Local Laws in Singapore: How to Avoid Trouble

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and travel: The situation around the world is changing dramatically. Various governments have changed their travel warnings to restrict travel during this time. To understand how this may impact cover under your policy, please go to our FAQs and select your country of residence.

For the latest travel warnings and alerts around the world, read about lockdowns and border restrictions.

If the simple act of chewing gum can get you into trouble, what else do travelers need to know? Here are our tips to keep you out of trouble in Singapore.


Photo © Getty Images/fiftymm99

This city-state, known for its tidiness, is virtually free from crime, barring a few pickpocketing hotspots and a scam or two. The biggest danger a visitor is likely to face comes not from crooks, but from its officials. There are some simple things that we would normally take for granted which can cost you precious travel dollars in fines. And if you do get in a bind with the law, trying to bribe an official to get you off the hook will land you even deeper into trouble.

Drugs and Drinking

First, the heavy stuff. The penalty for drug trafficking is death, as the customs declaration card you must fill out informs you. Trafficking is the possession of drugs above a certain amount. For cannabis, it's 500 grams. Murder, abduction and some weapons offenses are also capital crimes.

Got some traces of pot in your blood from that bender in Laos? If they test you in the airport, it's jail time. 

For minor drug offenses, the punishment is corporal, usually with the rattan cane.

It’s illegal to drink alcohol in a public place between the hours of 10.30pm and 7am, except in restaurants, bars and cafes, the outdoor areas of private condominiums and chalets, and at outdoor events that have obtained a permit.

Geylang and Little India are designated as ‘Liquor Control Zones’. Drinking in public places is prohibited all weekend, on public holidays and on the eve of public holidays. If you ignore this, you could be fined up to 1,000SGD. Repeat offenders could be fined up to S$2,000 (about £1,000) or sent to prison for up to 3 months.

Drunk and disorderly conduct is a serious crime in Singapore,  drink responsibly and know your limits. Depending on the severity of the crime, convicted offenders may face up to 5,000 SGD in fines, up to 15 years’ imprisonment, or caning.

For driving, the maximum blood-alcohol level tolerated in Singapore is 0.08%. The punishment for drunk driving is stiff: a fine of 1,000 to 5,000 SGD or six months in jail. Repeat offenders get heavier sentences. It's also an offense to consume alcohol in public spaces between the hours of 10.30pm and 7am.

Overstaying Your Visa

Singapore has a range of penalties for those who overstay their visa ranging from financial, jail time, copping the cane and deportation. Just don't do it.

Antisocial behaviour

Want to vandalize some cars, as a misguided American boy once did? Brace for the cane. Graffiti in a public place? You'll cop the cane for that, too.

Rape, rioting, extortion and vandalism are all disciplined with a good caning.

Shoplifting is considered a major offense and the country has sophisticated surveillance equipment to catch thieves. Although the penalties are harsh, the actual sentences received are usually well below the maximum.

Keeping Singapore clean

You're more likely to get stung with a fine for things that might seem to be tolerated at home. Spitting, littering, and smoking in public places carry fines of up to 1,000 SGD.

Spit on the sidewalk? That's 500 SGD. 

The country's famous ban on chewing gum is still in force, and the penalty for bringing it into the country is one year in jail, and a 10,000 SGD fine, although exceptions are made for nicotine gum and other medicinal gums, but they can only be dispensed by a dentist or pharmacist. So if you do use these, make sure you have a doctor's letter outlining what it's for.

Thinking about feeding the pigeons? Think again! It will cost you a 500 SGD fine if you do.

You're also not allowed to eat or drink on the metro. Fines can be up to 500 SGD.

Other laws in Singapore


Bought that smelly durian from the market? Don't take it on the metro or that will become a 500 SGD durian.


Importing pornography into Singapore can result in fines and jail time, so clean up that hard drive before coming in. Although consuming porn in the country is not an offense, the country has blocked several adult sites as a symbolic gesture. For more information on what you can and can't bring into Singapore, check out this article.


Homosexuality is illegal and carries a sentence of two years in prison, although prosecutions are unlikely. Attitudes are slowly changing as the country's LGBTQ+ community engages in intensive activism. Still, it's better not to attract attention and avoid public displays of affection. This also goes for straight men, who can be jailed for behaving inappropriately towards women. Unwelcome touching and verbal harassment are considered offenses against modesty. There are gay and lesbian support groups and social venues in Singapore. 

Racial Harmony

Singapore has worked hard to create harmony among Indians, Chinese and Malays. Any activity that disrupts this, like racial slurs, can carry severe punishments. Anyone intending to speak publicly on sensitive issues like race or religion has to get approval from the Ministry of Manpower.

Jehovah's Witnesses

The government has banned Jehovah's Witnesses and the Unification Church, claiming they disrupt racial harmony. Any meeting of these religions is illegal, as is owning any of their publications.

Get a travel insurance quote for Singapore

You can buy at home or while traveling, and claim online from anywhere in the world. With 150+ adventure activities covered and 24/7 emergency assistance.

Related articles

Travel Insurance

Simple and flexible travel insurance

You can buy at home or while traveling, and claim online from anywhere in the world. With 150+ adventure activities covered and 24/7 emergency assistance.

Get a quote


  • xxx said

    Is it illegal in Singapore to use torrents?

  • Yong Shun said

    Yea, techincally torret is a hack software and hacking is illegal in singapore

  • Traveldude said

    And what about streaming movies for example on movie4k.to? Or is it a grey area?

  • Nez said

    Sounds like a really fun place to be in. No wonder singaporeans are said to be one of thr most unhappy people in the world

  • Rad said

    Torrent is just a protocol, even Windows uses it to speed up updates, only an ignorant would think they are illegal. Just don't share or download illegal stuff.

  • Muhammed ahmed said

    First when people travel outside they will be unhappy

Add a Comment