Singapore: Cheap thrills of the world

By Leanne Chamberlin

That online travel bargain may conceal snags, warns Leanne Chamberlin.

A cable car to Sentosa Island, Singapore. Photo / Singapore Tourism Board
A cable car to Sentosa Island, Singapore. Photo / Singapore Tourism Board

Does half the joy of travel reside in the planning? I book my airfares six months in advance, then spend hours boosting my excitement levels with internet exploration. Great pleasure can be found in researching which five-star hotel has the best pool, before I settle for the four-star option one street back from the beach.

Adding to the excitement of a recent trip to Singapore was the daily deal phenomenon. I'd jumped on board the daily deal bandwagon in New Zealand from the start, enticed by a lifetime of never having to pay full price for anything again.

Two months prior to travelling, I subscribed to three Singaporean daily deal sites. Bargains from deal.com.sg, groupon.sg and bigdeal.sg flew into my inbox and I entered a state of deal mania, stopping just short of buying sheep placenta capsules at 80 per cent off.

I pre-booked and paid for at least half of our holiday activities, saving a decent whack of money. But, as with all things that seem too good to be true, some caution applies to daily deals.

Upon arrival in Singapore, we embarked upon our first daily deal excursion - a ride on the giant Singapore Flyer ferris wheel.

The conditions on our daily deal voucher stated we had to collect our tickets from a travel agency. Unfortunately, it turned out to be secreted in a poky mall along Orchard Road and didn't open until 10am. By the time we got our tickets and travelled to the Flyer, half a precious day had disappeared. Fortunately, the excitement of being atop a giant ferris wheel during an electrical storm compensated for our wasted morning.

Our second daily deal excursion, to Sentosa Island via the Jewel Cable Car, also required that we collect tickets from a travel agency. When it finally opened, this time at 11am, we were referred to yet another location for ticket collection. Apparently, our tickets to Sentosa Island awaited us... on Sentosa Island.

My husband muttered unkind words about my scrooginess as we caught the monorail to Sentosa, collected our tickets and returned to mainland Singapore, to catch our pre-paid cable car ride back to Sentosa. It was almost funny, only it wasn't.

With its butterfly park, luge, cinemas, Universal Studios, water parks and beautiful beaches, Sentosa was a great place to spend a family day out. It was a pity we had to squeeze it into the three hours that remained of the day.

Other daily deals were more successful. Redemption of a half price voucher to go fishing for prawns was straightforward. Likewise a 90-minute facial, plus goodie bag, for a princely $22. Had we been there a week earlier the Disney on Ice show would have cost us $15 per ticket, which made me think wistfully of the $70 per ticket I had squandered to watch a similar show in New Zealand.

Even without daily deals, Singapore is a great place to take the kids. A week barely scratches the surface of things for families to do.

And entry prices are less than half those of similar Gold Coast attractions Kiwi families often yearn for. Wild Wild Wet in Singapore costs $45 for a family pass. Or travel a little further out to Jurong East Swimming Complex and pay just $6 for the family to use the public water park, complete with water slides, wave pool and lazy river. By comparison, a day at Australia's Wet'n'Wild costs almost $250 for a family.

Singapore Zoo deserves its reputation as one of the world's best. It even has its own children's water park to help littlies cool off. Its $65 for a family pass seems well justified compared with Australia Zoo's eye-watering $220 for afamily.

With Jetstar or Air Asia offering flights from as little as $249 one way, Singapore is a safe and affordable option for families who are keen to experience culture without the crud. Just watch the daily deals.

DAILY DEAL TIPS

* Always read the fine print.

* Check voucher expiry dates, and conditions of use. Some overseas deals can be redeemed only by permanent residents or citizens of the host country.

* Your New Zealand credit card will usually be accepted by overseas daily deal sites ... but not always.

* Check the deal location on Google Maps. A cheap massage will have little value if the taxi there costs $200.

* Check whether you can you use the voucher directly at the attraction, rather than having to spend valuable tourist time mucking about with ticket exchange processes.

* Dinner deals can be tempting, but they can also often prove disappointing. It's usually better to explore your eating options once you have your feet firmly planted in your destination.

Leanne Chamberlin paid for her own cut-price holiday in Singapore.

- NZ Herald

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