How to save money when travelling to Singapore

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November 9, 2017

How to save money when travelling to Singapore

We are headed to Singapore again this December and I have been looking for ways to save money. We are not backpackers or budget travellers, but I do my research thoroughly to see if we can save some money during our trips. After all, every penny saved can help us plan one more trip 🙂 We are also not touch-and-go types and like to see the attractions and spend as much time as required to explore them.

Here are my list of ways one can save decent money when touring Singapore:

Airline tickets

Though we have got some good deals on airline tickets and hacked some trips with low fares, I am not an expert to advise someone on hacking airline fares. However, if you are a frequent traveller (even for work), it is good to sign up for airline miles program. Jet Airways and Air India have such programs and we have got some free tickets through these over the last few years. Check out Air India miles redemption chart to get an idea of how you can take advantage of this. They also have partner airlines on which you can get tickets through miles. Check Air India partners airlines list and Jet partner airlines list.

Visa

Singapore offers single entry / multiple entry tourist visa for a maximum of 2 yrs, with every stay not exceeding more than 30 days. Singapore visa fee is 30 SGD (~1500 INR). The process is however, not very simple though the entire process is online. One needs to apply through authorized travel agents. You can read my post on how to apply for Singapore Visa.

There is an easier way to apply for Singapore visa if you know someone who has Singapore PR (Permanent Residency). Singapore PRs can apply for tourist visa for someone online and the process is very simple. This also saves agent fee which varies from agent to agent but is usually around 1000 INR per visa.  Singapore PR pays SGD 30 if he/she applies for a visa for someone.

Hotel booking

Choose your area wisely: While is is possible to get hotels in lesser budget in Singapore, you may have to compromise on the size of the room and beds. One of the ways to save money on Singapore hotels is to check out deals on expedia, hotels.com, MMT etc. The other way is to book in Little India or China Town which are less expensive than rest of the areas.

Sign up for loyalty programs of hotels: If you are looking at a chain hotel, its a better idea to register for their loyalty program and get insider deals. We prefer to stay at ParkRoyal Hotel on Kitchener Road, which does not give any discounts on their online travel partners. However, their Discovery loyalty programs gets us 15% off on rooms along with some other benefits depending on our duration of stay. Check out the details of their Discovery loyalty programs. They also have frequent flyer tie-up with airlines where you can get add-on miles in your airlines card. Membership for these programs are complimentary.

Check my review of ParkRoyal hotel on Kitchener Road to see how to register for their Discovery Loyalty program and avail the best rate.

Don’t tip the housekeeping staff or waiters: While this may sound very mean / rude to people who are used to tipping, it is infact offensive in Singapore. Tipping is not encouraged or practised in Singapore, and it is prohibited at the airport. The service staff in Singapore thinks its their job to do a good work and sometimes even refuse to accept tips. Write a recommendation letter instead of monetary rewards, if you are very happy with the service.

One of the ways you should not try to save money is look for Airbnb apartments in Singapore. Though Airbnb operates in Singapore, Singapore official URA Housing rules states that it is illegal to rent a private apartment for less than 6 months.

Domestic Travel / Travel inside Singapore

Use public transport: Singapore has one of the best and most organized public transport system. Most of the tourist attractions are well connected by MRT / bus. Maps are available easily, and apps are there to tell the exact fare and timings of the trains/ buses.

If you are around for more than a few days, you can opt for a EZ link card or Tourist pass. Here is a quick comparison between the 2 cards:

  • EZ Link Card:  EZ link card can be used to pay for MRT, LRT, public buses as well as private taxis and many retail stores. It can also be used to pay for Sentosa Express monorail to Sentosa / USS. The card costs a non-refundable 5 SGD and can be bought at any MRT station.

All children up to 0.9m in height and accompanied by a fare-paying commuter travel for free. Children above 0.9m and less than 7 yrs of age get a child concession card. Take your child’s passport to get the concession card. You can check the details of the EZ link child concession card on this link.

  • Singapore Tourist Pass: SG Tourist pass gives you unlimited rides on buses, MRT and LRT. There is a refundable deposit of 10 SGD when you buy it. The pass is priced at 10 SGD, 16 SGD and 20 SGD for 1-day, 2-day or 3-day variants. Check out details about the Singapore tourist pass on this link.

