The Super trees, big Merlion statue and Universal Studios are just few of the numerous Singapore tourist spots that are associated with this prominent country. It is not surprising that Singapore is one of the most popular travel destinations all over the world. I usually hear very good feedback from people who have set foot there. Picturesque locations are seen everywhere on posters, movies and on the web. And being an open country, entering as a tourist is one of the last things you will worry about.
The Most Expensive City?
Aside from the glamorous everywhere, another common remark with it is being the most expensive city in the world. Expensive for sure if you want to indulge yourself in top hotels and VIP services. But for common people like me, there are work-around and ways to enjoy even on a very tight budget.
Yes, cheap travels can be done everywhere. But it takes a lot of research and preparations, and you have to do this in advance. The most popular destinations are indeed expensive, but I am glad to find out tips during our stay. Plus, the internet is filled with budget travelling guides; I will be citing some in this post, too.
Landing at Changi Airport
After 3 hours and 40 minutes of travel in the air, we arrived at the world’s best and busiest airport. And it did not failed us. The airport is big and lively even in the wee hours past midnight. The first thing to do is to fill up the disembarkation card which can be found on the right side before passing the immigration stations. It has translations to different countries, showing a welcoming gesture for visitors. Be sure to fill up the address you will be staying at, the past city, and other details.
We had a small trouble past immigration stations as an officer approached us and prohibited us from taking videos. At first we wondered if it’s prohibited on doing so. We played the clip with him and he let us pass after seeing that his face was not clearly seen. He then scanned our suitcases and then goes another concern: we brought sausages without knowing it was prohibited. It caused us some delays as we have to throw the sausages ourselves on the trashcan . We were surprised that the tall trash can was filled with plenty of similar goods. So, lesson learned — research more when travelling to foreign countries.
Free city tour can be availed if you have 5 extra hours to spend when landing here on connecting flights. You just need to register in the designated counters.
With its location close from the equator, tropical climate is to be expected just like in the Philippines. So, we did not have to adjust as it’s just the same in our country: very sunny at noon and some showers in the afternoon. But I was amazed that the sun still shines ’til 7 pm.
Where I stayed: With Kababayans and Family
Singapore is flooded with fellow pinoys and my sister happens to be one of them. As I mentioned in my past post, First Time Flying Abroad, I was with my girlfriend and youngest sister. We planned to stay in her apartment or the so-called Housing Development Board (HDB), together with a family of Filipino which happened to be from Batangas as well. We also planned to try out hotels just for a staycation experience. With this setup, we saved a lot of bucks from spending on hefty accommodations.
But what if you don’t have any relatives or friends to stay at? Don’t worry as there are plenty of options to save your pockets. You can try couchsurfing.com with around 50,000 hosts, search on airbnb, or use hotel/hostel searching apps/websites such as Agoda. I happened to find out affordable hotels near Orchard that costs 50 SGD or less. That’s including breakfast plus a strategic location near MRT lines and Bus stops. From our experience, staying near them will save you a lot of time and money! Note that there are much cheaper hostels near China Town, Little India, Clark Quay and Bugis where budget-conscious travelers go to.
Travelling Around by Bus, MRT, Taxi, Walking
Exceptional transportation! This is one of the city-states’ traits that I love the most. Why? Because I can say that I can live here without having to buy my own car. There are bus stations almost everywhere, and there will be more to be built. There is no traffic jams, counter-flowing drivers, and delays in train arrivals. In our 6 days of stay, we use the MRT and LRT a lot, and some bus rides as we tour the city.
Before we exit Changi, we got ourselves EZ-link cards for SGD10. It is a contactless stored value card that is used to ride trains and buses. It can also be used to buy foods, pay parking tickets and even on government services. Reloading is easy as there are reloading machines on every stations. For 3-day tours, you can avail Singapore Tourist Pass instead at SGD20 as it packs unlimited rides on MRT, LRT and public buses.
As a guide, we used apps Singapore MRT and LRT FREE and gothere.sg. We used it to know the fastest and cheapest routes. Just enter your location and destination; it will tell what buses to hop into and trains to ride. Remember to board the buses in front and alight at the middle, don’t forget to tap your EZ-link card to avoid farthest station charges.
