Despite its reputation as the most expensive city in the world, I’ve travelled to Singapore many times and I’m happy to say that I did enjoy the country without going home broke. Believe it or not, it is definitely possible to enjoy Singapore on a budget.
It’s unfortunate to know that a lot of the budget travellers I know who have ventured to Southeast Asia tend to avoid Singapore thinking that it’s just out of their travel budget. Based on my experience, there are so many ways on how to see the wonders of the city without breaking the bank. So here’s how I spent five days on my recent trip to Singapore with only $300 in my pocket.
Fly On A Budget
There are plenty of budget airlines flying to Singapore every single day. If you’re coming from any of the nearby Asian cities such as Bangkok, you can take advantage of the cheap fares from Air Asia. In fact, I’ve only paid less than $50 for my ticket to Singapore coming from Bangkok. If you’re coming from Kuala Lumpur, you can travel by bus for only $20 and this should take 8 to 9 hours.
Take note however that most of the budget flights tend to arrive after midnight at the Changi airport and you may not be able to catch the last train. Thus, you have to arrange your transportation in advance or consider sleeping at the airport since you’re travelling to Singapore on a budget. Singapore’s airport has been hailed the best airport in the world so spending a night there shouldn’t be a problem.
Use an EZ-Link Card
During my time in Singapore, I’ve used the city’s MRT in exploring the city, which I believe saved me a lot of money. Unlike other Asian cities, a taxi ride in Singapore is a bit expensive. So I got myself an EZ-Link Card, which only cost me around $10. I’ve added some credits to it and I was able to explore Singapore on my own without spending a lot for my transportation. I’ve familiarized myself with the train routes online although you can always refer to the map at the station if you’re not sure which train to take or ask assistance from anyone.
Using the EZ-Link Card is the best way to get around Singapore on a budget. It’s actually cheaper unlike when you purchase tickets at the station. For those who are staying in Singapore for only a few days, you can take advantage of the Singapore Tourist Pass. This is an MRT pass that allows you to travel unlimited in either one, two or three days. Since I’m staying in the country for five days, the pass is not the best choice for me.
Stay at Budget Hotels
There are lots of decent accommodations in Singapore that are geared towards budget travellers like me. You can also stay at one of the backpacker’s hostels that are spread all over the city. But if you’re like me who want to enjoy some privacy and would prefer to have a private room, staying at a budget hotel would be a good option. I stayed at the Santa Grand Hotel in Little India, which is only a few minutes’ walks away from the MRT station. I’ve got my own shower and a bed just enough to give me a comfortable and relaxing sleep. It has the most basic facilities, but the biggest plus is its location, which is right in the buzzing district of Little India. walk
Another alternative for a cheap and comfortable stay if you’re in Singapore on a budget is the capsule hotel. These hotels have been popping up all over the city in the last few years. They are trendier and are way more comfortable than the usual dormitory-type backpacker hostels.
Eat at Hawker Food Centers
Singapore is a foodie haven. But you don’t need to eat at some fancy restaurants just to taste the most delicious local foods. I’ve spent most of my time there exploring the hawker food centres, which you can find all over the city. They serve a wide array of delicious local delicacies at a very cheap price. In fact, most of my meals there cost less than $10 only. I must say that the quality of the foods here are way better than some of the street foods I’ve tried in the streets of Bangkok. Some of the most delicious local specialities to try are the Laksa noodle soup, Hainanese chicken rice, Char Kuay Teow and the oyster omelet.
If you’re lucky enough to stay at a hotel near a hawker food centre, you can choose to have your breakfast here instead of availing of the pricey breakfasts at your hotel. I booked a room without breakfast and had my daily brunch at these hawker stalls every single day, which saved me a bunch of money.
Purchase Your Snacks at Supermarkets
Before you start your tour of the city, you may want to drop by at one of the convenience stores and supermarkets to purchase your snacks and some bottled water or beverages. This is what I did when I visited Universal Studios and I’m so glad I did because it saved me a lot of money. The price of sandwiches and bottled water at these parks are ridiculously expensive!
Buying snacks ahead of time also prevents you from splurging at those fancy cafes and restaurants that you get to pass by during your tour. I even stocked some instant noodles and crisps in my hotel room so when I feel hungry and don’t feel like going out, I won’t be tempted to order from my hotel.
Take Advantage of the Free Attractions
Although most attractions in Singapore come with a fee, I was able to visit several sites without spending a single amount of money. If you’re an art aficionado like me and you’re traveling to Singapore on a budget, you can check out those art displays happening all over the city. As an emerging cultural hub, the country has attracted several art and museum exhibits, from Southeast Asian art pieces to groundbreaking art displays by some of the world’s most famous painters. Most of these are free, so do a bit of research before you head to the city so you’ll know if there are any free events that you can visit.
Another free thing to do in Singapore is to visit gardens and parks. Singapore is surrounded by several amazing parks that are definitely worth checking out. For instance, you can wander around the Gardens by the Bay, where you can find lots of giant supertrees. These futuristic structures are so colourful and look very impressive especially at night.
Know Where to Shop
Singapore is blessed with so many shopping outlets, making it one of the best shopping destinations in Asia. However, being an expensive city, you can expect that the prices of the goods here are expensive as well. But just because you’re in Singapore on a budget doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy a bit of shopping during your trip. Despite my limited budget, I was able to take home a few souvenir items and other things without going beyond my travel budget.
The key is to know where the right places to shop. Although Orchard Road is the most popular shopping district in Singapore, this may not cater to budget travellers like me. I did go for a stroll in Orchard Road, but I never bought even a single item. Besides, most of the shops here are the same shops that I can find back home. I bought stuff from Chinatown and Little India instead, where my hotel is located. The best thing about shopping at these places is that you can bargain the price. I bought souvenir shirts for only $12 each and these are the same shirts I saw at one of the malls at the Orchard Road that are being sold for $20!
Know the Rules
As you may know, ignorance of the law excuses no one. In case you’re not yet aware, Singapore is dubbed as a “fine city” simply because people get fined here for seemingly innocuous activities. Thus, before you book your trip, it pays to do a bit of research about the country, including its laws, rules, and regulations.
The main reason why so many people are getting fined in Singapore is not walking through marked crosswalks. While this law may apply to most cities in the world, Singapore takes this law very seriously. If you get caught, be prepared to pay the $300 fine or you go to jail.
Singapore may be an expensive city, but there are definitely a whole lot of things to enjoy here for budget travellers like me. The tips above should get you covered if you’re travelling to Singapore on a budget.
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