Singapore on a budget | Itinerary

Singapore is expensive, and therefore not usually a popular option for people on a budget. Sure there are fancy restaurants, designer shops, trendy cocktail bars but there is so much more to this diverse city-state. It is a melting pot of cultures where in one day it can feel as though you have visited 4 different parts of the world; Singapore, China, India and the Middle East. For us we booked tickets on a whim because many flights stopped there for a few hours so we thought why not make a few days out of it! As it was approaching I was so worried we would not be able to do anything, I was so wrong!

What to do for free

1. Gardens by the bay

Did you know you can see most of Gardens by the Bay for FREE?? Well, now you know! You only need to pay to access a few activities but they are pricey. We decided to see all the free bits first and then decide what else we wanted to see. The view of Marina Bay Sands and the supertrees were incredible and could be viewed from most parts of the park. Free admission allows you to see the nighttime lightshow, large Kingfisher and Dragonfly lake, sculptures, heritage gardens, sun pavilion, the canyon and world of plants.

I suggest visiting 3 hours before sunset, this is perfect amount of time to see everything, have some food and see the light show. The light show was one of the highlights of my whole trip, it was magical! Although we did not pay to access the other attractions I do not feel that I missed out on anything. I had a brilliant time, saw everything I wanted to and more. Sticking to the free things at gardens by the bay is great way to visit Singapore on a budget.

Admission

Cloud Forest & Flower Dome $53 adult / $40 child
Floral Fantasy $20 adult / $12 child
OCBC Skyway $12 / $8 child
Supertree Observatory $14 / $10 child

Find out more

2. Fort Canning Park

Another park, not as sparkly as Gardens by the Bay but it is still impressive. Once Singapores largest Christian cemetery and the headquarters for the British army during the Japanese invasion of Singapore in 1942, Nowadays Fort Canning Park is a popular entertainment venue that is home to cocoa trees, chickens, 9 historical gardens and much more!

3. Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade

Located a few metres from Gardens by the Bay the promenade offers breathtaking views of Singapore seafront and skyscrapers. If you are lucky you will also be able to see some local otters, currently there are two types, the critically endangered smooth coated otter and the Asian small clawed otter.

Aside from skyscrapers and otter other notable things to see here is the Merlion fountain, Helix Bridge, Spectra light show, rain oculus and Marina Bay Sands hotel and Shoppes. There is also a rooftop garden/walkway on top of the Shoppes. Although the shopping centre has a large number of designer shops and may not be top of your list if you are visiting Singapore on a budget, I would still have a look around, there is a Venice inspired indoor canal close to the oculus and in general it is interesting to walk around.

4. Chinatown on a budget in Singapore

Colourful, vibrant and full of history, it is hard not to fall in love with Singapores Chinatown! It is another great place to explore on a budget in Singapore.

So what can you do for free in Chintown? Links will lead you to google maps so you can easily save them for your visit.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple – beautiful grand temple with a rooftop garden
Sri Mariamman Temple – colourful and peaceful Hindu temple. You must purchase a ticket if you plan to take photos inside
Ann Siang Hill Park – small scenic park with fantastic views of the city
Pearl’s Hill City Park – hilltop park, chance of seeing some otters
Chinatown Street Market

Where to eat on a budget in Singapores Chinatown

Maxwell Centre – home to the famous Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice
Hawker Chan – the world’s first Michelin starred hawker stall. Their most popular dish is soy sauce chicken
Chinatown Complex Market and Food Centre – there are so many affordable stalls here to taste some new and familiar dishes. It really is a maze of tempting smells!
Oriental Chinese Restaurant – a taste of Northern China!
Lucky Lucky

5. Little India on a budget in Singapore

Little India took me completely by surprise, it truly felt like I was transported from Singapore to the streets of India, ok I guess it was not as busy but you catch my drift. It really is a kaleidoscope of colors and the scent of tasty food is certainly in the air.

Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple – Hindu
Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple – temple of 1,000 lights
Tan Teng Niah House – notable colourful building
India Arcade – indoor market
Murals – there are many detailed and vibrant murals in Little India

Where to eat on a budget in Singapores Little India

Tekka Centre
Chilli & Pepper
Mustard
Komala‘s Restaurants
Khansama Tandoori

6. Kampong Glam on a budget in Singapore

This area felt like I was back in Istanbul, the paths are lined with Turkish restaurants, middle eastern shops, persian rugs and the spectacular Sultan’s mosque that takes centre stage.

There is not as much to do here compared to Chinatown and little India but it is definitely still worth a visit.

Sultan’s Mosque: Going back to 1929 this mosque is a snapshot in time, only a small number of repairs have been made. It truly is breathtaking with its gold domes and pastel shades.
Haji Lane: Colourful lane filled with lots of restaurant, trendy shops and cafes
Bussorah Mall: pedestrianised street lined with palm trees and a fabulous view of Sultan’s mosque in the background. It is an extremely instagrammable spot

Where to eat on a budget in the Muslim Quarter

It is worth noting that the cafes and restaurants on Muscat Street and Arab Street do not sell any alcohol. However, the coffee, pastries and koftas are very inviting! Also, the picturesque Haji Lane does sell alcohol.