Apart from the efficient trains and buses, you can also use Grab. We availed their services to and from the airport as we carried heavy suitcases with us.
How to Stay Connected Online
Early morning on our first day of tour, we went to a mall and hunted for a tourist SIM card. For SGD15, we had our own SIM with a generous 100 GB of data, 500 mins local calls, 100 local sms and 20 mins international calls, all valid for 5 days. It activates almost instantly and called my sister immediately. Excited, I launched speed test and was amazed with the result.
First things first, if you want to enjoy the major attractions at discounted rates, check out deals online. Klook is one of the platforms offering discounted tickets. You can also buy discounted SIM cards from them. Another great tool for cheap tickets is the Carousel App. It’s a marketplace where you can do meet-ups with the seller or transact online. These discounted tickets are usually sent via email. There are designated counters that print this tickets and in some cases (just like in the two flower domes), they scan the bar codes directly from smartphone screens.
Major Places to Visit + Activities
Tour cost us 17SGD each. It is “where art meets science.” The museum features different international touring exhibitions. During our visit, only three floors were open. Nonetheless, we had fun despite a short tour.
Just minutes away are the towering Supertrees at Gardens by the Bay. It stands 80 to 160 feet and houses many different kinds of plants such as orchids, ferns and lots of other beautiful species. Tip: Don’t miss the Supertrees light show every night at 7:45 pm. Watch plenty of lights dancing with different varieties of music.
The Flower Dome and Cloud Forest
Located also at Gardens by the bay, the two domes houses many interesting and rare plants. The Flower Dome features numerous garden types while the Cloud Forest boasts the tallest indoor waterfall in the world.
National Orchid Garden
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After visiting this place, the 5SGD entrance fee feels way too cheap for the stunning blooms we saw. Even if you’re not a gardener, I am sure you’ll be amazed with the colors, shapes, types and arrangement of flowers, bushes and trees. Definitely worth a visit!
Singapore Zoo / Night Safari / River Safari
Situated near with each other, these attractions feature lots of animals in amazing man-made habitats. In the Night safari, we witnessed lots of nocturnal animals aboard a tram, but we had more fun walking on trails. It’s advisable to watch the night show, they have a great host. River safari is where we saw lots of fishes in different kinds and sizes. The main attraction are the two Pandas namely, Kai kai and Jia jia.
Singapore Cable Car
My first time to ride a cable car was here and it was awesome! My sister treated us with the ride. The view is scenic as you can see 360 degree view of Resorts World, Universal Studios and the bay with cruise ships. What a great way to enter Sentosa Island.
Singapore Tourist Spots list is not complete without the trip to the famous Sentosa Island, and located on it is a must-visit theme park: Universal Studios Singapore (USS). Sentosa Island features many other attractions such as SEA Aquarium, Adventure Cove Waterpark, Tricke Eye Museum and more. But doing these plenty will take too much time and huge cut on our budget, so we opted for just the USS tour and some rides including the Cable Car Pass and Luge.
Universal Studios Singapore
Universal Studio Singapore is the only movie-themed park in the city-state which features 24 exciting rides and attractions. The park is divided according to its movie-theme. Each has its own rides, mascots and restaurants. But the most talked about of them all is from Transformers. You don’t want to miss this, for sure. Tip: Come before 9am to avail the front lines. Avoid weekends so you won’t waste your time waiting in long queue.
The Singapore Flyer is the largest giant observation wheel in Asia. You can have a breathe-taking view of the Marina Bay skyline and beyond. The wheel can hold a total of 784 passengers and the travel time is about 30 minutes. We saw a whole new perspective looking below as we enjoy the panoramic view including the two flower domes, Merlion park, and plenty of places that I didn’t knew exist. Thanks to our kababayan for the free ride.
Free Singapore Tourist Spots
Singapore Botanic Garden
Free attraction alert! Exploring this amazing garden won’t be a burden to your pocket. I don’t know why I rarely see this on blogs. The place is flourishing with green grasses and varieties of tropical plants. Being a nature lover, the walk is so relaxing as we walk towards the main attraction: Orchid Garden. You can also spot monitor lizards walking freely in the park, swans and Koi fishes at the lake, squirrels(I’m not sure) and other animals.