A ride on MRT costs anywhere between SGD 0.78 to SGD 2.03 and a ride on bus have tickets ranging from SGD 0.79 to SGD 2.07 (as on Nov 2017). Unless you plan to travel extensively everyday; EZ link card may work better for you, even after SGD 5 non-refundable deposit. I found an excellent blog that has comparison between EZ link card and Singapore tourist pass.

Register with Grabtaxi if you have to travel by cabs, you can check Grabtaxi, Comfort Delgro or Uber. Uber is convenient because you can signup using an Indian SIM when in India and use the same there. You need a local SIM to register for Grabtaxi or Comfort Delgro. Most of them have some deals running and its a good idea to do a quick search on Google to find out if you can grab a deal.

Food in Singapore

Eating out can be an expensive affair in Singapore, especially if you are looking for fine dines. Here are a few tips:

Eat at hawker centers: Hawker Centers in Singapore are like food courts. You can find Chinese, Malaysian and local fare. Unless you are particular about Indian or Vegetarian food, this is a good way to taste local dishes and save some money too! The popular hawker centers in Singapore include Maxwell Food Center near Central Business district, Tiong Bahru market and Chinatown Food Street. If you are looking for Indian food, head to Tekka Center near Little India MRT.

Sign up on deal sites: Sign up on websites that offer deals in Singapore. My favourite is Groupon (now myfave.com ), but there are number of them. A simple “dining deals in singapore” search on Google will give you many relevant search results. We have availed deals of 50% off on meals to discounted buffets when we visited Singapore last year. Most of the restaurant’s menus are available on Zomato. You can check the prices to decide what deals make most sense for you.

Drink tap water: Singapore is one country in South East Asia where you do not need to worry about drinking tap water. All attractions and public places have drinking water taps where you can refill your bottle. Avoid buying expensive mineral water and carry a refill all the time.

Attractions in Singapore

Like everything else in Singapore, paid attractions in Singapore are expensive. There are however, ways to save huge on attractions:

Free attractions: The best part about Singapore is that many attractions are free. Some of the ones you can check out are:

  • Gardens by the bay: Except for the 2 flower domes and OCBC skywalk, Gardens by the Bay is free for everyone. Ofcourse the flower domes are great, but there is still plenty to see. The park is dominated by its SuperTree Grove, not to mention the beautiful gardens of different countries. Don’t miss the light & sound show at around 7:45 pm and 8:45 pm. Gardens by the Bay website has more details.
  • Botanical Garden: Singapore botanical garden is one of the top 10 things to do in Singapore list on TripAdvisor. We could not see even 30% of it in 3 hrs that we spent there. Their Jacob’s Children Garden was a hit with our 6 yr old son. And yes, entry to botanical garden is free. Find out more on https://www.sbg.org.sg/.
  • East Coast Park: ECP is the largest park in Singapore and is one of the most frequented by the residents of Singapore. Entry to the park is free, and there are cycling tracks along the coast of Singapore. Cycles can be rented at the park itself (paid rentals). Have a picnic at the park, let kids enjoy the playarea or just take a leisure stroll. There is a beach too, to add to the charm of the park. It gets very crowded on weekends though! Visit East coast park Singapore website for details.
  • Hikes: There are some beautiful hikes in Singapore. We did the McRitchie nature trail with our 6 yr old kiddo, but there are others which are as good or better than McRitchie. I found a great blog listing some of the best hiking trails in Singapore.
  • Light and Water show Spectra in Marina Bay Sands: This 15 min free for public show is held everyday at 8 pm and 9pm (extra 10 pm show on Friday & Saturday) on the ground floor of Marina Bay Sands. Check the details of this light and water show on their website.
  • Merlion: Merlion Park is a landmark in Singapore located near the Fullerton hotel. Its a major tourist attraction and a good photo op.
  • Free programs and shows in Esplanade: Esplanade is a durian shaped building you cannot miss when you visit Merlion Park / Marina Bay Sands. It is a performing arts theatre and holds free programs from time to time. Check the free programs section on Esplanade’s website to decide what interests you.
  • Cable car museum: If you are visiting Sentosa, visit the cable car museum at the basement of Waterfront station. It is open from 8:45 am to 4 pm and the entry is free.
  • Visit the many religious centres: Many of the temples and monasteries in Singapore have free entrance. Some of them like Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery even have free guided tours and free meals on festival days & weekends. Sri Mariamman Temple (Hindu temple), Thian Hock Keng (oldest Chinese Temple), Masjid Sultan (largest Singapore mosque), St Andrew’s Cathedral (largest church), Armenian Church (smallest and oldest church in Singapore)  allow free entrance, except during their prayer times.
  • Visit Haw Par Villa: This park is also known by the name Tiger Balm Gardens because it was developed by the founders of Tiger Balm. The park has many statues depicting Chinese folklore, legends, history etc. The entrance is free. However, it is not recommended for kids because some of the depictions are very creepy for kids.
  • Gillman Barracks: If art interests you, then nothing like heading to Gillman Barracks, which happens to be Singapore’s greatest contemporary arts space. It has some of the best international art galleries which are free for visitors. Check out more details on Gillman Barracks website.
  • Bukit Brown Cemetery: If you are a history buff, this one would be a gem for you. This abandoned chinese cemetery is now a birding and wildlife spot. A 3 hr free walking tour is organized by local volunteers. This tour emphasises on the history of the cemetery. You can check their projects on http://bukitbrown.com/main/ and register for their events on https://peatix.com/user/617188.
  • Free Singapore tour organized by Changi Airport: If you have a few hours to kill before you board your return flight, check the free tours organized from T2 and T3 on Changi airport.

