Sparkly, clean and fiercely organised. Singapore has always been in my travel bucket.
For a backpacker, Singapore is expensive by South-East Asian standards. If you’re landing from destinations like Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, please be aware that most costs will be double in price.
Regardless, I highly recommend a visit for a few days. If you learn one thing from a visit to the city-state, it would be that the Singaporeans live in ethnic harmony. They practice diversity to their advantage and respect each other’s beliefs and religions. They’ve nailed it. You rarely hear about racial tensions in Singapore right?
So, how to do Singapore on the cheap? Write down my recommendations and thank me later.
If you’re a foodie, please eat at any Hawker Centre. You won’t want to eat anywhere else. They’re big communal food courts where the locals eat. If you’re looking for fine-dining, this is not the place. Loud and busy with a school canteen atmosphere, the food is authentic, cheap and delicious. It houses a mixed bag of Singaporean, Chinese, Malaysian and Indian dishes. The easiest ones to get to are Maxwell Food Centre, Gluttons Bay and Newton Circus Food Centre. Go to the places with the biggest queue, and you won’t regret it.
Chinatown/Smith Street is worth a visit; you don’t need to go into any of the restaurants as the street food is incredible. I had platefuls of dishes there for $1-$5 (SGD).
Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to go, but a birdy recommended Little India for the vegetables and unusual snacks.
Singaporean Foods to try:
Hainese Chicken Rice
Mee Goreng, Chilli Crab
Fish Head Curry
Fried Carrot Cake
Hokkien Prawn Mee
Any Noodle Soup
Ok, disclaimer, I have to admit that as a backpacker, I slept in a fancypants hostel. I know, I’m a traitor. The original plan was to stay at a budget one, but I had food poisoning the week before, and I wanted to treat myself to a nice bed. I wasn’t disappointed; I opted for a custom-made cabin with silky bedding and satin blackout curtains. I highly recommend Alder Hostel if you’re looking for comfort. For budget options, try couch surfing at the link in the title (please be cautious and always check reviews!), or there’s plenty of good hostels on this site.
Travel & Free Attractions – the free stuff
Singapore is tiny, and the central attractions are close-knit, so get ready to walk. Take this route: Chinatown – Kompong Glam – Little India. FYI the MRT train is approx 10 SGD per day.
You’ll come across lots of temples which you can visit for free like the Buddha Tooth Relic and Thian Hock Keng Temple.
Check out the Singapore Symphony Orchestra; they host free concerts in throughout the year.
If you love nature, take a treetop hike and see the old bridge at the MacRitchie Reservoir Park. If you’re not into hiking and prefer to relax, then go and see the waterfalls at Singapore Botanic Gardens — don’t forget to see the ginger garden.
Don’t laugh at me, but the airport is AMAZING. Honestly, Changi Airport is my favourite airport. If you’re easily pleased (like me), arrive early for your departure flight and sit on the free massage chairs, admire the Kinetic Rain sculptures or go on the nature trail. I didn’t ever think that I would ever write a list of things to do in an airport.
Going on holiday or business trip?
Not everybody who will be reading this post will be a budget backpacker, so this is a list of where to splash if you’ve got the cash:
Marina Bay Sands – How can you not tick this one off? The Infinity Pool is totes’ Instagramable.
Visit Singapore Zoo – get up close and personal with the nocturnal animals at the night safari
Eat at the Boat Quay – if you like food with a view, there’s lots of alfresco pubs and restaurants here
Make a day trip to Sentosa – this island is packed with touristy things to do, it houses the Tiger Sky Tower, Underwater World aquarium, Circus Shows and Universal Studios.
Explore Bukit Timah Naturae Reserve – if you’re a wildlife lover go and see how many birds, macaques, squirrels and flying lemurs you can spot
Take a trip to Pulau Ubin – are you a history geek? Learn about the locals living in traditional villages known as “kampongs.” in the 1960s
If I’ve missed a must-see, let me know, and I’ll add it.
Please let me know if you’ve been or planning to go, I’ll love to hear from you.