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Singapore is one of the most expensive countries on the planet. In fact, the country is in the top five GDP per capita. As such, I had to quickly learn how to visit Singapore on a budget while I spent a week there over the Christmas holidays. It wasn’t easy, but there are certainly some tricks to keep in mind.

Visiting Singapore for the First Time

I really had no idea what to expect about Singapore before I arrived. Overall, I’d say I enjoyed the country. Perhaps the biggest downside for me was how expensive everything was. One of the top benefits of Southeast Asia for me is how much cheaper it is to live there compared to the US or UK.  However, I would say Singapore is on par with expenses in those countries, and Numbeo agrees with me. Certainly not San Francisco or London, but comparable to average expenses across the US, UK, and many other countries.

Selfie with Vanesa at Singapore Street Art

Another blatantly obvious aspect of Singapore is all the regulations. Everywhere you look, there are signs saying not to litter, to not make loud noises in public, to bring your dirty dishes to the appropriate spot when leaving a restaurant, etc. If you do a bit of research, you will find some interesting laws such as how durian is illegal indoors and bubblegum is completely banned.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of this approach, and I think other countries could learn something from it. Discipline is not the same as punishment, and enforcing a moral path is imperative for a sane society. Of course, anything can be taken to extremes, but I think Singapore is doing a very good job keeping its citizens on the straight and narrow. Perhaps the only thing I could complain about is that I’m not allowed to complain about anything. And that’s not something to complain about…unless you’re a proponent of free speech.

Use TrustedHouseSitters

The first biggest tip I can give for staying more than a couple days in Singapore is to use TrustedHouseSitters. There are a lot of locals and expats in Singapore who travel for the holidays, many of whom have pets. It’s not common for Asians to let strangers watch their home, but Expats are another matter.

Expats living in Singapore often travel home for the holidays, for business, to escape the heat, or just for a change of scenery. When they leave their pets behind, many of them use TrustedHouseSitters to find a pet sitter. I’ve personally used the platform all over the world to look after wonderful animals while having a place to stay in unique locations.

On Christmas, I met up with some friends who were housesitting for a friend. But not just any house. A five-story home with its own elevator. They had use of a huge screen TV, a well-stocked kitchen, private rooms to work in, and a beautiful Dalmatian to keep them company.

It’s not guaranteed that you’ll find a housesit – one of the disadvantages of the program – but you can also look into Couchsurfing. Singapore has over 73,000 members on the platform! Volunteering is another way to travel the world on a budget, but I don’t know how many opportunities there are in Singapore, or if it’s even legal in the country. At the time of this writing, neither Workaway nor Worldpackers currently have any jobs listed.

Visit the Hawker Centers

What and where you eat just might be the make-break point if you travel to Singapore on a budget. Numbeo says the average cost for a 2-person meal at an intermediate restaurant in Singapore is $100 Singaporean dollars – about $75 USD. Yet it’s possible to cut that down to just a couple dollars per person by eating at hawker centers!

Hawker stalls started in Singapore in the 1950s. They quickly became popular with the working class. In 2016, two stalls received the first-ever Michelin stars for street food. Nowadays, dozens of stalls have Michelin stars and Bib Gourmand awards.

Singapore Food Tour at the Chinatown Maxwell Food Market

Two of the main hawker centers are in Chinatown – Maxwell Center and Chinatown Complex. Both locations have dozens of stalls to choose from, mostly serving Asian dishes. On my Singapore food tour, I learned about several of the available dishes.

Separate from the tour, Vanesa and I had lunch at the Maxwell Center and spent about $10 between the two of us. We also found an incredible Chinese restaurant by the Chinatown Complex with massive portions for under $10 per dish. On the other hand, some of our meals had a bill of over $50 despite trying to stick to our budget.

Public Transportation in Singapore

When it comes to getting around Singapore, it’s quite easy to save money. The public transportation system is fantastic and surprisingly cheap. Between the buses and tram network, there aren’t a lot of places you can’t reach.

Uber left Singapore and the rest of the Southeast Asia countries in 2018, and several other rideshare programs replaced it, primarily Grab. Although Grab isn’t nearly as cheap as public transportation, it’s relatively inexpensive compared to taxis in other countries. Having said that, I didn’t actually take a Grab ride myself, since I was sticking to a budget and public transportation was so much cheaper.

