Singapore is a cosmopolitan city-state that became independent from the British in 1965 and is now one of the world’s leading economic centers in shipping and banking – Singapore is expensive by Southeast-Asian standards, with everything costing about double what it does elsewhere in the region. While most people come here for a couple of days just “to do” Singapore, I love this city and think it deserves longer than that. There’s a lot to do here, some great parks by the Malaysian border, and incredible (and cheap) Chinese and Indian food. Singapore is also moving beyond it’s sterile image and fast becoming a city with world-class nightlife.
Accommodation – Accommodation isn’t cheap in Singapore. A night in a hostel dorm will cost around 15-30 SGD, and a budget hotel starts at 50 SGD for a basic double room with fan. Most hotels here are around 80-110 SGD per night.
Food – There are plenty of low-cost eateries around Singapore with street stalls typically selling food for less than 6 SGD per meal. Chinese and Indian food is usually around 8-9 SGD per meal. Most casual restaurants are around 20 SGD and after that, the sky is the limit.
Transportation – There are plenty of buses and taxis around Singapore, but the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) runs the length and breadth of the country. MRT tickets vary in price, as they are based on the distance traveled, but generally cost around 4 SGD.
Activities – On the whole, activities in Singapore are not that expensive. Some, like the Singapore Botanical Gardens and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, are free. Entrance to Singapore Zoo is 32 SGD and Underwater World is 29 SGD.
Money Saving Tips
Take public transit – Travel on public transport is just 10 SGD per day for tourists with a Singapore Tourist Pass. This will get you unlimited rides on a number of buses and trains.
Eat on Smith Street – The stalls here offer food for less than 6 SGD and are a great place to sample local snacks.
Eat cheap – Save money on food by eating in Little India, Chinatown, or the hawker stalls throughout the town. Meals in these places cost only a few dollars.
Top Things to See and Do
Visit Singapore Zoo – This zoo is one of the best in the world and also one of the top attractions in Singapore. Covering an area of 70 acres, this place is huge and has a vast array of animals: over 3,600 mammals, birds and reptiles. The zoo’s night safaris are hugely popular, offering visitors the chance the get up close and personal with nocturnal animals. Entrance to the zoo and a night safari costs 71 SGD. Watch out though, there’s no food around here and since you have to wait for the night safari to begin, you get stuck eating the overpriced zoo food. See the zoo in the morning and come back at night for the safari.
Eat at the Boat Quay – Boat Quay is a hive of activity and is the place to go for dining and entertainment. The alfresco pubs and restaurants also make Boat Quay ideal for relaxing after a long day of sightseeing. Be sure to bring a camera to capture the imposing skyscrapers and bizarre statues along the riverside.
Hang out (and party) on Sentosa – This little island getaway is popular with locals and tourists alike. Head to the Tiger Sky Tower, Asia’s tallest observation tower. At 450 feet, it offers amazing views over Singapore and Sentosa. The Underwater World aquarium is the main attraction on the island; walk through tunnels below sharks, piranhas and eels. Universal Studios is also located on the island. You have to pay to get on to Sentosa. The cost to get there on the Sentosa Express is 4 SGD.
Admire Thian Hock Keng Temple – Stunning architecture makes Thian Hock Keng one of the most photogenic buildings you’re likely to see in Singapore. The temple was made from the finest materials and best craftsmen that China had to offer around the time of its construction in the 1840s. The temple was designated as a national monument in 1973.
Hang with the Merlions – You are sure to see statues of these imaginary creatures dotted about Singapore and you can easily pick up a miniature replica of them. The Merlion is Singapore’s mascot and has the head of a lion and the body of a fish. The original statute (and most impressive Merlion) can be found in Merlion Park with the 37-meter tall replica on Sentosa also being worth a visit.
Explore Bukit Timah Naturae Reserve – Bukit Timah is located within Singapore’s only remaining stretch of rainforest, and is the country’s premier ecotourism attraction. The wildlife spotting here is great and you are likely to see macaques, squirrels and flying lemurs and various species of birds. The reserve is just 30 minutes from the city center and proves that the city is more than just high rises.
Wander around Chinatown – Chinatown encompasses two square kilometers of traditional Chinese life, nestled beside the modern Central Business District. This remains the place to get a real sense of Chinese culture within Singapore. The streets are filled with temples, craft shops, stalls and restaurants and are a great place to pick up a bargain.
Take a trip to Pulau Ubin – The island of Pulau Ubin is just off the northeastern coast of Singapore and is a bit of a throwback to the 1960s with the locals living in traditional villages known as “kampongs.” This area could not be any different from the CBD — the locals still use a diesel generator for electricity and fetch their water from wells. Rent a bike to travel round the island taking in the strange sights, villages and beaches.
Relax in the Singapore Botanic Gardens – The Botanic Gardens lie close to the city and consist of 52 hectares of specialty gardens and forest. The main attraction within the Gardens is the National Orchid Garden which is home to over 1000 species of orchid, but there is also a ginger garden, a rainforest and various streams and waterfalls to explore.
Eat in Little India – No trip to Singapore is complete without a visit to Little India. Here you can get amazing, cheap food, great vegetables, and interesting snacks and souvenirs. Make sure you eat at the giant cafeteria restaurants and don’t be afraid to eat with your hands!
Learn about Singapore’s History – For a more cultural experience, visit the former British naval base of Fort Siloso. It’s the only preserved fort on the coast of Singapore, and provides a fantastic look into the city-state’s complicated history. It’s a well-constructed, interactive attraction. Entry is 12 SGD.
Visit Sri Mariamman Temple – This extremely colorful, ornate temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore. It was constructed in what is known as the Dravidian style, and lies in the Chinatown.
Watch a Free Concert – The Singapore Symphony Orchestra hosts various free concerts at different venues around the country, often in parks, or at the racecourse. Check their website for details.
Visit the MacRitchie Reservoir Park – The MacRitchie Reservoir Park is a slice of nature in the middle of urban sprawl. Here, you can hike along the eight-kilometer treetop hike, which includes a huge bridge suspended high above the forest floor. It’s a beautiful escape from the city.