Budget Travel Guide to Singapore

Why Go

Singapore is a small island located off the tip of the Malaysia Peninsula, often known as the “red dot” due to its small size on the map (i.e. its land area is only 270 square miles). Yet, it is a vibrant cosmopolitan city where East meets West, a melting pot of different ethnicities and cultures living in harmony. It is also one of world’s finest travel destinations, with its high-rise modern skyline, a rich cuisine, and a highly developed tourist-friendly transportation system.

Budget Travel Guide to Singapore


Beyond its traditional tourist attractions (e.g. Sentosa Island, the Merlion), Singapore now woos tourists with its recent addition of several gigantic shopping malls (e.g. Vivocity, ION Orchard Road), a giant Ferris wheel (the Singapore Flyer) and several casinos. Singapore is definitely a top choice for travelers who wish to experience a wide variety of leisure and entertainment attractions in one stop, in the company of fresh air and artistic greenery that is often rare to find in today’s highly urbanized metropolitan cities.

Budget Travel Guide to Singapore


As with many other metropolitan hotspots, this modernistic city-state can be expensive to visit, especially if one travels alone and has no prior knowledge. Here are some budget travel tips to help you enjoy all that Singapore has to offer without spending every penny you bring.


Insider Tips

  • Free telephone service at Changi Airport. Often, international travelers will miss this great service that allows them to call up local friends who might have been waiting for their arrival for free. What you need to do is easy: just pick up the receiver at any phone booth while you are still in the Departure/transit area. Your friends will be happy to know that you’ve arrived safely.
  • Taxis are the way to go. This might sound absurd to budget travelers s. Yet, taxis are unarguably the most cost-effective way to go to and from the airport. Unlike taxis in the U.S., taxis in Singapore are cheap to hire: with a starting fare at S$ 3.00 (US$2.36), most of the country is reachable with a fare of S$15.00 or less. This is not much different from the money that one has to pay taking the subway when making two or three transfers, and Singapore’s mass transit discount is usually not applicable to foreigners. With luggage, travelers are probably better off taking a cab to get into the city.
  • Singapore is a ‘fine’ city. International travelers going to Singapore for the first time should remember that consumption of food and beverage is not allowed on public transport such as buses or subways. Failure to abide by the rules might result in a fine in the magnitude of S$500-S$1000. In some sense, the best way to save money while you are in Singapore is to avoid these hefty fines by paying careful attention to the local regulations.
  • Summer is always on; so are T-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops. Due to its geographical location, Singapore only experiences summer. This means you should probably pack lightly by only bringing your summer clothes with you. Buying a pair of flip-flops at any supermarket is also highly recommended as they are comfortable to wear and easy to replace. Usually these flip-flops cost around S$10, and you can wear them both outdoors and indoors.


Where to Stay

Accommodation is probably the single most expensive item for travelers’, especially in a city where land is extremely scarce (and therefore, valuable). In Singapore, several cheap housing options exist for travelers who do not mind sharing common living areas with others. They are backpackers’ hostels, cheap hotels, and rental apartments.

Backpackers' hostels are usually located near Little India, Bugis, Clarke Quay and the East Coast area. It usually costs around S$25-30 for a dorm bed. Most backpackers’ hostels allow early check-in with no additional cost (check-in may start as early as 3pm).  Several backpackers’ hostels also provide ‘pod’ style custom-designed beds, allowing guests to enjoy their privacy while sleeping but maintaining a platform for them to socialize during other times. In fact, one of the most memorable moments of one’s trip usually comes from such interactions with other guests.

Budget Travel Guide to Singapore


Cheap hotels are another option. They are usually clustered in the Geylang, Balestier and Little India districts, where it is convenient for guests to reach the central business district and other entertainment attractions. Rooms are generally small and not fancy, but are still clean and provide basic facilities like a bathroom and television. Prices start as low as S$15 for a stay of a few hours and S$40 for a full night's stay. Guests could decide to pay a little more for private rooms.

