5 Backpacker Hacks to Spend Less in an Expensive City Like Singapore

Singapore may be a small country, but it's one of leading countries in economy. Props to its efficient and strong law enforcement, Singapore is an organized city with disciplined citizens that in turn boost tourism, receiving thousands of visitors all-year round.

However, the convenient lifestyle in Singapore is the price it pays that traveling around the city tends to be more expensive than to its neighboring countries in Southeast Asia. In fact, after a short backpacking in Singapore, I realized it wasn't easy to keep everything in budget too. But I learned a few hacks and I've listed 5 of them to help you spend less when traveling Singapore. Let's begin!

1. Transportation

Public transportation is what I always recommend when traveling, including when in Singapore. Their Metro Rail Transit (MRT) is the cheapest option and is highly reliable. It has 5 main lines, namely: North South, East West, Circle, North East, and Downtown lines. all of which are connected to each other.
In fact, the Changi International Airport is connected to the East West line through the Changi Airport station. So when you arrive in Singapore, you may conveniently reach the city by train in just 30-45 minutes.
Note: The Changi Airport station is connected to terminals 2 and 3 only. In case you arrive at Terminal 4 (T4), where Cebu Pacific and Air Asia are assigned at, take the free bus shuttle for a 5-minute ride to the train station. Bus shuttles operate from 6AM to 12AM located at the at the arrival area (1st floor) of T4. For terminal 1, ride the free Changi Airport Skytrain to bring you right at the entrance of the train station.
A good way to save in train fares is to get an EZ link card, Singapore’s cashless top-up card that's sold at any train station. With this card, you get discounts per ride. For example, when riding from Changi Airport to Bugis, it costs SGD 1.65 using the EZ link card against SGD 2.30 when using a single-journey card bought at the ticketing machine. Also, the use of card bails you off the long lines at the ticketing machine especially at busy MRT stations like Bayfront, Raffles Place, and Chinatown. Aside from the train, the card can be used when opting to take the bus, taxi, or when buying at selected stores.

The card costs SGD 5. When you buy it at the train station, it costs SGD 12 with a 7-SGD stored value. On the other hand, it costs SGD 10 with a 5-SGD stored value when bought at any 7-Eleven outlet.

2. Internet

Mobile internet has become a necessity when traveling. To get the cheapest sim card with the cheapest data plan in Singapore, go with M1, a mobile network company in Singapore. M1's M Card costs SGD 5, which is the main balance to be used to register to the 1GB data plan good for 3 days.

Note: To register the promo, just dial #100*3# then select Data Pack > 3-day Data Pack and then an SMS will be sent for the activation. To check the balance or validity of the promo, dial #100*2# then select Free Data Balance/Expiry.
However, what's commonly sold to tourists and at 7-Eleven stores is the 15-SGD Tourist Card by M1. To get the cheaper M Card, go instead to any M1 store such as the Bugis outlet inside Bugis Junction. For a complete list of M1 shops, distributors, and partners, click here.
Meanwhile, for free WIFI, there are some areas in Singapore that offer it powered by the Wireless@SG program. At Changi Airport, you can get a free 3-hour WIFI by simply scanning your passport. The WIFI password displays afterward.
The Singapore National Gallery
Also, there’s free WIFI in museums (e.g. Singapore National Gallery. No need to pay any entrance. You can just stay at the lobby), shopping malls (e.g. Vivo City), and fast food & coffee shops (e.g. McDonald’s, Gloria Jeans, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, etc.). 

3. Food

A restaurant meal in Singapore may range from SGD 12 and up. Beverage can also get costly. Even water was expensive (small bottled water is SGD 2 and a liter costs SGD 4) that I only bought a liter of bottled water once and then I only refilled it with water at my hostel (which is a good money-saving tip!)
Another food budgeting tip is to look for an accommodation that includes breakfast already. Doing so also saves you time in looking for a breakfast place as most of the restaurants in Singapore open late (they open at 9AM or later).
For budget meals without sacrificing quality, you may want to eat at a hawker center where some (but not all) dishes can get cheaper at 8 SGD or below. Aside from price, you also get a variety of food choices as a hawker typically consists of several small food stalls.

Hawker centers are all over Singapore. But it's a must-try at Maxwell Food Centre especially that Anthony Bourdain recommended one of the food stalls there, the Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, which is said to serve the best Hainanese chicken in town.

