Stop shaking your head. I am not lying.
2 weeks. 20,000 pesos pocket money. It’s cheap traveling, I know, and some people would doubt the mere idea, but it worked for me. Like most of you, I am just a regular employee. Nor am I secretly filthy rich. I just really happened to be ridiculously in love with exploring that I have found ways to make it work.
What I am saying is, it can be done. If I have, then gosh darn it, so can you. If you love something enough, you find ways. This is how I did exactly that.
“It’s better than London. It’s so much better.” This is what a British guy told me about the country I was then exploring and he was currently living in. “It’s so organized,” he added. And though I haven’t been to London, I would agree with him on the account that we were at one spectacular country—Singapore.
This little country nestled south of Malaysia may not be as naturally abundant as its neighboring South East Asian countries (in SG everything is man-made), but what Singapore lacks in natural resources they make up for in skill. And that, they have a whole land of impressive landscape and towering glorious infrastructures to prove for. To top all that off, their public transportation system is inimitable. Convenient and efficient, it’s no puzzler why it’s considered to be one of the world’s best.
Singapore has easily become a go-to destination for Filipino tourists due to its proximity to the Philippines. Despite that, you hear the same comment over and over when it comes to the subject of Singapore travel budget. I also receive it as a common reaction from those who hear I spent 2 weeks there. They all say: “But it’s so expensive!”
Ah, there it is. That big preconception that often times stands as a major roadblock for many aspiring globe-trotters.
Yes, the cost in Singapore is quite expensive. And yes, to travel there does require some effort in saving up. But, simply put, it really doesn’t have to be as costly as most people assume it is. At the end of the day, it all boils down to your spending habit and traveling ways. Heck, I have met travelers who claim to have spent almost nothing in their adventures through hitchhiking and couchsurfing. And the internet is filled with budget travelers. If other people can travel this way, then there is no reason that you can’t.
How, you say? Here’s how I did it.
Singapore Travel Budget: How I Spent 2 Weeks in SG for Less Than 20,000 Pesos
5. Where I stayed: In two Pinoy families’ homes
There are more than 170,000 of our kababayans residing in Singapore. And you know how hospitable we can be with our brothers when abroad. Even a family of a friend of a friend who has never met you will welcome you into their home, share with you hearty home cooked meals, and treat you like their own children. This was the case for me. And it was a humbling experience.
On the other hand, if you’re feeling more adventurous, I would suggest you try Couchsurfing.com. It’s an amazing site that connects travelers to locals by way of giving travelers a place to stay or a “couch to surf.” Not only do you get to save some serious bucks on your Singapore travel budget, you also get a more immersed experience of the local living, which is primarily the essence of traveling after all.
If none of these will work out for you, there is still a way to save up on costly accommodation. I have to admit though, lodging in Singapore does not come cheap. Even for hostels, a.k.a. budget hotels, the rates in Singapore are quite on the pricey end of the spectrum compared to other countries. However, some hostel prices can still go as low as 20 SGD or around 700 PHP a night. Not so bad, right? Finding the perfect lodging for a trip can be a tedious task, so let us help you on that with this intro article to hostels: Finding a Good Hostel for Your Next Travel.
4. Where I ate: Hawkers
Why squander money on expensive restaurant food when you can have equally satisfying meals for more than half the price? For as low as 4 SGD, you can eat a delicious, complete meal at a hawker (a canteen). I once ordered a noodle soup for 4 SGD, and when it came out, I was surprised to see the bowl as large as a serving pot. I could have shared it with another person or two.
Hawkers can be found almost everywhere in Singapore. Add 1.50 SGD for a delicious, refreshing glass of “teh ice” or milk tea (my favorite!) and you have yourself a feast.
3. Where I went: Wherever the wind took me
….so long as the wind blew in the direction of free attractions. Which are, thankfully, everywhere in Singapore. Temples. The Gardens by the Bay. Merlion Park. The Marina Bay light show. Museums. Botanic Gardens. Parks. A photowalk at the city streets. Or go all 500 Days Of Summer and picture your future home at Ikea (trust me, it’s fun). These are all things you can do for absolutely no damage on your Singapore travel budget. Just get creative, and you’ll never run out of fun things to do.
But remember: don’t just snap a photo and leave. Come on. You’re better than that. Talk to people. Ask questions. Smile. Greet them in their language. Say xiexie if they’ve been helpful. If not, say xiexie anyway. The best of traveling happens in the streets where the people are at, not in shopping malls. You won’t have a new handbag to show off via Instagram, but trust me, you will feel like a million dollars anyway.
2. Where I had my dose of beer: “The bridge”
For a night out, grab your drinks from a local convenience store instead of from a bar or restaurant. A bottle of Hoegaarden, for instance, costs 4.90 SGD at a convenience store, while it costs 13 SGD at a bar. That’s an 8 dollar difference!
Got your beer? Great. Now head down to Clark Quay and look for the infamous bridge where the merriment happens. I’m telling you, this place is pure fun. At the sidewalk are buskers and their fascinating acts, and on the bridge, people. Tons and tons of happy people. Yuppies. Students. International students. Expats. Ladies on their bridal shower. And travelers—just like you.
Bonus points if you happen to sit next to a bunch of good-looking Norwegian chaps who would take off their shirts because hey! It’s that girl’s bridal shower and everyone chanted “SHOW! YOUR! ABS!” So they did.
Before the night ends, you will have made new friends. And that one, folks, is priceless.
1. How I got around: By taking the bus, train, or walking
Don’t take the taxi. As any place, cab rides can be pretty expensive, so taking the bus or train is preferable. Besides, when in Rome, do as the Romans do, right? Jump right in there and commute as most of the locals would.
Bus rides are extremely cheap (as low as 10 cents), but personally, I love taking the train. It’s like therapy on tracks. Singapore’s MRT system is so efficient, it’s hardly probable you’ll get lost. Plus, they are relatively cheap too, only costing about around 1 dollar and above depending on your destination. Commuting in Singapore is life changing, really.
Or better yet, walk. Sightsee. Take hundreds of photos. Talk to locals. Get lost. Open yourself up to uncertainty, and you might just be happily surprised with what you’ll find.
There’s a popular Paulo Coelho quote that goes, “Travel is never a matter of money, but of courage.” I can tell you by experience that this is true. I’ve never been one to have a hefty traveling fund, but courage I have a good supply of, and that alone has taken me to so many amazing places in just the last year.
So just do it. If you can buy yourself a new smartphone, tab, laptop, or whathaveyou, you most certainly can travel. It would even probably be cheaper. So really—what are you waiting for? Pack your bags, young dreamer. This marvelous sight awaits.
If you know someone who has been dreaming of traveling but has yet done so, don’t be selfish; share this article with them and tell them you believe they can do it. Or if you have your own Singapore travel budget tip, then by all means, share it in the comments!