Singapore Swing: Top Saving Hacks for Your Next Trip
3rd August 2018
Singapore, oh Sigh-apore! Fifth time in a row, Singapore has been dubbed the world’s most expensive city. Glitzy, eco and futuristic, the island nation attracts millions of tourist each year.
With its world-famous Changi International Airport (that, among other attractions, offers a swimming pool, theater, and a museum where you can while away your time), Singapore makes a convenient transfer point for further Asia travel. So why not stop here for a while and spend a few days?
Your Singapore trip doesn’t have to cost you a fortune! Use my ideas on how to enjoy the city break without ruining your budget. All it takes is just a few simple travel swaps.
1. Family Entertainment. Swap Sentosa for Haw Par Villa and Light Marina Bay
Yes, Sentosa is one of the top tourist attractions of the Little Red Dot.
But when you think of it, it’s not unique at all. You can pop in the Universal Studios in Hollywood, Orlando, or Osaka, and spectacular aquaria and sea worlds are found all over the globe.
Haw Par Villa
On the other hand, this is a genuinely unique Singaporean experience:
Haw Par Villa, formerly known as Tiger Balm Gardens, is a century-old theme park in Singapore, built by the makers of the famous Tiger Balm, the Haw-Par brothers. Ghoulish and freaky, the park is a ravishing wonder that guides you through the traditional Chinese values, stories, and beliefs.
The park is easily accessible by the metro (Circle Line 5, The Haw Par Villa stop), and there is no entrance fee. For more info, go to the official website.
Spectra Light Show
When you come back from the land of creepy wonders, check in at the Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade for the evening light & water show. The mesmerizing display takes about 15 minutes and is entirely free of charge. For show times and details, visit the Spectra website: https://www.marinabaysands.com/entertainment/spectra.html.
2. The Top View: Skip Sands SkyPark and Choose OCBC Skyway
Impressive skyscrapers, “tallest ever” towers, blood-curdling skywalks… Who doesn’t love them?
If you’re ok with spending SGD 23 on elbowing your way through other people’s selfie sticks against the Singapore backdrop and then waiting an hour to two for a lift that will bring you down 57 floors to end that madness, go to Sands SkyPark.
If you’d rather spend three times less for a leisurely walk in a garden, while still being able to enjoy the city skyline, take a stroll to the nearby Gardens by the Bay, and buy a ticket for the Skyway.
3. Nature: Explore Botanic Gardens
While you’re in Gardens by the Bay, you may be tempted to go inside the domes. If you do, this will cost you over SGD 20. While it may be worthwhile, we’re talking about cost-cutting here, so here’s the thrifty option.
First of all, the outside gardens are a delight on their own, and they are publicly accessible.
Secondly, if you have green fingers and love lazy walks in the park, you must check out the enormous Singapore Botanic Gardens. They are incredibly entertaining, beautifully-maintained, full of spectacular fauna, and… free (but for the orchid garden, but you can enter the park without visiting this section). My favorite parts? The rainforest, which transported me back to a Borneo jungle, and the humbling Giant Walk with massive trees.
4. City Sightseeing: Hop off and Get a Free App
To be perfectly honest, I use the hop-on, hop-off buses from time to time. They are convenient, you can learn something along the way, and you don’t need to pay extra for the communication.
Yet Singapore is pretty walkable, and let’s not forget that we’re trying to save some money here. So keep the bus pass, get your best Crocs, and download one of the many spectacular apps that will help you explore and enjoy the city:
- Singapore Travel Guide and Offline Map: this app includes an offline map, a list of top city attractions with a description and a museum reference. Available on iOS and Android
- The Official Visit Singapore App: contains information and suggestions about places of interest, travel and route recommendations, travel ratings, and nearby points of interest; iOS
- MRT Offline: an offline metro map; iOS and Android versions
- Grab: the local Uber replacement, very cheap, extremely popular, but the quality of service is pretty shifting; Download Grab.
5. Food: For Gourmet Heaven, Descend to the Basement
Supermarkets may not seem the best places to eat great food. Well, not in Singapore. Apparently here they are THE places to gorge.
An average supermarket food hall in Singapore looks like this, and is located either on the top floor (or rooftop) or in the basement:
Hundreds of tables, dozens of stalls & shops serving a variety of food around. You order your food and sit wherever. Drinks are frequently served by a single shop to all tables, though not necessarily so.
And the food? Have a look:
Thai, Malaysian, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Burmese, I could go on all night… It’s a glutton’s heaven.
And the best part is… for a scrumptious dish that will fill you up, you will pay between $4-12. A good deal and a hearty meal!
And you may find some rare delicacies in a supermarket, too (here, a century egg served by the renowned Din Tai Fung restaurant – cost us $3):
6. Sleep Tight – Look for Alternatives to Marina Bay Sands
Marins Bay Sands may be one of the most iconic hotels in the world, but it’s probably one of the most expensive, too. At a random check, the least expensive room on an average Tuesday night in August costs around $480 per night.
That would be WITHOUT breakfast.
Worry not. There are some cheaper options in the town.
Although finding budget accommodation in Singapore may be difficult, consider one of the following if you’re really strapped for cash:
- Check out Chinatown, Little India, Bugis and Kampong Glam areas for cheaper lodgings. These districts typically offer more affordable accommodation.
- If you’re OK with hostels, then try out this website where you may be able to find dorm beds in a decent location from as low as $8-10 per night: https://www.hostelworld.com/
- Try out capsule hotels. Depending on the location and standard, they will set you back $50-$80 USD per night.
- If you’re looking for the ‘comfy without splurgy’ deal, how about trying one of the hotel chains? The ones popular in Singapore are Holiday Inn, Fragrance Hotels, Aqueen, or Hotel 81, for example. The price? Anything between $80-$120 USD per night.