Although Singapore is my favorite city in the world, I have to admit to its one downside: it’s expensive. Even worse, every time I return the prices have increased, especially for hotel and hostel fees. In addition, in recent years the $ Sing continues getting stronger, making exchange rates worse for western visitors. This all adds up to increasingly expensive visits to one of my favorite destinations. Boo. :(
But what exactly does ‘expensive’ mean anyhow? After all, ‘cheap’, ‘affordable’, and ‘expensive’ are all extremely relative terms. In this travel tips report I detail the actual daily costs of a budget visit to Singapore.
I recently spent two wonderful weeks there, during which time I noted down current prices for everything from hostel beds to street stall foods to transportation fees and admission tickets. And since I’ve been traveling, working, and living around SE Asia since 1998, I’m quite familiar with other SE Asian countries’ currencies, exchange rates, and costs. Following are various prices in exact figures in $ Singapore, comparison prices in neighboring countries, and their $ US equivalents. (all current for 2012)
$S = Singaporean dollars
RM = Malaysian ringit
TB = Thai baht
rp = Indonesian rupia
exchange rates at time of writing, are:
$1 US = $S 1.25
$1 US = 3 RM
$1 US = 30 TB
$1 US = 9400 rp
Following are costs of various goods and services in Singapore and SE Asia:
budget rooms / dorm beds / hostel rates:
Singapore $S 20- $S 30/dorm bed = ($16-24 US)
Malaysia 20-25 RM/dorm bed in KL or 25-30 RM/room elsewhere ($7-8 US)
Thailand 200-400 TB/room ($6.50-10 US)
Bali 70,000-100,000 rp/room ($8-10 US)
conclusion: Singapore’s budget accommodation is more than double or triple price of nearby countries
local meals at street stalls / food courts / local restaurants:
Singapore $S 3.50- $S5 ($2.80-4 US)
Malaysia 3.50-6 RM ($1.20-2 US)
Thailand 30-50 TB ($1-1.65 US)
Bali 5000-10,000 rp ($0.60-1.20 US)
Indian roti canai and tea tarik meal:
Singapore $S 2 ($1.60 US)
Malaysia 2.20 RM ($0.70 US)
chicken on rice meal:
Singapore $S 3.50-4 ($2.80-3.20 US)
Malaysia 3.50-5 RM ($1.20- 1.65 US)
Thailand 30-40 TB ($1-1.35 US)
Bali 5000-6,000 rp ($0.60-0.70 US)
Indian dosai and tea tarik meal:
Singapore $S 2-3.20 ($1.60-2.50 US)
Malaysia 2.20 RM ($0.70 US)
conclusion: Singapore’s local meals are more than double price of nearby countries
fresh lime juice with ice:
Singapore $S 1-2 ($1-1.60 US)
Malaysia 1-1.50 RM ($0.35-0.50US)
Thailand 10-20 TB ($0.35-0.65 US)
Bali 3000-5000rp ($0.35-0.65 US)
conclusion: Singapore’s local drinks are more than triple the price of nearby countries
1.5 L of 100+ electrolyte drink:
Singapore $S 2.70-3.00 ($2.0-2.50 US)
Malaysia 2-3 RM ($0.65-1US)
1.5 L of bottled water:
Singapore $S 2-3 ($1.60-2.50 US)
Malaysia 2-3 RM ($0.65-1 US)
Thailand 10-30 TB ($0.35-1 US)
Bali 2500-3000 rp ($0.30-0.35 US)
conclusion: bottled water / drinks in Singapore are more than double or triple the price
mobile phone sim card, with variable credit added:
Singapore $S 15-18 ($12-14.50 US)
Malaysia 8.80 RM ($2.90 US)
Thailand 200 TB ($6.50 US)
Bali 20,000 rp ($2 US)
conclusion: Singapore’s sim cards are 2-6 times more expensive than in nearby countries
Bus between KL and Singapore:
ticket bought in Singapore $S 25-30 ($21-24 US)
ticket bought in Malaysia 30 RM ($10 US)
Train between KL and Singapore, 2nd class sleeper upper birth:
Singapore $S 40 ($32 US)
Malaysia 40 RM ($13 US)
conclusion: train and bus tickets for travel between Singapore and Malaysia that are bought in Singapore cost more than double price of tickets bought in Malaysia
Metered taxi for 30 minute ride:
Singapore $S 20-25 ($16-21 US)
Malaysia 12-15 RM ($4-6 US)
Thailand 200-400 TB ($6.50-$13 US)
Bali 50,000-70,000 rp ($6-8 US)
conclusion: Singapore’s taxis cost 2-4 times more than in nearby countries
So, the overall conclusion drawn from these concrete samples is that Singapore is more than double price of neighboring countries. In many cases, costs are triple or more. Here are a few more relevant details:
Please note that budget accommodation in Singapore does NOT mean a ROOM. It means a bed in a dorm room, with anywhere from 6-18 beds. Prices vary depending on the number of beds and whether they are mixed with both guys and girls or exclusively female rooms. The all-girl rooms cost more. The prices I quoted above are for cheaper dorm beds. Another class of more ‘modern hip’ hostels charge $S 40-50 per bed per night. That’s $32-40 US for a bed!
For less than half what you pay in Singapore for a mere bed, in most neighboring countries you will get your very own room, sometimes with en suite bathroom, sometimes with shared bathrooms. Here’s my photo gallery of various budget accommodation around Asia that I’ve personally stayed at.
Another way to look at it is this: For what you’d pay in Singapore for a dorm bed, in other SE Asian countries you’d get a 2-3 star hotel room, tiled, with a/c, en suite bathroom with hot showers, tv, and room service. In other words, you’d be upgraded from a budget traveler to a mid-range traveler.
Also note that Singapore dorm bed rates are about equivalent prices in UK, Europe, and USA. Singapore has western prices for drom beds! Singapore is a tiny country, and living space is at a premium! Accommodation is the one cost that goes up every time I visit the country, whereas most other prices in Sing. have remained pretty stable over the years.
Train and bus tickets between Malaysia and Singapore:
Do your best to buy your tickets in Malaysia rather than in Singapore. You’ll save quite a lot of money.
Here’s a recent travel tips post I wrote about overland travel between Singapore and Malaysia.
How to visit Singapore on a tight budget:
Join me next week when I publish my extensive travel tips on how to visit Singapore on a budget. Although Singapore is quite expensive, especially compared to other SE Asian countries, budget travelers can still visit comfortably by following several cost-cutting tips that I’ve learned over the years.
Have you visited Singapore recently? What prices did you pay for food, drinks, rooms, and services?
Do you have any more Singapore costs to add to this list?