Singapore has earned itself a reputation as an expensive place to visit, and thus many backpackers will only land in the city state for a 24 hour stop-over. And to be honest, Singapore can be pretty expensive. I know because during one week in Singapore, I spent what I would spend in three weeks elsewhere in southeast Asia. But that’s only because I’m a dumb dumb and I succumbed to all of the temptations around me. If you have a stronger will than me, there is no reason why you can’t do Singapore on the cheap. Here are a few things you can do in the city for next to-nothing, and a few tips for sticking to your backpacker budget.
Lay off the booze
Easier said than done, I know. Even though I knew that alcohol was going to be expensive in Singapore, I just couldn’t help myself because I don’t feel like dinner is really dinner if I don’t have a beer with it. If you’re less of a total alco than me, then I recommend laying off the booze while in Singapore in order to protect major damage being done to your wallet. In the first gay bar I visited, I paid £5 for a half pint of beer, and that is just not cool. I thought London prices were bad…
If you must drink…
Then drink in a hawker centre. Hawker centres are all over Singapore, and as well as serving up delicious food, you can also buy cheap booze at them. Hip hip hooray. Drinking all night in a hawker centre doesn’t exactly make for a very exciting night out, but they are ideal places for a spot of pre-drinking before hitting the town and ruining your wallet and your dignity in the bars of Singapore. At a hawker centre in Chinatown called People’s Park I managed to source a large bottle of Anchor beer for $4SG, which is £2. Bargain innit.
And while you’re at a Hawker centre…
Grab yourself a cheap and bloody delicious meal. The idea that eating out in Singapore will cost you an arm and a leg is laughable. You don’t have to seek out hawker centres – they are everywhere. And they are so large and sprawling that you will invariably be able to find something that suits your tastebuds. You can of course find an abundance of Malay cuisine, but my favourite Singaporean Hawker centre is in the Little India area and called Tekka centre. Here you can find cheap, amazing Indian food of all varieties. Considering I was only in Singapore for a week, I ate at the Tekka centre an absurd amount.
Yummy stuff at the Tekka Food Centre.
Stay in a hostel. Or couchsurf.
I hate staying in hostels. I know there are loads of backpackers who wax lyrical about the joys of hostel living but I just can’t bloody stand it. Unfortunately, I just didn’t have the budget to have my own room in Singapore and had to stay in a hostel, which set me back a not too extravagant sum of £10 per night. And amazingly, I semi-enjoyed this hostel experience because all the beds in the dorm aside from mine were taken up by a Vietnamese family and I didn’t have to talk to other backpackers. Singapore also has a thriving Couchsurfing community and it shouldn’t be too difficult for a well-oiled Couchsurfer to find themselves a free sleeping place for a few nights.
Hang out in the Botanical Gardens.
If you wanna spend a day at Universal Studios, of course you are going to exceed your backpacker’s budget. But if you are sensible about the way you spend your time in the city, you will find that you can also amuse yourself with many free attractions in the city. Right in the heart of Singapore is a sprawling range of Botanical Gardens that are completely free to enter – perfect for those who wish to escape city life for a while.
Visit the Singapore Art Museum on a Friday evening
You usually have to pay to visit the Singapore Art Museum, but on a Friday evening after 6pm access is free to absolutely everybody. What’s more, it’s a really bloody cool gallery with an impressive range of exhibitions. When I have explored the local art scenes in Asian countries, I have found that most galleries use their spaces as a platform for their own country’s art – and I guess that’s to be expected. But this gallery has a far more diverse range of artworks and I particularly enjoyed an exhibition about Arab art.
So, there you have it. Singapore doesn’t have to be expensive after all – at least if you’re not a dumb dumb.