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Regions and Cities for Expats in Singapore

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: August 2014

Physical Features

Singapore (the name is derived from words meaning ‘Lion City’ in Sanskrit) is an island city-state, consisting of one main island and about 60 much smaller ones. All the islands are mostly flat; there are hills in the centre of the mainland but the highest point, Bukit Timah (Timah Hill), is only 163m above sea level. The island does not have many natural resources as most of the land is built up, and the remaining land is of poor fertility. Most of the areas that remain in a natural state in the north or on outlying islands, though there are also nature reserves, such as Bukit Timah in the centre of the mainland.


Political Divisions

For official purposes, the city-state of Singapore is divided into five regions, though these are not so much proper regions as districts. Basic information for these appears in the table below:

Region Area
Population Density
(per km2)
Largest Town
Central 133 945,000 7,105 Bukit Merah
East 93 695,000 7,473 Bedok
North 97 515,000 5,309 Woodlands
North-East 101 790,000 7,821 Hougang
West 201 900,000 4,450 Jurong West

Central region is actually in the south. The colony of Singapore was originally founded on the north bank of the Singapore River, near the island’s southern tip. The area immediately surrounding this, Riverside, is the heart of the modern city, and therefore the country. It is the civic and administrative centre of the country and contains the central business district.  

To the north of Riverside is Orchard Road, famous for its many shopping centres and nightclubs. Sentosa, an islet just to the south of the main city, is known as a centre of recreation, containing theme parks, cinemas and popular beaches. Chinatown, which contains more Chinese buildings and shops than the rest of the country, is to the northwest of the city centre.

The East region is a mostly residential area, though it does include more than 12 miles of beaches, much prized by the locals. This region also contains Changi International Airport, an important transport centre for South-East Asia, and Changi Prison.

The north of the main island is not as densely populated as most other areas, containing as it does the Central Catchment Area. The largest town is Woodlands, a mostly residential area that is opposite the Malaysian city of Johor Bahru.

The North-East region includes two of the state’s largest islets, Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong. These are both to the east of the main island. Of the two, only Pulau Ubin is inhabited, as Pulau Tekong is used purely for military purposes. Pulau Ubin (Granite Island) still has traditional Malay kampongs (villages), and has remained almost untouched since the 1960s, and is thus in sharp contrast to the rest of Singapore.

The West region is mostly inhabited in the south, and is highly industrialised. It contains both the Jurong Industrial Estate and, on the mostly reclaimed Jurong Island, a very large oil refinery and petrochemical plant. The West region also contains several islets to the south of the mainland.



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