Singapore

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Cost of Living in Singapore

Unfortunately, the cost of living in Singapore is rather high. However, salaries for expats are often generous and income tax is fairly low. Our guide provides a helpful overview of key budget items and some tips for cost-conscious expatriates.
Expatriate living in Singapore does not come cheap.
  • With space at a premium, rent is the biggest expense for many expats costing between 500 SGD for a single room to over 35,000 SGD a month for a bungalow!
  • High salaries and low income taxes offset high rents, so you may find your net worth is greater than back home.
  • Due to various fees and taxes, the costs of having a car in Singapore are prohibitive. Luckily, public transportation and even taxis are relatively cheap.  
  • Expats with children have the additional cost of childcare and education. With international schools costing up to 48,000 SGD a year, the public school system can be a sensible alternative.

 

One of the original four “Asian Tigers”, the small city-state has a prosperous economy and a well-to-do population. Though there is pronounced inequality with regards to income and wealth, Singapore also has one of the highest percentages of millionaires worldwide. The large number of affluent denizens is reflected in the cost of living in Singapore.

According to the Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Singapore has been steadily creeping up the ranks as one of the most expensive expat destinations. Over the past five years, it’s jumped from being outside the top ten to the fourth-most expensive city in 2016.  

On the other hand, Singapore has low income tax rates, so your net income will probably be larger than back home. The highest personal income tax rate is 20%, and you can see a breakdown of all tax brackets on the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore’s website. When calculating your cost of living in Singapore, remember to take into account your increased net worth.

Sky-High Buildings — and Rents!

Housing is the biggest expenditure as far as the cost of living in Singapore is concerned. With the third-highest population density in the world, real estate is in high demand. If you have an expat benefits package, you should make sure that your employer covers at least part of your accommodation costs. If you are not that lucky, there are several options for housing in Singapore.

  • Single expats on a tighter budget should rent a room in a shared flat to minimize money spent on furniture, water, electricity, or utilities. Depending on the location and quality of the apartment, room rental starts at about 500 SGD per month.
  • Most local inhabitants live in government-subsidized housing (HDB). Though “government housing” may conjure up images of dreary council estates, most HDBs are fairly modern and conveniently located. Their schemes are mostly designed to enable local residents to buy, and rental options are targeted at lower-income households. For those eligible to buy, there are long waiting lists and quotas in place for non-Singaporeans.
  • Renting a private flat is another alternative. Although they are often situated in older buildings, they offer a good standard of living. Rents vary wildly depending on proximity to the city center: a private three-bedroom flat may cost anything between 2,000 and 7,000 SGD a month.
  • Well-to-do expats frequently live in condominiums. They often have luxurious facilities, for example swimming pools, tennis courts, and gyms. Outside the city center, rents start at around SGD 3,500 for a three-bedroom condo. If you want a sizeable condominium with state-of-the-art facilities in the CBD, you’ll need to budget up to 15,000 SGD!
  • Houses are the most expensive choice of accommodation available only to the most affluent. Rent starts at 8,000 SGD a month, but you can expect to pay over 35,000 SGD a month for a nice bungalow with a spacious garden.

Extras for Your Housing Budget

When you draw up your monthly cost of living in Singapore, don’t forget about the utilities. You should put aside a minimum of 150-200 SGD for water and electricity. However, your electricity bill can be much higher if you use air-conditioning a lot. Internet, cell phone plans, and house phone lines are really affordable, and should only account for around 130 SGD in your budget.

Getting Around the Island State

Singapore has extensive, safe, and reliable public transportation. Using mostly trains and buses is a good way to keep costs down. Taxis are cheaper than in other comparable expat hotspots, but can still add up if used every day. Have a look at our article on taking cabs in Singapore to calculate the cost of your journey.

Unfortunately, you won’t save anything by owning a private car. The Singaporean government is trying to cut down on road congestion and air pollution, so there are prohibitive costs, fees, and taxes involved. If you have to travel round the city a lot for work, try negotiating a travel allowance with your employer. Expat families with small kids may consider renting or leasing a car if frequent travel on public transport proves too stressful.

Save Up for School!

Expatriates with children will find that childcare and schooling increases their cost of living in Singapore considerably.

In terms of childcare, full-time day care can charge between 500 and 1,500 SGD per month. Pre-school is often cheaper costing between 250 and 700 SGD in monthly fees. The exact amount largely depends on the institution. An alternative is to hire a foreign domestic helper. Averaging around 500 SGD a month, they often provide help around the house as well as looking after the children.

For older children, international schools will set you back about 22,000 to 48,000 SGD a year including the additional application, enrolment, and facilities fees. For public schools, costs vary by education level from around 500 SGD per month for primary school to 1,100 SGD a month for pre-university. A full breakdown can be found on the Singapore Ministry of Education website.  As the language of instruction is English and the education system has a good reputation, this could be a great alternative to private education.

Budgeting for Healthcare

Last but not least, ensure that you have a decent healthcare plan. If you don’t have a chronic illness, you can go for cheaper coverage that won’t reimburse you for outpatient consultations. By going to public facilities for non-residents rather than private clinics, you can save on medical fees and cut back on the cost of living in Singapore.

However, you should always be insured for major treatments, surgery, and hospitalization as a serious illness or accident would dramatically increase your cost of living in Singapore without medical insurance.

 

We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Donald Moore

"I moved to Singapore to build up my own business. In fact, it was easier than expected. With InterNations I quickly got in touch with the lively expat community here."

Barbara Sciera

"Settling as an expat woman in a different culture is always hard. But with InterNations I got to know many other expat spouses that helped me."

Expat Guide Singapore

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