SINGAPORE BUDGET TRAVEL GUIDE (with itinerary, top things to do and expenses)

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UNDERSTANDING SINGAPORE

Trying to know SINGAPORE is like unveiling a story of rags-to-riches, the type that follows a narrative of a humble beginning to wondrous ending.

Singapore lies at the south tip of Malaysia where it was once part of but was forced to leave because of ideological differences. At its early years being a sovereign state, the odds were seemingly unworkable for Singapore. Natural resources were scarce, local industries were non-existent and racial tension was heavy among its inhabitants that consist of Malay, Chinese, Indian and European descent. Back then, for Singapore to thrive as an independent city-state was next to impossible.

But desperate times call for desperate measures. The country worked its way out by resorting to the only resource it had: the richness in ethnicity of its people where flourished a strong network of business and trade. By focusing on commerce, Singapore quickly became an ideal place for multinational corporations. And with the guidance of the heavy hands of Stamford Raffles which crafted the sense of discipline and well-grounded foundation of the city-state, Singapore rose above the struggling times and became the beautiful cosmopolitan as we know it today.

Universal Studios at Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore.

SINGAPORE TRAVEL CHECKLIST

Here is a definitive checklist to help out those who will travel to Singapore for the first time:

  • a list of emergency contacts at home and in Singapore for contingency purposes
  • electronics and gadgets: mobile phone, camera, powerbank, charger, extra battery, tripod, headset
  • clothing – Aside from packing a nice outfit to wear on a fancy occasion, make sure to fill your bag with light clothes and comfortable sneakers as the weather can be a bit dry and you will do a lot of walking to get around its attractions.
  • toiletries – Although it’s easy to buy toiletries in Singapore, it’s best to have them ready to save time and avoid unnecessary trip.
  • bag for daypack to get easily around
  • head pillow especially if you are traveling on a long flight
  • passport with at least 6-month validity from entry date
  • visa – most countries can freely enter Singapore without a visa, but in case you need to apply, check the latest set of requirements on this website: www.mfa.gov.sg
  • entry and return plane ticket
  • a copy of your accommodation booking – You will have to identify your address in Singapore in the Disembarkation/Embarkation Card that will be filled out upon immigration entry. Note: If you will be staying at a local residence, make sure to know the address, the owner’s length of residence and other viable information. Be prepared for an interrogation at the immigration checkpoint and prepare documents (certificate of employment or COE, birth certificate, etc.) that can prove your identity and reason of travel.
  • money (cash and card) – Be sure to notify your credit card bank that you will be traveling overseas to avoid any hassle.
  • document scans – passport photo, identity cards, other necessary documents like a marriage contract if you had traveled to Singapore before when you were single. These are not a requirement upon entry but just be ready. You would not know until you need them.
  • a valid medical prescription copy for any medication that you will bring to Singapore.
Changi Airport
One of the cozy lounges at terminal 4 in Changi Airport.

SINGAPORE TRAVEL FAQs

If you are traveling to Singapore for the first time, read these Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to learn and better understand the Lion City.

How to get to Singapore?

  • By plane, most major cities take flight to Changi Airport in Singapore whether direct or layover.
  • By land, you can get on a bus from these areas in Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Genting Highlands, Ipoh and Penang; and in Hat Yai in Thailand. Go to easybook.com for the bus schedule.

When is the best time to go?

The good thing about Singapore is that it gets little weather variation which makes the place a year-round destination for tourists. However, expect a huge crowd during the months of January to Feb, June to July, and September to October when most of its festivities and holidays happen.

How many days to spend in Singapore?

Singapore is small and its major tourist attractions are clustered near Downtown Core area. The city-state has also an efficient form of transport which makes traveling around quick and easy. With these taken into consideration, a 3-day itinerary would be enough. Go to the Sample Itinerary section for details.

Where to stay in Singapore?

For a luxurious stay, book a room at Marina Bay Sands and enjoy the infinity pool at its rooftop or the expanse skyline during twilight from its viewing deck. For travelers on a shoestring budget, head out to Chinatown, Little India, or Bugis to find an affordable with good quality accommodation.

