Singapore is a great place to stop over if you are doing a long haul flight to or from Australia. However, it isn’t the cheapest place in comparison to a lot of its neighbours in the region. Don’t let that deter you though, as there are some great things to do in Singapore, it’s a beautiful, clean, logical and vibrant city that deserves a second look.
If you are planning on spending a couple of days there or a few hours during a stopover – make sure you make the most of it and see as much as you can. The city has a great public transport system so getting around is easy, air-conditioned and cheap. They have one of the best metros in the world in my opinion. Here are my top 12 cheap things to do in Singapore
One thing to note is that food is super affordable and cheap… alcohol isn’t. Due to custom tariffs that have to be paid on all alcohol imported into the country, and as the country is an island, pretty much everything is imported. You can find some great deals though at the hawker markets outside of the main touristy areas and shopping malls. A local ex-pat friend told us about a great hawker market where you get free beer for one hour if you buy a burger at lunch time, naturally we headed there straight away. There is such a great range of food and atmosphere in the hawker markets, if you just go and have a snack to people watch it is well worth it. A great place to meet people if you are eating out as a solo backpacker.
Gardens by the Bay Night Show – Supertree grove
One of the most magical man-made experiences of my life is the night show put on by the Marina Bay Sands. In particular is the Supertree grove, make sure you get there early to beat the crowds and get a good spot right in the middle of it all. Then lie back and relax and let the lights and music wash over you.
As the legend goes, Mustafa’s started by a guy who had just one store on the block. One day the store next door was up for rent as well, and as Mustafa had been having such great success with his first store, he rented the second store and sourced a different range of goods to his first store. As the years went on, he slowly started to rent and buy up all of the stores on the block, bringing in more and more products from overseas. Mustafa’s is now your one stop shop for pretty much everything! From clothes to electronics, to jewellery to food. If you can think of it – it will be at Mustafa’s. The size of the store and volume of the products is overwhelming and well worth a look, also it seems to be open all the time which makes it great for people watching.
On every street corner is another shopping mall. There are so many shops that I actually find it hard to believe that they are all still in business. Somehow, they all survive and seem to be multiplying. As there is a huge ex-pat community in Singapore there is a wide range of shops and themes – make sure you go and check them out to catch up on the latest trends in Europe, America, Asia and anywhere else in the world. Orchard Road is the Madison Avenue of Singapore, with malls lining both sides of the boulevard, selling everything from Chanel to sofa’s. Or you can head to the biggest and the brightest mall in Singapore – Vivo City… well worth a look, if only for the people watching.
A short walk from Vivo City is Mt Faber a great place to walk up and look out across the city. It is a bit of a hike up, which feels harder in the humidity, so catch the cable car up. I personally loved the walk up as it was a great way to stretch out my legs after a long flight. As well as great views of the city there is a great restaurant where you can stop for a refreshing beverage, and if you are with your significant other you might want to purchase a lock and attach it to the railing with all of the others.
Henderson Waves and the Southern Ridges Walk
After you have basked in the view at the top of Mt Faber, head off through the park towards Henderson’s waves. An architecturally designed elevated pedestrian bridge that forms one portion of the Southern Ridges Walk through the Mount Faber Park. The walk weaves in and out of different flora and fauna, giving you a taste for what the island would have been like 500 years ago. As it follows a ridge line it also gives you a wide variety of views of the island.
Singapore’s heart and soul for many years was its quays. When Singapore was a gateway for the British empire into the east all ships would pass through these quays to either sell their goods or replenish stocks. So naturally the area’s around these docks built up wealth and influence, creating and defining the culture and architecture that would spread out over the whole city. The docks are no longer in use in the same way they once were, but have been transformed into the main tourist attractions, with restaurants and more shops filling up all of the buildings that were once warehouses and merchant homes.
To get the best view of the quays I recommend doing a boat tour of the harbour, the guides can point out various landmarks that define different eras of wealth, war and development in Singapore.
If you are being a little bit more budget conscious then I definitely recommend walking around the quays. There are beautiful esplanade walks for you to really take in the city, as well as numerous stunning bridges to cross and admire.
Raffles for a look – then go somewhere else for a drink
Raffles is an institution on the “things to do in Singapore” list. For good reason. The old colonial style hotel has built up a reputation across the globe for its great service and its peanut bar. The peanut bar is located in the hotel and is more often than not, packed to the rafters. What is unique about it is that when you purchase a drink you are also given a large bag of peanuts in the shell. The fun is to then crack the nuts with your teeth and spit the shells onto the floor. The oil from the shells are what keep the giant mahogany bar and floors so shiny and well cared for… so don’t feel guilty about making a mess. I would suggest only going for one drink though, as just one drink is enough to break the budget. Oh and obviously – if you have a nit allergy, STAY AWAY!
After the expense of Raffles you could head to China town for a much cheaper meal and some drinks. The area is crammed with hawker markets and stalls. As soon as you get off the metro you are in the thick of it, with smells and sounds assaulting your senses. It’s amazing and a lot of fun. Keep an eye on your valuables, as the crowds packed with stunned tourists makes for easy pickings for the local pick pockets. If you want to try some of Singapore’s famous chilli crab, getting it in china town is a lot cheaper than if you got it by the quays.
Night out in Bugis
On the opposite side of the city to china town is Bugis. This is by far one of my favourite areas of Singapore and a must do. Overlooking the whole area is the Sultan’s Mosque – a beautiful and grand building with gold tipped dome roofs. The little lane ways are jam packed full of people and shops. The food is mostly middle eastern which gives off an amazing aroma that covers the whole area. Shisha or Hookah bars used to be a big thing in the district, but with new laws concerning where and how tobacco can be consumed, these are slowly disappearing. The area is also known for its jazz bars, with some of the best music in Singapore to be found down little un marked alleys. Make sure you follow your ears to find the entrances as otherwise you may walk straight past it.
Fort canning is another great place to go for a walk and feel like you are in the jungle even though you are in the middle of a giant city. The fort is left over from Singapore’s colonial occupation by the British and is a great thing to do if you have an interest in both colonial and world war 2 history. If you have some room in your budget the museum is well worth a look. But if you still want the history without the cost, you can walk around the hill on different marked paths to get a more visual history lesson. Make sure you pick up a free map from the information centre to find the best path for your interests – as there is a LOT going on.
If you have a bit of time in Singapore and want to get off the beaten track a little, Palau Ubin is the place for you. It is a small island located just off the coast of Singapore. You can get there easily and cheaply by bus and then bum boat. Spend the day cycling around the island and going for a swim, have a lunch of freshly caught seafood and relax amongst the palm trees. For a full break down of things to do see my post on Pulau Ubin.
Yes Singapore is expensive in relation to it’s neighbours, but it is still a city with a lot to do an appreciate. There are plenty of other things to do in Singapore if you have a little more budget, but hopefully this list will give you enough to do without breaking the bank. Give Singapore some time – it will sink into your soul.
What are your recommendations for cheap things to do in Singapore? Comment below with your ideas