With heaps of public holidays to make the most of throughout the year, lots of expats will be taking the chance to jump on planes and enjoy short breaks from Singapore. Lacking inspiration for a long weekend vacation? Fear not! We’ve got loads of easy solutions depending on the type of trip you’re craving. Plus, with only one or two days off, who wants to spend a large part of the break hanging out at the airport? We want to enjoy our holidays sunbathing on the beach, running through jungles or staring at temples! So, whatever holiday you fancy, these destinations will take less than three hours to reach.
For a sporty trip… Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (3 hours)
Relaxation doesn’t necessarily mean lazing around – sport can be a great way to let off steam. And cycling is a great way to exercise gently (or not, if you’re big on fitness!) while seeing plenty of scenery. Fly to Vietnam where they offer a selection of guided bike tours. You’re able to see the country from a different point of view as you ride through villages, rivers, forests and religious sites that are inaccessible by car, plus you get to try true local cuisine away from tourist spots. You can also customise your holiday according to what you want to see and do. So, if you want to visit certain temples or cruise the Mekong, you can.
For nature lovers… Khao Lak, Thailand (1 hour 40 mins)
If you catch a short, affordable flight to Phuket and hit the road for an hour north, you’ll find yourself in the middle of Khao Sok National Park, a lush jungle, boasting a huge green lake and overgrown rivers. Aside from trekking, canoeing and swimming, you can experience what it’s like to work with elephants like a true local. Elephant Hills offers a very special experience with the gentle giants, which is a unique day out for the whole family. And if you want to get even more stuck into nature, stay at Elephant Hills’ luxury tented site in the middle of the jungle, which submerges you in nature while still providing the comforts of home.
For a city break… Bangkok, Thailand (2 hours 15 mins)
For a dose of culture, fine dining (for less) and oh-so-many shops, Bangkok is a quick and easy destination for an exciting change of scenery. The city has tons to offer – from temples, boat trips and tours to dining in the sky and clubbing – so you can fill your trip accordingly. Dodge the malls (got plenty of those here) and be sure you hit the markets for some amazing fashion bargains.
For romance… Lombok, Indonesia (3 hours)
If you have a typically busy expat lifestyle, you’ll know that romance can be hard to squeeze in in Singapore. But Lombok – the island east of Bali – couldn’t be more romantic than if Cupid made it himself. The island has plenty to experience – if you seek relaxation, Lombok boasts quiet beaches, spas, and waterfalls galore. For couples’ activities, try diving in the crystal clear waters, having surfing lessons or taking a trip to the beautiful Gili Air.
For a trip with friends… Hoi An, Vietnam (2 hours 30 mins)
Whether you and your pals are into sunbathing on the beach, shopping until you drop, trying local cuisine or dancing all night, Hoi An has all sorts of things to do in one idyllic setting. You simply must get an item of clothing made in this town – it’s famous for talented tailors who can turn around any design for a very low price in around 24 hours. This also goes for shoes and accessories! One recommendation we have for crafts is stopping by Reaching Out – Hoa Nhap Handicrafts, a small shop with a friendly atmosphere and items made there and then by local other-abled artisans. Another place to visit is Thuan Tinh Island – go as part of the famous Cooking Tour and recreate MasterChef in the pretty spot. Also try the Tra Que Waterwheel, stroll along Cua Dai Beach and take the Hoi An Silk Village tour.
For a family trip… Cameron Highlands, Malaysia (three hours)
Finding attractions (or distractions) that the whole family will enjoy can be tricky, but the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia is a winner for both kids, parents and even granny. Stay on a famous tea plantation or strawberry farm (the area is famous for its strawberries), take in the scenery and enjoy nearby attractions like the butterfly farm or Cactus Valley. One of our favourite things about the Highlands are the finger-licking good burgers sold from cute little carts. To get there, fly to Ipoh for 1.5 hours and head to Cameron Highlands by road.
For culture… Siem Reap, Cambodia (2 hours)
Siem Reap is famously known for the Angkor temples that are clustered together as a phenomenal reminder of Cambodia’s religious history. Yet a surprising number of Singaporeans are yet to visit the so-called Seventh Wonder of the World. Make the most of a public holiday long weekend and discover Cambodia’s famous monument – you won’t be disappointed. Another wonderful temple to visit while in Siem Reap is the Beng Mealea temple, which is still in ruins after the war. Tourists are welcome to explore and climb around the temple, which is especially appealing to the kids.
For a low cost trip… Malacca, Malaysia (2 hour 20 mins drive)
If you’re looking to travel on a budget, a good little find is the pretty town of Malacca. Ideal for those who prefer to take the car or train, it’s just a short trip from the border. There are hundreds of small shops and stalls weaving through the historical alleyways, which offers a lovely change of scenery for visitors. Check out the Baba Nonya Heritage Museum (12RM per ticket), a beautiful house-turned-museum, which will give you an insight into Baba and Nonya culture. And pay a visit to one of the many tea houses in Malacca, to drink tea the ‘proper’ way.
For an adventurous trip… Borneo, Malaysia (1 hour 30 mins)
If you like a bit of adrenaline and adventure in your short breaks from Singapore, Borneo is a quick flight away, and famous for Mount Kinabalu. The mountain is 4,095 meters high and tourists are welcome to climb it. If you want to stay closer to ground level, you might enjoy rafting or trekking through the thick rainforest.
For a beach trip… Phuket, Thailand (1 hour 40 mins)
A direct, affordable plane ride away, Phuket in Thailand Is popular among expats for a reason. Designed for both lazing around to water sports, the white sandy beaches are ideal for couples and families, plus the luxury hotels are surprisingly affordable. And if you’re not a beach bum, Phuket has aquariums, gardens, temples, clubs, water parks and more.
For a day trip… Legoland Malaysia (15 mins from border)
If you want to be in Singapore for most of the weekend, but still able to whisk the family off for a treat, Legoland Malaysia offers a cheap and quick alternative. And it’s only 15 minutes from the border! If you’ve got a wild child, let them drive a car or be the captain of a ship. Or, if you’ve got the next Steve Jobs on your hands, kids can build and test their own creations. There are also plenty of rides for the whole family to get stuck into. For more information on tickets and attractions, see our handy guide to Legoland here.
And for something a little different… Globe Aware
If you’ve already sampled many of Asia’s main areas, you might be after something a bit different in your short breaks from Singapore. Globe Aware organises volunteer vacations based on helping local people. Trips are offered in many countries across the world, including some packages closer to home in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. You can help out with community development and construction, nature conservation, education-based projects and many more.