When it comes to cities in Asia that are ideal for travelers on a budget, Singapore generally doesn’t make the top of the list. Flights to Singapore tend to be on the higher end of the price spectrum, and while the island is packed with five-star hotels, that level of luxury generally comes with a price tag to match. Add in the high cost of transportation around the city and attraction admission prices, and many people might think that embarking on a holiday to Singapore is out of their budget.
That type of thinking is incorrect, though. Singapore can, in fact, be affordable and you can experience some of the best that the city has to offer without draining your bank account. There are dozens of free and cheap things to do and see on this island nation – and all of them will create a memorable and exciting Singapore holiday.
Visit Ethnic Neighborhoods
Singapore is unique among Asian cities in that it attracts a number of cultural groups from around the world – and many of them have congregated in enclaves around the city. One of the most popular neighborhoods for visitors is Little India. Grab a cheap bite to eat at one of the authentic Indian restaurants, or stroll the narrow streets packed with vendors selling everything from henna tattoos to colorful saris.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Widely considered to be one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the world, the Singapore Botanic Gardens is a 64-hectare park filled with lush greenery and exotic plants. Admission is free, but consider parting with a few dollars to check out the orchid garden.
This quirky statue is one of the most enduring symbols of Singapore, even if it does perplex or even annoy local residents. This half-fish, half-lion statue was installed as a symbol of tourism in the 1970s, and it’s a popular photo backdrop. Drop by to take some photos for yourself, and enjoy the spectacle of other tourists excitedly posing in front of Merlion.
Spend a few dollars to take the water taxi to this tiny island just ten minutes from the coast of Singapore. In contrast to the hustle and bustle and modern conveniences of Singapore, life on Ubin Island is rustic and simple. Rent a bicycle to explore the tiny island and its mangrove swamps and beaches; a shrimp farm on the island also provides visitors with the chance to catch and eat their own dinner.
Like many Asian cities, Singapore is home to many elaborate temples honoring Hindu and Buddhist gods and goddesses. Most of these temples are free to visitors, and worth a visit to see the elaborate architecture and decoration.
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
Located just outside of the city, this large nature preserve features several hiking trails. Head there in the cooler morning hours to see the local flora and fauna, including monkeys and other rare and endangered species.
Explore the Shopping Malls
Singapore is one of Asia’s premiere shopping destinations, and is home to more than 250 shopping malls and centers, offering everything from high-end luxury and designer goods to inexpensive trinkets. Simply strolling the shopping areas and window shopping is a great way to experience the culture of Singapore.
Walk the Waterfront Promenade
To escape the hustle and bustle of the city without having to go too far, head to the Waterfront Promenade for a stroll. You’ll be rewarded with natural beauty and stunning views of the water and the city.
Like most major cities, Singapore has multiple museums – and most of them offer free admission to their permanent collections. Special exhibits often require a separate ticket, except on Friday nights when all museums allow visitors in for free.
East Coast Park
Popular among locals, East Coast Park is the ideal place to get some exercise. Spend a few dollars to rent a pair of rollerblades, and head to the nearby McDonald’s and grab a bite at the world’s only “skate through” window.
Singapore offers plenty of opportunities for you to part with your money, but you can actually enjoy some of the best aspects of the city without spending a single cent. When you’re planning your itinerary to Singapore, build in some of these free and cheap activities and fully experience this vibrant and exciting city.
Faith Winstead left a successful career in finance to become a freelance photographer and travel journalist. In the past three years she has traveled to Asia, South America and Europe, and counts Singapore as one of her favorite cities.