Singapore weather, tourist attractions and vacation tips
From the time you touch down in Singapore, you’ll notice a few things – first, take in the simply stunning Marina Bay skyline, then head out on the town for shopping, food and any number of attractions. This immaculately clean city marries nature with beautiful, innovative architecture. You can often find public parks among city lights and skyscrapers. The City in a Garden is also culturally rich, and has grown into a favourite destination for foodies and lovers of high-end fashion.
These factors have made Singapore a notoriously expensive country to visit, but don’t let sticker shock dissuade you – with our tips for when to go, where to stay and how save on essentials like flights, transportation, food and attractions, you’ll discover plenty of ways to shave costs.
Geography, population and more
Located in the continent of Asia, Singapore does not share land borders with any countries, and has a population of 5.6 million people. You might be surprised to discover the country is an economic powerhouse; it’s seaport is one of the busiest in the world and Singapore has grown to become a major worldwide banking, shipbuilding and petroleum centre.
“Within the last few decades, this melting pot of cultures has moved onto the ‘A List’ for international travelers, and is today one of the most sophisticated tourist destinations on the planet,” declares World Atlas.
Fact: Singapore is currently the only island-city-country in the world, and is slightly smaller than the city of Lexington, Kentucky in the United States.
Currency and budget
Singapore uses the Singapore Dollar (SGD) and most places will offer fair exchange rates, notes Will Fly for Food, a travel blog for the gastronomically inclined written by JB & Renée. For the best exchange rate, they recommend heading to Mustafa Foreign Exchange at Mustafa Centre in Little India, which is open 24/7. You can also check their other recommended money changers or go to an ATM. When we checked in late April 2019, the Singapore Dollar was close to par with the Canadian Dollar.
As for how much cash to take out, The Blonde Abroad says to plan on spending a minimum of $50 to $60 USD ($67 to $80 CDN) per day to cover getting around town, meal costs and inexpensive accommodations. Want to step up your accommodations or spend a little more on entertainment? Plan for $85 to $100 USD ($114 to $134 CDN) per day.
Budget your Trip, which publishes average travel costs for thousands of cities around the world provided by other travelers, was slightly more conservative, estimating average daily cost per person per day at $44 US ($59 CDN) if traveling on a cheap budget. According to the website, a couple could spend a week in The Lion City of Southeast Asia for just over $600 USD ($800+ CDN). The site also breaks down accommodation, food, entertainment and other expenses.
You can also take a look at Detourista’s Singapore trip + itinerary guide for first-timers.
If you are going to withdraw cash from an ATM, this requires a little planning ahead – let your bank know since they may have to activate your card for overseas use. Will Fly for Food warns to never proceed “with conversion” if asked by an ATM machine – this would authorize the foreign bank to do the conversion instead of your local bank, meaning you may get a terrible exchange rate.
TripSavvy offers some great tips on how to change and use money in Singapore.
How to save
Skip the Singapore Tourist Pass
TripSavvy recommends skipping the Singapore Tourist Pass unless you absolutely love riding trains around the city. Although the pass is similar to the EZ-Link card that will save you money, you will probably not get enough value out of it to justify the cost. The Tourist Pass gets you unlimited rides over a one, two, or three-day stay and cost S$10 plus an additional S$10 that’s refunded after you return the card. This means you’d need to ride the MRT 4 to 5 times per day to break even.
If you’re more likely to spend your time seeing the sights, shopping and enjoying the entertainment, skip this one
Don’t commit fine-able offences
Don’t get caught on the wrong side of the law in Singapore, or you could end up in serious legal or financial trouble for seemingly innocuous offences, such as annoying someone with a musical instrument (fine: not exceeding $1,000), connecting to someone else’s wi-fi network (carries a penalty of up to 3 years in jail or a fine of $10,000), leaving a toilet unflushed ($150 fine), or others. For more details, see Unique and often misunderstood laws in Singapore by The Culture Trip.
