Let’s be honest—if you want to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Singapore anywhere but your bedroom, you’ll have to brave such ridiculous crowds you’ll wish you’d stayed home. So it’s understandable if you’re thinking of joining the flocks of Singaporeans who make use of the public holiday to flee the country and celebrate New Year’s Eve elsewhere.
Here are five affordable places to enjoy a New Year’s countdown that will be way better, and possibly even cheaper, than partying at Sentosa.
The best fireworks I’ve ever experienced my life happened at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Day in… Kuala Lumpur. Fireworks go off not once, but hundreds of times over virtually every major building in the city centre. Book into a hotel or serviced apartment with a rooftop garden or pool, and the fireworks will explode right over your head, making our own SG50 fireworks look like a primary school boy’s science experiment.
Another advantage of spending the New Year in KL is that you won’t pay much more to get there than you would on a regular day. Coach rides cost only about $25 to $30 each way and take about 4 to 5 hours, while return flights are available for under $100. If you have a car you can even drive up yourself.
If you want to enjoy the sea and fireworks without selling out and heading to Sentosa, a trip to Batam might be in order. Believe it or not, there are actually quite a few New Year’s countdown parties on the island, complete with DJs and fireworks. But the main draw for Singaporeans is usually to kick back at a fancy but affordable resort, pig out on seafood and catch the fireworks in the city.
You won’t even have to worry about escalating airfares, since a return trip by ferry costs only about $35 and takes about one hour. This is one trip you don’t even need to take leave for—heck, the bus and MRT ride to work each morning probably takes longer.
Every Singaporean’s favourite bargain shopping city is also great fun over the New Year. Virtually every bar and club will be having their own celebration, so those who are already familiar with Bangkok’s party scene will probably just head to their favourite joints like Route 66 or Bed Supperclub. Even better, hit up a small, cosy joint like indie and jazz bar Skytrain.
Bangkok remains one of the cheaper destinations to fly to over the New Year, considering the fact that air tickets get super expensive as Singaporeans make a mass exodus out of the country the moment they leave the office. Even if you leave Singapore only on the 31st of December and return at the end of the weekend you can still get away with paying less than $250 for a return flight.
Cambodia isn’t the natural choice when it comes to celebrating the New Year—there are no clubs known to Singaporeans (or mankind) in Siem Reap, which is better known for being the gateway to Angkor Wat. Well, you might be surprised to know that Siem Reap has gained a bit of a reputation amongst travellers to Southeast Asia for being one of the more fun New Year’s destinations.
No, you won’t be drinking amongst temple ruins, but you will be partying on Pub Street with the rest of the town, a bottle of Angkor beer in hand. The pedestrian street is thronged with people and turns into an open air party, a bit like that stretch on our own Club Street minus the yuppies. As the town is tiny and you should be able to walk back to your guesthouse, it’s one of the few places where you won’t feel like blowing your brains out trying to get back after the New Year’s festivities.
While it will cost you a good $400+ to fly to Siem Reap from Singapore over the New Year weekend, tickets get a lot cheaper if you take a day or two of leave before and/or after the 31st of December or 3rd of January. Otherwise, you can take a bus or flight to KL for $50 to $100 and then fly to Siem Reap from KL for $200+.
Ho Chi Minh City
Singaporeans haven’t really realised that Ho Chi Minh City is a big party town filled with skyscrapers, fancy clubs and beautiful people. Most Singaporeans who head to HCMC come back with vague accounts of the Cu Chi Tunnels and not much else. The party scene in Ho Chi Minh City can be very, very glamorous if you know where to go, so dress appropriately. 02 Gold Nightclub is a favourite amongst locals, while Fuse caters to a mix of locals and expats.
If you prefer something a little classier, most five star hotels hold events on their rooftops or at their restaurants that enable patrons to enjoy the fireworks at prices that are way cheaper than what you would pay in Singapore. For instance, Chill Sky Bar hosts a New Year’s Eve dinner for 1,000,000 VND (63 SGD). This is a very upmarket bar and restaurant with a view that would give One Altitude a run for the money, and with better dressed patrons, too. At the price, you wouldn’t get your foot in the door at any joints half as fancy on New Year’s Eve in Singapore.
The demand for flights to Ho Chi Minh isn’t as strong as it is to more popular destinations like Bali, and even without taking leave you should be able to book yourself a flight for a little over $300. If you take a day or two of leave, your ticket price falls dramatically to about $200+.
Where do you plan to celebrate the New Year? Tell us in the comments!