Backpacking Singapore: Ultimate Guide 2024

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Singapore is one of the most unique and modern countries in the world.

Backpacking Singapore is on the bucket list of almost every backpacker and if you found this article, it’s most likely on yours too!

The country is brilliant and there are so many reasons to explore Singapore as a backpacker. But naturally, you may have some questions before setting out on your trip.

Luckily for you, I am a full-time backpacker and a lot of my blog’s content focuses on Southeast Asian backpacking, so I have created a complete guide to backpacking Singapore to help you plan your trip to one of the best countries in the world.

Why you should backpack Singapore

Singapore is a country that is hard to put into words. You will never really understand Singapore until you have visited Singapore for yourself. It’s a wonderful place.

That in itself is reason enough to visit. Over 10 million people visit Singapore each year, and they don’t visit for no reason.

There are a number of reasons to visit Singapore. Here are 5 to get you started:

  • It’s one of the most modern places on earth
  • The culture in Singapore is incredible and second to none
  • If you love food, you will LOVE Singapore
  • The Garden City, Singapore’s nickname could not be more true
  • It’s in Southeast Asia, making it easy to visit after the Banana Pancake Trail

Of course, there is a lot more to Singapore than 5 simple reasons, but if these reasons aren’t enough to book your flight and head straight to Singapore, I don’t know what is. Nonetheless, you will learn more about Singapore and why you should visit throughout the remainder of this article.

A picture of a flag of Singapore waving in front of a blue sky.

Is backpacking Singapore safe?

Of course, it’s impossible for me to personally guarantee your safety while backpacking Singapore, but Singapore is pretty much as safe as you can get.

Singapore was voted the 9th safest country in the world, making it in the top 5% of countries worldwide.

The locals in Singapore are incredibly respectful the culture in Singapore is very by-the-book, as manners, discipline and honesty are key parts of children’s upbringings. Manners are actually a part of the education system! Singapore’s crime rates are really low, and the laws and fines are very strict. This results in a safe environment for everyone in Singapore.

That being said, you still want to follow basic personal safety rules and look after yourself, particularly when you are alone. But the chances are, you will be completely safe in Singapore.

How long does backpacking Singapore take?

There is no “one-size-fits-all” answer to this question, and it completely depends on how you like to travel. Some people may choose to spend a day in Singapore, while others may opt to relax and spend a full month in the state.

But if you are looking for a general answer, if Singapore is part of a larger backpacking trip, like if you are also backpacking Thailand, Vietnam or any other nearby countries, then I would allow for 3-4 days of backpacking Singapore.

Lots of people also spend a few days in Singapore as a layover before heading to Australia to backpack Melbourne, Sydney and more.

3-4 days allow you to see the main sights and attractions in Singapore, as well as also allowing for some free time to explore for yourself and find some hidden gems. That’s one of the best parts of backpacking after all, right?

If you are solely visiting Singapore, then you want to stay for longer, of course. Don’t worry- you won’t get bored or run out of things to do. Singapore has a lot to offer and the more you dig deeper, the more things you will uncover.

A picture of Singapore. 3-4 days backpacking Singapore is the perfect amount of time.

How much does backpacking Singapore cost?

As you may know, backpacking in Southeast Asia is incredibly cheap. But saying that, Singapore is one of the more expensive countries in this part of the world. Don’t worry though, it’s most likely still cheaper than your home country.

The average budget of a backpacker in Singapore would be around $50 USD each day. So for 3 or 4 days, you’re looking at $150-200. Of course, it’s possible to do it cheaper if you are on a real shoestring budget, and it’s also possible to spend more as a luxury backpacker. It’s down to how you like to backpack.

Your main expenses will be food, accommodation, travel and activities. This is how the average budget in Singapore would be broken down.

Food$15
Accommodation$20
Travel$0
Activities$15
This is a rough average for each day. Obviously, you will not travel or do an activity every day. This is a daily average over the course of a month.

You can walk most places in Singapore, so that’s why the travel is $0. If you do need to get the bus, it only costs a dollar or so. But as you can see, your budget will heavily depend on the standard of accommodation you choose, and how many activities you do.

