Welcome to our new series of budget travel guides, where we will cover countries we have visited recently aiming to share with you the best tips and insight on alternative activities, freebies and other must see attractions you should look for when visiting your desired holidays destinations. In this posts you’ll also be able to find great accommodation deals and look for the cheapest flight fares in your area.

We will start our travel guide series with an exciting regional hub from Southeast Asia. Here’s our Singapore travel guide. We hope you enjoy it as much as we thrived in the city!


Everything you see in Singapore has been built over the last 50 years, with few exceptions to the list. The progression of the city-state since its split from Malaysia in 1965 has been astonishing, and one many didn’t expect. The Malayan parted ways with Singapore just two years after merging in 1963, when the Singapore government expected huge benefits from an alliance to form a bigger country in the region.

By that time, in the sixties, Singapore’s downtown was a large field of grass surrounded by brick houses, peasants and a general state of poverty. The agreement between the parts didn’t work out and a lot of political rifes –bloodshed included– led to the split, which at the time had Singapore’s PM in tears. The Malaysian leading party unanimously voted to expel Singapore from the federation.

At that moment, the island was just another kampung –village– of the area that had gained independence from the British Crown in 1959, which had used its prime location to establish a trading port since the 19th century. How a field of grass turned into a modern metropolis, with state of the art skyscrapers and a world leading business environment in less than 50 years is still considered a miracle.

Lee Kuan Yew, prime minister between 1965 and 1990, was the key political figure of the country. Experts claimed that the incredible evolution of Singapore resides in three key elements: unique placement, openness to trade and investment and a small and honest government. Like anywhere, there are relevant drawbacks to the formula: press control, authoritarian rules, harsh judiciary punishments and restrictions on freedom still take place today.


When visiting Singapore, you should prepare to explore a wide potpourri of cultures, something you’ll do best when exploring the incredible variety of neighbourhoods the city has: from Chinatown to Little India, further into Marina Bay, Tiong Baru and Kampong Glam –the hipster and muslim quarter, all in one–; every step you take will reveal new contrasts in the huge metropolis. The city has a very efficient metro (MTR) and bus system, so you should use it if you’re in a rush, but be aware that walking here is never boring.

As a melting pot of cultures, there’s nothing you cannot do or try in Singapore. You’ll also find it’s a place full of expats, so the Asian experience is deeply rooted to its inhabitants Western traditions. The result is a merging of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Arabic influences with European and American living standards, which is ideal to get a first taste of all Southeast Asia has to offer. Take in the varied assortment of temples, the commercial avenues, the green spaces and the street art. Even the airport is an attraction to pay attention at: Changi Airport has been one of the best ranked airports in the world for many years.


National Gallery Singapore

Being a tropical destination, pouring rain can be expected without previous notice. Luckily, Singapore has great museums to offer. Our favourite is the National Gallery, which has great and varied exhibitions on the region and its artists. The building is beautiful and deserves a visit by itself, and the rooftop –bar and restaurant included– offers one of the most clear views on Marina Bay and the skyline.

Architecture tour

One thing that you will notice when landing in Singapore is that skyscrapers and contemporary architecture abound. Remember: the city was built in a rush over the last 50 years. This is, then, a great destination to look up and marvel at the concrete and glass wonders. An architecture tour here would be highly recommended.

Pulau Ubin island

Go further than most people and visit the last kampung in the area, Pulau Ubin, a tiny island opposite of Changi Airport. Few tourists flock there, and nature remains vivid for taking a nice bike ride, which you can conveniently rent after leaving the ferry. This is your best chance to explore the old preindustrial Singapore that quickly perished in hands of capitalism.


Light shows in Marina Bay

If the setting is spectacular, the result doesn’t fall short. Singapore markets its urban landscape by promoting two free light shows with music at Marina Bay Sands (Spectra) and Gardens by the Bay (Garden Rhapsody). These are a must and won’t scratch your pocket in a place where budget standards are as high, or even higher, than most Western cities.

Gardens by the Bay

One of the most recent and spectacular additions to the city’s appeal, these gardens are a huge example of the merging of modernity and environment that Singapore aims to execute. A green city, the Gardens by the Bay provide for a unique walk or bike ride to escape the big skyscrapers of Downtown, which might engulf you after a few days. Singapore has some of the greater urban green spaces on the globe, and nobody will charge you a cent for properly enjoying them. The supertrees are a sight to behold, especially at dusk and night, when they light up.

East Coast Park

Same as the Gardens by the Bay, this is one of the last corners where you will feel free from the tall urban landscapes of the city. It’s a 15km beach that only sees crowds of locals during the weekends. Another great place to go for a bike ride, which you could combine with the Gardens since the facilities are connected by bike lanes.


If We Dream Too Long, Goh Poh Seng

Considered by many the first Singaporean novel, published in 1968 by Goh Poh Seng. If We Dream Too Long explains the life and dilemmas of a 18 year old student that tries to follow his aspirations and adhere to the demands of society and family.

Corridor, Alfian Sa’at

12 short stories conform Corridor, a fiction work from the playwright and poet Alfian Sa’at that portrays life as a member of an ethnic minority in Singapore.

Fistful of Colours, Suchen Christine Lim

Fistful of Colours is an exploration of women’s rights during Singapore’s history, and a realistic account of what still prevails in plain sight: patriarchal society largely prevails and strips women of their fair rights. Suchen Christine Lim won the first ever Singapore Literature Prize in 1992.

Balik Kampung series, edited by Verena Tay

Explore the neighbourhoods of Singapore and its diversity through the eyes of different authors that have lived in them for more than 10 years.


In Singapore you can find really fancy dining options and rooftop cocktail lounges, but a lot of travellers will prefer to keep their pockets safe. For that, the city has a great food court scene in which you can enjoy dishes from all the surrounding regions. In Maxwell Food Center you’ll find Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, a renowned hawker stall with really long queues that serves the trademark dish of the city; if you mind the wait, just try any stall you find. They’re really tasty and great value. Leave space in your bellies to try the oyster omelettes.

Nearby, in Chinatown, you could also venture to Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle, the cheapest Michelin star restaurant in the world. When visiting Little India, find a place to enjoy murtabak (savoury stuffed pancakes) and roti prata (dough-flour pancake), ideally in Tekka Center.

Another food court to note down is Telor Ayok Market in Downtown, and you shouldn’t leave the city without tasting one or two laksa dishes (noodle soup), since they’re all different depending on the influences of the cooks at the places you’re eating.


Hostels and budget accomodation abound in Singapore, and there’s actually people living in hostels full time as the rent prices in the country are skyrocketing. Expect nothing fancy but fair prices for a big metropolis: the cheapest prices in Booking.com start at 7€ per night for one person in dorm rooms, which is pretty decent.

We stayed in Rucksack Inn @ Lavender Street, conveniently located close to downtown through bus stations and MTR, although not a short walk to any of the main attractions in the city. Still, one of the best quality/price relations in the whole city, and a reasonable walking distance to Little India and Kampong Glam too.



Singapore is one of the cheapest long-haul flights you can find around, either from Europe or the United States, with best fares rounding the 200-300€ mark. From Australia, you could fly for as little as 80€. Remember that Changi Airport if one of the main Asian hubs, so you’ll find lots of cheap flights to further explore the region in any direction.

United Kingdom  – 246€ (London)
United States – 220€ – 280€ (San Francisco – New York)
Europe – 180€ – 236€ (Berlín – Barcelona)
Australia – 80€ – 107€ (Perth – Sydney)

Hungry for more Singapore travel related stories? Check our RTW blog entry on first connections while backpacking.