Pita Bakery – fresh pitas, falafels and hummus
ENAK – Malaysian cuisine
Overrice – healthy bowls, pitas and small bites
Tarik – tea, coffee and small bites
Honeybee – ice cream, lattes, bubble tea

7. MacRitchie Treetop walk

MacRitchie Treetop walk - Singapore on a budget

MacRitchie forest is a suspension bridge walk set at a height of 25 meters that allows you to see Singapore in a different light. This scenic experience offers surreal views of the surrounding forest, serving as a respite in nature away from Singapore city. The journey to the top spans 3.5 kilometers and takes approximately 1.5 hours.

8. Southern Ridges

The Southern Ridges is an elevated walkway and connects Kent Ridge Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park, and Mount Faber Park. A walk here will serve you with panoramic views of the park and the Singapore skyline. As it is not a tourist hotspot, the area is pretty quiet, and at times, it can feel like you have the space all to yourself.

One of the most interesting features of the park is the Henderson Waves – the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore. The iron arches completely curve and twist like a wave, while the path slightly dips and rises. It is here that you will get some of the best views of the city skyline and also a place to rest under the various shelters.

The walk officially starts at Kent Ridge Park. The canopy walk here is only 10 minutes, but there is a large variety of different species such as fruit bats, lizards, monkeys, and birds. I did not see any monkeys, but there are signs stating to watch out for them.

Where to eat in Singapore on a budget

If you are on a budget in Singapore then you will likely become familiar with Hawker centres. Hawker centres are basically food markets that serve a wide range of tasty, high quality and affordable food. Did you know that some are even Michelin starred? Here are some in the city centre that you might want to save to your google map list:

Market Street Hawker Centre
Hong Lim Market & Food Centre
Maxwell Food Centre

Lau Pa Sat
Golden Mile Food Centre
Chinatown Complex

Aside from Hawker Centres 2 places I highly recommend that are affordable are:

Phat Fingers – tasty and affordable korean fried chicken
cookie & coffee – a free cookie with every drink


Where to stay on a budget in Singapore

Marina Bay Sands may be the dream but if you are on a budget it will have to remain a dream. However do not fear, check out my list of nice hotels that are suitable for us travellers on a budget.

Jayleen Clarke Quay Hotel
Hotel Bencoolen
Hotel Mi
Hotel Mono
Lion Peak Hotel Raffles
ST Signature Tanjong Pagar
Oxford Hotel
Hotel 81 Chinatown
BEAT. Capsule Hostel

Getting around Singapore on a budget

Public transport in Singapore is its efficient, convenient, and widespread with an extensive network of buses, trains, and taxis.

The easiest way to get around is on the MRT system with lines spanning the entire island. The carriages are clean, comfortable and have AC. The MRT stations are all very accessible with ramps and escalators.

Singapore also has a fantastic bus network that covers virtually every corner of the city. Bus stops will display the bus number that stopS there, you will also need to stick your arm out to signal for them to stop.

Payment can be made by contactless card, apple pay, EZ link card (pre paid, purchased at MRT stations) and Singapore tourist pass.

Additionally, the government promotes cycling with dedicated cycling paths throughout the city.

Cost of public transport in Singapore

MRT: The basic adult fare ranges from approximately SGD 0.83 to SGD 2.25, depending on the distance. Additional peak hour fares, which are approximately 25% higher, apply during designated peak hours on weekdays.

Bus: The basic adult fare starts at around SGD 0.92 for journeys up to 3.2 kilometers and then increases with the distance. Similar to the MRT, peak hour fares are higher during designated peak hours.

EZ-Link Card: Using an EZ-Link card, a contactless stored-value card, offers convenience and potential cost savings. With the card, you can enjoy discounted fares compared to paying in cash. EZ-Link card fares for both MRT and buses start from approximately SGD 0.77 for shorter distances and increase with the distance traveled.

Singapore Tourist Pass: For visitors, the Singapore Tourist Pass offers unlimited rides on buses and trains for a specific duration (1, 2, or 3 days). The pass costs SGD 10 for a 1-day pass, SGD 16 for a 2-day pass, and SGD 20 for a 3-day pass. These passes provide cost-effective options for tourists exploring the city extensively.

Getting here

Singapore’s Changi airport is a major international transport hub with many flights arriving/departing daily. The national airline is Singapore Airlines but they tend to be quite expensive, thankfully they offers a budget carrier Scoot Airlines who I really recommend. They are my choice budget airline while travelling Asia. You can read about my experience with them here.

Best time to visit Singapore

Singapore experiences a tropical rainforest climate, meaning it tends to be hot and humid all year. The wettest months are November to January, while May to July tends to be drier.

The peak tourist season is from December to February. The shoulder seasons, such as April/May or September/October will be quieter.

Do you need a visa for Singapore?

Thankfully a large number of countries can enter Singapore visa free, you can find the list of countries that require a visa here. Everyone entering Singapore are required to complete the Singapore arrival card prior to arrival. This card will be linked to your passport, if you do not complete it then it will be flagged at the electronic passport gates and you will be required to join a queue at another desk.

You may also be asked for proof of onward travel and that you have enough funds for your duration of time in Singapore. I was not asked this but it is a good idea to keep it in mind.

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