Singaporeans are great at wasting money everywhere, not just in their home country.
Despite our relatively small population, we’ve all seen those Singlish-speaking tourists storming overseas designer outlets and checking into high end restaurants before asking for the wifi password, dutifully photographing their food and posting the pictures on Instagram.
Here are five things Singaporeans spend on when they go on holiday that you should avoid if you’re on a budget.
Obligatory souvenirs for colleagues
It’s fine to buy a memento or two for a close friend or the colleague who’s been covering for you in your absence.
But too many Singaporeans feel obligated to buy souvenirs for their entire team, department or company, especially when they’ve been away on a long holiday. As a result, they end up carting home big bags filled with 50 key rings, fridge magnets or cellphone chains each time they return home from an overseas trip.
Then there are those people who buy snacks for their colleagues, sending out a mass email informing everyone that they’ve left them in the pantry. In the end, the snacks are consumed in their entirety by one of the interns who has no clue who they were from because he’s not on the mailing list anyway.
If you’re working for a big company or a department so large not everyone knows your name, skip the souvenirs. Nobody will notice anyway.
You might shun tours, since the thought of waking up at 6am in order to cram in photo-taking in front of 25 different monuments before being whisked away to a Chinese restaurant for dinner does not appeal to you.
But even so, it’s easy to fall prey to the promise that a paid walking or city tour will make your trip easier and more convenient.
Granted, if you’re looking for someone to take you trekking in the jungles of Sumatra or up a mountain in Nepal, do pay for a guide to keep you alive. But Singaporeans, more than anyone else, should be able to navigate the streets of most first-world cities on their own.
If you’re on a budget, skip the tours and use the internet to plan instead. Thanks to the power of Google Maps (download offline maps on the app if you don’t have internet access at your destination) and free online guides like Wikitravel, planning your own walking tour around the city is easy and free.
In addition, there are guides in many major cities who conduct walking tours on a free or donation basis. Just google “free walking tour + city name” or check sites like Couchsurfing or Meetup and you’ll find a whole bunch. We found free tours in London, Paris, Tokyo and Beijing.
Not only does that gigantic Lonely Planet guidebook weigh as much as a newborn baby, it also costs a lot—each tome can set you back about $40 to $50. Once your trip is over, you’ll never look at it again, and in a few years it will become outdated and turn into your rather lame offering at book swaps.
If you absolutely must have a physical guidebook with you, head to the National Library instead. There’s just about every current Lonely Planet volume ever published, as well as other popular guidebook series like Frommer’s, Fodor’s and Rough Guides.
Museum or travel passes
Singaporeans are often quick to snap up museum passes or travel passes, thinking these are great value for money since you get to cram in more for less. Right?
Well, the problem is, in order to get your money’s worth out of these passes, you usually have to transform your relaxing trip into a stressful one filled with attempts to cram in a zillion attractions into a few days.
Take the Paris Pass, for instance. A two day pass costs 120 euro (200 SGD) and gets you free entry to museums and monuments like the Louvre (usual price 12 euro or 19 SGD), Musée d’Orsay (usual price 12 euro or 19 SGD), the Pantheon (usual price 7 euro or 11 SGD) and the Versailles Palace (18 euro or 28 SGD), as well as attractions like a river cruise and a tour of the opera house.
Except that, in order to see 120 euro worth of attractions, you’d have to visit something like 10 museums a day. Considering you can easily spend a single day at just one or two museums, the Museum Pass doesn’t sound like the most cost-effective way to spend that money. So do the math and ask yourself how intensively you’re prepared to sightsee before you shell out the cash on a pass.
Have you ever spent money on any of the above? Share your experiences in the comments!