If my travel history were an Olympic tournament, Singapore would get gold in at least two categories: the first foreign city I have visited in my life, and the country I set foot in the most, a record eight times despite its reputation as the most expensive city in the world.
Yep, expensive. Ask travelers who have set foot on Singapore for adjectives that best describe the city, and “expensive” won’t be absent from any list. Many of the key attractions here can burn a hole in the pocket. But it doesn’t mean that budget travel isn’t possible. There are many ways to reduce expenses if you just know where to go.
How to Get to Singapore
Singapore’s Changi Airport is one of the most well-connected and widely regarded as the best airport in the world. If you live in a major city in Asia or Europe or North America, chances are, there are direct flights to Singapore available.
The lowest year-round fares are offered by TigerAir, JetStar, and AirAsia. But Cebu Pacific Air and Philippine Airlines also have competitive rates when they have a promo. Travel time: 3 hours 40 minutes.
If you’re a Philippine passport holder, you don’t need a visa. All you need is a valid passport (with 6 months left before expiration). Just show up at the airport and fly.
If you’re traveling with kids who are not YOUR children, you might need a DSWD Travel Clearance. Here’s how to get one: DSWD Travel Clearance
From Kuala Lumpur by Plane
Plane tickets from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore are incredibly cheap, with base fares not exceeding USD20. Travel time: around 1 hour 15 minutes.
From Kuala Lumpur or Malacca by Bus
You can also reach Singapore from KL or Malacca (Melaka) by bus. Travel time from KL is 5-7 hours, depending on traffic. From Malacca, only 4-5 hours. You will be crossing the border overland, but it’s quite easy albeit confusing in the beginning. Just make sure of the following:
- Remember your bus details (how it looks, number, etc.) because you will have to get off and hop back on at the border.
- Bring your bags with you when you cross the border.
- Don’t forget your passport and Malaysia Departure Card.
Where to Stay in Singapore
Accommodations in Singapore are expensive by Southeast Asian standards, or by any standard for that matter. Budget travelers have three options: backpacker hostels, BnB, and budget hotels. Because space is scarce in Singapore, don’t expect rooms of generous proportions. Rooms are usually just beds with little space around it, and bathrooms are compact. Capsule hotels are also starting to be popular.
Backpackers hostels are concentrated in Chinatown, Little India, Clark Quay, Bugis, and Geylang areas. Most of them offer dorm beds and double rooms. Budget hotels are mostly in Geylang, Little India, and Balestier.
But here are the best-rated properties in Singapore as scored by online users.
Top Singapore Hostels
Adler Luxury Hostel
265 South Bridge Road, Chinatown, Singapore
127 Tyrwhitt Road , Kallang, Singapore
89, Geylang Road, Kallang, Singapore
172 Tyrwhitt road, Kallang, Singapore
Top Budget Hotels
Champion Hotel City
37 North Canal Road, Clarke Quay, Singapore
Holiday Inn Express Singapore Katong
88 East Coast Road, East Coast, Singapore
32 Hamilton Road, Kallang, Singapore
Top Capsule Hotels
Cube – Boutique Capsule Hotel
76, 78 Smith Street (2nd & 3rd Level), Chinatown, Singapore
13 Mosque Street, Chinatown, Singapore
Search for more: Singapore Hotels
How to Stay Connected in Singapore
You have two options: 4G Pocket Wifi and 4G Sim Card.
4G Pocket Wifi. There are a number of pocket wifi rental booths at Changi Airport, but because they are pretty in demand, it’s best to reserve in advance. Klook’s 4G Pocket Wifi provides hi-speed internet that can be used anywhere in Singapore.
- Connect up to 8 devices at once, which is great if you’re traveling with a group because you could just split the cost.
- Pick up and drop off at Changi Airport, so make sure you get it upon arrival.
4G Sim Card. If you think you’d be making a few calls, you might want to get a 4G SIM card instead. Klook’s Local 4G SIM card not only allows lightning fast connection speeds but also FREE 20 minutes of international calls.
- Pick up at Changi Airport.
