Singapore is easily one of our favourite places in Asia! It's sparkling streets and incredible skyline, not to mention the brilliant sightseeing, makes Singapore a must visit on a trip through South East Asia. However, it tops the table of the World's most expensive cities, meaning a visit doesn't come cheap, especially for backpackers on a budget! Even the price of a bed in a hostel is enough make your stomach drop! We know, it can be daunting, but with a lot of research, we managed to figure out how to explore the city on a budget, and all of that info is right here! So if you're thinking of visiting Singapore but are put off by the prices, think again! Here's all you need to know about visiting Singapore on Shoestring!
(All prices that I've referred to are shown in Singapore Dollars/$ and are subject to change, like everything in this world! I'll try and keep the post updated but it's always worth double checking to avoid disappointment!)
Finding Accommodation in Singapore
First let’s get down to the basics - finding accommodation is one of the things that’ll majorly eat into your budget when in Singapore. Accommodation is undoubtedly more expensive in Singapore than any other country we’ve visited in Asia. Unfortunately, the cheaper hostel options (which are still expensive!) are also not of a very high standard, so it’s time to look to other ways of getting somewhere to sleep on the cheap (unless you don’t mind staying in seriously substandard accommodation - you'll probably be out exploring anyway)! Here's a few tips to keep the prices down:
1. Try Couchsurfing - This is a free app which allows you to connect with local people who have a spare bed or beds. If accepted, you don’t pay a thing to stay there - so if you’re on a budget it’s going to be so useful! It’s a good way to sleep for free while also getting to meet locals and experience what it’s like to live with them. Of course, hosts will want to know that the person they’re inviting into their home is not going to mess the place up or just use them for a free bed, so you have to create a profile, you get rated and it’s a little hit and miss when trying to sort somewhere to stay last minute - but in a place like Singapore, where the prices are high, it’s definitely worth looking into if you are wanting to save money.
2. Volunteer in a hostel (or other position - whatever you can find!) - Many hostels around Asia and the world will offer free accommodation, and sometimes even food, in return for a few hours volunteering each day. Although I don’t know how easy this is to do in Singapore, it’s definitely worth asking around before you arrive to see if you could save some money by giving up some of your free time in return. It may be that you end up having to stay a little longer in order to explore and fulfil the requirements of the volunteering placement, but if it saves money, why not?! Try workaway.info to find volunteer placements.
3. Stay in the Cheapest Hostels - As I said earlier, the cheap hostels are normally rated pretty low, but there are a couple which we’ve heard are relatively ok and are cheap, for Singapore anyway. Try The Inn Crowd - it’s got good reviews and we’ve heard from many people we’ve met that it’s pretty decent for the price; just be sure to book some time in advance because it’s popular and gets booked up quickly! Check out this post for some more budget accommodation in Singapore. It might also be worth looking on booking sites like Airbnb which may have cheaper options that aren’t on the normal hotel booking sites.
4. Stay with friends! - On our trip to Singapore we were very lucky in that we were able to stay with some people Will had met in Thailand and we are so grateful they took us in! You meet so many people from all over the world when travelling, and so you might be lucky enough to meet some lovely Singaporeans who will have a bit a space to put you up for a few nights - it’s always worth asking!
One tip with accommodation - it might seem like it’s best to stay in the city centre to be within walking distance of the main attractions, however Singapore is not a big country at all and the public transport is absolutely amazing. We stayed very far out of town (actually travelling across the half of the country to reach the place we were staying! Sounds like a long way but it isn’t at all!) and just caught the MRT (see below) to get to all the places we wanted to see. Staying in the city centre sees a big hike in the price of accommodation which can easily eat into a budget.
Booking accommodation and want to save some money? Here's some discount links to help you on your way - you can thank us later!
- Click here For 10% back on accommodation booked through booking.com
- Click here for £25 off your first adventure with Airbnb!
Eating Out in Singapore
Eating out in Singapore, like any big city, can be pricey, so how do you avoid spending spending a lot on food? Well, there are several places around the city where you can get a good meal for a good price:
Eat street food and in Hawker Markets/Food Courts - All the street food vendors in Singapore are, by law, rated A,B,C,D, which means you can get a cheaper eat and know that it’s going to be yummy as well as coming from a clean environment. Hawker Markets are places where loads of street food stalls come together and you can go around and get a mixture of loads of different dishes for a fraction of the cost of eating in a restaurant! We definitely recommend Hawkers and Food Courts - it was some of the best food we tasted! Places we tried were: Chomp Chomp Food Centre and Marina Bay Sands Food Court.
China Town and Little India - On your visit to Singapore you’ll probably be visiting these two areas to explore anyway, but why not make them a lunch stop too? China Town has a Food Street with some amazing (and cheap) dishes to try, and Little India has a big central market called the Tekka Centre where you can try some authentic and cheap Indian street food.
