This guide to Singapore on a budget is proof that with a little insider’s advice, visiting this fascinating country doesn’t have to drain all your money. Sure, Singapore can be ludicrously expensive depending on where you go and what you do, but if you’re careful enough you can actually eat, shop and get around town for less than in many other Asian cities.
As well as food and shopping, our tips to save money in Singapore includes advice on the cheapest places to stay and best attractions – many of which are completely free of charge. Singapore is not only a travel destination for the wealthy; read on to discover why!
Backpackers on a tight budget in Singapore really have no other option when it comes to accommodation options…and that is to stay in a dorm-style room. However, that doesn’t mean you have to slum it.
Plush designer ‘capsule’ hostels have been popping up in Singapore over the last few years, and many of the best – and cheapest – places to stay in Singapore for budget travellers are in located in Little India. Expect to pay between S$20-60 for a comfy and clean dorm bed. Single beds in private rooms start from around S$60 and cheap double rooms start at around S$100.
If you want to save money in Singapore, your mealtime options are black and white: stick to the hawker centres! As Lionel Yeo from the Singapore tourism board explains: “You can get a very good meal for S$3. Or you can pay S$300 for some of the best restaurants in the world.” Those doing Singapore on a budget aren’t restricted to only noodle soups and chicken on rice. Some of the best hawker centres in Singapore do a vast range of dishes from around the world.
Check out Lau Pa Sat in the CBD for everything from Singaporean classics to Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and even western favourites – with most dishes costing around S$3-10. Other cheap alternatives include Chinatown’s famous Maxwell Hawker Centre and more modern Chinatown Food Street, as well as the Tekka Centre in Little India.
Singapore is notorious for having expensive booze, but there are ways to get around it. Firstly, cheap bars do exist like Five Izakaya Bar (S$5 all day for small beers) and Ice Cold B’s @ SMU (S$10 for a pint).
Another good option is to start your night early and head to Clarke Quay. This area is packed to bursting point with bars and many offer buy-one-get-one-free deals, usually starting at 5pm and ending around 7pm. Many venues here run all-day happy hours too: head to Fremantle Seafood Market for S$5 beers and wines, Little Saigon for 50% drinks, Bungy Bar for S$9 pints, and soak it all up with free pizza at Verve Pizza Bar (with orders over S$15).
While Singapore has a fantastic supply of attractions and fun activities, many visitors on a budget are restricted as to how many they see due to the prices. Top Singapore attractions like the Night Safari, Singapore Flyer, Underwater World and River Cruises all cost between S$20-40 a pop, meaning the total quickly adds up.
One solution is to grab the ever-popular attraction pass, which allows free access into a long list of attractions, including the four above, as well as discounts at participating restaurants and bars.
Free in the day
Singapore on a budget is further made possible by the wealth of impressive, and more importantly, free things to do and see. Head to Gardens by the Bay to take in the spectacular views of the giant manmade trees, then stop by the nearby Marina Barrage (in the same park) to do some kite watching against Singapore’s incredible urban cityscape. You also have a pick of fine free parks and nature walks such as Fort Canning Park, the Singapore Botanical Gardens and MacRitchie Reservoir’s Treetop Walk and the Southern Ridges.
Walking round Singapore’s ethnic enclaves of Little India, Chinatown or the Arab Quarter won’t cost you a cent either and don’t forget that Singapore’s most famous attraction, The Merlion, is also free too!
Free at night
Singapore has plenty of swanky bars and cocktail lounges where you could drink your way through your entire holiday budget in one night. For an alternative, try these night time activities:
– See Sultan Mosque, the largest and most spectacular of its type, lit up brilliantly at night.
– Experience 3 Light Shows (Gardens the Bay, Marina Bay Sands, and Sentosa)
– Check out the many free shows and performances at Esplanade Theatre
– Watch the sun set on the beach at Sentosa
– Wednesday ladies’ nights (free entry and drinks for ladies at most clubs across Singapore)
Probably the cheapest place to shop in Singapore is Bugis Street Market (11am–10pm, near Bugis MRT) which specialises in cheap souvenirs, clothing, accessories and eats.
Other budget shopping places in Singapore include Little India’s 24-hour Mustafa Centre and the aging Lucky Plaza on Orchard Road, which both seem to sell pretty much everything.
If you’re doing Singapore on a budget, Wednesdays should be your favourite day – if you’re female, that is – as most bars and clubs around town offer free entry and drinks for the ladies one night a week.
For the guys – or just if Wednesdays don’t work for you – try the Pump Rooms, Crazy Elephant, China One or Cuba Libre; all are at Clarke Quay, have live music, and more importantly…no cover charge most nights!
Many budget travellers wanting to enter/leave Singapore from nearby Southeast Asian countries search endlessly for cheap alternatives, such as bus, train and even boat tickets. Whilst it is possible to reach the country via a long overland journey, the reality is that flying in on a short haul flight will probably be about as cheap as your overland ticket…if you book in advance and use budget airlines. That said, if you’re not in a rush and want to explore neighbouring countries, buses and trains do run from Bangkok all the way through Malaysia to Singapore.
From the moment you step off the plane at Changi Airport, you can start saving money in Singapore by buying yourself an EZ Link Card which gives you access to the MRT. You pay S$12 (S$5 is a refundable deposit and S$7 is your useable credit) which will allow you to make several journeys around town, and you can easily top up again once your balance runs out. Singapore’s MRT network is extensive, easy to use and at just over a dollar for one journey, very affordable.
That said, don’t be too worried about hopping into a taxi, especially after a night out. Taxis in Singapore are surprisingly cheap, with most short journeys around the city centre costing around S$10.