10 Must-Follow Travel Hacks for Singapore

by Mar 11, 2019Budget Travel, Singapore

Singapore has a bad reputation for being an expensive place to travel in. And it’s partly true. Accommodations are the most expensive in Asia, and ticket prices to many attractions like the zoo, Gardens by the Bay, and a few museums are high. However, if you follow the detailed tips below, you can save some money in Singapore and still have a good time.

If you’re looking for an itinerary to Singapore, check out my 5 Days in Singapore Travel Guide

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Travel Tip #1: Airport

The first way you can save money in Singapore is on the transportation you take to and from the airport. There are two affordable ways to get to and from Changi Airport: subway and shuttle bus.

Oh and by the way, don’t forget to stop at the Changi Jewel before leaving the airport. It’s FREE! And it’s AMAZING!

Subway / Train

The subway, or Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) as Singapore calls it, is the cheapest. To give you some idea of how cheap it is, you can go from the airport to Chinatown for S$1.80 SGD (US$1.33). You should be able to get to and go from popular tourist places like the Colonial District, Little India and Kampong Glam for a similar amount.

Here is the SMRT’s website. You can enter your departure address to find out how to get to your destination.

However, there’s a downside to the subway. For one thing, the trip might take at least an hour. Second, you’ll need to change lines at least once and maybe even twice. Third, if you go at rush hour, the trains will be packed. If you’re like me and you’re exhausted from such a long flight and/or you’ve got too much luggage, then try the next cheapest, the shuttle bus.

City Shuttle Bus

The next cheapest way to get to and from the airport is by shuttle bus. It’s more comfortable than taking the subway. It’s also easy to purchase tickets for it. If you’re going from the airport, just go to the shuttle bus concierge desk located in every terminal.  The desks also have ticket machines where you can buy your ticket. Just enter the name of your hotel and money for the ride, and you’ll get a ticket with your time of departure.

If you’re going from your accommodations to the airport, you can book your pickup online here. I didn’t know about this service when I was in Singapore, so I’m not sure how smooth it works.

I did take the shuttle to my hostel in Chinatown. My ride cost S$9 SGD (US$6.64).

The airport website says that shuttle bus’s concierge desks are open 24 hours and that buses leave every 15 minutes during regular hours and 30 minutes during off-peak hours.

If you’re wondering whether the buses go to your accommodations, you can check here for a list of them. You can also book your ride online at the same web address as well.

Taxi

Taxis are going to be more expensive than the other two methods, but it won’t be nearly as expensive as in a lot of other cities like Hong Kong or Tokyo. According to the Changi Airport website, here are taxi fare examples:

Peak hours: 6:00 am – 9:00 am; 6:00 pm – 12:00 am: S$30 – S$35 (US$22-26)

 Off-peak hours: all other times – S$20 – $30  (US$15-$22)

My hostel booked a taxi for me. It cost me S$20 (US$15) from Kampong Glam to the airport at around 6:00 pm. I thought the price was pretty reasonable. Just make sure you know what terminal you need to go to before getting into the taxi. I didn’t and I had no internet service to check while in the taxi. Luckily, Tripit had sent me an email earlier with the information.

Travel Tip #2: SIM Cards

You can also save money by getting a local SIM card. There are three different brands of tourist SIM cards: Singtel, M1, and Starhub.

Compare prices, total amount of gigabytes, how many minutes of international calls, and whether you can use it in other countries.

You can pick the SIM card up at the airport, 7-11 stores, Cheers stores, or at the telecom’s own stores around the city. Just go to their website to find out exact locations.

I chose Singtel and picked it up at the airport. I got S$15  (US$11) Tourist SIM Card good for 7 days. It had 4 GB with 100 GB for local calls; unlimited Facebook, 1 GB for roaming when in Malaysia and Thailand, and 30 minutes of international calls. I had no problems using it in Malaysia.

Singtel switched out my old SIM, taped it to the card that the new SIM came in and put the new SIM in for me.

Travel Tip #3: Public Transport

The best way to get around the city is by subway (MRT) and bus. It’s clean, convenient, easy to use, and best of all, cheap.

Check out MRT’s website here.

You can also get an app for the MRT here.

To find my way around Singapore’s metro system, I relied mainly on Google maps and a paper subway map.

Travel Tip #4: Walking

You can save even more money by walking instead of taking public transportation. Singapore is a very easy place to walk around. There are lots of sidewalks and some of them are covered, giving you protection from rain and the bright sun.

What’s more is that just by walking around, you can unexpectedly come upon some wonderful artwork, heritage, and history.

You can come across some great street art.

Another great thing about Singapore is its shophouse architecture. Just gorgeous. And by walking, you can really see a lot.

Because Singapore is so proud of their heritage, you’ll find signs or placards everywhere telling you about the history of the street you’re on or the history and importance of a particular building.

Sidewalks are often covered by the shophouses. They keep you dry when it’s rainy and cool when it’s sunny.

