Travel

Singapore: My 5 Day Personal Budget Travel Guide

Having an adventure is sometimes just a matter of going out and allowing things to happen in a strange and amazing new environment.

Rolf Potts

What I loved most about Singapore was that it is an ethnic enclave. Singapore is home to Malay, Middle Eastern, Chinese and Indian communities amongst many others. This island is diverse, which reminded me of Toronto and made me feel at home.

From the architecture to the green spaces to the diverse food scene… there is something in this tropical city state for everyone.

Supertree Grove, Gardens by the Bay.

Accommodation:

The most expensive thing about Singapore is finding quality accommodation on a tight budget. You can definitely find affordable places to stay, however it’s hard to trust reviews because they’re not always accurate. For example, if a review on Hostelworld has a high rating in Singapore (8/10 – 10/10) it doesn’t mean that what is advertised is guaranteed.

Pro-Tip 1: Read all the reviews – the good, the bad, and the ugly. I definitely learned to do this from this accommodation experience I had in Singapore.

I stayed at the Breeze Inn located in the heart of Kampong Glam Neighbourhood on Arab Street. It is one of the oldest and most fashionable Muslim neighborhoods in Singapore. I chose this hostel because of it’s close proximity to the downtown core via the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), it has an 8/10 rating on Hostelworld and had a great price for private accommodation for 2 people with an ensuite.

A Standard Private room at the Breeze Inn with an ensuite starts at $70 CAD per night. Single beds in a 6-8 person mixed dorm with a shared bathroom in this area started at $30 per person.

Pros about the Breeze Inn:

  • Great Location: Right off of Arab street and a 3 min walk to Haji lane for great sights and good foos. 8 min walk to Bugis MRT Station to access downtown. Bugis is also one of the few stations where you can get the Singapore Tourist Pass (read Transportation section below).
  • Private room with an ensuite bathroom (hard to come by at hostels)
  • Complimentary continental breakfast (white toast, jam, & Nutella)
  • Cold water in the fridge to refill water bottles.
    • All tap water in Singapore is clean, of high quality, and is accessible however cold water is hard to come by (without purchasing bottle water from a grocery/convenience store) and is most certainly needed because of Singapore’s tropical climate.
  • Air Conditioning, for the same reason as above.
  • Shampoo and body wash was available in the shower.

Cons about the Breeze Inn:

  • Reception is only available from 09:00 – 22:00. I arrived at the hostel at 06:00 and had to wait 3 hours for it to open and to check-in.
  • Bugs & Dust: there were fruit flies (or so they seemed) in the room.
  • Dirty Shower: the shower had a lot of hair (ewww) and mildew. Wear your sandals in the shower!
  • Towels & Bedding: No towels were given for the shower and one thin sheet was given as a cover.
  • Location: Although the location is close to the city centre, Breeze Inn is also right in beside the Masjid Sultan Mosque, a beautiful place of worship built over 200 years ago. Although this mosque is such a mesmerizing sight when the sun glistens from the top of the golden domes, you can hear the azan, the Muslim ritual call to prayer, 7 times during the day/night. It was difficult to rest due to the azan from the loudspeakers after a 30 hours journey from Toronto to Singapore.
Masjid Sultan Mosque, Kampong Glam Neighbourhood.

Grateful for my friend Monique who introduced me to Ana and Brian who invited me to stay with them for two nights in the new Bukit Merah Neighbourhood. It was such an amazing experience staying with Expats who have relocated to Singapore and it was fun to explore this new neighbourhood, while also being less than a 5 minute walk to the Tiong Bahru MRT station.

Pro-Tip 2: Ask your friends and family if they know anyone in the countries your visiting. Meeting locals and Expats on my travels has helped me to:

  • Find traditional/local restaurants
  • Find transit accessible accommodations
  • Learn about where to and where not to go (safety)

Pro-Tip 3: CouchSurfing is another great resource for connecting with people abroad. CouchSurfing is a homestay and social networking service that allows for budget or free accommodation in places all over the world.

Transportation:

The best way to get around Singapore is via its Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system that includes buses, the subway, and LRT (light rail transit).

Tourists can get the Singapore Tourist Pass (STP), a special EZ-link stored-value card which will you allow you unlimited travel for one day (S$10), two days (S$16) or three days (S$20). There is a S$10 deposit that is given back when you return the card. There are 4 different types of passes that you can compare here.

