I first travelled to the island nation of Singapore sixteen years ago on a six month round the world trip. I remember a couple of things, how expensive it was for a backpacker and how incredible the heat and humidity was, especially for a pale skinned wanderer from The Wirral. I hadn’t given it a chance and I was eager to make up for lost time. After travelling through Oman, Kerala, and Sri Lanka, Mizzy and I were happy to be hitting a big city with a chance to feed our cravings.
We arrived at Changi Airport which is a city in itself: huge malls, food courts, cinema complexes and a huge slide going from top to bottom! Our bodies needed quick acclimatization.
The big question was: Can we survive this island of mass consumerism on a small daily budget without ruining the Singapore experience?! We were up for the task! We purchased our three day metro passes which are an essential piece of kit in this sprawling city. A three day pass gives you unlimited travel on the city’s world renowned MRT system, an underground network which is by far the best we’ve ever experienced: spotlessly clean (which is no wonder as you are fined S$500 for eating/drinking on the platforms or trains!); efficient to the second; spacious and cool as each carriage has air con…aahhhh! The three day pass costs S$20 (£11). An absolute bargain if you ask me…London, take note!
As we travelled smoothly on to Chinatown station, we made our way up the escalators in to the busy streets of Chinatown. The Chinese community have been living in this area since 1330 and continue to thrive here. Our hostel was across the street, we made our way to the traffic lights (also a S$500 fine for jay walking). It is pretty tough to find budget accommodation in this city of luxury five star hotels, but what we did find was a boutique (I hate this word as it adds about 20% onto your room rate!) capsule hostel for £60 for the two of us for three nights. In a great location, we had found ourselves a bargain! As the name suggests, it was going to be a tight squeeze. We had visions of being packed up like sardines, fighting for space in our claustrophobic piece of Singaporean real estate. Thankfully we were proven wrong as the hostel proved to be a spacious, clean and functional place to lay our weary heads. In fact, Miz has been asking if we can build a capsule pod around our bed when we can get home!
We used our MRT passes to visit Little India and an area called Kampong Glam in The Arabic Quarter of Singapore. The Sultan Mosque stands in the middle of these few streets along with coffee shops, middle eastern restaurants, carpet shops, bakeries and bazaars. It is home to Turkish, Lebanese and Iranian communities. The city really is a melting pot of cultures with hundreds of nationalities and religions living and working side by side.
We crammed many free attractions into our three day stay and found cheaper alternative things to do, instead of the extremely expensive regular tourist activities. A great way to see a bird’s eye view of Singapore is from its elevated walkways, a 10km network running through the heart of the city. A great experience we enjoyed in typical Mizark tradition, in the middle of the day searing heat with no water and in our flip flops. Why do I not listen to my dad who always tells me preparation is key?! Maybe you could go and check it out with a bit more preparation?!
Singapore is full of rooftop bars, gardens and pools offering expansive views across the landscape for a premium price. If you wanted to treat yourself to a great view with a fancy cocktail, the admission price is usually around $30 with a cocktail included. Sometimes it is definitely worth it! After a little bit of online research, we found a viewing deck at the world’s highest residential building; The Pinnacle @ Duxton. For $5 (£2.50), you can take the lift to the sixtieth floor and experience a 360° view of this extremely developed but green, old-meets-new metropolis.
Food and eating in general is one of our all time favourite pastimes when we travel (and at home!). It is essential to try all of the local delicacies. I’ll often hear Miz egging me on to try this and that, however disgusting it may look! Over the years, I can’t count the number of days I’ve spent in bed after sampling a whole spectrum of local food, from baby honey bees, to fried bugs, frogs and extra spicy dishes that poison your insides. This leaves me dreaming of the Mediterranean chippy in New Brighton back home. Don’t worry, it’s not all food challenges and paying the consequences, that’s just me, a curious weirdo! Singapore seriously is a foodie’s paradise, from top notch dining experiences to its famous food courts and Hawker centres. Hawker centres were set up as a more sanitary option to street side outdoor al fresco dining and are an essential part of Singaporean daily life. It is a unique and inexpensive way to taste beautifully fresh and tasty Asian food, sitting side by side with locals. I have to say we absolutely love this way of eating and have enjoyed some of our best ever meals at these mouthwatering eating holes. Hawker centres are located at dozens of locations across Singapore. Snacks/meals range from S$2 – S$12, (£1 – £6!), so extremely cheap for a traveller’s budget. Try the satay street at a hawker centre named Lau Pa Sat, it’s simply delicious!
Huge shopping malls which look like palaces are dotted around the city and are a good place to do a bit of people watching or window shopping, wondering how many lawns The Wirral Gardener would have to mow for that £75,000 gold Rolex watch. Marina Bay Sands Hotel and shopping mall offers an amazing free firework and light show every evening. Do not miss this, it’s a real spectacle…even if you do get a bit wet! (Sit at the back if you don’t want this to happen, haha!).
Other Awesome Singapore Experiences on a Budget.
Singapore Botanical Gardens.
We visited these beautiful gardens to find some shade and escape the midday heat. They are completely FREE apart from The Orchard Garden which houses the largest collection of orchards on the planet which is still only $5! The perfumed scent in here is stunning! The gardens offer a beautiful collection of tropical and exotic plants, a couple of cafés and lovely walkways. It is definitely worth a visit.
Gardens by the Bay
The largest and most visited attraction in the city is a national icon and receives seven million visitors each year. It’s a series of gardens, water features and the amazing super tree grove which are a series of unique vertical gardens resembling towering trees with large canopies and colourful lights at night. The gardens are FREE with just a couple of attractions which are payable. One which was our favourite thing to do here is a 30m walkway that connects the super trees. It’s well worth the $5 and the light and music show is pretty amazing with the city skyline as the backdrop…a definite WOW moment! Even better, you can still watch this show from the ground for absolutely free if you don’t want to pay the $5 or if you want to watch it every night of your trip!
Overall, Singapore is a great destination for a budget conscious traveller and we would highly recommend two or three days here. With a bit of research and imagination your money can stretch a long way. My experience of fifteen years ago is a distant memory. Singapore is simply splendid. Hope you have enjoyed the blog. Like, comment and follow for more adventures! Now onto Malaysia.