Needless to say Singapore is never a first choice when backpacking South East Asia or planning a budget get away. We’re not going to lie, it is expensive BUT it is possible to enjoy Singapore on a budget thanks to our top tips.
Singapore was our first destination on our SE Asia trip and it was the perfect introduction to ease us in gently. Look passed the expensive rooftop bars and intimidating architecture, you’ll find an enriching eclectic mix of food, culture and surprisingly numerous free things to do in Singapore.
From the best budget accommodation, to dining out at the world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant – this guide will make backpacking Singapore look easy, so there’s no need to leave singa-poor!
BEST TIME TO GO BACKPACKING SINGAPORE
Generally, there is no “best” time to go backpacking Singapore – you can expect warm temperatures and showers all year round.
Singapore is renowned for its rainfall but if you can time your visit between February and April this is considered the “dry season” with slightly less rainfall than the rest of the year. We can vouch for this, as we were backpacking Singapore in March – temperatures were very warm (around 30 degrees), super humid but little to no rainfall.
We found it mostly rained early in the morning or late in the evening so it didn’t prevent us exploring all the free things to do in Singapore.
To avoid the crowds, peak season is considered May to June and apparently, September is the cheapest month for flights to Singapore but this is usually when the Formula 1 is so although flights are cheap, accommodation is not.
It’s also advised to avoid backpacking Singapore during January as this is when Chinese New Year/Lunar New Year occurs so prices massively increase. However, it would be an incredible celebration to witness.
We ended up backpacking Myanmar during Thingyan water festival (the Buddhist New Year) and found the opposite – there were little to no tourists celebrating and we found accommodation to be super cheap so don’t always be put off by major festivals as you can sometimes find the best deals during this time.
DO YOU NEED A VISA FOR BACKPACKING SINGAPORE?
No. If you are a UK or US citizen a Visa is not required for backpacking Singapore – unless you plan on staying more than 30 days but if you can afford that heck, you don’t need to be reading this guide!
TRAVELLING TO SINGAPORE ON A BUDGET
Singapore is located just off the South tip of Malaysia. Confusingly, it is both a city and a country and being an island, it’s cheapest to fly there. Not to mention it is home to the world’s best airport which is reason enough to go backpacking Singapore (more on that later.)
After 12 months backpacking Australia, we flew from Melbourne to Singapore. As Changi airport is a major travel hub, flights can be found relatively cheaply – we recommend booking on Skyscanner and searching via the “entire month” tool for the best deals.
We paid approx. £123 per person from Melbourne to Singapore.
Getting from Changi Airport to Singapore
Option 1: MRT
If you’re visiting Singapore on a budget (and manage to drag yourself away from their epic airport) you’ll be delighted to know that there’s no need for expensive airport transfers. At arrivals, take the FREE shuttle bus to Terminal 2.
Then take the insanely efficient subway system (the MRT) straight to the city. You can purchase a tourist pass which allows unlimited travel all day for SG$10.00, 2 days for SG$16.00 or 3 days for SG$20.00. Alternatively, enter your destination and calculate your fare here.
Option 2: Grab
As we arrived late at night we decided to take a Grab (similar to Uber) from the airport to our accommodation in Chinatown. Our Grab was SG$22.00 which proved better value for money than buying the tourist passes.
WHERE TO STAY IN SINGAPORE ON A BUDGET
When visiting Singapore on a budget, you will find your biggest expense is accommodation. We found an absolute gem of a hotel which was “cheap” by Singapore standards and best of all it was in Chinatown which proved the perfect base as we could walk everywhere
We stayed in the Cube Capsule Hotel – yes a “pod” hotel but it was not at all claustrophobic. The room had several pods with both male and female guests (you can opt for just female or just male.) The rooms had air con, fresh towels each day and secure lockers which were big enough for our huge backpacks under the beds.
Book Cube Hotel Chinatown Singapore
The entire hotel was super clean and modern. Although the bathrooms were shared like a hostel we never had a wait and there were two definite highlights which if you’re backpacking Singapore you’ll also appreciate.
