Singapore on a budget is possible. It’s not as cheap as Thailand, agreed, but there are many free things to do, the transport is not expensive and it’s possible to find cheap food. In this guide you will find several free things to do, what to eat and where, and my detailed travel expenses.
Yes, it’s true. Prices in Singapore have nothing to do with its neighboring countries in South East Asia, but it’s worth a visit.
The city of Singapore is unique.
Singapore is modern, clean, multicultural, has good public transportation and good food, nice and friendly people, and it’s next to the sea.
It’s fascinating to find a Chinese temple in a street, an Indian temple in the next one and a Mosque a bit further down. The same mixture of cultures is reflected in its gastronomy. And it’s walkable: there are sidewalks, traffic lights and the traffic is not chaotic (if you’ve been in Asia you’ll know what I mean).
Singapore on a budget is possible. It’s not as cheap as Thailand, agreed, but there are many free things to do, the transport is not expensive and it’s possible to find cheap food.
In this guide you’ll find:
- free things to do in Singapore
- what to eat and where
- mis detailed travel expenses
Free things to do in Singapore
Marina Bay must be the most photographed place in Singapore, and with good reason. This is my favorite part of the city, for its architecture, for the sea, for the way it’s all light up at night.
It’s a good idea to walk around. For example, you can start in Merlion Park (and see the statue of the Merlion, half lyon, half fish) and walk clockwise. After that you cross the bridge towards the Esplanade, keep straight until the Helix Bridge, cross the Helix Bridge and you get to Marina Sands Bay.
MRT (train station): Downtown, Marina Bay or Bayfront.
Gardens by the bay
Gardens by the Bay are located behind Marina Sands Bay. They’re well known for the super trees, which are gardens built in a tree-like vertical structure, though there is much more.
At night the super trees are illuminated and every day at 19:45 and 20:45 there is a show with music and lights. To get to the best place to see it you have to walk across the trees (with Marina Sands Bay at your back) and going up the stairs. There is a place with stones to sit down.
Note: access to the gardens is free and the show is free as well. However, the skywalk between the tress, the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest have an entry fee.
MRT (train station): Bayfront.
In addition to the sea Singapore has a river. Before reaching Marina Bay, the river widens and there are restaurants and bars on the shore.
One day I met a local girl I met in couchsurfing, and she took me there for a beer. She told me that eating in that area is expensive but it’s ok for a drink.
MRT (train station): Clarke Quay.
Chinatown is a good place to stay since it’s well located, it has a good offer of accommodation and cheap places to eat. The buildings of colonial style are colorful and there are a lot of shops (or at least that was my impression).
MRT (train station): Chinatown o Telok Ayer.
It’s interesting to visit the ethnic enclaves because each one has a different atmosphere. In Little India some shops smelled like spices and some have Indian music. It did remind me a bit of India.
MRT (train station): Little India.
Kampung Glam is the Arab/ Muslim quarter, and a curious one. Arab Street is a pedestrian street with many commerces. Nearby, Haji Lane is a narrow street with many bars and a hipster vibe. There’s also the Malay Heritage Centre which I didn’t have time to visit.
MRT (train station): Bugis.
About two years ago I discovered a new interest in street art. I like finding open air murals, and seeing how they change from one place to another, which cultural influences they have.
In Singapore there’s a lot of street art in Haji Lane in Kampung Glam, in addition to murals in other parts of the city. My favorite was one that I found in Little India. An Indian friend saw a photo I posted in instagram and told me that it looked like a traditional dance from Tamil Nadu called Bharathanatiyam.
Before I forget: the Botanical Gardens are huge. I thought that one hour would be enough to visit, but you can easily spend half a day. From gate to gate it’s a bit more than 2km.
Actually the Botanical Gardens are a collection of thematic gardens, for example: the bamboo garden, the foliage garden, the evolution garden, the fragrant garden… They’re all free except the orchid garden.
MRT (train station):
- Bukit Timah gate: Botanical Gardens
- Tanglin gate: Orchad (you must take a bus, nb 7, 77, 106, 123, 174)
Sentosa Island is a good place for a day trip outside the city of Singapore. The access is easy, you can take the MRT and then cross the bridge by walk.
The island has a bit of everything: beaches, hiking trails in the forest, a night show, shops and restaurants, and many attractions as Universal Studios. The truth is that visiting the island can be free or it can become very expensive, depending on what you do. If you’re traveling Singapore on a budget the best is that you go around by walk and bring some food with you, since restaurants on the island are expensive.
MRT (train station): Harbour Front
The Southern Ridges is a hiking trail of about 10km that joins several parks in the South of Singapore. It’s another option to go out of the city, walk in nature, and have good views.