4. Attractions

To enjoy Singapore without emptying the pocket afterward, it’s good to mix in some free-admission attractions. Here are some places without entrance fees to check out in Singapore:

Supertree Grove 

Although most attractions at Gardens by the Bay have entrance fees, including the combo entrance fee to the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest at SGD 28 for adults and 15 SGD for children 3-12 years old and to the OCBC Skyway at SGD 8 and SGD 5 for children 3-12 years old, it’s free to check out the Supertree Grove, the 18 man-made trees standing tall inside Gardens by the Bay.

Don’t miss the 15-minute light show that runs every hour starting at 6:45PM. Viewers usually lay on the ground while watching, so bring a mat if you can to comfortably enjoy the spectacular show. Also, it’s best to come to the venue 15-30 minutes before it starts to get the best spots as it gets really crowded, believe me.

Merlion Park

The Merlion is a mythical creature with a lion’s head and a fish’ body that’s considered a symbol of Singapore. As said, a trip to Singapore won’t be complete without seeing or having a picture with it.
Funny that during my last 2 visits in Singapore in 2008 and 2013, I never had a photo with the Merlion and my friends couldn’t believe it. So the third time I went, I joined the bandwagon to have a signature pose with the Merlion! =p


Going to Singapore’s Chinatown is a very interesting place. Aside from the stretch of outdoor markets for shopping and hawkers for dining, you can visit a Buddhist temple, an Indo-Islamic mosque and a Hindu temple all in the same area. Singapore is a diverse country that it consists of 3 main ethnic groups, namely: Chinese/Singaporean (76%), Malay (12%), and Indian (8%).

Located at South Bridge Road, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is religiously significant as it’s said that Buddha’s left tooth was found here. It’s a 5-storey temple with several Buddhist statues inside. Proper attire must be observed (i.e. shorts and/or sleeveless aren't allowed) in the main hall, but you can borrow a shawl for cover before entering the hall.

Also at South Bridge Road is the Sri Mariamman Temple, which is the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore that dates back 1827. An interesting sight to see here is the gopuram, the local name of the temple's entrance tower. It depicts an elaborate representation of mythological characters and deities in Hinduism.

It's a good cultural experience to enter this temple. There are a few more interesting displays, statues, and buildings inside. Footwear must be removed upon entrance, so leave your footwear at the left of the entrance or bring a paper/plastic bag to carry it with you.
Not too far is the Masjid Jamae (Chulia), the dominantly green-colored mosque with 2 minarets at the entrance. It basically works as a place of worship, but there are some displays to explain the fundamentals of Islam for tourists.

Inside, you’ll probably see men seated on the floor praying while the women’s prayer hall is at the right side. Note that men and women pray in separate areas in this mosque as part of Islam's teaching to respect women. Footwear must also be removed upon entrance and proper attire must be followed (i.e. no shorts and/or sleeveless). Robes for cover may be borrowed at the entrance.

Also read: When in Singapore: Kampong Glam

5. Accommodation

As a small country, land area is limited in Singapore and so it’s expected that accommodation is expensive. A good way to save in accommodation is to look for a backpacker hostel, which is usually in a dormitory setup where facilities are mostly shared: bunk beds / capsules, shared toilet, common lounge, and a kitchen. The cheapest backpacker hostels are mostly located in Bugis, Chinatown, and Geylang area.
I stayed for 4 nights at Five Stones Hostel at Beach Road, which is 10 minutes on foot from the Bugis MRT station and close to places of interest such as the Haji Lane, Masjid Sultan, Arab Street, and Bugis Junction. I like that breakfast was included considering that, as mentioned, food is generally expensive in Singapore.
I got to use the free facilities such as the WIFI, Netflix, books, and desktop PCs. There’s even a DIY laundry area at the top floor to lessen the cost in laundry service. Also, I felt safe throughout my stay in this hostel given my own access card to enter the dorm and locker for my valuables. Even though I was in an 8-bed female dormitory and shared facilities with other guests, I still felt the personal space and the freedom to hang out with others whenever I wanted to.

Overall, I managed to spend less than PHP 10,000 for 4 days in Singapore! Here's the breakdown:

Transportation to and from Manila airport: PHP 577
Transportation in Singapore: PHP 335
Airport travel tax: PHP 1,620
Food and drinks: PHP 1,806
Accommodation: PHP 5,356
Souvenirs: PHP 1,134

TOTAL: PHP 9,208

Note: I meant not to include the air fare in the list. I used my Cebu Pacific GetGo membership for the round trip ticket to Singapore. 

Have you been to Singapore? What other money-saving tips can you suggest? Let's have a chat below!

5 Backpacker Hacks to Spend Less in an Expensive City Like Singapore 5 Backpacker Hacks to Spend Less in an Expensive City Like Singapore Reviewed by Shelly Viajera Travel on 24.11.19 Rating: 5


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