Eating one’s way through Singapore at its many lively hawker centres, or open-air food courts, is a delicious highlight of any visit. First-time visitors, however, understandably may have trouble figuring out where to start and how to do it right—put your best fork forward with these quick tips.
Seating: Seating is first come, first served, so grab an open seat wherever you’d like, ideally near oscillating fans if it’s a particularly humid day. Find your seat before ordering—you can reserve it by simply placing your keys, a pack of tissues (more on that, below), or anything else at the place setting. Note your table number, too.
Ordering Food: The biggest hawker centres have well over 100 different food stalls, though many stalls offer only a few dishes, sometimes even just one. The menus are usually displayed on small signs or on the stall’s marquee, and often include pictures. Take your time staking out the stalls, then order whatever looks and/or sounds good—when in doubt, long queues are generally a good sign. Hawkers only accept cash; the vast majority of foods cost less than SG$5 (US$3.70). Forks, spoons, and chopsticks are available.
All vendors speak English and will deliver the order to your table—this is where you’ll need your table number—unless the stall is denoted as self-service. Napkins aren’t provided, so plan accordingly.
Ordering Drinks: There are separate drinks stalls stocked with water, tea, beer, and other beverages. You can order directly from the stalls, though drink hawkers often circulate and will approach your table to offer service.
After Eating: Though you’ll likely see maintenance staff clearing soiled trays and serviceware, once you’re finished take your items to one of the designated tray return areas.