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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.