Singapore on a budget

Planning to visit Singapore on a shoestring budget? Here’s help as Akhilesh Gannavarapu offers a few tips that could lessen the burden on your wallet

Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Singapore is one of the more affordable places to visit in Asia. I remember a conversation I had whilst I was in Singapore on the day I was supposed to depart, and when a local acquaintance asked me how much I had spent during my stay in the country, I said US$125. “Per day? That’s not too bad,” he quipped. “No, for the entire week,” I responded. I saw his eyes widen, as if I had opened the Pandora’s Box. As an avid traveller, I often pick up little things that would help me in being thrifty when I go abroad, and the fact that I was in Singapore a year ago gave me the experience I needed, and the lessons I had to learn.

When I went to Singapore for the first time, I was grossly underprepared. While I did manage to book my accommodation through Airbnb at a very reasonable price, the taxi from the airport to my accommodation itself set me back by S$30. Looking back, I committed the biggest sin for a budget traveller – I did not do my research. This time, however, I had done adequate research, which helped me immensely in cutting back costs while I was in Singapore. Here are five tips that could help you plan better, before you leave for Singapore.

Always book a hostel before you leave

When I backpacked in India a couple of months ago, I used hostels as my sanctum. All you would need, as someone who is outside for most of the day, is a place to sleep after those long, dreary walks. When I tried to book a place through Airbnb for my trip to Singapore, the cheapest option I could find was the Indie Hostel in Jalan Besar. Unlike last year, when I found a fairly reasonable host, the prices were too steep, and I went along with Indie Hostel.

While I was sceptical at first, the hostel received some great reviews on Airbnb. It is always important to do a little background check on the place you’re going to stay at, and as I would find out during my stay in the hostel, it was easily the best option available for backpackers. The metro station is less than 100 yards away from the hostel, and Little India, Little Arabia, and Chinatown a stone’s throw away from the hostel.

While Indie Hostel offers backpackers and travellers the most affordable prices, you can get 10% discount if you book directly, and use the code SUNDAY.

Things to do when you arrive at the Changi International Airport

When you land in Singapore, before getting lost in the glitz and glamour of the city, doing two small yet significantly important things at the airport will help you with your budget. You can buy either a Singtel sim card, or a StarHub sim card, which cost anywhere between S$20 and S$30, with 100 GB data and free local and international minutes, which should be sufficient for a week’s trip. Personally, when I bought the StarHub sim card, I never had to recharge it again, and it was more than enough for the duration of my stay.

The Merlion, Singapore
The Merlion, Singapore

The second important thing to do while you’re at the Changi airport is to buy an EZ - Link card for the metro and local transportation. Metro connectivity in Singapore is easily one of the best in the world, and you can access any part of Singapore using the Mass Rapid Transit system. I was given an EZ – Link card by my host last year, and I still carry it around, which made things much easier when I went to Singapore a couple of months ago. A simple top–up of S$25 was enough for me, and I never had to recharge my card again, either! You would have to pay either S$5 or S$7 for the card, which is non–refundable.

Alternatively, you can go for a Singapore tourist pass, or find a plan that better-suits your needs. Reaching your destination by metro is usually much faster than taking a cab, and needless to say, inexpensive as well.

What can you do for good, authentic Indian food

You can find good food in Little India or Chinatown, and a meal doesn’t cost more than S$3 – S$4. Eating at Subway, in comparison, costs you around S$10! If you’re staying at Indie Hostel like I was, you can make your own breakfast, which is free of cost, and you can visit Little India or Chinatown for lunch and dinner, which would take you a few minutes by walk.

Places you can visit while in Singapore

When I went to Singapore, I was there to go to one particular place for 3 – 4 days. Thus, I wasn’t able to go to Sentosa island, or truly explore places at leisure. However, one of the major attractions in Singapore is the Marina Bay Sands, and if you are keen on seeing the famous Singapore Skyline, you can do so for free by visiting the ION Sky observation deck in the ION Orchard shopping mall in the evening.

Little India, Singapore
Little India, Singapore

You can also visit Haji Lane, Arab Street, and the Palawan beach in Sentosa for free. Singapore is also famous for its nightlife, but as you’d be able to guess, that would put a significant dent in your wallet, especially if you have budget constraints.

Leave yourself some wiggle room

It is also important to leave yourself some wiggle room, in case you’d ever need to spend cash for unforeseen circumstances. I had taken a travel Forex card with me, and had some extra amount to spend in case of an emergency.

Singapore is truly an amazing place if you plan to spend a few days, and with the right amount of research and planning, it could prove to be a paradise for inquisitive souls.

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