Singapore Budget Breakdown

Even though we knew that Singapore would be an easier transition into southeast Asia than, say, Bangkok or Hanoi, we were still a bit apprehensive about it. Sure sure, tons of people travel the region, backpackers fresh out of high school, and there would be a lot of people who speak English, but we hadn't been there ourselves and it was reassuring for us to do well in our first few days.

We also did well in terms of our budget. Singapore has a reputation as the most expensive place to visit in SE Asia and – according to our records – that reputation is well earned. Thankfully, we knew that going in, and we set ourselves a daily budget of $100, or $50 per person. So, how did we do?

Daily Per Person Table
Total Spent: $621.14
Days in Country: 7
Daily Total: $88.73
Daily Per Person: $44.37

Under budget is always the best. Here's the breakdown:

Money Spent % of Budget
Accommodation $272.82 44%
Eating Out $208.52 34%
Entertainment $102.70 17%
Miscellaneous $1.09 0%
Transport $36.01 6%
Official exchange rate was 1.26 SGD per USD

Official exchange rate was 1.26 SGD per USD

Not really surprising for us to see in hindsight. Being the island-nation that it is, real estate is at a premium and that is reflected in the price for accommodation. We stayed at the Beary Nice hostel in Chinatown and, while a little more expensive, it was pretty close to the median price when we were looking. It included breakfast and free tea/coffee whenever and the receptionist who was there most of the days we stayed was awesome and gave us great recommendations on what to do – it was thanks to her that we learned about and visited MacRitchie Reservoir. It cost $45.47 a night for the two of us in a dorm. Yeah, accommodation is expensive in Singapore – no way around it. Thankfully, eating at the many hawker centres around the city is budget friendly and is the best way to acquaint yourself with the many foods of Singapore.

Entertainment covers four activities – Chinatown Heritage Centre, Asian Civilizations Museum, The Flyer, and the Singapore Zoo. The costs for these activities were on par with what you would expect to pay for them in a Western country, although the zoo was a bit less than somewhere like the San Diego zoo. Miscellaneous includes a little lost currency conversion from Aussie dollars and a donation to the tooth relic museum for putting on a well-presented, logical presentation – a rarity for museums in Asia, in our experience. Transport consists of the round-trip shuttle for the zoo from downtown and our trips on the MRT. The mass transit in Singapore is great and being able to take the train from Changi airport into the city makes arrival much less of a hassle than it could be.

Singapore in Retrospect

Singapore was our first taste of Asia and damn was it delicious. Not really sure what to expect from a city with a harsh reputation of too-many-rules, we admired the genius of the urban planners and now have great respect for the work they have planned for the future. Having now been in Asia for six months, we understand the complaints some have of Singapore being sanitized or sterile and it is compared to other Asian metropolises. To me, though, that’s part of the charm and brilliance of Singapore – it's the city where humans set out to make a dirty city clean.

We enjoyed visiting the Asian Civilizations Museum and the insight it gave us to the various cultures and their traditions that have melded together to create the Singapore of today. The Chinatown Cultural Centre was interesting, but the value is debatable. It is an old shophouse and you get to see how people lived many years ago in these tiny rooms that fit anywhere from 2 to 15 people. At 10 SGD per person, the quick visit may not be worth it if you are not really interested in learning about the topic. The Flyer was fun, but the day we went we tried to time it for sunset and that was a bust as the entire city was covered in a disgusting haze. It was cool to see, but go at night when there isn't any sunlight bouncing off pollution and the city is lit up. The Zoo was nice, good value for the price you pay, but we both realized during our visit that we just do not like zoos anymore. It was walking by the polar bear – yes, polar bear – in the 86°F/30°C heat that it really hit home just how little we like them. Zoos can do a lot of good in terms of protecting and preserving species threatened with extinction, but the part where they put them on display in the small enclosures upsets us.

What didn't upset us - or our budget - was eating in Singapore. We were thrilled to be coming to Asia to try all the different cuisines and we hit a home run on the first at bat. As I said, we were located in an amazing food location, surrounded by more options than we could hope to understand what they were, let alone try. We did our best though, ate heartily, and usually only spent 5-15 SGD per meal, or $4-12 USD for the two of us. It's not as cheap as we've found elsewhere in SE Asia, but for a city considered notoriously expensive, it wasn't as bad as we expected it to be. It's definitely smart for your budget to eat as many of your meals as possible in the hawker centres around the city and it's also where you'll find some of the most delicious food in the city.

We really appreciated visiting the Singapore City Gallery and learning about the history of Singapore's development and the plans being made for the future. The city is already extremely livable and from what we saw, life will only get better for Singaporeans. If we were ever strike it rich or have jobs that pay us an exorbitant salary, it's possible you could see us living there someday. There are a few other places higher on the list, but Singapore is a great city and it deserves more attention than it usually gets from backpackers.

But being budget-minded travelers, we knew our spending was exceeding our limits, so we hopped on our award flight and backtracked a bit to visit yet another place that, growing up, both of us could only dream of ever going to. Thankfully, this trip of ours has been about making our dreams reality, so how could we not visit the tropical oasis that is Bali?