Luxury travel is not something the majority of us can indulge in too often, and when we do, it can deal a pretty big blow to our savings accounts. That being said, I’m always on the hunt for great travel destinations where you can get a lot of bang for your buck. Southeast Asia is a well-known destination for travelers hoping to stretch their budget, but Singapore never seems to make anyone’s travel list. Perhaps it’s its image as a stiff, strict society or the fact that it doesn’t advertise its tourism industry much abroad, but Singapore does not get its due as a holiday destination.
Having just returned from a 1-week trip to the Southeast Asian city-state, I found it to be well suited to what I call “budget-luxury” travel. What is a “budget-luxury” destination? Well, I just made it up, but what I’m essentially shooting for is a place where the average working couple can enjoy a few of the finer things in life without making a significant dent in their savings.
What I loved about Singapore was that is was as clean and ultra-modern as a city could be, but was amazingly affordable. For instance, I booked a modern 4* hotel (with pool, gym, concierge, the works) connected to the city’s efficient subway system (MRT) for just over $100 USD/night on fairly short notice. Speaking of the MRT, one week of traversing Singapore’s subway network cost us a cool $20/person (approx. $15 USD/10 GPB). The prices for taxi rides were even more amazing with 30-40 minute rides across town coming out to just $17 Singapore dollars (approx. $13 USD/8 GBP).
The great deals didn’t stop at transportation either. Though Singapore enjoys a futuristic infrastructure and all the amenities of a fully industrialized city, most of its restaurants offered great meals at the same prices you’d find on the streets of Bangkok. Newton Food Centre (MRT Newton) and Lao Pa Sat (MRT Raffles Place) are two indoor/outdoor food stall halls that feature every type of SE Asian cuisine imaginable. Most dishes were at or under $5 Singapore dollars (approx. $3.50 USD/2.50 GBP) and were of excellent quality.
Understandably, outdoor dining under the Singapore sun is not for everyone. Luckily, Singapore, much like Bangkok, is teeming with mall containing vast food halls. A trip to the shopping mall at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino garnered us authentic Singaporean cuisine for two (and a coke!), for under $20 Singapore dollars. If SE Asian cuisine is not for you, then no problem. These malls are full of Japanese, Korean, Spanish, French and Italian restaurants.
Lively Clarke Quay is located conveniently in central Singapore and proved to be a great place to dip our feet into the city’s nightlife. Splurging on a night out, we enjoyed Spanish tapas for two with drinks followed up by a German restaurant for more cocktails and a beer. While alcohol was admittedly a bit prices (due to import and/or vice tax, I’m assuming), our night out was still well under $100 Singapore dollars (approx. $80 USD/50 GBP).
Taking a break from the city, we took a taxi to Sentosa Island, which is connected via a bridge to Singapore. Branded as “Asia’s Playground”, the island is home to luxury resorts, Universal Studios, two beaches and various other rides and attractions.
Our first stop on Sentosa was Silosa Beach. While it certainly wasn’t Waikiki, the water was warm and calm, and we were just a 10 minute drive from Singapore. The beach was a nice place to relax and kick back with a mango margarita. When we visited on a Tuesday afternoon, there weren’t too many beach-goers on hand, leaving me with an Olympic pool worth of beach to myself. I worked on the tan that I lost from living in England, while my boyfriend worked on a sunburn. After enough time by the water and a sufficient tequila buzz had been attained, we headed up to the top of the island via a scenic chairlift below luging down a purpose-built track.
With 4* and 5* hotels within reach, transportation and fine dining for pennies on the dollar and easy access to an island filled with beaches and bars, I personally think Singapore is one of the best places in the world to indulge on a budget. As a real added bonus, English one of the official languages here, which makes it a lot more convenient than similarly-priced destinations in the area. Singapore’s proximity to the equator also ensures stable (albeit HOT) temperatures, making it pool and beach season all year round.