You’ve probably heard that Singapore is expensive.
Back when I started planning to spend a year in Southeast Asia, I struck Singapore from the list because I assumed my backpacker budget wouldn’t stretch to cover this pricey country.
But then I changed my mind.
After six months in the region, I decided I wanted to go to Singapore anyway. I only hoped my bank balance could take it.
To my great surprise, I found Singapore to be pretty damn affordable! And sure, it’s not as inexpensive as Thailand or Vietnam, but it’s still not on a par with Western European prices — which was what I had been expecting.
I’ve been recording every single cent I spend in the countries I visit from day one of my travels, because I want to prove that seeing the world is inexpensive and achievable. I want to be able to give a realistic and accurate look at how much you can expect to spend in each country you visit.
Today, I’m taking a look at Singapore and detailing exactly how much you can expect to spend while travelling there.
Let’s get started.
The Cost of Accommodation in Singapore
Staying in hostels is one of the easiest ways to keep your accommodation costs low, and that’s exactly what I did when I visited Singapore for the first time.
The cheapest place to stay in the country is OSS Backpackers Hostel, at a price of $9 (S$12) a night for a dorm bed. It receives an average review score of 8.0 on Booking, which is far better than many of the more expensive hostels in town. It’s close to the subway, has fast Wi-Fi, a fun communal area, and a great free breakfast. If you’re backpacking around Southeast Asia and travelling on a tight budget, this is a great option. They’re also one of the highest-rated hostels when it comes to private rooms, so definitely take a look if you’re going to be backpacking in Singapore. Trust me — there are a ton of terribly-reviewed hostels in this city!
Singapore is also home to many capsule hotels, which gives you a little more privacy for a lower price than a hotel (around $30/S$40 a night). You’ll spend your nights in a small, cosy pod that kind of feels a bit like staying in a spacecraft! Check out the epic CapsulePod (at just $18 a night) or Dream Lodge ($30 a night) to get an idea of the futuristic style. While this probably isn’t an option for the claustrophobic, it’s a pretty cool experience that you can’t have everywhere. I’ve stayed in a capsule hotel before and absolutely loved it!
And if hostels aren’t your kind of thing? Yeah, they’re not my jam anymore, either. Fortunately, you can find some reasonably-ish-priced guesthouses and hotels in Singapore, too.
For a well-reviewed mid-to-higher-range hotel, you’re going to be looking at between $120 (S$160) and $180 per night. The best option in this price range is Wanderlust, The Unlimited Collection hotel for $177 a night, and with an average review score of 9.0 — the best-reviewed property in this price range. The hotel is a brand new accommodation provider in Singapore, so it’s super-modern with gorgeous furniture and design, and the most inviting pool. The rooms are spacious and well-equipped, and it’s perfect for exploring, as it’s located right beside the MRT.
I also want to stress: Stay away from any Heritage Collection hotels. I booked a stay at Heritage Collection on Boat Quay and the staff were super shady and unreasonable. When my partner contracted COVID and we couldn’t board our flight to Singapore, they refused to give us a refund, which felt harsh and unethical. I wouldn’t recommend staying in any of their properties because of this. There are much nicer ones in Singapore — with far more understanding staff and better refund policies!
If you don’t have a tight budget in Singapore and you want to celebrate your time there with a truly iconic experience, then look no further than the Marina Bay Sands. You’ll pay roughly $500 (S$670) a night for a room in this famous hotel, but it might be worth it to score one of the best views in the city. The pool, in particular, is incredible and totally on my bucket list for my next visit. This is definitely a splurge, but one that could possibly be well worth it. You can see a photo of the hotel below:
The Cost of Transportation in Singapore
Singapore is one of the smallest countries in the world, so getting around is never going to be an enormous expense here. In fact, despite Singapore’s reputation for being expensive, public transport is very affordable.
Let’s dive into the options.
The quickest, easiest, and most comfortable way to explore Singapore is via their metro system, the MRT. You can get pretty much anywhere you’d want to go as a tourist using the MRT and it’s not too expensive either, averaging out at around $1 a ride. To save money, I recommend picking up an EZ-Link card for S$12. For that, you’ll get $7 of ride credit plus a $5 refundable deposit that you can cash out when you leave the country. With the EZ card, you’ll be looking at paying 30% less compared to buying one-off tickets whenever you need them. You can buy them from 7-Elevens or within the metro stations themselves.
