May 20 2011

Is Singapore expensive?

Published by at 3:06 pm under Money & costs


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.)

That will be $234,765.95 please. Plus plus.

That will be $234,765.95 please. Plus plus.

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.

Far from the best laksa I've had, but it was just $5

Far from the best laksa I've had, but it was just $5

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.

Where's a taxi when you need one?

Where's a taxi when you need one?

If you’re using the MRT, either buy a prepaid card or remember to get the refunds on your single-use cards. If you’re on the move a lot, check out the EZ-Link card to save even more.

Don’t drink
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.

Smoking kills…
… 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.

Smoking three packs a day can shatter your health.

Smoking three packs a day can shatter your health.

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.

The cheapest view of the Marina Bay Sands

The cheapest view of the Marina Bay Sands

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.

Armed and dangerous

Armed and dangerous

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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4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Is Singapore expensive?”

  1. Lisaon 20 May 2011 at 7:06 pm

    $900 for 3 nights – are you kidding me? Didya’ win lotto or something?! Seriously though, Singapore IS expensive. I enjoyed getting round on the MRT and think the foodhalls are excellent for tasty yet inexpensive food. But accommodation is ridiculous – unless you can score a deal on Agoda or similar. Better sink a few Bintangs before opening the Visa bill!

  2. jameson 02 Feb 2012 at 3:09 pm

    of course its gonna be expensive if you stay in a hotel and order room service. geez

  3. lolaon 07 Jul 2012 at 10:21 am

    Haha yeah getting good quality/great quality services in Singapore will be a lot more expensive than many other places, well because its SINGAPORE! That’s one thing you cannot avoid. So cheap hotel rates are practically nonexistant. And room service = overrated… I never order room service because the food sucks and well, its expensive. Duh.

    You can find good cheap food in Singapore but it is impossible to buy cheap food and if you are eating out at a reasonably nice place or at an expensive place with your family of four, expect to pay atleast 80-100$ or more. That’s because its an island and everything is imported, so yes, food is very expensive. One thing I CANNOT STAND (especially since I am from USA and food is incredibly freaking CHEAP… LITERALLY a tenth of the price here) IS THAT THE SERVING SIZES ARE FREAKING SMALL. i went to one middle eastern restaurant, ordered a greek salad for THIRTEEN FUCKING DOLLARS and it was a) smaller than my cereal bowl and b) the food just sucked overall. The restaurant was pretty casual in Holland Village, across that Mexican place called Cha Cha… anyways i was very very very disappointed. Back at home, I could go italian, order a ceaser salad for 6 bucks at a much nicer restaurant, and it would be 5 times bigger. So thanks Singapore, but no thank you.

  4. Daveon 20 Oct 2012 at 8:55 pm

    Did you not try out the Hawker centres? We had some of the best curry and chinese food at the various hawker centres dotted around the city. We stayed in an average hotel in the city then 3 nights at the shangri-la. Breakfast was included at the shangri-la and it was a big buffet, kept us going until dinner, which we had either at vivo mall or at the hawker centre across the road from the mall.

    At the hawker centres the 2 of us were full to bursting of good food costing less than 8 dollars.

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