Sign up for Sands Rewards Lifestyle Membership: This is a free loyalty program offered by Marina Bay Sands hotel. This will get you 1 complimentary ticket when you buy one standard ticket in Art Science Museum. It also entitles the card holder to get 20% off on Skypark Observation deck and Gandola rides (also called Sampan rides) at Marina Bay Sands. Check the details & benefits of this Sands Rewards program. Pre-register for the card on https://www.sandsrewardslifestyle.com/SignUp/SignUp.aspx? . When you reach Marina Bay Sands, you need to locate Sands Rewards Lifestyle counters to get a physical membership card and set a password to the account so as to be able to login online. You will need to take your passport to complete the registration process.

Below are the location and operating times for the counters, Sands Rewards Lifestyle at

  • Hotel Lobby, Tower 1 and Tower 3 – Daily:10:30am – 11:00pm
  • The Shoppes, Galleria Level, B1 (above Sampan Rides) – Sun to Thurs:10:30am – 11:00pm, Fri/Sat/Eve of PH:10:30am – 11:30pm
  • The Shoppes, Canal Level, B2 (near Skating Rink) – Sun to Thurs:10:30am – 11:00pm, Fri/Sat/Eve of PH:10:30am – 11:30pm

Check deals online: I find best deals for Singapore attractions on klook.com (if you are looking at individual attractions). Check out the deals and compare with other deal sites like myfave.com, viator.com etc before making a booking.

Take package deals: If you are going to visit many attractions, check the package deals on their websites directly. For eg. if you plan to visit both Universal Studio Singapore and Sentosa; the 2 day fun pass gets you the best deal. Check out my post on Sentosa 2 day fun pass review and best way to explore USS. Similarly, if you are planning to go to Singapore zoo, River Safari, Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park, go for the 4 park admission ticket available on their website.

Check early bird discounts: Start looking at attraction tickets a few months before you travel. Early bird discounts close either a month or 15 days in advance.

Don’t get on the wrong side of the law:

Singapore has some very strict and unusual laws and the fine can really make you think twice about committing the same mistake again. Here is a quick run through of things to avoid:

  • Feeding pigeons
  • Spitting in public
  • Not flushing a public toilet
  • Smoking in non-smoking zones. Smoking is banned indoors, on all covered walkways, pedestrian bridges, and within 15 feet of bus stops; unless specifically mentioned.
  • Eating or drinking in public transport or taxi
  • Walking or crossing the road illegally (when there is no pedestrian green signal)
  • Bringing non-medical chewing gums (even normal gums) and electronic cigarettes
  • Caught with porn
  • Caught with pirated CD / DVD
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Carrying restricted goods into Singapore: Check Singapore customs website to know the latest list of prohibited items.
  • Criticizing the government in public or on social media can land you in serious trouble.

Have you been to Singapore and know of more ways to save money? Let me know and I will add them to this list with due credits 🙂 Help other travellers plan their holiday better!

If you are looking to see some really cool photos of Singapore, check my photographer friend Antara’s website Magenta Hues. The cover photo for this post was taken by her 🙂

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