Whether you’re a budget traveller or looking to splash out when you visit Singapore—here are the spots you shouldn’t skip.
When you arrive in Singapore via Singapore Changi Airport, you arrive in Singapore.
Changi Airport is consistently rated the world’s best airport, and for me, it was more than a gateway into the city—it was a big, bold, architectural spectacle that made me even more excited to explore.
Singapore feels notably futuristic in many ways—the architecture, the mix of urgency (businesspeople in suits) and relaxed (people of all ages and lifestyles sitting for a meal at the same hawker stall), and the regimented cleanliness (there’s not a strand of grass out of place, and there are firm laws about misdemeanours like littering).
I visited Singapore for a weekend in 2018 as an opportunity to try as many different cuisines as I could, learn about the history (I was fairly unaware about the mixture of cultures and vestiges of colonialism), and yes, live out a life of luxury influenced by the Crazy Rich Asians books by Kevin Kwan. Whether you’re a budget traveller or looking to splash out—here are my recommendations.
STEAL: hipstercity hostel
Undeniable fact: hostels are one of the best ways to reduce your costs when you travel. Even as I’ve aged out of some of the travel habits of my 20s, I still find the price of a hotel room an impossible pill to swallow for a solo traveller.
I always choose a central hostel near the major landmarks. My selection for Singapore is hipstercity hostel—near the city’s Chinatown, close to my favourite hawker stalls, and a five minute walk from the Merlion. Here are the essentials for a 30-something backpacker:
- Private bathrooms. I cannot handle another stall bathroom. Note this doesn’t mean my own private bathroom—simply that the bathroom has a full door and no one flip-flopping beside me while I wash my hair.
- Dorm room privacy. Whether it’s a pod-like bunk or curtains (like hipstercity has), I need some semblance of privacy to decompress and sleep well.
- Free breakfast. I’m not a big breakfast person, so I like to score a free snack and coffee to start my day—and allocate the saved cash to cocktail hour.
DEAL: Village Hotel Bugis
As more of a budget traveler, I still like a crisp hotel bed now and again. The best way to get a hotel deal in a city, in my opinion, is to look a few blocks away from the waterfront. This applied in Singapore—we stayed at the Village Hotel Bugis, which we booked for just $100 CAD per night. It’s located just down the street from the Bugis MRT station, so we took the train from Changi straight to the hotel with relative ease—and enjoyed the smooth ride while overlooking the city.
The 4-star hotel had incredible views, an exceptional pool, and excellent service. It’s located near Haji Lane, a vibrant, artsy, admittedly touristy Arab shopping district that we loved wandering through. Obviously we couldn’t resist getting our faces printed on top of our lattes at Selfie Coffee, and I had to drag myself away from Ficklestore’s made-to-order flip-flop shop. My favorite purchase was snacks at a mini-mart that appeared to be only a few dozen square feet, but revealed several staircases and a shop filled with every household necessity you can imagine.
Next door to the hotel you’ll also find the Malay Heritage House and Sultan Mosque, both of which were lovely to explore.
SPLURGE: Fullerton Bay Hotel
Obviously the go-to hotel splurge in Singapore is the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel—and I’m definitely not not telling you to stay there.
For me, it wasn’t on my radar. When we were in Singapore, the rooms started at $800 CAD per night—which is pricey for an Instagram post from the rooftop infinity pool.
If I were to splurge on accommodations in Singapore, I might go for Marina Bay Sands. Or I might choose the Fullerton Bay Hotel, a 5-star hotel located across the water, which features a waterfront view of the city’s iconic skyline. We sat on their patio for an afternoon happy hour and soaked up the sun and the view.
If you’re doing it—get a room with a private waterfront jacuzzi!
STEAL: Hawker Stalls
Singapore is absolutely brimming with exceptional street food for incredibly low prices. Hawker stalls are bustling food courts, found all over the city but appear unassuming—one looked like it was a parkade!
Start at the Chinatown Complex Food Centre (the city’s largest, and home to the famous Hawker Chan’s Michelin-starred chicken and noodles) and explore from there. Hong Lim Market is next, and just down the street. Laksa can be found all over the city, but our favourite was the famous stall at Sungei Road. Newton Food Centre is another famous one—don’t miss the sugarcane juice! My rule is to pick the place with the longest line and order whatever everyone else is getting.
An absolute highlight was Min Jiang Kuehs, aka Granny’s pancakes—GIANT pancakes, folded in half and stuffed with coconut, red bean paste, and my favourite, handmade crunchy peanut butter—for only a dollar!
DEAL: Singapore Chili Crab
Singapore’s best-known and most beloved dish is the spicy, saucey, fried crab. You can find it on countless menus around the city, but the typical price is about $50 per person—pick somewhere near you with 5 stars on Google reviews and tuck in!
SPLURGE: Marina Bay Sands Cocktails
I gave up on my infinity pool fantasies long before we arrived in Singapore but I love a view. I’ve been to the Top of the Rock in New York at least five times (somehow I always end up in the city with someone who’s never been) and honestly, I have no regrets.
So visiting CÉ LA VI Singapore on the Marina Bay Sands rooftop was essential. I’m considering this the splurge of the weekend, but I’d say it’s a fairly standard price point. If we’re continuing the NYC comparison, it’s certainly no more expensive than what you’d pay for a rooftop beverage in Chelsea.
I picked a grapefruit & gin beverage, which was topped with baby’s breath, and my travel buddy (my mom!) chose passionfruit & rum. We paid $20 for the ride to the bar, which was then applied to the cost of the drinks, which were about $25 each. Note that tipping isn’t customary in Singapore, and most bars (CÉ LA VI included) charge a 10% service fee on top of the drinks.
STEAL: Esplanade – Theatres by the Bay
One of the things I most miss about pre-pandemic life is chance occurrences and experiences. During our visit to Singapore, while walking along the waterfront searching for ice cream, we happened upon the Esplanade—a non-profit organization focused on bringing the arts to the community.
That day there was a free “Jazz in July” performance at the waterfront amphitheatre. We found the desired ice cream and sat down to enjoy—cherishing the band, watching children dance, and noting that the band was a mix of age, ethnicity, and language—brought together by music.
DEAL: National Gallery & National Museum
The National Gallery neighbours the Singapore Cricket Club (Singapore’s second-oldest sports club) as well as the parliament building, and houses the world’s largest public collection of modern Southeast Asian art.
We absolutely loved the vast, blessedly-air conditioned galleries, including a spectacular rooftop garden and the Supreme Court and former City Hall, both of which are preserved and encased within the museum.
It’s free for Singaporeans, as well as children and seniors, and only $14 for regular admission.
We also found the National Museum well-worth the $15 admission—you can even join a free guided tour in the language of your choice.
SPLURGE: Take a joyride on Singapore’s Formula One circuit
If I was going to spend ~$1000 on less than an hour of entertainment in Singapore, I’d rent a Lamborghini.
I’d put on my coolest outfit, maybe wrap my hair in a scarf, toss on some sunnies, and rev the engine. Luckily it’s a stress-free setup at Ultimate Drive—insurance is included, international driver’s licenses are accepted, and you don’t even have to fill it up with gasoline afterwards. When in Singapore, why not live the glamorous life?
I left Singapore after three days, dreaming of an ex-pat lifestyle in the vibrant city. It’s an infectious place that feels like you could wander forever and discover new experiences every day. I can’t wait to go back, maybe splurge a bit more on a few things—and eat a few of my favourite dishes again.