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10 FREE THINGS TO DO IN SINGAPORE

Merlion

The Merlion Statue – Singapore’s mascot

10 FREE THINGS TO DO IN SINGAPORE

Singapore, in my opinion, is the Best City in the World. One reason is that there’s so much to see and do. Even better, many of those activities are completely free.

In fact, the country abounds with so many freebies that while compiling my recommendations I came up with a list of not 10, but 30 great activities in Singapore that won’t cost you a dime. Looks like I’ll just have to write this series in three installments. As such, here’s installment #1:

Singapore- Marina Bay Sands Hotel with bridge at Fullerton

Marina Bay Sands Hotel towers over Singapore River and Asian Civilizations Museum

Let me preface my list with this important fact: Singapore is quite expensive compared to it’s neighboring countries of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Accommodation is the biggest expense.

While budget travelers can easily find rooms in most SE Asian countries for $7-10 US/night, here the cheapest dorm beds cost $25-$30 Sing ( US $20-$25) That’s a huge increase in budget.

To make matters worse, dorm beds are often completely filled, making it nearly impossible to find a place to sleep. Yikes! That’s why my 1st recommendation is:

Lash and pal Rosie in Singapore

Lash and pal Rosie in Singapore

1. Snooze soundly in au gratis accommodation

Couch Surfing

If you’re not yet familiar with couch surfing, go check it out.  It’s a world-wide organization of travelers out on the road and hosts who put travelers up in their homes at no charge.

Couch surfing is a great way for travelers to hook up with locals and see the area from the local’s perspective. It’s also rewarding for hosts to meet travelers from around the world, hear about their adventures, and show off their country. Everyone makes new friends and helps each other out.

Astoundingly, Singapore has 2584 hosts on my last check. With so many eager hosts, you should never have to pay to sleep there again, if you so choose.

Singapore Visitors Centre- Orchard Road2. Load up on information, maps, brochures and help

Singapore Visitor’s Centre

The first place I go every time I visit is the Tourist Information Center on Orchard Road. I want to find out exactly which public festivals, concerts and events are happening while I’m there. I love that place!

I pick up all sorts of beautiful, glossy, picture-filled brochures and hear about all the fun free stuff I get to do. Sometimes I also get a new map.

This Info Center itself is easily the best, most beautiful Tourist Information Center I’ve visited in SE Asia. As a bonus (to you, not to me) you can get ‘refrigerated’ in their icy air-conditioned center, something I personally find tortuous but which most western visitors love since outdoor temperatures usually stand at 85-95F/ 30-35C and 80%-90% humidity, year round.

3. Browse Designer Boutiques and ‘Malls as Videos’ on Orchard Road– Singapore’s ‘Rodeo Drive’

After visiting the info center, and while you’re right on Orchard Road, why not investigate the world’s latest electronic gadgets, marvel at the newest designer boutiques, do some people watching and be amazed at the astounding architectural shopping malls.

As of 2010 several malls boast entire walls that are video screens splashing digital art, runway shows and movie excerpts!

Take a stroll along Orchard Road. Many people spend hours or entire days shopping there. In fact, beware of the weekends if you want to avoid massive crowds. Sample video: mall as video screen

Singapore Art Museum

Singapore Art Museum

4. Marvel at art with waived museum admission fees

Singapore Art Museum (SAM)

The country boasts several excellent, world-class museums, including at least 4 major museums and over 20 smaller, specialty museums on topics like toys, military, Chinese heritage and stamps.

They all charge internationally-priced entry fees, which may or may not fit into your budget. If you’re like me, you love art but are on a tight budget, then don’t despair entirely: If you’re lucky enough to visit on a weekend, you can get into the excellent SAM on Friday nights, 7-9 pm when they waive all admission fees… and then:

Singapore- Esplanade

night time entertainment at SIngapore Esplanade

5. Listen to Local Bands at Outdoor Public Rock Concerts

Esplanade

Amazingly, every weekend on Fri, Sat and Sun nights the Esplanade presents free outdoor concerts right on the magnificent harbor.

Concerts mainly showcase local bands and musicians- Blues, RnB, Rock, Punk, Alternative, Chinese Opera…Every weekend, every night, you can enjoy different complimentary musical entertainment. For music fans this is a must-do in Singapore.

 Marina Bay Sands Hotel

Marina Bay Sands Hotel complex- under construction

6. Stand slack-jawed at the Astounding Harbor Views

I vote Singapore Harbor as the 2nd most breath-taking in the world, with  first place going to Hong Kong. That may change soon: This city is quickly catching up with HK’s glorious harbor via the brand new Marina Bay complex.

In any event, while you’re listening to music at the Esplanade’s outdoor concerts harbor-side, you can’t escape the stunning harbor views splayed out before you. After the concerts, stroll across the bridge to the nation’s mascot statue, The Merlion, and fountain for views back to the multi-faceted Esplanade building. .

