Singapore is known as one of the most modern destinations in Southeast Asia; a city-state where contemporary living blends in beautifully and seamlessly with the intrigue and heritage of the past. Unfortunately, this modernity in Singapore is often equated with a high price tag for tourists – Singapore is currently ranked as the 6th most expensive place to live in the world, and visitors likewise must contend with the city’s high costs.
However, a trip to Singapore doesn’t have to break the bank. Read on for some top tips on how to enjoy Singapore on a shoestring.
Due to high property prices, hotel rooms in Singapore are expensive; extraordinarily so when compared with average prices in neighboring countries such as Thailand or Malaysia. To stay on budget, consider booking yourself into a hostel. Singapore has a great selection of hostels designed for a more mature, less party-oriented business traveler. Pillows & Toast, Wink Hostel, and Matchbox the Concept are all hostels that offer modern facilities and friendly service, and place an emphasis upon security and privacy. For less than $50 USD per night, guests can enjoy a good amount of person space in an inexpensive, hostel setting. And if you are looking for a social hostel stay, no problem – Singapore’s got plenty of traditional hostels as well.
Adventurous travelers can save even more money by opting to stay at a campsite. After all, Singapore enjoys warm weather year-round, and a camping holiday in Singapore will give any visitor a new perspective on the city. Camping is allowed in four Singapore parks, and on nearly all of the city’s beaches. Apply for a camping permit here.
Food & Drink
Like every other person who visits Singapore, the budget traveler will find eating in the city an absolute delight. Singapore is famed for its range of cuisines on offer, and for the freshness and uniqueness of the dining scene. At any of the ubiquitous food courts found throughout the city, diners can enjoy a meal that’s tasty, fast, and cheap. Offerings at these food courts are normally less than $5 USD, including a drink. Because the cultures of Singapore are so diverse, meals at food courts vary as well – visit the Bugis neighborhood for Middle Eastern cuisine, or go to Chinatown for traditional rice and noodle dishes.
Apart from food courts, diners on a budget will also find cheap eats galore in Little India. This area is full of take-away counters selling Indian sweets and mealtime nibbles such as samosas and vegetable bhaji. Many of the restaurants in Little India are reasonably priced and outrageously delicious. For an inexpensive lunch, try a dosai – a thin lentil and rice pancake, filled with meat, vegetables or cheese and served with dipping sauces. A dosai lunch set will rarely cost more than $5 USD, and often includes a cup of tea as well.
The most popular tourist sites in Singapore are also the most expensive. To avoid sky high entrance fees (as well as crowds and queues), make an alternative itinerary.
One fun and completely free activity is a hike on the Southern Ridges. The Ridges, easily accessible by public transportation, is a nine kilometer trail overlooking the city. The Southern Ridges trail includes parks, footpaths, space-agey bridges and plenty of places to stop and enjoy the flora or the view. Because the Ridges trail is broken up into various parts, it’s as easy to take a half-hour stroll as it is to spend the entire day exploring all aspects of the hike.
Also free is a visit to Singapore’s East Coast Park; a long strip of grass, biking trail and beach running down the coast. Although swimming is not favored by residents of Singapore, many a tourist can be found taking a dip in the waters off the East Coast Park, or just lying in the sun on the thin strips of sand.
For an even more authentic swimming experience, take a dip in one of Singapore’s many public swimming complexes. These pools are equipped with changing rooms and showers, and often include kids’ pools and lap pools as well as lounge chairs for a post-swim nap. Best of all, entrance to a public pool in Singapore is normally less than $1 USD – quite the bargain for a day splashing around in the sun.
The National Museum of Singapore houses national treasures and rotating exhibits on the city-state’s history and culture. Not only is it free to have a look around the museum building, but entrance to galleries and special exhibits is very reasonably priced at less than $10 USD. Also, from 6pm to 8pm every day, admission to the Singapore Living Galleries is free.
Another popular museum is the Singapore Art Museum. Here, both contemporary and historical pieces of art are on display, and the museum building itself is a National Monument and great example of French colonial architecture. On Friday nights, from 6pm until 9pm admission to the museum is free.
Visit the National Heritage Board of Singapore to find out about more museums around the city.
Orchard Road is where the well-heeled head, but travelers less interested in procuring the latest Bvlgarli handbag may prefer to head East. In Little India and Bugis, savvy shoppers can find traditional clothing, modern boutiques, and all manner of trinket and souvenir. Flea markets, such as the Sungei Road Thieves Market located near the Bugis MTR, can also be found throughout the city.
Clark Quay is a picturesque Singapore area dedicated to dining and drinking. However, a night in this neighborhood gets very expensive, very quickly. For a less pricey alternative, spend the evening in Chinatown. With myriad restaurants offering al fresco dining and all night drink specials, Chinatown in the perfect place to people watch, make new friends, and enjoy dinner and drinks on a budget.