Suviving Singapore on a Budget

10 Tips for Saving Money in Singapore

Believe it or not, you can experience Singapore on a budget! No need to sacrifice meals or sell plasma to explore Southeast Asia's interesting little city-island-country.

Singapore has always been the bane of backpackers and budget travelers. With a nefarious reputation of being expensive, made even worse by the numerous possibilities to be fined, many travelers in Southeast Asia give Singapore only a few days or opt to skip it altogether.

Despite having lots to offer (including the best airport in the world), Singapore's reputation on the Banana Pancake Trail is more or less all about shopping and as a great layover destination.

You don't have to become Singapoor to enjoy a few days or longer in this exciting, multinational city! Follow these tips for saving money while in Singapore.

  • 01 of 10
    Singapore in Southeast Asia
    ••• Singapore is a city, island, and a country!. Keith MacGregor/Taxi/Getty Images

    Many travelers make the mistake of not purchasing Singapore's excellent transportation card when they first arrive. Instead, they pay for each bus and train journey which quickly adds up.

    At train stations, an EZ-Link card costs S$12 and includes S$7 worth of credit. You can also purchase and add credit to cards at 7-Eleven minimarts for S$10 (includes S$5 in credit). Having an EZ-Link card will also save you a lot of time waiting in queues at ticket machines in MRT stations.

    The EZ-Link card (official site) can be used on the LRT and MRT trains, along with the excellent public bus system. By using an EZ-Link card, you pay only for the distance traveled, rather than a flat fare like everyone else (drivers don't give change).

    Tip: Don't forget to tap your card on the reader as you exit the bus or you'll pay more than you should have!

  • 02 of 10

    Don't Buy the Singapore Tourist Pass

    A Train in Singapore
    ••• The trains in Singapore are great for getting around. Alantankenghoe / Creative Commons

    The Singapore Tourist Pass (official site) is similar to the EZ-Link card, however, it allows for unlimited rides during a one, two, or three-day stay. The Tourist Passes aren't cheap: A one-day pass costs S$10 plus an additional S$10 that is refunded after returning the card. You would need to take four or five rides on the MRT per day just to break even!

    Unless you really get a thrill out of riding trains around the city (they are nice), chances are that you'll spend most of your pass time walking around the sights, inside massive shopping malls, exploring world-class museums, and less on the train.

  • 03 of 10

    Drink the Water

    Glass of Water
    ••• The tap water is safe to drink in Singapore. Michael Hamann / Creative Commons

    Unlike other countries in Southeast Asia, the tap water in Singapore is safe to drink. This is good news, as a bottle of water can cost around S$2 at minimarts!

    If you don't carry a water bottle, buy a small bottle of water then refill it for free at hotels or from the tap.

  • 04 of 10

    Eat in Food Halls

    Street food stall in Singapore
    ••• The street food is excellent in Singapore. Claire Marie Armstrong / Contributor / Getty Images

    Singapore is blessed with some of the best food courts, food halls, and hawker street stalls found anywhere in Asia. Yes, it is safe to eat street food! In fact, enjoying the street food is a quintessential part of experiencing Singapore.

    Quality is often even a notch above the street food typically found in places such as Thailand. A delicious meal can be enjoyed for between S$4–6 in food halls. You can eat for under S$3 if you're in the mood for noodles soups and dishes.

    The food courts found in posh malls and at the bottoms of nearly every skyscraper are priced slightly higher than standalone food centers. Check out the sprawling food center in Chinatown, or the cheap-yet-delightful Lau Pa Sat food center near the Raffles MRT stop.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Don't Drink or Smoke

    Rolling cigarette in Asia
    ••• Even rolling cigarettes is still expensive in Singapore. Greg Rodgers

    Thanks to excessive taxation, either of these two vices will simply destroy your budget in Singapore.

    A pack of Marlboro cigarettes costs over S$13, and drinking is terribly expensive even by U.S. or European standards. Entry into nightclubs can be up to S$30 which includes one watery drink. A rambunctious night out could cost you as much as the average night out in Ibiza.

