Singapore on a budget: How to explore one of Asia’s most expensive cities on a backpacker budget!

Singapore is one of Asian’s most interesting countries, a bustling metropolis, so clean and well organised with so many western influences that create a real east meets west feel. Initially we were unsure how we would find the city, whether it would feel to clinical and be devoid of personality. But beyond the squeaky clean exterior lies a rich and unique culture. However, Singapore’s success as a tiny but thriving country also comes with a price tag, a huge one! But one of the great things about the western influences here is how much of the city is free to explore, with parks, gardens, marinas and history all publicly accessibly it actually makes both quite unique for Asia and also not as hard hitting on the wallet as you might imagine, here how to do Singapore on a budget!

Singapore on a budget:

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Stroll around the impressive Marina Bay

The Marina Bay is the heart of the city and one of the main attractions, the whole area encompasses many features and areas. The most well known of course is the huge and ridiculously expensive Marina Bay sands resort, the towering complex with one of the worlds most spectacular swimming pools. A night up here isn’t exactly budget friendly but for S$20 (£11.30 / $14.68) you can head up to the top floor and take in the birds eye view of the city.

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But if you prefer to keep your feet a little more on the ground and want to experience this amazing area for free then the views of the Singapore skyline from the bay then this is the spot to head for. Don’t forget to head on over to the Merlion fountain either and take in the awe inspiring scenes around this typically Singaporean area that somehow combines the big city with a laid back and relaxing vibe! This is true Singapore on a budget!

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Take in the magical gardens by the bay… Day and night!

The gardens by the bay are one of the most amazing sights in Singapore and the super tree forest in completely free! Even the indoor conservatory and cloud forest only costs around S$28 (£15.79 / $20.55) which is still pretty affordable! However for us, being on a really tight budget the super tree grove itself had enough magic and mystical charms to keep us entertained. It really is amazing to think that such a spectacular and enchanting sight in completely free, especially in Asia where it feels like you get charged for everything!

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During the day the area is alive with people, plants and an energy all of its own. But the magic really starts once the sun goes down and the crowds dissipate. Come down here late in the evening and you will feel like you’ve stepped out of the big city and into another world! It really is a wonderful place to just lay back and take in! Another amazing example of how you can do Singapore on a budget!

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Discover the bright and bold little India

Singapore is a mixing pot of cultures which blended together create this unique, exciting and vibrant city. From the ancient Chinese influences to the remnants of British rule, the bright and bold Indian community and the irresistible Malay cuisine, Singapore culture isn’t just one thing but a coming together of many. One of the most interesting areas to visit is Little India, decorated in bright and bold multicolour here there is a real celebration of that diverse culture.

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Take a wander and get lost in the colour of the maze like streets of Little India. Delve into the many amazing restaurants, dance in the streets to the Tamil music that creates the soundtrack to Little India and take in the magical aroma of spices that fill the air around each corner. A truly beautiful area of the city in both culture, atmosphere and of course food!! Wandering around the diverse streets and taking in real life here is the best way to do Singapore on a budget.

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Delve into the culture and temples of Chinatown

Yet another example of the many cultural influences on Singapore over the years and another place to explore for absolutely nothing! Chinatown in Singapore is a lively and historic place with everything from bustling markets to contemplative old temples where the chanting of the monks can be heard over the chatter in the streets. As the largest ethnic population in the country the area has grown and developed over the years but still retains a real historic feel with many areas retaining original buildings from the time this area of land was designated by Sir Stamford Raffles as “Chinatown”.

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Of course who can mention Chinatown without the food! The best part here is that all tastes are catered for. We found the food in China itself quite different to what we were used to back at home, here it has everything from vegetarian places, westernised Chinese food and real authentic dishes too! Chinatown is am amazing place to visit for free and another example of Singapore on a budget.

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Wander the historic street taking in the contrasting cultures of this metropolis

One of my favourite things to do in Singapore is to take in the variety of different architecture on offer. The characteristic Chinese shop front with their “5 foot way” down at the front is a real trademark of Singapore. Many of the streets here are a patchwork of shop front, many dating back to the Victorian era where they once again display the many cultural influence on this country. They are built in a combination of styles encompassing European design from Baroque and Victorian architecture with elements of traditional Chinese shopfront design.

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Today they are often decorated in a “Pained Lady” style which creates a multicoloured pastel look to areas of the city. These often 3 storey buildings offer a sharp contrast to the slick super modern glass high rise city scape beyond. The combination of styles, culture, traditional elements and modern backdrop is just typical of Singapore where both history and development is nurtured in the perfect balance.

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Have your breath taken away by the skyline at the boat quay

As well as the many amazing areas of the city where traditional architecture still dominates there is of course the huge, modern and jaw dropping skyline! Singapore is a city of contrasts and combinations of culture and the best place to see this, and one of the best spots for taking in that skyline is from the boat quay. Down here there has been much development from the old days where it was a slave market to being one of the trendiest spots to have a drink along the Singapore River.

