Singapore with Minimal Money and Trash

The Economic Intelligence Unit has dubbed Singapore the most expensive country in the world for 4 years in a row, and I had been repeatedly warned that it is not the place for budget travellers. Naturally, I took this as a challenge.

I lived in Kuala Lumpur for 6 months from the end of last year until a few months ago, so was in the best possible location to pop over for a weekend. Unfortunately, my first choice of weekend (with cheaper bus tickets and accommodation) fell through due to a bird flu, which put me out of action for a few weeks (yes it was scary, but the Malaysian medical system is pretty good in KL). This meant I already had to pay a bit more, but it was manageable.

My total budget for the weekend, including everything, was S$200, which roughly translated to the same in NZ dollars. I managed to get home with $10 in my pocket, so I call that a success. Here's the breakdown:

$65 - Return bus ticket
$6.80 + $10 - Ubers
$37 - Accommodation, 2 nights
$20ish - Food
$8 - Tourist attraction (Supertree Skyway)
$25 - Painting and souvenir
The rest - I honestly have no idea...

Now, anyone who has travelled around Asia by bus will tell you that there are a large variety of levels of comfort available. On the cheaper end you have busses where your seat is broken, the air con is broken, there is a loud noise that means you can't sleep, and you feel every single bump in the road. On the comparatively more expensive end you have full reclining seats, drink and meals included, movie screens in the back of the seat in front of you, and in some even a lounge downstairs that you can go hang out in if your seat isn't awesome enough... I went with option B this time. If I had had more time to compare prices I probably would have landed somewhere in the middle, but I ended up booking on the Thursday before I left, so I just went with a bus line I knew. The service was so good that I didn't mind paying a bit extra. Travelling by bus does take a bit longer, but it's far lower emission than flying, and cheaper, so was the obvious choice for me.

I decided to leave as soon after work as possible on the Friday night and come back late on the Sunday, which meant I had all of Saturday and Sunday to explore. The downside to the timings was that it meant I had to use Ubers to get from the bus stop to my hostel and then back on the Sunday, which added convenience but also cost. Sometimes we have to make these choices. :)

The hostel I stayed in was pretty much the cheapest one I could find that was still relatively close to things. It was in Chinatown, right next to the Buddha Tooth Temple and a groovy hawker complex - so a really great location! When I'm looking at options for accommodation the two places I usually compare are Hostel World and Hostel Bookers, because you can set a price limit and rating limit so I can get the cheapest place that isn't going to give me any untreatable diseases.

Food can (and did) add up really quickly. I only had two meals that weren't from hawker stalls and those two pretty much made up half my food costs. If you're on a budget I'd recommend trying to stick to hawker stalls - its usually better food than in the touristy spots and will give you a better idea of what Singaporean food is like. It's also great fun trying a couple of the smaller things at each meal, so you can fit even more food types into each meal!

Another great thing about hawker centres is that they are really happy to throw whatever you ordered into your own container, so you can avoid the packaging and lighten your rubbish footprint. I took along my keep cup for lime juice and coconut water, my bamboo chopsticks and spoon, a reusable napkin, and a wee jar for snacks and leftovers.

Food is pretty much the biggest opportunity for waste when you are travelling, so being prepared can help a lot to reduce your adventure's impact on the environment. Having a container can also mean you can stock up on cheaper snacks, and keep leftovers to eat later which saves you both money and food waste emissions.

You'll notice that I didn't spend much on tourist attractions or entry fees, in fact I only paid for the one thing. Partly this was because I am cheap, but the biggest reason was that there was just so much to do that was free that I didn't need to! I did a looooot of walking between the museums, parks, statues, and awesome architecture. I spent hours and hours looking at groovy statues and old stuff, cool informational plaques, weird and wonderful shaped buildings, intricate temples, and all kinds of other fun stuff.

The one exception I made was going up the Supertree sky tree thingies at the Gardens by the Bay, because they are really cool! They are 25-50m tall, look really cool, are covered in interesting plants, the views from the top are awesome, and each one has environmentally sustainable things going on like solar panels on top or water catchment! So cool! :D

Finally, I try not to buy 'things' because I don't like clutter and owning lots of non-functional items, but there are two exceptions to that - paintings and sew-on badges. Paintings are super as a souvenir, because they are flat so they don't take up much room and you can put them up around the house so your whole house reminds you of the adventures you have! And they are easier to dust than things that sit on shelves. The badges are a scout thing because I put them on my campfire blanket and feel awesome.

So there you go, I lived pretty cheaply and included absolutely everything without blowing my budget. It's a wonderful city and really doesn't have to blow the budget, with so many free things to do and see, and so many amazing foods to try for very little money.

I can't wait to see more of South East Asia, it's so cheap and awesome and tasty. Have you travelled much of South East Asia? Where should I go next?

See you somewhere!

xo Cait

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