Here are some recommended hostels from these areas:

Where is the best place to eat?

To get an authentic taste of Singapore, go to the nearby hawker center which offers a wide range of good quality, cheap foods (around S$2-S$4). The popular among these hawker centers are Adam Road Food Center with most stalls serving Malay and Indian food, Chomp Chomp Food Center - the go-to place for late dinners and is notable for being the satay mecca in Singapore, and Lau Pa Sat Food Center - the biggest and the most ideal place to find all local food under one roof.

A hawker center in Singapore.

What is the best way to get around?

Singapore has one of the most excellent public transport systems in the world so picking the best form of transport to get around is a matter of preference. Personally, I go by MRT because it is cheap and fast. With a 0.78 SGD minimum fare using an EZ-link card, you can already reach a nearby tourist destination in just a few minutes. If you want a cheaper transport and get a better view of the city while traveling, a local bus is more recommended, which also covers most of the tourist attractions in Singapore like MRT. A taxi, on the other hand, is the fastest but its surcharge can become costly during peak hours and holidays.

How to stay connected?

Apart from switching on your data roaming which is rather expensive and the free Wi-Fi provision in your hotel, you have several options to get a good internet access while going around Singapore.

  • Get a local SIM. There are three main mobile networks in Singapore: Singtel, M1 and StarHub which operate on a GSM connection and are compatible with any unlocked handset. SIM cards can be bought at the arrival hall in the airport or from any convenience store. You will need to register the SIM using your passport number.
  • Pick up a 4G Pocket Wi-Fi which can connect up to 8 devices at once. Rental booths are located at Changi Airport.
  • Access a free public Wi-Fi through the Wireless@SG program. It's easier to access the program using a local phone number from any of these mobile networks: Singtel, M1 and StarHub.

KLOOK offers a discounted price for a pocket Wi-Fi, check out this link for details: 4G WiFi (SG Airport Pick Up) .

Warning: Using somebody else's Wi-Fi is an act of hacking in Singapore and can be punishable by law.

What are the highly don'ts?

Here are few things that you SHOULD NOT do while in Singapore:

  • Accessing pornographic sites in public
  • Littering on the street and on public transport
  • Jaywalking
  • Smoking in public indoor areas
  • Chewing gum
  • Eating and drinking inside MRT station

How is the weather?

Singapore lies near the equator so its weather is mostly the same throughout the year: humid and balmy. Although it gets constantly hot during February to July and trickles brief downpour from November to January.

Do I need vaccinations for Singapore?

Tourists are not required a proof of vaccination upon entry to Singapore, unless you come from a country with high risk of yellow fever.

Is it safe to travel?

Singapore is extremely safe even for solo female travelers. It's generally secure to walk around even at night. However, it is still recommended to pay attention to theft as it can happen in secluded areas.

Where are the best places to exchange money in Singapore?

Singapore uses the Singaporean dollar as its currency. Head out to Lucky Plaza in Orchard if you are exchanging a Philippine peso or a Thailand baht, or to Arcade at Raffles Place if you are exchanging a US dollar, a Euro or a Japanese yen to get the best rates.

What are some helpful apps for travel to Singapore?

Apart from the regular apps for messaging, consider adding the following links and apps to your phone:

  • Google Maps to help you find your chosen destination whether by walking or transport
  • Uber or Grab to assist you in booking the nearest taxi or car to get you to your choice of destination
  • MyTransport Singapore is your guide for public transport. The app feeds information about traffic news, bus timings and public transport services. It can also help you find the nearest MRT station from a specific place.
Masjid Sultan Mosque at Arab Street in Kampong Glam.
Masjid Sultan Mosque at Arab Street in Kampong Glam.

How is the culture?

Singapore follows a custom that are generally a mix of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Western, which is also heavily resonated on its food culture with rice, noodles and seafood as a staple. The city-state has been identified as one of the most religious countries in the world and respect among different beliefs is highly observed.

What language do Singaporeans speak?

Most Singaporeans are bilingual and typically command good English.

What is the tipping policy in Singapore?