The first being the laundry facilities were completely free of charge. This meant we could wash and dry the entire contents of our stinky backpacks without paying a penny.
The second is that breakfast was included and the breakfast was EPIC. We were usually still full by lunch and if you were sneaky you could easily make a sandwich or grab some fruit to take with you for during the day, again saving even more money.
We paid approx. £260.00 for 7 nights for our pod including breakfast.
BACKPACKING SINGAPORE FOR FREE
A huge tip for visiting Singapore on a budget is to take advantage of house sitting schemes such as Trusted House Sitters. We used it in Australia over Christmas and ended up in a stunning house for 3 weeks (with a pool) completely free. You just need to pay the one off signup fee which is basically the price of 1 night in Singapore so instantly you’ve saved money. You also get 25% off if you book via our referral link!
Get 25% off your Trusted Housesitters yearly membership
We are huge advocates for Workaway having had amazing Workaway experiences in Switzerland, Crete and while backpacking Hawaii. It allows you to stay in over 170 countries around the world completely free – in exchange you volunteer a few hours of your time. We cleaned (and stayed in) luxury treehouses, picked olives and taught English – in exchange we received 3 meals a day and free accommodation with the bonus of making friends for life. Workaway is an excellent idea in expensive places such as Singapore, as it takes away your biggest expense (accommodation) and gives you a more insightful experience away from the usual tourist track.
Are you ready for a cultural exchange by working and staying in 170 countries around the world?
If you don’t fancy volunteering your time, there are great sites like Workaway such as Couch Surfing where you are hosted by a someone in their home for free. It’s more of a cultural exchange than a work exchange and again, you save mega bucks on accommodation and usually have access to their kitchen to cook your own meals etc.
THINGS TO DO IN SINGAPORE ON A BUDGET
From light shows to gigs, you will be pleasantly surprised that there are SO many things to do in Singapore for FREE. So many in fact, that we had to dedicate an entire post as well as including the best cheap things to do in Singapore. Our guide also includes our top tour recommendations for those visiting Singapore on a budget.
WHERE TO EAT IN SINGAPORE ON A BUDGET
Food is probably the main reason we travel and after accommodation it is to blame for a huge chunk of our budget. You can imagine our delight when we were backpacking in Singapore that we found epic foodie finds at budget friendly prices. Here are a few of our favourites.
Hawker Chan – World’s Cheapest Michelin Star Restaurant
Another huge advantage of our hotel was that it was above Hawker Chan – the world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant. What began as a typical Hawker stall grew so much in popularity that it was awarded the Michelin star in 2016, since then the restaurant has grown even bigger with queues out the door every day.
Staying above it, we avoided the queues as we could pop down when it was quiet. The signature dish is the Soya Sauce Chicken and Rice which only cost SG$5.00 (although pre-star was even less, at SG$2.00.)
Admittedly, we weren’t too impressed – Darren’s was served cold but mine was hot and the staff were quite abrupt. It’s still a fun thing to do if travelling Singapore on a budget and probably the first and last time we’ll ever afford Michelin Star dining!
Hawker Centres – Lau Pa Sat
If you are visiting Singapore on a budget, you will soon get familiar with the Hawker Centres. They are essentially food markets – offering a huge variety of dishes at super affordable prices (usually SG$5.00 or less.) They are also regulated so only the best street food vendors with the highest hygiene standards are allowed to trade there.
Best of all, if you’re travelling as a couple and can never agree on where to eat there is literally something for everyone. From Indonesian to Chinese, Indian to Thai – Hawker Centres offer all styles of food to suit all budgets.
Our favourite was Lau Pa Sat which is one of the oldest and most popular with tourists and locals alike. Set in the heart of the financial district it’s architecture looks fabulously juxtaposed against the contemporary skyscrapers – a definite must visit when backpacking Singapore.
It’s also open 24 hours, so regardless of the time of day there’s a delicious treat waiting for you at Lau Pa Sat!
