Living in Singapore
Cost of Living
The standard of living in Singapore is amongst the highest in Asia. Compared to countries in western continents, the cost of living here is relatively low, and basic items like food and clothing are very reasonably priced.
When planning their budget, students will need to cater for these items :
- Books & Stationery
- Medical/Hospitalisation Insurance
- Personal Expenses
An international student in Singapore spends on average about S$750 to S$2,000 a month on living expenses. This amount of course, varies depending on their individual lifestyle and course of study.
The local currency is Singapore dollars and cents. Other than the Singapore dollar, the US and Australian dollar, Yen and British pound are also widely accepted, at major shopping centers and restaurants.
A 7% Goods and Services Tax (GST) is imposed on all purchases. Tipping is not practiced in Singapore as most hotels and restaurants already levy a 10% service charge on bills.
Major credit cards are generally accepted by establishments, including American Express, Diners Card, JCB, MasterCard and Visa.
Another widely-used method of payment is NETS, which allows one to make payment with your Automated Teller Machine (ATM) card.
Most banks handle travelers’ cheques and change foreign currencies. Passports are required when cashing travelers’ cheques. A nominal commission may be charged. Apart from banks and hotels, you may change money at outlets which display the sign “Licensed Money Changer”.
Most banking hours are usually from Mondays to Fridays, 09.30 am – 03.00 pm and Saturdays, 09.30 am – 11.00 am/01.00 pm. Some banks offer late night banking and have extended hours on Saturdays. Some banks in Orchard Road even open on Sundays. It is best to check with individual banks on their operating hours.
A student may need to open a savings or checking account while in Singapore. They will need to bring a minimum initial deposit (usually $100) if they are below 21 years of age, as well as their passport and Student’s Pass/ letter of admission to their educational institution. Upon opening of an account, they will be given an ATM card which gives them an added convenience of being able to withdraw money from any ATM machine operated by their bank. The ATM card also entitles them to make payment via NETS (Singapore’s cashless payment system).
They may receive additional funds using bank drafts made out in Singapore dollars and drawn from a Singapore bank. These may be credited to their account and withdrawn in one to two days. Cheques drawn on banks with no branches in Singapore may take up to three weeks to clear.
Singapore has one of the most extensive and efficient public transportation systems in the world. Travelling in the city and suburbs is typically a quick and affordable affair.
The Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) operates an extensive network of trains serving stations all across the island. Trains operate as early as 05.30 am to past midnight at 12.30 am. A ride on the MRT from Singapore Changi Airport to the city takes less than half an hour. A copy of A Quick Guide to MRT Travel can be obtained from the Station Control Rooms at all MRT stations.
Public buses run daily from 05.30 am – midnight. Extended night services cost slightly more.
For travel on the MRT, one needs to purchase a one-trip fare card. Public buses accept cash. The recommended mode of payment for both the MRT and public buses is using the EZ-link card which is a stored-value card giving discounted fare for multiple rides. The EZ-link card may be purchased and topped up at most MRT stations and bus interchanges. Each adult card is sold with a minimum value of S$10 plus a deposit of S$5. The Transit link Guide gives detailed information on both the MRT and bus services and is available at $1.50 from most MRT stations, bus interchanges and major bookstores.
Full-time students in public institutions enjoy concession travel on the MRT and public buses. Ask them to get in touch with our student service center for more details after arriving at EASB, Singapore.
Taxis ply the island round the clock. One may queue for a Taxi at any designated Taxi stand, make a booking through a Taxi company’s hotline or flag one down. Taxis carry a maximum of four passengers and seat belts are compulsory by law for all passengers.
All taxis are metered with surcharges applying for: peak hours after midnight, city area surcharges for cabs hired within the Central Business District (CBD) area, departing from the Singapore Changi Airport, Seletar Airport or Singapore Expo, on the eve and on public holidays, as well as for trips passing through an Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantry. Credit card payments incur a 10% surcharge on the fare.
A passenger service charge of SGD21 should be incorporated in the air ticket (including tickets issued outside of Singapore). If this has not been done, One may be required to pay the SGD21 during check-in. In some cases, the airline may absorb the service charge. Passengers who are in transit for less than 24 hours may leave the airport without having to pay the service charge upon departure from Singapore.
It is perfectly safe to drink water straight from the tap in Singapore. However, for those who prefer bottled mineral water, local supermarkets and grocers always have ample stock.
