Free and Cheap Things to Do in Singapore
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:
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.
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.
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!