We are probably biased because we stayed here and instantly loved the entire atmosphere of Chinatown but if you’re backpacking Singapore this is THE place for affordable, delicious food.
Our absolute favourite was simply called “Chinatown Seafood Restaurant” (just look for the yellow seats on the corner of Pagoda Street.)
Despite the name we had an insanely good chicken cashew – so good we had it three times during our time backpacking Singapore. It was SG$16.00 but we shared it between us because the portion was that huge. All washed down with the backpacker favourite – Tiger Beer.
Chinatown is also home to the largest Hawker centre – Chinatown Complex Food Centre which has over 260 stalls selling traditional dishes from stingray to chilli crab, Hokkien mee to satay – all for under SG$5.00, which is perfect for those visiting Singapore on a budget.
Being Scottish, we are unashamedly obsessed with Greggs bakers and we can only describe BreadTalk like a Singapore equivalent and thankfully, there are several dotted throughout the city. It’s simply a budget bakery that offers traditional baked goods (pork floss bun anyone?) at super cheap prices.
It’s a great spot to grab lunch on the go or a cheap coffee and cake to get you through the 4 o’clock slump. We also highly recommend the Ice Cream sandwich which is a traditional treat and at only SG$1.50 is very budget friendly if backpacking Singapore.
Komala Vilas Vegetarian Restaurant
One of the best things to do in Little India is of course, eat and the food here happened to be our favourite from our entire trip! We found Komala Vilas Vegetarian restaurant following a recommendation and it was the BEST cauliflower gobi and paneer curry we have ever, ever had.
They have two menus – one which is super budget and you’re seated downstairs. The other menu is slightly more expensive (around SG$7.00 for a main course) and you’ll be seated upstairs. As long as one person in your group orders from the more expensive menu they allow your group to sit upstairs.
Every single time we’ve had a curry since, we reminisce about the unbeatable food we had in Little India – if you’re travelling Singapore on a budget you have to give it a try! It’s a particularly good area for vegan and vegetarian restaurants too.
GETTING AROUND SINGAPORE
Pretty much all backpacking Singapore guides will tell you to use the MRT system (the Singapore metro) ever the rebels, we didn’t use it once during our time there as we walked everywhere but if you’re keen, here are the ticket options.
This is a Pay as you go card which is SG$12.00 from the station and you get SG$7.00 of credit on the card. You can also purchase them from 7 Eleven for SG$10.00 – with SG$5.00 credit on the card. Using an EZ-Link Card, you are charged per journey with the fee calculated by the distance travelled. Usually this is around SG$3.00/SG$4.00 per journey and the card can be used on both busses or trains.
Alternatively, you can buy a tourist pass which is SG$10.00 for one day, SG$16.00 for 2 days or SG$20.00 for 3. This allows unlimited travel all day, but you would need to make at least 4 journeys a day to get your money’s worth. Also, if you’re having a day of walking round Little India or Chinatown you won’t be using your card so lose a day’s travel as they need to be used consecutively. Find out more about the tourist pass here.
For us, it proved best to simply walk everywhere. When backpacking Singapore, we soon found most attractions were within walking distance of our accommodation and if not, there are plenty Hawker Centres or bars to stop for a wee beer break along the way.
Although the trains provide air con, you are stuck underground so there’s also no possibility to wander off and find a hidden gem and you miss out on so many photo opportunities when confined to a carriage. Despite their flawless reputation avoid the trains if you’re visiting Singapore on a budget, pack water and walk – you’ll see more and earn those Tiger beers.
BACKPACKING SINGAPORE NIGHTLIFE
If you’re backpacking Singapore the one thing every backpacker loves is a good night out. *Spoiler Alert* this is pretty impossible when visiting Singapore on a budget.
However, we created a full guide on things to in Singapore at night, with most activities on the list not costing a penny! You’re welcome.
We also share the most iconic bars in Singapore, a free stargazing spot for the romantics, the best light shows in Singapore and the best river cruise deals. Unlike other SE Asia destinations like Thailand or The Philippines, there are no bargain cocktail buckets or free tequila shots until sunrise for those backpacking Singapore but there is still so much to do in Singapore at night without going broke.