You can also purchase a Singapore Tourist Pass, which gives you unlimited rides on the bus and MRT for $10 (1 day), $16 (2 days), $20 (3 days). I personally wasn’t travelling enough to make the pass worth it, but if you plan on sightseeing like crazy, this may be a money-saving option that’ll work out for you.
Buses are priced similarly to the metro, but more complicated to use, so there’s no real reason to use them instead.
If you do want to visit somewhere that isn’t served by the bus or MRT, you’re probably going to end up taking a taxi. Uber isn’t in Singapore, but most people use the Grab app, which is essentially the same thing. It’s simple to use, reasonably affordable (S$0.16 a minute), and better than standing around waiting for a taxi to drive past. If you’re heading to Singapore, I’d recommend downloading Grab before you leave.
One website I do want to recommend is 12Go Asia. If you’re going to be travelling overland to or from Singapore, this a great site for booking transportation in advance.
I’ve used 12Go throughout my travels in Asia and have only had fantastic experiences with them. If you’re going to be travelling overland to/from Malaysia before/after Singapore, for example, I’d recommend checking out the prices on their site first. You can do so using this form:
The Cost of Food in Singapore
Oh man, the Singapore food scene is incredible. You can eat so well in this country, and it’s one of the best ways to save money, too. If you eat from the hawker stalls, you’ll be spending less than S$5 for a tasty, fresh meal.
It’s pretty tough to find bad food in this country, too. One of the great things about a country that’s full of tasty meals is that nobody is going to settle for anything less. If you’re serving bad food in Singapore, you simply aren’t going to survive for long.
So, yeah. The easiest way to save money is at the aforementioned Hawker centres. These are covered areas filled with tons of different food stalls, and are super fun and fascinating to spend time in.
So what type of food can you get in these Hawker centres?
There’s so much on offer! Singaporean cuisine pulls in influences from Malaysia, China, and India, and all of those flavours and spices mixing together makes for some of the best eating on the planet. Chicken and rice is an iconic dish in this country, but aside from that, you’ll find all manner of curries, soups, grilled meat and vegetables, dumplings, salads, fried noodles, seafood, and practically anything you can think of. The fruit shakes and smoothies are also all cheap, fresh, and delicious — so wash down your meal with one of those.
And before you form an opinion that the food that’s served in these places is going to be mediocre, let me tell you that several of the food stands have been awarded a Michelin star! Yes, Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle Stall, in particular, is where you can score the cheapest Michelin-starred meal in the world. At a price of just $1.42 for a plate of chicken and rice, it’s impossible to be disappointed by it. I made this my first meal in Singapore and couldn’t believe how tasty such a simple dish could be!
Speaking of food experiences to dive into in Singapore, a lot of people go crazy over having a Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel. This famous cocktail was invented there back in 1915 and if you want to have one in its birthplace, you’ll be looking at shelling out $24 (S$32) for the experience!
When it comes to alcohol, you can expect to pay around S$20 for a cocktail in a nice bar, and a glass of wine for around S$12 in a restaurant. Fun fact: Singapore is the 6th most expensive country in the world for beer, and you can expect to pay S$12 for a 330ml can. Yeah, alcohol sure is expensive in this city!
Singapore’s tap water is totally safe to drink, so you don’t need to buy bottled water (S$4 for a 1-litre bottle) while you’re in town.
In Southeast Asia, in general, I really don’t recommend cooking your own food, unless you have a strict dietary requirement. Buying ingredients for meals is simply too expensive — you can spend $10-15 on ingredients for a dish that you can get for $4 on the streets.
And as for restaurants, they’re everywhere and reasonably expensive compared to the hawker goodness. A two-course meal with a glass of wine can be around S$40.
In general, I’d recommend expecting to spend around S$15 a day to have all of your meals/drinks at Hawker centres, and S$30 a day if you throw in a restaurant and cafe every now and then.
The Cost of Activities in Singapore
We’ve covered accommodation, transportation, and food, so the only thing left to take a look at is the cost of activities in Singapore! If you’re not careful, this is the category that can really wreck your budget.
Fortunately, like many cities around the world, it’s possible to spend absolutely nothing on activities and still have a wonderful time in Singapore.
