Singapore on a Budget
When you think budget travel, one of the last destinations which would pop into your head would be Singapore. The city has a reputation for being the most expensive in South East Asia and in fact, I read that the city is now the most expensive in the world to live in, however, if you eat, drink and go to the right places, Singapore can definitely be done on a backpackers budget.
Of course, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking you wouldn’t be able to do/see anything worth doing in this notoriously expensive city on a shoestring budget. Don’t get me wrong, you certainly won’t be able to go for a three-course meal at Marina Bay Sands, but you’ll still be able to explore and experience Singapore, from busy little India and Chinatown to the man made beach at Sentosa.
Transport on a Budget
One thing everyone should definitely make use of in Singapore is the MRT, which is excellent to keep the costs down compared to taxis. Singapore’s MRT is definitely one of the best public transport systems I’ve used (it’s definitely the cleanest! All thanks to the no eating, drinking or chewing gum policy)
The best thing to do if you’re in Singapore for at least a full day is to purchase a tourist pass. The tourist pass grants you unlimited access on public buses and MRT and LRT trains. The pass be purchased to be used between 1-3 days (must be consecutive days) and the prices are as follows; *1 day pass – 10 SD ($7.25), *2 day pass – 16SD ($11.60), *3 day pass – 20SD ($14.50) (all subjected to a refundable 10SD rental deposit) (*prices valid – April ’16).
Eating on a Budget
Like I’ve mentioned earlier, it’s very unrealistic to expect a 3-course meal at a fancy restaurant while you’re in Singapore, if you’re on a budget. However, there are plenty of places you can find yourself some cheap and delicious food.
If you’re anything like me, a curry in Little India would be on your to do list anyway, while you’re in Singapore. A lot like other Little India’s in South East Asia, you will find streets with either curry houses or dodgy rip off shops, but it’s the restaurants which are the main attraction.
There’s a couple of restaurants which we ate at in Little India, however, there was one which was definitely our favourite. We liked it that much we made the journey here from the airport on a stopover in Singapore on the way to Bali.
If you want to taste arguably the nicest curry I’ve ever had (I’ve often said ‘nicest of the trip so far’, but this was the nicest I’ve ever eaten!), head to Usman Restaurant Pte (238 Serangoon Road, Singapore). Here I ate; a Mutton Masala, Daal and a couple of naan breads, all for 7SD ($5.10). Is it any wonder we kept going back when everything was that cheap and I say it again, absolutely delicious!
Another restaurant which we visited in Little India is Azmi Chipati (170 Norris/Upper Serangoon Road, Singapore). Some of the items on the menu at this restaurant may suit the more adventurous when it comes to food, one of them was Goats Brain Curry. Not sure about you, but we decided to give that one a miss. I did go for a Mutton Masala – again. The curry was the same price as Usman Restaurant – 4SD ($2.92). The accompaniment to the curry was the restaurant’s main seller, which is their famous chapatis. The chapatis are freshly made to order and cost 1SD ($0.73) each. They could probably sell them for at least double the price, they were the perfect addition to the curry.
This area is another part of Singapore which is popular with locals and tourists alike, the food is fantastic and it won’t burn a hole in your pockets. Try some of Singapore’s favourite local delicacies here; from beef noodles to fried oysters and even frog porridge, if you fancy it. It’s incredibly easy to get yourself to Chinatown, just jump on the MRT and jump off at the Chinatown station. The opening hours of the hawker centre on Smith Street is 11am-11pm daily.
Lau Pa Sat Hawker Centre
One of the most popular hawker centres in the city, located in the heart of the financial district and an easy 5-minute walk from Raffles Place MRT station. There’s plenty of choices here, with a magnitude or dishes available under one roof. The average price for a dish is around 5SD ($3.60). Whether you’re heading here for some breakfast, lunch or dinner, I’m sure you’ll find something to suit your taste.
Where to Stay on a Budget
This district in Singapore is not only great for cheap food, it’s also perfect for cheap accommodation. This is probably where you’ll find the majority of backpackers on a budget are resting their heads. Of course, as with most places where you find budget accommodation, there are some terrible hostels/guest houses and theirs some great finds.
We did stay in a hostel in Little India and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for somewhere to sleep in Singapore. The hostel is called The Hive Hostel (624 Serangoon Road, Singapore). A bed in a 10-bed dorm will set you back 20SD ($14.50) per night and this includes breakfast. This may not sound so cheap, but compared to other accommodation in Singapore it definitely is and it was a very clean and modern hostel.
There are plenty of other choices around Little India, just make sure you scope out the best place to suit yourself, by reading reviews on websites such as TripAdvisor or Booking.com. It’s worth doing a little bit of research to avoid finding yourself staying in a grotty guest house.
Things to do on a Budget
Gardens By The Bay
Built in 2012 and costing an estimated $1billion, Gardens by the Bay was, according to the Prime Minister intended to be Singapore’s premier outdoor recreation space, and a national icon. The gardens span over 250 acres and they are definitely impressive (so you would expect for $1billion).
If you’re looking to spend absolutely nothing, you can walk around the base of the futuristic giant steel trees for completely free in a lot of the gardens. There’s a walkway which connects two of the trees. The walkway offers superb views of Singapore, however, there is a fee of 5SD ($3.60) to go up the walkway.
A 6-mile walkway, which connects a number of parks along the southern ridge of Singapore (hence the name Southern Ridges). Parts of the walkway suspend across some of Singapore’s jungle, which makes for excellent views during your walk. Parts of the walkway also offers brilliant panoramic views of the city, harbour and the Southern Island.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the botanic gardens are a 156-year-old garden and the only tropical garden to be granted UNESCO World Heritage status. Admission to the gardens is completely free and the opening times are 5am-12am daily.
Observation Deck at Marina Bay Sands
Located 57 floors up, there really is no better way to catch a perfect view of Singapore. Entry to the observation deck is 23SD ($17) for an adult. I know on my list of things to do in Singapore, the rest of them are free, however, you won’t get better views of Singapore for less than 23SD.
Walk Around Marina Bay or Clark Quay
Both beautiful parts of the city. Both Marina Bay and Clark Quay are brilliant to have a wander. There’s always the option to stop off for a bite to eat or even for just a drink at one of the restaurants or bars. The restaurants can be quite expensive though. Having said that, it’s still well worth your time just strolling about taking the surroundings in, without spending a penny.