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Free and Cheap Things to Do in Singapore

Free and Cheap Things to Do in Singapore
September 28
09:00 2015

Singapore may be one of the most expensive destinations in Southeast Asia, but there are lots of fun things to do that are free or very affordable so your trip doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Here’s my guide to free and cheap things to do in Singapore:

Singapore landmark Merlion with sunrise

Singapore landmark Merlion

Walking Costs Nothing But Calories

Walking is free and there is plenty on Singapore’s streets to see. Yes, the tropical climate can mean things can get sultry and sticky, but air-conditioning is never too far away. So the best thing to do is just amble the streets, admiring the architecture, dropping into temples, and take in the sights, smells and sounds. Chinatown, Little India and the Muslim neighbourhood of Kampong Glam are best for street life, local colour, temples, and mosques. Chinatown boasts colourfully painted façades strung with pretty lanterns while Tiong Bahru is home to handsome Art Deco architecture.

Sightsee on a Riverside Stroll for Free

You could easily spend a day walking the two promenades that line either side of the six kilometre-long Singapore River admiring the splendid buildings, as you tick off the city’s top sights. Begin at the Asian Civilizations Museum and then take in top sights like the Raffles Landing Site, Parliament House, Clarke Quay, the River Walk and Boat Quay, finishing at Merlion Park. With six bridge crossings, you can turn around and walk back whenever you’ve had enough of the heat.

Garden by the bay at singapore

Gardens by the bay

Save Money by Taking Singapore’s Public Transport

When you need to give your feet a rest, save some money by skipping the expensive taxis and using the affordable SMRT (Singapore Mass Rapid Public Transport). You rarely have to wait more than five minutes for a train that zips you around in no time. If you’re staying for a few days, the 1-day, 2-day and 3-day tourist passes offer unlimited travel. If you’re in town for longer, buy an EZ-link card first and then top it up when you need to.

Singapore’s Museums Offer Free or Discounted Times

Singapore Museum entries can be steep (around S$7-10), however, some museums offer free or discounted entry at particular times. The National Museum of Singapore offers free admission to its Singapore Living Galleries from 6-8pm daily. On Fridays, the Singapore Art Museum offers free admission from 6-9pm while the Asian Civilizations Museum has discounted admission ($5) from 7-9pm. Most museums offer free entry on national holidays. See the National Heritage Board site for details.

Singapore - temples are free to visit

Singapore – Temples are free to visit

Eat Affordable Hawker Food

Skip expensive restaurants to tuck into ‘street’ food, which isn’t found on the footpaths at all, but is secreted away in food courts called hawker centres. They are dotted all over the city, often on the ground floors, basements or higher levels of malls, shopping centres and markets. Dedicated foodies could easily craft a self-guided tour focused on cheap food. The best hawker centres in the central area are the Chinatown Complex and Maxwell Food Centre. For the intrepid, there’s the old-style Marine Parade Market in the east and Serangoon Garden Food Centre in the north. For breakfast you can get a Kaya toast, eggs and coffee (kopi) set menu for S$2.50. For brunch/lunch, I love dim sum, which starts at as little as S$3 a dish. One-dish meals, such as a bowl of laksa soup, char kway teow (wok-fried noodles, egg, cockles, sprouts), Hainanese chicken and rice, or Indian rojak (fried vegetables, seafood and dough fritters) are affordable and filling, and start at just a few dollars. Beers are also cheap in hawker centres!

Singapore - a cheap and filling dim sum meal

Singapore – a cheap and filling dim sum meal

About Author

Lara Dunston

Lara Dunston

Lara Dunston is an Australian-born, Asia-based travel and food writer who has contributed to Australian Gourmet Traveller, Feast, Delicious, The Guardian, National Geographic Traveller, Wanderlust, The Telegraph, The Independent, CNN Travel, Travel+Leisure Asia, DestinAsian, Conde Nast Traveller China, and more. Since leaving Sydney in 1998 with her photographer husband Terence Carter, she has lived in the Middle East, spent eight years living out of a suitcase, and now lives in Siem Reap. Lara and Terence blog on slow, local and experiential travel at Gran Tourismo


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