- 100 GB of 4G mobile speeds anywhere in Singapore
- FREE 20 minutes of international calls
Places to Visit in Singapore
A lot! Singapore may be small but it is packed with all sorts of sites, attractions, and adventures! Whatever your reason for traveling is, Singapore has something for you. Shopping? Culture? History? Food? Nature? Theme parks? Singapore has them!
Universal Studios Singapore
Universal Studios Singapore is Asia’s second and Southeast Asia’s first movie theme park. Located within Resorts World Sentosa, the place covers 49 acres (20 hectares) of land, harboring a total of 24 exciting attractions! The park is divided into seven zones, each with its own theme that is based on a popular TV show or a blockbuster film. Each zone also has its own characters, restaurants, shops and rides.
How to get there: We have a separate post for that. Read here: How to Get to Universal Studios Singapore
Monday to Friday, Sunday: 10am – 7pm.
Saturday: 10am – 8pm
Adult (Ages 13-59): S$76
Child (Ages 4-12): S$56
Senior (Ages 60+): S$38
Klook offers one-day passes at a discounted rate if you book in advance. Each booking also comes with a SGD5 Meal Voucher (with minimum spend of SGD10) for adult tickets.
Gardens by the Bay
It has three main areas: the Flower Dome in the South Garden; the Cloud Forest, which features the tallest indoor waterfall in the world; and the Supertree Grove with the iconic 16-story manmade trees. The Supertree Grove is open to everyone, but tickets are required to enter the two domed areas.
Discounted tickets are available at Klook!
Marina Bay Sands Skypark
Even if you’re not spending a night at the Marina Bay Sands, you can still access its Skypark and Observation Deck for a fantastic unobstructed view of the city.
Monday-Thursday: 9:30am – 10pm
Friday-Sunday: 9:30am – 11pm
S$23 for adults
S$17 for kids (2-12yo)
S$20 for seniors (65+)
FREE for kids under 2 years
You can get discounted tickets if you book with Klook! For about the same price, Klook offers a package that includes the following:
- Entrance ticket to the Observation Deck
- 1 Day FunVee Hopper Pass
- One traditional coffee or tea at O’Parl Cafe
Singapore Cable Car
Singapore Cable Car is the most scenic way to Sentosa! The first cableway system in Singapore — linking Sentosa Island and Mount Faber — it was opened in 1974. It allows a 360-degree view of Sentosa including Universal Studios, Resorts World, and Mt. Faber.
Singapore River Walk
This is my fave thing to do in Singapore: walk along the river. You can walk from Raffles Place to the Merlion Park to Esplanade to the Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay. I’ve prepared a more detailed post including walking directions and photos here: DIY Singapore River Walk.
Here are the stops along this walking trail:
- Raffles Place
- Fullerton Hotel
- One Fullerton
- Merlion Park
- Asian Civilisations Museum
- Makansutra Gluttons Bay
- Helix Bridge
- Art Science Museum
- Marina Bay Sands
- Gardens by the Bay
This is a long walk and can take hours. It’s also best done in late afternoon so you get to see the area transform as the sun sets.
Singapore River Cruise
If walking long distances isn’t really your thing, you can join a cruise instead. This 40-minute cruise will let you see the following landmarks while comfortably seated on a boat:
- Clarke Quay
- Read Bridge
- Boat Quay
- Merlion park
- Bayfront South
The whole journey takes 40 minutes and you can alight at any of the stops. But remember, you would need another ticket after you board again.
Singapore’s Chinatown boasts multi-religious buildings and structures. Aside from a Chinese temple, the street is also home to a mosque, a Methodist Church and an Indian shrine. Confused? Welcome to the club. But that’s what makes this place more endearing. It tells you so much about how Singapore values diversity in culture and religion.
You can tour Chinatown DIY-style! I’ve created a more detailed walking guide here: Chinatown Heritage Walk.
