Singapore to me might mean sweating it out under the hot sun, plates of char kway teow and Milo ping in a plastic bag. To you, it might mean $30 bespoke cocktails, $80 meals overlooking Marina Bay and the occasional $800 staycation. Different strokes for different folks.
But if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want your Chanel to look out of place in a low-end eatery, hates being anywhere without air con and whose whose motto is “keep calm and pamper yourself”, all those atas experiences are going to take a toll on your finance.
Life in Singapore, when done luxuriously, can get pretty damn expensive. If you’re not loaded and yet want to enjoy some atas creature comforts from time to time, here’s how to find cheaper alternatives which pack (almost) the same punch.
Rich people go sailing on their private boats and golfing at the country club on their off days, while the plebs have to be content with whacking shuttlecocks around… or do they? Believe it or not, sailing in Singapore isn’t as expensive as you think, so long as you’re not looking at a champagne cruise on a yacht.
The People’s Association’s Water Venture organises a fairly affordable sailing course, and also rents out boats for use. A 3-day PICO course (meaning you’ll be on a two-man boat) costs $280 in all, or $240 for water venture members. (For students or seniors, the course is $200 for members and $180 for non-members.)
Thereafter, it costs only $60 per person per day to rent a PICO sailboat for non-members, and $30 a day for members. ($40 or $20 for 2 hour rental for non-members and members respectively). This is insanely cheap (comparable to kayak rental in fact) and actually makes sailing every week very affordable for middle-income people.
Sure, it’s not the same thing as chartering a yacht, which will set you back thousands of dollars, but it’s fun, good exercise and most importantly much less expensive than people think.
Eating French Food
Everybody knows how to make pasta at home and for cheap sushi, there’s always Sushi Express. But French food is one of those cuisines with the fewest cheap alternatives.
If you want to enjoy your gratin dauphinois or coq au vin and actually know how to pronounce their names without spouting accidental vulgarities, but aren’t about to spend $50++ on a meal, don’t worry, you’re not going to have to go through your life never knowing what foie gras tastes like.
While most “affordable” French restaurants will have you paying $25 to $40 just for a main alone, two establishments stand out for their French food which is priced at the lower end of the midrange scale.
One of them is Saveur (5 Purvis Street), which has become famous for their affordable take on French classics. Mains are from $9.90 to $16.90, while premium mains are $24.90.
Another is The French Stall (544 Serangoon Road), which started as a hawker stall and has been running on a Serangoon Road corner for what seems like forever. Most starters are under $10 and mains are from $17.80 to $21.80. While they’re closing in June 2016, they’ll be opening at a new location afterwards.
As probably the most stressful city in Southeast Asia, Singapore contains a huge number of people who could probably benefit most from a relaxing spa session.
Unfortunately, unless you’re into tui na or content with being massaged in a seedy shopping centre in Chinatown that hasn’t been refurbished since the 80s, you’re looking at paying $50 to $100 for an hour-long massage in Singapore.
But nobody says you have to stick with spas in Singapore. I often head to Johor Bahru, where a 1.5 hour-long massage costs me less than $30. Some spas even have shuttle services for Singaporeans. And honestly, the quality is better than most spas Singapore I’ve experienced in the $50 to $100 range.
There are zillions of spas in Johor Bahru that Singaporeans frequent. See these lists here and here for recommendations from fellow Singaporeans.
Infinity Pool Staycation
So, ever since Marina Bay’s famous infinity pool opened, Singaporeans have been craving the experience of swimming in a pool that seemingly just drops off in the middle of nowhere.
But you don’t need to spend $700 to $800 on a room at Marina Bay Sands to swim in an infinity pool. You may not realise this, but many other hotels in Singapore have jumped on the infinity pool bandwagon, some of which are on the higher end of the budget category.
Our top pick is Village Hotel Changi, which has an infinity pool with a view not of the Singapore CBD but of the ocean. Book on Agoda and you pay about $200 to $300 or so per room. If even that’s out of your budget, there are even cheaper options—by booking on Agoda, you can get rooms at Oasia Hotel Novena and Nostalgia Hotel for less than $200, infinity pool included.
So maybe you’ve always dreamed of being a high roller, but the $100 levy to enter Singapore casinos is such a slap in the face you’ve had to nip the habit in the bud.
While we’re certainly not encouraging you to squander all your money on three games of baccarat, if you want to gamble (in moderation, please) without having to pay the hefty levy, you might want to join your fellow aunties and uncles on a floating casino in the waters off Batam.
Aegean Paradise (replacing Leisure World) is a casino disguised as a cruise, mostly patronised by Singaporean aunties and uncles. There are other perks like a free buffet, massage and karoake room (bonus points if you know how to sing Hokkien songs) for when you’ve lost all your money.
A return ticket costs $52 and is a fairly good deal when you take the free food into account. You can expect to travel for about 60 to 90 minutes before the ship sets sail. There is a discount for seniors, who pay on only $32. (Sorry students, no discount for you.) Another benefit is that the minimum bet is $2 to $10 at most tables, while at MBS or RWS you’ll be paying at least $25 per hand.
What other atas-sounding things can you do at a cheaper price in Singapore? Tell us in the comments!