Singapore Tourist Pass (STP).

Pro-Tip 1: You can only purchase and top up the days on your STP at a these MRT Stations, so be conscious of where and when you can load your STP if you’re staying over 3 days in Singapore. You can return your STP at the airport to get the deposit back. Give yourself 15 minutes to do this as there’s always a line.

Pro-Tip 2: I ran into problems uploading my card at the stations mentioned above due to shift changed and lunch breaks for employees. These breaks aren’t posted on any of the websites above, but are printed and posted on the STP kiosks at the stations. These breaks last anywhere from 30 minutes (shift changes where employees relieve one another 1-2 times during the day) to 1 hour (lunch break around noon or 1 pm). Patience is a virtue and there are so many shops, attractions, and cafés at every corner that you can explore while you wait.

What I loved most about the MRT in Singapore was that the trains were always on time, the transit maps were easy to read with clear directions, and the subway carts and platforms were clear of any garbage (you cannot eat or drink on transit) and were organized with labels telling you where to wait to enter and exit the subway train.

Pro-Tip 3: Don’t forget to tap your STP when you enter and exit the subway. This will show you when your card expires or will show you your balance on a non-tourist pass.

Food Scene:

Singapore is a foodie’s dream and their Food Scene is hard to beat! Thanks to Singapore’s melting pot of cultures, you can find any type of cuisine your heart desires: Malaysian, Thai, Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern, Japanese, North American Style Fast Food… and the list goes on.

Pro-Tip 1: You must eat at a Hawker Centre when in Singapore. A Hawker is an open air food court with dozens if not hundreds (depending on the hawker) food stalls. They include traditional cuisine from the diverse cultural groups mentioned above (and more). Prices start at S$2 and a person can eat a full meal for a maximum amount of S$5-6.

What I loved most about the Hawkers were the diverse classes of people eating at them; from the young to the old, to the backpackers, and to the business professionals, everyone shared this space showing that food and tradition brings people together.

Traditional Hawker: The Haig Road Market & Food Center.

Must Eats in Singapore:

Breakfast:

  • Murtabak: A stuffed roti, originally an Arab food, but Murtabak in Singapore is often the combination of Arab and Indian flavours and cooking methods.
    • A ball of dough is pounded into a very thin sheet by tossing and flapping the dough. Once it is super thin a mixture of spices and ingredients (vegetables, egg, meat, etc.) depending on what you order is added into the dough. It is the wrapped into a package covering all sides and then tossed into a giant, hot, oiled skillet where it is fried until it is crispy and golden brown. It is then cut into small squares for easy eating.
    • Murtabak is accompanied by curry in which you dunk the squares of roti. The curry varies in consistency, colour, taste, and heat depending on the type of Murtabak you order.
    • Zam Zam in located in the Kampong Glam Neighbourhood and has the best Murtabak.
    • What to order: Chicken or Deer Murtabak.
      • Pro-Tip 1: Order the small Murtabak all the time. They are HUGE and cost between S$5-$10 per roti and will definitely leave you feeling satisfied.
  • Kaya Toast: Kaya toast is a well-known breakfast staple in Singapore and Malaysia.
    • It is prepared with kaya, a topping of sugar, coconut milk and eggs, pandan, and a thick layer of butter. Kaya is generally served on white fluffy toast and paired with soft boiled eggs for dunking.
    • Toast Box is a Singaporean coffee chain that is known for their Kaya Toast. You can find them across Singapore in stand alone shops, in strip plazas, or most commonly at the mall.
    • What to order: Traditional Kaya Toast Set which comes with coffee, 2 soft boiled eggs and Kaya Toast for S$4.50.
      • Pro-Tip 2: Try to look for the word “set” in the menu at any restaurant/Hawker in Singapore. Sets usually come with a side and drink, similar to a “combo” in North America.

