Singapore is not as crazy expensive and futuristic as you might think. Yes, everything (or at least most things are) is Man Made, like the 'a bit too fake island' of Santosa, or the Marina Bay Sands Towers with a Ship (yes a SHIP!) built onto the top, but it is actually quite a nice and calm city to be in. After travelling through Malaysia for 2,5 months, exploring all the different islands and mainland mountains, jungles and cities, Singapore was a nice change without being too different. It is a bit upper class, with a huge business district in the downtown area, close to Chinatown, with all the huge skyscrapers and fancy banking buildings, and it reminds me a lot of a big city in Europe. Maybe a reason why I started to feel a bit homesick (let me tell you, this has been the first time I actually thought of getting on a plane back home), after a whole year of travelling.
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Singapore's amazing skyline
Even though Singapore might look a bit daunting at first glance (I mean it is a whole Island after all and not only a city to explore), but let me tell you it can be done in a good 3-4 days. My absolute favourite was the food and I would actually go back JUST for that! Food heaven for vegetarians and again not as expensive as you think! Keep on reading to find out where the best low cost veggie places are and how to save some money! So let's start with where to sleep! I tried two different places in my week stay in Singapore (I had the time and wasn't rushing anywhere) and can definitely recommend the second one. Bunc Hostel was a very big and fancy looking place for the same price as all the other Hostels I checked out in the same area. Roughly 20 S$ a night, it included an amazing podlike bed with a locker and enough space in the 'pod' to put your things in, a shared bathroom that was always clean, breakfast every morning with a big selection (for a hostel breakfast) of food, and a huge lounge area to mingle with new people and have a chat. Located in Little India, it was not far to walk to the metro station or to anywhere else for that matter. Great location and great price for everything it included - good for small budget travellers like me!
I did most things in town by walking, because I love exploring a new place like that to get a better feel for everything. And Singapore is not too big to not be able to do so. I must say I walked about 18-20 km every day though, so for anyone less inclined to walk that much, there is an amazing underground system that will get you anywhere in town for only 1-2 S$. Definitely a well thought out Transportation System!
The different districts are clearly defined and there are so many amazing things to explore in each of them! Little India is just around the corner from the Hostel, so I spent a lot of time there. Make sure to check out the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple - I was lucky enough to be there during Deepavali, where I was able to sit and witness some of the very personal prayers and ceremonies. All the little markets and stalls and shops are amazing to stroll through and go for a wander - you will most certainly end up buying something! Now the FOOD here (!!) - there are so many good places to suggest! Any of the stalls and market food is delicious, but my all time favourite I kept coming back to, was the Tekka Food Centre. Here you will find anything and everything. I was a bit overwhelmed the first time I went there to be honest! I didn't know where to look or what to eat. The best thing to do is to try a few things at different places, it will all be delicious. Being a vegetarian was absolutely no problem here. As Indian cuisine is known for its delicious vegetarian food, this was a great example of it (to let you in on a secret, I came back here three or four times, because it was that good!). And the prices were very good as well, every time I came, I had dinner for 5-6 S$.
Close to Little India and only 5 minutes walk away is Little Arabia. Come here in the evening to find a night market set up, the beautiful (and definitely a must) light up Sultan Mosque, and a lot of life in different bars and restaurants. A cool place to be and hang out with many vintage shops and quirky little places to look at during the day. Food wise, two amazing places here: Kampong Glam Cafe, which serves delicious Malay food in buffet style (for roughly 5 S$) with a really good Teh Panas for lunch, and Zam Zam serving the best Murtabek for only 5 S$ with the best view onto the Sultan Mosque all lit up in the evening for dinner.
Walking further down from there, the area gets a bit more fancy and a bit more official with all the government buildings, such as the town hall and expensive hotels, like the Raffles Hotel (definitely worth strolling through the garden, no one will question you, as everyone does it). The closest metro station is City Hall and opposite of that is the beautiful Saint Andrew's Cathedral. The view over the skyline here is spectacular! If you continue walking, you will find yourself crossing the Anderson Bridge, and making your way to the famous Merlion Park with the Lion 'spitting' water. A nice place to rest for a while and enjoy the view! The skyline and the Marina Bay Sands Towers are great to see from here. Continue walking through Downtown and over to the Bayfront. Another spectacular and very different view over to the other side of the city. Wandering around the Marina Bay Sands Towers is a must and you definitely need to come back at night when everything is lit up. There is a water show right in front of the towers every night at 7pm and 8pm, so make sure to check that out. It was one of the best light and water shows I have been to (and nothing to compare with the one in KL!). The Marina Bay Gardens are beautiful as well and also worth checking out. You can walk through the gardens for free, but if you want to enter in any of the domes or attractions it can be quite expensive. Being on a low budget, I just wandered through and enjoyed the hot sunny day, the views over to the Singapore Flyer, and all the different flowers and trees from all over the world. At night this is also beautifully lit up and another light show starts at 7:45pm and 8:45pm, so just perfect to do after the light show at the towers. The special thing about this light show is, that everyone lays on the ground (so bring a towel or blanket if you don't want to lay on the floor) together and watches the lights blinking in the sky - you will know what I mean when you go, it is great!
