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Moving to Singapore

Singapore has, over the last few years, attracted a steady stream of eager expats to its shores with the promise of high salaries, a ritzy lifestyle and a perfectly central location. Situated at the southern tip of the magnificent Malaysian peninsula, this city-state buzzes with a fascinating mix of nationalities and cultures. Apart from a relatively large sprinkling of expats from all over the world, the Lion City is locally populated by those of Chinese, Malay and Indian descent, making it one of the most richly diverse and cosmopolitan cities in the world.

Singapore further appeals to expats' sensibilities with its renowned efficiency, exemplary public transport system, communications infrastructure and healthcare facilities, as well as a local culture that promotes tolerance, harmony and respect.

Prudent measures by the government have ensured a stable economy, resulting in some of the biggest names in business establishing regional headquarters in the country which, in turn, means plenty of jobs and professional opportunities for qualified expats.

One unavoidable fact of life in Singapore is, unfortunately, that it's pricey. The ritzy lifestyle inevitably comes with a monstrous price tag, but it's also true that the city-state is home to a large percentage of high-earning expats, many of whom have much more disposable income than they might have been used to in their home countries, making the high cost of living a non-issue.

The island-state is, contrary to some reports, also an ideal place to raise a family. Expats moving to Singapore with children can take comfort in the knowledge that the Lion City is crime-free, clean and safe, while various local and international schools provide an immaculate standard of education.

Those expats who imagine Singapore to be a cold, hard concrete jungle, will be surprised to know that, even though much of the island is occupied by dense high rises, it contains a startling amount of natural foliage and vistas, with beautifully luxuriant botanical gardens, lively water parks teeming with happy children, sun-soaked beaches, and a heavily forested 28-hectare zoo.

With good flight connections and an eminently central location, it’s also a great base from which to explore the rest of Southeast Asia, India and Australia.

All of the above, combined with beautifully balmy year-round weather, exhilarating nightlife and plenty of shopping opportunities, create an enviable lifestyle in this glamorous island city – and, indeed, many expats find themselves staying in Singapore far longer than initially anticipated.


Fast facts

Population: 5.7 million

Capital city: Singapore

Neighbouring countries: Singapore is an island city-state off the southern coast of Malaysia. 

Geography: Singapore's terrain is mostly low-lying with a gently undulating central plateau. The city-state consists of 63 islands, including the main island of Singapore Island (Pulau Ujong in Malay). 

Political system: Unitary dominant-party parliamentary republic

Major religions: Buddhism, Christianity

Main languages: English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil. Many locals speak Singlish, which is a dialect based on English with some Malay and Mandarin words mixed in. It can take some time to understand. 

Money: The Singapore Dollar (SGD) is divided into 100 cents. ATMs are plentiful and foreigners can easily open a bank account in Singapore, sometimes without even being in the country.

Tipping: Most hotels and restaurants include a standard 10 percent service charge. An additional gratuity is always appreciated but not necessary.

Time: GMT +8

Electricity: 230 volts, 50Hz. Plugs are British-style, with three flat blades.

Internet domain: .sg

International dialling code: +65

Emergency contacts: 999 (police), 995 (ambulance, fire)

Transport and driving: Cars drive on the left. Public transport infrastructure in Singapore is excellent and owning a car is not necessary.

Weather in Singapore

Located just a few degrees off the equator, it comes as no surprise that Singapore's weather is warm, wet and humid.

There is little variation in temperature in Singapore – the mercury never seems to stray too far from the 86°F (30°C) mark. It frequently rains in the Lion City with little variation throughout the year, although the monsoon season in the last few months of each year and first few months of the new year brings frequent showers and gloomy skies. 

Singapore's high level of humidity, usually between 70 and 90 percent, is what most people consider the greatest culprit when it comes to weather-related discomfort in Singapore. Surface winds tend to be light and don't provide any real relief. 

The UV intensity is very high in Singapore. Always use sunblock, preferably SPF 30 or higher when outdoors for long periods of time, reapplying often. It's also always wise to have an umbrella handy in case of showers.

 

Embassy Contacts for Singapore


Singaporean embassies

  • Singapore Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 537 3100

  • Singapore High Commission, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7235 8315

  • Singapore Consulate-General, Vancouver, Canada: +1 604 622 5281

  • Singapore High Commission, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6271 2000

  • Singapore Consulate, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 430 6035

  • Singapore Consulate-General, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 669 1700

  • Singapore High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 470 0850


Foreign embassies in Singapore

  • United States Embassy, Singapore: +65 6476 9100

  • British High Commission, Singapore: +65 6424 4200

  • Canadian High Commission, Singapore: +65 6854 5900

  • Australian High Commission, Singapore: +65 6836 4100

  • South African High Commission, Singapore: +65 6339 3319

  • Irish Embassy, Singapore: +65 6238 7616

  • New Zealand High Commission, Singapore: +65 6235 9966

Public Holidays in Singapore

 

2020

2021

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Chinese New Year

25–27 January

12–13 February

Good Friday

10 April

2 April

Labour Day

1 May

1 May

Vesak Day

7 May

26 May

Hari Raya Puasa

24–25 May

13–14 May

National Day

9 August

9 August

Hari Raya Haji

31 July

20 July

Deepavali 

14 November

4 November

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

*If a public holiday in Singapore falls on a Sunday, it is celebrated the following Monday.

Pros and Cons of Moving to Singapore

When considering a move abroad, it can be all too easy to assume that a rosier life awaits, and yet sometimes, it turns out the grass on the other side really does have a greener sheen. Nevertheless, all serial expats will attest that every city and country have their own pluses and minuses.

So, for those expats who are still hovering on the fence and are still weighing up the positives and negatives of relocating to the Lion City, here's a helpful list of some of the pros and cons of moving to Singapore. 


Accommodation in Singapore 

Much of the housing in Singapore comes in high-rise condo or apartment form. Even those that live in a freestanding home will find that backyards are rarities, but there are lots of green spaces and parks around the island to make up for it.

+ PRO: Lots of options

Whether expats want to rent an HDB (government-owned) flat or a privately owned condo, they’ll have loads of options, as high-rise developments are still springing up all over Singapore. Most of the privately owned condos and apartments, especially the new ones, have amenities such as pools, playgrounds, gyms and function rooms included on site. Landed homes (similar to single family homes in the US) can be found in the suburbs.

- CON: Rent is expensive

Because land and space on the island are at a premium, rent in Singapore can be exorbitant. Expect to pay more for a place closer to the city centre, Orchard Road, Holland Village, and other desirable neighbourhoods. Expats willing to move further away from the central parts of town just might score a good deal.


Transportation in Singapore

Singapore might be a small country, but its road network and transportation system are extensive. Whether one drives, takes the train or rides the bus, it's easy to get around the island. 

+ PRO: Great public transport

Getting around Singapore by bus or MRT is a piece of cake. Public transportation is cheap as chips, too. Even more train lines are expected to be added to the already extensive network, making even the furthest corners of the island easily accessible. Cabs, which are also extremely affordable, are an alternative mode of transportation, and so are the bevy of easy-to-use ride-hailing apps.

- CON: Cars are costly

Owning a car in Singapore is a seriously expensive undertaking. Between heavy customs duties, taxes and insurance fees, as well as the price of tolls and parking, the convenience of owning a car comes at a high price.


Travel from Singapore 

Getting to Singapore might be a long and arduous flight for most expats, but once settled here, the vacation spots in the area are just a short, and very affordable, plane ride away.  

+ PRO: Cheap, accessible travel

If expats are looking to get away for a weekend, Singapore is an ideal jumping-off spot for travel in Southeast Asia. Several budget airlines offer affordable fares to neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. Sometimes planning a trip at the last minute can result in extremely cheap airfare.


Safety in Singapore

There are some issues with road safety, but on the whole, Singapore is an extremely safe place to live.  

+ PRO: Low crime rate

Singapore is an exceptionally safe country with low crime rates and a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to drugs. 

- CON: Poor pedestrian and cyclist safety

Pedestrians do not have the right of way in Singapore, so it's a smart idea to use crosswalks whenever possible. Sometimes bikes share the sidewalks with pedestrians, but sidewalks tend to be really small so this can be dangerous. There is limited cycling infrastructure in Singapore and most cars and trucks do not look out for bikes on the road. Anyone who is going to ride a bike should wear a helmet and be as predictable on the road as possible. Use the Park Connector pathways when possible to avoid the dangerous roads.  


Social scene in Singapore

It won't take long to make a group of friends, either expat or local, in Singapore; meeting people is usually easy and fun. 

+ PRO: Easy to make friends

There are several online forums and social-media groups that provide both expats and locals with the opportunity to come together over shared interests.

Otherwise, be on the lookout for organisations that host social events, as these are great places to meet likeminded individuals. Becoming a member of an expat club or society, such as the American Association or the British Club, is a great way to find out what’s on.

Expats can also consider taking a class, volunteering, or starting a blog about life in Singapore. These are all great ways to meet people.

- CON: Pricey party scene

Singapore puts a heavy 'sin tax' on alcoholic beverages, making a night out on the town a costly affair. The nicer clubs and bars sell drinks at a premium.


Healthcare in Singapore

Expats will find that good quality healthcare is readily available in Singapore, regardless of health insurance. Even for those without access to the city-state's subsidised system, healthcare in Singapore is still reasonably priced as long as expats are insured.

+ PRO: Lots of doctors and facilities to choose from

There are a number of private hospitals, public hospitals and outpatient clinics throughout the island to choose from. Those who have insurance can contact their provider for a list of recommended doctors and clinics.

- CON: Possible upfront costs

An unexpected trip to the doctor may be a bit expensive, especially if they don't accept direct bill settlement from the insurance company, and the patient is left having to pay the bill on the spot. If the doctor doesn't accept direct bill settlement, the patient is expected to pay for the consultation and any other services provided at the time of visit, including prescriptions for medication. These medical bills can usually be reimbursed by the insurance company, but that surprise medical bill can come as a shock for those living on a budget.


Education in Singapore

Whether expats want to enrol their child in a local public school or a private international school, there are several options that provide world-class education in Singapore.

+ PRO: Great schools to choose from

There are many good public schools in Singapore which are affordable and provide high-quality education. Private international schools are also a great choice, particularly for expats who want their child to continue with the school curriculum from their home country.

