Dude, what’s in Singapore?
As you may have already figured it out, Singapore is quickly becoming one of Asia’s most visited countries to date. In fact, about 16.4 million tourists visited the country in 2016! How crazy is that?!
Since going making the trip for the first time here many moons ago, I’ve made it my sole mission to make sure to visit every other year or at least have an airport layover at Changi whenever I go to the other side of our world.
From having friends make the move to seeing more expats, and tourists-alike visiting, Singapore has definitely stolen the hearts of many. And I’m putting this lightly.
It’s pretty hard to gage your budget for even a weekend trip to the Lion City as it’s been voted the most expensive country in the world. Which is why, despite my better judgement, I’ve decided to bring you this handy guide to not only making it through the weekend unscathed, but also how to manage your money as tourists.
Where do we stay?
Side note: I didn’t actually stay at Raffles….But isn’t it so pretty?!
Mum and I decided to make a weekend trip to the Lion City because of the great Singapore sale. I’m not even going to lie to you about it. Plus, because I was treating her to the tickets, and hotel, I wanted to make sure we were relatively close to Orchard Road — the big, famous shopping street.
Also, I noticed AirBnBs tend to cost as much as a hotel in this city, I opted to book the latter as they offer free shuttle services from the airport for tourists.
- Little India – As the name implies, it’s where a huge number of Indian expats reside. It goes well unto Lavender Street and Bugis Junction, both crowd favourites for the budget traveller.
- Bras Basah Road – All the way to Rochor Rd., you’ll find a selection of boutique to mid-range hotels in the area. It used to be one of the most bustling districts in Singapore, but has now been resigned to a connecting point to the River, Little India, and the beginning of Orchard.
- The Colonial District – In case you were wondering, this is where you’ll find the Raffles Hotel and a ton of other chic, expensive but old hotel chains in the city. Many foreigners choose to stay here because of how safe it is, and the beautiful neo-classical buildings surrounding you.
- Chinatown and Boat Quay – Not too far from the river, you’ll find many boutique hotels and small coffee shops aligning its side. Although Chinatown has been named as the: “you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all” kind of place, but believe me — Singapore’s probably has one of the best restaurants hidden here. Oh, and Din Tai Fung.
- Marina Bay – If you didn’t know, the place consists of both a hotel and big shopping mall. It’s also minute’s walk from Gardens by the Bay, the Singapore Flyer, and the Art and Science Museum.
- Orchard – Out of all these areas, I really loved my stay at Orchard. You’ll find high-end to mid-range, and even budget-friendly accommodation here which are all a 30-minute walk to the main shopping district.
- Sentosa – Although there isn’t much to do in Sentosa — expect for Universal Studios — I’ve noticed tons of foreigners also enjoy staying in this area. At least, the last time I was there. It’s relatively quiet in these parts and will take you an hour’s drive to the main city centre.
Expected budget for flight + hotel:
For this trip, I paid for a direct flight from Davao City, Philippines to Singapore via Cathay Pacific. It’s very convenient because we don’t have to pass by Manila or Cebu (although it changes for the latter).
Oh and side note, I love how you get to fly Singapore Airlines on all global destinations with a quick layover at Changi Airport. Arguably, the best airport I’ve ever been to. I’ve flown through these airlines for my trip to Europe, USA, South Africa, and Australia.
Since this was on sale and we booked relatively early (around mid-March), I paid SGD$175 per person. Normally, rates could go as high as SGD$225 to SGD$400, depending on when your trip is. The Lion City’s peak seasons are: September – March, July – early August.
As for the hotel, I opted to stay in the Orchard area and worked my way around establishments in Agoda. For the next 4 days, we booked a standard room in the Metropolitan Y Hotel. It’s a mid-range establishment located at one of the suburbs near the “great shopping road.”
If you’re interested in commuting (most people take taxis or Uber), there’s a bus stop right at the front of the place while the metro station is a 15-minute walk away. But to be fair, you can also take a stroll towards Orchard Road as it takes about 30 minutes to get there.
Just make sure you don’t walk in the heat and give yourself a stroke. Kidding.
(No, but seriously, Singapore’s temperature can go as high as 40 degrees!!!)
How to get around like a Local:
Yo, I’ll be the first to admit, the “typical tourist” stuff in Singapore is crazy expensive. For example, going to the museums at the gardens would cost $30 per person. Given, they’re a world expo and is one of those places, you just have to go to.
So, in the spirit of mixing your itineraries with both tourist and local destinations, I thought I would poke some fun and teach you how to commute. Or at the very least, not spend as much. Ha.
It honestly doesn’t get any more local than this. Since the Metropolitan Y Hotel is conveniently located in front of a bus stop, my Mum and I were able to easily navigate our way around the city with no worries for the first day of our stay.
Many buses in Singapore go around the same areas whilst there are only 1-5 which go farther than the centre. Also, because of the influx of tourists and expats in the city, the concierge announces which stop you’re at.
