Singapore: a non-tourist guide

singapore skyscapers

This city was not on our must-see list, but eventually, it has been a big surprise for us and we have been fascinated by Singapore. This is how also not-tourists can enjoy such a huge metropolis.

We must specify that our choice of going to Singapore was made for just economical and practical reasons. In fact, we have been able to find a flight ticket from Milan which cost €160 per person! Obviously, we had to deal with some compromises such as few stopovers, but that was ok as we had plenty of time.

Thanks to the omnipresent Ryanair, with €15 per person we reached Copenhagen and passed there an incredibly comfortable night in the airport (about this: we highly recommend the benches/couches found in C10 gate).

With Norwegian, instead, we managed to fly from Copenhagen to Singapore with a €145 per person ticket, with one stopover in London (lasted just a couple of hours).

In addition to the excellent tickets' prices, the other reason we have chosen this city was because of our willingness to buy some technological gadgets useful for our projects.

We have read many online articles and guides that recommended to buy technology in Singapore because of better prices.

Hence, we merged these aspects and after a 17 hours-long flight, we finally made our first steps in South-East Asia.

Certainly, a single week passed there is not a long period, but as we lived Singapore intensively, we have learned a lot about it. If you are planning to visit this metropolis and you feel as a non-tourist person, here below you can find the information you must know before your departure!

1. You can fly to Singapore without the need of any bumph

In general, EU citizens do not need any VISA for going to Singapore for touristic purposes. In this way, at the customs, you will just receive a stamp on your passport, valid for 90 days, without paying anything.

Moreover, even if many people alarmed us about the necessity of having an outbound ticket of any kind from Singapore at the moment of arrival, at the passport control no one asked us about it.

2. It is easy surviving here, you can do it!

In all Singapore, people speak and understand English, as it is one of the four official languages of this country including Chinese, Malaysian and Thai.

In addition, people here are extremely kind and helpful, much more with respect to what we have been used to in Milan. It is sufficient to look around thinking of where to go for literally 2 seconds and immediately someone will stop and ask if you need help!

Another good point is the local currency, as you can find ATMs almost everywhere, which enable you to withdraw directly in Singapore Dollars (S$). Depending on the contract you have with your bank, you can even withdraw and pay with POS without any commission.

Just keep in mind any limit your bank account may have when using it in foreign countries. Otherwise, you may end up with a blocked debit-card (yes, even this one happened to us!).

Regarding internet availability, there are plenty of public Wi-Fi, so for short-trips you will not need a local SIM card.

view of Marina Bay Sands

3. A very efficient public transport system to bring you where you desire

Singapore is really a huge city. But you can easily reach every spot of it thanks to the extended and timely transport services.

If you are planning to stay here more then a few days, we suggest to immediately buy the top-up card EZ-Link. In this way, you will not need to buy every single ticket, so you can avoid the queues and all the typical messy coins in the pocket, and you will have better fares for every trip.

You can buy this card, for example, in all the underground stations (MRT) for S$5 (about €3,10). This cost is not refundable, but in our opinion, it is worth it. Moreover, you can ask at any MRT station to give you back the unused amount on the card at the moment of your departure.

The fares of a single trip are mainly calculated based on the distances (km). During our trips, we even crossed Singapore from one side to the other and never spent more than S$2,5 (about €1,55).

Therefore, we can conclude that using public transport is convenient, fast and cheap. You can just open, for example, Citymapper on your smartphone with an internet connection to find out the quickest (and not only) way with the related cost estimation.

Or you can always ask someone to get directions.

Just one thing, always remember to bring something to cover yourself, as the air conditioning mostly everywhere is set in Arctic Circle mode.

4. Surprisingly, it is not the paradise if you want to buy some technology

Buying technological devices is worthwhile just if you know where and how to do it!

Several Singapore's online guides suggest buying here as the prices are far more affordable compared to the average European ones.

We spent two entire days between Mustafa Center and Sim Lim Square, the two immense and most important shopping malls for technology.

Probably, you can notice the advantages if you just compare with the EU retail shops. But if you are used making online deals, you will not notice such a big convenience.

So, which is the real solution to spend less? Merge these two aspects of buying: shop online in Singapore!

