The best of Singapore on a budget: top things to do
Enjoy the city like a local and save a bundle with some insider knowledge.
- November 2017
- Updated November 2021
Singapore can be a pricey destination for the unprepared. But armed with some insider knowledge, you can enjoy the city like a local and save a bundle. In fact, some of the most authentic and fun experiences on the island are free of charge or cost very little. Here are our best budget travel tips for Singapore.
Hike through lush tropical jungle at MacRitchie Reservoir
If you love it when things get a little hot and steamy, the Treetop Walk at MacRitchie Reservoir is for you. This two- to three-hour hike will take you across a 250m-long suspension bridge, where you can survey the jungle canopy from above. At its highest point, you’ll be 25m above the ground. Enjoy a stroll among some of the most dense vegetation on the island, spotting monkeys, monitor lizards and stunning birdlife. You can continue to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and walk to the highest point in Singapore, where the last of the nation’s tigers once roamed. Make sure you pack your biggest water bottle.
Catch the sunset at Cé La Vi
The rooftop at Marina Bay Sands is the best and most romantic spot to take in the magnificent skyline of downtown Singapore. However, only guests of the hotel can access the infinity pool area, and there’s an entrance fee for the Skypark viewing platform. This is where some insider knowledge comes in handy: develop a sudden thirst, and head to the elevator reception to pay a small fee for a Cé La Vi drink voucher. This gives you access to the 57th floor, where you can sip champagne as the sun goes down. Afterwards, take a stroll over to Gardens by the Bay, where you can see the spectacular light show at Supertree Grove, every night at 7:45pm and 8:45pm.
Take a picnic to Tanjong Beach
Looking for a lazy day in the shade? Swaying palms, soft sand and gently crashing waves – Sentosa Island has the best beaches in Singapore. On the weekend, pack a picnic and head to Tanjong Beach where a DJ at the Tanjong Beach Club pumps out tunes. If your feet get itchy, explore the island by jumping on the free Beach Shuttle. Visit Fort Siloso at the island’s western tip, a gun battery during WWII with relics including cannons and underground tunnels. Access is via the 11-storey-high Skywalk, which takes you through tree canopies with spectacular views. Entry is free.
To get to Sentosa, simply board the monorail at Harbourfront MRT station and tap your EZ-Link card (Singapore’s public transport card) to pay the small entry fee to the island.
Go back in time at Pulau Ubin
Singapore was once a network of rustic fishing villages, known by the Malay word kampong. Nearly all these villages disappeared in the 1960s, when residents moved into apartment developments. One of the last authentic kampong can be found on Pulau Ubin, a small island just off the mainland. You can cruise over on a bumboat for a small fee. Simply head to the Changi Point Ferry Terminal and sit in the waiting area; the captain will usher you on board once he has 9–12 passengers. On arrival, head off on the trails by foot or by bike. If there are two of you, grab a tandem for some added adventure.
Feast on local fare at hawker centres
Dine like a local and discover some of Singapore’s best food at the city’s famous hawker centres. This is budget dining at its best: stalls of super-cheap street food and the culinary best of Singapore’s Chinese, Malay and Indian heritage. Popular spots to stretch your dollars and waistline include Chinatown Complex (home to the Michelin-starred stall Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle), the Newton Food Centre (appears in the film Crazy Rich Asians) and Tiong Bahru Market.