What currency do they use in Singapore?

The currency in Singapore is the Singapore Dollar. But most major shopping centres and attractions also accept payments in US Dollars, Australian Dollars, Yen and Pounds. The Singaporean Dollar is quite strong and isn’t too far off being 1-1 with Western Currencies.

Here are the conversions as of May 2023.

Other currencySingapore Dollar
$1 USD1.33 SGD
£1 GBP1.68 SGD
€1 EUR1.49 SGD

Singapore is one of the few countries where backpacking is popular and has a strong currency. The only other example I can think of is backpacking in Jordan.

Remember to use a card that has no currency conversion fees. I recommend Revolut. I use it in every country I visit and I have never had any issues…I recommend it to everyone I meet who complains about paying huge fees to their banks.

What language do they speak in Singapore?

There are four official languages in Singapore and they are Malay, Tamil, Mandarin and English. When it comes to what is most widely spoken, it’s a colloquial and informal language known as Singlish which is a combination of Malay and English.

But don’t worry, most people speak English so you won’t have any language problems while backpacking Singapore. That being said, it’s always polite and courteous to learn some basic phrases in the local language. I would say Malay is your best shout, as you can use it in Singapore and Malaysia.

Do you need a Visa to backpack Singapore?

Most nationalities do not require a Visa to enter Singapore, but of course, be sure to check the Singapore immigration website for the passport you hold and don’t assume. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

What you do need to do, is complete an electronic SG Arrival Card with details on your travel and a health declaration. It needs to be completed up to 3 days before entry into Singapore.

A picture of my passport.

Do you need travel insurance to backpack Singapore?

During the pandemic, travel insurance with COVID-19 coverage was a requirement to enter Singapore, but as of February 2023, this is no longer the case. Travel insurance is now just strongly recommended for visitors.

Personally, I suggest always having travel insurance. It’s not too expensive for what it is, and it’s so much better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. You never know what is going to happen!

I recommend using SafetyWing which offers lots of different options for backpackers backpacking multiple countries in one trip.

Do you need any vaccinations to backpack Singapore?

There are no legal requirements when it comes to vaccinations to visit Singapore, it’s just recommended that you have your routine vaccinations such as those for Hepatitis, Tetanus, Polio, Measles, Mumps, etc.

It’s also strongly encouraged that you have your COVID-19 vaccination, but it is not a requirement to enter the country, it’s just advice.

So if you have no vaccinations, you can enter Singapore. But personally, I would make sure you have your routine vaccines up to date, especially if you are going on to Southeast Asia and visiting the jungles such as doing the Ha Giang Loop in Vietnam.

A picture of my COVID vaccine cards.
My COVID Vaccine cards

When to backpack Singapore

There’s never a bad time to visit Singapore, and no matter when you’re in the country, you’re guaranteed to have a good time. But in my opinion, the best time to visit Singapore is between February and May.

These months will provide good weather with decent temperatures and low amounts of rain. It’s worth noting that the temperature is pretty consistent all year round in Singapore.

Visiting Singapore during these months also avoids the crowds in the summer between June and August, when tourism is at its busiest. As I said, there’s no bad time to visit but as a backpacker, you likely want to avoid the crowds so between February and May is your best bet. As always with travelling on a budget, you can save money by travelling in the off-season.

A picture of Marina Bay at sunset.

How to get to Singapore

There are lots of flights to Singapore which is the best way to get there. As mentioned already throughout this article, Singapore is a common layover for flights from Europe to Australia. It takes about 12-13 hours to get from Europe to Singapore, but the flights are usually pretty good when it comes to meals, comfort and service.

You can expect a flight to cost $600+ assuming you are coming from Europe or further afield. From Australia, the flights are about $200-300 and from the US, flights are usually around $1200. The high prices are why most people backpack to more than one country in Southeast Asia in one trip.

Oh and by the way, Singapore’s airport is stunning, it’s the nicest airport I have ever been in. It’s the photo at the top of this article, you wouldn’t think that’s an airport, would you?!

As always, it’s best to use Skyscanner to get the best flight deals, and if you can be flexible with your travel dates, you are likely going to find a better price than if you have set travel dates.