- CON: Expensive school fees, hard to get into

Although public education is the most affordable option in Singapore, most expats are required to pay more than the locals for school fees. Private international schools tuition can be astronomical, but employers will sometimes cover education costs, or a portion thereof.

Both public and private schools in Singapore tend to be oversubscribed, so expat parents should start the application process well in advance of the move.


Climate in Singapore

Most people who are thinking about living in Singapore have concerns about the weather. 

+ PRO: It's warm and balmy all year round

The temperature ranges from 86 to 92°F (30 to 33°C) from January to December, making it perfect swimming weather year round. It's a bit cooler in the evenings, around 77°F (25°C), and most properties have air con. Basically, there's no need to bring jumpers or coats when you move here. 

- CON: There are no seasons, and it rains a lot

The humidity here usually hovers around 70% or more, and will certainly take some getting used to. New arrivals often take two or three showers a day, just to cool down. It also rains a lot. Not drizzle, but proper heavy tropical downpours, particularly during monsoon season. These are often short, sharp and sudden, but can last all day. Seasoned expats are never far from an umbrella (also good for shade). 

Working in Singapore

Singapore is no stranger to foreign enterprise; it's been luring skilled expats with lucrative packages for decades. Even with government efforts to reduce the reliance on foreign workers in recent years, there continues to be a demand for qualified expats. 

Many of the expats who find a job in Singapore are high earners who benefit from relatively low taxes and high disposable income. Expats are advised to always negotiate for inclusive employment contracts, but prospective job seekers in Singapore should be aware that comprehensive employment packages are increasingly reserved for those in the most senior positions.

More often, these days, companies are looking for foreigners who are willing to accept a lucrative salary without transportation, housing and education allowances. So, again, prospective employees are encouraged to negotiate to ensure that their remuneration is enough to cover all bases, including rent, utilities, medical insurance, school fees, transport and so on.


Job market in Singapore

Expats, especially those working in financial industries, shouldn’t struggle to find a job in Singapore’s vibrant and rapidly growing economy. The bustling city-state has emerged as Southeast Asia's premier banking and finance hub. 

Many international corporations have headquarters or regional bases here, as both the infrastructure and physical location make Singapore an ideal platform to reach into the nearby Asian markets. Those prospective expats who work for one of these large multinational institutions should therefore consider transferring by way of their firm, and thereby potentially keep all existing benefits that they enjoy in their home countries.

Although many of the available jobs are still mainly in the financial sector with wealth-management firms, financial institutions, investment banks, insurance agencies and foreign exchange companies, there are also increasing opportunities in other areas of business such as management, IT, logistics, digital marketing and HR. 


Finding a job in Singapore

A good starting point for expats and a helpful aid in the job search would be one of the countless employment agencies in Singapore, a significant portion of whose clients happen to be from Europe and North America seeking work opportunities in this dynamic economy. Employment agencies require the least legwork when it comes to securing a job. The biggest expat-recruiting industries are clustered around the technology, finance and logistics sectors, with engineering, accounting and management skills particularly in demand.

Apart from using agencies and recruiters, new arrivals will do well to search online. Employers will often advertise new vacancies on various web portals and sites such as LinkedIn, or on industry-specific portals and forums.

Expats should also consult the jobs section of The Straits Times, Singapore's daily English newspaper, and other news outlets' career pages.


Work culture in Singapore

Expats moving to Singapore for work should be prepared to take the philosophy of "work hard, play hard" to heart. Singaporeans and expats who've been in the city-state for a while are used to working to tight deadlines in an often high-pressure work environment but, on the flip-side, these high-pressure environments often go hand in hand with astronomical salaries allowing expats to enjoy the top-shelf lifestyle that Singapore offers.

There tends to be a strict hierarchy in Singaporean workplaces. Those who are more senior in age and position are afforded great respect and their decisions won't be openly questioned by those lower down in the pecking order. Expats may also find there are more rules in the workplace than they might be used to.

As Singapore is such a diverse destination, the workplace is sure to be filled with all sorts of cultures and ethnicities. Those new to the Lion City should make an effort to learn about the main cultural groups of Singapore and their traditions to ensure harmony in the workplace and that they don't offend their co-workers.

Doing Business in Singapore

Boasting an advanced economy driven by transparency and cooperation, doing business in Singapore is surprisingly easy. The country is considerably Westernised and boasts high living standards but, with a diverse population, expats will need to familiarise themselves with local business culture and etiquette if they want to be successful in Singapore.

Singapore has an impressive rank of second out of 190 countries in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2020, coming first for enforcing contracts and third for protecting minority investors. Its lowest ranking is for trading across borders, at 47th.


Fast facts

Business hours

Business hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm, sometimes with a half-day on Saturday.

Business language

English is the main language of business in Singapore.

Dress

Business dress is fairly casual, in keeping with the island's humid climate. Smart shirts and ties are standard in business environments. A suit jacket may occasionally be required for formal meetings. Pantsuits or a conservative skirt and blouse are acceptable for women.

Gifts

In a business context, gifts may be misconstrued as bribery, especially when doing business with government officials. Gift-giving customs will also tend to differ between cultural groups, and what is appropriate in one culture may not be appropriate in another. Gifting flowers or alcohol, for example, will have vastly different implications depending on the cultural background of the receiver.

Gender equality

Men and women are generally treated equally in business.


Business culture in Singapore

Business culture in Singapore is based on relationships rather than transactions. Initial meetings may move slowly as a relationship is established, and expats should remain patient as connections are cemented.

In general, the business culture in Singapore is quite formal. Punctuality and presentation are critical to creating the right impression and developing a positive rapport. Respect for elders and status should also be carefully observed.

Greetings

A handshake is appropriate when greeting business associates. Business cards should be offered formally with both hands. Address colleagues as Mr or Ms until told otherwise. Always address senior associates and older colleagues with respect.

Business structure

While Singapore may claim to have an egalitarian business world, large corporate companies tend to have a hierarchical structure and it’s uncommon for junior employees and management to socialise together. This may seem strange if one is used to a more egalitarian society.

Communication

Expats need to be aware of the way they speak as well as their body language and facial expressions. They should also pay close attention to that of their business associates. Flattery or boasting are treated with suspicion and prolonged eye contact can come across as aggressive. Most Singaporeans are soft-spoken and prefer a calm demeanour over a more aggressive manner.

Multiculturalism

Singapore is incredibly diverse, with the majority of its population being of Chinese, Malay and Indian descent. The island's business culture can vary greatly depending on whom one is dealing with, and this can have an impact on appropriate greetings, titles and general conduct. Therefore, it is wise to educate oneself about the various ethnicities and cultures present in Singapore before attempting to do business there.

Attitude towards foreigners 

As a modern and multicultural society, business culture in Singapore is welcoming of foreign businesses and tolerant of other cultures. The government encourages qualified expat business people to move to Singapore.


Dos and don’ts of business in Singapore

  • Do be punctual

  • Do show respect, particularly to elders, and avoid confrontation

  • Don't speak in a raised voice as this may be seen as aggressive

  • Don't write on business cards you receive

  • Do ensure that any business cards given to Singaporean associates are in good condition and are not tattered or worn-looking

Visas for Singapore

Citizens of many countries don't need to apply for a visa for Singapore if they intend to stay for less than 30 or 90 days, depending on their nationalities. Listed countries can be found on the Singaporean Immigration and Checkpoints Authority website. Expats from non-eligible countries will need to apply for their visa in advance, either online or at their nearest Singaporean embassy.

It's worth noting that, regardless of nationality, all expats would need an Employment Pass to work in Singapore or a Study Pass to study there. Expats will need to begin by finding employment or gaining acceptance to an educational institution to qualify.


Short-term visit pass for Singapore

Visa-exempt countries

Travellers allowed visa-free entry into Singapore may be allowed to enter the city-state for either 30 days or 90 days – the length of entry permitted depends on one's country of citizenship.

When arriving at the border, visitors will generally need a passport valid for six months beyond the date of entry, proof of onward/return travel and proof of sufficient funds for the duration of the visit

If needing to stay in Singapore beyond the allotted time, visitors must apply for an extension of stay. This must be done before the expiry of the original length of entry.

All other countries

Citizens not from a visa-exempt country will need to apply for a visa ahead of time. Citizens of certain countries may apply online for an e-Visa, while others will need to apply in person at their nearest Singaporean embassy or consulate.

When applying for an Entry Visa, a Letter of Introduction (LOI) from a citizen or permanent resident in Singapore will have to be submitted in addition to other documents.


Long-term visit pass for Singapore

Foreigners with a family member who is a citizen or permanent resident of Singapore may apply for a Long-Term Visit Pass (LTVP). Expat spouses who have a child in Singapore or have been living in the city-state for more than three years may be eligible for the LTVP+, which allows the holder longer periods of residency as well as other healthcare and employment benefits.


Employment pass for Singapore

If wanting to work in Singapore, it's necessary to find work so the employer can apply for an Employment Pass (EP) on the applicant's behalf. The EP is the equivalent of a work visa or work permit in other destinations.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Work Permits for Singapore

There are three kinds of work permits for Singapore that expats are most likely to apply for.

The Employment Pass is for qualified professionals, the S Pass is for mid-level candidates and the Work Permit is for semi-skilled workers in fields like construction.

To qualify for any of these permits, expats will first need to secure a job offer in Singapore.


Work permits for Singapore

Employment Pass (EP)

Employment Pass applicants need to have an offer for a specialised or management-level job in the country.

Applicants that are recent graduates of well-respected international universities will need to earn above a set amount a month to be considered for an EP, though more experienced candidates may need to be offered more to qualify – the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) determines whether the amount is in line with local standards.

Expats wouldn’t apply for themselves, however; it’s done by the employer or an employment agent on their behalf before they arrive in Singapore.

The duration of an EP is up to two years for first-time applicants and can be renewed for up to three years.

EP holders who meet financial requirements can have their employer apply for a Dependent’s Pass for their (legally married) spouse and children younger than 21 years old. Separate applications will need to be made for each family member.

