May 20 2011
Is Singapore expensive? I’m just back from a short “hang out with the grandparents” three-day trip to Singapore with my daughter and would answer with a firm “yes”. I can’t remember ever burning though so much cash (well plastic) in such a short time.
That said, while Singapore can be expensive, it need not be. So here are some common sense tips on ways to save money in Singapore.
Posh=pricey … very
We stayed at the Regent Hotel Singapore because that was where my parents were staying and it gave them maximum time with their granddaughter (and son!). Cost for three nights — around S$900. (To be fair, Mum and Dad paid half – Thanks!, but it was still hideously expensive and their swimming pool is crap — they should be eternally embarrassed by it.)
Next time we’d stay at InnCrowd in Little India. Double room with shared bathroom for S$59. They have no swimming pool, which is no great loss compared to the one at The Regent.
Cheap restaurants are best found outside five-star hotels
We arrived in early evening, went immediately to a meet and greet at Sembawang Shipyard only then back to the hotel — by which time my daughter was wrecked. We ordered room service. One burger + one fish and chips + one kid size spaghetti = almost zero change from S$100.
The next day I went for lunch at the food hall under Tanglin Mall. One seafood laksa + coke = $5. Singapore can actually be a quite affordable place to eat.
Taxis are affordable but not cheap
Taxis are everywhere and are affordable (though be very wary of the late night surcharges). But they’re not as cheap as the bus or MRT. Between both of these you can easily cover most of the highlights of the city. Rough estimate for our spend on taxis over three days: S$100. Travelling by bus would have easily halved this.
It’s true, Singapore does have its share of good happy hours, but outside of happy hour, pubs are not a happy place. Thankfully I wasn’t drinking, and walking past billboards proclaiming “Tiger Beer Just $14″ made me glad for that.
Note that if you’re flying out to somewhere where the alcohol is even more hideously expensive than Singapore (cough cough Bali) make use of the Duty Free at the airport. Unlike say Thailand, where the booze is often cheaper in the supermarket than that ridiculous excuse for a duty-free outlet called King Power, the alcohol at Changi duty free is significantly cheaper than elsewhere in Singapore.
… your wallet. If you thought Australian cigarettes were expensive, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Furthering the pain, the Singaporean government (according to smoking friends of ours) is rather zealous in finding and confiscating duty free smokes.
Ask for advice
When looking for a last meal to treat the parents I asked on Twitter for opinions on the snazzy Kudeta atop the Marina Bay Sands. While the advice (skip it) came in too late, it was right on the money. Kudeta was probably the sole disappointment of the entire trip (aside from the soon-to-be arriving credit card bill).
Use social tools like Twitter and Facebook to get advice on what to do — it can also pay to go totally wild and crazy and ask another human — you’ll find them in your hostel common room updating their Facebook status.
Singapore swim time
If you’re travelling with kids and are staying somewhere without a pool (or at The Regent), toss on your least backpackerish clothes and head over to Shangri-La’s Rasa Sentosa Resort on Sentosa Island. Enter either through reception or via the beach and carry yourself like you’re staying there, head down to the pool and set up shop. If they catch you, just say you’re meeting friends there and slink off as soon as they turn away — we saw quite a few people who looked suspiciously like non-guests (like us).
The hotel has a great pool complex for kids, including three waterslides that are ideal for young children. Best of all, the lunch buffet here is HUGE, costs S$40 a head and kids eat for free.
Get the right sim card
I needed a sim card with 3G access for my internet needs. My mother just needed a simple card for phonecalls. They differed in price by about $20. When you get your sim card, have the guy in the shop set it up for you to save money you’ll otherwise need to spend on blood pressure medication.
Shop around for flights
Because the trip was last-minute, the low cost carriers were not actually all that well, low cost. Where the difference is just $20 I generally prefer to fly a full service carrier, but in this case, I played around with the days.
By moving the dates even closer to departure I got return tickets for two from Bali to Singapore on Jetstar for just A$260. So if you’re unorganised like me and don’t book till the last minute, if you have the flexibility, shuffle your flights around to see what you can find. A flight search tool like Adioso can be helpful in this regard.
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