Singapore Hawker Centre Survival Guide

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No visit to Singapore is complete without a visit to the hawker centre—the to-go spot for affordable and delicious food in Singapore! If you’re new to the city, read on to find out how you’ll survive a visit to the hawker centre.

Chope, this is my seat



Having to squeeze past the throng is no fun and it’s difficult to find a seat to enjoy your hawker treats (especially during meal hours). This is where your weapons will come in handy—tissue paper packets, umbrellas and even *drumrolls* name cards!

It’s an unspoken rule in Singapore—almost anything and everything can be used to save yourself a seat.

Embrace the Kiasu in you


Credit: Giphy


Singapore’s the name and kiasu‘s the game. In English speak, kiasu refers to rushing to be ahead in fear of losing or missing out (i.e. #FOMO).

Example 1: Always join the longest queue at the hawker centre. You may not know what the stall is selling, you may not know how much the dish costs, but if you follow the crowd (and the food award stickers and newspaper clippings on the stalls’ signboard), you may be pleasantly surprised with a mouth-watering meal.

Local Lingo



This is a topic that we’ll save for another time but here are three terms you may find useful for your trip to the hawker centre:
  • Chope: It means the same thing as calling dibs on something—To claim something as your own
  • Uncle/Auntie: Nope, we’re not blood-related. Addressing the stall owner as uncle/auntie is just an endearing form of greeting most Singaporeans use.
  • Ta Bao: To have your food/drink order to-go

When all else fails (or when in doubt of the pronunciation), just point to what you want to order!

Also, if you want to get your coffee/tea fix at the hawker centre, you’ll find the infographics below handy:

Credit: gagology


We especially recommend Milo—a chocolate and malt drink that’s well-loved by the locals. And don’t be surprised if it’s served to you in a clear plastic bag! In Singapore hawker centres, this is a norm.

Power in Numbers


Credit: Danny Santos


When you’ve got a plethora of dining options and only one stomach, it’s important to have a food game plan.

It’s best to go to the hawker centre as a group so that you can order dishes to share. This way you get to have a taste of everything instead of just one dish. Besides, food always tastes better when you’re sharing it with someone else (well, ‘cept for dessert, of course!)

Tips & Tricks



Apart from what’s mentioned above, here are some other tips to keep in mind that’ll make your visit to the hawker centre a breeze:
  • Remember your table number: The stalls at the hawker centre are usually self-service. But if they aren’t, the auntie/uncle at the stall will ask you for your table number and deliver the dish when it’s ready—you don’t wanna be THAT person holding up the queue just ‘cause you don’t remember where you sit.
  • Prepare the dollar dollar bills: Most stall owners at the hawker centre only accept cash, so be well-prepared and have some on hand to pay for your meal.
  • Watch out for the birds: Birds can be cute but at the hawker centre, there’s a 99% chance of them being a menace. Guard your food well or the birds may just stake their claim on it!

Location, Location, Location


Credit: Singapore Tourism Board


Now that you’re well-equipped with the know-how on surviving a visit to the hawker centre, it’s time to put it to good use! Here are some of our recommendations for hawker centre you must visit in Singapore—complete with directions to get there from the hotel. You’re welcome.

  Chinatown Complex Food Centre

Address: 335 Smith Street, Singapore 050335

Opening Hours: Varies.

Getting There (By Bus): Board Bus 54, 124 143 or 190 at the bus stop at Far East Plaza and alight at “New Bridge Ctr” (New Bridge Centre)

Getting There (By Train): Chinatown MRT Station, 4 stops from Orchard MRT Station (3-minute walk from Royal Plaza on Scotts Orchard Hotel)

Must-Visit Stalls: Zhao Ji Clay Pot Rice and Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodles


  Maxwell Food Centre

Address: 1 Kadayanallur Street, Singapore 069184

Opening Hours: Varies. Typically 8am - 2am daily

Getting There (By Bus): Board Bus 54, 124 143 or 190 at the bus stop at Far East Plaza and alight at “New Bridge Ctr” (New Bridge Centre)

Getting There (By Train): Raffles Place MRT Station, 4 stops from Orchard MRT Station (3-minute walk from Royal Plaza on Scotts Orchard Hotel)

Must-Visit Stalls: Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice and Zhen Zhen Porridge


  Tiong Bahru Market

Address: 30 Seng Poh Road, Singapore 168898

Opening Hours: Varies. Typically 6am - 11pm daily

Getting There (By Bus): Board Bus 5 at Far East Plaza and alight at “Blk 55” (Block 55) after 7 stops

Getting There (By Train): Tiong Bahru MRT Station, 7 stops from Orchard MRT Station (3-minutes walk from Royal Plaza on Scotts Orchard Hotel)

Must-Visit Stalls: Jian Bo Chwee Kueh and Tiong Bahru Mian Jian Kueh

(Psst… also check out our Tiong Bahru neighbourhood guide here!)
  
Cover Image: Singapore Tourism Board
  

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