HOW MUCH DOES A BACKPACKING SINGAPORE TRIP COST?
Although most people fear backpacking Singapore, it’s only because it’s more expensive than other countries in South East Asia. We found prices to be on par with the UK and still cheaper than Australia, as well as so many free & cheap things to do in Singapore.
Daily Budget For Backpacking Singapore
As a guide, for our Singapore itinerary we had a very comfortable budget of £60 per person per day. This covered all our accommodation, sightseeing, meals and alcohol. It also included major expenses such as our day at Universal Studios (including Cable Car to Sentosa) and a day at Adventure Cove Waterpark as well as the world’s most expensive cocktail at Raffles and our visit to Gardens By The Bay including the viewing platform at Marina Bay Sands. So, by all means you can budget alot less and enjoy backpacking in Singapore for less than £60 per day.
Cost of Accommodation
As mentioned, the easiest way to save money if travelling Singapore on a budget is to opt for free accommodation such as house sitting, couch surfing or Workaway. Hostels are easy to find but finding good hostels is the hard part. In areas around Little India & Chinatown you’ll find the best deals.
After a quick search on Booking.com we found numerous dorm beds for only £9.00 per night AND this included breakfast. If you are a couple visiting Singapore on a budget and dorm rooms ain’t your thing, we cannot recommend Cube Capsule Hotel enough – private yet purse friendly.
Cigarettes & Alcohol
If you also smoke, backpacking Singapore might not be for you – a pack of cigarettes can cost over SG$13.00 and if you thought taking your E-Cig would save a few bucks, think again. E-cigarettes are banned in Singapore so will be taken off you at the airport!
When it comes to alcohol, you will find it crazy expensive when backpacking Singapore. Not only are beers around SG$10-$20 in a bar but most bars have an extortionate cover charge of anywhere between SG$20-$30.
However, this wouldn’t be a backpacking Singapore guide without some money saving tips. Hawker centres don’t just serve food, but many also serve beer – a large bottle of Tiger is around SG$6-$7. Also, instead of purchasing alcohol in overprices nightclubs, head to the backpacker favourite: 7-Eleven. Then head to the river for epic views over the city.
As Singapore is famous for their unique laws, we were surprised that it is legal to drink in public until 10:30pm. You will notice lots of locals and backpackers alike enjoy their drinks by the pedestrian bridge in Clarke Quay for great views over the city or admiring the Spectra light show at the bay with a beer in hand.
BEST MONEY SAVING WEBSITES FOR BACKPACKING SINGAPORE
Although we found numerous free things to do in Singapore, there are many unmissable attractions which you need to buy tickets for. The good news is, we have done the research for you and found the best websites which offer discounts to these attractions and events, saving you mega bucks while backpacking Singapore.
These are our favourites which we used to book the many highlights of our 4 days in Singapore such as Gardens by the Bay, Universal Studios, Adventure Cove at Sentosa and our Art Science Museum tickets.
- Get Your Guide: Great for river cruises, food tours & things to do in Singapore at night
- Go Voyagin: We used this for our Universal Tickets & Artscience Museum tickets. You can get anywhere from 10-40% of RRP.
- Klook: Popular for Sentosa attractions & cheap Gardens by the Bay combo tickets
- Fave: Very Similar to Groupon or Wowcher it offers up to 80% off restaurants, spas & activities throughout Malaysia & Singapore.
TIPS FOR BACKPACKING SINGAPORE ON A BUDGET
It’s a Fine City in More Ways Than One
From the clean streets to the safest neighbourhoods in the world, the most efficient train system and respectful culture, you will find backpacking Singapore a breath of fresh air in comparison to many other SE Asian countries.
However, the reason it is so “fine” is due to the fact you can get fined for SO MANY things. They even have payment machines dotted around the city to make paying your fines extra convenient. If you are caught doing any of the following while backpacking Singapore, expect a major dent in your budget:
- Jaywalking: Not crossing the street using the marked crossings/when the lights do not permit you
- Eating or Drinking on public transport
- Chewing Gum: Unless it’s prescribed for therapeutic reasons, chewing gum is infamously illegal in Singapore
- Cycling on a pedestrian path, particularly near the river
- Feeding Pigeons? Hello SG$500 fine!
