While many hotel and hostel stays in Asia are bundled with free WiFi nowadays, we all know the feeling of being outdoors needing to desperately check for that restaurant phone number or museum location. For travellers in Singapore wishing to stay connected, we'd suggest investing in a prepaid mobile SIM card with a data plan to get online on the go – plus with many Singapore attractions providing QR codes for easy access to additional information on exhibits, mobile Internet access will help you make the most out of your stay.
Operators and their suggested cards
SingTel Hi! Card
The ‘Yo!’ card costs $18 for 50 MB of local data, 1,000 local SMS, 120 min of local outgoing calls and free incoming calls all day
StarHub The Preferred Tourist Prepaid SIM Card
$15 for a 3-day, 30 MB plan on either SIM or micro-SIM. Free IDD calls to 18 destinations
M1 M1 prepaid data card
$18 for 1 GB of local data usage
Upon arrival, either head to one of the official money changers at the airport or in town approach a store owned by one of the three local mobile operators, SingTel, StarHub or M1. They will be able to sell you a prepaid SIM card, for which there are many variations to choose from, depending on your duration of stay, amount of data needed and whether you wish to make IDD calls. These cards have top-up options and are also sold in many convenience stores. Your passport will be needed to buy a prepaid SIM card – we'd suggest buying one at the airport where the queues are likely to be shorter than in town, you'll have your passport easily at hand and staff are more accustomed to advising tourists.
Singapore is one of the most tech-savvy countries in Southeast Asia. The government rolled out Wireless@SG, a free public WiFi service in 2006, which allows users to access bandwidth-intensive applications on the go. All residents and visitors to Singapore can register for a free account.
In April 2013, a new phase of Wireless@SG was launched which allows access of up to 2 megabits per second. Such a speed at several thousand hotspots across the island should in theory not only allow for you to check email or Facebook, but support video streaming and VOIP – this means potential Skyping and saving of long distance phone bills.
A Singapore-registered mobile number is required for Wireless@SG registration online. If you have purchased a local prepaid SIM card and have a Singapore phone number, you can register for Wireless@SG with one of the operators currently on the scheme — Singtel or M1 — and receive your password via SMS.
Once you get your password, you can scan for Wireless@SG on your mobile and log in at each use. If you wish to secure automatic log-on by your mobile at any location with a Wireless@SGx network, you can follow additional steps (SingTel and M1) but note battery drain will be pretty rapid if you keep your WiFi turned on for scanning throughout the day. Wireless@SG is not just available at many malls, but also at attractions like Gardens By the Bay, which really helps if you’re the sort to enjoy the exhibits at your own pace without a guide.
So why would a foreigner get a prepaid SIM card, especially one with data, if he wants to tap on Wireless@SG? Unfortunately, if you do not have a Singapore-registered mobile, that’s where registration gets tricky. Wireless@SG does come in pretty handy, so if you are with a Singaporean, such as a friend or your helpful hostel manager, we’d recommend that you seek their help to provide their mobile number for your registration, and tell you your password when they receive it. M1 staff told us their headquarters will help those without a local mobile set up Wireless@SG, but it may be a tad far west of the island. We recommend that you pop by the SingTel Comcentre headquarters instead, which is right in town.
Places with free WiFi
If the processes described above sounds like Greek to you, here are locations where you may be able to hole up on a rainy day with free WiFi, fuss-free. Do check with counter staff before getting your coffee – some outlets have their own network and provide customers with the password, while others still tap onto Wireless@SG if it covers their location. Others are free access without password.
Changi Airport; Starbucks; McDonald’s; Burger King; 313@Somerset mall (near Somerset MRT); Suntec Singapore mall (near City Hall / Esplanade MRT); The Paragon mall (near Orchard/Somerset MRT); United Square mall (near Novena MRT); Velocity@Novena (near Novena MRT).