Singapore is a country full of secrets. It’s futuristic and other worldly.
Athletes run during the day and night. Free work out classes along Marina Bay motivate people to join in and exercise. Commuters on the subway abide by the “This Seat is Reserved” rule, always leaving it empty even when it’s packed. The sidewalks are spotless, there’s not a hint of dirt or trash anywhere. It’s easy to find peace in one of the many nature reserves in Singapore, or dance the night away at one of the many bars.
Singapore is an extremely tiny country. It’s an island city state, and visitors typically spend around 4 or 5 days here. You can effortlessly see a ton of sites and get a feel for the country in a short amount of time. I usually like to spend weeks on end in each country I visit, but I found you can see a lot of Singapore in a little bit of time.
Singapore is different. It’s typically not a destination on the backpacker trail. But for those who do venture here, they get to experience the cleanliness, beauty, delicious food, and wonderful culture.
Part of the reason Singapore is not typically visited by backpackers is because it’s expensive. However, it’s only expensive if you let it be.
Here is my Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in Singapore.
Let’s start with the free things to do around Singapore.
Take Panoramic Photos
Walk up to the 24th floor of the apartment complex at 233 Bain Street for a stunning panorama of Singapore.
Visit Palau Ubin Island
- Getting to the island isn’t free, but it’s inexpensive. Once you get to the Changi Point Ferry Terminal, you wait for the boat to fill up with 12 people. When it departs, you pay $3. The ride is about 10 minutes and drops you off at Palau Ubin.
- Ride a bike around Palau Ubin island: I rented a bike for $6 once I arrived. You can easily spend an entire day here. Food on the island is quite expensive, so bring your own water and snacks to munch on while you’re visiting.
- Chek Jawa Wetlands: On the Eastern end of the island, ride to the wetlands and walk along the coastal boardwalk for some stunning views of the water.
- Mamam Campsite: Another viewpoint on the island of turquoise colored quarry and a lovely biking path.
- Ubin Quarry
- Ketam Mountain Bike Park
MacRitchie Reservoir Park
I had no idea what I was in for before I visited this park, but it was totally worth it. Take the MRT to Marymount Station and walk into the nature reserve. It’s about 4 kilometers to the tree top walk, where visitors can walk above the trees and see the view of the lake.
The trail loops around the entire nature reserve, and one could easily spend hours exploring the trail and relaxing in the coolness of the trees.
Marina by the Bay
I recommend visiting Marina by the Bay at night. The buildings are lit up, a laser light show illuminates the surrounding area, and the city seems to come alive as if it were a computer game. The sensory overload is mind boggling.
Gardens by the Bay
This is a very futuristic park in Singapore, especially if you visit during the nighttime. Instead of having Singapore become a “Garden City,” the Gardens by the Bay is an attempt to make Singapore a “City in a Garden,” to increase the overall flora in the city.
This lovely park spans 101 hectares and has three different waterfront gardens. One of my favorite parts about the park were the Supertrees, these alien-like creations that tower over the garden and can be seen for miles and miles.
For some of the best views in Singapore combined with a nature hike, visit the Southern Ridges. The park is free to enter and takes you through multiple parks that are connected by bridges. It’s the perfect escapade for those of you looking for a peaceful nature hike that makes you feel like you’ve escaped the bustling city.
This mythical creature, which is a statue of a fish body with a lion’s head, is the icon of Singapore. I recommend getting here early in the morning, around 7 a.m., when there are minimal tourists and you can get the best spot for a photo.
These gardens are 156 years old and a very beautiful part of the city. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is one of the top attractions in Singapore. There are over 10,000 flora species, available for viewing from 5 a.m. to midnight, every day of the year.
This is the location of inexpensive shopping in Singapore. This street feels like Southeast Asia. It’s quite crowded and there are a ton of shops lined up selling clothes, jewelry, food, shoes, and random other accessories you probably don’t need.
Where to stay
I can’t recommend 5footway.inn Project Boat Quay Hostel enough. This boutique budget hostel in Singapore offers guests quality accommodation for a budget price. The location is perfect (right near two MRTs, the Merilon Statue, Gardens by the Bay, and right along the Singapore River), offers free breakfast, and the dorms are comfortable.
For those of you on a tight budget, I recommend Couchsurfing. Not only is this a way to meet friendly locals, but it’s also a great way to experience a cultural exchange that you would never get anywhere else. The idea behind Couchsurfing is that the guest stays at the host’s house for free, but the guest hangs out with the host and shares some of their culture with them. Read my Traveler Newbies Guide to Couchsurfing and read about My First Couchsurfing Experience.
Where to eat
- Maxwell Food Center: Try the Hainanese chicken at this food center, which sells quality food for around $3-5 (the cheapest I saw in Singapore!). Hainanese chicken is a staple in Singapore.
- Kaya Toast: You can get the staple breakfast of Singapore, kaya toast with two runny eggs and coffee, all for $4.80 and Ya Kun Kaya Toast restaurant. Kaya is a traditional jam made from coconut and eggs and is quite sweet. You dip the toast into your runny eggs and munch on the goodness.
- Ya Kun Kaya Toast: 18 China Street, Singapore
- Little India: The flashing lights and aroma of spices will make your nose sing with delight and your tastebuds dance. I ate here a few times, and can say without a doubt it was some of the best Indian food I’ve ever had. There are a ton of restaurants to choose from, prices typically range from $3 to $20.
The metro is a great way to budget travel in Singapore, and costs around $1-3 depending on how far you travel. It’s fast and efficient. The buses are also quite cheap and reliable.