The electrical current in Singapore is 240 volts AC, 50 cycles per second. Singapore uses the square-shaped three-pin plug. You may need an adapter or transformer for foreign appliances, which are available at most hardware stores.
Drug abuse is viewed seriously in Singapore. Illicit traffic of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances is strictly prohibited.
Travelers across the world are understandably more concerned about personal safety and security issues today than ever before. The Singapore Tourism Board would like to assure all our visitors that the situation in Singapore remains calm and stable and it is business as usual.
The Singapore Government has and will continue to be vigilant in ensuring that Singapore remains safe. It has stepped up security measures at key installations and other sensitive places. The Government has also made it known that extremism originating from religion or race has no place in Singapore and it will not hesitate to take action against any extremist or terrorist groups or individuals.
The swift and definite actions of the Singapore Internal Security Department over the arrests of the 15 terrorists in January 2002 is testimony to this.
Smoking is not permitted in public service vehicles, museums, libraries, lifts, theatres, cinemas, air-conditioned restaurants, hair salons, supermarkets, department stores and government offices. Offenders can be fined up to SGD 1,000. While it is an offence to smoke in air-conditioned eating places, smoking is permitted in air-conditioned pubs, discos, karaoke bars and nightspots.
Spitting in public places is an offence.
Tipping is not encouraged as most hotels and restaurants in Singapore already levy a 10% service charge on customers’ bills. Tipping is not a way of life in Singapore and is prohibited at the airport.
Singapore is one of the most connected cities in the world with an extensive network of mobile and internet services widely available.
There are three services operators, namely SingTel, MobileOne, and StarHub, each offering a wide range of communication services at competitive rates, including :
Mobile communications services, including cellular and paging services
mobile phone operators in Singapore operate networks such as GSM900, GSM1800, W-CDMA (under development).
Internet access services
International telephone services, including IDD services, calling cards, facsimile services.
To make international calls, the access codes are 001, 013 or 019 for SingTel, 002 or 021 for MobileOne and 008 or 018 for StarHub.
Public payphones are located at most shopping malls and public places, and operate by credit card or stored-value phonecards. Local calls from public payphones cost 10 cents per three-minute block. Besides local calls, all cardphones provide International Direct Calling services and subscriber Trunk Dialling for Malaysian calls. International Calling Cards are also available at all post offices, 7-Eleven (24-hours) stores and other retail outlets.
What to Wear
Singapore is the quintessential tropical island, with a warm and humid climate all year round. Save the woollies for back home – light and summer clothing rule! Casual dress is accepted for most situations but some establishments like restaurants and clubs may require a more formal dress code. It is advisable to check for dress regulations beforehand.
Some educational institutions have a minimum dress regulation, such as no shorts and slippers in lecture theatres. Students at primary and secondary schools as well as junior colleges have to wear uniforms which should be purchased before the commencement of classes.
Many indoor places are air-conditioned to provide relief from the heat, so if you are going to be indoors for a long period of time and find the temperature slightly chilly, you may wish to bring a sweater or jacket.
Useful Telephone Numbers
A student should always keep a list of useful telephone numbers handy. Here are some crucial ones:
Ministry of Education Hotline
(65) 6872 2220 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting FREE (65) 6872 2220 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
(operating hours 08.00 am – 06.00 pm, Monday to Friday and 08.00 am – 01.00 pm, Saturday)
Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) Hotline
(65) 6391 6100 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting FREE (65) 6391 6100 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
(24-hour automated hotline for information on their services and procedures. Customer service officers are available from 08.00 am – 05.00 pm, Monday to Friday and 08.00 am – 01.00 pm, Saturday)
Tel: 1800 736 2000 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting FREE 1800 736 2000 end_of_the_skype_highlighting (toll-free in Singapore only)
(operating hours 08.30 am – 09.30 pm, Monday to Friday ; 08.30 am – 10.00 pm, Saturday ; and 11.00 am – 10.00 pm, Sunday)
CitySearch (operator-assisted Yellow Pages)
Tel: (65) 1900 777 7777 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting FREE (65) 1900 777 7777 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Time of day
Trunk Calls to Malaysia
Dial 109 for operator assistance or 02 for direct dial.
Dial 1800 followed by the toll-free line number (in Singapore only).
Tel: (65) 6542 7788 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting FREE (65) 6542 7788 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Samaritans of Singapore (SOS)
1800-221-4444 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting FREE 1800-221-4444 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
(24hours Emergency Counseling)