- Vaping – As mentioned, E-cigs & vapes will be taken off you at the airport
- Spitting in the street
- Drinking alcohol in public between 10:30pm – 7am
- If you’re backpacking Singapore and find one of those “anyway here’s Wonderwall” type fellas in your hostel with a guitar – this fine is for you. Playing an instrument in a public place that causes annoyance is an automatic SG$1,000 fine.
- Backpackers LOVE free Wi-Fi but if you connect to another user’s Wi-Fi it’s considered hacking in Singapore and if caught, hello SG$1,000 fine.
- Finally, flushing the toilet. If you forget or simply don’t flush a public toilet and you’re caught it’s a SG$150 fine.
OTHER TIPS FOR BACKPACKING SINGAPORE
Learn to Queue
As mentioned the Singapore culture is very efficient which is refreshing but can take a little getting used to if you’ve travelled from other SE Asian countries. Queuing is a big deal, being British we welcome queues with open arms, but many backpackers forget.
When travelling as a couple, you should be aware of Singapore’s conservative culture and avoid public displays of affection. Whilst backpacking Singapore we even noted signs in restaurants that stated “NO PDA” and although we agree nothing puts you off your food more than a smooching couple, it was still a surprise to see the forbidden signs.
Don’t Waste Food
Although Hawker centres are amazing when backpacking Singapore on a budget, it does mean many people get carried away and order more food than they can handle. This means food waste is a serious issue in Singapore, with many Hawker Centres having huge signs forbidding it as it’s majorly frowned upon. Be a responsible traveller – enjoy the epic food just don’t have eyes bigger than your belly.
Drink the Tap Water
If visiting Singapore on a budget, you’ll be delighted to hear you won’t need to pay SG$2.00 each time for a bottle of water. Instead, you can safely drink the tap water – saving you money and saving the planet! Don’t forget your refillable water bottle.
Plan in Advance
As mentioned Singapore is a mixing pot of culture and celebration, which can mean huge hikes in prices during certain festivals and events. We booked 3 months in advance and planned our dates out with the peak times. We rarely believe in the sooner you book, the cheaper it gets, but if travelling Singapore on a budget, the best deals are definitely in advance!
Get a Local Sim Card
For just SG$12.00 per person we purchased local SIM cards which gave us 100GB of data, 500 local minutes, 30 international minutes and 100 local SMS, all valid for 7 days. This was purchased directly with Starhub. You can even book to pick them up from Changi Airport, so you’ll have access to the internet as soon as you arrive.
Singapore Grand Sale
You know the mayhem of boxing day sales in the UK? or Black Friday in the US? Singapore has an almost-equivalent known as the Singapore Grand Sale (or Great Singapore Sale) except it lasts TWO MONTHS. Head to the shopping Mecca of Singapore, Orchard Road between the months of June to August for insane deals on designer goods such as handbags, jewellery and shoes.
Although shopping may not be high on your agenda while backpacking Singapore during this unique event you may even find bargains on backpacking travel essentials such as backpacks, cameras or trainers.
Claim Tax Back
If visiting Singapore on a budget hasn’t gone to plan or you got a little carried away at the Great Singapore Sale, it’s useful to know tourists are eligible to claim back tax. At participating stores, for every purchase of SG$100.00 or more you can claim a refund on the 7% GST thanks to the Tourist Tax Refund Scheme (eTRS.) Simply keep all receipts and take them to the eTRS kiosk at Changi airport. After scanning the receipt you can choose to have the refund to card or cash – every penny helps when backpacking Singapore!
We hope our guide has proved that backpacking Singapore on a budget is possible. From our budget accommodation to the best free things to do in Singapore at night, we had an amazing time and hopefully have inspired you that you don’t need to go broke when visiting the garden city!