To Drink:

  • Orange Juice: i.Jooz vending machines are located on sidewalks all over Singapore.
    • Cold, freshly squeezed orange juice for S$2.00 makes for a refreshing and budget friendly beverage on a hot day in the city.
  • Kopi (coffee): A cup of local coffee at one of Singapore’s more than 3,000 kopitiams (coffee shops) could set you back as little as S$0.80.
    • How it’s made: coffee beans are wok-roasted with sugar and margarine to a dark black brown, then ground and brewed with a sock-like cotton strainer in watering can-sized pots making for a strong hit of caffeine.
    • What to order: Kopi (black coffee with condensed milk and sugar).
      • Pro-Tip: If you see the word “Peng” beside Kopi it means the coffee comes over ice. “Kopi O” means black coffee, no milk. “Siew Dai” means less sweet and “Kosong” means unsweetened. If you need your coffee “to go” look for “Ta Bao” in the menu.
i.Jooz vending machine in action.
How to order Kopi (coffee) in Singapore.

Lunch:

  • Xiao Long Bao: These little dumplings are Shanghai Steamed Soup Dumplings. They are one of the most famous Chinese steamed dumplings, but one of the most time-consuming to make from scratch.
    • Inside the dumpling are little pockets of gelatinized broth made from chicken, pork and cured ham.
    • The best place to get these dumplings are at the Chinatown Complex Food Centre at the hawker stall called “Zhong Guo La Mian Xiao Long Bao“. This food stall was awarded a “Michelin Plate” in the Singapore Michelin Guide after completing in the 2018 Michelin Street Food Festival.
    • It is so amazing to see how they carefully fill each dumpling wrapper by hand and fold it so quickly and neatly. It’s like a magic show watching these chefs make these Xiao Long Bao.
    • What to order: 10 Xiao Long Bao mini buns (S$6.50) that come in a 2-tiered steaming basket.
      • Pro-tip: Get an order of the Dumpling Noodle Soup for S$3.50 and you’ve got yourself a meal for 2 for S$10.00.
Magic being created right in front of you.

Snack:

  • Ice Kacang: Ice kacang is native to Malaysia and was originally made of only shaved ice and red beans. It is also called ABC (Air Batu Campur) meaning mixed ice. Today it has transformed in Signapore into shaved ice with beans, grass jelly, & more! Ice Kacang starts at S$2.00 and is definitely the best snack on a hot Singaporean day.
    • What to order: Mango and Strawberry Ice Kacang, which has beans and grass jelly at the bottom of the bowl, then it’s topped with shaved ice and doused with sweetened condensed milk and topped with strawberry and mango jam.
      • Pro-Tip: Tell the chef to hold off the red beans if you’re not into beans in your dessert.

Dinner:

  • Chicken Rice: A dish of poached chicken and seasoned rice, served with chilli sauce and usually comes with sautéed greens and/or sliced cucumbers. It was created by immigrants from Haian in southern China and was adapted and is now one of the national dishes of Singapore. It usually costs around S$4.50
    • What to order: Just say “Chicken Rice” at any hawker and they’ll point you to a variety of stalls. It’s such a common dish and every stand has their own recipe that differs slightly. No worries though, you will never ever get a bad Chicken Rice.
      • Pro-Tip: make sure you get a side of the poached chicken broth to sip or to season all over the rice for more flavour.
Haianese Chicken Rice at the Lau Pa Sat Food Court in the Central Area Neighbourhood.

Dessert:

  • Putu Piring: Putu Piring are round-shaped, steamed rice flour cakes that has a filling of gua melaka (palm sugar) and are served alongside pandan leaves and shredded coconut. They are individually steamed in funnel-like aluminum containers and are a labour of love to make due to the technique used to bake them and the knowledge needed to source, prepare, and combine high quality ingredients.
    • As the cake steams the sugar cooks giving the cake a sweet carmel taste. The combination of the shredded coconut with the fluffy angel food cake-like dessert is a texture like no other.
    • I saw this dessert on Episode 8: Singapore on the Netflix Documentary Series called “Street Food”. When I saw Aisha Hashim, a clasically trained pastry chef who saved her parent’s Putu Piring business, and her passion for baking in this episode I knew I had to visit their dessert stand at the Haig Road Market and Food Centre.
    • What to order: One order of Putu Piring (5 cakes) for S$2.50.
      • Pro-Tip: Don’t forget to eat the pieces of fresh pandan leaves with these cakes and the shredded coconut. After doing more research I realized they’re not a garnish and are actually part of the dish. Pandan leaves have a roselike, almondy, and milky sweet, vanilla-like flavor and I regret not eating them to get the full Putu Piring experience.
Haig Road Putu Piring at the Haig Market and Food Centre in the Geylang neighbourhood.
Putu Piring, a labour of love.

