You can ordinarily get round-trip tickets between Manila and Singapore for under P6,000. However, during a piso sale, this can drop to just a little over P2,000. Keep an eye out for sales by following airlines’ social media accounts.
The number of seats on sale tend to be limited and nabbing the lowest fares can require a combination of patience, luck, and speed. Improve your chances by keeping a file on your desktop with all the necessary information ready to copy and paste. This especially applies if you are also booking for your family or friends. You don’t want to waste precious time having to call them up – in the middle of the night, no less – to ask for their birthdays or passport numbers.
If you want to save on accommodations, your best bet would be a hostel. Clifden Hostel, for example, costs P618/bed/night, offers free breakfast, and is right next to the Little India MRT station. Previous guests love the hostel – it is rated 9/10 (Superb) in Booking.com and 4.5/5 in TripAdvisor.
Budget for accommodations: P2,472 for 4 nights at Clifden Hostel
Where to eat
Two words: hawker centers! At these food centers, meals such as Singapore’s famous chicken rice only cost S$2-4, while drinks go for around S$1. Aside from its cheaper prices, hawker centers also have the advantage of choice: you can go for Chinese, Indian, Malay, or Middle Eastern food – or all of the above! – all under one roof. (READ: Around Singapore in 16 dishes)
Many hostels offer free breakfast, so that’s one less meal to worry about.
At hawker centers, look for the stalls with the longest lines – chances are, they’re the ones with the best food.
You can get a cultural/religious immersion and a meal at the Singapore Buddhist Lodge. According to its website: “Vegetarian meals are provided every day for the consumption of the public, regardless of race, religion and nationality.”
Budget for food: S$5 (P175/meal) x 2 meals/day x 5 days = P1,400
How to get around
The word “MRT” doesn’t induce quite the same amount of hair-pulling distress in Singapore as it does in, er, other cities closer to home. In fact, Singapore’s public transportation system is utterly enviable; their buses and trains are highly efficient and there is rarely, if ever, a need to take a taxi.
Fares depend on distance, so your transportation costs will largely depend on where you want to go. (Use the Fare Calculator here.) To take the guesswork out of budgeting, you can opt for the 3-day Singapore Tourist Pass (S$20), which lets you go on unlimited bus and train rides for the duration of its validity.
If you’re staying in Singapore for 5 days, you can use the Pass to go anywhere you like on days 2-4. On day 1, you can buy a single ticket from Changi Airport to your hostel – Changi to Little India costs S$1.81 – and then explore the neighborhood on foot. Choose a nearby area to explore on your last day (train fare will be around S$0.83 each way) and then take the train back to the airport (S$1.81).
Wear sensible shoes. Even if you’re taking the MRT, you might still have to do a significant amount of walking to get to the right platform, especially in the large interchanges.
Budget for transportation: S$20 for the 3-day Singapore Tourist Pass + S$6 for other transportation expenses = S$26 (P910)
What to see and do
There are plenty of things to see and do in Singapore…and most of them cost money. That said, there are often low-cost alternatives to Singapore’s usual pleasures, and some attractions are entirely free.
“You haven’t seen Singapore until you’ve seen it from the Sands SkyPark Observation Deck,” says the Marina Bay Sands website, and there’s no doubt the views from the observation deck are spectacular. The downside: admission is S$23. A cheaper alternative is the Esplanade Roof Terrace, which also overlooks Marina Bay and is completely free. The bonus: the Terrace’s views of the Singapore Skyline will include the Marina Bay Sands, which won’t be the case if you’re actually on the Sands observation deck.
Aside from its roof terrace, the Esplanade also offers free workshops, concerts, and exhibits. Check their website to see if any of their free activities coincide with your visit.
One of the most interesting things about Singapore is its medley of cultures and races. Make sure you set aside a day or two to explore its ethnic enclaves such as Little India, Chinatown, Geylang, and Kampong Glam. Little India is a feast for the senses; Kampong Glam includes the infinitely Instagrammable Haji Lane.
Mix culture and history by downloading and following any of the National Heritage Board’s free Heritage Trails booklets. If you prefer listening to a guide over reading from a booklet,Singapore Footprints offers free guided tours. Their Chinatown Tour starts every Saturday 9:15 AM in front of the Chinatown Visitor Centre and lasts for around 2 hours.
If you’re interested in Chinese culture and mythology, consider a visit to Haw Par Villa, a free-to-the-public theme park built by the brothers behind the medical ointment Tiger Balm. It is particularly famous for its gruesome depictions of the 10 Courts of Hell from Chinese folklore, and although the park is a bit dated, visitors still appreciate its unique aesthetics – or as one TripAdvisor contributor describes it: “Like real life. But on 12 hits of acid.”
Yet another place to get your nature fix – completely free – is the Singapore Botanic Gardens, which not only offers DIY trail guides but also free guided tours. If you go there early in the morning, you can watch (or maybe even join!) locals doing tai chi and there are often free concerts throughout the year at SBG.
One place that is considered a must for first-time visitors to Singapore is leisure island Sentosa, which is home to, among others, Universal Studios Singapore.
Even if you’re not a theme park enthusiast, Sentosa – with its beaches, parks, and tons of activities – is worth a visit. Getting into Sentosa by cable car will cost you S$13.
Alternatively, you can take a leisurely stroll from VivoCity Shopping Mall’s waterfront promenade into Sentosa through the Sentosa Boardwalk. If you take this route, entrance is free (at least until December 31, 2016).
Tickets to the zoo normally cost S$33 for adults and S$22 for children age 3-12.
Tip: If you also plan to go to Jurong Bird Park (S$29), the River Safari (S$30), and/or the Night Safari (S$45), you can save on admission fees by buying a Park Hopper ticket instead. For example, a Park Hopper ticket to see both the Singapore Zoo and Jurong Bird Park will cost only S$49 (instead of S$62). Moreover, if you buy the tickets online, you can save an additional 10%, bringing it down to only S$44.10. (You can buy Park Hopper or individual park tickets online HERE.)
With a bit of research and creativity, you can cut down your expenses for attractions in Singapore.
Budget for attractions: S$28 (P980) for Flower Dome and Cloud Forest at Gardens by the Bay
P2,100 – Airfare
P1,620 – Philippine travel tax
P2,472 – Accommodations
P1,400 – Food
P910 – Transportation
P980 – Attractions
P9,482 – TOTAL
Not bad for 5 days in the world’s most expensive city. – Rappler.com
Gaya is a travel blogger from Cebu whose background in psychology and medicine has taken a backseat to her passion for writing and traveling. Her main occupation is spamming her friends’ Facebook feeds with travel articles she’s published in her blog Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains, but for bread and butter she takes on writing and healthcare-related projects from home. Her bucket list includes taking her family to Rome, seeing the northern lights from the Scottish highlands, and walking the Camino de Santiago.
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