10 exciting things to do in Singapore without breaking the budget

As Asia’s busiest stopover hub, Singapore has a reputation for being expensive, but it is possible for those travelling on a budget to enjoy what this vibrant, steamy metropolis has to offer.

Here are a few exciting ways to experience the city like a local without breaking the bank…

1. See what nature has to offer

The entrance to the National Orchid Garden at Singapore Botanic Gardens (Nilima Marshall/PA)

Don’t be fooled by the concrete jungle of skyscrapers – Singapore has an abundance of lush green areas.

Founded at its present site in 1859, the UNESCO-listed Singapore Botanic Gardens is a free-to-visit green sanctuary, which is home to more than 10,000 flora species. For an additional SGD$5, you can tour the Orchid Garden and see the flowers named after famous people, including Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher.

TIP: If you want to beat the crowds (and heat) come at the beginning or end of the day – the gardens open 5am-midnight daily. Visit sbg.org.sg

2. Head over to the Tiger Balm Garden

A statue depicting a scene from Chinese mythology at Haw Par Villa (Nilima Marshall/PA)

If wacky floats your boat, the Tiger Balm Garden, also known as Haw Par Villa gardens, is a must-see.

It boasts more than 1,000 statues and 150 scenic dioramas presenting morality tales and scenes from Chinese mythology – the most famous one being the surprisingly graphic Ten Courts Of Hell, depicting the punishments that sinners endure.

There are only three of these hellish gardens in the world, so it’s worth making the effort to this oddball theme park on a hill in Pasir Pajang. Admission is free, and the garden is open daily from 9am-5pm.

3. Sample the street food scene


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Eating out is a national past time in Singapore, with some of the best value meals to be found at hawker centres (food courts) dotted around the city.

There are more than a hundred to choose from, housing close to 6,000 food stalls, and for as little as SGD$5, you can sample an eclectic mix of Malay, Indonesian, Korean, Indian, Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese dishes.

Diners can enjoy an open-air experience in the evening at Lau Pa Sat (laupasat.biz), where tables are set up on streets closed off to traffic, while Makansutra Gluttons Bay (makansutra.com) serves up stunning night-time views of the city, alongside a helping of satay sticks, chilli crab and laksa.

4. Tuck into the world’s cheapest Michelin-star meal

Aside from the scrumptious street fare, the city also offers the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred meal.

Located in Chinatown Complex on 335 Smith Street, the Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle was once a humble hawker stall, but after being awarded a Michelin star in 2016, it has become the go-to place for Chan Hon Meng’s world-famous chicken rice dish – which costs a mere SGD$3.80.

The establishment is said to be popular among celebrities, and David Beckham apparently turned up for a feed last year.

5. Grab some bargains

Haji Lane is dotted with indie stores (Nilima Marshall/PA)

Those wanting to splurge without reaching deep into their pockets can head over to SCAPE Marketplace (scape.sg/marketplace), just off Orchard Street. It’s open on Friday, the weekend, and public holidays from noon to 10pm, and sells clothes, accessories and soft furnishings. For SGD$50 (£27), you can come home with a chunky necklace, a pair of flat shoes and a canvas tote bag with change to spare.

A 20-minute ride away, fashionistas will feel right at home on Bugis Street, surrounded by the latest trends, while Haji Lane is dotted with independent stores where shoppers can find a treasure trove of  knick-knacks.

6. Explore Singapore’s ethnically diverse areas

Little India is a microcosm of the Indian subcontinent 2,000 miles away (Nilima Marshall/PA)

Singapore is one of the most culturally diverse countries in Asia. Little India is a microcosm of the big subcontinent that’s 2,000 miles away, with colourful buildings, exotic sounds and intriguing spicy smells.

Kampong Glam is a trendy enclave offering a taste of Malaysia, while the vibrant Chinatown is a great place to soak up the melting pot of Peranakan culture, where Indonesia, China and Malaysia meet.

7. Check out downtown Singapore on a Bumboat

A Bumboat at Clark Quay, a historical riverside quay on the banks of the Singapore River (Nilima Marshall/PA)

Bumboats (small water taxis) are a great way to see the city and its stunning architecture.

As well as enjoying the dramatic evening light show at Marina Bay, the boat ride is great for other picturesque sights – including the famous Merlion statue (a mythical creature with the head of a lion and body of a fish), the unique lotus-shaped ArtScience Museum and the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of the port-city of Singapore.

A one-stop trip costs SGD$3, while 40-minute river tours are priced at SGD$25 (£14) per passenger. Tickets can be purchased from the jetty kiosks.

8. Have a traditional breakfast at a kopitiam (coffee shop)

Head off the beaten track at Heap Seng Leong kopitiam, a quaint coffee shop at Block 10 North Bridge Road, serving a traditional breakfast of kopi (Singaporean coffee) and toasted sweet sandwiches filled with butter and locally-made Kaya jam.

Kopi gu you (coffee with butter), toast and soft boiled eggs costs around SGD$4.

9. Spend a day on Sentosa Island

Floating Bridge at Siloso Beach (Singapore Tourism Board/PA)

A 20-minute car journey from the city centre, Sentosa island is home to several entertainment complexes and beaches. Despite the number of swanky bars, there are still plenty of things to do that won’t break the bank.

A walk across the Floating Bridge at Siloso Beach offers uninterrupted, picturesque views of the South China sea – perfect for envy-inducing Instagram posts.

And at 11 storeys high, the Fort Siloso Skywalk trail is a scenic trek among the treetops to a 19-century fort. All are free to visit.

10. Gaze at the Gardens By The Bay light show

Supergrove trees at Gardens By The Bay (Nilima Marshall/PA)

Save the best for last and head over to the Gardens By The Bay (gardensbythebay.com.sg/en), a nature park built on reclaimed land, for a dazzling light show at the Supertree Grove vertical gardens.

The towering man-made tree sculptures, which harvest solar energy to generate their own light, are a sight to behold as they illuminate every evening at 7.45pm and 8.45pm.

The 15-minute displays are free to watch, but for those in the mood to splurge a little, the OCBC Skyway lets you get an up-close look at the technical marvels of the giant futuristic trees for just SGD$8.


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