Tipping is not expected but acceptable in Singapore. Restaurants add a 10% service charge to the bill and taxi drivers are discouraged for asking it. For always, it is highly favored to personally reward a good service.

What is the power socket used in Singapore?

Singapore (along with UK, China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia and some 50 other countries) has a type G power outlet with an electrical voltage of 230V and a standard frequency of 50Hz.

What time is sunrise and sunset in Singapore?

The sunrise and sunset times in Singapore fall few minutes before 7AM and 7PM respectively depending on the solstice.

The play area at the mall inside ArtScience Museum.

SINGAPORE MONEY SAVING TIPS

The glamorous city-state of Singapore is expensive if you don't know the way around. Read these tips to give more value to that hard-earned moolah.

  • Save money on food by eating at a hawker center which is present in most of the shopping and crowded areas in Singapore.
  • Get an EZ-link card either at the train station (for 12 SGD and with 7 SGD worth of credit) or at 7-Eleven (for 10 SGD and includes 5 SGD worth of credit) to take advantage of the public transport.
  • Know the free attractions in Singapore by clicking the link.
  • If you plan on having a few drinks, stick to happy hour for a buy one, get one deal.
  • Get discount tickets to tours and services in Singapore from Klook or Kkday.

Bonus tip: If you are a transit passenger and has at least 5.5 hours to spare before your connecting flight, join the Changi Airport FREE guided tours that would last for 2 hours. You can choose between the Heritage tour and City Sights Tour. Register at the transit areas at terminal 2 and 3. For requirements and other inquiries, visit this website: www.changiairport.com.

TOP ATTRACTIONS IN SINGAPORE

Here are some of the top tourist destinations that you can cover in a day tour or with an itinerary for 3 to 5 days while in Singapore.

GARDEN RHAPSODY AT GARDENS BY THE BAY

Garden Rhapsody at Gardens by the Bay
Garden Rhapsody at Gardens by the Bay.

Witness the 12-towering Supertrees come alive on a pattern of glistening bright light of varying colors through a lively beat. The signature light extravaganza at the very heart of Gardens by the Bay is a visual treat, which started in 2015 by the award-winning composer, arranger and light designer Adrian Tan. The Garden Rhapsody light show runs for 15 minutes two times every night, at exactly 7:45PM and 8:45PM.

Here is a discounted ticket from KLOOK for Gardens by the Bay. Check out the link.

MERLION STATUE AT MERLION PARK

Sunrise at the Merlion Plaza.
Sunrise at the Merlion Plaza.

The Merlion statue at Merlion Park was installed in 1972 and is the first among the five official Merlion statues in Singapore. The statue which stands 8.6 meters high has a tail of a fish and a head of a lion to represent the humble beginnings of the city as a fishing village and to pay tribute to Singapore's original name "Singapura" which means "Lion City" in Malay. Apart from the original statue, there is also a smaller statue in the park, the Merlion cub, which stands for about 2 meters tall and can be found directly at the back of the bigger statue.

STREET ART AT HAJI LANE

Carefree at Haji Lane.
Carefree at Haji Lane.

The hip neighborhood of Haji Lane has drawn flock of tourists for its vibrant street art, cool cafes and restaurants, and quirky selection of shopping items. While going around here is free of charge, the items for sale from its row of boutiques are a bit steep. Take all extra cautions to keep yourself from splurging that hard-earned moolah!

Among the cafes, try Selfie Coffee. They would ask for your selfie photo and print it on your coffee. Yeah, a moment of vanity but if you find drinking yourself is fun, give it a shot! Coffee price starts at S$5.

Check out the link for more of TOP ATTRACTIONS IN SINGAPORE.

TOP THINGS TO DO IN SINGAPORE

Here are top things to do and activities that are worth a try in Singapore.

Enjoy the scenic spots at night. 

A bumboat cruising towards Marina Bay Sands.
A bumboat cruising towards Marina Bay Sands.

Singapore is a glamorous, bustling city and its beauty blooms at night with its skyline all in glitz. Wander around the promenade of Bayfront to witness a magnificent landscape that stretches from Marina Bay Sands to Merlion Park.