S Pass

As is the case with an EP, S Pass candidates in Singapore would need to have a job offer that pays above a set amount a month but reflects their level of experience – so more senior applicants would need to be paid more. Qualifying S Pass salary amounts are lower than those set for EP applications because the S Pass is for mid-skilled technical workers rather than specialist positions. Again, the MOM will determine whether an adequate salary is being offered.

Applicants also need to have relevant work experience and have earned a degree, diploma or technical certificate that includes at least one year of full-time study.

The employer in Singapore has to apply for the candidate before they arrive in Singapore. They also have to provide the candidate with medical cover. S Passes are valid for two years and can be renewed for up to three years at a time – renewal applications can be submitted as early as six weeks before the expiry date of the S Pass.

As with the EP, candidates who earn more than a specified amount per month can have their employer apply for Dependant’s Passes for eligible family members.

Work Permit

Work Permits for Foreign Workers in Singapore are aimed at semi-skilled workers in fields like construction, manufacturing and services. There is no set minimum salary, but employers are bound to pay whatever salary they declare to the MOM. Medical cover is also required.
 
Each of the fields covered by the work permit has its own requirements. Being granted this kind of work permit for Singapore has become more difficult in recent years. The government has tightened quotas and many businesses have started focusing on retaining existing staff. Expats in the country on this permit also can’t sponsor any family members to join them.

The work permit is valid for up to two years, depending on the expat’s contract.

Cost of Living in Singapore

The cost of living in Singapore, unfortunately, is on the rise. One of eight Asian cities in the top 10 of the Mercer Cost of Living Survey for 2019, Singapore ranked third most expensive city in the world out of 209 cities, just after Tokyo and Hong Kong, but well ahead of cities such as London and New York.

The good news is that taxes are low, professional salaries generally match the high cost of living, and expat packages can include benefits such as transport, school fees and accommodation allowances. But amid increased competition for jobs, expats interested in working in Singapore may need to accept a salary without many additional benefits – although they should always at least try to negotiate with their prospective employer. If no benefits are forthcoming in contracts, expats will need to ensure they budget adequately for Singapore's high cost of living.


Cost of accommodation in Singapore

Accommodation is the largest expense that expats in Singapore will have to shoulder, but they can relieve some of this burden by opting for a private apartment or a government housing flat (HDB) rather than a lavish condominium which, although frequently offering enticing recreational facilities such as swimming pools, tennis courts and playgrounds for children, will come with matching price tag. 

Expats who choose to live in houses and bungalows can also expect to pay a lot. A large bungalow might cost SGD 35,000 per month, while a three-bedroom HDB flat will cost around SGD 3,000 per month. Costs vary wildly depending on the age, condition and location of the housing, and obviously expats will get more bang for their buck the further they live from the city centre.


Cost of food in Singapore

Depending on personal spending habits, shopping for groceries can be a modest or extortionate expense. Expats fond of purchasing imported products from back home may be startled at how quickly costs can stack up.

Although Singapore offers many tempting choices of delicious cuisine, eating out can be an expensive exercise. There are alternatives though, and if expats stick to hawker centres rather than restaurants, sampling the local fare can be way more affordable.


Cost of transportation in Singapore

Public transport in Singapore is efficient and significantly cheaper than using private vehicles, with EZ-Link travel cards providing good value for money. Owning a vehicle is a luxury rather than a necessity in Singapore and, thanks to the heavy taxes cars are subject to, plus parking costs, it can become a costly luxury.


Cost of international schools in Singapore

Many expats choose to send their children to one of many excellent international schools available in Singapore, and these fees are sometimes included as part of their employment package. Annual fees range from SGD 15,000 to SGD 40,000, with extras on top.


Cost of domestic help in Singapore

The average cost of a live-in maid is between SGD 600 and SGD 1,000 a month, inclusive of their salary and government levy. The employer will need to provide accommodation and food as part of the package. It's also possible to hire part-time domestic workers for between SGD 10 and SGD 20 per hour.


Cost of living in Singapore chart 

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for May 2020.

Accommodation (monthly)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

SGD 2,820

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

SGD 1,890

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

SGD 5,300

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

SGD 3,200

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

SGD 3

Milk (1 litre)

SGD 3.20

Rice (1kg)

SGD 3.10

Loaf of bread

SGD 2.50

Chicken breasts (1kg)

SGD 10

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

SGD 14

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

SGD 8

Coca-Cola (330ml)

SGD 1.90

Cappuccino

SGD 5.60

Bottle of local beer

SGD 10

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

SGD 70

Utilities

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

SGD 0.26

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

SGD 44

Basic utilities (per month for small apartment)

SGD 153

Transportation

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

SGD 0.62

Bus/train fare in the city centre

SGD 1.80

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

SGD 2.25

Culture Shock in Singapore

With Singapore's efficient infrastructure and cultural blend of East and West, it's not surprising that the city-state is sometimes referred to as 'Asia-lite'. As a result, most expats don't have to contend with a huge amount of culture shock in Singapore.

Singapore's population is mostly comprised of three ethnic groups: Chinese, Malay and Indian. Consequently, this cultural diversity produces a colourful collection of traditions, holidays and customs that expats are sure to become enamoured with. 

Although the culture shock is minimal, there may be some situations that new arrivals in Singapore will be unfamiliar with. In such cases, they shouldn't hesitate to ask someone for advice, as most Singaporeans will be eager, and even proud, to help.  

A surefire way for expats to get over any potential culture shock is to immerse themselves in the city's culture and start discovering all that Singapore has to offer – there certainly is plenty to experience in the Little Red Dot.


Food in Singapore

As an Asian cuisine capital, there is something for everyone, especially keen foodies, in Singapore. Satay, chilli crab and fish-head curry are traditional Singaporean dishes worth trying. For expats wanting something more familiar, there are plenty of Western restaurants on the island, including Italian, Mexican and American-style cuisine, as well as Western fast-food chains.

Alternatively, it's well worth trying out hawker centres – food courts where vendors sell various local speciality dishes. Food at hawker centres is affordable, quick and often utterly delicious. Malls also usually have food and beverage establishments. Take note: if ever coming across a packet of tissues on a table at a hawker centre, that means the table has been choped, or reserved. Look for an empty table somewhere else.


Kiasuism in Singapore

The word kiasu is Hokkien for 'fear of losing' and is used to describe the behaviour of some Singaporeans. Kiasuism manifests itself in many ways, such as queuing in long lines to receive a door prize or giveaway, joining the longest queue at a hawker centre because everyone else is eating there, or grabbing excess amounts of something (such as in a buffet or a sale item at a store) for fear of not getting it later. Westerners might know the phenomenon as FOMO – the fear of missing out.

Kiasuism is also used to describe ambitious and successful people. To Westerners, this attitude can come off as aggressive and opportunistic, but to Singaporeans it's sometimes seen as a way to succeed within a competitive society.


Strict laws in Singapore

Singapore is a conservative country with strict laws. No matter where their passport says they are from, if a foreigner commits a crime in Singapore, they'll be subject to the country's laws and punishments.

Perhaps the island-state's most infamous law is its ban on chewing gum. This law exists to discourage people from sticking used chewing gum on surfaces around the city. Similarly, littering and spitting in public are both illegal and can result in prosecution. Smokers accustomed to taking a quick smoke break while out and about will need to adjust to Singapore's strict anti-smoking laws which limit public smoking areas.

On a more serious note, crimes such as vandalism may be punishable by caning and certain narcotics offences carry a mandatory death sentence. Freedom of expression is also somewhat restricted: certain publications and movies are banned, and others are censored before being released to the public.

The policies might sound harsh, but they ultimately result in Singapore being one of the safest and cleanest places to live, and expats should take solace in this fact.


Singlish in Singapore

Although English is spoken by just about everyone in Singapore, expats may notice some unfamiliar words here and there. This is Singlish – a colloquial, uniquely Singaporean dialect of English. It is commonly spoken throughout the city-state, and is considered by many to be a reflection of its unique blend of cultures. While Singlish is looked down on by some, others will firmly attest that a local who doesn't speak Singlish isn't a true Singaporean.

It's worthwhile brushing up on a few common Singlish phrases before departing to Singapore, even if it's just to understand the locals.

Accommodation in Singapore

Expats thinking of a move to Singapore will find that accommodation in the city is of a high standard, comes in all shapes and sizes, and has a wide-ranging price spectrum. Prices vary depending on the area or suburb, the size of the property, and its proximity to schools and public transport.

The property market in Singapore can be divided into public and private sectors, with public housing being offered by the Housing and Development Board (HDB). Unlike many other countries, public units in Singapore aren't necessarily associated with lower-income groups, and even include luxury options. 

Around 80 percent of Singapore's population lives in HDB housing. Expats are eligible to rent HDB accommodation, but there's limited availability, and often they’re only allowed to rent a portion of an HDB unit, unless the landlord has special permission from the government to rent out the entire property.

Many foreigners, especially high-earning Westerners, prefer to rent a private apartment, condominium or bungalow. But while some companies might cover rental costs, others might not. Given the increasing price of Singapore accommodation, it's important for expats to negotiate their salary accordingly.


Types of accommodation in Singapore

Prospective new residents of Singapore will be spoilt for choice, as the city is home to a huge variety of neighbourhoods and accommodation, in just about every price bracket. They could choose to rent private accommodation, or an HDB unit – or a single room in an HDB unit.

Singapore has a reputation for replacing buildings once they reach 10 years of age with newer marble and glass structures. Both furnished and unfurnished accommodation is available in Singapore, so this should be taken into account when deciding whether to ship goods from home.

Apartments

A common choice among expats, apartments are (mainly) smaller self-contained units in larger buildings; referred to as "flats" in some parts of the world such as the UK. Many apartments are HBD-subsidised which can save expats some money.

Condominiums

These complexes are similar to apartments but are more luxurious and will generally offer a wide range of facilities. Those at the top of the scale will offer a full suite of facilities including a pool, gym, playground, tennis and squash courts, as well as 24-hour security.

Semi-detached

These are houses attached to one another on one side or more. Though they aren't free-standing, semi-detached houses are more spacious than apartments and condominiums.

Bungalows

A low house having only one storey or, in some cases, upper rooms set in the roof. These are hard to come by and pricey, but come with ample space. 

Shophouses

Stunning historical homes, some of which have received pricey renovations. Shophouses are clustered around the city. If a shophouse has not undergone renovation, though, expats shouldn't expect modern facilities.


