The Things You Need To Know For Living in Singapore (Do’s & Don’ts)
Thinking about living in Singapore?
We’re here to shed some light on everything there is to know about living in Singapore. Food, friends, culture, sightseeing, shopping and more!
There’s no denying Singapore is an expensive city to live in. The cost of living in Singapore can be high if you let it!
All prices below are in Singapore Dollars (SGD). Here’s how much $10 SGD is worth in your local currency:
|Australian Dollar $11||Canadian Dollar $10||Chinese Yuan ¥50|
|Danish Krone Kr.47||Euro €6||Fijian Dollar $16|
|Great Britain Pound £5.5||Indonesia Rupiah Rp.103,883||Japanese Yen ¥ 750|
|Malaysian Ringgit RM.30||New Zealand Dollar $11||South African Rand R.114|
|Swedish Krona kr.68||Swiss Franc Fr.6||US Dollar $7|
Where to live in Singapore
To help answer that question, we would need to know where you’re working and how long you want that commute to be. I’m assuming you want that number to be low?
The best situation you can find yourself in is to live and work on the same metro line. We have a helpful guide to navigate Singapore’s MRT. The good news is Singapore’s trains and buses are some of the best in the world.
Our Complete Guide to the Singapore Metro (2020)
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Clean, swift and regular!
The next big consideration for living in Singapore is, apartment, Housing and Development Board (HDB) or Condominium (condo for short).
Apartments are pretty standard forms of living. If you’re living in one close to the city center they can range from around SGD $5000 – $7000 (per month). Away from the city, the prices can drop to as low as $4000.
HDBs, in my opinion, are a great option when considering where to live in Singapore. A decent-sized HDB close to the city center can be rented for around $3000. While ones further away from the city start at around $2000
To give you bit of a background on the HDB.
In the 1960s the HDBs were built by the government to improve the living standards Singapore of low-income earners. The idea was to build high-rise apartment blocks that Singapore citizens could rent and buy off the government for a subsidised cost. Well, to put it mildly, the idea really took off!
Because of the attractive incentives for Singaporeans to purchase these apartments. Singapore has the 3rd highest homeownership per capita in the entire world! #FunFactNo.52
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Around 80% of Singaporeans live in HDBs.
HDBs do come in many shapes and sizes, however, depending on where you’re coming from it’s likely they’ll feel a little small.
Condominiums are incredible. If I could afford one, I would live in one. They are similar to apartments but they come with extras such as a gym, pool, tennis court, playgrounds and beautifully kept gardens.
There is a huge variance in the prices of condos. Condos in prime locations can range between $7000 – $15,000. Further away from the city center the range can be around $3,300 – $5,000.
The prices all depend on location, size and age of the condo.
Food options living in Singapore
Let me summarise your options from best to worst.
- Hawker Centers
- Make your own meals
Hawker centers are the hidden gems of Singapore! The reason I rank them as the number one food choice when living in Singapore is that they are the cheapest and most delicious food option around.
You are having an incredible meal for anywhere between $3 – $7.
Singaporean food is incredible because you get the very best of Chinese, Malaysian, Indian and more! Find out more about the origins of Singapore making not just their food but also language so unique.
Making your own meals is your next best food option when living in Singapore. For your sake, I hope you don’t live on a diet of beef, dairy and alcohol.
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Almost all of Singapore’s food is imported.
Meat and dairy are pretty expensive and don’t even get me started on alcohol! It’s taxed heavily.
Despite the hefty price tags you’ll see on these items there is a solution…
No, that’s a joke but it certainly would help you with food living expenses in Singapore. Check out our article on going vegan in China and all the helpful vocabulary that would also help you out in Singapore!
The reality is your diet will have to change if you don’t want to be spending too much money to sustain your meat-based diet. However, this doesn’t mean you have to cut it all out!
The best way to keep your shopping bills low is to get all of your fresh produce at the wet market. Wet markets are in open space with small shop vendors selling fruit and vegetables. Typically, they are connected to hawker centers.
When you’re done, head on over to the supermarket cheese as the budget will allow.
Restaurants, I have a pet peeve with Singapore’s restaurants. They don’t include the tax on the menu! Meaning that “pretty expensive” pizza is even more expensive than you think. You’ve been warned!
Social life in Singapore
One of the incredible things about living in Singapore is the local and expatriated (expat) community. You’ll find no shortage of friends either through your workplace, sporting clubs, gyms, in your building, online and so on!
As an expat, everyone is very understanding of the difficulties of living in Singapore and most people go out of their way to help you feel at home.
I would recommend searching for the foreigner communities on social media and let them know you’re coming! You’ll be amazed at the welcoming messages.
A great way to get in with the locals is to join a local sports club!
Singapore is very passionate about their sports and it’s hard not to get swept up in their enthusiasm. Join a team or watch a local game! you won’t be disappointed.
Shopping in Singapore
Singapore is well known for its decent shops and it is hard to resist temptation. In the middle of Singapore is its most famous luxury shopping areas called Orchard Road.
