Singapore is a fantastic expat destination, offering an exciting cultural mix, great career opportunities, and world class amenities. The standard of living is high - but life in Singapore doesn’t come cheap. That said, if you’re a student or living on a fixed income, you can make some simple lifestyle changes to make the most of your money. By shopping, eating and enjoying leisure time like a local, you can cut costs and have a more authentic experience.
Whether you’re retiring, temporarily relocating, or moving to Singapore for good, it’s helpful to have a picture of what life there will cost as an expat. Here’s a quick guide.
The official currency in Singapore is the Singapore dollar which is written as SGD on currency exchanges, and S$ in shops and restaurants.
You can find out the exact value of your money in SGD, using an online currency converter - but here’s a rough guide to what it is at this moment:
- $1000 = S$1390
- £1000 = S$1750
- €1000 = S$1550
- AU$1000 = S$1050
|Comparing basic cost of living||1 bedroom flat in city centre (monthly rent)||Lunch for 2 (3 courses, mid range restaurant)||Transportation (monthly pass)|
|Singapore||2,812 SGD||60 SGD||100 SGD|
|London, UK||2,970 SGD||97 SGD||230 SGD|
|New York City, USA||4,140 SGD||104 SGD||163 SGD|
|Berlin, Germany||1,144 SGD||62 SGD||125 SGD|
|Sydney, Australia||2,720 SGD||84 SGD||168 SGD|
One major factor that adds expense for expats in Singapore is the cost of converting cash to SGD from your home currency. Even if your bank says it offers fee-free money exchange, you can be sure its cut is rolled up in the exchange rate it uses. To get the best deal, you should use an exchange service like TransferWise which gives you the same rate you find on Google. With a quick service, and low transparent fees to transfer your money, this can be a much better deal than relying on your bank.
One of the major factors determining how expensive life in Singapore will be, is where you choose to live. Rental prices are fairly high, but move outside of the city center and you can rent in Singapore for much less.
|Living expenses in Singapore (excluding rent)||Average cost|
|Single person, per month||1,155 SGD|
|Single person, per year||13,860 SGD|
|University student, per month||703 SGD|
|4 person family, per month||4,209 SGD|
|4 person family, per year||50,508 SGD|
The salaries in Singapore are fairly high in general, and for skilled and in-demand professions, they’re extremely good. As an example, chefs and waiters get paid more than you might expect, as both are seen needed professions. In fact, Singapore has the 14th highest paid waiter positions in the world. It’s also a great place if you’re looking for a job as an attorney or lecturer.
Check out what you could earn in Singapore here:
|Salary averages for Singapore||Average salary|
|Financial analyst||80,179 SGD|
|Graphic designer||37,742 SGD|
|Mobile developer||74,809 SGD|
|Product manager||79,395 SGD|
|Software engineer||68,002 SGD|
|Web developer||52,667 SGD|
Singapore has a very well-developed rental sector, although the pressure on space in the central districts means that flats, apartments and condos are typically fairly small. Prices in the city centre and in exclusive expat areas outside of the centre are very steep - but you can still get more reasonably priced places if you don’t mind a bit of a commute.
See what it might cost you here:
|Renting in Singapore||Average monthly cost|
|One bedroom flat/apartment (city centre)||2,812 SGD|
|One bedroom flat/apartment (outside of city centre)||1,912 SGD|
|Three bedroom family home (city centre)||5,282 SGD|
|Three bedroom family home (outside of city centre)||3,101 SGD|
|Utilities (gas, electric and water for a 85m2 apartment)||157 SGD|
The healthcare system in Singapore is very strong, in both the state and private sector. Expats who have permanent residency in Singapore might be eligible for state-backed health insurance, which pays some of the costs of medical care. However, it’s usually advisable to take private health insurance to make sure you’re covered for all eventualities.
|Healthcare service||Average cost to you|
|Family doctor check-up (no insurance)||47 SGD|
|Cold medicine for 6 days||8 SGD|
|Antibiotic prescription (no insurance)||19 SGD|
Parts of Singapore are congested, so hopping on public transportation might be your best bet if you have a daily commute. However, with a strong transport system, getting around shouldn’t cause you any problems. You can choose between the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) routes, and buses, which cover the city state well.
|Transportation and vehicle prices for Singapore||Average cost|
|Gasoline (1 litre / 0.25 gallon)||2.05 SGD|
|Monthly bus/transport pass||100 SGD|
|Bus ticket, single use||1.8 SGD|
|Taxi tariff, 8km/5mile journey||12 SGD|
|Toyota Corolla, new||112,092 SGD|
|VW Golf, new||123,432 SGD|
Private education in Singapore is highly valued, and comes at a cost. A year’s high school tuition in UWC South East Asia, for example, could run up to nearly 45,000 SGD - almost 50% higher than the cost of studying at Singapore’s national university. Unsurprisingly, standards are high - the Singaporean education system is regularly ranked as one of the best in the world.
|Preschool / kindergarten (monthly fee)||952 SGD|
|Private school for lower grades (annual)||28,417 SGD|
|National University of Singapore tuition (undergraduate, business, one year)||31,800 SGD|
|Singapore Management University tuition (Bachelor programme, one year)||24,400 SGD (for international students - discounts apply for residents and citizens)|
Singapore is an exciting place to be, whether you’re considering a permanent move, or just looking to spend a year or two exploring somewhere new. The cost of living may be a little high, but the experiences you can get here are truly memorable.
Good luck with your new life in Singapore!