Singapore is for me just a city that wants to attract attention – stuffed with unique buildings, attractions and other elements, which are perfectly put in the spotlight to attract tourists around the world. They definitely know how to do it! However, Singapore is also known as quite expensive. I made a short layover for 2.5 days and tried to visit Singapore on a budget.
The first trip by myself
I usually travel with other people together, because you can share the experience, you have more fun and you feel safer. I never dared to travel alone, although I already did two study semesters abroad. This summer I felt like trying something new. So I went to Singapore by myself and loved it!
For two reasons: Singapore is super safe in my eyes and Couchsurfing.
When I am traveling alone or on a budget I love to use Couchsurfing. You will get to know wonderful people. Especially, when you are traveling alone, you’ll generally meet more people.
I was unbelievably nervous when I started the journey – the first trip completely alone!!! My head was full of doubts when I entered the plane in Germany. What if the Couchsurfing host is not living at the given address? What if I break any rule there, which ends up with me in Singaporean jail?? What if I get robbed? What can you do alone? The nervousness would follow me all the way to Singapore.
While landing, I had a little distraction. There were fireworks all over Singapore. Seeing it from above was fantastic! Later on, I would eventually find out that it was the 50 years celebration of Singapore as a Republic.
I had no idea about the city. This had a reason. I wanted to explore the city free from all guide book tips and tourism websites. The only things I had known were: The Couchsurfing host’s address, harsh punishments (i.e. chewing gum punishment), and that I (as a German) would get a visa on arrival.
When I arrived, it was nighttime already, so I decided to take a cab. Seemed to be the safest way in my mind. I eventually made it to the address. I remember the moment when I put my foot out of the cab and my glasses steamed up… I really hate that as a wearer of glasses and I was surprised how much I got used to the non-tropical weather in Germany. It took me only a second to decide: The next days I will not wear glasses, besides sunglasses – only contacts!
Anyways, once the Couchsurfing host welcomed me, I was relieved. Everything seemed to work out. There were 4 other couchsurfers, which is incredible. Never had this before!
Day 1: Sentosa-Island, Bugis Street and 50 years Singapore
Our host (Mahesh) gave us some prepaid cards for public transportation. You can top them up so that you can pay cash free – very convenient and recommended for longer stays! They work like the Oyster card in London – if you have been there before. You can also pay cash on the bus or buy train tickets at the MRT stations.
The first day, I decided to follow Rose – another couchsurfer, because she wanted to go to the beach. The most attractive option after a few months of Germany. Again, I had no plan for the city, so I just went along what others had planned. Can’t be wrong with that, right?
So I started sightseeing with Sentosa Island, “the ultimate fun for young and old”! It’s basically a fake island for entertainment.
From Vivo City, you can walk or take a train for free. Even the buses on the island are for free – somebody told us after we walked for at least an hour.
You’ll probably have a lot of fun there with kids and even without – attractions like a fun park, cable car, and shows are waiting for you. There also are beautiful beaches although they seem to be unnatural. You can have a drink at one of the beach bars as well.
After we’ve seen everything that was for free, we took the train back to Vivo City. At the information point inside the shopping mall, we asked for a good and cheap place to eat. They recommended the Bugis Street.
Bugis Street is a huge market like the Camden market in London. Around the corner of Bugis Street, we found a house, which contained like 100 food stands. My first little culture shock because I haven’t been to Asia before. It was super difficult to decide for a meal – so many options! Rose was very patient and explained to me a few things. The food was around $2-3 – so definitely recommended!!
Then we walked around a bit until we made it to the Marina Bay Sands – a huge building, which carries a ship on the top. It has the highest infinity pool worldwide (200 m/656 ft) and probably the most expensive.
Around the bay were so many people that we got suspicious and tried to find out what’s going on. A random man explained to us that there is a celebration this day – 50 years Singapore. Therefore there was a military show later on…
…and an incredible firework that night!!
Day 2: Little India and Gardens by the Bay
The day started very late with a delicious Indian lunch. The little restaurant was on a side road of Little India – a must-see in Singapore!
Mahesh – born in India – picked one of his favorite restaurants to share lunch with his couchsurfers. We all sat at a big table, Majesh ordered the food for us. Bread and rice on banana leaves. The different sauces came extra and we could try all and pick our favorite.
While we were sharing the food, Mahesh told us about his culture. Food taboo – you probably know it already – eating with the left (dirty) hand. But he also talked about regions in India, which we have to visit, if we travel to India once.
After lunch, I walked around with a new couchsurfer. It is fun to explore Little India – give it a try!
At night, we went to the Gardens by the Bay to see a show. I cannot really describe what this gardens or those trees are like. It’s trees, but not real trees – they are more like buildings with plants on the outside.
Every night there are free light shows for 15 minutes (current times check online!). You just go there, sit or lay down and enjoy. When I was there, they played every music style from Disney soundtracks to pop music. The trees would glow in different colors in the rhythm of the song! We laid on the grass and looked up at the trees – it was incredible! I couldn’t really see a lot of the park, but I am sure it’s beautiful during the day, too!
All in all, I did not spend much: Public transport and food & drinks, so Singapore on a budget works out.
I can totally recommend it to do Couchsurfing there because I believe it’s a great and valuable way to travel!
If it’s nothing for you, I know that the hostel prices are high – like in every metropolis. You have to expect around $25 per night. For Asia, it’s for sure a different price range. Booking in advance might help. In the end, I’ve spent like, $35-50 for two days because I ate street food. So it was definitely on a budget!