If you fancy a perfect night photo on a different location, head out to these places which are all aglow after dark: Buddha Tooth Relic Temple at Maxwell road in Chinatown, Clarke Quay along the Singapore river, the Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay, Tanjung Rhu Suspension Bridge, Orchard Road, and Singapore harbor.

Take pleasure in the FREE light and water shows.

Spectra Light and Show at Marina Bay Sands

One of the finest forms of entertainment in Singapore is the light-and-water show which takes place early in the evening and is for free! As of late, there are four light and water shows happening simultaneously every night. Two at Bayfront and another two at Sentosa.

At Bayfront: The Garden Rhapsody at Gardens by the Bay makes use of the 12 man-made Supertrees to expose a dazzling presentation of multi-colored lights in the pattern of an accompanying beat. Showtime runs daily at 7:45PM and 8:45PM for 15 minutes; while the Spectra at  Marina Bay Sands projects a visual feast from the top-of-the-line fountain jets and laser lights over the waters near promenade at the Event Plaza. The light show happens twice every night at 8PM and 9PM for 15 minutes. A special timing at 10PM is added on Fridays and Saturdays.

At Sentosa: The Crane Dance at Resorts World Sentosa unfolds the magical love story of two cranes through a groundbreaking audio and visual light display. Show starts at 8PM daily. On the other hand, the Merlion Magic Lights at Merlion Plaza showcases the astonishing 37-meter tall Merlion slowly dressed with lights glistening in shapes and patterns. Showtime is 4 times daily at a 30-minute interval from 7:45PM to 9:15PM. Take note that although these 2 attractions are for free, Sentosa Island admission fee still applies.

Indulge in a heart-racing fun at Universal Studios.

The dueling roller coaster of Battlestar Galactica: Human VS Cylon.
The dueling roller coaster of Battlestar Galactica: Human VS Cylon.

The Universal Studios takes the happy, adventure side of Singapore. Go on a full-day trip. Let loose and fall freely on your seat as you ride the hair-raising roller coasters and heart-pounding simulation rides! The experience is worth it. Adults can surely excite that kid inside, while at the same time, allow their own kids be kids. Catch the pharaoh of ancient Egypt, try the Jurassic Adventure rapids, take a photo op with some of the famous Hollywood characters, wander around the 7-themed zones in the Universal Studios. There is so much to do in a day! To end it right, make sure to stay until sundown for the Hollywood Dreams Parade and Lake Hollywood Spectacular which might happen on a weekend. (Check the Universal Studios calendar for the actual schedule.)

To get to Universal Studios on a train, alight at HarbourFront Station. Once there, ride on the Sentosa Express or RWS8 Bus or walk along the Sentosa Boardwalk. If on a taxi, stop at the Casino then take the escalator leading to the Universal Globe.

Tip: There is an express pass (not to be used as the entrance ticket) which will allow visitors to take the shorter queue for rides. Price starts at S$30 to 50. Visit the Universal Studios website for more information.

Click the link for the full list of TOP THINGS TO DO IN SINGAPORE.

SINGAPORE TOUR PACKAGES FROM KLOOK

KLOOK, the leading platform for travel and tour package booking, shares a variety of discounted tour packages for Singapore. If you are looking for ease in transport and affordable travel packages, check out some of the most popular offers:

More Singapore tours and private transfers (car or van) at a discounted price are offered by KLOOK, use the search box below:

Klook.com

SINGAPORE SAMPLE ITINERARY

Note: To get a good experience using the 2 Singapore DIY itinerary samples below and to save you the hassle in going around the attractions, use an EZ-link card (not the Singapore Tourist Pass) for all your basic transport services and Google Maps app for an accurate direction in going from one tourist destination to another.

SAMPLE 1: The following 3-day itinerary is ideal for a budget traveler who fancy a photo session around Singapore. It does not include a trip to Universal Studios or anywhere around Sentosa for the cost it entails. The budget indicated for each activity is intended for transportation, food and entrance fee and does not cover expenses for accommodation, souvenir and other incidentals.