Shopping:

“Folks in Singapore love food and shopping!” – one of my friends sent me this in a message and she wasn’t kidding!

While travelling in Singapore I constantly felt like I was in a mall; air conditioning blasting, elevator music playing, and the hustle and bustle of people with their shopping bags entering and exiting every revolving door.

Why are there so many malls?

It is true that Singaporeans love to shop according to one study conducted in 2016, but I also believe it has to do with the land mass. The small land mass of this city-state accentuates the importance of multiple shopping malls spread over the land and especially near residential areas. Shopping malls don’t always refer to places of leisure but instead offer places where food can be eaten, work can be done and and errands can be accomplished.

I have also never seen such intricate and over-the-top architecture within shopping centres, such as exposed roofs and windows, rivers flowing through the mall, and balconies arching over storefronts like you’re sitting in an opera… just WOW!

I was astounded not only by the sheer elegance and futuristic designs of shopping malls but I was also astonished by the multiple high end clothing retailers in one location. I have never seen so many 2-story Chanel and Louis Vuitton stores in my life. This was a sight to be seen and admired but I am glad there were also many budget friendly retailers such as H&M, Pull & Bear, and Zara as well as drug stores such as Watsons for all of my backpacking emergency needs.

The sheer size of these malls was something to marvel at. So whether you need a to purchase clothes from UNIQLO or from Yves Saint Laurent, or whether you want to dine at a hawker or a fancy restaurant, or whether you’re looking for a place to relax and read a book or a place to access some free WiFi or AC (a welcome reprieve from the humidity), you will no doubt come across a mall or shopping area every major intersection in Singapore.

My 5 Day Singapore Travel Guide:

Day 1: Thursday, October 3, 2019 – Exploring my Surroundings

  • Land at Singapore Changi Airport and take the MRT (runs from 05:30-24:00 daily)
  • Checked in at the Breeze Inn
  • Explored the area: Arab Street and North Bridge Road (5 min walk from hostel) and had Murtabak with egg and onions for breakfast at Mihrimah Restaurant.
  • Took the MRT to Marina Bay Sands via the Downtown Line (get on at Bugis and get off at Bayfront, only 2 stops)
  • Explored the Marina Bay Area until late afternoon
  • Returned to the hostel via MRT and took an afternoon nap
  • Went out for dinner on Haji lane with friends and then accompanied them to their apartment for an after dinner drink
  • Returned to hostel via MRT
Views from the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.

Day 2: Friday, October 4, 2019 – Appreciating the AC

  • Walked from hostel to Zam Zam for Breakfast (see above “Food Scene” section) and then explored Haji Lane during during daylight
  • Got my permanent retainer fixed at The Orthodontic Clinic Pte. Ltd. via the Downtown Line and North South Line. I highly recommend this place. They took me on the spot and only charged me S$35 to re-cement my retainer that broke the morning I left for Singapore.
  • Explored the surrounding area and hopping into every mall (Shaw Centre and ION Orchard Mall) to get a relief from the heat and to admire the plethora of luxury stores. Thank you AC!
  • Took the MRT to Little India and marvelled at the colourful streets and enjoyed a refreshing glass of orange juice.
  • Stopped at the Berseh Food Centre (see above “Food Scene” section) to enjoy a sweet and cold Mango Strawberry Ice Kacang
  • Realized that Little India is walking distance from our hostel and decided to walk back.
  • Took a nap at the hostel
  • Returned to Marina Bay Sands at dusk for sunset and admired the Gardens by the Bay. Purchased tickets to access the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest (total of S$18.00 per person for both attractions).
  • Admired the Supertree Grove light show, Garden Rhapsody, upon exiting Gardens by the Bay (19:45 and 20:45 daily).
  • Walked to the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands and watched Spectra – A Light & Water Show (Sun – Thu: 20:00 & 21:00 AND Fri & Sat: 20:00, 21:00 & 22:00)
  • Had a late dinner at Lau Pa Sat Food Court (see above “Food Scene” section) and Lau Pa Sat Satay Street (they have about 10 Satay stall get up nightly starting at 19:00).
  • Returned to hostel via MRT
Admiring Haji Lane’s street art.