This is an absolute must-see when visiting Singapore. The metro station is very conveniently called Orchard (red line) and there are many buses from all over heading to Orchard road.
Looking for more things to do in Singapore?
Still on the high-end of luxury shopping would be the shops at Marina Bay Sands. You can’t miss the hotel above these shops as you drive in from Changi Airport. The best way in is at Bayfront station on the yellow and blue line.
Vivo City, if you’re still looking for some name-brand shopping I would definitely go check out Vivo.
Located at Harbor Front Station (yellow and purple line) you’ll also have access via bridge and sky rail to Sentosa island.
After you’ve seen the lifestyle of the rich and famous, it’s time to dial it back a bit and check out some more realistic shopping options.
Next on my list would be Bugis Street, conveniently located at Bugis station on the blue and green line. Around, you’ll find loads of stores to explore as well as the Bugis markets, Singapore’s biggest market place.
Mustafa is located in Little India is incredible! I dare say there is nearly nothing you can’t buy at Mustafa. Located close to Farer Park station on the purple line. You’ll find clothes, jewellery, food, books, homeware, electronics and more!
A day at Mustafa’s is a day well spent. As an added bonus, you’re in Little India! There is delicious food in almost every direction.
Don’t enjoy large crowds? Mustafa is open 24/7! Go early or late to have a quieter experience.
Sightseeing while in Singapore
When you live in Singapore, there are certain unavoidable sightseeing locations.
Some of which you would have known about and visited simply out of the excitement of first arriving in Singapore. Others would have been from your guest’s excitement to visit.
Something to keep in mind, depending on how many friends and family you have passing through Singapore, is how many times you’ll be visiting these ‘must-see’ tourist attractions:
- Marina Bay Sands
- Raffles hotel
- Gardens by the Bay
- Botanic Gardens
- Night safari
- Singapore Flyer
- Sentosa Island
- Clarke Quay
- Universal Studios
- Merlion Park
Again, I can’t stress this point enough, you will see these places dozens of times! Pace yourself when you first move to Singapore.
Maybe start off with the lesser known and cultural sights of Singapore?
How to get some Singapore culture
There is a trap that is all too easy to fall into when living in Singapore.
Forgetting you live in Singapore!
There are so many incredible things as you would have seen in the sightseeing category. However, the more time you spend in Singapore the more important it is to start appreciating Singapore’s history and culture.
This is the list of culturally important places you MUST see before leaving Singapore:
- National Museum of Singapore
- Asian Civilisations Museum
- Art Science Museum
- Sri Mariamman Temple
- Sri Thendayuthapani Temple
- Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
- The Maritime Experiential Museum
- Changi War Museum
- Fort Canning Park
- Pulau Ubin
- Fort Siloso
Hopefully, Singaporeans will agree with me when I say, this will tick off the key locations to experiencing Singapore’s history and culture.
Weekend trips while living in Singapore
Ironically, one of the greatest things about living in Singapore is getting out of Singapore. I don’t mean permanently, but rather for quick, cheap getaways.
Singapore is the jumping point for so many flights across Asia.
Meaning, weekend trips to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and the Philippines are a short plane ride away! You can grab cheap return flights to all of these locations and be back for work on Monday.
More weekend getaway options are:
Taking one of the daily ferries to the Indonesian island of Batam. There you can relax on the beach, enjoy the incredible food, do some cheaper shopping and much more.
Another option is to take a shuttle bus into Malaysia. There are several locations not far from Singapore where you can enjoy the pristine beaches, local foods, cheaper shopping outlets and more.
The most popular destination from Singapore into Malaysia by bus are Malacca, Mersing, Kuantan and Kuala Lumpur. However, there are many more!
Need more reasons on why visit Singapore?
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Census data from 2017 showed 5.612 million people living in Singapore. 1.5 million of which are expats.
The best way to get by is living with a friend or family, eating local food and cooking your own meals.
Singapore has some of the lowest crime statistics in the entire world. They’re matched with Japan with the lowest homicides rates in the entire world sitting at 0.2%
No, various economists rank it as having the highest cost of living in the entire world.
There are several locations worth considering when moving to Singapore.
Tiong Bahru is a popular location offering relatively cheap accommodation in HDBs. Holland Village, while expensive is a popular condo living area for expats. Singapore’s public transport allows everyone to be able to commute with ease all over the island.
So searching further out from the city center is a great way to find cheaper, larger apartments.
Given working opportunities, ease of doing business, wonderful food, friendly people, ease of international travel, excellent education system and impressively high safety of Singapore. We would say YES!
Best way to live cheap in Singapore is to live as far away from the city center. Make your own meals or eat at hawker centers. Cut alcohol, red meat and dairy out of your diet. You’re on your way to living a pretty cheap lifestyle in Singapore.
Singapore is a popular home for people from all over the world, with just under 1.5 million expats living there!
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