But if you want to really appreciate this place, it’s best to join a group tour and have a guide explain what makes these structures significant. Klook’s Gems of Chinatown Tour covers the following stops:
- Thian Hock Keng Temple
- Sri Mariamman Temple
- Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum
- Hawker Food Centers
Little India can be explored on your own too, which is good if you’re on a budget. But you’ll have a better appreciation of the place if you have a guide that would share some insights about the place. Klook’s Gems of Little India Tour will take you to the following landmarks among others:
- Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple
- Campbell Lane
- Little India Arcade
- Tekka Centre
Experience how it feels to go skydiving INDOORS and without the danger! iFly lets you enjoy the sport called “bodyflying”, where you get to fly inside the first themed wind tunnel in the world.
Limited budget? Here are 7 FREE Things to Do in Singapore.
Day Trips from Singapore
Sample 4D/3N Singapore Itinerary
One thing I like most was that Singapore is a very “walkable” city. Walkable because it’s actually a fun and rewarding experience to walk around many key areas in the city. The best part, it’s free! So I just squeezed in a lot of walking tours into this itinerary. Here’s a sample itinerary. You may use it but make the necessary adjustments.
Day 1: ARRIVAL IN SINGAPORE, RIVER WALK TOUR, MARINA BAY SANDS
07:00 am – ETA Singapore Changi Airport
10:10 am – Check in: Hostel, Lunch
01:00 pm – Singapore River Walking Tour (Sightseeing: Fullerton, Merlion Park, Esplanade, Makansutra, etc)
03:30 pm – Gardens by the Bay
06:00 pm – Marina Bay Sands
Day 2: KAMPONG GLAM, SENTOSA ISLAND
07:00 am – Kampong Glam Walk
10:00 am – Universal Studios Singapore
05:00 pm – Explore rest of Sentosa
Day 3: CHINATOWN WALK, ORCHARD ROAD, SINGAPORE FLYER
07:00 am – Chinatown Heritage Walk
10:00 am – Orchard Road (Shopping)
03:00 pm – Bugis, St. Andrews Cathedral
Day 4: LITTLE INDIA, RETURN TO MANILA
06:00 am – Little India Walking Tour
10:00 am – Check out: Hostel, Proceed to Airport
02:20 pm – ETD: Changi Airport
You may also add several other attractions.
Breakdown of Expenses
So now we have come to the list of my expenses as part of this Singapore trip. Below is the breakdown of everything I spent on in SG. Note that I did all my tours DIY-style.
TOTAL COST (excluding airfare, travel taxes, and airport fees)
SGD 120 – Hostel (4 days, 3 nights)
SGD 22 – EZ Link cards (reloaded once, inclusive of almost SGD8 unused)
SGD 60 – Total food expenses
SGD 26 – Gardens by the Bay
SGD 23 – Marina Bay Sands Skypark
SGD 4 – Sentosa Monorail Train ticket
SGD 76 – Universal Studios ticket
SGD 12 – Taxi from Hostel to Airport
SGD 343 – TOTAL COST
As I always say, this can change based on your spending habits. I’m only sharing so you have a ballpark figure of how much to prepare here although I strongly recommend that you pad this with much allowance to be on the safe side.
Other Tips for the Poor Traveler
- Where to Eat. If you’re on a budget, ditch the restaurants for hawkers. Hawkers will give you a wide array of local options at a much lower price. They abound all around Singapore, but they were not created equal. One of the reasons we recommend Chinatown as a good base is because it is home to one of the best hawker places in SG — Maxwell Food Center. Staying here gives you easy access to cheap but good food every day.
- Taking the MRT. If you’re taking the MRT a lot, buy an EZ Link card. This will allow you to breeze through the station entrances when taking the train. The train system is pretty expansive so you might want to take advantage of it. It can be a bit tiring, though, especially at interchange connections, when you’re walking from one line to another.
- Exchanging Currencies. The Mustafa Center at Little India has one of the best rates I have seen around Singapore. You might want to change money here. But if your budget isn’t that big (say USD 500), I don’t think the difference between here and the ones at the airport matters. You might lose whatever you think you could save in transportation just to get to a good money changer.
- GST Refund. Tourists in Singapore can actually claim refund on GST (Goods and Services Tax) paid for items purchased from establishments that are participating in the Tourist Refund Scheme. More info here.
- No chewing gums, please.
There you have it! We’ll be updating this every time we gather new info. If you have something to add to this or you spot anything that needs correcting, let us know in the comments section below.