City Blueprint: Singapore

published by Bren

Last updated: May 24, 2020

Singapore is a bit like the overachieving adopted child of South East Asia – it just really doesn’t fit in. The other countries are ridiculously cheap while Singapore is a tad expensive. The other countries have filthy streets while in Singapore you can lick the pavement. In other countries backpackers find Elysium in the cheap, available drugs while in Singapore chewing gum can add to your criminal record. As soon as you leave the plane it’ll be clear that the third world connotation of South East Asia does not ring true here. Instead you’ll find yourself in one of Asia’s most developed countries, recognised as one of the world’s major financial centres and boasting a quality of living among the best in the world. Oh, and the food is incredible too.


Bed: The cheapest hostel dorms are around $15 USD. Hotels are around $40 USD upwards.

Food: The hawker centres are incredible. You can feed yourself very comfortably for $3 USD and the options are endless.

Drink: A bottle of water will cost around $1-$2. A beer in a bar will cost upwards of $8.

Transport: Taxi rides will be around $20 USD from the airport into the centre (20 minutes). You can get anywhere in the city on the local metro for around $2. Many choose to catch the bus into Singapore from Malaysia – here’s a great guide on how to do that.

I stayed at…

Vintage Inn. In terms of comfort it’s definitely the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in. It has little pod beds which offer complete privacy, fitted out with lockable draws, universal plugs and reading lights. The wifi is fast and free and each room has internet PC’s available for use. Bathrooms were always clean and showers are strong and hot, although a little small. Breakfast is great too. The only problem is the price. It’s not cheap!

The rack rate is around $40USD per night, but I got it for $20 a night on a last minute Agoda deal. I guess the moral of the story is, check Agoda!

Also if you’re after a party hostel this is definitely not the place. A quiet comfortable hostel to get some work done? Yes.

Read more in my Ultimate Guide To Singapore Accommodation.

Vintage Inn

One thing you should eat is…

I could not stop eating here. The food is amazing and so cheap, similar to Bangkok, which was surprising considering how expensive the transport and accommodation is. If I’m choosing one thing though, I’m going with the kaya toast.

I landed in Singapore at around 4am and was totally wrecked. The metro wasn’t open yet so I decided to indulge in this Singapore (or Malaysian?) favourite while sitting around the airport. I can see why it’s so popular, it really is a soothing breakfast to start the day.

It seems the standard combo is toast smothered in kaya (coconut jam), a lump of butter, a couple half boiled eggs on the side and a cup of tea or coffee. Simple yet inspiring.

Kaya Toast

One thing you should drink is…

I had heard about the fabled Singapore Sling cocktail at the Raffles bar numerous times and the ridiculous $25 price tag attached to it. Of course I have to have it so before I head to the airport I decide to go to Raffles and see what the fuss is all about. It’s 10:15 am and as I open the door to the bar they inform me it opens at 11. I’m annoyed and relieved at the same time. I’m not one for waiting so I go look for the nearest hawker centre and after a lengthy search I find one, dripping in sweat. The drinks stall has a big sign for ‘fresh sugar cane juice’, which I later find out is super popular here. It really is fresh – he juices it right in front of you. Damn. It was good. Or was I just dehydrated?

Sugar Cane juice

One place you should go to is…

I thought the way Singapore had been laid out was really interesting. A guy in my hostel explained how the country was split into four distinct areas.

Our hostel was in Little India, and he explained that this was the Indian area (obviously), and historically all the Indians in the country lived there.

The Arabs and Muslims lived over in the Arab quarter, the Chinese lived in Chinatown (surprise!), and I guess the British colonists kept the rest of the country to themselves (note: I’m no historian, I’m kinda guessing here).

These distinct areas still exist today and it’s pretty interesting to see how they’ve retained their character. If I’m recommending one area to spend the day at it’s the Arab quarter – lot’s of good food (both cheap and expensive), cool architecture and some quirky stuff for sale. However if you want something a little more touristy, head to the Gardens By The Bay – a popular place for nature and camera fiends! Also Singapore Airport is a tourist attraction in itself.

Haji Lane in the Arab quarter
Haji Lane in the Arab quarter

One place you should party at is…

Apparently Clarke Quay is the place where all the cool kids go. I went during the week and it was still a pretty happening scene, lot’s of neat bars and restaurants where you can listen to live music and various nightclubs are scattered around there too. The catch? It’s soo expensive. The beers run around $12 and the cocktails closer to $15. If you’re planning a night out here make sure you’re feeling flush.

Bren’s Scorecard…

Ease of entry 10/10
No silly visa issues, one of the most accessible places to fly into and easily the greatest airport in the world.

Food 10/10
I love curry, so Little India is about as good as it gets without actually being in India. The Arab quarter has lots of sexy Middle Eastern food. For everything Chinese there’s the outrageously cheap and delicious hawker centres. For everything else, there’s Mastercard.

Weather 4/10
I hope you like to sweat.

Safety 10/10
Whoever made the laws here wasn’t messing around. I was scared to sneeze.

Transport 8/10
Taxis are not that cheap. The metro is excellent though, similar to Hong Kong’s and the country is tiny anyway.

Friendliness 8/10
I asked for directions so many times and everyone wanted to help. Their accent is so friendly too.

Cleanliness 10/10
If you spit on the street you’re going to jail. Kidding. It’s super clean, it’s so clean that I saw cleaners cleaning the already clean streets, no joke.

Daylife 5/10
I’m going to be honest, I was pretty bored after 2 or 3 days. The funnest thing to do was eat.

Nightlife 6/10
I can’t speak with authority on this. Let’s go with a 6.

Affordability 5/10
Even the crappy hotels cost $50 a night, and nightlife prices are not friendly either. The cheap food makes up for it though.

Singapore scores: 76/100

I do my best to give an objective score based on my own experience of the city. If you disagree, I don’t care! Just kidding, I do 🙂 Did your experience differ to mine? Let me know in the comments below!

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