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Things To Do in Singapore When On A Budget – How Much Will You Need For A Holiday?

things to do in singapore on a budget

Joanne Poh

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So you’re visiting Singapore as a tourist. If you’re still basking in the afterglow of your backpacking adventures around Southeast Asia, prepare to get shocked by prices of things to do in Singapore, one of the ASEAN region’s… nay, one of the world’s… most expensive cities.

The good thing is that not everything in Singapore is horribly expensive for tourists. Food, while nowhere near as cheap as it is in the rest of Southeast Asia, is still very affordable if you stick to hawker centres and food courts. So is public transport on the MRT and buses. Alcohol and accommodation? Not so much. As for other things to do in Singapore? It depends on what you enjoy. There are more options than people realise!

Here’s a cost guide so you can figure out how much you’ll need on your trip to Singapore. All prices are in Singapore dollars.

Contents

  1. Where locals go for cheap and tasty meals
  2. Free or cheap things to do in Singapore
  3. Affordable accommodation options in Singapore
  4. Transport in Singapore
  5. How should you budget for your trip to Singapore?

 

Where locals go for cheap and tasty meals

If you’ve spent any time at all talking to local Singaporeans, you’ll realise that eating out is big business here. Not only do Singaporeans love food, they also spend a lot of time and money eating out, with social occasions tending to revolve around dining out.

Hawker centres

Hawker centres are the heart and soul of Singapore. These agglomerations of food stalls, often open air and topped by a stand-alone roof, are the best and cheapest way to sample local cuisine.

Prices charged at hawker centres vary depending on the location, with those in the city centre being more expensive than those in far-flung suburbs.

Here are some hawker centres tourists might want to consider:

Lau Pa Sat – Located in the CBD amidst towering office buildings, this hawker centre is housed in a historic building and gets flooded with office workers during lunchtime on weekdays. Expect prices to be relatively high.

Maxwell Food Centre – This hawker centre in the Chinatown area has some famous stalls that boast ridiculous queues and sell out by midday, such as Tian Tian Chicken Rice.

Newton Food Centre – Located a few minutes’ drive from the Orchard Road shopping belt, this hawker centre is rather touristy, but its sambal stingray stalls tend to be quite popular amongst locals nonetheless.

Chomp Chomp Food Centre – This hawker centre at Serangoon Gardens is some distance from the city core, but is almost universally considered one of Singapore’s best in terms of food quality.

Chinatown Complex Food Centre – Located in the heart of Chinatown, this multi-storey hawker centre has the distinction of being home to stalls selling craft beer.

Typical prices at hawker centres

As mentioned earlier, prices at hawker centres can vary greatly depending on location. A plate of chicken rice going for $3 in the suburbs might cost you $6.50 on Orchard Road.

Nonetheless, here are some typical prices you can expect to pay.

  • Chicken rice (poached chicken with fragrant rice) – $3 to $5
  • Bak kut teh (pork ribs in broth) – $4 to $7
  • Wanton mee (dumpling noodles) – $2 to $4
  • Laksa (spicy noodle soup) – $3.50 to $6
  • Bak chor mee (minced meat noodles) – $3 to $5
  • Hokkien mee (stir-fried noodles) – $3 to $5.50
  • Nasi lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk) – $2.50 to $4.50
  • Roti prata (fried flatbread with curry) – $1 to $3.50
  • Coffee (black as hell, strong as death, sweet as love) – $1 to $1.80
  • Tiger Beer (Singapore’s first locally brewed beer) – $5.50 to $7 for 640ml

Food courts

Food courts are very similar to hawker centres, except that they are generally air conditioned and often located inside shopping malls.

Prices tend to be slightly higher than in hawker centres (those in the fanciest buildings can charge 2 to 4 times the price of their hawker counterparts), but again a lot depends on the location and the building. Expect to pay lots more if the food court is located in a fancy mall like ION Orchard, and less if it’s in a dilapidated building.

In general, the quality of food at food courts isn’t fantastic, with the exception of a few famous stalls that have become franchises, or older food courts with long-standing tenants.

There is a food court in just about every shopping mall in Singapore.

Mid-range restaurants

Singapore has a huge array of dining options for every budget. Mid-range restaurants make up the bulk of the F&B establishments in the country. Again, quality can vary wildly, and what you know as “Italian” or “Mexican” cuisine might be interpreted quite differently in Singapore.

Here are some of the more popular mid-range options and the kinds of costs you are looking at.

Din Tai Fung – Award-winning Taiwanese restaurant chain that’s a hit amongst Singaporeans. Quality is very consistent across outlets and their xiao long bao (soup-filled steamed dumplings) are legendary. Budget about $20 to $30 per person. If you’re dining in a pair, you can share 4 to 6 dishes. Great place to visit for an introduction to Chinese cuisine.

