Unless you’re made of money, there are certain places around the world that will bleed your travel budget dry, and the island country of Singapore is undoubtedly one of them. In an unenviable statistic, this sovereign city-state is often, in fact, number one in the list of world’s most expensive cities, and certainly never leaves the top five. A factoid that doesn’t exactly fill backpackers with joy.
However, as with every pricy locale on the planet, there’s always a trick or two to learn when it comes to holding onto as much of your hard-earned cash as possible. We know how to tighten the belt in money-pit destinations, and today we’re on hand to tell you some amazing places you can see in Singapore for a song!
The Gardens by the Bay
Arguably Singapore’s most visited and iconic attraction, the Gardens by the Bay is a nature park covering some 101 hectares close to the marina. It has become a symbol of the city in spite of only having existed since 2012. This is perhaps due to the inclusion of the “supertree” grove – the picture postcard view of Singapore that everyone wants to capture.
The park itself is free, but you’ll pay a heavy price if you want to climb the trees or visit any of the exhibitions. Don’t miss the sound and light show in the evening which will be the highlight of your day here.
Visit the Hawker Stands
Singapore is famous as a melting pot of cuisines, not surprising since it’s one of the busiest ports in the world. No visit is complete without eating at one the traditional (and cheap) “hawker” food stands which are integral to the city. Here you’ll find an eclectic menu of Asian influences, from fish ball soup to the delectable Hainanese chicken rice – considered the national dish of Singapore. You can even try it at the world’s first Michelin starred street food stand. Best of all, you won’t be paying Michelin starred prices.
Level 33 Bar Viewing Platform
The Marina Bay Sands resort is one of the most expensive in the world, also boasting the highest infinity pool. Many tourists are curious to take a look, but unless you’re a guest of the hotel ($500 a night for a basic room) you’ll have to pay $25 for the privilege.
As an alternative for viewing the famous Singapore skyline, head over Level 33 bar, where – you’ve guessed it – on level 33 there’s a viewing platform. It’s a much cheaper option and you get to see the famous buildings as opposed to actually standing on them. Treat yourself to a cocktail while you’re there – you’ve earned it.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
If you’re not all gardened-out after spending time with the supertrees, head over to the botanic version. It’s been there for nearly 160 years and, interestingly enough, Singapore’s only UNESCO world heritage site (and only garden UNESCO site in the world). Singapore is known as “the garden city,” but the powers that be are trying to mold this moniker into “the city in a garden.” Those of you with green fingers can do a free walking tour, while the rest of us just laze about, but it’s a great way to spend an afternoon for nothing.
Being as multicultural and diverse as Singapore is, you would expect to find some thriving districts or concessions from faraway lands. Little India is no exception, originally the region of the city where Indian immigrants would call home under British rule– and many still do so today, without the British part!
It’s a great experience walking around a place that feels like you’re in another place, seeing the sights and smelling the smells from traditional Indian spice merchants and restaurants. Don’t miss the secretive “Thieves Market,” where you can pick up a unique souvenir or useless item for next to nothing.
Urban Ghost Hunting and Exploration
Let’s see…Singapore is known as the garden city, the lion city, and the red dot. It’s also one of the most haunted cities on the planet, and urban exploration to its abundance of abandoned and potentially ghost-ridden buildings is extremely popular. Places like the old Changi Hospital (which was rumored to be a Japanese torture camp for WW2 prisoners) are surrounded by myths and legends, enticing the brave and the bold to go exploring. Make sure you do your research well if you decide to venture forth on such an adventure, Singapore is also known for its zero tolerance for lawbreakers.
This district of Singapore is also probably its most famous and you’ll find some amazing architecture, street food stalls and other curiosities lining its streets. You’ll also run into some amazing people while wandering, so don’t be afraid to say hello!
Keep your camera handy too, as every turn there’s something colorful to take a snap of – usually a beautiful temple of some kind. Most are free to enter save a little donation but do make sure you always obey any dress or behavioral policies as required. The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is particularly worth spending some of your precious time at.
What on earth is a Merlion? We’re glad you asked! The Merlion is the symbol for Singapore, a mythical creature with the body of a fish and head of a lion. You’ll find it adorning all sorts of Singaporean paraphernalia, from business to sport, as well as just about every souvenir you’ll come across.
It’s totally free to pay a visit the actual 8-meter-tall statue though, located in Merlion Park. And you won’t be alone, as thousands of tourists annually will have their photo taken with the icon as it spurts water from its mouth. No visit to the city is complete without it!
Where else would you recommend visiting in Singapore if you’re on a budget?