When to go and how long to stay
The first thing to know about travel seasons in Singapore is that unlike other destinations, the country doesn’t have a definable high and low season, although you’ll want to avoid the peak travel times of November through early January, June and July, when winter travelers, holiday festivals and business traffic bring the most crowds, says hotel expert Santorini Dave. He suggests booking your trip for April, since there are no public holidays and it doesn’t fall during monsoon season.
Tip: Avoid the Northeast monsoon season, which can bring moderate to heavy rain from December through early March. Southwest monsoon season occasionally brings “Sumatra Squalls” with high winds from June through September. – Meteorological Service Singapore
If you like warm weather, Singapore is the place for you – though heat and humidity are a year-round issue in this tropical climate, it’s not as bad as, say, Thailand, where summer temps can reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit, as noted by Adventure in You.
Here, temperatures stay within a rough range of 75 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. If you’re looking to travel on a budget, avoid big holidays like the Chinese New Year, when prices may spike.
Where to stay
If you’re looking to rest on a budget, The Pinay Solo Backpacker recommends staying at hostels near MRT Stations such as Quarters Capsule Hostel and Blissful Loft, since they’re convenient for exploring and eating at hawker stalls. Book your accommodations at hostels/guesthouses in advance online and take advantage of discounts. Popular places to stay include Bugis, Chinatown, Little India, Lavender Street and Clark Quay (Riverside).
You’ll find mid-range accommodations around the north bank of Singapore River, Bras Basah Road (near Fort Canning Park) and Rochor Road. Higher end hotels are located on Marina Bay, Promenade Orchard Road and Sentosa Island.
The Broke Backpacker has a great list of recommendations for where to stay based on your budget and what you’d like to do, from experiencing Singapore’s legendary nightlife scene in Clarke Quay to combining the old with the new in Chinatown and indulging in some quality family time in Sentosa.
Passport and safety issues
Your regular Canadian passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the date you expect to leave Singapore. This requirement also applies if you’re traveling through Singapore to neighbouring countries. Tourist visas are not required for stays of up to 30 days, says the Government of Canada. See travel GC for more details on entry and exit requirements.
The Government of Canada advises taking normal security precautions in Singapore. Practice special health precautions to avoid becoming infected with the Zika virus. If you’re pregnant, you should avoid traveling to Singapore.
Flights and transportation
Compare flight costs and set up price alerts on sites like cheapflights.ca, Google Flights, Kayak, and Skyscanner that let you compare the cost of flights over multiple time periods.
You’ll likely fly into Changi Airport, located about 20 kilometres from Singapore’s business district. It serves as the home base for world-class Singapore Airlines and budget carriers like Tigerair and Scoot, notes Skyscanner. Travelers from Canada often book connections through American or Asian cities and fly with airlines like Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa and Air Canada.
This international gateway is one of southeast Asia’s largest transportation hubs with more than 4 terminals housing an incredible array of shops, services, theatres, gardens and more, says I am Aileen, a travel blog written by digital nomad, travel writer and vlogger Aileen Adalid. She has some great suggestions for what to do during a flight layover, breaking them down into activities inside and outside the airport.
Tip: Stay in the airport if you have 6 hours or less of Singapore layover time. – I am Aileen
Getting around Singapore by bus or train is easy. The country’s bus system is shared by 2 main operators both offering similar services, SBS Transit and SMRT, and takes travelers throughout the island, says Lonely Planet. You can find bus fares ranging from S$1 to S$2.10 (or for less with your EZ-Link card). Have exact change ready when you board the bus as drivers don’t offer change, or tap your EZ-Link card to the reader whenever you get on and off.
SMRT or MRT operates trains and runs a late-night bus service between the city and suburbs – jump on for a flat rate of S$4.50 per journey if you’re out between 11:30 p.m. and 4:35 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and the night before public holidays.
