If you are travelling in South-East Asia on a budget, you might be tempted to skip Singapore altogether. Singapore is relatively expensive for the visitor, at least when compared to other South-East Asian cities. But some of Singapore’s tourist attractions are free, and the city’s different ethnic quarters are great places for independent walking tours.
Singapore’s Botanic Gardens are a peaceful haven inside the busy city and conveniently located a short walk from Orchard Road’s shopping mecca. The pride of the gardens is the National Orchid Garden with its countless varieties of Singapore’s national flower. The Orchid Garden charges an entrance fee but the rest of the Botanic Gardens are free to explore.
Try the Rainforest Walk through the small but lush tropical rainforest, or check out the exotic plants in the Ginger Garden. T’ai chi is practiced on the lawns in the mornings and as you make your way around the park you can feed birds by the ponds or enjoy a picnic on the lawn. Entrance to the large gardens is through Tanglin Gate, Burkill Gate, Nassim Gate or Cluny Park Gate, or from the Bukit Timah side.
Singapore’s Chinatown is a former Chinese living quarter that has been restored and developed into a popular tourist destination with lots of street markets, good shopping, great Chinese food and stores that sell Chinese medical products and offer treatments in traditional Chinese medicine. The new Buddha Tooth Relic Temple stands on the edges of Chinatown and is a shiny and modern Buddhist temple; the colourful Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple is a completely different experience. The nearest MRT station is Chinatown.
Singapore’s Little India is another fascinating area for a walking tour. Explore the Indian markets and browse through piles of saris, silks, jewellery and incense sticks, buy some Indian spices and stop for a cup of sweet, milky Indian tea. The nearest MRT station is Little India.
Around Clarke Quay and Boat Quay, along the Singapore River, former warehouses have been converted into trendy buildings that contain shops and boutiques, restaurants, cafés and bars. This historical quay area is interesting to walk around and even if you are not going to shop, browsing in the small stores can be fun.
If you’re travelling on a budget, the best thing about Singapore is that the street food is very affordable, safe to eat and delicious. For a cheap meal try one of the hawker centres and food courts, found everywhere in the city.
The MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) is Singapore’s fast and efficient metro system and an easy way to move between different parts of the city. MRT tickets are affordable, especially if you buy the Ez-link smart card that is valid on MRT trains and on buses.