The city state of Singapore juxtaposes ultra-modern architecture alongside its rich, colonial history. It is a melting pot of cultures with all the creature comforts of a thriving economy. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Singapore is one of the most expensive countries, not just in Southeast Asia, but in the world.
Getting by on a budget of just S$50 can be challenging, but don’t let that stop you from taking a trip to this fascinating city. Well, Singapore contains layers, not immediately perceptible to the eye, but adds texture and appeal to this bustling metropolis. It is possible to explore Singapore without bursting your budget. Just take the following shoestring travel tips in mind the next time you visit this city.
Free light show
Marina Bay Sands, Singapore’s iconic luxury resort and casino, puts on a free light and water show every evening called the Wonder Full. The 13-minute colourful display of multimedia magic – a combination of lights, sound, and projections – is a must-see when travelling in Singapore. The show is visible from both the city centre side and the Marina Bay side. Some prefer to use the Helix Bridge as their viewpoint, but the Marina Bay’s Event Plaza is also a great vantage point.
Singapore is not called “A Garden City” for nothing. There are a number of lush, verdant public parks you can visit, but Singapore Botanic Gardens is one of the more popular among the picturesque parks. It is located between the bustling Bukit Timah Road and Holland Road. It serves as an oasis in the city for busy Singaporeans looking for some peace and quiet. It certainly is an ideal refuge, surrounded by thick greenery accompanied by sounds of chirping crickets and twittering birds. You can recharge under the arboreal embrace of trees while you people-watch to your heart’s content. It’s open from 5am until midnight; no entrance fee.
Singapore stays close to its roots by preserving and paying tribute to its colonial heritage. The government is also a big supporter of the arts. If you’re looking for some cultural experience, Singapore has a number of museums you can choose from, any offer free entry on specific dates and special occasions. If you happen to be in the area over the weekend, Singapore Art Museum (SAM) in particular offer free entrance during Fridays—6pm to 9pm. SAM’s architecture harks back to the classical Renaissance era, which is fitting because the museum houses a variety of collections from its seven in-house each curators specialising in different Asian cultures. Don’t forget the newly opened National Gallery too, where you can see the permanent exhibits for free.
Where to eat
Restaurants cost an arm and a leg, so unless you’re a foodie looking for gourmet dishes during your stay, hawker centres and food courts are your best bet to cut costs on food. Hawker stalls and complex are open-air establishments with rows of tables and chairs for hungry patrons. It’s a no-frills dining experience at low cost but with excellent selection and quality of food. You can eat a full meal for less than S$5. While hawker centres have been compared to street food, they’re actually government-regulated, hence you can assure cleanliness and standard for prep for your grub. Highly recommended hawker spots are the ones at Chinatown’s Maxwell Road and Tekka Centre at Singapore’s Little India. For commercial establishments, rather than eating at restaurants, opt for the food courts which offers more variety for your budgeted buck.
Where to stay
Couchsurfing is the way to go! Not only do you get free accommodation, if they aren’t busy, your hosts may even show you around Singapore and see this city state as locals would. Or check out Airbnb for deals as low as S$15 a night. You can even score a private room for just less than S$30 a night. Some hotels in Little India and Chinatown likewise offers affordable accommodation for travellers on a strict budget. These are popular backpacker places with a vibrant night life to spice up your stay.
Apart from food and accommodation, transport costs take up the bulk of travel budget, especially if you want to hit up a lot of places to maximise your stay in a particular country. The ez-link card is a helpful when getting around Singapore. It is a tap-and-go stored-value card you can use for the MRT, LRT, and certain buses. It’s just a convenient way to travel.
Or, if you have down time, you can always walk. Temperatures can get scorching hot especially during the summer, but on relatively temperate weather, strolling around the city is a great way to see and experience Singapore. Streets are clean and safe with plenty of unique architecture and lush greenery to feast your eyes upon.
There you go! All you need is just a bit of planning and strategising to have an authentic Singapore experience on the cheap.