On the Southeast Asian backpacking trail, Singapore stands out as the grand dame of them all. With a multicultural population, modern architecture, and a state-of-the-art public transportation system, it’s easy to navigate and immerse yourself in the country. With a highly developed economy, relying heavily on foreign relations, Singapore is a thriving world business centre. Singapore is the 4th leading finance centre in the world, made apparent by the 7,000 multinational corporations from the U.S, Japan, and Europe operating in the country. And they can also boast about having the highest percentage of millionaire households, with over 15% of all households in the country owning at least 1 million USD.
It shouldn’t be a surprise then that things cost more in Singapore but, believe it or not, traveling through the country can still be done on a budget. Below are 5 ways to save money while traveling in Singapore.
1. Eat at hawker centres
Eating at a restaurant in Singapore can get a bit pricey. But you don’t have to skip a meal or resort to fast food chains just to get by. Eating at a hawker centre is the best place to fill your stomach for two important reasons: 1, it’ll be the cheapest place you’ll find food and 2, there’s always a large mix of food to order, so it will never get boring or repetitive. And an even better reason to eat at hawker centres? The food is simply delicious! Dishes such as wonton soup, fried noodles, fried rice, fish head curry, dumplings, satay, grilled pork & duck, and oyster pancakes are usually always on the menu. Items will usually run you between $2.00 – $8.00 SGD. There are plenty of hawker centres throughout Singapore and they serve up some of the best the city has to offer. No seriously, they do. And you’ll also get a bit of a cultural experience rubbing elbows with the Singaporeans, whether they’re on lunch break or celebrating the end of a workday.
2. Take public transit or walk
Singapore’s mass rapid transit (MRT) is an extensive system made up of buses and trains that reaches almost all parts of the island, including the airport. You can purchase single travel tickets at any of the automated machines in the stations, or you can load up an ez-pass, which acts like a debit card when traveling on public transit. Fares are calculated by distance and if you purchase a single travel ticket, don’t forget to get your $1 deposit back when you return your card.
Walking is also another great way to get around (it’s free!) and gives you the best opportunity to explore all the nooks and crannies within the neighbourhoods. One of our favourite things to do was to pick an area and just roam around it with no particular destination in mind. Little India is particularly great for this as there are many small, interesting streets tucked away from the main drag.
While taxis are not usually the more economical means of transportation, and also open the door for some shady shenanigans to occur, there are cheaper ways to use taxis in Singapore. Firstly, it’s better to flag down a taxi than to call one to pick you up. A taxi “on-call” or “booked” will tack on an extra $3+ to your fare. Secondly, try to use taxis during off-peak hours. Using a taxi after midnight will cost you as much as 50% more, and many companies charge extra fees during peak hours such as 6am-9:30am and 5pm-11pm. Thirdly, be aware of the location where you’re picking the taxi up from as there are also extra fees depending on your location (airport, Marina Bay Sands, etc) and a city surcharge of $3 if your trip begins within the city.
3. Drink your alcohol at hawker centres
Drinking in Singapore can add up, especially if you’re looking to enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail in Marina Bay. But if a bottle of beer suits your fancy just fine, you’ll find the cheapest prices at hawker centres. A 650mL bottle of Tiger or Tsingtao will usually run you around $5-6 SGD. If you know you’ll be hitting up the town for the night, get your drinking started here before heading out.
4. Stay in dorm rooms or couchsurf.
There are many hostels located throughout Singapore, with the majority of budget backpacker options clustered in Little India and Chinatown. Most hostels include free wifi and continental breakfast (saving money on one of your meals!), with a dorm bed running you about $20 CAD a night.
CouchSurfing is another great option and has become quite popular in the past few years. You’ll need to set up an account with CouchSurfing if you haven’t already, but essentially the website helps you connect with people living in the country or city you’ll be traveling to with extra space, be it a couch or even a bedroom, for you to use…for free! Yes, people offer up space for you to use for free. CouchSurfing is a great service for you to not only save money, but to also meet people and get great travel advice from those living in the thick of it all.
5. Spend your days visiting Singapore’s free attractions
So now that you’ve figured out how save money eating, drinking, and sleeping, its time to explore Singapore without braking the bank. While walking through the various neighbourhoods is always a great activity and doesn’t cost you anything (except maybe some tired feet), there are a number of attractions around Singapore that won’t cost you a penny to visit.
Pack a lunch and have a picnic in Singapore’s beautiful Botanic Gardens, giving you a chance to get away from the bustle of the city streets. Stroll in and around the oddly shaped but architecturally mesmerizing Esplanade Theatres, affectionately called “The Durian” by Singaporeans for it’s resemblance to the spiked-looking fruit. Check out the Singapore Art Museum on a Friday between 6pm-9pm when admission is free. Marvel at the different religious structures that make up multicultural Singapore including the Sultan Mosque in Little India, St. Andrews Cathedral in the Colonial District, and Sri Mariamman Temple and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, both located in Chinatown. And lastly, take a photo in front of the famous Raffles Hotel and peak through the windows dreaming of your return visit when you can afford the $600+ a night rooms.
Do you have any other tips for saving money while traveling in Singapore? Share them below!