Kevin Kwan’s hit novel Crazy Rich Asians, as well as the blockbuster film of the same name, rejuvenated public interest in Singapore as the sanctum of the rich and famous. But while some aspects of life in the island city-state do ring true to their opulent reputation, Singapore is not just about the glitz and glamour. If you are a first-time traveller to the country, you can take comfort in the fact that you don’t have to allot a million-dollar budget to enjoy your trip. It’s perfectly possible to experience the things that are most iconic to Singapore—like its rich cultural heritage, diversity, and environment-friendliness—while adopting a thrifty approach.
What are the most affordable ways for incoming travellers to take in the best of Singapore? Here’s a list of things you can do even if you’re far from crazy rich.
Stay in a Capsule Hotel
One way to loosen up your travel budget is to book reasonably priced accommodations. The excellent thing about Singapore is that it boasts a number of affordable, yet well-appointed options for checking in. You don’t even have to stray from the world-famous aviation hub of Changi to find a cosy Singapore airport hotel with amenities like flexible check-in time, complimentary Wi-Fi, private bathrooms, and complimentary access to a gym and club lounge. If your goal is simply to get a good night’s sleep without emptying your wallet, then booking a room at one of the capsule hotels near Singapore Airport will suit you just fine.
Go on Extended Walking Tours
Another way you can save money is to eschew expensive paid tours and explore at least one of Singapore’s heritage sites on foot, in your own time. Some examples of must-visit locations are Singapore’s historic Chinatown, Little India, and the colourful Orchard Road. Keep your money in your pocket and enjoy the scenery for free.
Enjoy Singapore’s Free Public Attractions
In addition to the sites listed above, Singapore is host to a number of fascinating public attractions. Many of these are free, which allows both travellers and residents to enjoy fresh air and good company without needing to spend a fortune. When in Singapore, don’t forget to explore Jewel Changi Airport’s Shiseido Forest Valley and observe the HSBC Rain Vortex, the world’s loftiest indoor waterfall. You should also consider heading to spots like the Singapore Botanical Gardens, Marina Bay, or Merlion Park for photo ops that will serve as free mementos of your trip.
Eat Delicious Hawker Fare
Singapore is like heaven for gourmands, and its wealth of culinary offerings would please even the highest-paying diners. Nevertheless, one needs only to visit a hawker centre to find fare that merits a Michelin star. Sampling street food like laksa, char kway teow, bee hoon, bak kut teh, chicken rice, BBQ seafood, and chendol is an absolute must when visiting Singapore. Find these in one of the country’s hawker centres to tuck in like the locals do, all without needing to pay an exorbitant amount for every dish.
Take Public Transportation
The Lion City’s transportation system is famous for being reliable and efficient. It’s both the most affordable and the most sensible thing to do for a traveller to take full advantage. Unless you’re in a rush or willing to spend the extra money for a private car or taxicab, you’ll be just fine taking public transportation. Save money going around the city with a transportation pass, like an EZ-Link contactless card or a Singapore tourist pass that allows unlimited rides on the MRT and LRT trains.
Shop at One of Singapore’s Bargain Centres
Many travellers look forward to engaging in retail therapy in Singapore. But you aren’t limited to shops that sell designer clothing and accessories, expensive gadgets, or other luxury items. For thrifty fashion finds like tees, bags, and leather goods, as well as travel souvenirs, it’s best to hit up one of Singapore’s bargain shopping centres or tourist markets. Some great examples are Little India’s Mustafa Centre and Little India Arcade, the Bugis Street Market, and the City Plaza.
Ultimately, your travel budget for your Singapore trip can be as loose or as tight as you like. It’s definitely fine to splurge when you like or when you can afford to, all while being thrifty about other aspects of your trip.
Just like when travelling to any other country, account for each of your expenses and keep emergency money on hand. In addition, remember to follow the rules to avoid paying fines and letting your expenses get crazily out of control.
Full enjoyment of what Singapore has to offer is not exclusive to those with Hollywood or Asian tycoon lifestyles. Come to Singapore with a light wallet, an empty stomach, and an open mind—and you’ll be bedazzled by what you will see outside the movies!