You can also walk around at night looking at the views of the city. It’s free and safe.  There’s a cool light show every night at 8:00 that you can watch for free across from the Marina Bay Sands. I enjoyed looking at Singapore at night more than I did spending S$68 (US$50) looking at lethargic animals that you can barely see at the Night Safari.

Travel Tip #5: GRAB

Sometimes you might need to travel to places that are too difficult to reach by public transportation or you’ve got too much luggage to go by MRT or bus. Don’t call a taxi. Use Grab instead. Grab is like Uber. Download their app onto your phone. And just like Uber, you can use the App to book a ride. The App will tell you when a driver is available to pick you up and how much it will cost. The difference between Grab and Uber is that with Grab, you’ll pay the driver in cash when you arrive at your destination.

A few things to remember with Grab:

  • Grab drivers get really upset if you’re not waiting outside for them when they come by.
  • If you’re using a Tourist SIM card, you’re using a card that probably someone else had used before. Then the name that shows up for the Grab driver is the name of the previous owner of the SIM card. It might be safer to change the name on the SIM card. When I was in Singapore, my Grab drivers thought they would be picking up a Bangladeshi man.

Just a bit about how much it cost me to get to places: S$11 (US$8) to go from Chinatown to Katong, S$9 (US$7) to go from Dempsey Hill to Chinatown, and S$9 (US$7) to go from Chinatown to Little India. I know these names don’t mean anything to you now, but trust me in that Grab is a pretty good deal compared to taking a taxi in any other developed country around the world.

Travel Tip #6: Tourist Pass?

As a tourist, you have three options for paying for public transportation: 1-day, 2-day, or 3-day tourist pass, individual tickets or an EZ Link Card. Which one is the most budget friendly and still convenient?

Tourist Pass

A tourist pass allows you to take public transportation as many times as you want for a fixed total price per day. A 1-day tourist pass is S$10 (US$8), A 2-day one is S$16 (US$12), and a 3-day pass S$20 (US$15). You need to put down a S$10 deposit, which you can get back when you return the card. Once the day is up, your card turns into an E-Z Link card, which you can put additional money onto. I

Individual Tickets

On the other hand, individual rides in Singapore usually cost less than S$2. Go to the MRT website to get an idea of how much it will cost you. Here are some fare examples:

  • Changi Airport to Chinatown: S$1.88 (US$1.38)
  • Chinatown to City Hall: S$0.83 (US$0.61)
  • Chinatown to Marina Bay (Gardens by the Bay): S$0.83 (US$0.61)
  • Chinatown to Ang Mo Kio (Singapore Zoo): S$1.47 (US$1.08) + fare for a bus ride (cost unknown)

You’d need to ride the subway or bus at least five or six times to make the day pass worth it. When I was in Singapore, I rode it one to four times per day.

But isn’t it more convenient to use a day pass than purchasing individual tickets?

Not really. When you buy individual tickets, you can add money to your ticket at ticket machines throughout the station with S$10 or whatever amount you want and use it for up to 6 rides and for up to 30 days. The card is plastic, so it’s pretty durable. The card costs only 10 cents, and you get a refund of that amount on your third trip and then another 10 cents back on your sixth trip.

EZ-Link Card

Another option is to get an EZ-Link card at Transit Link Ticket Offices and Passenger Service Centers at MRT stations or at 7-11 stores. You can then use the card like a debit card for public transportation. You can put additional money onto your card at the ticket machines at MRT stations. You can use it for an unlimited number of rides and days. There is a S$5 (US$4) refundable deposit. You can also get a refund on what you don’t use at the Transit Link Ticket Offices or Passenger Service Centers at MRT stations. Find out more information about EZ-Link cards here.

If you do still want to get a tourist pass, just don’t get the one at the Changi Recommends counter at the airport. They are really, really pricey at S$38 (US$28). They charge this much because the card is supposed to be commemorative.

Travel Tip #7: Hawker Centres

The best thing about Singapore is the food and the second best thing is the price of the food. It’s cheap. That is as long as you eat at hawker centers and not in restaurants with waiters and waitresses. Hawker centers are like food courts except that they’re not filled with chain restaurants. They’re also huge and busy.  And I need to add that the food at hawker centers can be really good. One of my tour guides said that many Singaporeans get all of their meals at these centers since they work late and don’t have time or energy to cook. Whenever I went to one, they were packed with people of all ages.

I don’t remember exactly how much I paid for everything I ate at hawker centers. Typically, I paid between S$3 and S$7 (US$2.20 and $5.15). At the Michelin Star Hawker Chan’s Soya Sauce Chicken restaurant, I paid S$3.80 (US$2.80) for a dish of his famous chicken. When I ate at a sit-down and be served restaurant, the price was S$22 (US$16.19) for Hokkien Mee, which is a simple noodles dish that you can get at a Hawker Center, and something to drink.

