I have to start this with a slight disclaimer, I absolutely love Singapore! Beyond all the superlatives I could lay on the country as an outstanding destination, it holds so many amazing personal memories for me and I have spent so much time here on and off over the last few years that I consider it to be a second home.
One thing I am not overly fond of in Singapore though is the relative high cost of things. Although still exceptional value by many Western standards, Singapore is expensive and there is no getting around that fact. Prices of everything from food to accommodation have been creeping upwards in recent years to the extent that in many ways Singapore is now much more comparable to other expensive Western destinations such as Sydney or London. Not good when you are on a tight budget, and this is one of the prime reasons many backpackers and travellers rule out Singapore completely, or at best treat it as a very short stopover destination, which is an absolute shame.
It isn’t all bad news though, Singapore can still be a great budget destination if you know what to look for. There are many things to do for absolutely free that even the most frugal of backpackers on the tightest of budgets can afford to spend a little time here. There are so many free things to do in fact that I struggled to choose which ones to include!
5. Get back to nature.
It is hard to believe until you see it for yourself, but amidst the sea of glass and chrome modernity and technological and architectural wonder that defines Singapore as an ultra modern city, there is a nice balance with nature and so many opportunities to get outside and explore manicured parks and gardens, lakes, reservoirs and even protected rainforest where new species are still being discovered today. Singapore isn’t known as the garden city for nothing!
The Chinese and Japanese Gardens are one of my favourite spots in Singapore and are perfect for a lazy stroll, an early morning jog or even a romantic or family picnic.
If you want something a little more active, then you can hike up to Singapore tallest peak at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (don’t worry it’s only 163 metres) and get some amazing views of lowland forest, or take one of the relatively easy hikes through the pristine rainforest reserve, you will hardly believe you are still in the middle of Singapore! The Kampong trail will even take you straight up to MacRitchie reservoir, a stunning location that is well worth a visit. The fact that all of this is free is really just a bonus, believe me.
For something a little more organised, the Botanical Gardens are one of Singapore’s premier tourist attractions and for good reason, which makes it so surprising that the majority – with the exception of the Orchid gardens – are completely free to walk around. This seriously impressive attraction has now even been nominated as a UNESCO world heritage site!
* Important reminder: Singapore gets hot! So if you are exploring any of the gardens or reserves, make sure you cover up from the sun properly and take plenty of water, you will dehydrate quicker than you think.
4. Get your temple fix.
Although arguably not as impressive or awe inspiring as the temples and religious sites in neighbouring Indonesia, Thailand or Cambodia for example, Singapore’s relatively recent and gentrified temples still offer a fascinating glimpse into Singapore’s multicultural society and history, and they are absolutely free to visit! There are so many to choose from, but the stunning Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and the rainbow explosion that is the Hindu Sri Marianman Temple are both located in Chinatown within easy walking distance of each other and are a must see on anyone’s itinerary, while the Kong Men San Phor Kark See Monestary is a time – and world – away from the bustling city.
3. View the city from the Merlion Park.
The Merlion park is home to Singapore’s imposing 8.6 metre tall mascot, the Merlion; a grand, water spouting statue that looks out over the waterfront. In recent years the Merlion has been overshadowed a little as a landmark, as the Marina Bay Sands and other architectural superstructures have dominated the skyline, but the Merlion Park is still one of the best spots to simply sit back and enjoy some great views of the bay and some of the city’s other great landmarks, including the Esplanade and the Marina Bay Sands.
You can also stay until the evening and enjoy the free laser and light show known as ‘Wonder Full’ that starts at 20.00 every night, with later shows also available. Just pick a nice spot anywhere along the riverfront, sit back and enjoy.
2. Free entertainment at the Esplanade.
Head down to the now iconic Esplanade near the bay front, and you will be rewarded with much more than a view of the now iconic durian shaped architecture. The Theatres on the Bay has free entertainment on regularly. It may be a classical music concert, a jazz band, an art exhibition or maybe even some Chinese opera, you never know! It is worth checking out regardless. Check out what’s on here.
1. Visit the Gardens by the Bay.
One of Singapore’s newer attractions but increasingly one of its more iconic ones, is the spectacular Gardens by the Bay. These huge superstructures are located near the Marina Bay Sands area, hence the name, and is a perfect escape from the city. There are minimal entrance fees to the two domes, but you are under no obligation to enter them (the cloud forest was amazing and well worth the fee, the flower dome was just okay). The best part is simply walking around the grounds and the themed gardens, which you can do for absolutely free, not to mention enjoying the views of the grand super trees themselves! There is even a new children’s garden with a playground and adventure trail for those travelling with young ones.
You should also avoid paying to go up the supertree balcony at the indochine restaurant. It is very expensive and not worth it. You will get views just as good from the ground.
If all this isn’t enough for you, then as a bonus you even get a light show every evening at the supertree garden for absolutely free! There are two shows, one at 19.45 and another at 20.45, with plenty of strategic spots around the garden for you to enjoy them!
I told you there were so many free things to do that it was difficult to choose what went onto this pretty short list! As it was I’m sure you can count more than 5 things in there! There are still a couple of things though that despite the list being limited to 5 things only, I really just couldn’t leave off.
I know, it’s an airport and not really a tourist attraction but hear me out. Changi airport has been repeatedly voted the world’s best airport for many years and with good reason, quite simply it is fantastic; but apart from the fact that the airport has a range of services for passengers ranging from swimming pools and gyms, it has a lot to offer for free too. The orchid and butterfly gardens are amongst the highlights but there is also a free city heritage tour for anyone with more than 5 hours to spare before their next flight! It certainly beats trying to get comfortable on a hard bench for hours!
Yes, Singapore has beaches! And islands too! From the man made stretches of numerous white sand beaches on Sentosa island to the LA strip of SE Asia, East Coast Park, or even the secluded beaches of sleepy Palau Ubin and many more besides, there are plenty of ways to enjoy a little sun worshipping for free in Singapore.
I hope you are enjoying this ‘free things to do in …’ series and find it useful, if you have any specific requests then please let me know in the comments section below. If I have been there then I’ll add it to the list!