I couldn’t complete it because when I arrived to Mount Faber, the first stop, it started to rain. And not only rain: there were lightnings and thunders. The last things I wanted was to be in the middle of a forest during a thunderstorm, so I turned around. It was a pity because the photos I had seen looked nice.
MRT (train station): Harbour Front
Haw Par Villa
Do you want to go out of the tourist trail in Singapore? Haw Par Villa is a garden decorated with many statues which represent the moral values behind the old Chinese legends.
It was created by the brothers Haw and Par, who relocated their Tiger Balm business from Myanmar to Singapore, and wanted to contribute to society. It’s an interesting, curious and colorful place!
MRT (train station): Haw Par Villa
If you have extra time or are nearby, CHIJMES is an historial building that I discovered thanks to the local girl I met in couchsurfing.
CHIJMES (Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus) was a convent, orphanage and school for girls which was constructed in 1854. In 1983 it was relocated to Toa Pavoh and part of the buildings were demolished for the construction of the MRT. The remaining part has been turned into shops and restaurants. There are panels that explain the history.
Nowadays CHIJMES have 11 schools and 10000 annual students in Singapore.
MRT (train station): City Hall
What to eat in Singapore (and where)
One of the keys to travel Singapore on a budget is eating in the hawker centres (food courts). They’re the cheapest and also the places where locals usually eat. A main dish can cost about 5-6 Singaporean dollars (3-4 euros).
There are different kinds: open air (in the street), covered (no aircon) and closed (with aircon). The last ones are, of course, slightly more expensive. Shopping malls usually have hawker centres as well.
You can find them everywhere but these are some I found in Chinatown:
- Maxwell Food Center (covered): Kadayanallur Street 1.
- Lau Pa Sat (covered): Raffles Quay 18.
- Next to the previous one, in the afternoon/ evening there is one in Boon Tat Street (yes, in the middle of the street).
- Chinatown Food Street (in the street): Smith Street (I didn’t eat there, I just saw it).
This is some of the must try Singaporean food:
- Nyonya laksa: noodle soup made with seafood and coconut milk.
- Hainanese chicken rice: chicken rice with sesame oil, cucumber and broth.
- Roti prata: kind of fried pancake with a vegetable curry (it’s like crepes or pizza, there are thousand varieties with different ingredients)
- Satay: kind of meat brochette with peanuts sauce.
Ok, I’m not very good at describing food, you have a better description of the food in this post written by a Singaporean blogger: food in Singapore, 5 meals under $5.
In addition to these specialties it’s easy to find rice with vegetables or meat, noodles soup or fried noodles. I also ate Chinese dumplings and a dessert I discovered in Penang called ais kacang, which is ice with syrup and something that looks like black beans.
All these dishes are easy to find in any hawker centre.
Singapore on a budget: breakdown of my expenses
These are all my expenses for 5 days in Singapore: 168€ (33,6€/day).
- accommodation: 21,4€/day
- in a shared dorm
- note: there are cheaper shared dorms, starting at 13-14€
- transport: 2,6€/day
- by MRT (train/ subway). The price of each trip depends on the number of stops, and it starts at 1,4 Singaporean dollars (0,90€)
- the MRT card can be used up to six times, and you get 10 cents discount on the 6th trip
- the airport can be reached by MRT
- food: 7,4€/day
- I had breakfast included in the hostel
- I had lunch and dinner in hawker centres
- water: I had a bottle that I refilled in the hostel (there was a water dispenser)
- others: 2,2€/day
- visa: 0
- with Spanish passport I could stay up to 90 days without visa
Are you planning to travel to Singapore? Do you have any other question?
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Wow, so many free things to see in Singapore!! You did more in 5 days than I did in a month. I do have another suggestion to see the view of Singapore up high for free, but I can’t remember what I did, so it’s not very helpful, is it. I just remember we took the elevator to some skybar (I believe it’s in Marina Bay Sands?), and then just looked at the view and left before purchasing a drink.
And good job with the budget! That is amazing for Singapore!
Since I was only there for 5 days I tried to make the most of it! It was a bit tiring though, I’m not used to travel this fast anymore haha.
Oh wow I didn’t know there was skybar! I think there is one in Marina Bay Sands but I thought it would be only for the customers. Great tip, thanks Anna!
I was wondering if i visit Glam which is Muslim quarter , i can ware revealing clothes ?
Hi Amy! I’m sorry, I don’t remember how people were dressed in Glam, but I don’t think there is any specific dress code unless you want to visit a mosque. Singapore is multicultural.
Agness of aTukTuk says
Singapore is an awesome travel destination and I am so glad to hear that I can explore it on a budget! How many days would be enough to stay there and see all the highlights?
Hi Agness! I think most people go two or three days, I was there five days and had time to see all the places I mention in the post.