Singapore On a Budget
It serves as a gateway to Southeast Asia, and many travelers find themselves here on either their way in or out of the region. The airport is convenient and offers many cheap flights throughout the region and the world. It's nice to allow yourself at least two or three days to explore the area as there are some great neighborhoods and interesting sights worth visiting.
Within the city, the majority of the population is of Indian, Malay, or Chinese descent. These cultures have dramatically influenced the area's culture, food and religion. You'll find an impressive Little India area with many good dining and shopping options. Likewise, the Chinatown area has some great food choices as well as discount stores where you can pick up any number of things.
Singapore is more expensive than other cities in Southeast Asia, but it is still significantly cheaper than most western cities. There are many hostels in the city where you can stay for cheap, or you can arrange a nice luxury hotel for a fraction of what you might pay in the U.S. or Europe. Food is also quite cheap. There are many seafood restaurants around town that offer some wonderful Asian style dishes. As a general rule, you can expect to pay about two thirds of what you would pay for a corresponding meal in the United States. For more information and ideas, see this 5-day itinerary of Singapore.
Taxis are convenient and easy to catch in Singapore. They run off of a meter and prices are set so you do not have to worry about haggling the way you might elsewhere in Southeast Asia. There's also a very convenient and affordable metro system that will take you most places in the city that you could want to go.
At A Glance
- If you've been backpacking through Southeast Asia and you're about to head home, then Singapore is a great place to splurge on a nice hotel. You can find some excellent four star hotel options that are a fraction of the cost you might pay in Europe of the United States. Many offer rooftop pools that look out over the city's skyline. If it's your last night on the road live it up with a nice splurge for the evening.
- There are some great tourist attractions around Singapore, but a more interesting experience is to get off the tourist trail for a while and explore some back roads and residential neighborhoods. It's fun to see how people are living, where they're doing their shopping and what daily life is like in this unique country.
- Public transportation in Singapore is excellent. It's really not necessary to take a taxi anywhere because most places are served by either the subway or the bus system. You'll save yourself a lot of money if you avoid taxis in general.
- You can expect it to rain almost once a day in Singapore, whatever time of year you visit. Come prepared with an umbrella and be prepared to hop inside a shop or restaurant until it passes. Storms are usually short, hard, and abrupt before they blow over.
- Chinese New Year is a great time to visit Singapore. Because there is such a strong Chinese influence over the country, the festivities are popular and there is always something going on. If you're in town for the events definitely check them out. Do make sure you have reservations well in advance though as hotels tend to fill up and last minute prices can be quite high.
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Top Tourist AttractionsChinatown: This is a fascinating area in downtown Singapore that is great for shopping and eating. While much of Singapore is influenced by the Chinese culture, this neighborhood in particular retains much of its old world charm. That's what makes this neighborhood one of the best places to visit in Singapore if you have 3 days, because it has everything to offer from interesting sights to food, to shopping. The area between Pagoda Street and Smith Street is probably the most touristy section, and if you head south or east you'll find more authentic sections.
Gardens by the Bay This beautiful park area in Marina Bay was built on reclaimed land and features plenty of activities. The crown jewel is perhaps the "supertrees" which are large sculptures which people can walk through and around. At night a light show keeps people entertained, as does the multitudes of flowers, the flower dome, and the cloud forest. For more information, check out this guide to visiting the gardens by the bay.
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve: This park offers a little bit of nature in an urban environment and it is a nice little escape if you're ready to get away from the crowds. It's in the middle of Singapore and is on the slopes of the city's highest hill, making it a nice place to take a walk or relax in peace and quiet for a little while.
Orchard Road: This is the best high end shopping district in the city. It's a great place to shop for cloths and gifts to take home with you. You'll find many western chain clothing stores along the street. There are also some high end restaurants that sell some good food of varying styles.
Popular FoodsLike the culture in Singapore, food throughout the city is really a combination of Indian, Malay and Chinese cuisines. There are a lot of seafood options available, many of which are served as curries or with Asian spices. You can find some excellent Indian food around the Little India area as well.
Chilli Crab: This dish is made with a whole crab that is coated in chilli sauce. The dish typically uses a mud crab which is common in the area. The sauce is made from tomatoes and chillies, although it is surprisingly mild with very little spice.
Laksa: This is a coconut curry soup that is made with noodles and shrimp. It is typically a very spicy dish. It's a combination dish that merges the cuisines of China and Malaysia with a subtle influence from Indonesia.
Popiah: These are popular spring rolls that are available either fresh or fried. They are often filled with vegetables and shrimp and are wrapped in a rice flour wrapper. They can be served as either an appetizer or as a snack.
For more information and an overview of the cuisine, see this great guide to what to eat in Singapore.