10 Things To Do On A Budget In Singapore
Singapore doesn’t exactly have a reputation as being a budget-friendly city. In fact, it’s one of the most expensive cities in the world, and finding things to do on a budget in Singapore can be daunting. But dig a little beneath the surface of glossy restaurants and high-end retailers, and there’s some seriously cool stuff to do in the Singapore for almost nothing.
Tiong Bahru Neighborhood
You’d never think it, but Singapore can be a surprisingly quirky place. Sometimes it seems like most of that quirkiness is packed into Tiong Bahru, one of Singapore’s oldest and most unique neighborhoods. Buildings here often date back as far as the 1930s, which is ancient by Singaporean standards. Stroll through and admire the art deco architecture and the plethora of off beat shops, cafe’s, and boutiques. In particular, don’t miss Books Actually, which has not only used books, but a fascinating collection of items from Singapore’s history.
For how modern, built-up and urban most of Singapore is, it still has a surprisingly strong culture of street food. These Hawker Centers, where vendors gather to sell a huge range of cuisine from Singapore and all over the world, are the best place to grab a cheap bite to eat—and not just cheap by Singapore standards. You can get a meal for $5 or less. Plus, it’s a great glimpse into the culture of the city, beyond the business suits and pristine streets.
Marina Bay, in the heart of Singapore, is one of the coolest areas in the city, packed with attractions and sights. The Waterfront Promenade takes you around the bay and lets you take in many of those sights. You can see the Esplanande, Singapore’s premier performing arts theater; the giant Ferris wheel known as the Singapore Flyer; the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, the world’s second most expensive building and site of the highest and largest infinity pool in the world; and Singapore’s most famous icon, the Merlion. Beautiful views of Singapore’s skyline and nightly light shows make this a perfect way to spend an evening.
On a side note, it’s $20 to go to the infinity pool at the top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. While it’s not the cheapest activity you could do, it’s not going to break the bank either, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a cooler way to spend twenty bucks.
Gardens by the Bay
Things like Supertrees and the Cloud Forest might sound like something out of a Sci Fi movie. But they’re real things, and you can see them for free at Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay. When you see the gardens’ grove of sprawling, man-made, fully photosynthetically capable, 160-foot-tall Supertrees, connected by a vertigo-inducing skyway, and lit up by a nightly light show, it’s hard not to conclude that Singapore is seriously awesome.
You don’t typically think “rural” when you think of Singapore. But Pulau Ubin is Singapore’s only rural area—more than that, it’s host to about a hundred villagers living a traditional “kampong” lifestyle. Although you’ll have to pay for transportation out to the island, it’s a fantastic glimpse into the Singapore that was.
Free Walking Tours
There are a number of free walking tours, taking place throughout the week and traversing various Singapore neighborhoods. Rich with history and local stories, these tours are a great way to get a local perspective on the city, and to meet fellow travelers. Although the tours are free, most of the guides are locals and students who are volunteering their time, so plan on a tip or small donation.
Free or Discounted Museum Days
Singapore’s pretty good at offering free entertainment and cultural events. Most of the city’s museums are reasonably priced ($5-$20). Plus, they usually offer free or discounted admissions on certain evenings, as well as regular free days throughout the year. If museums aren’t really your thing, you can also look for free movie screenings—there are a number of independent theaters that show art films, as well as outdoor movie series throughout the city.
Despite its reputation as hugely urbanized, Singapore offers a lot of opportunities to soak up some nature, and the Botanic Gardens are one of the best of them. They’re over a mile and a half across, and have a pending application to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Entrance it totally free, and the gardens are open every day of the year from 5am to midnight. Give yourself at least a few hours to wander—even if you’re not a huge fan of botany or horticulture, the gardens don’t disappoint.
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
Singapore isn’t all urban jungle. Some of it is actual jungle. More precisely, 400 acres is set aside in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, easily accessible from the city, and with free admission. While the well-maintained footpaths and bridges might leave you feeling slightly detached from the full rainforest experience, don’t take the wildlife lightly. Monkeys are known for stealing your food—or anything that you happen to be carrying in a plastic bag.
Explore Chinatown, Little India, and Arab Street
Singapore is a remarkably diverse city. Its three most bustling and exciting quarters, Chinatown, Little India, and Arab Street, open a window to some of the cultures that thrive there. You don’t have to spend a cent to wander through the quarters, absorb the atmosphere, and browse the traditional shops. And if you do want to pick up some gifts or souvenirs, or grab some delicious food, the markets and shops in these quarters are some of the best places to do it.
Most of the activities on this list are free, or nearly so, proving that Singapore is full of awe-inspiring, quirky, fun, cool things to do, even for travelers on a tight budget.