    Budget travelers craving a social atmosphere outside of hostels often opt to buy drinks from the 7-Eleven located at the end of Clarke Quay, then hang out around the waterfront. Just look for the pedestrian bridge covered with people lounging around.

    Note: Electronic cigarettes are actually illegal in Singapore. Don't cross the border with one!

  • 06 of 10

    Enjoy the Parks

    Elevated parks in Singapore
    ••• The views are great from Singapore's elevated skywalks. Greg Rodgers

    Although Singapore has a reputation for concrete, the city is blessed with an excellent park matrix with green spaces that spider through the city. Elevated bike trails and skywalks provide excellent views.

    The parks and skyline views can be enjoyed for free. Take advantage of the complex, interconnecting network that links parks and different neighborhoods to each other.

  • 07 of 10

    Take Advantage of Freebies

    Singapore Art Museum
    ••• The Singapore Art Museum. Jorge Cancela / Creative Commons

    Savvy travelers can find art displays, public performances, and street performers along the riverfront, esplanade, and city center. There are almost always options for free entertainment — particularly on weekends.

    Entrance to museums in Singapore is expensive, however, several days or evenings a month the entrance fee is waved for special exhibitions. Check at the counter and inside of the many free attractions magazines for promotion dates.

    A number of tourist passes are available that provide discounted entrance fees at numerous museums and attractions. Most of these passes are only a bargain if you intend to do a lot of indoor sightseeing.

  • 08 of 10

    Only Shop in the Right Places

    Chinatown Night Market in Singapore
    ••• Cheap souvenirs can be found in night markets around Singapore. Angelo Cavalli / Getty Images

    Singapore has more shopping malls than you could explore in months. Even ultra-modern Changi Airport is practically one big mall which happens to have the occasional airplane land or take off.

    Many of these malls are ridiculously expensive. Instead, do your souvenir and incidental shopping in cheap shops and tourist markets around Chinatown and Little India. Don't forget to negotiate!

    Purchase your snacks, drinks, and toiletries from the big supermarkets located under many of the big malls rather than in minimarts. VivoMart beneath VivoCity — the largest mall in Singapore — regularly has food and drink specials.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Finally Give Couchsurfing a Try

    What Is Couchsurfing?
    ••• Couchsurfing doesn't always mean sleeping on couches: you'll find beds, too!. Greg Rodgers

    Accommodation in Singapore is expensive. A bunk bed in a crowded hostel dorm costs S$20 or more. A night in a modest hotel may require you to give blood. Many travelers have to opt for hostels over hotels in Singapore just to cut costs.

    Couch surfing with one of the many expats living in Singapore is a great way to sleep for free, and also gives you a local's insight into how to enjoy Singapore on a budget.

    Tip: If you're squeamish about staying with a stranger, search for accommodation around Little India where hostels and hotels tend to be slightly cheaper.

    See TripAdvisor's best hotel deals in Singapore.

  • 10 of 10

    Don't Get Busted

    Singapore Skyline
    ••• Don't get caught doing something you shouldn't along the waterfront. Weerakarn Satitniramai / Getty Images

    Locals joke that Singapore is a "fine" city — which obviously has two meanings. Although you rarely see police officers around the city, rest assured that many people do get fined here for seemingly innocuous activities; the fine-payment kiosks dotted around for convenience are a sure indication.

    Although you would have to be unlucky to get caught, be aware of the following:

    • The number one reason to get fined in Singapore is for not using marked crosswalks.
    • Seatbelts are required when in a car; the driver cannot use a mobile phone while moving.
    • Riding a bike on pedestrian-only paths, especially near the river, is forbidden.
    • Chewing gum, snacks, and drinks are not permitted on the MRT trains or public transportation.
    • Electronic cigarettes and "vaping" are illegal.
    • Technically, failing to flush a public toilet is illegal.
    • Spitting will get you a big fine in Singapore.
    • Feeding pigeons in the park is a S$500 fine!