A Local Business Traveller
By: Natasha Lo
There was no doubt about my excitement in traveling to Singapore for work. A mix of business and pleasure? Why not. This type of travel is always quite interesting depending on how you look at it. It walks a fine line of actually being a local in a different country, because in some sense waking up to go to work may almost feel like you live there in that moment. But from the other perspective, a classic business traveler can easily fall into a lavish expense-covered traveling lifestyle filled with 5 star hotels and fine dining. Work or not, I wanted to try and experience the city as locally as possible. From renting a private room through Airbnb to taking public transportation. Below are some of the main ways I was able to make this business trip a local experience, and of course, you'll also find some packing insight to complete the post.
I may be somewhat biased with my love for Airbnb, but it is hard to deny the fact that using Airbnb helps you travel like a local. I mean, you’re staying in someone’s home instead of a hotel (haha). I could have easily booked an entire place (apt/home) for my stay but I decided to book a private room in an apartment with two other flatmates. I arrived at 6am and was graciously greeted by my host. During my stay my host even offered to take me out to dinner. As a single traveler these type of gestures are just priceless.
I quickly learned that taxis were a common avenue of transportation. It costs about 3 times more to own a car in Singapore than it would in the US, therefore most locals commonly used taxis or the MRT (public transportation railway system) as their options. Both were extremely reasonable in price, with the average taxi ride costing about 8 SGD and the MRT costing about 1 SGD. What a steal! I used a good amount of both options, but mainly found myself taking the MRT once I got familiar with the area in about a day.
Singapore had some of the most hospitable people I had ever met. It was almost like they had no hidden agenda or reasoning, but to have you love their city. Maybe I got really lucky meeting the right people, but overall the ones that took the time to host me, knew how to do it so well. Treating me to dinners, showing me around the city, and just being a friend. It really made me feel right at home and I couldn’t have been more grateful to those particular individuals. Easily this poses as a reminder to all of us on what it means to others when you’re a great host. It means a lot more than you realize.
Singapore is known to be hot and humid year round. Luckily this means less to pack. I brought two pairs of pants, two dresses, four tops, a light jacket, a pair of sandals and a pair of sneakers. It posed to be a perfect combination for this 10 day trip. I did my classic combinations, making a dress a skirt with a top, as well as a dress a top with pants. Because it’s so humid and hot, I highly recommend using a washer/dryer during your stay. Bringing less doesn’t mean throwing away your hygiene (haha).
So you may be asking why no shorts? This isn’t your outdoorsy city where you may be out hiking, laying out at a park or hanging at the beach. Most times you are indoors going from one air-conditioned building to another. As hot as it was, pants and a light tee seemed to be the best combo.
Also - why a light jacket? It honestly never hurts to have one when you’re traveling. You just never know. Also, those long 20 hr flights can be quite chilly. Trust me, you’ll want a jacket.
So in conclusion, my intention for this post wasn’t to give you a step by step travel guide to Singapore. You can find that elsewhere. My hope was that you’ll have a general idea of clear decision points to maximizing your experience even when it comes to business travel. Traveling like a local is doing more with less from the packing, all the way down to the experience. After all, who needs to visit a place multiple times to be a local, when all you need is that one trip. Now that is how you simplify. Happy traveling.