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Singapore has a reputation as one of the most expensive cities in South East Asia. When it comes to hotel rooms and rent, it envies major cities like New York City or Hong Kong for prices.
After spending a month in Singapore, I’ve come to realize that while yes accommodation can be expensive here, the rest of your travel experiences can be incredibly budget friendly. There are so many free things to do in Singapore.
So if you’re traveling to Singapore on a budget, read on for my list of free things to do in Singapore:
1. Visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens
An outdoor oasis in the heart of Singapore, the Singapore Botanic Gardens is home to over 10,000 species of flora. The gardens are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If these aren’t enough reasons to visit, the Botanic Gardens are a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of a busy city.
If you’re prone to mosquito bites, make sure you bring insect repellant! Also, make sure you bring plenty of water and sunscreen.
There are smaller themed gardens within (like the Healing Garden or the Children’s garden), and you can also visit the National Orchard Garden (which requires a small entry of $5 for adults and $1 for students/seniors).
Singapore Botanic Gardens
2. Visit Gardens by the Bay (especially at night for the light show)
Gardens by the Bay is one of the most iconic sites in Singapore.
While the gardens are still worth visiting during the day, they (literally) shine at night.
Make sure you see the evening light show, or at the minimum see the beautiful view of the supertrees lit up at night. Each supertree is a garden, made up more than 300 species. These babies are 50m tall (!), and you can visit nearly any time of day (they’re open 5 am to 2 am every day).
And if you aren’t on a strict budget, the Flower Dome and the Cloud Dome are also worth a visit (adult tickets are $28 SGD for entry to both domes). If you’re planning on visiting, make sure you check out this super helpful guide from Swedish Nomad about visiting Gardens by the Bay in Singapore.
Night time view at Gardens by the Bay
3. Walk along the Marina Bay Sands Boardwalk and take in iconic sites
I love a good skyline view, and Singapore doesn’t disappoint. While “take a walk” type activities feature heavily in budget guides, I genuinely loved seeing the Singapore business district skyline. From here, you not only get city views but also views of the iconic Marina Bay Sands.
Make sure you also look out for Singapore’s iconic Merlion (half lion, half fish) statue.
4. Work up a sweat at the MacRitchie Treetop Walk
Lesser known amongst tourists, the MacRitchie Treetop Walk located at the MacRitchie Reservoir is a suspension bridge spanning from Bukit Peirce to Bukit Kalan. These are the two highest points in MacRitchie Reservoir and is a great outdoor experience, especially if you want to get away from the city.
The walk is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 9 am – 5 pm. Make sure you bring plenty of water when visiting!
5. Visit the Chinese Gardens
A little bit out of the way, the Chinese Gardens are located in Jurong East. They feature several Chinese-style pagodas and also a Japanese Garden. The Chinese Gardens were a bit of a trek for me when I was staying in Singapore (45min away by train!) but I loved seeing the beautiful pagodas.
The Gardens were also nice and quiet during the day – they were a great way to escape the hustle of Singapore city life. If you visit during the heat of the day, make sure to wear a hat, bring sunscreen and bring plenty of water!
Chinese Pagodas at the Chinese Gardens
6. Learn more about the Peranakan culture at the Baba House
I’m embarrassed to admit; this is one activity that is still on my bucket list. Unfortunately, the Baba House was closed for restoration works when I was in Singapore! The next time I visit, however, this is going to be at the top of my list.
The Baba House is a fully restored Peranakan home near Chinatown. For those not familiar, Peranakan is Malay for “child of” and is usually used to describe families of mixed origins, stemming from when migrants would flock to Singapore to make a living. The children of migrants who married into local Malay families are hence called Peranakan.
Peranakan culture is different to local Malay or Chinese culture, which is what makes experiences like the Baba House so unique. The tours at the Baba House run by appointment only, so make sure you book ahead!
Colorful Peranakan houses (as I didn’t get a chance to visit the Baba House!)
7. Visit one of Singapore’s temples
Singapore is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. If you’re looking to understand what makes Singapore so unique, make sure you visit one of Singapore’s temples.
In Chinatown, you can visit Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple, Sri Mariamman Temple. Or if you want to visit Singapore’s oldest Chinese temple dedicated to the Chinese Sea Goddess, make sure you visit Thian Hock Keng. This is considered one of the most culturally significant temples to the first the Hokkien Migrants who came to Singapore from China.
Another temple worth visiting is the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, home to what Buddhists regard as the left canine tooth of Buddha. The temple is beautiful architecturally and is worth visiting for this alone.
Thian Hock Keng – Singapore’s oldest Chinese temple dedicated to the Chinese Sea Goddess
Where to stay in Singapore
If you’re on a budget, your nightly accommodation costs can quickly eat into your funds. To help those who are planning their trips to Singapore, I’ve put together some suggestions on budget-friendly places to stay.
Check ’em out below:
For solo travelers: Dream Lodge
This capsule hotel has got to be the cleanest AND cheapest accommodation in Singapore. Here, they have both female only dorms and mixed dorms, which is great for solo female travelers.
Each pod has a privacy screen, a place to store your luggage and a small locker for valuable items. Rates also include a continental breakfast, making it a great way to start your day! Check out TripAdvisor reviews
For couples/ those traveling with a friend: Cube Boutique Capsule Hotel @ Kampong Glam
The Cube Boutique Capsule Hotel is first and foremost a capsule hotel. BUT they also have capsules for 2 people. You can get a private room with 2 single capsules (great for friends) or a capsule with a queen size bed (great for couples). They also have, lockers and a kitchen if you want to prepare your own meals! Check out TripAdvisor reviews
A note about AirBnB: it might feel tempting to book an apartment or place to stay via Airbnb, given how expensive accommodation is in Singapore. If you want to do this – do so at your own risk. Airbnb is technically illegal in Singapore, and there are stories of people having their bookings canceled at the last minute!
Despite its reputation as one of the most expensive cities in South East Asia, there are plenty of free things to do in Singapore. Coupled with budget eats, you can definitely visit Singapore on a budget.
Have you been to Singapore before?
What was your favorite experience from your visit?
Do you have any tips or advice on cool free things to do in Singapore?
Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!