I have so many lovely friends enquiring about Singapore visit and best budget itinerary that I thought it’s time to write a blog on this. Every June and December, tonnes of people come down to the most powerful Asian city. I thank my friends for keeping faith in my guidance and encouraging me to continue towards giving travel tips – some tell me to open travel agency too!
However, the Lion City has many positives, least of all some world-class features, which blow tourists mind away.
Zero tourist worries
- Taxis here don’t rip. You can take a taxi and just mention the address in full and relax.
- Safest city in the world. Night 2am if you are walking with short skirts in touristy districts, no one will even stare at you.
- Cosmopolitan and cheap Food Courts. Economical food courts opened almost every nook and corner, some for 24hrs. Have cuisines ranging from Indian to Thai to Seafood to Korean to Japanese to Chinese to many else in every food court.
- Excellent train and bus network. One EzLink card good enough for all travels.
- Clean and neat city. Won’t get much stinking smell or dirt under your shoes.
- Not much haggling culture.
- No tipping culture. Thank heavens!
- 100% people speak English or at least attempt to understand and help
- Warm, friendly, polite and respectful locals.
- Extreme well-mannered city – Speaking aloud is considered impolite. If you brush someone while walking, you are expected to say sorry.
Having jotted all the positive points, here’s the catch on other aspects.
Stay at Singapore
Budget and Vegetarian/Indian
- For vegetarian friends who prefer to stay at low-budget, there are a huge list of hotels in Little India, Farrer Park area. My tip would be Hotel Tai Hoe, Hotel Fortuna, Hotel Broadway, Hotel Perak, Hotel Arianna.
These hotels, that I listed, don’t mind you putting overcapacity in rooms too. That is, a family of two adults and two kids will be allowed to check into a double bedroom – as long as you’ll are able to fit in. These are budget hotels and bang next to Mustafa centre which gives you 24hrs access to shopping, food. Plenty of vegetarian and Indian restaurants surround the area too.
A bit above budget stay
- For the next level, I would recommend Hotel Parkroyal, Hotel Grand Imperial, Hotel Santa Grand series, Hotel Parc Sovereign, Hotel Innotel, Hotel Rendezvous, Hotel Aqueen series, Hotel Ibis, M Hotel, Days Hotel Singapore at Zhongshan Park, Ramada at Zhongshan Park.
What to avoid: Hotel 81 series, Hotel Fragrance series… these are primarily per hour hotels and my write-up is for family travel!
Eat at Singapore
Food at budget prices is a challenge in most big cities of the world. But not at Singapore cause you have food courts! You taste all cuisines, you taste them at 6$-7$ per meal rates with non-veg and drinks and with that you engulf yourself with the culture of Singapore. Food courts are there in every mall but do close at 9pm. Lao Pa Sat is a non AC food court, but it’s like a food temple and must visit!
For authentic ‘street-food-like’ taste, there are low-budget restaurant options for the following cuisines. I list the cheapest best ones in the touristy district.
- Thai food – Ah Loy Thai, Beach Road
- Sichuan Chinese food – Pagoda Street, Chinatown MRT
- Malay Food – Malay Heritage Centre, near Bugis MRT.
- Middle East food – Arab EastBussorah street, near Bugis MRT.
- Seafood – Newton seafood centre
- Veg Indian food – Raj Restaurant, Syed Alwi Road, near Farrer Park MRT
- Spicy Indian food – Sankranti, Syed Alwi Road or Gayathri, Race course road, near Farrer Park MRT.
- Indian Chinese – Jade of India, Farrer park MRT
- Pakistani Food – Bar B Q Tonight, Roberts Lane, Farrer Park MRT
Food courts are still the best. Do note, Singapore food is a lot levelled to suite all nationalities, hence if you looking for that edgy spicy food, you will need to be at the restaurants above.
Your ideal itinerary
Am expecting you will finish office/school on a Friday evening and land at Singapore on a Saturday early morning. Most flights into Singapore land early mornings.
- Take taxi from airport to hotel (MRT could be crowded at that time plus a hassle with luggage and kids). Do not need to book taxi in advance etc.
- Avoid theme parks on weekends.
- Explore the area around your hotel and freshen-up after check in
- Kids pick afternoon nap.
- Early evening go to nearest MRT, buy EZLINK card and tap to Orchard road. Explore and walk down that road. Have a feel of what all you may want to buy. Weekends there are streaming crowds and tourists and it makes Orchard road a fun spot. Sit by the Wisma Atria mall fountains and at Ion Orchard steps; click pictures.
- If you have time, take a bus /train to Bugis MRT. Shop at Bugis village (ideal for women shopping – junk jewellery and kids t-shirts)
- Eat at any middle east joint there, as listed above.
- Head for the Bird Park. If you are staying around the Orchard road, then there are buses going straight to Bird Park or take a taxi. Do not take MRT as it’s a long day awaited. Taxis are cheapest on Sundays or weekday mornings.
- Buy the 4-in-1 ticket as it’s the cheapest. Avoid River Safari, it’s not yet worth the time, although you have paid for it. So instead give more time to bird park, zoo and night safari. You can buy this ticket online before too.
