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Living in Singapore

The Cost of Living in Singapore

It is common knowledge that the average cost of living in Singapore is high. For a single person in Singapore, their average expenses (excluding rent) are around 800 SGD (575 USD) per month. For a four-person family this is significantly higher: around 4,400 SGD (3,200 USD) a month.

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There is no question that it is expensive to live in Singapore. From escalating rent prices to some of the most expensive private education in the world, the city-state offers an incredible lifestyle for people who can afford it. Yet, expats will be happy to learn that not all living expenses have a hefty price tag. Eating out and restaurant costs can be reasonable if you eat dishes from local establishments. You can also lower your travel and transportation costs by taking the bus instead of a taxi.

This section explores the cost of living in Singapore by the different districts, detailing the most expensive and cheapest parts of the city. You can find information about utility costs, grocery prices, the cost of education, and healthcare costs.

At a Glance

  • The Central region has the most expensive rent. This area contains the financial and shopping hub of the city, making it pricier to rent in.
  • The North and East regions have the cheapest rent. These greener areas are close to international schools, making them popular with expats who do not mind commuting to work.
  • Education is expensive. Expats in Singapore usually send their children to international schools. This drives up monthly spending, as the city has one of the most expensive education systems in the world.
  • Shop for groceries locally to save money. In this city-state, it is cheaper to cook at home. However, eating at “hawker centers” (food courts housing small local businesses) is a great way to experience local cuisine on a budget.
  • Do not expect to buy a car in Singapore. On top of the market value, additional local fees make purchasing a car very expensive, while public transport is extensive and cheap to use.

How Expensive is it to Live in Singapore?

Singapore is infamous for being one of the most expensive cities to live in the world. In fact, expats on an S Pass (employment visa) need to earn around 6,000 SGD (4,330 USD) per month at a Singapore-registered company to be able to bring their dependents to the city. People who make the move will understand why this is necessary once they begin adding up their monthly costs.

Being such a small city-state, it is hard to differentiate the cost of living in Singapore by region. However, there is a distinctive difference between the most expensive and cheapest areas to live in the city. We look at these costs below.

Is There a Cheaper Way?

One way to make rent more affordable for single expats is to live with roommates or negotiate cheaper rent by accepting a longer lease. It should also be noted that living in housing provided by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) is often cheaper than living in private accommodation, though this is a less common rental option for foreigners. Read our Housing section for more information.

The Most Expensive and Cheapest Regions in Singapore

Singapore is divided into five regions: Central, North, North-East, East, and West. These regions are further subdivided into 28 districts through an old post code (zip code) system. Estate agents and people looking to find properties find it practical to split the city via these districts.

Though the daily cost of living does not change much from district to district, the rental prices vary across different neighborhoods. Expect rent to be cheaper if you live in the outskirts of the city. In particular, the north of the country has many districts that are considered affordable.

For instance, renting a three-bedroom apartment in Orchard Road, Central District, will set you back 7,000 SGD (5,040 USD) per month, on average. For a three-bed apartment in the Woodlands neighborhood, in the North district, will set you back on average 2,600 SGD (1,870 USD) per month.

If you need help searching for your new home before arriving in Singapore, contact InterNations GO! to find out more about our home-finding services.

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Central: The Most Expensive Region in Singapore

The central region in Singapore is the heart of the city, home to districts 1 to 15 (including the CBD, Marina area, and City Hall) as well as number 21 (Central West district). This is the place for expats who do not mind paying higher rent prices for easier access to international schools and major shopping malls.

The most expensive areas to live are known as districts 1 to 10, and include neighborhoods located in the central business district. Popular places to live in the central region include:

  • Holland Village
  • Orchard Road
  • Marina Bay
  • Tanjong Padar

Many businesses are located here. This allows residents to walk to work, or, if Singapore’s weather is too hot, hop in a short taxi ride. These sought-after residences also form part of the main commercial area of Singapore as popular entertainment and tourism districts.

Approximate Monthly Rent in Orchard Road (Private Property)

Studio apartment 4,000 SGD 2,900 USD
Three-bedroom apartment 7,000 SGD 5,040 USD

North: The Least Expensive Region

Largely under-developed and the least populated region in Singapore, the North is very green. The area is close to the causeway linking Singapore and Malaysia and has MTR lines linking it to the center. A lot of redevelopment is planned in the North’s different districts: the North (number 26) and Far North (number 25 and 27).

Woodlands district is particularly popular with American expats, as it is close to the Singapore American School. This is one of the largest international schools in the country.

Approximate Monthly Rent in Woodlands (Private Property)

Studio apartment 1,500 SGD 1,080 USD
Three-bedroom apartment 2,600 SGD 1,870 USD

North-East

Covering districts 19 and 28 (North East) and 20 (Ang Mo Kio), this area is home to a lot of young couples. The government has invested money in the residences of the area to draw families here. It has extensive connections to the Central region and large shopping malls.

