Singapore might be known as the Little Red Dot but that doesn’t mean that you have to leave in the red. Here I suggest a few simple swaps that you can make, as I did during my short stay, to keep your budget as tiny as Singapore’s geographical footprint.
SWAP: Sky bars for free entertainment with a view
Ok, a full disclaimer here. We did go to the Long Bar at Raffles and indulge on a Singapore Sling because a) it was a birthday gift and b) sometimes even budget queens deserve to be spoiled princesses for the night. If you are shoe stringing it, though, alternative entertainment to the expensive sky bars and deliciously high alcohol tax can be found.
On our final evening we went to the rooftop of the Esplanade (an arts and cultural centre in Marina Bay) and not only had amazing views of the twinkling city lights, but also watched a free concert taking place at the waterfront below – an almost nightly occurrence. There’s also a free art gallery inside with rotating exhibitions, or you can head to the museums around the city after 6pm, when they’re discounted or free.
SWAP: Riverside restaurants for food courts
It’s only a matter of time before converted lofts in NYC and London start serving up overpriced dishes on plastic trays, so why not beat gentrification to it? The bright white lights, trays and tacky food boards might not be ideal if you want to partake in Instagram food bragging, but with crispy roast duck, sweet and sour pork balls and spicy noodle soups for less than $6, do you really care?
You can find food courts across the city but there’s a particularly high concentration of them in Chinatown and Little India (we found the Peace Centre Food Court the most convenient for those staying in the popular backpacker district of Little India – and it’s open 24 hours!)
SWAP: Shopping for sweaty jungle walks
There are A LOT of shopping centres in Singapore and with Christmas round the corner and what felt like a lifetime of being separated from the Marks and Spencer’s food court, the temptation to spend was pretty high. A sweaty jungle walk in Bukit Timah nature reserve, then, seemed like the perfect alternative!
We took the ‘medium’ route up, which wasn’t too tough, and after about 40 minutes reached the peak. There’s no view when you get to the top (there’s a jungle in the way) so don’t go expecting a romantic spot for sunset. It was a nice break, though, from the business of the city (no five minute waits for the traffic lights to change, yay!) and also a chance to see life outside the centre as well as one of only two primary urban rainforests in the world.
To get to the nature reserve, just catch the metro to Beauty World and from there, it’s a five minute walk.
SWAP: The underground for walking
You know how that old classic goes; these Birkenstocks are made for walking and that’s just what they did. I’ve never been a fan of underground systems and although Singapore’s is clean and cheap, I found that walking not only helped me save money, but also helped me discover so much more than my Lonely Planet would have or could have led me to (the street art tucked away in Kampong Glam – see photo below- being one of them!)
I stumbled across hidden lunchtime spots, a spice garden in Fort Canning park, temporary cute seating by the waterfront put on by the Philippines tourist board and my namesake, Coleman Street. A much cheaper, fun and easy way to get around and burn off all that deep-fried goodness you had for lunch.
Thank you Singapore for allowing me to eat not just one, but every colour of the rainbow and not break my incredibly tiny pot of gold xoxo