We all know that Singapore is not a cheap destination – we’ve seen Crazy Rich Asians. But you don’t have to blow your entire Singapore budget on luxury activities, dining and excursions. There are bargains to be found in Singapore. And there are some things you actually should splurge on.
Let’s break down your Singapore budget and show where you can save some money and where you should splurge on worth-it experiences.
Save: Transit passes
Public transportation in Singapore is excellent. It’s fast, clean, well-connected and affordable! A great way to save on expenses is to take public transit. And if you’re going to be taking it a lot, an even better way to save is to buy a transit pass. Check out my Singapore guide for first timers for more details on the different types of passes available.
Splurge: Gardens by the Bay
One of our favourite experiences in Singapore was visiting Gardens by the Bay. Entry into the indoor exhibits is currently $28 SGD for the two cooled conservatories. While this isn’t a splurge for some, not everyone wants to pay $28 to look at some flowers and trees. But I promise, it is so worth it! There’s so much to see and the conservatories are incredibly well designed. I’m not a big plant person, but I was totally blown away. Plus, they’re not lying about the “cooled” part of the cooled conservatories – the air conditioning was amazing!
You can also purchase tickets to the OCBC Skyway and other attractions, like the Floral Fantasy. However, there’s a nice “save” part to Gardens by the Bay. The outdoor gardens and children’s garden are both free to wander and explore. You could easily spend an entire day checking out the indoor and outdoor attractions here.
Save: Haw Par Villa
Haw Par Villa is a unique attraction in Singapore. According to the website, “The eclectic park is a treasure trove of Asian culture, history, philosophy and religion – quirky yet enlightening, at the same time.” Haw Par Villa is often listed as one of the oddest attractions in Singapore. It’s basically a theme park with tons of statues and characters, some in very interesting positions (do a Google image search to see what I mean). And the best part for your Singapore budget? Admission is free!
I’m really sad we didn’t get to visit this place while we were in Singapore; it was closed for renovations. But if we ever make it back to Singapore, Haw Par Villa is definitely on my list.
Splurge: Singapore Zoo
I’ve already raved about it but the Singapore Zoo is absolutely phenomenal. I usually don’t like zoos but this one is so cool. The animals were active and seemed a lot happier than in other zoos I’ve visited. Almost all of the enclosures appear to be open (an effect achieved by creating a moat between the enclosure and the visitors that is covered in greenery). The zoo is expansive and there’s so much to see – and that’s before you get to the Night Safari!
The Night Safari is another entire park at the Singapore Zoo where you get to see nocturnal animals. Dim lighting, mimicing moonlight, shines down on the enclosures where you can try your best to spot the nocturnal animals scurrying around. There are walking paths, as well as a tram ride, so you can see everything.
There’s also the Bird Park and the River Safari, which we didn’t visit. But if the main zoo and Night Safari are any indication, these other parks are probably awesome. Tickets to a single park are $30-47 SGD and combo packs are $58-88 SGD depending on which parks and how many you want to visit.
Because I’m such a fan of the zoo, here are some additional tips if you’re planning a visit:
- Give yourself tons of time (I’d recommend a full day) to check out everything.
- Pack snacks and a water bottle, which you can refill around the zoo.
- Download the map of the zoo so you can keep track of which animals you have left to see.
- Take breaks. Walking around Singapore is hot, so take time to sit down or stay in colder exhibits.
- Don’t go to KFC for dinner. It’s one of the only restaurants on the zoo side that stays open “late” (still closes by 7 PM I believe). But it’s a mess! Food takes forever, they only take cash and they ran out of almost everything when we were there. Instead, head over to the Night Safari area where there are lots of restaurants open late.
- For the Night Safari, if the tram line is long, opt to do the walking trails first. The tram line will be a lot shorter later in the night. But do make sure to do both!
Save: Botanical Gardens
Another way to keep your Singapore budget low is by visiting the Singapore Botanical Gardens, which are free! Unfortunately, Colin and I weren’t able to make it to the Gardens during our time in Southeast Asia. But I have heard from friends that they are really beautiful and worth a visit. They also suggest going early, since it’s all outdoors, before the day gets too hot.
