Known as one of the most expensive cities in the world, and surrounded by some of the cheapest in neighbouring South East Asia, Singapore provides an unwelcome contrast for many budget travellers. Use some of these tips on budget travel in Singapore to get by filling your time with free or cheap activities, and taking care of your basic needs very cheaply.
Eat at Hawker Centres
Eat local, eat traditionally, and eat cheaply. Each residential area in Singapore is equipped with a local hawker centre, which is basically an open-sided warehouse lined with food vendors; a semi-outdoor food court.
These are found all over Malaysia and Singapore, and while being more expensive in SG, I still managed to find some meals for as little as 2.5 SGD. It’s a social way to eat, so you might also meet local people.
These are an unavoidable part of authentic Singaporean culture, and affordable to boot, just make sure to avoid the hawkers at touristy areas.
Cheap hostels in Singapore leave alot to be desired, and will probably cost you around 20-35 SGD, which if you have just come over the border from neighbouring Malaysia, seems far too expensive for a place that provides little privacy, and probably harbours some of the strange folks that tend to frequent hostels in big cities.
Instead of enduring this, use the fact you are in a multicultural, cosmopolitan city as an opportunity to try Couchsurfing Singapore is full of travellers, both long and short term. Find yourself a friendly host and you are likely to learn more about the locality than if staying in a hostel, where there is a tendency to skim over the surface of the culture with a clique of like-minded sweaty backpackers.
Due to high taxation, alcoholic beverages are very costly. If you are in a bar you can expect to pay up to around 10SGD a beer, and there are a few tempting rooftop bars that will easily surpass this.
Either avoid this scene completely or take advantage of the warm climate and drink somewhere else. At home, or perhaps on the Esplanade where you might also enjoy a free concert.
Bear in mind that consumption of alcohol in public places is only permitted between 10.30pm and 7.30am daily, and there is no purchase from liquor stores after 22:30. If you are set on getting a little woozy, purchase your beer at 7-11, drink up like a socially awkward vagrant in the street, and then head to a bar as the night draws to an end.
Visit the Free Gardens
Visit the Botanic Gardens, which are big enough to allow for hours of exploration and have no admission fee. You might even stumble upon a free concert. The Singapore symphony orchestra play regularly in the park, and offer a mesmerising performance for classical music fans. I found this particularly atmospheric, that was until interrupted by a marauding monitor lizard who had come to see what all the fuss was about!
I found this particularly atmospheric, that was until we were rudely interrupted by a marauding monitor lizard who had come to see what all the fuss was about!
Check out the itinerary here. You may wish to take snacks and something to sit on.
It is unlikely that you will visit Singapore and not see the iconic gardens by the bay. These are famous globally and as such attract crowds of visitors. Avoid the heat and the hordes of tourists by visiting in the early morning, and avoid the expense by skipping over entry fee attractions like the cloud forest and flower dome.
Alternatively visit at 8pm to catch the Garden Rhapsody, a supertree sound and light show
Meander Down the Southern Ridges
Try and spot monkeys in the forest treetop walk, climb Mt Faber and look out over the city, and marvel at the architectural wonder that is the Henderson Waves pedestrian bridge.
The southern ridges trail offers great views of the futuristic city skyline, juxtaposed against the mass of greenery that surrounds it. It also offers the opportunity to learn about the history and culture of Singapore through visiting the Merlion and bell of happiness at Mt Faber. The trail finishes at the Vivocity mall, where you can access Sentosa Island.
Check out the view at Marina Bay Sands
I’m not suggesting you book a 500USD room, but you can still sneak in the lift and check out the view on the top floor next to the famous infinity pool!
Take an Art Tour
The Ritz-Carlton in Marina Bay offers visitors a free 30 minute ipod-guided tour of its art collection, an inspiring mixture of modern and contemporary art including Andy Warhol and David Hockney.
Go to the beach
Visit Sentosa Island and relax at the beach there; a place that claims to be the southernmost tip of mainland Asia. This is very much an artificial beach and can be crowded, but there are more natural beaches available further out, at Pasir Ris or Changi Point.
Many people bathe in the sea, and the beaches tend to be very clean, but it is worth bearing in mind the proximity to the Port of Singapore, the second busiest port in the world.
Watch a Free Movie
As you might have guessed, cinema tickets are expensive in Singapore, but you could try open-air cinema. These are put on at Marina Bay by DBS or at Fort Canning park by Films at the Fort, and at The National Museum.
Take a Walk with Singapore Footprints
Curerntly offering guided tours of China Town, Singapore offer two and a half hours of free cultural and historical enrichment. Check their page to confirm timings.
See a Free Concert at the Esplanade
At the mouth of the Singapore river is a building that looks curiously like a durian fruit. Here at the esplanade you can find free performances every night of the week, both local and international talents including music, theatre and more.
Visit the URA City Gallery
This gallery uses interactive exhbiits, informative displays, and large architectural models to showcase the exemplar city planning of Singapore. A useful and inspiring resource for anyone interested in the built environment.