Finding accommodation in Singapore

Estate agents are an essential part of finding property in Singapore. While it's possible for expats to find their own accommodation using property websites and perhaps local newspapers or magazines, it's preferable to let an agent do the legwork. A good agent with extensive knowledge of the property market is a valuable asset, and the best way to go about acquiring an agent is to ask for recommendations from fellow expats, or recruit one from a reputable property site.

The hunt for a home should be exhaustive and thorough, the fruits of which will determine where an expat spends most of their time. Besides being sure about a property before signing on the dotted line, it's also important to reconnoitre the area to make sure it suits the expat's lifestyle before settling.


Renting accommodation in Singapore

New arrivals in Singapore tend to rent rather than buy, as rules and regulations make it nearly impossible for foreigners to purchase a property. A popular route for expats going about the process on their own is to rent a short-term serviced apartment while checking out an area and deciding on long term accommodation. This isn’t strictly necessary, though, and with a good agent, long-term rentals can be secured without the need for temporary accommodation.

Apartments, condos and bungalows can be rented furnished or unfurnished – it really comes down to the tenant, and whether they have the capacity and desire to ship furniture from their home country.

Making an application

Having found a suitable place in a suitable neighbourhood, expats will need to inform the landlord of their interest as soon as possible seeing as, in a city short on land and high in population, there are likely to be many interested parties.

If the expat decides to submit an application for an HDB unit (the entire unit), they should ensure that the landlord has the appropriate permissions from authorities. Technically, HDB owners in Singapore aren’t allowed to rent out entire apartments without special permission from the government, so expats are advised to ask for the permission slip to avoid getting into trouble.

The next step is for the prospective tenant and the landlord to both sign a Letter of Intent (LOI), which should state the expat’s intention to rent the place, along with the price, the term, and whatever else the tenant and landlord agree on. If expats choose to work through a property agent, the agent will likely set up this document for them.

It’s also prudent to have references and testimonials from current and former employers and former landlords, as these will improve the expat’s chances of securing the lease.

Deposits

Tenants, upon signing the lease, will have to pay a security deposit, which is usually the equivalent of a month’s rent, and is customarily paid prior to the start of the lease along with the first month’s rent. 

Deposits can’t be non-refundable, as it remains the property of the tenant, but landlords are allowed to make deductions from the deposit or keep the whole amount for various reasons, including to cover unpaid rent, for damages in excess of normal wear and tear, other breaches of the lease agreement, unpaid utility bills, or – if pre-arranged with tenant – to cover the last month’s rent.

Additional fees to consider include the agent’s commision fee (if an agent was employed) which usually comes to about half a month’s rent for every year of the rental term agreed to in the lease; and a stamp duty which amounts to 0.4 percent of the total rent for a lease up to four years, or 0.4 percent of total rent (divided by the number of years in the lease if the term is longer than four years).

Leases or tenancy agreements

Once the LOI is signed, the tenant and landlord will have to sign a lease agreement. A lease specifies the period of tenancy along with other important terms and conditions that both parties need to agree on. Expats are urged to finecomb the agreement and to make sure that all verbal agreements with the landlord are in print and acknowledged by both parties. Both the tenant and the landlord should also agree on an inventory list at the start of the lease.

At the termination of the lease, the landlord and tenant can either choose to agree to renew the lease or end it. Importantly, expats should insist on a Diplomatic or Repatriate clause in the lease agreement. The clause is vital, as it would allow the expat to terminate the contract in the event that their employment is terminated or if their company decides to transfer them to another country. It also ensures the expat’s security deposit is returned.

Once everything is final, the agreement will have to be stamped by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) for it to be considered a valid contract.

Utilities

It is important for prospective tenants to scrutinise a lease agreement very carefully to ascertain which utilities are included in the rental cost before committing. 

Usually though, in Singapore, utilities and maintenance are for the tenant’s account. Expats looking to rent should be aware that they’ll be expected to pay for internet, electricity, water and gas. It’s possible to pay all utilities through one company, namely SP Group, but expats can also shop around for affordable deals on electricity and gas. TV licence fees aren’t required in Singapore.

Areas and Suburbs in Singapore

Although it’s not the largest destination, choosing an area or suburb in bustling Singapore can nonetheless be a daunting task, and the best neighbourhood for one expat may not be another's cup of tea.

An expat's decision on where to live will largely depend on their lifestyle priorities, family situation, the location of their workplace and personal preferences.

The city-state is divided into 28 districts which can be grouped into five main areas: Central, East, North, North-East and West. Here's an overview of some of the best areas to live as an expat.


Central Region

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The central area is situated, perhaps somewhat misleadingly, towards the south of the island. This large area includes the main business district as well as several popular residential areas, such as Bukit Timah and Bukit Merah. The area provides easy access to such amenities as shopping, entertainment and restaurants.

Housing is predominantly found in high-rise condos and apartments – often fully furnished and serviced – that tend to come with shared amenities, such as pools and gyms. Pricing varies from reasonable to extremely upmarket, leaning more towards the latter as this is generally considered to be the most expensive area in Singapore.

Families will have plenty of choice when it comes to international schools in this area. Options include ISS International School, Swiss School in Singapore, Tanglin Trust School, and UWC South East Asia.

Although the Central Region affords a cosmopolitan lifestyle and great access to almost everything, it's significantly more costly than accommodation found outside the hub, and high noise levels from traffic and ongoing construction work can also have an impact on quality of life.


North Region

Although the north is considered to be "far" from the city, in truth it's only about 15 miles (25km) and is easily accessible car, MRT or bus. One can actually see Malaysia from the Woodlands district and there is a causeway bridge that connects the two countries. The area is lush with greenery and features golf courses, plant nurseries and reservoirs.

Areas such as Woodgrove, Woodlands and Sembawang are home to many American expat families due to the presence of the Singapore American SchoolGEMS World Academy is also nearby.

The lush greenery of the area with its estate-type living conditions is usually what attracts expats of a certain inclination, but those keen on a night out should be aware that the North Region is a fair distance from the city and that it offers little in the way of nightlife.


East Region

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The eastern area of the island includes the districts of Bedok, Pasir Ris, Tampines and Changi.

The Changi International Airport is situated here, and its neighbourhoods are blessed with character that marries old and new. The area has a diverse population, but many residents work in airline-related industries. There is excellent access to amenities, restaurants, schools and shops.

The Global Indian International School Singapore has two campuses in this area of the island. Stamford American International School is also close by.

Residents of the East Region enjoy a coastal lifestyle, with beach facilities and many parks. Condominiums are larger and less expensive than in the city, and retain a sense of community. And while there may not be an abundance of bars, there are a number of excellent eateries in the area to make up for it.


West Region

The western area includes Bukit Batok, Choa Chu Kang, Clementi and Jurong. The neighbourhoods in this greater space vary widely but are generally densely populated and have excellent amenities.

Choa Chu Kang offers lots of outdoor activities with a number of parks as well as recreational- and sports venues. On the other hand, Jurong consists of large industrial- and residential areas and a golf course.

Expats in this area are truly spoilt for choice when it comes to international schools. Options include Canadian International School, Chatsworth International School, German European International School Singapore, Integrated International School, Nexus International School Singapore, and One World International School.

Rentals in the West Region are more affordable and it's a great area for families, with properties that include gardens, although the commute to the Central Region might be a bit long for some expats.


North-East Region

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Expats looking to settle in Singapore's northeast area are often attracted to Serangoon, which is home to the French School of Singapore.

Terrace homes, semi-detached houses and bungalows can all be found here, and there are also plenty of places to shop and dine out, as well as plenty of outdoor spaces.

The area has some good housing estates in the area, and there are lots of good places to eat out, but expats may find that rental prices can be rather expensive.

Healthcare in Singapore

Those thinking of a move to Singapore should know that they'll be in good hands medically as the standard of healthcare in the city-state is top notch. Singapore is consistently ranked among the best-performing countries in the world when it comes to healthcare, and certainly has one of the best systems in Asia. Medical staff are extremely highly trained, friendly, and almost always proficient in English, and facilities are world class. 

Both public and private sector services are available, and though expats often debate the merits of each, both function efficiently and professionally. The private sector is more expensive than public healthcare, but many are happy to pay the higher price in exchange for shorter waiting times and more comfort. That said, some expats will argue that there isn't a big difference between waiting times in public and private care.

When it comes to health insurance, Singapore has a fairly unique system of universal coverage in which patients are expected to co-pay for most of their medical expenses, but in return they have access to basic, affordable healthcare when it's needed most.

Unfortunately, only expats who are permanent residents or citizens will have access to this care, while those on normal work passes will either need to take out insurance on their own or receive insurance through their employer.


Public healthcare in Singapore

Public hospitals are among the most respected institutions in Singapore. The more esteemed hospitals even receive complicated cases that neighbouring countries aren't equipped to handle.

That said, these facilities mainly cater to locals and to those permanent residence holders who are entitled to subsidised care on the basis of their contributions to a national insurance scheme. Expats with work passes are not privy to these subsidies, and in such cases, there isn't a big difference in price between public and private care.


Private healthcare in Singapore

As mentioned, many expats prefer to use private healthcare in Singapore, as it doesn't cost much more than public facilities, and the service levels are assumed to be better.

There are plenty of private hospitals, medical centres and individual practices in the city-state; expats simply have to decide which one suits their needs and is the most convenient.

It isn't necessary to have health insurance to take advantage of private facilities, and day-to-day healthcare costs can be surprisingly affordable. That said, health insurance is important when it comes to costs associated with more complicated illnesses or an unexpected emergency.


Hospitals in Singapore 

Alexandra Hospital

Website: www.ah.com.sg
Address: 378 Alexandra Road, Singapore 159964

Bright Vision Hospital

Website: www.bvh.org.sg
Address: 5 Lorong Napiri, Singapore 547530

Gleneagles Hospital

Website: www.gleneagles.com.sg
Address: 6A Napier Road, Singapore 258500

Homage

Website: www.homage.sg
Address: 157B Rochor Road, Level 3, Singapore 188432

Mount Elizabeth Hospital

Website: www.mountelizabeth.com.sg
Address: 3 Mount Elizabeth, Singapore 228510


Health insurance in Singapore

Only permanent residents and citizens can take advantage of Medisave, the compulsory state insurance scheme that requires both employees and employers to make monthly contributions in exchange for hospital coverage.