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There is a mixture of remaining traditional shophouses here, many dating back over 100 years old, just behind it is the financial centre of the country, creating an impressive skyline that is world renowned. Here is the perfect place to reflect on the old and the new and the wonderful city and country that Singapore has become in its ability to seamlessly combine the two. Also, don’t forget to come back after dark and take in this jaw dropping view once the twinkling lights come one! Here you can really take in the impressive views of Singapore on a budget.

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Take a stroll in the lush oasis of the many gardens and parks

Singapore might be known as a heavily developed concrete jungle but it is actually home to many amazing parks, gardens and even real jungles! Depending on how far out of the city you want to venture you can experience anything from true wilderness to amazing urban parks that are perfect for a picnic! Just a short hop from the centre of the city there is the Botanical Gardens which is home to many rare native plants and trees and is an oasis from the busy city streets. There is also the amazing Fort Canning park that is not only right in the heart of downtown but offers wonderful history too and amazing views over the city.

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Further afield there is Changi Beach park which is home to wonderful villages and of course an amazing 3km long sandy beach! There are also many nature parks such as Bukit Timah which is one of the largest areas of remaining rainforest left in Singapore and is around 12km from the centre of the city. It is home to a diverse range of plants and animals including the Crab-eating macaque. Here too you can also indulge in some adventure, hiking to the countries highest point, climbing, abseiling and mountain biking too!

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Stuff your face with amazing food!

You would be forgiven for thinking eating in Singapore is going to be expensive, and you are right, if you want it to be it can kill off your budget in no time! But luckily there are also so many wonderful areas of Singapore where you can still pay South East Asian prices. Head over to Little India, China town and the Malay districts and hunt down the many hawker centres. In Singapore the street food culture might have been cleaned up a touch but it is still very much alive in the purpose made centres. Here you can try out a range of different cuisines for great prices. This below cost us around £2!

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Go searching for amazing public art

Another really cool feature of Singapore is the sheer amount of public art on display, and not just any old meaningless sculpture to add some culture to a space, but real works of art. Below are pieces by world renowned, and British, sculptors Henry Moore and Anish Kapoor! Keep and eye out also for a Dali and many others that are thought provoking and interactive!

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Singapore clearly thinks a lot about the social impact that public art can have and the quality of that on display for anyone to enjoy on the city streets really is a testament to that. The downtown and financial areas are the best for art spotting! Taking in these priceless pieces of art for nothing, thats another example of Singapore on a budget!

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Have you ever been to Singapore, did you find any amazing cheap things to do?

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Nicola Hilditch-Short

Nic is one half of the Roaming Renegades, a passionate traveller, climber, adventurer, photographer and artist who has a B.A in Fine Art and M.A in Design & Art Direction.
  • Toby Richardson

    Singapore is so easy for blowing your budget. Thanks for putting this together.

  • These are some quite interesting tips! And they’ll definitely come in handy so I’m saving this one for when we plan our trip there, thank you!

    • Thank you. It’s a really great city that shouldn’t be missed just because of money!

  • Jennifer Riley

    I’ve always been hesitant to visit Singapore because of the expense, but am glad to hear it can be done on a budget. Little India could keep me entertained for hours!

    • Same for us. Accommodation can still be expensive for the region but it balances out with the cheap food and free activities!

  • Carol

    I really have to go back to Singapore with all these major changes. Last time there? 2000!

  • Looks awesome! Singapore seems like it has a lot to offer anyone who might visit. I really like the paint jobs on that building in Little India!

    • Yes. It’s actually much more interesting than I had ever imagined. Really great city to explore.

  • Samantha Applewhaite

    I never had a chance to visit Singapore when I was living in Asia, and I’m a little sad I missed out on exploring. I was always told that it was pretty expensive to travel there, but I love that you provided some ideas for budget travel. I also love all of the street art!

    • It can be expensive for sure. But actually most of the things to do are free or cheap! It’s an interesting place.

  • Elisa

    I did not have the feeling of an expensive city because they have accommodation for all budgets plus they have all these fantastic food hawker centres where you can eat for almost nothing. Did you hike along the Southern Ridges Walk? That was fantastic and totally FREE!

  • Vyjay Rao

    Singapore is quite an expensive city and these are some really practical suggestions to optimize on costs. We spent a couple of days there and had a great time. Our favourite spot was Sentosa Island which is a complete entertainment package in itself.

  • I agree about Singapore- it’s amazing but so expensive! We also loved Chinatown. There were some really affordable food options but overall the city is crazy expensive!

    • Yeah, it can be so expensive if you’re not careful! Chinatown is wonderful, cool architecture and great places to eat!

  • I spent most of my time around Little India. I just loved the atmosphere there and the temples. Lots of street food to satisfy the taste buds too.

    • Yes, one of our favourite areas of the city, so much colour and life… and the food is amazing too!

  • So many great money saving tips! I must share this with my friend who is traveling to Singapore soon.