The one thing in Singapore that’s cheap is getting out of the country. Even if you’re totally broke, you can walk across the Causeway or take a $50 plane ride out. Heck, you can enjoy a month in Thailand and end up spending less than you would if you had stayed in Singapore all that time.
However, if you insist on staying in five star hotels, eating at posh restaurants every day and shopping like a rich Chinese tourist gone berserk, don’t expect your holiday to be cheap, even if you’re in a relatively affordable place.
But if you’re partaking in any of the four types of trips below, congratulate yourself on spending less than your shopping, eating Singaporean kin.
While most Singaporeans run to Changi Airport whenever they want to leave the country, there are other ways to get out—the cheapest way being by road thanks to the Causeway and Second Link.
In fact, because things cost such much less in the land of our neighbours up north—Malaysia, and then Thailand—taking a road trip, either in your own vehicle or a rental split between friends, can be very affordable. Don’t have your licence? Just hop on a coach departing from Golden Mile Complex.
Say what you want about Malaysia and their safety issues, but their country offers more to do than ours does from a budget traveller’s point of view.
- A quick beach getaway in Desaru will require only about 3 hours of driving.
- Kota Tinggi with its famous waterfalls is just a little over an hour away.
- Malacca, a firm favourite of Singaporean tourists, is less than 4 hours away and you’ll definitely knock yourself out with the food.
Singaporeans already spend so much time in a shopping and eating frenzy back in their home country, but it seems they can’t get enough of it overseas, either. That can quickly get expensive, even in cheap countries, simply because you’re consuming in such large quantities.
If you’re the type of traveller who prefers lying on a beach somewhere or are happy so long as you have your Singha beers, your trips have the potential to be a lot cheaper. Away from the fancy resorts and the posh shopping malls, you can find very cheap island or jungle getaways in Southeast Asia.
The idea is to plan a chill holiday where you mainly go to relax and soak up the atmosphere, rather than rush from sight to sight or shop to shop. If you choose budget yet scenic accommodation options, such a holiday can be quite cheap indeed.
Even in more expensive cities, chilling the hell out will usually have you spending less than if you were to travel at a fast pace. In Paris, you can either join the locals in spending the summer taking naps on the lawns of their many manicured gardens like the Jardin du Luxembourg, or you can throw all your money away ascending the Eiffel Tower and chasing after Michelin-starred restaurants.
- A night at Pai Mountain Lodge in Pai, Thailand costs a grand total of SGD11 per night right now. You sleep in bungalows at the foot of a mountain, and there’s nothing much to do all day but read in hammocks.
- Sihanoukville in Cambodia is one of the cheapest and chillest beach destinations around. A night at Wildside Villas costs just 18 SGD.
- When you stay away from Seminyak, Bali is actually quite an affordable destination. Rooms at Wijaya Guesthouse in Ubud are now on sale at Agoda for 18 SGD per night.
Budget backpacking trip
If you were lucky enough to backpack as a student, you know that with a budget mentality you can travel almost anywhere without spending a lot. You just have to leave your princess mentality at home and accept the fact that you’ll be on a budget.
When you backpack, due to the limited amount of space you have, you bring only casual basics. Forget those high heeled shoes or fancy suit, unless you want to lug them around in your backpack. That sets the tone for the trip, as backpackers seldom go to fancy restaurants or splash out on fancy tourist activities like Venetian gondola rides.
You’re not trying to drag around a heavy suitcase, so you don’t need to take taxis to get to your accommodation, nor do you need to check in to a place where there’s a busboy to deal with your oversized luggage.
On a budget backpacking trip, you stay in hostels, cheap guesthouses or Airbnbs, or couchsurf with locals. You eat local street food rather than hitting up restaurants. And you’re always looking for a cheaper way to do things, whether you’re bargaining with local stallholders, taking public transport instead of hopping into a cab and refusing to buy cheap tourist trinkets.
- The Czech Republic is surprisingly cheap, and budget backpackers can find accommodation in hostels for less than 10 SGD per night, even in legendary Prague. You can enjoy a simple meal for 3 to 8 SGD.
- Thanks to Airbnb and the falling yen, backpacking Japan is now more affordable than ever. If you want to save, skip Tokyo and head to one of the other islands like Kyushu where you can explore cities like Fukuoka, Kumamoto and Nagasaki.
- If you’re looking for a really cheap, long trip, Southeast Asia is one of the easiest destinations for backpackers. Follow the trail from Thailand to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
Visiting a friend
Singapore may be a small country, but there are Singaporeans all over the globe. If you have a friend who went to university in Australia or another who managed to find a job in Japan, now’s your chance to pay them a “visit”.
Visiting close friends or relatives living overseas means you get to crash their couch—free accommodation! Most of the time, it also means you don’t have to bother checking a guidebook, since said friend will be showing you their favourite haunts.
Most Singaporeans living overseas soon find they can’t afford to eat out every single day, which means you get to enjoy some cheap home-cooked food too. If your friend doesn’t cook, for goodness’ sake please offer to buy groceries and cook a meal or two, since you’re already freeloading in a big way.
- If you’re a student, you probably have a friend or two studying in Australia, the UK or the US.
- Got distant relatives in Malaysia, China or India? Time to get filial.
- If you studied at a local uni and got friendly with the exchange students, you now have couches to crash all over the world.
What are your overseas trips usually like and how much money do you normally spend? Tell us in the comments!