Many companies in Singapore include health insurance in employment packages, though, and if the subject is not broached during contract negotiation, expats should enquire.

Both local and international insurance companies operate in Singapore, and there are numerous plans and types of coverage available. Costs vary tremendously, and expats will need to evaluate each package to find the best fit for them.


Pharmacies in Singapore

Prescription and over-the-counter medications are available from supermarkets, department stores, shopping centres and chemists right across Singapore. Imported medicines are expensive but cheaper generic equivalents are widely available.

Expats should note that some drugs that can be bought over the counter in other countries may require a prescription in Singapore, and vice versa.


Health risks in Singapore

The two biggest health concerns for expats are likely to be sunburn and dehydration. The wall of heat and humidity that greets newly arrived expats when they first step out of the air-conditioned confines of the airport is hard to anticipate. Staying well hydrated and using sunblock is vital for defending against the year-round hot climate.


Emergency services in Singapore

The national police number in Singapore is 999, while 995 is the number to dial for fire and ambulance emergency services. Ambulances are generally very well equipped and patients will be transported to the nearest government hospital. Ambulance staff are trained in trauma and life support.

Expats can also choose to use the ambulance services of a private hospital of their choice, but in this instance, they'll need to obtain the relevant emergency number from the chosen hospital.

Education and Schools in Singapore

Expats moving with family will understandably be concerned about making arrangements for their children's education and schooling in Singapore. There are options for public, private and international schools in the city-state. Parents should carefully weigh the pros and cons of each before deciding on where to enrol their children.

It's important to note that locals place a high premium on education, and expectations for achievement can be high.

The school year is generally divided into two or three terms, depending on the school.


Public and private schools in Singapore

The primary medium of instruction in Singapore is English. This applies throughout the city-state's public and private schools. However, most schools are oversubscribed. The best schools have long waiting lists and preference is given to citizens – even permanent residents will find that spots are given to Singaporeans before they are granted to foreigners.

On the upside, local schools are far more affordable than international schools. Parents who anticipate living in Singapore for the long-term may prefer the immersion of this option but should prepare themselves and their children for the nuances of the local curriculum.

Local students are highly competitive and shoulder immense pressure to succeed. Some parents also feel that the local curriculum places too much emphasis on rote learning and does not teach students to think critically.

Foreign children can end up feeling isolated as they struggle to assimilate culturally, and even teachers who use English as their primary teaching language might, in some cases, be far from fluent.

Corporal punishment is legal and encouraged by the government for disciplinary purposes, though it may only be used on boys. Nevertheless, many Westerners have trouble adapting to this system of discipline.


International schools in Singapore

There is a large expat population in Singapore. It follows that plenty of international schools have sprung up to service the foreign community. Overall, international schools in Singapore have a good reputation, though some are generally regarded as having higher standards and more challenging curricula than others.

Many of Singapore's international schools follow the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, while others offer the curriculum of their country of origin. Some expats choose to enrol their children in the latter simply because it means that the school holidays align with home-country holidays.

Another factor that greatly affects school choice is availability, as popular schools often have extensive waiting lists. Others might not have waiting lists at all and are a good option for enrolment while waiting for a spot to open up at a more prestigious institution. Although these intermediary schools are accepted as offering a good standard of education, the high turnover can unsettle students and disrupt the learning environment.

International schools in Singapore are expensive. However, many expats are lucky enough to have their employers supplement their school fees. Those moving to pursue an assignment abroad should try to negotiate an allowance into their contract if one isn't initially included.


Tutors in Singapore

With high academic achievement being prized in Singapore, it makes sense that the use of tutors is widespread. Local parents often use tutors to ensure their children are among the top in their class. Expat parents may find tutors useful to assist with issues such as filling the gaps between children's old and new curricula. Tutors can also help children learn the local language faster and/or maintain fluency in their mother tongue.

Tutoring is a flourishing industry in Singapore and can be pricey due to high demand. Expats can either go through a tutoring company – such as SmileTutor, ChampionTutor or TopTutor – or they can work directly with a private tutor.


Special needs education in Singapore

The Singaporean Ministry of Education (MOE) has programmes in place that make provision for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN). Children with milder conditions and who have adequate cognitive and adaptive abilities are typically put into mainstream schools with additional support, while those whose conditions require more individualised attention are placed in Special Education (SPED) schools.

Parents are able to make their own choice regarding which of these would be the best option for their child, though it is recommended that children with moderate to severe SEN enrol in a SPED school. Families opting for SPED schools will be assisted by the Multi-Agency Advisory Panel. This panel is made up of education and healthcare professionals who can advise on which specific school will best be able to meet the needs of the child.

In international and private schools, there may or may not be provision for SEN children. Some schools don't offer any support for these kinds of needs while others only offer support for mild SEN. Each school has their own policy and individual schools should be consulted about their ability to cater to any particular needs.

Nurseries and Kindergartens in Singapore

Expat parents with children too young to start primary school will find plenty of options for nursery schools in Singapore, including Montessori pre-schools. Some popular nurseries cost almost as much as regular school and can have long waiting lists, so be sure to enquire early.

Most schools allow parents to choose how many days of the week their child will attend school, allow early drop-offs, provide lunches, or have optional afternoon programmes for working parents. Always check these specifics with individual schools.

Here are some recommended nursery schools in Singapore.


Nursery schools in Singapore

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One World International School

One World International School’s East Coast Campus was designed specifically for the Early Years Programme. Part of the English National Curriculum, the Early Years Programme caters for children aged 3 to 6. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 3 to 6

Rain Trees Kindergarten

Rain Trees Kindergarten offers a safe, creative environment and aims to prepare children for admission to an international primary school. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 2 to 6

Rosemount Kindergarten

Opened in 1999, Rosemount specialises in early childhood development and is one of the most respected schools for young children in Singapore. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 2 to 7

Blue House International Preschool

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 1.5 to 6 years
Website: www.bluehouseinternational.com

Chatsworth Kindergarten

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 2 to 6
Website: www.chatsworth.com.sg

Claymore Preschool

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 1.5 to 6 years
Website: www.etonhouse.com.sg/school/claymore

International Schools in Singapore

Expat parents looking for the best international school for their child will find that there are loads of excellent options in Singapore. There is a wide choice of international curriculums on offer, including British, American, French, Swiss, Indian and the International Baccalaureate, making for an easy transition to and from other schools worldwide. Many international schools in Singapore offer bilingual instruction.

A large portion of the student body at international schools tends to be the same nationality as the school's country of origin. The rest of the school's population is typically made up of dozens of nationalities, so expat children can experience a mix of familiar surroundings and exposure to other cultures.

Spaces at the best schools are limited, and it's well worth applying early to secure a place. As well as offering a first-rate education, the best international schools will also offer a wide range of facilities and extra-curricular activities, bus services and healthy lunches.

Below is a list of recommended international schools in Singapore.


International schools in Singapore

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Canadian International School

Canadian International School (CIS) opened its doors in 1990 and has since grown to be a respected, state-of-the-art Canadian-curriculum school for 3,000 pupils, spread over two campuses. While the primary language of instruction is English, Canadian International School also has Chinese/English and French/English bilingual programmes available.

The Lakeside Campus is from Pre-K to Grade 12, while Tanjong Katong is from Early Years to Grade 6. The Lakeside Campus combines state-of-the-art classrooms with high-quality music and science labs, a 500-seat theatre and numerous outdoor spaces, including an Olympic-length swimming pool, and sports fields. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate and Canadian
Ages: 2 to 18

Chatsworth International School

Chatsworth International School is a diverse, internationally minded school that caters to students from Kindergarten to Year 13. Established in 1995, the Chatsworth mission to inspire, educate and enlighten forms the core pillars and education philosophy.

The Bukit Tamah Campus is located just next to the Nature Reserve offering plenty of green open space for the children. The campus is equipped with wide-ranging facilities that meet all students' learning needs and interests. The conveniently located Orchard Campus has been converted to a primary school for students from Kindergarten through Year 6 (Grade 5). Read more

GenderCo-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

GEMS World Academy (Singapore)

GEMS World Academy (Singapore) aims to cater for all dimensions of your child’s intellectual, social and physical well-being while also fostering their individual talents. The school provides children with not only the academic foundations they need, but also the skill sets required to be effective and adaptable in their future life.

The world-class facilities this international school provide a rich environment for stimulating young minds. Approaches to teaching and learning are enhanced by the exceptional sports, arts and technology resources. The school is part of GEMS Education, an international company with schools and education services in 14 countries. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate and Cambridge IGCSE
Age: 2 to 18

German European School Singapore

Founded in 1971, German European School Singapore has grown from being a modest German school to an international school serving students of over 65 nationalities. The school offers two curricula, the German Abitur or the English-speaking International Baccalaureate (IB) programme.

A new purpose-built campus houses the Pre-School, Primary School and Secondary School. The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is virtually on the school's doorstep, offering students ample opportunities to learn outdoors and see lessons come alive in the natural environment. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate and German
Ages: 1.5 to 18

Global Indian International School

Global Indian International School (GIIS) is a complete international school that offers the choice of various international curricula from Kindergarten to Grade 12. 

GIIS aims to shape students into well-developed global citizens. It offers a well-designed educational framework and state-of-the-art facilities to hone the skills of the students beyond academics and give them an extra edge as they grow up to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Montessori, International Baccalaureate, Cambridge Lower Secondary and IGCSE, and CBSE
Ages: 2.5 to 18

Integrated International School

Nestled in the west of Singapore, Integrated International School (IIS) provides its students the personalised attention and support they need while challenging them academically with an Australian-based curriculum. The school offers both a Mainstream and Support approach in an inclusive setting.

IIS has very small class sizes (around 10 students per class) and an enviable teacher to student ratio. Students are encouraged to think outside of the box, believe in themselves, take risks and enjoy themselves. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Australian
Ages: 1.5 to 18

ISS International School

This dedicated IB World School in central Singapore has over 50 nationalities represented in its student body of 600 pupils and is spread across two campuses. ISS is the only school in Singapore to completely specialise in and follow the entire International Baccalaureate curriculum from the Early Years to Grade 12. 