One of my favourite free things to do is wander around Little India — I’m absolutely obsessed with this neighbourhood! Merlion Park is another great area to hang out at and take photos of the skyline. Gardens by the Bay ($11 entrance fee) is absolutely incredible and should definitely be on your Singapore hit list, as well as the city’s botanic gardens, which has received UNESCO status. If you find yourself with perfect weather and nothing to do, hit the beaches on Sentosa Island! Wandering the Treetop Walk at MacRitchie Reservoir makes for some epic photos and is completely free to do. And, of course, Hawker-hopping your way around town is as much of a tourist attraction as anywhere else in Singapore
As you can see, there’s plenty to keep you busy if you don’t have much money to spend.
Let’s take a look, though, at the prices you can expect to pay for entrance fees and activities across the country.
- Entrance to Singapore Zoo: S$28 (S$56 with a hotel pick-up)
- Entrance to Singapore Night Safari with tram ticket included: S$55
- Entrance to Jurong Bird Park: S$25
- Entrance to Universal Studios: S$74
- Skip-the-line entrance to Marina Bay Sands Observation Deck: S$20
- Entrance to Sentosa Island for one day: S$70
- Entrance to Singapore Science Centre: S$12
- Entrance to National Museum of Singapore: S$10
- Entrance to Asian Civilisations Museum: S$8
- Private street food tour, sampling 10 local dishes: S$127
Other Expenses for Singapore
A Singapore guidebook: A guidebook will give you an in-depth look into Singaporean culture, suggest the perfect itineraries for the amount of time you have, and offer recommendations for where to eat and what’s worth doing. I like Lonely Planet guidebooks and their Singapore offering receives some of the best reviews.
A local SIM card: I don’t know about you, but one of my least favourite aspects of arriving in a new country is having to figure out how to get connected. Specifically: buying a local SIM card so that I have data to use while I’m in the country.
There’s locating a store that will sell you one, language barriers to deal with, various forms of ID you might need to bring, scams to navigate, and… well, it’s a headache.
This year, I started using Airalo, which sells local e-SIM cards for travellers. What that means is that you can buy your SIM card online before you arrive in Singapore, and then as soon as you land in the country, you can switch on your data and start using it. It’s worked flawlessly for me and now, I’ll never go back to physical SIM cards. You’ll pay $7.50 for 1 GB of data or $22.50 for 5 GB for Singapore and can also top-up through the Airalo app.
Make sure you have an e-SIM compatible phone before buying — all recent iPhones and many Androids are.
Travel insurance: If you’ve read any other posts on Never Ending Footsteps, you’ll know that I’m a great believer in travelling with travel insurance. I’ve seen far too many Go Fund Me campaigns from destitute backpackers that are unexpectedly stranded in a foreign country after a scooter accident/being attacked/breaking a leg with no way of getting home or paying for their healthcare. In short, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. These costs can quickly land you with a six-figure bill to pay at the end of it.
Travel insurance will cover you if your flight is cancelled and you need to book a new one, if your luggage gets lost and you need to replace your belongings, if you suddenly get struck down by appendicitis and have to be hospitalised, or discover a family member has died and you need to get home immediately. If you fall seriously ill, your insurance will cover the costs to fly you home to receive medical treatment.
I use SafetyWing as my travel insurance provider, and recommend them for trips to Singapore. Firstly, they’re one of the few companies out there who will actually cover you if you contract COVID-19. On top of that, they provide worldwide coverage, don’t require you to have a return ticket, and even allow you to buy coverage after you’ve left home. If you’re on a long-term trip, you can pay monthly instead of up-front, and can cancel at any time. Finally, they’re affordable, and have a clear, easy-to-understand pricing structure, which is always appreciated.
How Much Did I Spend on My Trip to Singapore?
I always like to share my own personal expenses when travelling in a country, as I think it helps you figure out what you should be expecting to pay each day while you’re there. A list of expenses is great and helpful, of course, but putting them all together in order to come up with a reasonable estimate can be trickier.
Here’s what I’ve spent on average over my month in Singapore:
Accommodation: $27 per day (S$37)
Transportation: $10 per day (S$14)
Food and drink: $18 per day (S$24)
Activities: $17 per day (S$23)
My average daily cost of travel in the Singapore was therefore: $72 (S$98) per day. It’s certainly not as cheap as elsewhere in Southeast Asia, but it’s still a lot more affordable than I expected! Had I skipped out on the activities (Singapore Zoo and the Night Safari), it would have been just $55 a day.
[Photo of the Gardens by the Bay by: Sean Pavone; of Singapore at night by: joesayhello/Shutterstock; of Chinatown by: Kapi Ng/Shutterstock; Little India facade by: F11Photo/Shutterstock]