Singapore on a Budget

Being one of the most progressive countries in Asia, and probably the most advanced economy in Southeast Asia, Singapore is not surprisingly an expensive country in the region to travel to. Not when you are a first-time traveler. In my first trip here back in 2008, we were astounded to feel as though we were burning cash — from food to entrance fees to accommodation. It was a lesson learned the hard way.

There was no way that I was willing to shell out a lot of money in this Singapore leg of our 2012 trip. Hence, I spent a huge amount of effort in planning and budgeting to arrive at a reasonable sum of Singapore dollars to spend on this trip, taking into consideration that we had only 36 hours to spend here.

Here are ways to cut back on your Singapore travel expenses:

1.Buy an EZ-link card

One of the cheapest and fastest ways of going around the city is via the MRT. It consists of four lines, connecting the entire city state. The EZ-link card gives you access not only to the MRT but also to the bus system. If you’re planning to go around a lot, this is a sure time and money saver. All you need is SGD 12, but only SGD 7 is consumable, as the rest covers the cost of the card.

2.Eat at Hawker Centers

Singapore has a lot of restaurants, but prices here can hit sky-high. (Disclaimer: Most Westerners don’t notice the difference in costs, but once you’ve been around Southeast Asia, you’ll get what I mean.) Luckily, hawker centers offer cheap meals (again, in Singapore standards). These are al fresco food courts with a handful of restaurants selling a wide array of dishes. Meals range from SGD 6 to 15. However, prices vary greatly across locations. Logically, a more expensive neighborhood translates to higher prices of meals.


Seriously, this city is very nice to walk around in. Sidewalks are wide and much can be seen while walking. You can even create your own walking tour. I personally liked going around the colonial district. I would have wanted to walk around Chinatown or Little India, had there been enough time. Just make sure to wear your most comfortable pair of shoes!

4. Stay far from the action…

…and the spend most of your time exploring the city. Hotel prices in Singapore can be very high — a total shock if you just crossed the border from Malaysia where room prices are much lower. Typically, hotels near the MRT or near an attraction are very expensive. My solution: choose a hotel which is near a bus stop that connects to the MRT. Most probably, the rooms are cheaper here. Since transportation is efficient in Singapore, you should have no problem. Just know which bus number to take from your hotel to the MRT, and vice-versa. With your EZ-link card in hand, this should be easy.

5. See the city slowly

Whether you are in Orchard Road or in One Fullerton, sometimes it’s nice to just sit still and see the Singaporean way of life. Grab a cup of coffee or tea, and the see the people who pass you buy. Cherish the moment, and realize that you are, indeed, in one of the modern cities in Asia.

If you’re going to an attraction, experience it to the fullest. Never ever go to a place just for the sake of being there. STAY. Do not squeeze a lot of attractions in just one day — you won’t get your money’s worth, as rushing tends to kill the fun that vacations are designed for. Planning to see Sentosa? Give it a day. Universal Studios? Another day. The only exception would be the Singapore Zoo and the Night Safari, as they are near each other, and the latter opens at 7PM. Technically, it’s not about saving money, just getting your money’s worth. After all, the fees that you paid were hard earned money, so spend it wisely.

Next time, I’ll post how I made use of these tips to save money while we were in Singapore.

How do you save money when travelling? Let me know!