Using public transportation in Singapore is super easy. As long as you have a contactless credit card, or Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay on your phone, you can just tap onto the bus or tram. Just remember to tap when you get off you’ll either get charged for the maximum journey or receive a fine (I’m not sure which, and I wasn’t going to find out through error). I don’t know how much individual journeys cost, but I was never charged more than $4 at the end of the day after several rides. Normally, my card was debited around $2.50 for 3-6 rides.

Jewel at Changi Airport in Singapore

If you need public transportation from Singapore’s Changi Airport, I would recommend getting the tram from the basement of Terminal 2 to the city center. You’ll have to change trams after 2 stops, but that will get you to most parts of Singapore for a fraction of what a taxi would cost from the airport.

Know the Prices of Attractions and Budget Accordingly

Singapore is the kind of place where you can spend the day visiting great attractions and spend next to nothing, or spend hundreds or even thousands. After all, the most iconic attraction in Singapore is the infinity pool on the 57th floor of the Mandalay Bay Sands Hotel. Yet to access the pool, you’ll have to spend a night at the hotel, and I didn’t see any rooms less than $600 per night.

View from Marina Bay Sands Observation Deck

Sentosa Island is a popular destination where you’ll find Universal Studios Singapore, the S.E.A. Aquarium, and plenty of other attractions, not to mention Palawan Beach. While the beach is free, many of the attractions are going to set you back $30-$80 per person.  I’ll admit, we didn’t make it to Sentosa on our visit. That’s saved for the next trip. I suppose we could have at least gone to Palawan Beach, but it was also raining thunderstorming most of the time we were in Singapore.

Three activities I would highly recommend paying for are the Singapore River Cruise, the Marina Bay Sands observation deck, and the Singapore Food Tour. We learned so much about Singapore on the river cruise. We also had the extremely rare event of our boat breaking down, which was great as we got to watch the entire Spectra water show from the boat. Sadly, the observation deck closed as we waited in line due to a lightning storm.

How Cheap is Singapore on a Budget?

As usual, how much you spend in Singapore will depend on your travel style. On the extreme low end, you could keep your budget for Singapore down to $10 per day, but only by using Couchsurfing or TrustedHouseSitters, eating at the hawker centers, and sticking to free attractions.

On the upper end, you could easily spend $1,000 per day in Singapore, especially if you’re staying at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel for $650+ per night. Of course, that’s about the same budget whether you’re traveling solo or as a couple, considering the hotel sleeps one or two for the same price. Furthermore, some of the 286 Michelin restaurants in Singapore cost several hundred per guest.

Singapore Harbor Colored Buildings

I believe a reasonable budget for Singapore is $200 per day for solo travelers and $275 for couples. A good hotel in Singapore averages around $125 per night. If you split your meals between reasonably priced restaurants and delicious hawker stalls, expect to pay about $25 per day. That leaves $50 for attractions and public transportation. Sticking to buses and trams only costs about $3 per day, so attractions are really the biggest variable. If you have a few days and you really need to stick to a budget, maybe consider just one premium attraction per day, and visit free attractions otherwise.

So, here’s the breakdown of visiting Singapore on a budget:

  • Accommodations: $125 (same for solo and couples)
  • Food: $25 for solo, $50 for couples
  • Transportation: $3 for solo, $6 for couples
  • Attractions: $47 for solo, $94 for couples
  • Total: $200 for solo, $275 for couples

Superrees at Winter Wonderland

Vanesa and I managed to keep our budget down to about $150 per day. But we missed some of the premium attractions we would have enjoyed, had we more funds. Next time, we’ll have to get a Singapore sling, visit Sentosa Island, and maybe even fork out the dough to stay at the Marina Bay Sands hotel just so we can get our iconic photos in the infinity pool.

Singapore On a Budget Pin

Further Reading

Planning to visit Southeast Asia? Here are some other articles you might like that will help you with your travels.

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Author Skye Class

Hi, I'm Skye. Writer, photographer, adventurer, foodie, teacher, masseur, friend, dreamer, etc. I think "normal" sucks. Let's aim for extraordinary. SkyeTravels seeks to find the good around the world, focusing on adventures, food and wellness. Be inspired. Be yourself.

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