If you’re super energetic, walk around the harbor to Marina Bay Sands Hotel to catch the views back to the financial district skyscrapers and the Merlion at Robertson Quay.

Don’t forget that the harbor is equally spectacular in the day time. Plan a daytime visit back to the area. In pt 3 of this series I detail many great activities to enjoy around Marina Bay.

LIttle India- Flower vendor

– Flower vendor at Singapore’s LIttle Indi

7.  Overwhelm your senses with the exotic sounds, spices and colors of India

Little India

Little India offers real India without the hassles, dirtiness, and dangers. Wandering around this neighborhood you’ll experience an intense sensory journey. Tangy spices sweep up your nostrils. Loud frantic Hindi music assaults your ears. Vivid nearly-neon colors grab your eyes. Exotic saris, sparkling bangles, mirrored boxes, gaudy Hindi posters and sculptures, and tropical fruits compete for attention while you wander, a bit dazed, through the streets.

Happily, Little India is squeaky clean, empty of beggars and safe as can be. If you’d like to maximize the intensity, visit on Sundays when the whole neighborhood is jam-packed with only Indian men. No women allowed.
( female travelers ok, of course)

East Coast Park8. Go Take a Hike

www.nparks.gov.sg

Several years ago the government embarked on a campaign to transform Singapore into a ‘Garden City’. They’ve done an excellent job. Bountiful trees, parks and gardens are a prime reason I love Singapore. I really do feel like I’m in a garden everywhere.

To date over 50 parks, gardens, and nature reserves dot the country. You can hike, cycle, swim, watch birds, picnic, camp and a dozen other activities. Parks offer beaches, forests, lakes, rivers, hills, gardens and nature trails.

I recommend Mt. Faber for its stunning viewpoint vistas of the city, harbor and Sentosa Island, just offshore. Invigorate your legs and lungs hiking up the mountain or stomping around the hiking trails. On top you’ll be mightily tempted to catch the cable car high above the harbor to Sentosa. (That part’s not free, but the rest is)

Alternately, visit the National Parks’ website, chose your favorite park and go take a hike!

Raffles Hotel9. Visit a Historic Hotel

Raffles

The Raffles Hotel is one of three remaining ‘Grand Dames’ of colonial hotels in SE Asia and, in fact, one of the most famous hotels in the entire world. Raffles is renowned for its history, famous guests, wild legends, and as the birthplace of the Singapore Sling. Still one of the country’s most plush, prestigious hotels, room prices start at $620 Sing ($490 US).

Clearly I’m not suggesting you stay overnight. But I am suggesting you visit the Raffles for free. Get yourself  ‘properly attired’ and walk right in the front doors, check out the grand lobby, and even ask to see a room. Then go visit the arcade shops, including the interesting and informative Raffles’ gift shop.

Sit in the lush inner courtyard on wrought-iron benches surrounded by tropical plants. Then wander upstairs to the famous Long Bar where the Singapore Sling was invented.

Visiting the Raffles offers a great opportunity to peer into the country’s colorful past.

Indian shophouses
Modern architecture
British colonial architecture

10. Create your own Architectural Walking Tour 

(throughout the city)

If you like architecture, you’re in for a treat. The CBD is packed with all sorts of phenomenal architecture. You’ll marvel at grand colonial British buildings near the Singapore River, colorful restored shop houses in Little India, creative modern architecture throughout the city center, and the latest shopping-malls-as-video- screens on Orchard Road.

Places of worship scattered around the city include exotic Hindu temples, bright Chinese Buddhist temples, stately Muslim mosques and austere Christian churches.

With the sheer amount and diversity of architecture, you can literally fill days walking around gazing at beauty, without spending a dime.
—————-
That’s it for installment #1. Hope my tips help you beat the costs of visiting this wonderful city-state.

Be sure to check out 10 Free Things to do in Singapore pt 2 and pt 3 here

cheers, Lash

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You might also like other destinations in this ’10 Free…’ series:

Singapore’s Changi Airport
Singapore’s Chinatown
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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12 comments

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  1. Suzy

    Great options for those of us on a budget. It sounds like Singapore, surprisingly, has a lot to offer for free.

  2. LASH

    Yes, Suzy, I can easily keep busy in Singapore for an entire month, filling my days with free activities and sights! LIke I mentioned, I came up with so many freebies when writing the post that I'll have to do a pt 2 with '10 more free.. ' And that doesn't even count Chiangi Airport, another '10 Free.. ' to post about. Thanks for reading! cheers, lash

  3. May Macatugal

    Hi Lash I been living in Singapore for more than a year now and Yes there's a lot of free things you can do in Singapore it is also great place for tourist like us. I found Singapore is very safe country and clean. Cheers Lash!

