The city-state of Singapore has an undeserved reputation among travelers. They say it’s too expensive to visit.
But the truth is, there are plenty of ways to play a very affordable holiday and enjoy all the fun and worthwhile activities this modern, cosmopolitan metropolis has to offer without breaking the bank.
From world-class shopping in one of dozens of shopping malls to unique dining in the famed hawker food stalls to a walk through history with the many restored neighborhoods and monuments in this melting pot of Chinese, Malay, and Indian culture. Singapore has a lot of offer the traveler on a budget.
And you’re not restricted to a certain time of year either. With its tropical location, Singapore is a joy to visit year-round because of the consistent warm weather. It can be rainy – this is the tropics, after all. But if you’re worried about rain, try visiting in the “dry” season from March to August.
Budget Flights to Singapore
Singapore is in the heart of Asia and a major international airline hub, and that means there are plenty of low-cost airlines offering cheap flights into the country all the time.
Flights to and from Asian cities such Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Jakarta, Hong Kong, and more on AirAsia, All Nippon Airways, Tigerair, and other airlines are very low cost. For example, flights from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore to Tigerair are routinely under $50 round-trip. Now that’s a bargain!
Extra bonus: Changi Airport is regularly rated as one of the best airports in the world.
Yes, there are ultra-luxury five-start hotels in Singapore that cost a pretty penny. But there are also budget options for places to stay. Savvy travelers use online services, website forums, and social media to find opportunities for couch surfing and Singapore rooms for rent. There are also small guesthouses that not only cost less than hotels, but also offer a richer cultural experience with a local host.
A recent search on the popular site Airbnb found shared rooms for $15 and up per night, private rooms as low as $32 per night, and, if you were traveling with company, entire apartments for $66 per night and up. That’s a fraction of what you would pay at a hotel. That leaves more of your travel budget for fun!
Dine like a King for Less
Singapore is well known for its fine-dining restaurants. But those places come with price tag to match. Not to worry. There are plenty of eateries to get a delicious meal and explore the unique culinary traditions of Singapore, which melds the cuisines of various regions of China, Malaysia, India, Europe, and beyond.
The hands-on best place to eat are the hawker food centers scattered about the city. There are more than a hundred of these open-air places, with more than 6,000 individual stands. These are multi-story complexes filled with dozens of different small vendors offering a huge variety of dishes like chili crabs, chicken rice, or bak chor mee for as little as $2 a plate.
Some of the best hawker centers are centrally-located and include the Chinatown Complex Food Centre, Hong Lim Market and Food Centre, Maxwell Hawker Food Centre, Amoy Street Food Centre, Golden Mile Food Centre, and Lau Pa Sat.
Two of these hawker stands, Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice And Noodle and Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodles, have a Michelin star.
If you’re interested in architecture and history, you might visit the Baba House, near Chinatown. By appointment Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, you can take a free hour-long tour in this restored Peranakan home owned by wealthy Chinese merchants in the 1920s.
If you like pretty lights, head over to the eco-park, Gardens by the Way, which features tree-like towers that soar above you. You can among them at no cost and enjoy the nightly light shows.
The Singapore Botanic Gardens is respite from the busy city. Stroll through the vast green space with towering shade trees. A great place for a picnic. And at certain times of year the Singapore Symphony Orchestra puts of free concerts as part of its Classics in the Park sessions.
You can also visit two temples that provide examples of residents’ religious traditions, including the oldest Hindu temple, Sri Mariamman Temple and the oldest Chinese temple, Thian Hock Ken.
A highlight Chinese New Year, with 14 days of celebrations, including parades and the Lion Dance Competition.
Not for the faint of heart is Thaipusam, a Hindu festival in Little India, in which devotees carry portable altars with spikes pierced through their bodies.
And don’t miss the Dragon Boat Competition – get there early so you can see all the action on the water clearly.
There’s also free live entertainment throughout the years, including the Buskers Festival (think acrobats and other street performers), Singapore Night Festival (featuring performance from an eclectic range of international acts), and Mosaic Music Festival.
Saving by Shopping at Local Markets
If you’re couchsurfing or renting a room, you probably have access to a kitchen. That means you can head to the market to load up food you can prepare at home or pack and take on the go. Be sure to try some of the unique fruits, vegetables, and other foods you might not have at home. Be adventurous.
Tekka Centre in Little India offers fresh and cooked food. In the wet market you can find seafood and fresh fruits and vegetables. And there are plenty of vendors for Indian cuisine. The Tiong Bahru Market has a wet market with produce, meat, fish, and more. There are hawker stalls here too, in case you get hungry while shopping.
And, of course, there are plenty of “modern” supermarkets around Singapore as well, including the popular chain called Prime Supermarket.
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple at night- Chinatown, Singapore
Things to Keep in Mind
Singapore is beautiful country and exciting bustling city with so many things to do. But if you’re taking a holiday there, you have to keep certain things in mind. As anywhere you go you want to be respectful of local customs and the local people.
Littering on the street in Singapore is strictly forbidden. You cannot bring chewing gum with you either – it is illegal. If you want to play music in the street as a busker, you need to be licensed (not practical if you’re a traveler). And when visiting temples follow the appropriate rules, like taking off your shoes in a Hindu temple, for example, or not entering certain areas or restrictions on taking photos. There are signs posted to remind you.