hi!I agree.Travelling in your own can cause you a lot of money.In my travels abroad I always plan it earlier.I research for a cheaper travel package that suits my needs.I usually book on hotels ahead of my flight.Thanks for sharing a helpful and useful post.

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