A picture of an aeroplane. The best way to start backpacking Singapore is by taking a flight.

How to get around in Singapore

As a backpacker, you want to save as much money as possible, and one of the best ways to save money is by avoiding transport costs. Thankfully, Singapore is a walkable place, the second most walkable city in the world in fact, and you can get to all of the main sights and attractions in the heart of Singapore just by walking.

If you do need to go a bit further afield, you can use the public bus system, which is super efficient and reliable, and it’s not too expensive either. The MRT system is also pretty fun to ride at least once. Most journeys will only cost $2 or so, so it’s affordable too.

Oh and if you are wondering, the main ride-hailing app is Grab, as there is no Uber in Singapore.

A picture of people walking in Singapore.

What to Bring to Singapore

It’s always important to pack light while backpacking, it’s one of the most important backpacking hacks. So you want to avoid bringing too much to Singapore. On top of your necessities like clothes and toiletries, here are some must-bring items for backpacking Singapore.

  • Universal charging adapter: The plugs in Singapore are likely different to those in your country at home. Make sure you have a way to use your chargers.
  • Travel-friendly credit card: You don’t want to pay fees every time you pay for something, so get a card like Revolut with no currency exchange fees.
  • Padlock: While backpacking Singapore, you will most likely stay in hostels, and most hostels don’t provide locks for your lockers, so make sure to bring your own.
  • Day bag: Assuming you are visiting other countries before/after Singapore, you’ll have a decently large backpacking bag, you don’t want to carry this around every day, right?
  • Bug spray: There is a – albeit small – chance that you could get bitten by a bug carrying a disease like the Zika Virus in Singapore, so be sure to pack some repellent.

Backpacking Singapore Top Tips

Of course, before setting out on any backpacking trip, there are some things that are useful to know. And backpacking Singapore is no different. Here are 5 top tips to help your time in Singapore go as smoothly as possible and to help you make the most of your budget.

  • Drink tap water: Save money on buying bottled water by buying a reusable bottle and filling it up from the tap. Tap water in Singapore is completely safe to drink, and it’s a good way to save money…not to mention it’s better for the environment too.
  • Try Couchsurfing: Since one of the biggest expenses of backpacking in Singapore is accommodation i.e. hostels, try your hand at Couchsurfing to find some accommodation for free.
  • Bring a student ID: A student ID can save you money on anything from attractions to transportation, and any money-saving opportunity should be taken! Even if you aren’t a student, buy a fake student ID online. Singaporeans aren’t going to know what the University of Manchester student IDs look like 🤷‍♂️
  • Download the Grab app: If for whatever reason you need to get a taxi in Singapore, don’t. Instead, book a ride on the Grab app. It works the same as Uber, but Uber isn’t a thing in Singapore. Taxis in Singapore are really expensive so Grab is the better option.
  • Tipping isn’t essential: Although it’s a really nice gesture to tip exceptional service, tipping in Singapore isn’t expected the way it is in the US. I’m not saying to never tip, but just don’t feel like you have to, or that 20% is the minimum you can tip. The tipping culture in Singapore is different and you don’t need to tip every single time.
A picture taken in the Gardens by the Bay with the Marina Bay Sands hotel in the background.

Free Things To Do in Singapore

To help you save money while backpacking Singapore, here are 5 of the best free things to do in Singapore. I would recommend doing some paid activities, particularly getting up to a viewing deck, but these free things will allow you to get a great taste of what Singapore has to offer, all without spending a penny.

1) See the light show at the Gardens by the Bay: It goes without saying that a trip to Singapore will involve walking through the Gardens by the Bay and taking in all the different senses you get at once. But what is even more magical is seeing the light show at nighttime. You can watch for free from a distance twice daily. Just take a look for yourself…

A picture of the light show in Gardens by the Bay, a must-see when backpacking Singapore.

2) Stroll through Chinatown: Singapore is known for its incredible Chinatown and it’s somewhere you need to check out without a doubt. Whether you buy food is up to you, but simply exploring the area and feeling the culture and atmosphere is worth doing. Not to mention how impressive the architecture is.

