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How Tourists Can Save Money in Singapore, World’s Most Expensive City

by Staff

There are several ways to save money as a tourist in Singapore, the author writes.
Marielle Descalsota/Business Insider

  • Last year, Singapore and Zurich were named the world’s most expensive cities to live in.
  • There are a handful of ways tourists can save money in Singapore, from dining to hotel picks. 
  • One way tourists can stretch their dollars is by eating at hawker centers outside the city center.

Spending time in Singapore can get expensive. In 2023, it tied with Zurich as the world’s most expensive city, per the Economist Intelligence Unit.

But there are plenty of affordable — and sometimes free — ways for both transit passengers and Singapore tourists to explore the city.

Travelers on layovers can take advantage of Changi Airport, voted the world’s best airport last year by Skytrax. There are gardens to explore and even a movie theater that shows free screenings in Terminal 3. And those with more time between flights can hop on a free two-hour bike ride or three-hour guided tours of different neighborhoods across the city.

After living in Singapore for over two decades, I’ve learned that there are also ways for tourists spending a few days in the city to stretch their dollars when dining and sightseeing.

Here are five more ways to save money as a tourist in Singapore.

Changi Hawker Center in eastern Singapore.
Marielle Descalsota/Insider

1. Eat at hawker centers outside the city center.

Local food is one of the few things you can still get for cheap in Singapore. Even popular dishes at the city’s most frequented hawker centers — open-air food courts — rarely cost over $5.

But travelers who want to stretch their budgets further can visit hawker centers in residential neighborhoods. For example, a plate of chicken rice costs around 5 Singapore dollars, or $3.75, at Maxwell Food Center in Chinatown. At Changi Village Hawker Center in eastern Singapore, it can cost as little as SG$3.

Eating out at less-touristy hawker centers also unveils a different side of Singapore. The skyscrapers in the city center turn into towering blocks of public housing apartments, where the vibe is more laidback than what you’ll find in the city center.

Kopi peng is prepared on a kopitiam counter.
Marielle Descalsota/Business Insider

2. Substitute your latte for a cup of kopi.

Coffee at trendy cafés or popular chains in Singapore can be pricey — it can cost upwards of SG$6. Many locals start their mornings with kopi instead, which is roasted by hand and strained with a sock.

Kopi is served at hawker centers and traditional coffee shops. Known for its deep, aromatic flavors, a cup of kopi costs just SG$1.20 on average — and can be prepared in more than 15 different ways.

A breakfast set — including the kopi, two slices of toast with coconut jam, and soft-boiled eggs — can be found for SG$3 if you steer clear of the tourist spots.

3. Skip the touristy beach clubs and explore the other coasts.

Many tourists in Singapore flock to Sentosa — the offshore island known for its glitzy resorts and beach clubs. But the prices of food and beverages are often inflated. A bottle of Corona at Tanjong Beach Club, a popular spot on the resort island, costs SG$16 . In comparison, a bottle of Corona at a local convenient store is often under SG$4. Despite Singapore being known for enforcing many laws, alcohol consumption on the beach is not one of them, so a six-pack can be enjoyed with a picnic.

Those who aren’t looking for BYOB can visit a beach club at Changi Beach in eastern Singapore. Stella Lounge — a beach club in the area — sells beers from the tap for as little as SG$13. There, you can also find dozens of different food options under SG$10 at the nearby hawker centers.

Hotel 81 Premier Star.
Marielle Descalsota/Insider

4. Spend the night at a love hotel instead of splurging on a luxury hotel.

I’ve found love hotels — that offer rooms for couples to rent by the hour — to be the best value for money rental in Singapore. A night’s stay at one of the most popular chains, Hotel 81 Chinatown, costs as little as SG$95, and they’re typically clean, spacious, and centrally located. Unlike most hostels, love hotels typically offer a private bathroom.

5. Check out the free galleries at Gillman Barracks and NUS Museum.

Many of Singapore’s most popular attractions — like Universal Studios Singapore and the viewing deck at the Marina Bay Sands — are pricey, costing SG$62 and SG$32 respectively.

But there are many things you can do if you’re on a budget. Admission is free at art galleries and museums like Gillman Barracks and NUS Museum. Free concerts are often performed outdoors at the Esplanade, a theatre complex in the city-state’s downtown area. The Botanic Gardens, near the Orchard Road shopping district, offers free guided tours and there’s no cost to check out the light and water show at Marina Bay Sands.

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