You can either pay for your bus tickets on board or rent a card from your hotel’s front desk. If you choose Option B, the deposit is $5 (in case of loss) and you can keep on reloading it there as well. Or you can opt to have it reloaded at the nearest MRT station.
Frankly, if there’s one thing to love about big Asian cities, it’s the functionality of trains. Ooh, and how fast they are!
Well, okay, you caught me — Manila has yet to have a solid train system. Meh.
Anyhoo, I do love how trains are so easy to navigate around Singapore. Since it’s a relatively small place, you only have three different lines: red, blue, green. They’re currently in the works on building a yellow one (as of: 06/2017).
Dude, no matter how much I like using Uber when I’m abroad, I can now safely tell you: You won’t be saving money from using it. Same as through with taxis, which made my wallet cry. A lot.
Because we left the city on a Monday and in early morning, they had to put a big consideration for their drivers. You’d have to pay an extra fee. Done.
Next, you also have to consider the rush hour and priority fee. Done.
Lastly, and this is where the differences lies, taxis have a contract with hotels about their own commission fees when you book it with your concierge. And so, you’re essentially paying two people to drive you to the airport.
Honestly? I say, go for it if you leave your hotel early (like 5 AM, early) instead of the usual traffic hours. Because otherwise, I’ve seen many people take the train or bus going to the airport.
Bonus: One tourist-y thing to do is ride the Big Bus Singapore
I have no words… This has saved my butt in so many cities, countries, experiences around the world. Ever since trying the Big Bus in Paris, I haven’t stopped actively seeking this way for means to explore a brand new city.
Because I’m one of those unicorns in the Internet travel-verse who believes you’ll be both a tourist and a traveler, I go ahead and book a 3-day pass to see all the sights. Doing so, not only helps me see all the “must-see’s”, “must-do’s” and etc. but I get to save a bunch of my allowance to boot.
In most cities, the ticket would cost about $20 and have their own stops where you can wait. With Singapore, you can usually find tickets in the nearest mall where all of them to await new passengers.
If you’re confused about what you want to do next in the city, why not stay away for a while and take a tour? Or have fun?
- Universal Studios – For many obvious reasons, head on over to Sentosa and have fun hanging around the theme park. Last time I was here, we tried their Halloween-themed party and had fun getting chased by zombies. (Believe me, it really was!)
- Full day Safari experience – For many Asians who want to experience an open Safari, and have no plans of going to Africa, Singapore comes close with their morning and night activities. You can also take the Big Bus to get here. Tickets cost $200
- Cooking class – Yeah, I know, I surprised myself too. But because of the variety of cultures hanging out here, many of their restaurants have now reached “Best International Cuisine” status. So, if you’re a budding chef or at least know your way around the kitchen, try out a full day of learning here.
Budget + Money Management for the Lion City:
If you don’t have plans to shop, I honestly believe you will leave this city without your wallet crying its heart out. Close to tears, maybe.
But anyways, I always believe that you can go around every city with a clear money perspective. What are your limitations when handling your finances?
So, here’s the deal — you can go around the city with only $500 for the weekend while eating, drinking tons of coffee, and still have enough by the time you return home.
Flight: $175 via Cathay Pacific
Meal: $50/per person in a day (dinner and lunch, since breakfast is part of my stay at Metropolitan Y)
- I ate at: Marche Movenpick for two dinners in a row, bought croissants at Bread Talk as snacks, I can’t remember the Chinese restaurant I ate at in Clarke Quay
- I had coffee at: Curious Palette, The Central Perk Cafe, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, The Coffee Club, Wanna Cuppa, Coffee Roasters (I have 2 cups of coffee in the morning at the hotel, then one or two in the afternoons)
Transport: The Big Bus Singapore costs $20 for a 2-day pass, so I did not commute any other way for the max of my stay. Otherwise, the train is $2 – 3.00 per one-way, while the bus costs $1.50.
- I rode the free airport shuttle service to our hotel
- Then took the train to Suntec to purchase sightseeing tickets ($2, one way; $20)
- We rode a bus to Central Perk Cafe ($1.50) and then managed to get back to Orchard Rd. where we stayed at most of the day ($1.50)
Side note: This is the part I noticed how expensive Sydney’s commuting system is. Just wow.
Total Expenses (minus the flight and hotel): $262.50
Total Budget: $500
Okay, yeah, it does look cheap for a 4-day stay at the most expensive place in the world. But I’d like you to know, this isn’t my first time visiting either. I’ve missed a whole lot of other aspects like the Night Safari tickets and Universal Studios.
Head on over to the Lion City because it’s a completely modern city with lots of French and British influence. Enough to at least give you a decent flat white 😉
Personally, I love visiting Singapore as much as possible because it’s super clean, always has something new, and very cultural. Oh, and it also helps if it’s incredibly close to where you live.
If you make the trip, be prepared for the price you’ll have to pay in getting around, the hotels, and where you’d like to go. See this as your opportunity to impersonate the great Genghis Khan and strategise on how you want to defeat the Hunts!
Oh wow, I just had a Mulan moment over there.