  4. LASH

    Hi May. I'm glad you like Singapore! I love it, but many western travelers I meet don't like it much- they say it's too clean n orderly. How can it be TOO CLEAN?! I like it.
    Hey, I might be back through Sing. again soon. We should meet if so!
    thanks for stopping by. cheers, Lash

  5. Dee

    Hi Lash,

    Stumbled upon your site while doing some CS research. Just a personal 2 cents..

    While CouchSurfing is "free" as you put it and so boldly promote – "Snooze soundly in free accommodation!" is not the best of tag lines that reflects the project – regardless of location. When you use the term "also" rewarding – you seem to imply that the primary aim of Couchsurfing is free accommodation.

    "CouchSurfing's vision is to bring our spirit of exploration and connection to the world. In order to attain that vision, not only do members share inspiring experiences with each other, they also share their experiences with respected thinkers from accredited institutions."
    – taken from a CouchSurfing FAQ

    Just a little note for those who intend to take up your recommendation at face value, most experienced hosts (regardless of country or nationality) can spot a freeloader from a mile away.

  6. LASH

    Hi Dee,

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your candid views on my post. I'm sorry you're not entirely pleased with my promotion of Couch Surfing. Personally, I think you've misunderstood a bit…

    I love Couch Surfing, and primarily because of the 'sharing', personal connections and international cultural exchange. Not primarily because it offers a free bed.

    If my comments were taken completely out of context of this post, I could see how they might give the wrong portrayal of CS.

    But, in context of the main thrust of this post '10 FREE things to do', I think my comments make sense and are perfectly reasonable:

    Of course 'Snooze Soundly in
    Free Accommodation' is NOT a tagline for CS! It's a tag line for the post on the topic of free things to do. In addition, technically, it is NOT a tagline for CS either- ie. the words do not link to CS. And the phrase is written in a flowery writing style- again, for the post's topic.

    I only start off the section on Couch Surfing with 'snooze .. free' because of the topic of the post.

    AFter the post's 'tagline' I immediately point out the main benefits of CS, which are cultural exchange, visiting locations with locals, sharing travel stories, and making new friends.

    Personally, I think my post makes clear what CS is all about. And for anyone interested in pursuing CS by visiting the CS site, they will quickly learn more about CS in detail before joining.

    Still, if you're not pleased with this post, feel free to contact me by email to discuss it further. I'd like CS to be happy with my promotion of your organization! I'm a member and I love it!
    cheers, Lash

  7. Toni & Sean

    Hi
    Just wanted to say thanks for the advice :) sounds like you're a proper avid traveller and I'll be reading up on a few more of your posts soon.

    We've been travelling and volunteering in India and Nepal for 4 months and now and we've been extremely fortunate to be able to come to Singapore for a month. Even more fortunate to have quite well off friends whose parents live on Sentosa Cove and have allowed us to stay with them in the ridiculously wealthy residential area!! How lucky are we!!
    But for a few days it did feel like you had to be a millionaire to do anything here (especially when you go through the resort area every time you go to the main island) so it was a little upsetting for a day or so, maybe a lil homesick too, but after researching and getting to grips with this awesomely astounding place I reckon, thanks to a few pieces of your advice, we will have an awesome time!! :) so thanks!

    Btw apologies for punctuation, grammar etc… I'm not the blogger, Sean is.

    Plus if you have time check out Sean's blog thingy, it was just our way of letting the folks know what we'd been up to but it is kinda funny :)

    Toni x

  8. LASH

    hi Tony and Sean,
    Wow, sounds lke you guys have a great set-up in Sing! I'm jealous you get to stay for one month! Cant' wait til I get back…
    I"m glad you found my post useful. I hope you get to do most of the stuff I suggested. Let me know what you do there and how you liked them.
    I'll go check out your blog,too.
    thanks for stopping by! cheers, Lash

  9. Kat Reynolds

    Thank you so much for all the travel tips. I am traveling to Sing next month to visit a friend and check out some parts of SE Asia. Yay!

    I have taken notes and look forward to the Raffles Hotel and Little India!

    Best, Kat

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Kat,

      Thanks for stopping by. Glad my Singapore tips are useful to you! Let me know what you think of Singapore, Raffles, and LIttle India! :))
      I’ll check out your site. happy travels. cheers, Lash

  10. Jay

    Fraser hill is actually in Malaysia. I think you meant Faber Hills. For a cheaper alternative to sentosa, another island to try is Ubin. Although the boat trip isn’t free (2.50SGD one way) it is a more ‘rustic’ part of SG. :)

    1. Lash WorldTour

      HI Jay,

      WOW! Did I say Fraser Hill???? I DO know that FRaser Hill is in Malaysia and that it’s Mt. FAber in Sing. Wooohooo!

      I will change it immediately! Thank you soooo much! cheers, Lash

      Yes, Pulau Ubin is great, too, and completely different from Sentosa. Thanks for the input.

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