Mention the word ‘Singapore’ to 99% of backpackers and you’ll probably be greeted with words to the effect of; “Yeah, it’s decent but way too expensive”. Having visited Singapore before deciding to take a job here, I was well aware of how pricey it had the potential to be.
To my surprise however, I’ve found ways to live cheaply here. As a result I’m actually managing to save a lot more of my wage than I initially thought I would which in turn is making me mega excited for my future plans (more on those in the coming months…).
Sadly, accommodation is pretty expensive across the board compared to the large majority of Asia so I won’t be able to touch on that but without further ado, I present to you: The Beginner’s Guide To Being A Tightarse In Singapore!
Food and drink
This is one of the main areas where you can absolutely blow your budget if you’re not careful. Clarke Quay and Boat Quay are very popular spots to grab some food and a few drinks and you can see why. The bars are nice, you’re sat by the river with a lovely view – what isn’t to like? You guessed it: the cost!
I went down to The Penny Black on Boat Quay for a couple of England’s World Cup games and found myself paying $13 for a pint of Tiger – around £6.50! I moved onto a Coke next and almost spat my first sip back at the barmaid when she asked for me to part with $7 for a can. That’s right; £3.50 for a can of Diet Coke!
Thankfully, however, this isn’t indicative of Singapore as a whole. I’ve touched on my love of hawker centres in the past and eat at these places most nights. You can get a substantial dish freshly prepared to order along with a fresh fruit juice for a little over $5 – that’s more like it! You can also grab a beer for about half the price of one at Boat or Clarke Quay, which is always a bonus!
It has to be said that with the MRT, Singapore has one of the best rail systems I’ve ever used. You are rarely waiting more than three or four minutes for a train to go in whichever direction you need and, despite getting slightly cramped during peak hours, it’s generally a comfortable ride.
It’s also super convenient: I’m pretty sure 99% of the country is accessible via the MRT. As I’ve visited lots of new areas of the country following Hougang United, I’ve found the MRT to be an absolute godsend as pretty much everywhere seems to be within a ten minute walk of a station.
Furthermore, and perhaps best of all, it’s incredibly cheap! I take the MRT from Outram Park to Redhill for work every day and it only costs me 77 cents each way. In fact, I think you’d genuinely struggle to find a journey on the MRT that costs much over two or three dollars. When you’re used to paying about £9 on Northern Rail (don’t get me started) from Walsden to Manchester, it’s hard not to be impressed with the fact you can travel across an entire country for the equivalent of a couple of quid!
This is one of the tougher ones to get around, as most people only tend to spend a few days in Singapore and want to go on the Singapore Flyer, up the Marina Bay Sands hotel and to places like Singapore Zoo (which is awesome, I may add).
If this isn’t really your thing, however, there are a few places you can check out for free. Haw Par Villa, for example is a free entry park with lots of interesting statues and dioramas with plenty of Chinese history, mythology and folklore to learn about. Time for a bit of trivia: It was originally built and owned by the brothers who invented Tiger Balm – an absolute lifesaver when travelling South East Asia!
There are plenty of nice parks to wander round too. I often head to Fort Canning Park for a run but there is also quite a bit of stuff to see there, including the botanical and spice gardens. It’s also a good place to learn more about the history of Singapore as there are numerous signs and pieces of reading to do around the park. I must do that myself some day…
As you can see, money really isn’t the be all and end all of Singapore. Don’t get me wrong; Singapore isn’t a great place to visit if you are on a tiny, tiny budget and you may be best served restricting your time here to a day or two. It is doable on a small budget though, maybe just detox for a few days!