At the Maxwell Hawker Center in Chinatown, I paid S$30 (US$22) for chili crab, which is a whole crab cut up with a chili tomatoey sauce over it. It’s the best thing I ate in Singapore. It would have been twice or three times that at a real restaurant.

Are they clean? Yes, they are. I mean come on. Singapore is famous for being uber clan and notorious for having strict rules with severe punishment. I also saw health inspection grades outside of each restaurant. Every place I saw had a grade of A or B. I was told that the centers are also closed periodically for fumigation.

Travel Tip #8: Free Tours

You can save a lot of money in Singapore by taking free tours. There are two types of free tours: there are the free walking tours offered by tour companies and then there are the free guided museum tours.

Free walking tours

Tour companies offer free walking tours. I didn’t try these tours as they conflicted with other activities.

1. Monster Day Tours

These tours are free, but it’s recommended that you tip the guide. As of March 8, 2019, these were their free walking tours:

  • Kampong Glam tours – Mondays, 9:30 am – 12:00 pm
  • Chinatown tour – Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays: 9:30 am – 12:00
  • Little India – Wednesday, Friday, Sunday: 9:30 am – 12:00 pm
  • Marina Bay Sands and Gardens By the Bay: 4:30 – 7:00 pm
  • Civic District and Singapore River: 4:30 – 7:00 pm
  • Bugs & Bras Basah: 4:30 – 7:00 pm

2. Indie Tours

These tours are free, but it’s recommended that you tip the guide:

  • “Original” Tour through Chinatown – Tuesdays and Fridays: 9:30 am – 12:30 pm
  • “Overview” Tour down the Singapore River and Marina Bay – Mondays: 9:30 am – 12:30 pm
  • “Balik Kampong” Bugis and Kampong Glam Tour – Wednesdays: 9:30 am – 12:30 pm
  • “Sari, Spice and Everything Nice” Tour through Little India – Thursdays: 9:30 am – 12:30 pm
  • “Evening Secrets” Tour through Chinatown – Wednesdays and Thursdays: 4:00 pm – 6:30 pm

3. National Parks

The national parks have several free tours. Just check out their website.

 

4. Sneak Peek Singapore Tours

  • Signature Tour: Mondays and Saturdays – 1:00 – 6:00 pm – pay as you wish (minimum S$22 (US$17).

Free tours at museums

Museums in Singapore also have daily free guided tours in English. Tipping is not necessary. The National Museum of Singapore and the National Gallery tours were excellent. I didn’t try the other tours as they conflicted with other activities.

Travel Tip #9: Water

It’s safe to drink the water in Singapore, so fill up your water bottles at the hotel, hostel, or Airbnb. The two hostels I stayed at had filtered water machines.

Travel Tip #10: Hostels

I’m not a big fan of hostels, but hotels in Singapore were just too expensive for me. And conveniently located Airbnbs were still too expensive. Staying at a hostel might not be the most comfortable experience but it’ll save you a ton of money. If you get a nice hostel, they’re really not too bad. The two I stayed in had privacy curtains, a safe, and a small lamp over your bed. They were also both centrally located.

Adler House – Chinatown

I stayed at Adler House hostel in Chinatown. It’s older so it’s a bit more worn down than I expected from all the raving Lonely Planet had for it. The people who worked there weren’t the most knowledgeable either.

The Pod – Kampong Glam

I also stayed at the Pod in Kampong Glam. It’s newer and cleaner with more helpful staff. I’d probably stay there, though, just for the free breakfast. I’d never seen a hostel breakfast this good before. Also, it was cheaper than the Adler House.

Singapore isn’t really as expensive as people think. I’d say accommodations will be the biggest part of your budget. Paid tours like food tours and some sites like the Singapore Zoo can be pricey. However, food and transportation are inexpensive. And walking around looking at all the heritage architecture is free!

What other budget tips do you know about for Singapore?

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Singapore noodles and colorful windows in Singapore
10 Amazing Travel Hacks Singapore

5 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing these tips to save money when in SG. These tips would help a lot of people when they are planning to visit SG.

    Reply
    • Thanks!

      Reply
  2. Singapore can be expensive! Thanks for the great tips Julie. I would like to explore Singapore more but we also like beer and coffee, these items are the most expensive and really make enjoying Singapore hard.

    Reply
    • Hi Kristine! I’m glad you liked the tips. I can’t remember how much alcohol was in Singapore. But coffee wasn’t that expensive.

      Reply
  3. Never been in Singapore before but seems definitely worth it!! Thanks for all your tips, can’t wait to return traveling… miss it so much…

    Reply

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About the Bamboo Traveler

Julie Krolak

Hi! I’m Julie, the Bamboo Traveler!  This blog is devoted to helping the inquisitive traveler explore a country’s history and culture. On this site, you’ll find itineraries to help you plan your trip, reviews to help you make more informed decisions, lots of history and cultural information to help make your travels more meaningful, and book recommendations to help you understand a place more deeply.

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