An absolute INSIDER TIP and something I will only share with you fabulous female readers, is the Ladies Night at the Marina Bay Sand Tower 3 on Wednesday nights. Now this is absolutely amazing and I was so happy another female traveller shared this with me. Not only do you get to go up the tower for FREE (it is usually 20 S$ otherwise) to view one of the most stunning and spectacular views over the city (!!), but you also get a free glass of champagne! How amazing is that?! So be sure to plan your trip accordingly and make sure you are in Singapore on a Wednesday night, Ladies. This was definitely one of the highlights of my trip to Singapore - no joke! And amazing for budget travellers, as you do not have to spend a single dime and are most likely to meet a few more ladies to chat and enjoy your drink with!
From Marina Bay walk or take the metro to Chinatown. If you walk you will stroll through the banking area, passing all the business men and women going to and from work or for lunch. A very fancy and high end area that will soon turn into a very upper class Chinatown, very different from what we all know a "typical Chinatown" to be like. If you walk through the entrance from the Ann Siang Hill Park (great view over the area), you will come across a very hip and cool district to hang out in. Bars and restaurants geared towards the young and hip, but still classy and cool with the business suits on break. A bit further on towards the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and you will arrive at the Chinatown we all know and love. Very busy, all the red and yellow coloured decorations, dragons, Chinese tea and food and trinkets - it can all be found here! The big temple is worth checking out, the intricacy and golden statues and murals on the wall are breathtaking. And sure enough you will come across a few female monks teaching and researching in the middle of the temple - great to watch and observe!
Clark Quay is not that much further along and an area you will want to go to in the evenings. All the western restaurants and bars are located along the river front with great views and drinks. There are a few fun fairs and rides if that is your thing, or just enjoy the stroll along the river and all the crazy colourful houses along the way.
Another Metro or bus ride up to Orchard Road, to do some shopping. Come empty handed and you will leave with dozens of bags. If there is anything (and I mean absolutely ANYTHING) you need to get, this is the place to go. From little independent stores, to chains like H&M, Zara, Mango, Forever 21, to the big names like Chanel, Gucci, Prada, etc. Something for everyones taste, big wallet or small money. The food court in Orchard Central shopping Mall is definitely to recommend. The Food Republic there has so much choice to offer for good prices around 5-8 S$. As a vegetarian not an extreme amount of choices, but a few Indian stalls and an amazing Chinese soup stall with a huge array of fresh veggie and tofu to throw in a bowl that they will instantly cook for you! A great experience and all fresh and healthy goodies inside!
Now the last on the list for me was Sentosa. I heard so much about this completely man made island, I just had to check it out. Getting the Metro to Harbour Front took forever and so much longer than expected, but after I arrived over an hour later, I ended up in the shopping complex called Vivo City (on a side note, the Food Republic food court at the top of the mall is amazing as well, very similar to the one in Orchard Road). Trying to find the exit and way out to walk over to Sentosa took forever as well, but the view from the top of this shopping mall over to the island is worth checking out. Walking over the bridge and onto the island, you are instantly hit by all the tourist attracions. Universal Studios, adventure parks, water and theme parks, you name it. If this is your thing great, if not (like me) then the crowd, the heat, and all the fakeness might slightly hit your nerves. Keep pushing through for about half an hour walk all the way to the front, where you will find Siloso Beach. You Made It!!! To the southern most point of continental Asia! Congratulations! Full of fake sand between your toes and small little islands off the beach also completely fake. I personally did not like it very much, as you can tell, and for anyone into nature and natural beauty will most likely agree that everything about this island FEELS and IS completely fake! Nice to check out though and to be able to say you were there, but weigh the options, if it is not for you, then don't go.
Anyways, except for Sentosa, I absolutely loved Singapore! It is a great and fun city to explore with so many things to do and so many different districts to get lost in. It is huge but small at the same time and I instantly felt safe and welcomed anywhere I went. This is especially important for all you solo female travellers out there, no need to worry here! I felt completely safe anywhere I went. Giving me a feeling of home, probably because it reminded me so much of a European City, and because the food, people, and culture is very similar to Malaysia, a country I travelled through for a long time. Even for a budget backpacker like me, it was not too expensive (just don't compare it to Thailand or any other Southeast Asian countries) and a lot could be done on a tight budget. Finding vegetarian food was always easy and the so extremely delicious, for around 5-6 S$, and accommodation was 20 S$ a night with breakfast included. Metro tickets a day were about another 3-4 S$ and that was pretty much it! If you want to go into any of the attractions or museums, you will have to spend a bit more - but there is so much to see without spending any money at all.
If you like the article, leave a comment or like and make sure to come back to see where I travelled to next, and what I might call my new home for a while. There will be some great news and more budget tips and tricks of where and how to save money and travel cheaply. If you have any further questions or want to get in touch, I am happy to answer any questions you might have! Don't be shy, send me an email or send me a message through my Facebook Page Cutting Loose. Please share and like this article and website with friends or fellow travellers to spread the word and help you save on your next big trip!
The Marina Bay Sands Towers from the Marina Bay Gardens
The Marina Bay Gardens, river, and Singapore Flyer at night
My absolute INSIDER TIP for Wednesday Nights - look at that view!
The Singapore Flyer and its skyline
Skyline and water show at night
The famous Marina Bay Sands Towers with a ship built on top
Skyline by day
The best Murtabek in town at Zam Zam, directly opposite the stunning Mosque
The view over to Sentosa from the Vivo City shopping complex
Beautiful but very fake beach on Sentosa, even the sand feels fake!