The extra-curricular programme at ISS includes a strong community service component and a wide range of activities from archery to martial arts. The school aims to nurture children to accept and thrive in a highly diverse environment, mirroring what they will expect as they progress on their journey from school, to university to the workforce. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 4 to 18

Lycée Français de Singapour

This popular school was established in 1967. The Lycée Français de Singapour (French School of Singapore) follows two streams – French with English as a second language, and a French and English bilingual programme – and is supervised by the French Foreign Ministry. Sports

facilities are good and there is a range of extra-curricular sports and cultural activities on offer. A number of donations from French companies enabled the school to move to a large, modern campus in Ang Mo Kio in the 1990s, and the school more recently opened a second campus in Serangoon for Kindergarten and Primary school. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: French
Ages: 2 to 18

Nexus International School Singapore

Nexus International School Singapore opened its doors in 2007 and now has a capacity for 1,200 students. The excellent co-curricular programmes and field trips throughout the year, as well as the school's international student exchange programme, enhance the atmosphere of mutual cultural respect.

Students in Grade 9 and 10 follow the University of Cambridge curriculum leading to the Cambridge IGCSE examinations. In Year 12 and 13, they prepare for the IB Diploma examinations. The school is in central Singapore, easily accessible from most areas. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate and Cambridge IGCSE
Ages: 3 to 18

One World International School

One World International School offers high-quality international education in a nurturing multi-cultural environment at a moderate fee point. There is a diverse range of nationalities represented in the school, which aims to promote an understanding of different perspectives, cultures and global awareness.

One World International School's brand new campus in Nanyang is well equipped with excellent facilities. The East Coast campus is for children from three to six years of age. The school is one of the fastest-growing international schools in Singapore; it now has more than 1,300 students enabling it to offer a wide range of subjects and extra-curricular opportunities. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate and Cambridge IGCSE
Ages: 3 to 18

Singapore American School

The Singapore American School was established by expat parents in 1956 to meet the needs of the growing expat community. Today the school is an excellent non-profit American-curriculum school from pre-Kindergarten up to Grade 12.

The school's 36-acre campus makes it one of the largest single-campus international schools in the world, with almost 4,000 students from 50 countries, although the majority are American. It is renowned for its excellent academic, sporting and cultural achievements, and students consistently outperform their peers in the US education system. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American
Ages: 3 to 18

St Joseph's Institution International

A diverse school with 1,800 students of 40 different nationalities, St Joseph's Institution International has a strong Lasallian Catholic background. The school welcomes children from Christian families as well as those of other faiths. Thanks to its excellent academic programme and high-quality pastoral care, St Joseph's is held in high regard across Singapore. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Primary Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 4 to 18

Stamford American International School

A multi-cultural school in Upper Serangoon Road, this school has 2,500 pupils. Around half are from North America, and the remainder is made up of 40 other nationalities. The Stamford American International School is set on a brand new, custom-built campus with excellent facilities. Stamford employs a holistic approach to educating children through a combination of American and international curricula. The campus is in central Singapore, only a 10- to 15-minute drive from the suburbs most popular with expat families. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 18 months to 18 years

Swiss School in Singapore

This small, family-oriented school teaches in both German and English. With creativity, innovation and highly qualified teachers, Swiss School in Singapore not only supports and challenges students’ cognitive skills but also their independence, self-confidence and self-responsibility. 

The schools is situated on the top of the Bukit Tinggi hill, surrounded by Singapore’s rainforest flora and fauna. It offers ample space for playing and sports while preparing children for life with a holistic, primary education foundation. The school's Secondary I level programme is affiliated with United World College of South East Asia (UWCSEA), where students can obtain the IB Diploma. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Swiss
Ages: 2 to 12

Tanglin Trust School

Considered one of the best international schools in the world, Tanglin opened in 1925 and has a student body of over 2,700. Assessed by the British Schools Overseas (BSO) framework, all three schools (Infant, Junior and Senior) have been awarded ‘outstanding’, the highest grade possible. 

As the only school in Singapore to offer both A-Levels and IB in Sixth Form, all the school's Sixth Formers study a programme that is tailored both to the subjects they are passionate about and to the style of learning that most suits them, ensuring they thrive and flourish. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate, National Curriculum for England, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 3 to 18

United World College of South East Asia (UWCSEA)

UWCSEA is a favourite with expat parents for its stellar reputation, high academic, sporting and community involvement standards and excellent facilities. Students study the IGCSE syllabus in Grades 9 and 10 and the IB Diploma in Grades 11 and 12. The school has two campuses, with around 3,000 students at the Dover Campus and 2,500 at the East Campus. There are more than 300 boarders. The school is represented by over 200 sporting teams and has an extensive extra-curricular programme including a variety of sports, arts and cultural activities. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate and Cambridge IGCSE
Ages: 4 to 18

Lifestyle in Singapore

It’s certainly possible to live a luxurious lifestyle in Singapore, especially for those lured to the buzzing city-state by a lucrative expat package. It's well known that the day-to-day cost of living in the "Little Red Dot" can get pretty expensive, but even those expats who don't draw a top-tier salary will still find they can enjoy a high quality of life in Singapore.

There's something for everyone (and every budget) when it comes to having a good time, and expats moving to the city-state should have no problem filling their boots with fun things to do in their spare time.

Conspicuous consumption in the form of shopping and eating is a Singapore norm, and firmly features in both local and expat lifestyles – so new arrivals in the city should prepare to engage in both of these popular pastimes – and budget accordingly.

Otherwise, much time is devoted to the pursuit of life outdoors, despite the heat. On weekends, parks and trails heave with bike riders, joggers and those simply enjoying a stroll.

Expats should keep in mind, though, that Singapore has a 'work hard, play hard' culture, in every sense of the expression. So while the lifestyle can feel indulgent at times, it’s likely to be well-earned.


Shopping in Singapore

From luxury boutiques and modern malls to streetside flea markets, expats will find that the options for shopping in Singapore are almost endless – whatever their budget.

Both locals and expats in Singapore love to shop, and there is no shortage of aisles to cruise in this city-state. Orchard Road and The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands are particularly known for having high-end designer stores such as Chanel and Prada.


Nightlife in Singapore

Even with the high price of alcohol in Singapore, the bar and club scene is impressive and is particularly popular among expats. People sometimes start their night as early as directly after work, a prime time to take advantage of happy-hour prices.

Watering holes along Clarke Quay are often loud and popular with tourists, while bars in the city centre cater to the after-work crowd, some of which have live music for entertainment. For a more scenic night out, head to one of the rooftop bars or any of the many spots dotting the marina. 


Eating out in Singapore

As mentioned, food and frequenting lavish restaurants are a big part of Singaporean culture, and there are numerous exciting eateries and food stalls to choose from. From a bowl of noodles at a hawker centre to a tasting menu at a celebrity restaurant, foodie expats will have a great time exploring the city's food scene, which boasts just about every type of cuisine imaginable.

Restaurant reviews and recommendations are easy to come by online, and magazines are also a valuable source when looking for the latest hotspots and trends in the culinary scene. Local food bloggers can be helpful too.


Regional travel from Singapore 

Escaping the non-stop bustle of Singapore for some R&R is easy, affordable and quick, and expats should make use of the country's central location and efficient airports whenever they can to break free from the city-state's relentless hum and preserve their sanity.

One way to find out about last-minute travel deals is by subscribing to local discount-deal sites. Singapore also hosts a few travel fairs each year which provide ideas for planning a trip. But connecting with fellow expats and locals and planning a weekend getaway based on their recommendations is a good route too. 


Family life in Singapore

Expat families living in Singapore will, of course, have a different lifestyle to carefree singles or career-driven power couples in the city-state. The good news is, there is no shortage of family-friendly activities in Singapore to keep everyone occupied, and the overwhelming amount of greenery in the form of playgrounds and parks, makes for affordable entertainment.

There's the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park for starters. Universal Studios Singapore is another great place to take the kids for the day, and the Singapore Botanic Gardens is perfect for a picnic. For some social interaction, sign the kids up with a playgroup or a sports team, or check the neighbourhood's community centre for activities in the local area.

Clubs and Societies in Singapore

Expats from all over the world live in Singapore, and there are plenty of organisations and clubs to help bring them together. New arrivals in Singapore can expect to live a busy social life, although many activities come at a price in this expensive city.

However, there are still various options available to expats looking for sports, social, cultural and recreational clubs in Singapore. There are also societies organised by nationality and families are well catered for, and for many expats these social groups become a sort of home away from home. 


Club membership in Singapore

On the surface, Singapore may seem very similar to the West. But there is still some culture shock for expats to overcome, and belonging to a club or society can ease the transition.

Here is a list of some of the most popular clubs in Singapore.

American Women's Association of Singapore

www.awasingapore.org
Address: 15 Scotts Rd, Singapore 228218
Tel: +65 6734 4895

Open to women of all nationalities, AWA is a volunteer-run social organisation whose mission is to bring together women with common interests through activities and events. It organises social and special interest activities and events as well as sports and tours. 

American Association of Singapore 

www.aasingapore.com
Address: 15 Scotts Rd, Singapore 228218
Tel: +65 6738 0371

As the oldest American organisation in Singapore, AAS is focused on enhancing the experience of expats and other community members by bringing them together through social events and activities. Each month it publishes the Singapore American, a community newspaper reporting on travel, food and dining, and events in the city.

The Australian and New Zealand Association

www.anza.org.sg
Address: 47A Kampong Bahru Road, Singapore 169361
Tel: +65 6223 7992

ANZA offers support to its members by hosting events and exercising social responsibility. ANZA Action, the charity arm of ANZA, supports a number of charities. Activities include monthly members' nights, tours around Singapore, casual coffee mornings and volunteering opportunities.

The British Association of Singapore

www.britishassociation.org.sg
Address: Tanglin Shopping Centre, 19 Tanglin Road, Singapore 247909
Tel: +65 6339 8229

Members of the BA can enjoy access to various activities and special-interest groups. There are also opportunities to take part in fundraising and volunteering for local charities.

PrimeTime

www.primetime.org.sg
Address: 96 Waterloo St, Singapore 187967
Tel: +65 6234 0973

Established in 1997, the PrimeTime community is a network for women interested in expanding their professional and social circles. This active club offers a variety of activities, including speakers, discussion groups, community outreach opportunities and social gatherings.

