Singapore has been named the most expensive city in the world for four years in a row, making it really hard to imagine a trip to Singapore without breaking the bank, but it can be more affordable than you would think. The best and easiest way to save money on your trip is to stay away from tourist attractions with entrance fees and avoid shopping malls as most restaurants and shops will charge a 7% Goods and Services Tax (GST).
1. Go to the parks.
Forget theme parks and museums because they are too expensive even from a local’s point of view. Instead, spend a day at Pulau Ubin, one of the last rural areas left in Singapore. Rent a mountain bike or walk around the island, and don’t forget to also check out Chek Jawa, a wetland that is home to a diverse variety of animals and that was unveiled only in December 2000. The boat fare to or from Pulau Ubin costs only $2 (SGD$3) per trip. Make sure to bring cash, as credit cards are not accepted on the island. If cityscapes are your thing, add Merlion Park to your itinerary, where you can take some pictures of Singapore’s most iconic landmarks such as Marina Bay Sands and Esplanade. Just a stone’s throw away is Gardens by the Bay, which is also free unless you are looking to enter the Flower Dome or OCBC Skyway.
2. Go to the right hawker centers.
To save on food, head over to hawker centers in residential areas rather than touristy and overpriced hawker centers. Look out for long snaking queues, which almost always suggests good food or average food at worst. Find your way to Changi Village Hawker Centre if you decide on a day trip to Pulau Ubin since most local food at this hawker center will cost you no more than $5 (SGD$6). If you’re looking for laksa — one of the local dishes anyone coming to Singapore should try — Sungei Road Laksa is a good option. On top of being the only stall left in Singapore that still uses a charcoal stove to cook laksa, it is also one of the cheapest at $2 (SGD$3).
3. Use the supermarkets.
Even though it is safe to drink from taps in Singapore, sometimes you need to get bottled water. At times like this, avoid 24-hour convenience stores and expensive chain supermarkets like NTUC Fairprice Finest and Cold Storage. Get them cheaper at smaller marts like Valudollar or Sheng Siong, the third largest chain of supermarkets in Singapore. The prices of local snacks in these marts are also usually slightly cheaper compared to the other supermarkets.
Most bus stops and Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) — Singapore’s subway system — stations are no more than a 10-minute walk apart. If you find yourself wanting to do some window-shopping at Singapore’s most famous shopping street, Orchard Road, keep in mind that although Orchard Station and Dhoby Ghaut Station are two stations apart, it only takes 20 minutes to walk from one to the other. The good news is that there are many shopping malls along the way, promising to keep any window shopper entertained for the whole day.
5. Shop in the right spots.
Shopping should not be on your itinerary if you want to save money, but if you must shop, make your way to Mustafa Centre, a 24-hour shopping center in Little India that boasts low prices and over 300,000 items to choose from.
6. Drink cheap.
Skip bars and pubs. Alcohol in Singapore is expensive and you can never spend the night at a bar or a pub without spending a ton. But don’t just rush to the nearest convenience store to get an alcoholic drink yet! Drinking is banned in all public places from 10:30 PM to 7 AM under the law, and retail shops are not allowed to sell takeaway alcohol during the same time period. You can, however, drink at coffee shops known by the locals as kopitiams. Alternatively, plan ahead and buy some beer during the day to drink in your own private space at night. Just be sure to not make a din.