The two most famous websites are Lazada and Qoo10. They have tempting deals and sometimes the possibility to pick up the products in the store. In this way, you do not have to deal with delivery.

Nevertheless, the best option which was perfect for what we were searching for was Carousell, an online platform for classified ads, both from private and from shops, with new or used products.

Once we managed to complete the puzzle, we finally bought a good and light laptop for €355 (€375 - GST refund) in Mustafa Center. Using Carousell, we found an action camera for €80 and a power bank for €19, both new.

Interestingly, in the well-known 7 technology's floors of Sim Lim Square, we just bought a case at €10 to protect our new laptop.

One last tip about this topic: it exists the possibility to obtain a refund of GST tax on many commodities bought in Singapore. This can be done only if you leave the country by air, but we think it is worth considering.

You can read here to get more information about the refund.

5. It is a green colored city

We have been stunned by the masterly union between a metropolis and wild Nature, which characterizes the whole Singapore.

The presence of impressive skyscrapers and buildings is perfectly counterbalanced by the omnipresence of an infinite amount of trees and gardens. There are even trees on top of those skyscrapers!

A consistent part of the city is occupied by parks. We have visited the two most important ones and they totally took our hearts.

Botanic Gardens is a required stop if you love Nature and you wish to discover more about the tropical world. There is free-entrance, except for the orchid's internal garden, and you can really spend many hours wandering in Nature.

The park is divided into different areas by topic and there are informational panels here and there to understand everything better. The variety of flowers, trees and animals you can see there can be truly jaw-dropping.

Instead, Gardens By The Bay is a more modern and polished park, which has to be visited when it gets dark. All its lights' shows make it special and you can enjoy its illuminated artificial trees every night, in the middle of the park.

light show in Gardens By The Bay

6. You have the possibility to live with a local family

For a genuine traveler who looks for an authentic experience, it is straightforward to find a place to stay using CouchSurfing, as there are many hosts in Singapore. This fact is really useful in this city, as accommodations have high prices here.

Thanks to CouchSurfing, we had the opportunity to get to know better the local culture, reveal hidden aspects of Singapore and of course to meet new people!

We have spent 5 nights with an Indian family: Amit and Anupama were extremely kind, helpful and respectful. We could have never discovered Carousell without their advice!

For our last night, instead, we got closer to the airport and we have been hosted by Zul, a funny and clever guy of Singapore. With him, we exchanged a lot of thoughts and ideas, as he has similar interests. We even find out more about what is going on in this city.

7. Find good fruits at a fair price could be a challenge

Singapore is the second most expensive city of the whole South-East Asia, after Hong Kong, and this influences the prices of food.

We noticed that this is true regarding the cost of fruits, but we have completely no idea about all the rest (supermarket, restaurants, street food, etc.)

It is quite simple to find places where fruit is sold, but all of it is imported from neighboring countries. We suggest going to Wet Markets, which you can find almost everywhere.

In fact, there it is possible to have better fruits in terms of quality and ripeness, with respect to the supermarkets' ones.

Moreover, you can start a conversation with the fruit sellers: in this way, they may help you choose the fruits, you may have better deals and eventually become their friend! So do not be shy and go for it!

We have managed to spend an average amount of about S$10 (€6,25) in total per day, to eat an abundance of fruits for two (at least 6kg for both).

8. Environmental sustainability is unaccounted for

With our big surprise, we found out that even if Singapore is such an advanced and modern metropolis from every point of view, it lacks in being ecological.

The streets seem so perfectly clean, but we noticed that they do not perform nor encourage any sort of recycling, and there is no a separate collection of waste.

In addition, plastic is present literally everywhere. Each time you buy something they try to put in a plastic bag even if you have not even asked. It does not matter if you are in a supermarket, in a wet market or in any shop.

Hence, make sure to do your part, as they seem to not care about it. Try to be eco-friendly as much as possible. Always bring with you a reusable bag and show it proudly when you are at the cashier.

a street in a park of Singapore covered by plants

Our verdict: If we wished to live in a big city, certainly Singapore would be one of those we seriously take into consideration. But at the moment we have completely other plans, and so we have left it without any doubts. Destination: Thailand!!