It’s hot. It’s busy. You’re flustered. You’re parched.
You don’t know where you’re going or which MRT stop to get off at.
You’re looking dumbly at maps. You’re gunning for a beer. And it’s only 10:30. Damn.
Depending on when you go, and where you want to stay, Singapore can be one of the most expensive cities to visit in South-East Asia. But armed with some thrifty travel tips, you can still enjoy the city without your wallet taking toooo much of a hit.
Now, these tips are only ‘almost free.’ I can’t promise that once you get to said location, you won’t want to buy yourself a noodle soup or lime juice to cap off the experience. Also, you’ll obviously be paying to get to these locations. I’ve inserted MRT stops where possible because it’s the cheapest and fastest way to get around the city. Enjoy!
Top Five (Almost) Free Things To Do In Singapore:
5) Tekka Market, Little India
The Tekka Market (in the Tekka Centre) is one of Singapore’s true gems. Nestled in the heart of Little India, the market is a colourful haze of food stalls, plastic seats and fruit shops. You could easily spend an afternoon wandering around the market and the surrounding streets, just immersing yourself in the Indian culture. The people here are loud and proud, marketing their produce the only way they know how – with positively booming voices! A visit to the Tekka market isn’t complete without a mango lassi. Line up with the locals and be prepared to jostle for your spot! If you’ve some time, wander through the market towards the back and exit out onto the street. You’ll step straight into an Indian dream; think incense, saris and bangles galore.
Getting there: Get off at the Little India MRT stop on the purple line, it’s easily accessible if you transfer at the ever-busy Dhoby Ghaut interchange. Follow the signs to Bikut Timbah road (Exit A C), and then the Tekka Market should be a little ways up on your left.
4) Oily, delicious noodles
Okay. So this one isn’t exactly free. But I figure at $3 a pop, you can forgive me!
Delicious noodles can be found all over Singapore. Just look around for someone standing in front of a stand zealously flicking their wrist to toss ingredients across a hot griddle. Good noodle stands can be found in Chinatown (more on that later) but one of the best is in Little India at the bottom of the Soluxe Inn hostel. Anything you order off the menu is delicious, but I’d recommend the prawn noodles – perfectly oily-, with a lime juice – perfectly sweet-, to top it off.
Getting there: Get off at the Little India MRT stop, again, transfer to the purple line at Dhoby Ghaut. Follow the signs to Mackenzie Road (Exit A) and you’ll see the Soluxe Inn hostel up ahead. The noodle shop is on the corner just below the hostel.
Chinatowns are like pizza – even when they’re bad, they’re still pretty good – but this Chinatown my friends, isn’t just pretty good. It’s freakin’ awesome.
If you’re in the market for oily noodles (yes, I know, again with the noodles, but come on, it’s Singapore!), laksa, lime juice, cheap stickers, red lanterns or low-quality jade, Chinatown is your Mecca. It’s an eclectic mix of high-rise malls, dimly-lit, cramped markets and bright, garish food stalls. One minute you’ll find yourself in a wistfully air-conditioned building, chatting to the shop assistant about the best lipstick colour for your skin tone, the next, you’ll be wading through crowds of people, pushing shamelessly and trying to line up for a highly coveted dim sim.
It’s so easy to wind up in Singapore’s hectice whirlwind, so it’s important to take some time out, at least once while you’re there, to just stop and people watch. Chinatown is the perfect place to make this happen. Set up shop with a spring roll (or five) and just enjoy the people-watch experience. Do this, and you’ll know what I mean when I say that Singapore’s Chinatown is a bustling, sticky, yet utterly glamorous mess rolled up into one delicious pork bun.
Getting there: Take the purple line MRT and get off at the Chinatown stop. Exit on out and start exploring!
2) Clarke Quay
As clichéd as it sounds, a trip to Singapore wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Clarke Quay. Clarke Quay is much like Circular Quay in Sydney; a delightful little restaurant strip set amongst boats, bridges and a bay of sorts. It’s the perfect place to wander about the crowd, stare at the quirkily coloured buildings, check out a band or a street performer or two. *Note* There’s often something, like markets for example, going on around Clarke Quay, so make sure you check out what’s happening around the time you’re ducking into Singapore.
If you want a glimpse into the drinking culture of hip, western, twenty-somethings, head towards the bridge at Clarke Quay on a Friday night. The bridge is positively swarming with young travellers perching about, lazily drinking and chatting to one another. It’s fun, friendly and easy on the wallet because of the BYO alcohol. Go over and have a chat; they won’t bite. Honest!
Getting there: Jump on the purple MRT line and step out at Clarke Quay. Follow your nose, you’ll soon find the cute coloured buildings I’m talking about!
1) Gardens by the Bay
And coming in at number one, is, of course, Gardens by the Bay.
Although the atriums are beautiful, and although the walk atop to tree-tops is quite good, if you’re on a budget, and have no particular interest in plants, wandering around the luscious gardens should be enough to satisfy you.
The Gardens by the Bay are more than just large, metal, tree-like structures. They are landscaped gardens developed to inspire people to protect the environment and educate them about sustainable living practices. Come here to wander about, cool off in the shade, enjoy the garden art and get up close and personal with some unique plants.
The gardens are free to enter, but for an extra $5 you can wander on the yellow bridge that connects the super trees.
Getting there: Take the red or yellow MRT lines to Marina Bay. This is the big, ugly hotel that kind of looks like three pylons with a boat plonked on top of it. From here, follow your nose (and the signs to cross safely underneath the road to locate Gardens by the Bay.
Have you been to Singapore lately? What else comes to mind for your free tips? Another one of mine is to ramble about the Harbour Front and enjoy the view of Sentosa Island, but that’s for another post, another time.