Getting Around Singapore
Singapore, being a city that covers basically the entire country, has got to be one of the easiest places in Asia to get around - and here’s why:
1. Using public transport is super cheap, the routes are easy to navigate and they go to all the main sites and destinations. Also, this is the reason why I say that staying outside of the city centre is not going to be a problem; there are MRT (underground train) stations everywhere - you’re always within walking distance of one. While we were in Singapore we used the MRT to get around everyday and we were amazed how little it cost! The rough prices for tickets are below:
- Public Transport Tourist Pass - Starts from $10 for a 1 day pass
- One Way Tickets were very cheap for relatively long journeys, e.g Botanical Gardens
to China Town costs around $1.22 one way. Check out this fare calculator for prices.
2. Make use of online taxi apps such as Grab to get around the city. Cheap, cheerful and super easy to get anywhere from anywhere.
3. Or walk! Walking around Singapore is one of the best ways to see it - we racked up nearly 40,000 steps on one day of city exploring! Temperatures can be a little hot, but by walking from place to place (if the distance isn’t too far anyway) you’ll get to see the city from a different perspective and avoid spending all your time under ground or on the road, where it's hard to take in the city vibes.
A great (and free) app for finding transport links, including timing schedules and prices, in Singapore is CityMapper - we used it just about every day whilst we were there and it was faultless. For more super useful (and free!) apps for travelling, Click here!
Things to do in Singapore
Singapore is FULL of wonderful places to see and explore, and the great news for us budget backpackers is that many of them are completely free (or don’t cost much)! Here’s some of the top sites to see in Singapore:
1. The Botanic Gardens - Beautiful, relaxing and absolutely huge, it would be easy to spend an entire day wandering around Singapore’s Botanical Gardens (in half a day we barely covered two thirds of the place). There’s an MRT station right outside the gate and it’s free to enter with optional exhibits charging an entrance fee - for example the Orchid Garden, which was $5 to enter.
2. China Town and Little India - These suburbs are famous in Singapore and are a great place to spend a few hours wandering around and taking in the culture. There are heaps of interesting buildings and temples to see, as well as some of the yummiest (and cheap) food to try.
3. Go and see the Merlion - What is the Merlion I hear you say? Well it’s an animal which has the head of a lion and the body of a fish, which is depicted in statue form on the waterfront at Merlion Park! It’s the mascot of Singapore and worth a little visit to see the towering fountain spray water into the river below, as well as get a good view of Marina Bay Sands hotel over the other side.
4. Marina Bay Sands - One of the most expensive hotels in Singapore, Marina Bay Sands is an great place to go and just have a wander around. There’s a huge mall full of designer shops underneath and a sky bar at the top (as well as many other shows, events and attractions). We spent a while exploring the mall and the surrounding areas but didn’t manage to get to the sky bar, but I can imagine, being on floor 57, it showcases wonderful panoramic views of the city. It’s $23 to enter the bar/observation deck, however we heard from a friend that on a certain Sunday each month it is free to enter the bar with no dress code - not sure how legit this is, but I trust her so it might be worth checking out if you are in the area!
5. Trick Eye Museum - Not free, but still not particularly expensive ($21.25 when bought online), the Trick Eye Museum in Sentosa Resorts World was a fun way to spend half the day. I won’t lie, it was a little run down, but there were hardly any people there and we had a lot of laughs taking photos on all of the different exhibits! It's also right next to Universal Studios, making it an easy place for a quick visit if you're in the area!
6. Gardens by the Bay - Saving the best until last, Gardens by the Bay is an absolutely must visit when in Singapore! I can’t express enough how amazing this place is, and the best things (besides the iconic Super Tree Grove of course) is that to wander around the lovely outdoor gardens AND see the super tree light show is completely free. There is also the option to pay $33 ($28 online) to explore the two domes - The Flower Dome and The Cloud Forest - and if there was anything I would recommend spending your money on in Singapore, this would be it. For $8 you can also get the chance to walk across the OCBC Skyway - a suspended between two super trees - also something we would definitely recommend (especially at night), but maybe stay clear if you’re afraid of heights! For all the info for opening times and prices, check out their website.
Other things to do that we didn’t get the time for or cost too much for our tiny budget!
Speakeasy Bars - Singapore is, apparently, home to many secret/hidden bars and searching for them could make for a fun few evenings, especially if there’s cocktails involved. Check out this page for more info.
ArtScience Museum - If you’re over by Marina Bay Sands you could check this out! Ticket Prices are on their website and depend on which exhibitions you would like to see.
Sentosa Resorts World - Home to Universal Studios Singapore and the S.E.A Aquarium, Adventure Cove Waterpark (as well as the TrickEye Museum mentioned above), Sentosa Resorts World will be a full on day out. The only reason we didn’t go to all these amazing sounding attractions was the prices, but if you have the budget I’m sure it’s definitely worth it! Find out more here.
Singapore Zoo - Highly recommend by the family we stayed with in Singapore ( it does look pretty spectacular). Information about the Zoo, as well as other wildlife reserves in Singapore, such as the Jurong Bird Park, can be found here.
And that’s it: all our tips for exploring Singapore on a Shoestring! Even if you are on a budget - it is possible, and definitely worth the visit! We hope you have an amazing time exploring an amazing city, and if you do have any more questions, feel free to contact us!
Thanks for reading,
Ellie and Will
(Prices in this post correct as of June 2019 and are subject to change. I'll try and keep the post updated but it's always worth double checking to avoid disappointment!)