Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Budget Traveler in Singapore

January 2007

While Singapore is not known to be a backpacker's place, these days, it can be reasonable and a budget traveler like me can enjoy the scenes and stay in Singapore without worrying if I have to borrow my mum's credit card for my next meal! This is the 5th time I traveled to Singapore and compared to my first trip which was experienced in a fancy way (having stayed in a hotel at Orchard Road, ate at fine-dining restos, used taxis as means of transport, etc. etc.), I tried this time to look at the cheapest alternatives, so, with more time to spare, I rode the MRT, ate at 24-hour eating places, walked a lot, and saw that Singapore can be affordable for the budget traveler!

Booking your flight to Singapore
Some of you may have heard about the budget airlines flying from Clark to various points of South East Asia. And yes friends, you'd be delighted to know that you can now travel to Singapore (from Clark, Philippines) for at least 100$ depending on their promo and depending on the date you purchase your ticket! Just log on to tigerairways (TG should pay me for advertising them!) regularly for their ridiculously cheap airfares and you'll see what I mean. Note: TG flies from Clark. Another budget airlines is JetStar which flies from NAIA (I haven't tried this airline yet but I met a pinoy in Singapore and told me the airline is fine!).
Book your Lodging in Advance
In Singapore, budget accommodations are cheaper when booked on-line than when it's paid on a walk-in basis. Actually, this is the case to almost all bookings made on-line. And if you're thinking that the places may end up dodgy, well, it may be worth noting that my experience in two different backpacker places in Singapore and the description in the website is what you get when you walk in to your guesthouse.
Where to Stay: Budget Travelers
Bugis Backpacker's. This one is a clean, no-frills guesthouse located in the famous shopping district of Bugis. The moment you check in, the guy at the reception gives you your towel and sheet and will show you to your room. You will be told to remember your code, etc. otherwise no one will rescue you when you're locked out especially that they do not offer 24 hour reception service. This backpacker place is a bit stiff compared to the other backpacker places I've been to, but since I was only there for a night, keber ko! Rooms are airconditioned.
Good thing about this backpacker place is it gave me the space I wanted! Well, let me just say that I ended up the only person in the 6-bed female dorm! It is also near the airport so peak-hour taxi rate should only be around 12SGD. Getting there by train should only cost you 2.50 with 1 SGD refundable at the ticket machines!
Farrer Backpacker's Guesthouse. Farrer Park Station. This is a new building located near the Mustafa Center and is one-stop-train-ride away from Little India. The place is definitely great, with its clean rooms, free internet service, free coffee and tea! Other amenites include lift, aircon rooms, BUT it can get very noisy with guests who do not seem to know that you should tone down your voice when in any of the common areas. I also realized that I got exhausted with the train ride going there (from the airport) compared to staying at Bugis.
But the place has very friendly and very accommodating receptionists like David and Fani. They offer free storage. I left a bag with actually some valuable items inside and when we got back in Singapore, my bag was still intact.
Must Sees
Night time: Orchard Road (for electronic items, most of the good shops open late in the day, so best time to go is at night); Bugis (for the night market and they sell everything there! it's like a high-class Divisoria. However I warned my mum not to buy anything from there because I told her that everything will be a lot cheaper when we get to Chiang Mai!); Clark Quay/Riverside (for the lovely experience of eating by the river at any of the wide range of riverside restaurants and a stroll along side the river. Actually it felt like being in London, because Clark Quay is a small version of the River Thames in London with all the famous buildings on either side of the river. And the lights are gorgeous!) You also get to see a lot of attractions, so don't miss this experience!
Day time: Little India, China Town, Sentosa, City Tour and the Historical Route Tour!
I bought our tour ticket from the Hippo Bus Tours that has an office along Orchard Road (near the information center). This tour was a 4-in-one package that included the following: city tour, historical route tour, Sentosa (but you have to pay the entrance fee at Sentosa = 2SGD) and a night tour with a trip to Sentosa to watch the Musical Fountain Show - the highlight of the tour, which my mum and I were very happy about!

Tipid Tips for Budget Travelers
Singapore has a very user-friendly MRT, so it is really advisable to travel by MRT when coming from the airport (and when going around Singapore!) From the budget terminal, take the free shuttle bus to Terminal 2 of Changi airport and follow directions leading to the train station. Be ready with notes of 5SGD or less in purchasing your train ticket (usually between 2.50SGD up) because the ticket machines don't accept 10SGD notes. Taxi rate is at 30SGD, the shared taxi is I think at 10SGD per person.
In Sentosa, because there are loads of places to see but most of the best ones have entrance fees (that are rather expensive for peso earners like me), just pick up which you like the best and spend the time there. My mum chose the Underwater World and I thought that it was better than the one I saw in Sydney.
What Else...
Singapore is famous for their satays. For great food (and cheap too), go to their 24 hour restaurants (we call it karinderia in the Philippines) but their karinderia version in Singapore is clean and has a wide selection of food!

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