Ideas For a Budget-Friendly Weekend In Singapore
When I booked my flights for a getaway weekend to Singapore, I was aware of the city’s reputation for being expensive. I was excited to see this global hub of finance, trade, and innovation for the first time, but I didn’t want to spend a ton of money over the course of two days. Before making any other decisions, I decided to focus my trip on exploring the city as economically as possible.
In this post, I’ll share some ways to enjoy a few days in Singapore without spending a fortune. At the end, I’ll share the one thing worth splurging on. Let’s get started!
Free (Or Almost-Free) Things To Do In Singapore
The following is a list of things to do in Singapore, including suggestions on where to stay and how to get around.
Chinatown (otherwise known as “Outram”) is the part of Singapore I liked most. It’s authentic and full of activity throughout the day. I also enjoyed seeing the colorful buildings and storefronts here.
Be sure to try Singaporean noodles at one of the restaurants in the area! I went to one called Chiew Kee Noodle House on Upper Cross Street, and it was delicious and cheap (about 7 SGD).
If you only have time to see one thing, I recommend visiting the beautiful Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. This huge structure is free and open to the public during the day. Be sure not to miss the rooftop garden! There are elevators that can take you up to see it.
Check out Arab Street
I ended up trying venison murtabak from a local restaurant in the area for dinner one night. Although the trendier places will be more expensive, local restaurants near Arab Street offer meals for under 10 SGD.
Stay at a Beary Best Hostel
One of the most expensive things in Singapore is lodging. The most effective way to save money on a short trip is to stay in the cheapest place you can find. I used Airbnb to book two nights at Beary Best Hostel Kampong Glam, which was located right on Arab Street. They have a couple of other locations throughout the city.
At 22 USD per night, Beary Best is still quite expensive compared to most countries in Southeast Asia. However, the location is great, and the hostel was sparkling clean and quiet. They even have a rooftop which offers some amazing views of the neighborhood.
Use the city's Mass Rail Transit (MRT) to get around
Singapore’s MRT system is both easy to use and affordable. It connects almost the entire island to the airport and is basically self-explanatory for anyone who’s been to a big city before. Expect to pay between one and three SGD per ride.
If you stay at a hostel or hotel within walking distance of an MRT stop, you’ll never need to use Grab or call a taxi. Every attraction mentioned in this post is within walking distance to at least one MRT stop.
Free attractions downtown
I’ll be honest: Singapore’s central business district was pretty boring to me. Not only are the buildings nondescript, but the streets are quiet and it doesn’t have the grandiosity and scale of other major world cities. Nonetheless, the Downtown Core is home to a couple of free attractions worth checking out.
This half-mermaid-half-lion statue is a symbol of Singapore. You can’t leave the city without getting an obligatory picture in front of it, and luckily you don’t have to pay to check it out.
Gardens by the Bay
Across the water from the Merlion, you’ll find the Gardens by the Bay. Perhaps most famous for the “Supertree Grove” pictured below, this massive park is the most lush green space in the city center. Although some attractions here cost money (such as “Floral Fantasy” and the OCBC Skyway), general entrance is free.
A light and music show known as “Garden Rhapsody” plays each night at the Supertree Grove and is free for anyone who happens to be there at 7:45 and 8:45 p.m. I didn’t expect to be impressed, but the medley of famous songs and film music ended up being surprisingly fun.
Have lunch at Tiong Bahru Market
I’m glad I got to meet up with a friend from college named Misya not only because it’s been years since I last saw her, but also because she brought me to the Tiong Bahru Market, a local eatery with dozens of hawker stalls that I never would’ve found on my own.
We caught up over plates of delicious noodles which only cost 5 SGD for pretty big portions. This market also has beverage stalls that sell coffee for 1 SGD, which I was in desperate need of! Coffee chains in other parts of the city were charging a ridiculous 7 or 8 SGD (6 USD) for a latte, which made me want to cry.
Visit the Changi Jewel before your flight home
Did you know that Singapore’s Changi International Airport has been voted best in the world for years on end? I can’t definitively say it was my favorite, but it was undoubtedly fancy and infinitely better than the hot mess that is Kuala Lumpur International.
One of the most impressive things at Changi is the Jewel. This shopping center located before check-in or customs is home to the biggest indoor waterfall in the world, and most images online don’t do it justice. It’s much bigger than it appears, and the trees inside the atrium make it feel like you’re in a rainforest. This is also free to visit, so don’t be late to the airport! Fifteen or twenty minutes is plenty of time to check it out.
The View From Marina Bay Sands: Worth The S$23
Now that you know how to visit Singapore on a budget, I’ll share the one thing worth spending a bit of money on: the view from Marina Bay Sands. This massive, iconic resort is a defining feature of Singapore’s skyline, and since it stands apart from the rest of the skyscrapers downtown, it’s the perfect place to get a panoramic view of the city.
Although there are a number of ways to gain entrance to the rooftop deck which famously spans the three towers of the hotel, I recommend just paying for a ticket to the SkyPark observatory. Tickets cost 23 SGD (approx. 17 USD), but there’s no time limit to how long you can stay.
Another option is a rooftop bar called CÉ LA VI, which I think has a minimum drink purchase but no “entrance fee.” However, it looked to me like the bar deck didn’t actually offer unobstructed views. In fact, SkyPark ‘surrounds’ the bar, and I think the two are completely separated. I also saw a long line in the hotel lobby for CÉ LA VI, so it just looked like a lot of hassle for worse visibility.
Note that the famous infinity pool on the top of Marina Bay Sands is only available to guests staying in the hotel, so there’s not an option to purchase a day pass. Needless to say, a room in this luxury resort is quite pricey, so SkyPark is the most affordable option.
I recommend visiting around dusk and watching the city slowly light up.
As you can see, a weekend in Singapore doesn’t have to be ridiculously expensive. You don’t even have to miss the city’s most famous attractions in order to save a buck while exploring! In addition to everything mentioned above, my last piece of advice is to not drink in the city. If you want even a single cocktail or mixed drink, you’ll have to pay handsomely for it: I never saw any for less than 20 SGD (15 USD). Embrace sobriety for a few days and your wallet will thank you!
Is Singapore my new favorite destination?
To be perfectly honest, I liked but didn’t love Singapore. While I’m definitely glad I went once, it’s not a destination I’m dying to go back to. In contrast, I could easily spend a month exploring every corner of Malaysia I haven’t seen yet. The same goes for Thailand. There’s a certain charm throughout most of Southeast Asia that seems to be dampened in Singapore.
Nonetheless, I think all avid travelers should aim to visit the city-state at least once. If presented with the opportunity to go back, I’d be sure to check out the less-urbanized northern side of the island, as well as Pulau Ubin, which is supposed to be a totally different world from the city center.
Have you been to Singapore before? What was your experience with prices and budgeting? Let me know in the comments below; I love to hear from my readers! Thanks for visiting Caffeinated Excursions!