Why Singapore, right? I thought of the exact same thing when I was planning my trip around Southeast Asia, especially bearing in mind I have to be a penny pincher for this long, small budget journey.
Why in the world would I want to visit one of the most expensive cities in the world? I don’t even personally like cities. I’d rather see more of nature than man-made areas.
However, I had a few persistent friends (and a persistent mom) who pushed me to visit despite the fact. I thought, okay, it would be good to get out of my comfort zone and see a sleek, modern, expensive city. Why not? I’ve only got a ton of money to spare. I wasn’t on a budget travel.
Kidding aside, I went and took a bus from Melaka to Singapore. Predictably, I didn’t like the drive through the city. Also, it was hot and humid as hell, more than I ever expected it to be. Later that day, I went to see Little India and the area around Marina Bay Sands (locals say MBS as a shortcut). When I saw the city at night, I actually liked it… it was pretty.
The next day I met with a local who toured me around town, seeing the non-touristy places. He knew I didn’t like tourist ghettos and that I was on a budget anyway so paid museums were not in the option at all.
After the walk, I found myself smiling. I liked Singapore. I saw a different side of it that made me see the city differently. Now, I won’t outright tell people not to visit Singapore. If anything, do it. And stay away from the touristy areas, though. Walk around. Observe the people and how they live. It’s very interesting.
So, if Singapore is on your mind, don’t fret. Let’s help you save some cash. Here are 7 tips I have for you on a budget, just like me.
1. Bring a Bottle of Water
Water is crazy expensive in Singapore. It could cost you at least 2 SGD for a small bottle and when you constantly buy them, the costs add up that could have been used for a meal instead, or a train ride to another area. Bring a reusable bottle and keep refilling. Where, you ask? Well, Singapore’s tap water is SAFE to drink so you can literally refill from anywhere. In malls, there’s always fountains for you to refill from as well. If you’re gonna be exploring a lot of Singapore on a tight budget, see tip # 2. You’ll need a lot of water then.
2. Walk. Walk. Walk.
While transportations costs aren’t skyrocketing high, walking definitely helps you stay on your budget. This way you get to explore some of the neighboring streets as well and see a different side of Singapore. My local friend and I did that and I was just astounded. There are areas in Singapore where you can avoid the sky-rise buildings and see old structures that speak about Singapore’s history. They have beautiful streets with breathtaking structures.
3. Get the EZ-Link Card
Be prepared to spend 12 SGD to buy the card, where 5 SGD is to pay for the card itself and leaving you with 7 SGD in credit. Be frugal when you spend. When you need to top up, the minimum spend is about 10 SGD and if you can’t finish all that in your trip, the few dollars would go to waste. This option is better than paying for individual trips or even getting the unlimited-rides-for-one-day packages for tourists (unless you plan to ride trains all day?)
Know what’s an even better option to save you 5 SGD? Ask a friend who’s already been to Singapore to pass you his EZ Card if they still have it!
PRO TIP: Download the MyTransport.Sg App to help you with Singapore’s local transport services, complete with schedules, fare estimates, ETAs, and even real-time reports on, for example, a metro unit breaking down. While Singapore’s transport system is one of easiest and most efficient, the app helps you get a head-start before you even arrive.
4. Visit Free Tourist Sites
This goes without saying that if you just do enough research, there are plenty of places in the city that you can visit without costing an arm and a leg, or anything at all. Some ideas: Merlion Park, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore Botanic Gardens, Esplanade Outdoor Theatre, or even just walking down the streets in Orchard is already a treat, seeing buskers every few hundred meters. Walk around Chinatown and Little India as well. Try to avoid buying the food in these areas as they are obviously priced higher for tourists. Just enjoy the scenery and spot local street art in the area.
PRO TIP: Visit the Peranakan Tile Gallery and fall in love with the art and culture.
5. Eat in Hawker Centers
Food is one of the biggest concerns of people when they visit expensive cities. Naturally, if you eat in “proper” restaurants, they will be jacked up prices. The smarter move is to eat locally; to eat where any normal Singaporean would probably eat. Here, my friends, is where we say hello to our hawker center friends. You can even spend just 5 SGD on a meal and if you don’t eat as much, can even share this with a friend and you’ll be full enough. My go-to was the biryani next to my friend’s apartment. 5 SGD fed both of us. I’d order an extra roti or two but even that is jut an extra 3 SGD.
PRO TIP: Want to really try the famous Chili Crabs? Head over to 89.7 Supper Club Pte Ltd for some affordable Chili Crabs. Try their Salted Egg Crabs, too!
6. Stay in Little India
Another top problem for budget travelers going to Singapore is accommodation. Yes, this is the trickiest because even hostels could cost you 17 to 20 SGD. That definitely rips your wallet apart, forcing you to dig in for more. However, hostels in the Little India area can spare you a few dollars and you can find some as low as 12 SGD per night.
7. Avoid 7-11
Here’s something you never thought you’d hear! 7-11’s are known to be quite cheap and convenient in many countries. In fact, it’s every budget traveler’s friend. You know you can find your basic needs here, at an affordable price. Not so true for the ones in Singapore, though. They’re actually priced quite high (Singapore rates). Some things are priced okay, but our go-to cheap food convenient store isn’t quite what we thought over on this side of the planet.
Now, no more hesitation visiting Singapore on a budget! Pack your bags and book that flight!