Besides hostels and cheap hotels, renting a room or apartment through vacation rental platforms is also a good way to lower cost for budget travelers.  These apartments are cheaper than comparable hotels but offer more space and privacy. Similar to living in hostels, living in these apartments is often considered a must-have ‘local experience’.  Prices start from as low as S$30 for a single room.


What to eat

Culinary excellence has always been a major attraction of Singapore. Not only will you be able to find a rich variety of Chinese, Malay, Indian, Japanese, Thai, Italian, French and American food, but you will also notice that delicious food comes at a very reasonable price in Singapore. Set meals at food centers are highly recommended; so are Chinese buffet restaurants at Marina Bay. Local delicacies include chili crab, satay, ice kachang, pisang goreng, wonton mee, and Hainan chicken rice.

Budget Travel Guide to Singapore


Set meals at food centers (sometimes called hawker centers) are cheap and delicious. Usually priced at S$3.00, a Chinese set meal usually includes some rice, some vegetable dishes and some meat dishes. Occasionally, set meals come with soup and dessert. What makes this option even better is that you don’t even have to tip because most food centers are self-service stations.

Budget Travel Guide to Singapore


One of the best food centers for travelers to taste local delicacies is Singapore's Lau Pa Sat. It is situated at the center of Singapore’s central business district and is a place you shouldn’t miss. It was built in 1894 and is the largest remaining Victorian filigree cast-iron structure in Southeast Asia. It offers by far the richest variety of local cuisine for very reasonable prices. In particular, travelers should taste ice kachang there, a mixture of ice, red bean, palm sugar, grass jelly, sweet corn, attap palm seeds drizzled with canned evaporated milk or coconut cream and colored syrups. The taste is very refreshing to first-time eaters.

Budget Travel Guide to Singapore


Occasionally, if you happen to feel like splurging a little by going to finer restaurants, you can get great bargains (up to 50% discount) at many of Singapore's best restaurants by registering at local foodie websites for free

Budget Travel Guide to Singaporeand downloading their dining vouchers.


What to See and Do

There are zillions of things to do in this island state, even for budget travelers. If you are craving a day on the beach, Sentosa Island is undoubtedly a must-visit. You can purchase a ticket to enter Sentosa Island Park at merely S$2.00—the trick is to let the lady at the ticketing window know that you are not interested in tickets for the entertainment facilities in the park. Beach, sunshine, and sea breezes are all but a very small part of what Sentosa Island has to offer. If you are a bike-rider, you can also rent a bike for S$ 5.00 per hour.

Another must-visit destination is the Esplanade. The Esplanade is a waterfront art performance theater just north of the mouth of the Singapore River in downtown Singapore. The public library situated on the third floor of the Esplanade is open to the public and free to enter. There, you will find a rich display of art works by artists from all around the world.



If you are planning to go shopping, Little India is probably the best place to go to. Boasting a 24/7 market place for food, clothes and electronics, Little India is a bustling hub of prosperity. You will be able to discover not only the cultural and historical heritage from the British colonization era, but also a wide variety of foodstuffs, flower garlands similar to Hawaiian leis, and local antiques sold at very reasonable prices (usually around S$ 5.00 per piece). In addition, you will be able to find great souvenirs that are sold at S$10 per three items, which you can readily bring back and share with friends at home.

Budget Travel Guide to Singapore


If you happen to be an early bird, you might also want to visit Singapore Botanic Garden. Singapore Botanic Garden is open from 5 p.m. to midnight daily and admission is free. In the early morning, the Garden is filled with joggers, dogs and tai-chi practitioners. You can wander through the swaths of virgin rainforest and then take in the National Orchid Garden's collection of 1,000 orchid species and 2,000 hybrids, all in a rich variety of colors and shapes.

Budget Travel Guide to Singapore


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Esplanade photo courtesy of edwin.11; Singapore Botanical Gardens photo courtesy of chooyutshing.

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