Total budget per person: 103+ SGD or 75+ USD or 4,000+ Philippine peso

DAY ONE

ActivityTime Budget
ETA05:00AM 
To Merlion Park for Sunrise06:00AM1 SGD
Breakfast08:00AM3 SGD
Check-in10:00AM1 SGD
Chinatown11:00AM1 SGD
Tooth Relic  
Sri Mariamman Temple  
Lunch at Maxwell Food Center01:00PM3 SGD
Orchard Road02:00PM1 SGD
Library at Orchard  
Window Shopping  
National Gallery of Singapore04:00PM1 SGD
Sunset at Clarke Quay06:00PM1 SGD
Dinner at  Lau Pa Sat08:00PM3 SGD
Back to hostel10:00PM1 SGD

DAY TWO

ActivityTime Budget
Breakfast08:00AM3 SGD
Botanic Gardens09:00AM1 SGD
Lunch11:00AM3 SGD
Little India Walking Tour01:00PM1 SGD
Masjid Sultan03:00PM1 SGD
Haji Lane04:00PM 
Gardens by the Bay05:00PM29 SGD
Flower Dome  
Cloud Forest  
Halal Food at Gardens by the Bay07:00PM3 SGD
Garden Rhapsody Light Show08:00PM 
Sightseeing and Night Photo Sesh09:00PM 
Back to hostel11:00PM1 SGD

DAY THREE

ActivityTime Budget
Breakfast08:00AM3 SGD
Saint Andrews Cathedral09:00AM1 SGD
Marina Square10:00AM 
Singapore Riverside Walking11:00AM 
Fullerton  
Merlion Park  
Esplanade  
Lunch01:00PM3 SGD
Sightseeing around Marina Bay02:00PM 
Singapore Flyer  
Helix Bridge  
ArtScience Museum 18 SGD
Marina Bay Sands Observation Deck06:00PM23 SGD
Spectra Light and Water Show08:00PM 
Sightseeing and Night Photo Sesh09:00PM 
Back to hostel11:00PM 
An aerial view of Sentosa.

SAMPLE 2: This version of a 3-day itinerary includes a trip to Universal Studios and other top attractions around Sentosa island. The budget indicated for each activity is allotted only to transportation, food and entrance fee, and does not include expenses for accommodation, souvenir and other incidentals.

Total budget per person: 206+ SGD or 150+USD or 8,000+ Philippine peso

DAY ONE

ActivityTime Budget
ETA05:00AM 
To Merlion Park for Sunrise06:00AM1 SGD
Breakfast08:00AM3 SGD
Check-in09:00AM1 SGD
Little India Walking Tour11:00AM1 SGD
Lunch01:00PM1 SGD
Masjid Sultan02:00PM1 SGD
Haji Lane03:00PM 
Gardens by the Bay04:00PM29 SGD
Flower Dome  
Cloud Forest  
Halal Food at Gardens by the Bay07:00PM3 SGD
Garden Rhapsody Light Show08:00PM 
Sightseeing and Night Photo Sesh09:00PM 
Back to hostel11:00PM1 SGD
DAY TWO
Activity Time  Budget
Breakfast 08:00AM 3 SGD
Sentosa Island 09:00AM 1 SGD
Universal Studios   72 SGD
S.E.A. Aquarium   39 SGD
Crane Dance    
Merlion Magic Lights    
Back to hostel 10:00PM 1 SGD
 
DAY THREE
Activity Time  Budget
Breakfast 08:00AM 3 SGD
Botanic Gardens 09:00AM 1 SGD
Chinatown 11:00AM 1 SGD
Tooth Relic    
Sri Mariamman Temple    
Lunch at Maxwell Food Center 01:00PM 3 SGD
Sightseeing around Marina Bay 02:00PM  
Fullerton    
Merlion Park    
Esplanade    
Singapore Flyer    
Helix Bridge    
ArtScience Museum   18 SGD
Marina Bay Sands Observation Deck 06:00PM 23 SGD
Spectra Light and Water Show 08:00PM  
Sightseeing and Night Photo Sesh 09:00PM  
Back to hostel 11:00PM  
Supertree Grove
The Supertrees captured from the grounds of the grove.

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