This article was written by Sia Ling Xin, who travels andwrites about it for Asiarooms.com, a blog and online community focused ontravelling in Asia. You can also find her on Twitter.
Singaporeis known to be tiny, modern, and insanely expensive—especially next to herSoutheast Asian counterparts. While $50 USD is more than enough for travellersto live like a prince in nearby countries such as Thailand and Indonesia, thesame amount is barely enough for a hotel room in Singapore.
Still, with street food even Gordon Ramsay raved about,impeccably safe streets, and a location that makes it ideal as a stopover hub,there's no reason to give this city-state a miss. Yes, it is possible for thosetravelling on a budget to enjoy Singapore, just as the locals do. Here's whatyou need to know.
Get betterrates with an ez-link card
The ez-link (easy-link) card is a type of stored value cardfor public transit use, similar to the Oyster card in London. The cards have afirst-time cost of $12, of which $7 can be used to pay for public transport,and $5 is non-refundable. Having an ez-link card eliminates the tiresomeprocess of digging for enough change for a bus ticket or trying to calculatehow much each train journey costs as you would when buying per-trip tickets.Most importantly, it offers better rates than cash payment, so thenon-refundable $5 is easily set off. At the end of the day, you save yourselfthe hassle of figuring out transport costs, and you get a souvenir card thattruly represents life in Singapore!
When choosing to dine in a coffee shop or a hawker centre, gowhere the locals go. There are many open-air establishments that are coffeeshop style, but one look at the clientele—chockfull of foreigners with garishdecorations—and you know it is a tourist trap. A meal in a hawkercentre—inclusive of main, drink, and dessert—should always give you change backfrom $10. The eateries along the Chinatown shopping alley may seem authentic,but you will be hard pressed to find locals dining there. Makansutra GluttonsBay offers great views and is near the Esplanade theatres, but the dishes theretend to be pricier as well. Instead, head to places where you see locals congregating.Chinatown Food Centre, Maxwell Food Centre, or any neighbourhood hawker centrewill do nicely.
Come duringa festive public holiday
During festivals such as Chinese New Year, Mid-AutumnFestival, and Thaipusam, there is so much more to see, hear, and eat. DuringChinese New Year, for example, dancers and celebrities put up free performancesfor the public in areas like Chinatown.Street vendors also offer free samples of their festive goodies in a bid to revsales up. It is a good chance to see Singapore is a less sterile, worker-beestate, as well as capitalize on all the free food and performances goingaround.
Free museum days
Museums under the National Heritage Board have free admissionon public holidays,which makes even more sense to plan visits around festive periods.Alternatively, plan your museum visit around the periods of free or discountedadmission to save money. Many museums are located in convenient areas thattravellers would be probably passing by when sightseeing, such as the NationalMuseum of Singapore, which is within walking distance from the popularOrchard Road/Dhoby Ghaut shopping stretch. In this case, why not just pop byfor a quick and free look?
Choose yourhotel wisely
There is no need to splurge and spend $300 a night on a fancyhotel, even though some offer incredible views and rooms. Room standards inSingapore are decent, so even a budget hotel or hostel is safe and clean. Optfor hotels in Little India, Tanjong Pajar, or Chinatown—the locations areeasily accessible, there are a wide range of prices and room types to choosefrom, and it is fun checking out the nightlife in these areas. If you do notwant to miss out on the island fun Sentosa can offer, just make a day tripthere after stocking up on food and drink from nearby shopping mall Vivocity.Hotel and food prices on the upscale island can burn a hole in any backpacker'sworn pocket.
A day in Singapore is not going to come as cheap as a day ina neighbouring country, but it is not going to be exorbitant either. There arebargains and great discounts to be had here and they are not hard tofind—simply do as the locals do, and go where the locals go. Those who plan tospend their money wisely will wonder why anyone ever complained that the LionCity is expensive when it has so much to offer on the cheap.