Visit Singapore highly recommends the MRT, as it’s your fastest way to get around the city and the extensive rail network will take you within walking distance of most of the country’s key attractions. If you intend to use MRT and basic bus services frequently while you’re here, buying a Singapore Tourist Pass would make sense.
Visit SBS Transit’s and SMRT’s websites for more information and route details. You can also download the SG Buses smartphone app to keep track of bus arrivals in real time.
Skip taxis; take private cars instead
Although they’re comfortable to ride in and move faster than other forms of public transport, you may want to skip flagging a taxi for other forms of public transport depending on your budget, says The Culture Trip. This is because your ride can quickly become expensive, especially when they cross gentries (ERPs), which are a form of road tax. Use them only when necessary; if you’re in a rush, not sure where your destination is located or when you can’t reach it by bus or train. Booking in advance costs more but guarantees you a ride.
A better option is to hire a private car – useful for when you’re out long past the hours when public transportation is available. Download the Grab app or the Ryde app to book one. Price changes according to time and distance.
Where to eat
Along with France and Italy, Singapore is another destination for food lovers. Whether you’re craving exotic cuisine or an authentic local meal, you can find it all here. On a budget? Drop into food halls and hawker street stalls, bustling with people and serving everything from tangy appetizers to spicy dishes, delectable desserts and everything in between, promises Travel Triangle.
Nomadic Matt suggests heading to the stalls on Smith Street particularly, as they offer food for less than S$6 and are a great place to munch on local snacks. If you’ve got a particular hankering for Chinese or Asian, you’re in luck – you can usually find it for about S$8 to S$9 per meal. He also recommends Singaporean seafood. Dining at casual restaurants will cost you around S$20. Going grocery shopping? Expect a week worth of groceries including pasta, vegetables, chicken and other basics to run you about S$75.
Tip: The Singapore Sling – the quintessential ‘Singaporean drink’ was invented here and is a must-try during your trip! Head to the iconic Raffles Hotel to savour this pretty cherry-pink cocktail. – The Culture Trip
What to do
Take a walk along Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade
Similar to San Francisco, New York and other world-class destinations, Singapore’s unforgettable waterfront offers awe-inspiring views and a way to cool off for free. The promenade’s mist will give you much-needed relief from the blazing heat, you can take a breather in breeze shelters equipped with motion sensor fans, and of course, pause to take in an incredible panorama of glitzy skyscrapers and architectural buildings. This is also a fantastic way to get a close-up view of the bay and see free outdoor performances, says TheBestSingapore.com.
Shop ’til you drop on Orchard Road
Singapore is another fashion mecca, and you’ll want to hit Orchard Road if you’re looking to shop while you’re in the country. With 22 markets and 6 commercial centres in the district, there are some excellent malls you shouldn’t miss that sell everything from affordable bargains to luxury brands. If you’re looking to snag some deals, head to 313 @ Somerset Mall, which holds international fashion stores and countless eateries. Known for its young, lively atmosphere and affordable options, 313 @ Somerset also often features live events such as fashion shows, live music and more. For more ideas, see Living Nomads’ 10 best Orchard Road Singapore shopping malls you should not miss .
Look to the stars
Looking for a unique date night idea or some quality time with your brood? Slow down and bask in the wonder of an evening spent stargazing at Science Centre Singapore, which offers free stargazing every Friday (weather permitting) between January and November from 7:45 p.m. to 10 p.m.. There’s limited space, so you’ll want to arrive by 7:30 to claim your spot, advises Nomadic Matt, who wrote a great list of 18 free and cheap things to do in Singapore. Check the Science Centre’s website for most up-to-date details.
Don’t forget to tell us about your experience! Have you ever traveled to Singapore, or are you planning to book a trip? What are your best tips when it comes to saving for vacations? We’d love to hear what you’ve planned, or any tips we’ve missed. Share your story in the comments and tell us what destinations are on your wish list. Our team love saving for holidays and we hope to inspire our members with exciting suggestions to spend your Caddle money.