Sep 15 2011
It’s no secret that it can be expensive to be a tourist in Singapore. I recently did a run-down of the city’s cheapest accommodation, but even if you’re on a shoestring budget there’s no need to stay in your hostel killing time on the guest computers and sipping the complimentary coffee. Beyond the price of public transport to get you there, the following attractions are completely free.
A Singapore Sling at Raffles Hotel will set you back a ridiculous S$25, but the Raffles Hotel Museum on the third floor is free. Black and white photographs and letters from famous guests conjure up memories of the hotel’s glory days and there’s some cool colonial art.
The Singapore Art Museum waives admission (usually S$10) every Friday from 18:00–21:00 and there’s even a free guided tour. Admission is free every night from 18:00 till 20:00 at the Living Galleries at the National Museum of Singapore. These galleries are more multisensory than the museum’s historical exhibits and focus on local film, photography, fashion and food. Admission is always free to the URA City Planning Gallery, Changi Chapel Museum and NUS Museums.
Like Raffles Hotel, it’s easy to drop a small fortune on the shopping belt of Orchard Road. However, if you can content yourself with window-shopping and enjoying the public art displays it won’t cost you a cent. Keep an eye out for the street vendors selling ice cream sandwiches – a cool treat in Singapore’s steamy weather and a bargain at S$1 apiece.
A short bus ride from Orchard Road is the Singapore Botanic Gardens, one of the city’s top attractions and another freebie. There is an admission charge for the Orchid Garden, but that’s just a fraction of the expansive park and you can spend hours exploring the rainforest, learning about tropical herbs, or just stopping to smell the flowers. Other national parks like Bukit Timah Nature Reserve are free — why not spot wild monkeys and hike through pristine jungle?
A park of a different sort, at Merlion Park you can pose for photos with Singapore’s ridiculous mascot – the half-lion, half-fish Merlion. From there take a scenic walk along the water until you reach the Esplanade performing arts centre, where there’s always free art exhibits and regularly free concerts or recitals.
Whether it’s a temple, mosque, or church, there is no entry fee to Singapore’s religious sites. My favourite is the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown, which also has a free museum of Buddhist art from Southeast Asian countries and a rooftop orchid garden. While this and other local places of worship are accustomed to tourists, it’s still important to be respectful and dress modestly.
Out in western Singapore, Haw Par Villa has to be Singapore’s strangest free attraction. This statue park was built in 1937 by the Haw Par Brothers, the creators of Tiger Balm ointment, who used their fortune to bring scenes from Chinese folklore to life. It really needs to be seen to be believed.
Entry to Sentosa Island now costs as little as S$1 with the opening of the Sentosa Boardwalk, and once you’re there hop on the free Sentosa shuttle bus and explore the pretty beaches. Access to Tanjong, Palawan and Siloso Beaches is completely free and each is equipped with changing facilities and places to eat. See my previous post “The best free things to do on Sentosa” for more suggestions.
Finally, Singaporean citizens and residents are entitled to free admission to the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park on their birthday. Staff will need to see proof, so bring your identity card!
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