Singapore is often known as the country with crazy strict laws, but the laws are what makes Singapore one of the cleanest and safest countries in the world. There are many myths about the cultural practices of Singapore, some include locals rejecting gifts 3 times before accepting it and locals being 15 minutes late to appointments. Most of them are untrue, so in this post, we will be going through some local laws and cultural practices to avoid embarrassment or getting arrested.
What should you not bring into Singapore?
Singapore has zero-tolerance for drug possession, consumption, and trafficking. Drug trafficking is the most serious offense of the trio. The penalty ranges from imprisoned with caning to the death penalty.
Examples of drugs not allowed: Cocaine, Opium, Heroin, “Ice”, Ketamine, Ecstasy, and Cannabis.
Penalty: Imprisionment with Caning / Death Penalty
If you are carrying any personal medication into Singapore, do check with the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) whether you will need to apply for approval. If you are bringing 3-month worth of medication into Singapore, you must apply for approval with the HSA at least 10 working days before your arrival.
You are not allowed to bring any lethal weapons into the country. Items that resemble a gun such as lighters in the shape of a pistol are not allowed as well.
Examples: Knives, Guns, Slingshot, Stun guns, Fire Crackers, and Pepper Spray.
Penalty: Imprisionment with Caning / Death Penalty
You are also not allowed to possess any replica weapons in Singapore without a special permit from the Singapore Police Force. Although some types of knives are allowed in Singapore, it is recommended that you do not bring any knives into Singapore. For any inquiries, you can contact the Singapore Customs.
3. Tobacco/Nicotine products
You can bring cigarettes or cigars into Singapore, however, you are required to pay a duty fee when you bring them into Singapore.
Tobacco or nicotine products used tropically by implant or injection into the body is not allowed. Chewing tobacco and imitation tobacco products such as electronic cigarettes are not allowed as well. For more information, you can find it here.
Examples: Electronic Cigarettes, Chewing Tobacco, Gutkha, Khaini, Zarda, and Shisha.
Penalty: Fine and/or Imprisonment
Do note that you are required to present a valid Customs import permit if you are carrying more than 400 grams of cigarettes or other tobacco products. For more information about the permit, you can find it here.
4. Obscene & Pirated Materials
It is illegal to possess, distribute, or sell pornographic material in Singapore. Magazines or DVDs are not the only way to get you arrested, even obscene video games or materials on your smartphone can get you arrested as well. It is highly advisable to not bring any of those materials into Singapore.
Other than pornography, pirated materials aren’t allowed as well. This includes the reproduction of copyright publications, software, video tapes, video compact discs, laser discs, records, or cassettes.
Examples: DVDs, Magazines, Softwares, Video tapes..
Penalty: Fine up to $40,000 and/or Imprisonment up to 12 months.
5. Chewing Gums
It is not illegal to eat chewing gum in Singapore, however, the act of importing and selling gum will get you arrested.
There wasn’t always a ban on chewing gum in the country. This ban came about when gums are stuck on public chairs, keyholes and even train doors which caused huge disruption to the train services. Since then, Singapore has decided to ban all imports and sales of gums.
Penalty: Fine up to $10,000 and/or Imprisonment up to 12 months.
Even though chewing gums are banned in Singapore, therapeutic chewing gum are not banned. You can purchase therapeutic gum from a dentist or pharmacy, but they must record your personal details.
What should you not do in Singapore?
It is illegal to spit in public places in Singapore. No spitting in public is a common courtesy in many countries in the world, but you could be slapped with a fine if you spit on sidewalks, buses, or any other public areas in Singapore.
If you are caught on video or by an officer spitting or expelling mucus, you could be fined up to S$1,000. If you really need to spit, please use a tissue paper or spit in a public washroom.
Littering is as bad of an offense as spitting. You shouldn’t litter in any country and it isn’t uncommon for littering to be a criminal offense, but in Singapore, you could be fined up to S$2,000 and/or performing Corrective Work Order (CWO).
