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Chinatown, Singapore
Chinatown, Singapore | © Lily Lvnatikk/Unsplash
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The 10 Best Backpacker Activities in Singapore

Picture of Jaclynn Seah
Singapore Travel Writer
Updated: 30 November 2017
Singapore is often considered expensive compared to its surrounding neighbours in Southeast Asia, but we have the lowdown on affordable fun activities the budget-backpacker crowd visiting Singapore can check out.

Free guided walking tours by locals

One easy way to get a quick overview of Singapore is to take a free city walking tour, and there are several options available. These walking tours are usually led by a Singaporean-based tour guide and are tip-based, and usually cover popular districts in Singapore. Check out Singapore Footprints, Indie Singapore, and Sneakpeek Singapore. Transit passengers with over 5.5 hours of layover time should consider signing up for Changi Airport‘s free 2.5-hour city tour.

Tour group at Cenotaph, Singapore
Tour group at Cenotaph, Singapore | Courtesy Singapore Tourism Board

Self-guided exploration via free apps

For the more more free-spirited and tech savvy, there are several free mobile apps that you can download to let you explore Singapore on your own time. Crowdtrails, SG Heart Maps, and Voicemap offer curated trails and crowdsourced information from locals. Roots.sg, by the National Heritage Board, is great for information and locations of historical artefacts around Singapore.

Singapore skyline on mobile
Singapore skyline on mobile | © Raphael Koh/Unsplash

Understand Singapore’s multicultural heritage

Ethnic districts like Chinatown, Little India, Kampong Glam, and Joo Chiat are popular as they are home to many heritage buildings that reflect the unique cultures and stories of the major ethnic groups in Singapore. Important religious structures like the Thian Hock Keng Temple, Sri Mariamman Temple, and Sultan Mosque are just some of the more impressive buildings to explore and are free to enter, though you have to be appropriately dressed.

Gateway to Sultan Mosque
Gateway to Sultan Mosque | © Erwin Soo/Flickr

Take in Singapore’s night lights

Marina Bay just after dusk is one of the best places to enjoy a scenic and free walk around Singapore’s downtown district. Landmarks like the Merlion, durian-shaped Esplanade, swirling Helix Bridge, and the ship-like Marina Bay Sands are lit up when darkness falls. Cooler temperatures make it a pleasant, postcard-worthy walk to take. Time yourself right to catch the free fountain show in front of Marina Bay Sands or Garden Rhapsody at Gardens by the Bay where the futuristic Supertrees light up twice a night to sound and music.

Singapore Marina Bay Aerial View
Singapore Marina Bay Aerial View | © Andrew JK Tan / Singapore Tourism Board

Drink for cheap in an expensive city

Many backpackers love to kick back with cheap drinks, but those are harder to find in Singapore. So knowing where and when to go for affordable booze is important. Neighbourhood kopitiams or happy hours are the best time to get cheaper drinks, and for the ladies, Wednesday nights usually have ladies’ night promotions. Remember that unless you are in a bar or restaurant, store sale and consumption of alcohol in public is prohibited between 10:30 pm and 7 am.

Singapore Kopitiam in Geylang at Night
Singapore Kopitiam in Geylang at Night | © Insights Unspoken/Flickr

Party the night away

Looking for more of a party vibe? You just need to know where to hang out in Singapore. Clarke Quay and Boat Quay are more tourist friendly areas along the Singapore River with lots of nightlife, but other hipster cool areas are worth checking out – Emerald Hill, the pedestrianised Club Street and Ann Siang Hill on weekend nights, Haji Lane and Keong Saik Road are good spots to check out.

Clarke Quay along Singapore River
Clarke Quay along Singapore River | © Edwin Lee/Flickr

Eat cheap and good

Singapore’s hawker centres are a must-try for those who want cheap and good food. And while the Michelin awarded hawker stalls are all the rage, the truth is there are plenty others that serve up street food that are just as good but with much less fanfare and queuing. Foodie review websites like Hungrygowhere, Burpple, and Straits Times Food are good resources for you to plan your Singaporean culinary journey.

Alexandra Village Hawker Centre
Alexandra Village Hawker Centre | © Tiberiu Ana / Flickr

Take in the view from up high

There are plenty of viewpoints where you can look down on Singapore. But one of the best free spots that backpackers should check out is the Southern Ridges with the stunning Henderson Waves bridge structure, where you can take a lovely hike to see the greener side of Singapore and a view of the busy port all at once.

Henderson Waves Bridge in the day
Henderson Waves Bridge in the day | © Darren Soh/Courtesy Singapore Tourism Board

Kick back in the gardens of this city

If you are into wildlife but would rather skip the cost of a zoo ticket, Singapore has plenty of gardens and parks worth checking out that won’t cost you a penny. The National Parks Board has a lot of useful information for nature lovers and even the occasional free guided tour, but some favourite spots worth visiting include the Botanic Gardens, Singapore’s first UNESCO heritage site, the historical Fort Canning Park, or East Coast Park where you can go cycling.

Singapore Fort Canning Park
Singapore Fort Canning Park | © David Lee/Flickr

Go island-hopping

The more adventurous can cheaply venture beyond the main shores of Singapore to surrounding offshore islands by ferry. Pulau Ubin feels like a step back in time and has some great mangrove wetlands. While Lazarus Island, Kusu Island, and St John’s Island are great for those who crave nice beaches. Sentosa may be an expensive tourist spot with Universal Studios and the casinos, but getting to Siloso or Tanjong Beach is actually quite affordable if you bring your own food and drinks.

Boats at Pulau Ubin
Boats at Pulau Ubin | © Mike Cartmell/Flickr