Whenever I go to Singapore (haha, like ALL the time), people say to me “but Singapore’s so expensive!”. I always answer like this:
Well, Number 1 – I come from Perth, so it doesn’t seem that expensive to me, about the same prices but with loads more choice, culture, art and things to do.
And Number 2 – You can actually make it as expensive or inexpensive as you like. As long as you embrace the Singapore that is hiding away from glitzy Orchard Road.
Writing this article, I guessed it was time to put my money where my mouth is and given my current (un)employment situation, I am doing Singapore on the cheap. Wanna know more? Read on!
First things first – arrival. Usually when I reach Changi Airport, I grab a cab to my hotel, which costs around SGD$25-30 (around the same cost in AUD). However, given my tight budget this time around, I decided to make use of the new MRT line that runs from the airport into the city. It’s not the most fuss free journey as you do have to stop at Tanah Merah and change lines, however for a couple of bucks, it suits me fine.
Next, where to stay in Singapore that won’t break the bank?
I scored a great deal and am paying just $12 for my two night stay at the Naumi Liora. How on earth can I do that? Well, I actually had a fair few Agoda Points saved up which allowed me to save big! Ok, well not everyone may have Agoda Points and that’s fine – I like using Agoda for this reason, that because I do a bit of travel, the points do add up and it pays dividends for me.
You can still stay in Singapore without breaking the bank though. How?
AirBNB is taking off in Singapore and the great thing about this is you can score yourself an apartment for a great price AND get to experience Singapore local style by staying in the suburbs. Of course, there are plenty of apartments in the CBD as well.
Singapore has some great options in the way of hostels – over 83 of them in fact. Check out a website like www.hostelworld.com and take a look at the options.
There are some great little hotels that are a little off the beaten track. I hear you, you want to be near all the action, but honestly with Singapore’s amazing transport system, it won’t take you that long to get anywhere if you need to save some cash. Besides, there’s more to Singapore than just Orchard Road.
Keep an eye out on accommodation websites like Agoda or Booking.com because you can honestly get some great deals. I have stayed in some quite expensive hotels for around $200 per night because of a great deal.
Of course if you want a swimming pool, in-house dining options and to be right on the steps of an MRT station, then chances are you will be paying more. A lot more.
My hotel, the Naumi Liora is housed in a gorgeously renovated heritage building, a row of Chinatown’s famous five footway buildings in fact. I have a Heritage Single room which would normally retail for around SGD$150 per night. It’s 2 MRT stops from Sentosa, close to Clarke Quay and Chinatown and a host of other places because of the MRT stops nearby.
The room is not large, but I’m not here to spend all day in a room the size of the Taj Mahal, I come to explore and get out and about, so I don’t care how big the room is, only how comfy the bed is at the end of the day.
There is no pool and there’s no in-house dining. BUT there’s a cool little snack bar with chips, biscuits, coffee and tea in the reception area and a quaint little garden area to chill. AND there’s loads of restaurants and cafes around the area, so you really don’t need in-house dining.
Speaking of dining, it’s the price of alcohol that is likely to blow your budget the most in Singapore. Grabbing a beer from a hotel or bar in Singapore can set you back about SGD$13 for a 330mL can/bottle so you’ll be enraptured at finding a long neck for about half the price here in Chinatown (try the Chinatown Seafood Restaurant on Pagoda Street).
Breakfast in Singapore doesn’t start until late (think 10/11am at most establishments) if you are after a Western Style meal. But you can eat like a local at a much earlier time and for a much cheaper price if you head to a food centre – think under $5 against $20 for a cafe meal. There’s also places like Kopitiam and Ya Kun Kaya Toast, where you’ll find just that (coffee, tea and kaya toast) for a decent price. The best thing about all of these options is that you’ll be eating local.
There’s a bunch of things to do for free or next to nothing in Singapore. Wander through Gardens by the Bay (you’ll need to pay to enter the domes), head to the Botanic Gardens for a picnic, stroll through one of the amazing ethnic quarters, watch a light show over the marina or head over to Sentosa Island (you’ll only need to pay for island admission). Sometimes the museums and galleries will have a free entry day or if you are lucky enough to be in Singapore during one of the few open days – you can check out the beautiful grounds of the Istana. Picking up an icecream from one of the carts along Orchard Road will only set you back about $1.20. Plus, it doesn’t cost money to window shop.
So I start my second day in Singapore with no particular agenda, simply wandering the streets. I really love the area that this hotel is in – full of beautiful heritage buildings with funky little shops popping up. I meander through the streets taking in the day and watching people go about their lives on the little red dot.
Before long I come across a little cafe called Free the Robot, which reminds me that I haven’t had breakfast. I order up one of their sandwiches and their own brew iced coffee and grab a seat outside along the five footway.
Nice and full, I step inside the Indian Muslim Heritage Museum just up the road. The museum has an interesting array of items and notes explaining the lives of the Indian Muslims in Singapore. It’s a relatively new museum in Singapore, only having opened in 2015.
Next stop is the National Gallery of Singapore. This gallery is also new to Singapore having only recently opened and I especially want to see the Wu Ghuangzhou exhibit. Unfortunately the exhibit is closed and being reconfigured but entry to the gallery today is free so I take the time to wander around and enjoy the works. I think Singapore does galleries well and this one is no exception.
When visiting the National Gallery, you must go up to the roof area, especially for the views over the Padang and across to Marina Bay.
After spending a few hours at the Gallery, I reckon it’s about time for lunch and one place I’ve been dying to try for years now is Lau Pa Sat. Also known as Telok Ayer Market, LPS is a food court nestled under a beautiful iron roof in the CBD. Here you can wander around and choose whatever food takes your fancy before grabbing a seat under the fans to relax and chow down. Plus you can get a great meal for an absolute fraction of the price of a western restaurant. My meal came to around around $8 or so and that was for a beef and rice dish with soup and a pint of beer.
The rest of the afternoon I spent simply wandering, jumping on a train to Orchard Road to do some book shopping and just unwinding and getting ready for the trip home tomorrow. Wine helps me do that, so I head to Clarke Quay to a little place called SQUE, which I frequent quite frequently for its drink specials. This is usually a great place to grab 2-for-1 wines, beers or other drinks depending on the day and it has outdoor seating so you can sit opposite the colourful Clarke Quay and watch out over the river.
Yep, I think I’m ready to go home tomorrow…and boy, I can’t wait to work.