Approximate Monthly Rent in Ang Mo Kio (Private Property)

Studio apartment 1,700 SGD 1,220 USD
Three-bedroom apartment 2,700 SGD 1,950 USD

East

Close to the airport, the Eastern districts in Singapore are made up of the Upper East Coast (district number 16), the Far East (number 17), and the town of Tampines (number 18) created by urban planning. A growing business hub, this area is known for having a great range of restaurants from different countries, and access to many parks and outdoor activities. The region is far from the city center, and so benefits from housing that is better value for money.

Approximate Monthly Rent in Tampines (Private Property)

Studio apartment 1,900 SGD 1,370 USD
Three-bedroom apartment 2,450 SGD 1,760 USD

West

The most populous area of Singapore, the West region is known to be industrial. Many offices are based here and people choose to live in the region to reduce their commute. The districts found here are Far West (number 22), North West (number 23), and Far North West (number 24).

Approximate Monthly Rent in Buona Vista (Private Property)

Studio apartment 2,700 SGD 1,950 USD
Three-bedroom apartment 4,000 SGD 2,900 USD

Utility Costs

An island with limited resources, monthly utility bills in Singapore might seem quite high. It might also come as a shock to some Westerners that their bills increase throughout the summer. This is because air conditioning is necessary in a Singaporean summer, adding to electricity costs.

The average monthly utilities bill for an 85 square meter single occupancy apartment is around 200 SGD (145 USD) per month. Having a property with a gas supply should make this bill slightly cheaper: around 160 SGD (115 USD) per month. For a more detailed breakdown of utility costs—and a guide on how to set up your bills—see our Housing section.

Grocery Prices and Eating Out in Singapore

Buying fresh food from the grocery store—or, more likely, a fresh food market—is affordable in Singapore. Imported Western food will always cost more than buying local goods.

Sample Grocery Prices in Singapore

Food Item SGD USD
One dozen eggs 3.00 2.10
One carton of milk 3.00 2.10
500g (one lb) of chicken 4.50 3.20
500g (one lb) of apples 2.00 1.40
One bottle of beer 12.00 8.40
One bottle of wine 30.00 21.00

Eating in usually costs less than dining out in the city, though the cost of eating at a restaurant can vary greatly depending on the place you choose. You can dine out in five-star restaurants one day and fill your belly at local cheap eats the next.

Eating Out on a Budget

One tip that expats have picked up on in Singapore for dining on a budget is to head to the food halls, known as hawker centers. Some hawker stands (food stalls) even have Michelin stars. People who have relocated can pick up local and international cuisine at half the price than in restaurants and be immersed in Singaporean culture at the same time.

Thanks to the large number of high-priced restaurants in Singapore, the price difference between eating out at an inexpensive restaurant and having a meal at a mid-priced restaurant is stark. A cheap meal might cost you 25 SGD (18 USD) for two people, whereas a meal for two at a mid-range place will cost around 60—80 SGD (43-56 USD).

Cost of Education

Most expats with children in Singapore favor international schools. This is often due to their cultural background, or the future they see for their kids. An American couple might want their children to receive an American High School Diploma, for instance, to make it easier for them to work in their home country in the future.

With specific educational goals, however, comes a high price. International schools in the Lion City are some of the most expensive in the world. Tuition fees alone can cost over 30,000 SGD (21,600 USD) per year depending on which school your child attends. For more information, please see our Education section.

Public Schooling

On the other hand, Singapore public schools are subsidized by the state. This offers set school fees that are paid monthly. The fees are higher for expats than for Singapore citizens, but substantially lower than those for an international school.

Healthcare Costs

Singapore is renowned for having an excellent healthcare system. Expats often cite this as a huge bonus for living in the city. Healthcare is not free, however. Workers who contribute to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) pay for government mandated health insurance and received subsidized healthcare. Expats who do not pay into this fund will need to get private health insurance. For detailed information, see the Healthcare section of our guide.

Travel and Transportation Cost

Public transport across the city of Singapore is very affordable. Public buses in particular cost around 1 SGD (0.72 USD) per trip. The efficient MRT is also cheap at around 2 SGD (1.40 USD) per journey. Costs can skyrocket if you use private transportation. Taking a local taxi or renting a car can easily reach hundreds of Singapore dollars. Our Living section has more information about the costs of public transportation in Singapore.

Buying a Car in Singapore

Buying a car is not a viable option for most expats. The costs are extreme—in addition to the open market value of buying the car, you should add on taxes and fees. This includes obtaining the certificate of entitlement, registration fees, and excise duty, among a whole range of other charges.

In total, these charges mean you can pay around 110,000 USD in Singapore for a car worth 20,000 USD in the United States.

Updated on: April 24, 2020
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