Saveur – This restaurant now has three outlets, and has made a name for itself thanks to its affordable takes on French cuisine. Their 3 course lunch set menu is about $22.90 before taxes and service charge.

Sushi Express – This conveyor belt sushi chain is probably the cheapest place for sushi in Singapore, with most plates costing only $1.50 before taxes and service charge. Expect to consume 8 to 15 plates, depending on your appetite.

Komala’s – Indian vegetarian food in an unpretentious setting at reasonable prices. Their combo meals are priced at $6.90 to $8.10.

Drinks

Most restaurants and hawker centres in Singapore serve standard non-alcoholic beverages such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, mineral water and sometimes fruit juices. However, prices can vary depending on where you’re buying the drink.

Soft drinks – Expect to pay about $2 at hawker centres and food courts for a can of Coke. At restaurants, expect to pay $3 or more. At bars, prices might go as high as $5.50.

Coffee – The cheapest place to have coffee is your local hawker centre, where a kopi O (black coffee without milk) might go for as little as $1.10 to $1.80. Hawker centre kopi is a bit richer and sweeter than you might be used to, but is definitely worth a try. At hipster cafes or chains like Starbucks, be prepared for pay $4 to to $6 for a cappuccino or equivalent.

Tea – Again, the cheapest place to have tea is at a hawker centre, where you’ll be charged $1.10 to $1.80 for a glass of hot tea without milk. At cafes, tea can be more expensive than coffee, with a typical pot of tea or premium teabag costing $3.50 to $7.

Water – Most restaurants serve iced water, which is perfectly safe to drink. However, you do run into the odd restaurant that refuses to do so, in which case you’ll have to buy bottled water, which you can expect to cost anywhere between $2 to $3.50, or more if premium brands are involved.

Beer – Alcohol in Singapore is some of the world’s most expensive, which is why thrifty types drink at hawker centres, where a 640ml bottle of Tiger or Heineken will typically cost about $5.50 to $7. Pints at bars in party districts Clarke Quay or Boat Quay will set you back around $12 to $15, although happy hour deals can soften the blow a bit. And if you’re drinking, do what many locals do: pre-game at 24-hour convenience store 7-11, although you should take care do so by 10:30pm, as they aren’t authorised to sell alcohol after that cut-off time.

Wine – If you thought beer was expensive, wait till you see the price of wine, which suffers not only from high taxes but high import fees as well. At a typical mid-range wine bar, you can expect to pay at least $30 for the very cheapest bottle of wine, while the sky’s the limit for more expensive ones. Glasses of house wine will typically set you back at least $12 at bars or wine shops. And thanks to recently introduced laws in Singapore, you will probably be told to consume your alcohol before midnight, as the restaurant runs the risk of losing their license if undrunk alcohol is left on the table after midnight.

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Free or cheap things to do in Singapore

Admission tickets to some of Singapore’s biggest tourist sights like the zoo, the Night Safari and Universal Studios are not cheap.

But there are enough free or cheap things to do and places to visit in Singapore to keep you busy for a few days, while enabling you to gain some insight into the island nation’s culture and landscapes, such as the following:

Gardens by the Bay – You need to pay to enter the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome, but wandering around the painstakingly landscaped gardens and gawking at the supertrees is free.

Haw Par Villa – This park, littered with pee-in-your-pants bizarre sculptures illustrating Chinese folklore, is one of squeaky-clean Singapore’s most eccentric sights, and also free to enter.

Botanic Gardens – Singapore’s only UNESCO World Heritage site is, well, a very nice park and also a great place to get away from the concrete jungle.

Temples, mosques and churches – Notable temples include the psychedelic Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Sri Mariamman Temple, which are located a stone’s throw from each other on South Bridge Road in Chinatown. The Sultan Mosque off Arab Street and St Andrew’s Cathedral and the Armenian Church in the City Hall area are also worth a look.

Pulau Ubin – This island off the east coast of Singapore is as close to a rural village as you’ll get here. The bumboat ride to the island costs about $2.50 and you can rent a bicycle for $12 to $20, which is well worth the effort as you can ride out to sites like the Chek Jawa intertidal flats.

Asian Civilisations Museum – While Singapore has several interesting museums, the ACM stands out for its excellent collection of artefacts from all over Asia. The entrance fee of $20 is quite hefty, but entry on Friday evenings from 7 to 9pm is half price at $10.

Sentosa beaches – Sentosa might be a huge tourist trap, but the beaches are free to enjoy once you’ve paid the $1 entry fee.

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Affordable accommodation options in Singapore

Gotcha! There is no such thing as a cheap hotel in Singapore. If you’ve so much as glanced at hotel prices, you’ll know that $100 gets you a dingy motel in the red light district of Geylang.

But there are good deals to be had if you know where to look. The first thing you should do is to get on hotel booking websites like Agoda and Booking.com, and then filter the hotels according to price, from the cheapest to the most expensive. Hotels often slash their prices when they can’t fill up their rooms, and you can find some fantastic deals.

