5 Tips For a Cheap Stay in Singapore, SE Asia’s Most Expensive Stopover

Updated November 18th, 2017.

Many backpackers end up stopping over in popular Singapore for a night or a weekend on their way to or from South East Asia, Australia, or even South America. When travelling on a budget though, it’s important not to waste limited stopover time trying to find affordable ways to explore the city.

While Singapore is often known for its ritzy hotels and designer shopping malls, thankfully there are also plenty of cheap and cheerful attractions around the thriving metropolis that are well worth checking out.

Merlion Park, SingaporeSingapore is famous as a rich business and shopping hub!

From green escapes and hawker food centers, to museums or even just spending time in the amazing international airport itself, you’ll find plenty of fun yet affordable things to do in bustling Singapore. Read on for some top tips for a budget stay in Singapore…

TIP 1: Don’t Leave the Airport! – Changi International Airport

Before you even leave the international airport in Singapore you can spend many enjoyable hours exploring what the city’s busy facility has to offer. An award-winning airport (it has received over 400 gongs over the years), Changi has regularly been voted as Asia’s best airport, as well as the top in the world.

When you arrive, make sure you allocate enough time to check out the venue’s many leisure amenities. These include a synthetic ice rink; a rooftop swimming pool with a Balinese theme and the tallest slide in the city; free cinemas; wellness centers; and at least 300 different retail outlets.

One of the top attractions at the airport though has to be the recent addition of a live butterfly garden. This popular spot is home to over 1,000 butterflies, as well as numerous native plant species and even its very own waterfall.

Singapore Airport

TIP 2: Nature is Free! Singapore Botanic Gardens

Another top attraction for those who like to enjoy green space is the Singapore Botanic Gardens — the city’s first UNESCO World-Heritage Site nomination. Established back in 1859, the 74-hectare park is the perfect spot for an afternoon stroll or a picnic lunch.

The gardens feature at least 300 plant species, a swan lake, themed gardens, many paths, and boardwalks to explore, a symphony stage, and even a rare swath of primeval rainforest, all within the busy confines of the city.

Singapore botanic gardens

The main sections of the park (including the Ginger Garden, Healing Garden, and a specific children’s garden) are free to explore, while the National Orchid Garden costs just $5 per entry for adults. The park is open from 5 a.m. until midnight every day.

TIP 3: Eat at The Food Centres! Maxwell Food Centre

If food is more your passion and you love to try as many different tastes as possible anytime you travel to a new destination, head to the Maxwell Food Centre in Chinatown. Although there are over one hundred different hawker venues in the city serving up affordable dishes, this one is generally considered to be the best or, at the very least, at the top of the list.


Located in the former Kim Hua Market building, the foodie haunt serves up authentic Singaporean street food to both locals and tourists. Operating since 1986, the center boasts around one hundred food stalls, meaning diners can sample every type of local cuisine imaginable, such as fried sweet potato dumplings, oyster cakes, and the world-famous Singaporean dish Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice. This meal has been praised by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain in the past, as well as food critics from the New York Times.

Chinatown SingaporeSingapore’s China Town is also a great place for cheap street food!

TIP 4: Swallow Some Culture! – Asian Civilizations Museum

Art and culture lovers shouldn’t miss a visit to the low-priced, yet culturally-rich Asian Civilizations Museum. Housed within a stunning 1860s building you’ll find 11 thematic galleries to explore at leisure, all of which showcase the traditional side of pan-Asian culture, religion, and civilization (the first in the entire region to do so).

The collections within the Museum revolve around artifacts from the different groups and cultures who have settled in Singapore over the last two centuries. Exhibited works include those from Southeast Asia, China, India, Turkey, and Sri Lanka, to name a few.

TIP 5: Get Arty! – Singapore Art Museum

Another top attraction in the city is the Singapore Art Museum (SAM). The facility has amassed one of the largest public collections of modern and contemporary Southeast Asian artworks in the world since it opened in 1996, and has also started to expand into works of international contemporary art.

Arts & Science Museum

The Museum is set within a restored 19th century mission school, and in addition to its many artworks also features a variety of dining facilities and an on-site gallery store. Visitors are also encouraged to take advantage of a guided tour of the galleries to learn more about the works housed within. Tours last around 45 minutes but are limited to 20 people per set departure time, so it’s best to arrive a little early to secure a place.

Entry to the Singapore Art Museum generally costs $10, however foreign visitors receive entry free of charge every Friday night, between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., as well as on SAM Open House days. Try to time your visit with one of these times and you’ll save yourself a welcome few dollars.

Are you looking for more information about Singapore? Check out our Singapore guide here – also, these Top 10 Attractions to do on a Budget in Singapore!

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