Singapore on the Cheap: What you can do in Singapore for free!

View of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel from the Gardens by the Bay

View of the beautiful Marina Bay Sands Hotel from the Gardens by the Bay

Singapore was named the world’s most expensive city in 2014, but that doesn’t mean you can’t travel to Singapore on a budget!  There are a lot of ways you can cut costs on a trip to Singapore.  Here’s how we did Singapore on a tight budget:

Step 1: Skip the traditional hotel!

Hotel room prices in Singapore are insane, so seek out your lodging search using Airbnb or Roomorama.  For solo travelers, hostels in Chinatown or Little India might be the cheapest option.  We booked the cheapest room we could find on Airbnb, and one week still cost us more than a month’s rent here in Chiang Mai.  It was a little rough around the edges, with a decor style I would describe as “prison eclectic”, but we had a hot shower every day and a bed to sleep on at night.  Success.

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Step 2: Take advantage of Singapore freebies!

Freebie #1: Gardens by the Bay

This is our #1 freebie pick in Singapore!  The Gardens by the Bay grounds are enormous, and full of beautiful botanical wonders.  Nearly the entire complex is free, it only costs money to go into the indoor portions or up in the OCBC Skyway.  We skipped the paid parts and it saved us over S$25 per person!

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We especially liked the OCBC Skyway Trees:

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Walk all the way out as far east as you can, and enjoy sitting on the green roof of the Barrage Visitor Center where families are picnicking and flying kites.  We also saw a couple taking wedding photos!

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Freebie #2: Nightly OCBC Skyway Show at Gardens by the Bay 7:45 and 8:45pm nightly

Be sure to visit the Gardens by the Bay twice – once in the daytime to enjoy seeing the tropical plants, and again at night to see the OCBC Skyway Show.  At 7:45 pm and 8:45 pm daily, there is a 15-minute light show in the Skyway trees coordinated to music.  It’s awesome!  We watched it one night right under the Skyway, and the next night from a viewpoint behind the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.  Here’s a short 8-second snippet of the show:

Freebie #3: Water and Laser Light Show at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel

Every night at 8pm and 9:30pm (and on Fridays and Saturdays at 11pm), the fountains in front of the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands light up and dance to a fun 15-minute musical program.  Crowds start gathering as much as a half hour beforehand to stake out spots on the tiered wooden deck seating, so grab some snacks and arrive early!

It’s best to watch the water show from the east side of the marina, then the laser show from the west side.  We caught the 8pm show in front of the Shoppes:

After the water show ended, we strolled around to the opposite side of the Bay to see the 9:30pm laser light show:

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Freebie #4: Marina Bay Sands Casino

Marina Bay Sands Casino!

Marina Bay Sands Casino!

For visitors to Singapore, it’s free to enter the Marina Bay Sands Casino!  (It costs S$100 for Singaporeans to enter, and Cubans and North Koreans aren’t allowed entry.  From what we can tell, you may even be barred entry even if you’ve got a Cuban stamp in your passport!)  Once you’re inside, the gambling sure isn’t free, but soft drinks, coffee, tea, hot milo (like hot cocoa), and bottled water are free!  To my dismay, they didn’t have games like “Pick a Number” and “Which Hand” like I was led to believe were part of Casino gaming by Uncle Eddie in National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation.  Sigh, life will go on.

Admission Tips: A sign outside the casino claims that flip flops aren’t compliant with their dress code, but they let us in without question.  You must show your passport for admittance.  The entrance to the casino is inside the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands Mall.

Freebie #5: Sample a Singapore Sling at Changi International Airport

Raffles Hotel, home of the S$27 Singapore Sling!

Raffles Hotel, home of the S$27 Singapore Sling!  Ouch!

The Singapore Sling is a disgusting drink, in my opinion – I would rather drink cough syrup.  A Sling at the iconic Raffles Hotel, where this sickly sweet drink was invented, will cost you an outrageous S$27.  Word on the interwebs is that they don’t even make each sling fresh at Raffles, instead opting to use a pre-mix!  We decided not to buy a Sling in Singapore, but were delighted when we got to Changi airport and found out that the duty free liquor shoppes had free samples, made from top shelf liquors!  They even let me mix it myself!

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Crucial tip – leave plenty of time to get to your gate!  We thought if we arrived a few minutes after boarding began we’d be fine.  We couldn’t have been more wrong!  We went to a different terminal to sample the Sling, and by the time we got back to our Terminal the flight monitors said “Gate Closing” for our flight!  We ended up sprinting through the terminal (wearing our duffel bags on our backs and our laptop bags on our fronts) and arrived just in the nick of time.  Plan your time at Changi Airport better, or you’ll be an unhappy camper like I was:

After sprinting through the terminal to get to our gate, I was not a happy camper.

After sprinting through the terminal to get to our gate, I was one unhappy lady…

Step 3: Eat at Hawker Centers!

A wise group of Singaporeans once told us that you should never eat in a sit-down restaurant here.  In the Hawker centres, the food is better AND cheaper!  Win Win!!  For more info on Hawker Centres, see my previous posts on Little India and on Eating in Singapore.

Step 4: Get yourself some of that free wifi!

Skip the coffee shops and visit the National Library in the Bugis neighborhood if you need somewhere to hunker down and work.  Plus, the library has killer aircon and is 13 floors tall!  Great views and cool temperatures? Sign me up.  The best spot for studying is the 11th floor library.  (Note: If you DO go to the library, it’s important to sign up for a 24-free-hour visitor’s Singtel wifi account before you go!  Details here.)

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We loved the views from the top floors of the library!  Added bonus, they have a glass elevator!  Fun times:

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The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands Mall also has free wifi if you’re in a pinch, but there aren’t many great places to work.  Best to log onto this network with just your smart phone.  We sat outside by the koi pond enjoying a great view of downtown Singapore while using the free wifi:

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Important tip:  Don’t forget to use a VPN like Cloak to protect your personal information if you’re doing anything sensitive while using a Public wifi network!

Step 5: Be prepared to walk a LOT

Bring your walking shoes!  Prepare for a walk of Olympic proportions (see photo below – har har har).  One day, we actually walked over a half marathon (over 14 miles in one day, as reported by my Fitbit pedometer)!

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It’s fun to walk the loop around the Marina – I loved the view from the Helix bridge at night time:

Awesome Views from The Helix Bridge!

Awesome Views from The Helix Bridge!

Take the time to visit all of Singapore’s fun neighborhoods – we could (and did) spend days exploring Little India, Chinatown, and Arab Street.

We had a lot of fun exploring Chinatown:

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Be sure to visit the Sultan Mosque in the Arab Street neighborhood (another freebie):

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We also enjoyed walking through Fort Canning Park, just north of Chinatown.  While it’s probably not worth the trip if you’re not already in the neighborhood, we enjoyed walking around there.  We especially enjoyed the spice garden!  I’ve never seen a vanilla tree before, or a nutmeg tree, or so many herb plants.

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We want to hear from you!

There’s nothing we love on a vacation more than walking around exploring new cities.  Which cities do you recommend most for exploring on foot?  For us, nothing beats exploring the awesome little towns in the Rhine River Valley area of Germany – the best!

2 thoughts on “Singapore on the Cheap: What you can do in Singapore for free!

    • I don’t think we missed a single thing that was free. Sometimes I worry we’re becoming too cheap… but we just want to be able to travel as long as we can! Gotta stretch those dollars, I suppose. :-)

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