The CWO requires you to clean or pick up trash in public areas around Singapore for up to 12 hours. You are required to wear a luminous pink and yellow vest while carrying out CWO, which identifies you as a litterbug.
Trash cans are very common throughout Singapore, hold on to your trash until you find a trash can that could be just around the corner.
8. Consumption of alcohol after 10 pm
Singapore’s Liquor (Supply and Consumption) Act prohibits all consumption of alcohol in public places and sale of alcohol at outlets from 10.30 pm to 7 am, to minimize public disorder.
After 10.30 pm, you can still consume alcohol in non-public places such as restaurants, clubs, bars, hotels, or office premises.
If you are found to be drunk or unable to take care of yourself in public places during the restricted hours, you may be fined up to S$1000 and/or imprisoned up to 12 months.
9. Consumption of food and drinks on the public transport
All public buses and trains in Singapore forbid the consumption of food or drinks while you are on board the transport. This rule further extends to the train stations where you are not allowed to consume any food and drinks to prevent spillage.
That said, drinking plain water is allowed. This rule is not generally not enforced until you spill something or there’s a strong food smell. If you really need to consume something, do it quickly and discreetly. Anyone caught flouting this rule openly might face a maximum fine of S$500.
10. Smoking in indoor locations
Smoking is prohibited in many places in Singapore. This includes most indoor locations unless there is a designated smoking area. You will find most Singaporean smoking in an open area. One exception would be the Orchard No Smoking Zone, where you are not allowed to smoke in the open area. Instead, there would be a designated smoking area for smokers.
Many hotels in Singapore prohibit smoking in the room, they offer a common smoking area instead. Click here to find out which hotel offers smoking hotel rooms. Smokers could be fined up to $1000 if caught smoking in prohibited places.
For more information on where you are prohibited to smoke, click here.
The ban on Personal Mobility Device (PMDs) is a relatively controversial ban in Singapore which happened in Jan 2020. The ban caused a loss of livelihood for food delivery riders traveling on the device, but it was a necessary ban due to the sharp increase of death and injury of PMD riders and pedestrians.
The ban means that there’s more safety for pedestrians on the sidewalk. If you are caught riding PMD with no medical reasons, you could be facing a fine of up to S$2,000 and/ or imprisonment of up to three months.
Jaywalking is pretty common in Singapore, however, it is illegal to jaywalk in Singapore. Jaywalking is where you cross a road without the use of a traffic light or pedestrian crossing (zebra crossing).
The traffic police generally inspect an area randomly to catch any jaywalkers. Jaywalkers can be fined $50 on the spot. They could also be fined a maximum of $1,000 and/or imprisoned up to three months.
Vandalism can come in many shapes and forms. This includes stealing, destroying, damaging, or inscribing on public and private properties. Singapore is especially strict on vandalism, where there is a mandatory corporal punishment of not less than three and not more than eight strokes of the cane in addition to a fine or imprisonment.
In 2010, a Swiss national sneaked into a train depot and spray paint on a train. He was charged and sentenced to seven months in prison and three strokes of the cane.
There is no law in Singapore stating that tipping is illegal, but leaving a tip is not customary in Singapore. Most restaurants in Singapore charge a 10% service charge in addition to the 7% Goods and Service Tax (GST).
You can tip the drivers, hotel staff, or tour guides in appreciation for their good service, but it is not mandatory. Do note that you should not tip at any airport facilities or to any airport staff.
15. Feeding stray animals
Many people will think that feeding stray animals in Singapore is illegal, but there are no laws prohibiting the act of feeding stray animals, such as cats and dogs.
If you are walking around the neighborhoods, you might find some posters and signages which discourage people from feeding stray animals. Feeding stray animals is not illegal unless it involves littering. If you wish to feed the stray animals, do clean up the mess or you might be charged with littering.