Travel Singapore on the Cheap

by Vyna Sani
(Singapore)

While Singapore is by no means a cheap destination compared to its South East Asian neighbours, experiencing what Singapore has to offer doesn’t need to come with a high price tag. Here’s how you can travel Singapore on the cheap - free things to do in Singapore while keeping your wallet shut!


1. ETHNIC CULTURE

Singapore today is a melting pot of different cultures. Yet, as the vestiges of past colonial masters’ ‘divide and rule’ separation policies, various ethnic enclaves have endured and offer a rich experience for any traveller.


Holland Village

Here in “Little Bohemia”, swanky fine dining restaurants with immaculately-dressed customers share the same breathing space as traditional coffee houses with singlets-and shorts-clad patrons.

It is also a thriving arts centre where you can soak in the atmosphere and admire Asian arts, crafts, antiques and handicrafts or even contemporary arts at the various art galleries around, especially around the Chip Bee Gardens area.


Kampong Glam

The Kampung Glam area bursts with the rich culture and tradition of the Malay community. By day, you will can appreciate the regal architecture Sultan mosque, the largest mosque in Singapore or walk along shophouses and feast your eyes on a plethora or textiles and carpets in a dizzying array of patterns.

Come nightfall, you will see the laid-back Arab Street crowd sitting on carpets at the shophouse fronts smoking the hookah pipe, oozing their ubercool attitude. More Malay heritage can also be found in the Geylang Serai area.


Chinatown

When you step off the train and emerge out into Chinatown, you will first notice how red it is. In fact, red is an auspicious colour for the Chinese. Walk along the shophouses and try the bak kwa offered for free sampling, a Chinese salty-sweet dried meat product which comes in the form of flat thin sheets.

If you feel a desire to distance yourself from the commercial activities and want to feel a taste of the divine, step into the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple which hosts the sacred relic of one of Buddha Shakyamuni's teeth at a free admission.


Little India

Little India’s colourful silk saris and the strong heady scent of spices and jasmine garlands are a feast for the senses. The area’s concentration of gold jewellery shops also add to the bling factor.

Explore the Tekka Centre and Little India Arcade to find a treasure trove of ethnic items. Little India is also the place which houses Mustafa Centre, which is open 24 hours – just perfect for you if your luggage ever gets damaged at 3am and your flight is in the next few hours.

Come festivals like Theemithi and Thaipusam, watch in amazement as Hindu devotees walk on fire or have dome-shaped metal shrines (kavadi) poked through their bodies.


2. ARTS

From visual arts to performing arts, Singapore is emerging as the place to be as it revs up its offering of the arts.


Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music

At Singapore's first conservatory of music, located at the National University of Singapore, head for the lush concert hall to catch recitals performed by their students. Often, visiting artists from all over the world also give free performances or masterclasses which are open to the public.

The nearby University Cultural Centre also hosts performing arts from dance to theatre to music recitals, sponsored by Shell.


Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts

Right smack in the town area, here’s where you can immerse yourself in the arts, by viewing exhibitions and performances done by the NAFA students. Check out their website to find out which performances are showcased for free.


The Esplanade - Theatres by the Bay

Singapore's most exciting performing arts venue features local and international performances. Even walking there is a visual feast as you appreciate the art work along the walls of the underground tunnel leading to the Esplanade.

On weekends, especially Sundays, their Esplanade Presents programme serves up a variety of performing arts performances at the concourse and outdoor theatre venues.


The Substation

If moving images are more your cup of tea, head down to the Substation to catch First Take, happening every 1st Monday of the month at The Substation.

Get into the psyche of what makes the locals tick as you enjoy screenings of popular new local short films and engage in a question-and-answer session with the filmmakers. Admission is free, and you can choose to support Singapore's first independent contemporary arts with your donations.


3. GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS

Singapore had transitioned from the backwaters into a developed nation today. Want to know the Singapore story? Head for the galleries of several of the government building headquarters for the free exhibitions!

For example, at the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the Singapore City Gallery traces the milestones achieved in the development of this small city-state.

The Central Area Model, the Gallery’s biggest exhibit, is one of the largest architectural models in the world. You can even start here and procure all the walking maps to help you plan your trips to other parts of Singapore!


Museums

Come major public holidays, museums in Singapore under the umbrella of the National Heritage Board offer free entry! You might even get to savour free ice-cream and be given balloons while you marvel at the talents of performing troupes.

From museums showcasing stamps to war memorabilia to the unique Peranakan culture, there is something for everyone.

Head for the Singapore Art Museum on weekdays during lunchtime, or in the evening on Friday, for free admission. Also, the National University of Singapore Museum is the perfect place to drop by after enjoying the free noon recitals at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music.


4. NATURE

Being a small country, space is a premium. However, you can still find pockets of greenery or natural surroundings amidst the tall concrete jungles of Singapore.


Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

If you feel like sweating it out, head for the pristine greenery of Bukit Timah nature reserve.

Singapore’s tallest hill offers several routes up to the summit. Those who are up for the challenge can take the difficult route up and those who want a relaxing stroll up can opt for the easier ones.

See the South View trail with a nature guide, as tours are offered free monthly.


Sentosa Rocky Shore

If blue is your colour of choice rather than green, head down to the shores of Sentosa.

Catch the shy intertidal marine life in their natural surroundings on the rocky shores of Sentosa. Cap off the experience with a visit at the tidal pool, and marvel at Nature’s creation as you see the fanworms display their swirling plumes amongst the brightly coloured anemone and watch the scuttling well-camouflaged hairy crabs.

Volunteer group Naked Hermit Crabs offer free intertidal walks on the Sentosa shore. Check their website for details.


5. AIRPORT

If all you have is a few hours in Singapore for a transit stop, you may opt to go on a free two-hour guided tour with two tour option themed the Colonial Tour or Cultural Tour.

Now that you’ve saved all that money from not spending on attractions, perhaps you can even hit the malls of Orchard Road now without an ounce of guilt!

Comments for Travel Singapore on the Cheap

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Oct 08, 2009
Free Things to Do in Singapore!
by: Gabriel Tan

Thanks Vyna, for the incredibly valuable tips.

Indeed, there are free things to do in Singapore and it's possible to travel Singapore on the cheap.

Nov 12, 2015
Wonderful Travel Guide NEW
by: Stephan

I really loved this platform for a reason that it works fine for me like people to understand various things connected to Singapore travel and living. I'm sure many users may have benefited from the postings so far and many yet to come and enjoy the effective information shared by different users here. I do work for a cheap essay writing service online and I'm sure the information posted here will contribute in my writing projects about Singapore tour essay as well. Thanks for each and everyone who made this discussion platform great by having their inputs being shared with us.

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