Accommodation types and price ranges

In general, you have the following options when it comes to accommodation.

Backpackers’ hostels – $20 to $50 for a bed in a shared dorm. Some hostels also have double rooms, usually with shared bathroom, or will rent you a family room for 4 or more people if you’re travelling in a group.

Budget hotels – $65 to $150 for very basic rooms, sometimes windowless or in Geylang (the red light district). Note that in order to pay under $100, you need to find these rooms at discounted rates on booking sites like Agoda and Booking.com.

Airbnb – From $40 per night for a room in a luxury condominium with swimming pool, Airbnb offers the best value for money out of all the options on this list. However, Airbnb rentals of under 3 months (for private property) and 6 months (for government housing) are illegal in Singapore, so tread carefully as your host may suddenly cancel on you if he gets into trouble. So be a good neighbour and don’t trample around the house in the middle of the night

Boutique or business hotels – $130 to $300 per night. On the lower end of the scale, you’ll have to book rooms with discounted prices online. Some of these are quite swanky.

Luxury hotels – from $300 per night. A night at the famous Marina Bay Sands hotel will cost you almost $700 a night. Again, search online for discounts, but beware of scammers.

Hotels under $200 a night worth considering

The following Singapore hotels are going for under $200 a night right now, thanks to generous promotions on Agoda. (Note that prices will vary according to your dates and validity of promotion.)

Raintr33 Hotel – $137 to $147 for double/twin rooms. This hotel is cosy without feeling cramped, and the décor is not terrible.

The Keong Saik Hotel – $140 for Deluxe Queen. This basic hotel is located in a historic shophouse.

Studio M Hotel – $180 to $184 for studio loft. Studio lofts at this stylish hotel in the Clarke Quay party district usually cost almost 3 times the price.

The Daulat Hotel – $139 to $151 for deluxe room, $173 for loft room. This hotel in the Little India area is clean and comfortable.

Nostalgia Hotel – Superior room for $135. The décor is a bit kitsch but pleasant, and there’s a swimming pool on the balcony.

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Transport in Singapore

Getting around isn’t expensive in Singapore, and as a tourist, the MRT should suffice to get you to most of the key attractions, save the zoo and Sentosa.

You have the following options:

MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) – The subway. Fares cost $0.77 to $2.02 per ride. Buy an Ez-Link card if you’re staying longer than a few days.

LRT (Light Rail Transit) – Connects the MRT to a few far flung suburbs which tourists seldom visit. Fares range from $0.77 to $1.60.

Buses – They get you to places not connected by the MRT, which for most tourists means the zoo. Fares range from $0.77 to $2.40.

Taxis – Basic flagdown fare is $3.20. Expect to pay about $15 from the airport to the city centre. Hefty surcharges apply after midnight and during rush hour.

Grab – Ever since Uber bowed out, Grab has been the only ride-hailing app available. Almost always cheaper than taking taxis after midnight and during rush hour, but beware of surge pricing.

Bike sharing – You’ll need to have a smartphone with an internet connection to use these. Very inexpensive, at about $0.50 to $1 for a 30 minute ride.

Check out our more comprehensive article on how to get around Singapore and how much it costs.

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How should you budget for your trip to Singapore?

Obviously, your budget will vary wildly depending on whether you’re a billionaire or broke.

For travellers who are budget conscious but prefer not to go full hobo, you should set aside at least the following amounts per day:

Accommodation – $70 a day if you don’t wish to share a hostel dorm with ten other people. If you’re travelling with a friend, you should be able to get a decent hotel room at twice that price. Solo travellers might want to simply risk it and rent an Airbnb room.

Food and drinks – If you eat exclusively hawker food, you can get by on under $25 a day. Those who enjoy a mixture of hawker food and mid-range restaurants should give themselves at least $40 a day. If you’ll be drinking alcohol, add at least $10 for every drink.

Sights – Barring expensive tourist attractions like the zoo, Night Safari, Universal Studios and the Gardens by the Bay domes, you probably won’t spend that much on sights, especially if you use our guide above. $10 to $20 a day should suffice for most things to do in Singapore.

Transport – If you’re relying only on the bus and MRT, you probably don’t need more than $7 a day. However, if you stay out past midnight, then expect to use Grab (for those with mobile data) or taxis (for those without), in which case you should set aside an additional $15 to $25, depending on how far you’re staying from the city centre.

Total: $110 to $170 is the minimum you need for a comfortable stay in Singapore.

Related:

Visiting Singapore on a Budget? 5 Free or Cheap Things in Singapore to Take Advantage Of

Transport For Tourists In Singapore – Guide To The Best And Most Affordable Means To Get Around In Singapore

4 Ways For Budget Travellers to Get Free Accommodation in Singapore

5 Freebies You Need to Know About in Singapore

Do you know Singapore well? Share your tips and tricks in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.