Although prices in Singapore are much higher than you’ll find in any other Southeast Asian country, it’s possible to visit, eat and sightsee to your heart’s content while staying within your budget. Here are a few tips that you may not hear when you are talking with other expats…
1. Don’t stay in a hotel. The prices are high and you don’t get a lot of value for money. Instead, share an apartment in a local neighbourhood. The Airbnb website has hundreds of listings for apartments, where you can stay for a night or much longer at a fraction of the price you’d pay for a hotel. You’ll have a private room and use of an apartment, including laundry facilities and on-site amenities. Many owners offer substantial discounts for stays of one month or longer.
2. Singapore has one of the world’s most well-integrated public transportation systems. Getting from one end of the country to the other usually takes less than an hour. Prices are affordable, but can be made even more so with the purchase of an EZ-Link card. This stored value card provides discounted fares for all MRT and LRT trains and bus trips. You’ll avoid the queue waiting to buy subway or train tickets and you won’t have fumble with exact change for the buses, either. You can also use the card for retail purchases at many participating restaurants and stores.
3. Every Sunday, the Esplanade Theatre on the Bay arts centre hosts a free concert in their music hall. Local musicians, up-and-coming bands and full symphonic orchestras perform here. Admission is on a first-come, first-served basis, so be sure to arrive early. Concerts are generally held around 3 p.m.
4. Stretch your budget while eating some of the best hawker food on the planet. Singapore’s food scene is so good that it is the only country that has Michelin star rated hawker stalls. Eat at the busiest stalls—the locals know which ones have the best food and they won’t hesitate to tell you.
5. If the prices at Changi Airport’s restaurants make you shudder, check out the employee’s secret hawker centre. Not only is the food cheap, it’s delicious, too. You can find a vast array of local favourites here, such as a big plate of Singapore chicken rice that costs less than $4. The Staff Hawker Canteen at the Changi Airport Terminal 2 public area is tucked away on the mezzanine level near the parking area just above the third floor—you need to walk up a flight of stairs—and no, you don’t need to be an airport employee to enjoy a meal there.
6. Find it online. Singapore is remarkably well-connected. Whether you’re looking at opening a business, renting an apartment, finding the best transportation route or checking out upcoming events, you’ll find that it’s very easy to access useful and accurate information on the internet. To get started, take a look at the Singapore Tourism Board for events, attractions and advice, the National Parks Board for nature parks and green space and the main Singapore Government website for anything to do with business or government services.
7. Go take a hike. Singapore is known as “Garden City,” with over 300 parks and four nature reserves and hundreds of kilometres of bike paths, canals and greenways connecting them. MacRitchie Reservoir Park has a 250-metre-high suspension bridge from which you can look down upon the rainforest canopy. Fort Canning Park is another gem with historically significant sites as well as hiking and jogging paths. A full 47% of Singapore land is devoted to parks, nature reserves and gardens, offering residents and visitors unparalleled opportunities to get out and about and enjoy this beautiful city.
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