A picture of the main street in Chinatown in Singapore.

3) Admire Marina Bay: One of the best free things to do in Singapore is to simply admire Marina Bay. The view is extraordinary, it’s breathtaking. There are few cities whose skylines I find as mesmerising as I do Singapore’s. Watching the skyline, particularly at sunrise or sunset, is a must-do for anyone heading to Singapore.

4) Relax in the Singapore Botanic Gardens: Singapore is nicknamed the Garden City because of how green it is. And the perfect place to surround yourself with the greenery, other than the Gardens by the Bay, is in the Singapore Botanic Gardens. It’s the only tropical garden in the world that’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. That’s how good it is. There are plenty of places to sit down and relax, feeling at one with nature.

A picture of a lake in Singapore Botanic Gardens.

5) Chill by the beach: Singapore is technically an island, so there are lots of amazing beaches where you can soak in the sun and enjoy a nice swim. Sentosa is particularly popular and even shows movies on a large screen in the evenings free of charge. The beaches aren’t quite those of Thailand, but they are definitely worth checking out.

Backpacking in Singapore Itinerary

It can be hard to plan an itinerary for backpacking Singapore, as there is so much on offer yet you can do so much in a short space of time. To help you out, I’ve created the perfect 3 day Singapore itinerary.

Day 1: Exploring the City

Discover the vibrant cityscape of Singapore, immersing yourself in its cultural and architectural highlights.

  • Morning:
    • Visit Gardens by the Bay and explore the iconic Supertree Grove.
    • Explore the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest Conservatories.
  • Afternoon:
    • Head to Marina Bay Sands and enjoy the stunning view from the Skypark Observation Deck.
    • Visit the ArtScience Museum for interactive exhibits.
  • Evening:
    • Explore the bustling streets of Chinatown and savour the local cuisine.
    • Watch the sunset over Marina Bay and catch the Garden Rhapsody.
An aerial view of Gardens by the Bay.

Day 2: Cultural Heritage and Nature

Delve into Singapore’s rich cultural heritage and explore its beautiful nature spots.

  • Morning:
    • Visit Kampong Glam and explore the Sultan Mosque.
    • Explore Arab Street and browse through its textile shops and boutiques.
  • Afternoon:
    • Visit the National Museum of Singapore to learn about the country’s history and culture.
    • Explore Little India and immerse yourself in its vibrant colours and flavours.
  • Evening:
    • Take a stroll along the Singapore River and enjoy the picturesque scenery.
    • Visit the Night Safari at Singapore Zoo for a unique wildlife experience.
A white tiger in Singapore zoo.

Day 3: Sentosa Island and Local Delights

Spend a day on Sentosa Island, enjoying various attractions, beaches, and local delights.

  • Morning:
    • Take the cable car to Sentosa Island and enjoy panoramic views.
    • Visit Universal Studios Singapore for thrilling rides and entertainment.
  • Afternoon:
    • Relax on one of Sentosa’s beautiful beaches, such as Siloso Beach or Palawan Beach.
    • Visit the S.E.A. Aquarium to explore marine life and underwater wonders.
  • Evening:
    • Watch the Wings of Time show, a mesmerizing light and sound spectacle.
A picture of fireworks over Marina Bay.

Of course, there are some things in this itinerary which cost money, but the price is more than worth the memories you will make. Sometimes in backpacking, it’s worth spending a bit of money. And this is definitely the case in Singapore.

And don’t take this itinerary as gospel. Everyone has different interests and wants to get something different out of each trip. So take this itinerary as a base and build up on it on your own and customise it to create your own perfect itinerary for backpacking Singapore.

As always though, it’s best to not plan things to the minute and allow some room for spontaneity, which often creates the most unexpected but best memories of a trip.

Backpacking Singapore: The Wrap Up

And there you have it, a complete guide to backpacking Singapore.

It’s an unbelievable place to visit and an absolute must for anyone heading to Southeast Asia.

Hopefully, this guide has taught you everything there is to know about backpacking Singapore.

So now all that’s left for you to do is to book that flight, and get out there and enjoy it. You’ll have a great time!