From taking the MRT out into the 'heartlands', to knowing where to go for cheap beer or a bargain foot rub, you don't have to look too hard for an authentic local experience.
When Singaporeans say 'coffeeshop', they aren't referring to a place for cappuccinos, but rather a food court. Peppered throughout the island are these large collections of food stalls under one roof. Many run late into the night, and some are open 24 hours. While the ambience isn't flashy, you'll get a large bottle of Tiger for S$7, alfresco seating and decent food. Each MRT station has a neighbouring coffeeshop. You won't go wrong if you head to Geylang – there's always somewhere to plonk yourself for a beer, grub and hyperactive street life.
- Happy Hour
Travellers bemoan the expensive drinks in Singapore. While it is true that they are, you can still have cheap drinks if you know where and when to go. Most bars offer a happy hour, starting anytime from noon to 9pm. Deals range from 'one-for-one' (two for the price of one) drinks to S$10 cocktails and pints.
- Foot Reflexology
This Chinese form of relaxation involves lying in a chair and letting the masseur knead and press all the pressure points on your feet. In theory, the different bits of your foot are connected to vital organs, and getting the circulation going is good for you. In reality, it can be bloody painful. Most malls have a foot reflexology place. One Chinatown favourite is People's Park Complex, a mall packed with cheap, no-frills reflexology stalls open late.
Given Singapore's work-hard attitude, it's natural that weekend brunch has evolved into such a local passion (not to mention the coolest place to be seen in daylight hours). Any spot worth its hot-spot credentials peddles a dedicated brunch menu – usually a pick of dishes off the standard breakfast and lunch menus. Sessions normally run from 11am to between 3pm and 5pm. The golden rule: if you can't book a table, go early.
Orchard Rd and the CBD area offer plenty for the tourist, but the city's residential neighbourhoods proffer a stronger dose of local culture. Pick any MRT station to stop at and you'll usually emerge in a local mall. Wander away from the mall and you'll see local life in a big way: wet markets, local coffeeshops, tailors, barbers, Chinese medical halls and the like. Lively neighbourhoods include Tampines, Jurong, Bishan, Toa Payoh and Ang Mo Kio.
Bored at 2am? Jump into a taxi and head to the Mustafa Centre in Little India. This popular complex sells everything. Cameras, diamonds, Bollywood DVDs, underwear, toys, spices, food and more.
Singapore on the Cheap
- Stick to eating at hawker centres or food courts.
- If you drink at a bar, go during happy hour (for discounted booze or one-for-one specials).
- To cool off, dive into one of Singapore’s impressive public pools.
- Pack a picnic and spend a day at the beach in East Coast Park or Sentosa.
- Hike in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, around the MacRitchie Reservoir or along the Southern Ridges.