Singapore International Foundation 

www.sif.org.sg
Address: 60A Orchard Road, Singapore 238890
Tel: +65 6837 8700

This non-profit organisation focuses on building relationships between expats and local Singaporeans through dialogue and exchange programmes. From sending volunteers into developing communities to effect positive change, to enriching lives through events and showcases, SIF's ultimate mission is to build a better world.

The Singapore Recreation Club

www.src.org.sg
Address: B Connaught Drive, Singapore 179682
Tel: +65 6338 9367

Founded in 1883, the SRC is one of Singapore's oldest social clubs and has a strong sporting tradition. Members have access to various facilities and activities, as well as to the guest rooms and exclusive events.

The Tanglin Club

www.tanglinclub.org.sg
Address: 5 Stevens Road, Singapore 257814
Tel: +65 6622 0555

Another of Singapore's oldest social clubs, The Tanglin's facilities include four restaurants and bars, function rooms, several libraries, a hair salon, a playroom and a jackpot room.

See and Do in Singapore

Established as a British trading colony in 1819, modern-day Singapore is one of the world's most prosperous countries and boasts the world's busiest port, so it goes without saying that there are loads to see and do in the city-state.

Combining the towering skyscrapers of a growing modern city with a medley of ancient Chinese, Malay and Indian influences, and a tropical climate with tasty food, good shopping and vibrant nightlife, Singapore has plenty to offer expats from all walks of life.

Here are some of the best things to see and do in Singapore.


Recommended attractions in Singapore

Marina Bay Sands

This lavish resort complex is home to an opulent hotel, an ArtScience Museum, a mall, and the Marina Bay Sands Skypark Observation Deck, which not only has a viewing deck with breathtaking vistas of the whole of Singapore, but also an exhilarating infinity pool. Hungry guests can also sit down at the rooftop restaurant.

Sentosa Island

For a bit of fun in the sun head to Sentosa Island. Catch some rays on Siloso Beach, play a round of volleyball or get in a bit of kayaking. The island also boasts an Underwater World aquarium where you can swim with dolphins. And don’t miss out on the Merlion, the famous statue with the head of a lion and body of a fish, from which one can enjoy panoramic views of the area. Also check out the Wave House, where you can strap on a wave-propelled jet pack.

Gardens by the Bay

This large, beautiful park area of Singapore stretches over 101 hectares, boasting an impressive skywalk over lush gardens, greenhouses which recreate chilly mountain climates, as well as several themed areas for visitors to explore.

The Singapore Flyer

Said to be one of the world’s largest observation wheels, the Singapore Flyover offers expats an exciting one-of-a-kind panoramic view over the city. The ‘flight’ lasts 30 minutes, and sights to look out for include the Singapore River, Marina Bay, Raffles Place, Empress Place and the Padang.

Singapore River

Every new arrival should try to take a short cruise down the Singapore River, which cuts through the heart of the city. For many decades, it was the main artery of trade and commerce for the British – today, stately Victorian buildings stand side by side with towering glass skyscrapers along its banks.

Singapore Zoo

Kids, in particular, will enjoy a walkabout of Singapore Zoo, which is home to more than 300 animal species from across the world housed on 28 hectares. There are also opportunities to get up close and personal with the zoo's denizens at feeding time.

Universal Studios Singapore

Expats families looking for a fun outing in Singapore should pay a visit to Universal Studios Singapore. The park is arranged according to themes, each area paying tribute to a location, film or television show. Take a visual trip to destinations such as Hollywood, New York City, Madagascar, and a trip back in time to Ancient Egypt. Fiction-themed areas include Shrek's Far Far Away, Lost World, and Sci-Fi City, complete with movie-themed roller coasters.

The Maritime Experiential Museum

Based on the water, this indoor-outdoor museum is a fun way to explore Singapore’s maritime history. Among the exciting interactive exhibits, the highlight is probably the Jewel of Muscat, a replica of the sailing vessel that sank in 830 CE between Africa and China. Visitors can experience a 9th-century shipwreck at Typhoon Theater, learn navigation skills and marvel at huge models of trading ships.

What's On in Singapore

There is always something going on in Singapore, from dazzling cultural celebrations and food festivals to thrilling street races and sporting highlights. Festivals in Singapore will appeal to expats of all ages and interests.

Here's a small selection of the most popular happenings on Singapore's events calendar.


Annual events in Singapore

Chinese New Year (January/February)

Celebrations in Singapore usually start long before the actual festival. Locals buy gifts and decorate their homes in advance. Festivities include parades and lion dances as the streets of Singapore’s Chinatown come alive with the sound of traditional music.

World Gourmet Summit (April)

Hailed by some as Singapore's best food event, this annual celebration of the culinary arts draws renowned chefs from all over the world. Apart from attending masterclasses held by these experts, attendees can also partake in a charity dinner with cuisine by a participating master chef.

Singapore Art Festival (May)

One for the culture buffs, this massive art festival comes around every May and hosts a range of art installations, theatre productions, film screenings, ensembles, music performances, street performers, dances and more. Attendees could even try their hand at a painting competition.

Hari Raya (May)

Another highly popular institution, this festival is the local version of Eid which is celebrated after the month-long fasting of Ramadan. Singapore’s muslims dress to the nines and start the day at prayer at their mosque, and spend the rest of it revelling in the city’s colourful streets, enjoying the city’s festive mood and indulging in all sorts of mouthwatering delicacies. The decorated bazaar at the Sultan Mosque is a highlight.

Great Singapore Sale (June to August)

Every year, for eight weeks, expats can indulge their shopping habits with great deals on just about everything, everywhere – from fashion to watches, jewellery, electronics and more, all over Singapore.

Dragon Boat Festival (June/July)

Dragon boat racing is celebrated across Southeast Asia. Expats living in Singapore can join in on the festive buzz as teams race their highly decorated traditional boats, with leaders beating their drums and waving their flags, while spectators cheer on their favourites.

Singapore Food Festival (July)

Another one for the foodies, the Singapore Food Festival is organised by the Singapore Tourism Board, and is certainly not to miss. Attendees are treated to all kinds of delicious local and international cuisines, food competitions, workshops and themed celebrations. 

Singapore Night Festival (August)

Each year, various parts of Singapore are lit up in a dazzling display defined by the year's theme. An array of events is included, such as late-night museum openings and street performances by local and international artists.

Singapore Grand Prix (September)

Each year, this legendary Formula One World Championship motor race takes place on roads around Marina Bay. Held at night to avoid Singapore's typically hot, humid weather, the circuit utilises powerful lighting systems to replicate daylight conditions and the most stringent safety protocols are adhered to in order to ensure driver- and spectator safety. 

Mid-Autumn Festival (October)

Also known as the Lantern festival, Mid-Autumn festival is enjoyed by locals and expats alike. It celebrates the legend of Chang Er – the lady who floated to the moon after swallowing the elixir of eternal life and now resides there. Attractions include traditional dances, performing arts groups, food stalls and, of course, intricately decorated lanterns of all shapes, sizes and colours.

Transport and Driving in Singapore

Thanks to good roads and a well-integrated transport system, getting around Singapore is generally stress-free.

The city-state is pedestrian-friendly, most streets have paved sidewalks, and crossing even the busiest of roads is easy to do via overhead bridges, underpasses and crosswalks.

Walking's not for everyone though, and even those who like legging it might be deterred by Singapore's heat, humidity and monsoon showers. Some expats therefore prefer to drive, even though it's not strictly necessary to own a vehicle in Singapore, as the public transport system includes several excellent options. 

Between bus routes and Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) lines, commuters can get just about anywhere they need to go, and cabs and ride-hailing services are abundant and inexpensive.


Public transport in Singapore

Expats who plan on using public transport regularly should consider buying a rechargeable EZ-Link card, which can be used on public buses, train services, taxis and a number of other services throughout Singapore. 

MRT

The MRT in Singapore is clean and air-conditioned, and serves more than 100 stations throughout the city-state. MRT trains typically run from 5.30am to midnight, arriving every two to three minutes during peak times and every five to seven minutes during off-peak periods.

LRT

The Light Rail Transit (LRT) system was mostly designed as a complement to the already extensive MRT system, providing further-out areas with a link to the MRT.

Buses 

More than 300 bus services run throughout Singapore, operating from about 5.30am to midnight. These routes tend to go further into the residential areas than the MRT lines, and residents often use them to connect to an MRT station. Services are provided by one of four bus companies: SBS Transit, SMRT Buses, Tower Transit Singapore or Go-Ahead Singapore.


Taxis in Singapore 

Taxis are a comfortable and convenient way to get around Singapore, and are also a relatively cheap way to travel. Most cabs have a light on their roof, with red indicating that the cab is occupied and green meaning it's available. 

Those looking for a ride should head to the closest taxi queue to wait for a cab. These are often located near busy areas, such as shopping areas or hawker centres. If there isn't a queue, simply stand along the curb and flag the next available cab down by waving at it. Another way to book a taxi is to call one of several taxi companies, or book one online. It's a good idea to keep a few cab company numbers and websites on hand.

Ride-hailing services also abound in the city-state. Expats can simply download one of several apps – Grab, Gojek, RYDE and TADA all operate in Singapore – follow the steps, connect a bank card, and order their ride.


Cycling in Singapore

Cycling in Singapore is increasing in popularity but there are few bike lanes and not all drivers are considerate. The government has pledged dedication to improving cycling infrastructure by adding new cycle paths and overhead crossings, as well as providing more secure bicycle-parking facilities.

There are two options for cyclists who would rather avoid the roads: riding on the sidewalk or using the Park Connector Network (PCN). Riding a bike on sidewalks is common, but expats are advised to use a bell to alert pedestrians of their presence. 

The PCN is a series of wide walkways for pedestrians and cyclists which link public parks together. These cut behind neighbourhoods, along waterways and sometimes connect with major roads and MRT lines too. PCN routes are scenic and sometimes faster than using roads. 


Driving in Singapore

Owning a car in Singapore usually isn't necessary. Public transportation is extensive, efficient and affordable. But some expats do prefer buying or leasing a car or motorcycle for the freedom that a vehicle affords them.

