Budget Travel – Singapore
There exists a common belief that Singapore is an budget-unfriendly country to visit. Well, let our recent one-week stay in Singapore be a living proof that’s not the case. You can explore this city/country on a tight budget too. Unless, of course, you would like to stay in Marina Bay Sands Hotel the whole time! As usual, below are costs you should expect to pay for a number of common things in Singapore.
Singapore is one of the most developed countries in the world (and certainly the most developed of the last couple that we visited!) so when it came to paying for things it was relatively simple. Most of the shops accept cards, public transport passes can be topped up with a bank card, the only thing you might want to have cash for is food. Restaurants will not be a problem, however, budget travellers are very likely to be frequent visitors of food courts which sometimes only take cash. That’s why it might be a good idea to exchange some cash (not at the airport if possible) and have it to hand whenever required.
ATMs are widely available, non-local cards will most likely attract a 5 SGD withdrawal fee. At the time of our visit (November 2018) the exchange rate was 1 SGD = £0.57 = 0.64 Eur = 0.73 USD.
Bus – Buses (public transport) are really easy to use and also very affordable. The fare is unlikely to be over 2 SGD. Conveniently the same card which works for the metro will work for the bus too.
Taxi – Grab is popular in Singapore and might be the only option late at night. We were never in a situation where we had to take a taxi, although I checked the app a couple of times. It never quoted for anything more than 15 SGD.
Train/Metro (MRT) – Ez-Link cards can be purchased for 12 SGD and will have 7 SGD on them ready to be spent on metro journeys. MRT or Mass Rapid Transit will get you to any location in Singapore and is extremely easy to use. Ez-Link card can be topped up in any station (minimum top-up is 10 SGD by cash or card). A single trip fare depends on the distance travelled but will most likely be under 2 SGD.
Note: Drinking/eating in MRT is strictly prohibited.
As mentioned in my previous post we are very grateful to our amazing host Nizar who kindly agreed to host us in his flat absolutely free of charge in Singapore and showed us around. For travellers uncomfortable or unwilling to use couchsurfing the most viable option will be staying at one of the hostels.
Hostel – A bed in most of places can be found for around 15-20 SGD or around £10. More expensive options are of course also available.
Location is a bit less of a priority in Singapore in my opinion as public transport is both cheap and convenient to use. We lived close to the airport and far away (relatively) from the city centre and it was not a problem as we used metro (MRT) for getting to places anyway. Safety is not an issue as Singapore is considered a very safe place.
To sum up, eating in food courts in Singapore is really affordable. Restaurants will be a lot more pricey than food courts and alcohol lovers will have to pay up too.
Meal at a restaurant (budget to mid-range) – 20-30 SGD
Beer at a bar/restaurant – 10-18 SGD
Meal at a food court (non A/C, outside) – 4-7 SGD
Meal at a food court (A/C, inside shopping malls, etc.) – 5-10 SGD
Soft drink – 2-3 SGD
Coffee (local, called Kopi) – 1-2 SGD
Beer from a store (500 ml can / bottle) – 4-5 SGD
Bottle of water (1.5l) – 1 SGD
There is a lot you can do in Singapore without paying a dollar. Visiting the Supertree grove and watching the show at 19:45 or 20:45 tops our list. The fountain show at the marina nearby (starts 21:00) or the Botanical Gardens (UNESCO site) are also free.
Other great attractions in Singapore include:
Singapore Zoo (we have not visited, but read that this might be the least depressing Zoo in the world) – 33 SGD
Gardens by the Bay – 28 SGD for non-residents
Supertree Grove Skyway – 8 SGD
National Museum of Singapore – 10 SGD
The good news is that there are are plenty more which we have not had time to even consider visiting. As mentioned previously, as a visitor in Singapore you could easily keep yourself entertained for at least a week.
Traveling in Singapore is actually better for the budget than most of us are led to believe. Budget travellers who are not coming to Singapore to splash out in fancy shops will most likely spend the biggest chunk of money on plane tickets.
As an example, a 2-week trip to Singapore from the UK for 1 person would look something like this (insurance is not included).
Total – £950 or around £70 per day all included.
Note: This example suggests Singapore is either cheaper or very similar to Nepal or India. Of course, this is not necessarily true . For instance, due to the extremely high cost of alcohol a couple of nights out drinking beers with friends can easily double the “Entertainment” section of the estimate.