Day 3: Saturday, October 5, 2019 – Hidden Gems in Chinatown

  • Checked out of hostel and left bags at the front desk
  • Enjoyed sliced fruit from a market for breakfast outside a food stall near Bugis MRT Station, on Rochor Rd
  • Headed to Haig Road Market at Food Centre via the East West Line to enjoy some Putu Piring (see above “Food Scene” section)
  • Enjoyed some AC and relaxation at the Kinex Shopping Mall, a 5 min walk from the Food Centre
  • Headed back to the Haig Road Market for lunch
  • Returned to the Breeze Inn to collect bags and took MRT to my friend’s apartment via East West Line
  • Spent the afternoon lounging by their pool
  • Enjoyed a traditional Singaporean dinner of Bak Kut Teh (pork rb soup) at Tuan Yuan Pork Ribs Soup with my friends
  • Sipped on an after dinner cappuccino at Whisk Café
  • Headed to Chinatown with Grab, a transportation network company like Uber. They also offer food services like UberEats.
  • Enjoyed Bulmers Cider while walking around the streets of Chinatown. After we finished our beer we entered the Sri Mariamman Temple and walked to admire the Buddah Tooth Relic Temple
  • Returned back to my friend’s apartment
Taking a break from the heat at KINEX Shopping Mall.

Day 4: Sunday, October 6, 2019 – Immersing Myself in all the Culture

  • Walked to the Tiong Bahru Bakery and TIANN’S (gluten free bakery & café) to pick up some pastries for breakfast.
  • Enjoyed breakfast with my friends at their apartment
  • Took the MRT to Chinatown via the East West line to see it during daylight
  • Bought some camera lenses for a good price from a nice man in one of the shops. A lot of great, affordable tech shops in Chinatown.
  • Spent quite a bit of time at the Buddah Tooth Relic Temple admiring the 10,000 Buddah wall and all the gold details.
  • Had dumplings for lunch at the Chinatown Complex Food Centre (see above “Food Scene” section)
  • Headed back via MRT to my friends apartment to stretch at the gym
  • Headed out via MRT in the evening to Marina Bay Sands via the East West Line
  • Admired the sights on the other side of the bay where the Merlion is located.
    • I took a great panorama picture of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel/Shoppes near the Fullerton Bay Hotel. There’s a viewing point just beside the hotel on the water that you can trespass (there was a wedding going on when I was there) to get some great pictures.
  • Grabbed a burger and some quesadillas at a North American Style restaurant (not worthy to mention as food was ok) near Riverside Point and ended the night by walking on all of the bridges in the area and by walking through the restaurant complex of Clarke Quay Central, which reminded me so much of Downtown Disney (Disney Springs).
  • Returned to my friend’s apartment via MRT
The amazing view across Marina Bay Sands Hotel on top of a viewpoint beside the Fullerton Bay Hotel.

Day 5: Monday, October 7, 2019 – Architecture & Innovation

  • Walked to Toast Box for breakfast and enjoyed a Kaya Toast Set (see above “Food Scene” section)
  • Went back to my friend’s apartment to pack our bags.
  • Hopped on the MRT to the Changi Airport via the East West Line
  • Spent 3 hours exploring the Changi Airport as well as the “Jewel”, which is home to the largest indoor waterfall.
    • I regret not spending more time in this airport (this is so weird to say) as it was filled with so many attractions and jaw dropping architecture. I would give myself at east half a day there next time and either lock up my bags or leave them with a friend so I can wander around more easily.
  • Enjoyed a late lunch of Vietnamese food, Pho, at the 24-hour international food hall at the Changi Airport located at T4 and finished the meal off with a donut from Krispy Kreme (a taste of home) that we picked up when we entered the airport at Terminal 2
  • I then got on a plane to Phuket, Thailand… stay tuned for my Personal Budget Travel Guide for Phuket!
Indoor waterfall at “The Jewel” at the Changi Airport.

As always, I look forward to feedback so please feel free to connect with me. What did you want more or less of in future Personal Budget Travel Guides? What do you want to know specifically about my travels to Singapore? Check out my Instagram Stories to follow me on my adventures.

Yours in exploration,

Rachele

Get The Nourished One straight to your inbox to stay #intheno

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s