Whether leasing or buying, drivers will have to pay for a Certificate of Entitlement (COE), which allows an individual to own a car in Singapore for 10 years. The system was created to try and limit the number of cars on the road, and the price of a COE depends, in part, on the current demand for COEs.

Other costs are involved too. Parking is almost never free, insurance prices are high and road tolls quickly add up. Expats who want to import a car will also have to contend with registration fees and customs taxes.

Keeping in Touch in Singapore

Expats will have no problem keeping in touch in Singapore. Landline and mobile phone networks, internet and postal services are all of a high standard. English television channels and online news sites are also readily accessible. 

The three main providers of phone and internet services in Singapore are StarHub, Singtel and M1; expats should compare the pricing of their available options before making a decision of which service provider to go with.


Landlines and mobile phones in Singapore

While old-fashioned copper phonelines are still functional, most of Singapore's telecoms companies provide digital home-phones that use broadband lines instead. This is a much cheaper alternative, especially for international calls. Expats can apply online for a phone line, call service providers directly or visit one of their retail outlets.

For communication on the go, Singapore has one of the world's highest rates of mobile phone ownership and coverage is extremely good. Both prepaid and post-paid services are readily available at reasonable rates.


Internet in Singapore

Internet in Singapore is very fast, with wireless, ADSL and fibre options available. Most packages come with a contract ranging between six and 24 months, and breaking it will result in penalties.

WiFi is readily available at places around Singapore, as are internet cafés.


Censorship in Singapore

The Media Development Authority (MDA) regulates and ensures local print media, radio, television and internet adhere to the law. A number of websites are blocked, and when this is the case visitors are usually greeted by an MDA message alerting them that the site is forbidden. Although the MDA does monitor foreign content, expats shouldn't have any problem accessing international news sites and social media.


Postal services in Singapore

Mail services in Singapore are provided by Singapore Post (SP), which is a subsidiary of Singtel. Local mail usually takes one to two days, and international mail depends on the destination. Additionally, there are a number of courier companies independent of SP that deliver both locally and internationally. Some of these also double up as delivery services for heavy shipments. 


English-language media in Singapore

There is plenty of English language media in Singapore, including print and broadcast. Mediacorp, a state-owned free-to-air network, offers a variety of channels in English and Malay. Paid services include StarHub and Singtel cable TV.

English books are readily available at all big bookstores. There are also a number of local English newspapers. Additionally, many international newspapers and magazines are available from newsstands. 

Shipping and Removals in Singapore

Singapore has one of the world’s finest and busiest harbours, which is well equipped to handle both personal and professional shipments efficiently and effectively.

That said, prior to packing up their home and shipping it to Singapore, either by sea or by air, expats should take some time to decide if this is a necessity. A good deal of furnished accommodation is available in Singapore, and the city-state claims a consumer society, so it's easy to buy whatever one needs at very competitive prices.

What’s more, given the transient nature of the expat community, there’s plenty of opportunity to procure used goods in great condition from those repatriating to their country of origin.

It’s cheaper to ship by sea, though it does take longer. Time associated with shipments varies according to the destination from which goods are being shipped.

It’s recommended that expats employ the services of a professional shipping company, as these organisations are familiar with the logistics involved in the shipping process and can advise in regard to documentation and duties.


Importing household goods to Singapore

Those expats shipping their household goods to Singapore can do so duty-free; that said, cars, liquor and tobacco are subject to a Goods and Services Tax (GST).

In order to ship items duty-free, certain criteria must be met, such as:

  • The goods being shipped have been owned for more than three months

  • They are being shipped to Singapore by air or by sea, not by road

  • The goods are shipped within six months of one's first arrival in Singapore

To be successfully exempt from import duties it’s necessary to submit the required forms and documents ahead of time.

Frequently Asked Questions about Singapore

While moving to this dynamic city-state is certainly exciting, expats are sure to have a few questions and queries about their new home. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Singapore.

What can I expect from Singaporean culture?

Singapore is a multicultural society comprised of Malay, Chinese and Indian ethnicities. It is important to learn more about the specific traditions associated with each culture, particularly in a society in which religious tolerance is essential. Throughout the year, all the major religions find their expression in the celebration of major festivals. Thanks to Singapore's modern infrastructure, Western expats are unlikely to experience too much culture shock.

Is Singapore safe?

Safety in Singapore is not a major concern for expats. Crime is low and Singaporean laws are strict and well-enforced. Most of the crime that occurs in Singapore is opportunistic. Nevertheless, expats should be careful and exercise the same safety precautions they would elsewhere.

What languages are spoken?

There are four official languages: Mandarin, Malay, Tamil and English. English is the most common language and is the medium of instruction in school and the common language of business. Most Singaporeans, however, use Singlish to communicate with one another. Singlish is a mix of English and other languages and has evolved over the years as a direct result of the crossover of cultures in this vibrant city. 

Where can I meet fellow expats?

There is little reason to feel too homesick in this cosmopolitan city, as there are many expat clubs and associations catering to Singapore’s large expat network. Many of these venues offer recreational facilities and celebrate the traditions from back home. The vibrant lifestyle in Singapore is also conducive to meeting new people and there are plenty of activities to keep busy with. 

Is there a good standard of education in Singapore? Can expat children attend local schools?

The standard of education and schools in Singapore are very high and there are plenty of options available for newly arrived expats. Expats are eligible to send their children to public schools; however, the adjustment is often difficult for foreign children and teaching methods are very different to those used in Western countries. Most expats, therefore, opt to send their children to private or international schools in Singapore, of which there are many.

Articles about Singapore

Banking, Money and Taxes in Singapore

One of the world’s major financial centres, Singapore gives expats access to leading banking systems with dozens of local and foreign banking and financial institutions present in the city-state.

Needless to say, expats will find a full spectrum of services, from consumer banking, asset management and foreign exchange to dedicated insurance services and investment banking in Singapore.


Money in Singapore

The unit of currency is the Singapore dollar, abbreviated as SGD. One dollar is divided into 100 cents.

  • Notes: 2 SGD, 5 SGD, 10 SGD, 20 SGD, 25 SGD, 50 SGD, 100 SGD, 1,000 SGD and 10,000 SGD

  • Coins: 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents and 1 SGD.


Banking in Singapore

With so many foreign and local banks in Singapore, expats will certainly not be at a loss for a reputable service provider. It's important to consider the services offered, location and the ATM network available when choosing a bank. 

Opening a bank account 

It's  easy to open a bank account in Singapore, and the process can be completed in a single day. English is the primary administrative and professional language in Singapore, so expats are unlikely to face a language barrier when it comes to managing money. 

Documentation requirements will vary from bank to bank but expats will likely need a copy of their passport, employment pass and a minimum deposit amount to open an account.

ATMs

ATMs abound in Singapore, most of which accept international cards. ATM fees at local banks tend to cost less than their international counterparts.

Credit cards

Credit cards are widely accepted, though expats should be advised that international cards tend to incur high transaction costs.


Taxes in Singapore

All expats working in Singapore are liable to pay income tax, though the specifics will depend on their tax residency status.

Expats are considered tax residents in Singapore if their period of stay is equivalent to or more than 183 days in a year, or if they have Singapore Permanent Residency (SPR). Non-residents are taxed at either a flat rate of 15 percent or at the same rate as a tax resident in their position would be taxed – whichever is higher. Residents are taxed progressively between zero and 22 percent based on their income bracket and are eligible to apply for various tax reliefs.

Expat Experiences in Singapore

When considering a move to a new city, there is nothing more useful than hearing real life stories from other expats who are living there. Enjoy the interviews below and the insight they afford, and please contact us if you live or have lived in Singapore and would like to share your experience.


Scott already had some expat experience having lived in the UK and Australia but, after travelling to Asia, he was eager to explore that side of the world more and moved to Singapore in early 2015. Scott loves the quality of life in Singapore, the diversity and how clean the environment is. Read more in our expat interview with Scott.

Scott

Ellinore is a Swedish author who made the move to Singapore in 2016 after her boyfriend was offered a job there. Although she misses some Swedish home comforts, she finds Singapore an exciting place to live with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore. Read more about her expat life in Singapore.

Originally from the Philippines, Honey moved to Singapore in 2012 to pursue a job opportunity. Now happily married with two children, she practises as a family physician while also running a blog about lifestyle in Singapore. Read more about her expat experience in Singapore.

Matt is a South African expat who moved to Singapore in May 2013. After putting up with London’s dreary weather for six and a half years, Matt decided it was time for a change and packed his bags to start a new adventure in the Little Red Dot. Read more about his expat life in Singapore.

Matt - A South African expat living in Singapore

Jarrad Brown is an Australian expat living in Singapore. Originally from Perth, he moved to Singapore to gain international exposure and experience as an investment advisor. Despite having to contend with the humidity and missing family and friends back home, Jarrad is enjoying the superb quality of life in Singapore. Read more about his expat life in Singapore.

Jarrad Brown - An Australian expat living in Singapore

Jasjit is an Australian expat living in Singapore with her husband and two children. She moved to Singapore because of her husband’s job. Although she misses the beautiful beaches of Sydney, Jasjit enjoys the quality of life in Singapore and the fact that there is always something to do, people to meet and great food to enjoy. Read more about her expat experiences in Singapore.

JAsjit - An Australian expat living in Singapore

Leo Reuter arrived in Singapore 24 years ago to build a career in the banking sector. Having previously lived in Buenos Aires, Barcelona and Madrid, Leo is a seasoned expat who didn't have any trouble settling into life on the Little Red Dot. Read more about his experiences of expat life in Singapore.

Having previously lived in Shanghai, JH is a seasoned British expat now living in Singapore. Unlike most expats, she came to the city during the recession and not for a glamorous corporate role. Read her unique take on expat life in Singapore.

Expat life in Singapore

Danielle Bray arrived in Singapore three years ago from her native New York after leaving a large insurance firm when her partner was transferred. She started her own business, Expat Insurance, to provide the kind of professional service she was used to in the US. Read about her experience of living in Singapore.

Bryan Norman co-runs a letting and property agency in Singapore, where he has been living since 2005. He gets a kick out of facilitating property rentals and transactions for expats and helping new arrivals side step the complexity of the Singapore property scene. Read about his expat life in Singapore.