- Reach Bird park by 9am. Enjoy till 1pm, take the shuttle bus from Bird park to Zoo.
- Watch Zoo from 2pm-6pm and then 6pm onwards Night Safari is just next door. So you cover three places in a day at cheapest possible ticket and low commute costs.
- Both the Bird park and Zoo has decent low-priced food courts, so food no problem.
- During your visits to Bird Park, Zoo and Night Safari – do watch as many shows as possible. The shows are the real highlight. Everything else you may have seen before.
- Take a taxi back home. Everyone would be tired.
- After a hectic Sunday, I would recommend a slow Monday for kids to recover. Laze around the morning and later go to Mustafa Centre for shopping for home (morning weekday hours only, or late night after 12am hours, else very crowded).
- Early evening take a train to Promenade MRT. Walk to Suntec City tower and enjoy the Alive Museum.
- After that walk down to the Singapore Flyer, admire and take pictures. Do not board it. It’s not worth the money.
- Walk down to the Esplanade river taxi jetty (10 mins walk). Take the river taxi there (you will find the counter, check timings) and tap your EZ lInk card and sail to Robertson Quay station (last station).
- It costs just 5$ by EZLink and you can enjoy a river cruise same as that of canals of Venice. You can see the Merlion, Marina Bay Sands and huge office towers all along the way and click pictures aplenty.
- For family of four this would be the best 20$ you would have spent here. Just to give an idea the organised boat tours cost 20$ or more, per person.
- As you reach the Robertson Quay area, walk down to the Clarke Quay area and dine somewhere there. Be careful its a very expensive river front to eat. For unique Singapore experience walk down to Lau Pa Sat food court.
- Its midweek and hence theme park day. Cover Universal studios and Sentosa Island today. Pack finger and easy food and water with you. Food at these places are super expensive.
- Wake early, take a train to Harbourfront, go top floor and take Sentosa train to waterfront station. Walk to Universal studios and take 3-in-1 combo ticket for SEA Aquarium, Adventure Cove and the main theme park – better to buy tickets online in advance.
- At universal studios there are many must see items but Transformers, Canopy flyer, Battle Star Galactica, Jurassic Park Rapids and Revenge of the Mummy. For kids, aside Transformers, Madagascar, Shrek 4D, Enchanted Airways, Magic Potion Spin are must dos. Some of them are worth multiple visits.
- If by chance you are at Universal Studios on a weekend or a public holiday, then just concentrate on rides where the queues are shorter. So that by noon you feel sense of achieving something than just wasting standing in queues.
- By 6pm you’ll will be tired with Universal Studios, so step out and visit any part of Sentosa you may want to see. Songs of the sea / Wings of Time is a must late evening visit.
- You should be free by 7pm. Come out and take train to Harbourfront MRT Vivocity.
- Go atop the Vivocity mall. At top floor are pools worth only one feet deep and grassy areas to sit. Let kids dip in that pool and shake off the tiredness, adults can sit by the grass and rest.
- Eat at food courts there.
- Go hotel by taxi.
- Laze in the morning after a tough Tuesday and leave around 10am.
- Hop to Harbourfront MRT again and walk to the cable car station.
- Take the cable car ride one way, explore Sentosa Island more, the beaches, enjoy the Luge and Skyride – A beautiful and low-priced ride meant for entire family.
- Take train to the SEA Aquarium (remember you had got the tickets yesterday!). Admire the aquarium.
- Go to Adventure Cove waterpark and splash yourself.
- Go back to hotel by Taxi
- Go to Mustafa late night to complete your shopping list and gifts for friends.
- You maybe checking out today so laze in morning and enjoy hotel till the last hour they allow you to stay (assuming you checking out) – 12pm maybe.
- Checkout and keep your luggage in hotel.
- You have Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the bay exterior portion (all free areas) to visit and the Chinatown streets.
- Take MRT to Bayfront station to cover MBS and Gardens by Bay and then take train to Chinatown. Explore the Chinatown streets, eat at Pagoda street as mentioned above.
- Later take train to hotel and pick luggage and off to the world’s best airport – Changi Airport!
Essentially the above schedule will budget to this:
- Hotel stay 5 nights – 500$-700$ (for budget ones)
- Eat 5 nights – 7$ X 4pax X 3times X 6days = 450$ approx assuming an odd restaurant bill but mainly food courts.
- EZ Link card fill for train, bus and boat tours – 4pax X 30 = 150$ with buffer
- Taxi to hotel & airport, zoo return and two sentosa returns = 200$ with buffer
- 4-in-1 Zoo, Bird Park, River safari and Night Safari tickets = 62 X 4= 250$
- 3-in1 Universal Studios, Adventure Cove and SEA Aquarium tickets= 115 *4 = 500$
- Basic gift shopping = 250$
All included comes to roughly 2500$ SGD = 1850 USD = 1600 Euros for a 5 night stay where you would have taken adequate taxi rides for comfort, shopped a bit for friends and families, visited seven parks, a cable car ride and river cruise as well as soaked yourself in the culture, food and magic of Singapore.
What say? Start packing and keep all family smart and safe travel tips in mind!