Splurge: Taxi or Grab
As I mentioned, public transportation in Singapore is excellent. But sometimes, you just need to splurge on a taxi or Grab (Asia’s version of Uber). And, to be honest, the rates are really reasonable. We took a cab to and from the zoo, as unfortunately, public transit out to the zoo would have been a long trek. It was totally worth the splurge to cut our journey time in half.
Save: Light shows
Who could say no to a gorgeous light show out on the water or up in the trees? Especially when it’s free! Both Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay put on nightly light shows that are absolutely spectacular. And they are completely free to attend!
Check the timing of the shows. If you go to the right show, you should be able to see both as you’ll have time to walk from one to the other before the next show starts. We did the Marina Bay show first, which I would recommend, as it seems the crowds were coming from the other direction. Plus, for the Marina Bay show, you want to get there early! Get as close as you can to the barrier so you have a front row seat. For the Gardens show, every seat is a good seat since the show is happening above you in the trees. No need to show up early for that one!
Splurge: Movie theatre
Confession time: During the three days that Colin and I spent in Singapore, we saw a movie. And it wasn’t even a good movie. We saw Mary Poppins 2 (apologies to Emily Blunt and Lin Manuel Miranda, who I love, but this movie was not great). A movie theatre is not likely to come up on many itinerary lists for Singapore. But you know what? It was so worth it!
We were hot, we had time to kill and the showing of Mary Poppins was at exactly the right time. So we bought tickets (not overly expensive, but a splurge if you weren’t planning to watch a movie) and enjoyed two hours of frigid air conditioning and chimney sweeps. If movies aren’t your thing, you can enjoy almost as good air conditioning in the malls on Orchard Road.
Save: Hawker stalls
I’ve already talked about how Hawker stalls need to be on your Singapore must-eat list. They are the most delicious and most affordable dining option in Singapore. Colin and I had more than enough food for two for about $7 total. Read more about Singapore’s Hawker stalls here.
Splurge: Theme parks
I can’t exactly recommend this one myself, as I’m not a huge theme park or rides person, but if you are, you might want to splurge on some in Singapore. There’s the big one, Universal Studios, and some smaller theme parks and water parks. If that’s your thing, go on and splurge on a ticket!
Save: Food court
Another great place to get cheap and delicious food? Mall food courts! I know it sounds ridiculous, but they are treasure troves of great food. You get to try a few different things with all the food court stalls in one place. We sampled some food courts on Orchard Road and at the airport and the food was amazing. In fact, our favourite meal in Singapore was bought at a food court!
Need another spot for great food at great prices? Check out Singapore’s Chinatown!
Splurge: Rooftop bars
Singapore is well known for its rooftop bars that allow you to take in the city from above. Unfortunately, these bars are not cheap. Some will charge cover and others will require you to buy drinks that are upwards of $20. But if you’re there, you might want to spend your Singapore budget on a Singapore Sling at a rooftop bar.
If you do want to save a bit here, do a search for the more affordable rooftop bars. We didn’t make it to these (because we’re lame and prefer to be in bed rather than at bars), but I have heard that Loof, 1 Altitude and Ce La Vi are all good options. Check websites before showing up to find out the dress code and to see if you need to make reservations.
The Merlion (a lion with a fish tail) is one of Singapore’s iconic symbols. They are spotted all over the city, but the main big one is by the water across from Marina Bay Sands. And of course, being an outdoor statue, the Merlion is totally free to visit. I suggest getting there early if you want to take a photo. We showed up pretty early, I believe around 9:00 AM, and it was already quite busy. I can’t imagine what it would look like at noon.
I hope these splurge and save ideas have you excited for a trip to Singapore. And I hope they help you to finalize your Singapore budget. While Singapore can certainly be an expensive place, not everything will cost you a lot.
PS: Need some more Singapore tips? Check out 7 Tips for Your First Trip to Singapore and Tips for Your First Visit to Singapore Hawker Stalls. For more on Southeast Asia in general, check out my round up post with the best and worst of our trip.
Where would you spend your Singapore budget? Let me know which of these experiences caught your eye, or recommend one of your own!
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