You can just take a picture with the Merlion and say you visited Singapore, right? That’s how iconic it is. Many people hang out in the Merlion park taking pictures and enjoying the breeze. The challenge here for you is to take the most amazing shot on Panorama mode.
Chinatown Walking Tour
Wander around Chinatown and feel the sense of Chinese culture within Singapore. In this area, you’ll see many temples other than Chinese. There is a mosque, and churches as well which signifies the diversity in culture and religion in this amazing country. You can also find shops, stalls and souvenir items at a bargain price.
Little India Walking Tour
Little India features interesting shops and foods. Feel their culture as you walk around the streets. There are plenty of Instagrammable painted walls and houses. You can also find here Mustafa Center which is famous with its affordable souvenirs, foods, electronics and other goods.
Just a bridge with a cool, modern design decorated with lights that changes colors. Helix screams millennial attitude and style.
Places to Eat
Maxwell Food Center
After the Chinatown tour, indulge yourself with delicious yet affordable foods at Maxwell Food Center. It is a well-known hawker center with lots of food stalls to choose from. The area is not air-conditioned but the aura is so inviting with the aroma and variety of delicacies from different countries.
Makansutra Gluttons Bay
It looks like a hawker center but the prices here are steep. There are a couple of stalls to choose from. We had rice, satays and chicken legs. I also ordered here chandol, (read as jandol) a yummy iced dessert with a cool pronunciation.
Other Restaurants We Tried
Located at Choa Chu Kang Park, I would like to personally recommend this restaurant as we really liked their food. We ordered satays, shrimps, fried squid and those tasty green drinks.
Located at Suntec City mall, Dooki is a korean buffet restaurant. We had fun mixing our own sauce. Thank goodness it was really tasty.
Where to Shop + Souvenirs
Located in Little India, Mustafa center offers a wide variety of affordable products. There are perfumes, groceries and souvenirs.
This is where we bought most of our souvenir items. We had shirts, key chains, ref magnets, chocolates and more. The uncles and aunties are very friendly and offers additional discounts. We even had free key chains from them.
Located at the Orchard Road, lucky plaza is not an expensive mall compared to nearby ones. It features a lot of Filipino stores and restaurants. Note that you can find Jollibee in food court. We had the best exchange rate here. Just ask a couple of money changers to be compare. TIP: The best rates are given by those who use their calculators to show you the conversion.
China Town Streets
The stalls are located beside the streets. We saw huge bargain prices here while doing the walk in China town but we failed to buy souvenir items as we were just starting our tour as we passed by. We don’t want to carry too much items while sight-seeing.
Breakdown of Expenses/pax
- Artscience Museum Ticket= 17SGD
- M1 Simcard = 15SGD
- Orchids = 5SGD
- Food = 45.6SGD
- Night Safari = 45SGD
- Flower Dome & Cloud Forest Tickets = 20SGD
- EZ-Link Load = 20SGD
- River Safari Ticket = 21SGD
- Cable Car = 19 SGD
- Luge (Sentosa Attraction) = 12SGD
- Universal Studios Ticket = 59SGD
Total = 279.6 SGD ~10,600 Php, ~207.56 USD
- Be aware of their rules. No smoking, spitting, chewing gum, etc. Do not eat and drink at the trains. I almost did this once, thankfully I remembered. They strictly implement and punish the lawbreakers.
- OCBC has a good exchange rate when you need to withdraw via ATM. I used my BDO debit card at Sentosa because I ran out of cash. The withdrawal charge is around 180 Php.
- Always look for tickets online first. Klook offers are great as well. We also used Carousel as we have someone who can pay via deposit in a local bank.
- Do not get offended by the locals if they won’t smile or treat you like a VIP. It’s different from our country wherein those at services are opt to smile and please always. Here, they are kind and helpful also but get used to short and direct to the point conversations.
- Stay on the left when using escalators, stairs and hallways.
- Be tourist-friendly. When they asked you to take pictures, go. And ask them to take yours too. Haha!