On any given day in Singapore, you’ll be confronted with a million ways to spend your time. Endless shops, world-class museums, outdoor dining, canal ferry rides, beach parties in nearby Sentosa – the list goes on.
But some travelers – especially budget-minded ones – might be keeping Singapore off their travel itineraries because of the city’s reputation for luxury and exclusivity. As we saw from many comments on our Top Budget Destinations for 2014 story, it’s a widely held perception. And while it’s true that places like Marina Bay Sands Hotel and retail heaven Orchard Road aren’t for the cost-conscious, there do exist many other more cost-effective ways to experience this culture-rich city. We thought we’d show you a few additional ways to do just that:
Pick a hawker center
Everyone knows the best meals in Singapore come out of the maze-like hawker centers. Faced with unmarked stalls churning out steaming plates of satay, noodles, curry, and the signature black pepper crab, visitors benefit from the cultural experience and the cheap prices. Pay as low as $4 for a plate of char kway tow at the popular Lau Pa Sat hawker center (pictured), which re-opens next month after major renovations.
Dive into the flea markets
Ditch the Louis Vuitton and Chanel and consult ForFleaSake for the latest updates on citywide flea markets, where prices are far more reasonable and items (mostly made right in Singapore) are one-of-a-kind. The website functions as an aggregator of sorts, organizing markets into categories like Youth, Lifestyle, Artisanal, and Car Boot. (We’re not sure what that last one means, but it sounds like it’s worth checking out).
Time your airfare
Like most destinations, Singapore has its peak and its off-peak seasons. Try booking a flight to Singapore from San Francisco in June or July and you’ll see round-trip fares for $1400 and up. And forget about August; the annual National Day celebrations cause hotel rates to soar, since locals like to book rooms to better view the fireworks over Marina Bay. But for late September, we found fares on ANA and United from $1000, round-trip. Bonus: If you’re traveling from Thailand, be sure to take advantage of the upcoming Great Singapore Sale, with discounted airfares on SilkAir from Chiang Mai and Phuket. The travel period is May 30-September 30.
Ride the MRT
Even if you do end up going slightly over budget on your flight to Singapore, you’ll be relieved to know that your dollar goes far when it comes to getting around the city. The MRT subway system, which charges according to distance traveled, offers both single rides and day passes, the latter costing as little as 10 SGD (about $8), granting access to all trains, buses, and shuttles.