Expats relocating to Singapore normally choose their new home according to several factors.
First of all, transport connections and the daily commute to work are essential features for the active population. Not all expatriates living in Singapore own a car. Therefore MRT train stations and good bus services are very important, even more so than expressways or the international airport. Expat families also need to have childcare facilities or suitable schools nearby.
As mentioned before, Singapore is a fairly small island nation with a territory of just 716 km². It is a completely urbanized city-state, where nobody lives in a rural area anymore. Nearly everyone has easy access to all amenities of everyday life, such as shops, medical facilities, and transportation. Nonetheless, some districts and neighborhoods are more popular – and thus more expensive – than others. This guide provides you with a brief overview of residential areas for expats in Singapore.
Due to Singapore’s small size, it doesn’t have much in the way of political or geographical subdivisions, like the US states or the French regions and départements. For administrative purposes, e.g. urban planning or local government, Singapore is normally divided into five regions, whose names and boundaries may vary slightly.
However, when you go looking for accommodation in Singapore, it helps to keep the island’s old 28 postal districts in mind. They are no longer used for sending mail, but they still figure on many property search maps. Each district includes various housing estates, neighborhoods, or satellite towns.
As just mentioned, Woodlands (district 25) is a fairly typical expat neighborhood. Not only does it feature the American School, but it’s also close to the Malaysian border. Plenty of residents thus go shopping where prices are cheap. The area is a model development with lots of green spaces, medical clinics, and links to the transportation network. On the downside, the commute to the Central Business District can take up to an hour.
Bukit Timah (district 10) and Newton (district 11) are popular among expatriates as well. International schools that cater to the Canadian, Dutch, German, and French communities are within reach, and the residential areas boast other amenities as well. There are several country clubs, a delicious food court, and a beautiful nature reserve. However, both neighborhoods are anything but cheap, and Bukit Timah is somewhat lacking in transport connections.
Shopping addicts and fashionistas should settle somewhere in district 9, with the famous Orchard Road. Unsurprisingly, housing in Singapore’s commercial heart is quite expensive. But if you can afford it, you might want to take a look at Cairnhill and Mount Elizabeth. The River Valley estate is also situated in the same district. Its pretty private properties offer charming homes for the rich. The latter probably don’t mind the lack of MRT stations. After all, they can afford hailing one of the many taxis cruising the wealthy neighborhood.
Expat families on a budget may prefer moving to one of the estates that are popular among locals with children. These are mainly located in the outlying districts, in areas with mixed residential, commercial, and industrial use. They do not have many nightlife venues or luxury stores, but they often feature various smallish malls, transport nodes, and local schools.
Neighborhoods like that include Choa Chu Kang (district 23), Yishun (27), Pasir Ris (18), and Jurong West (22). Jurong also boasts several tourist attractions, for instance, the Singapore Zoo, the Jurong Bird Park, and the Singapore Science Centre. This could be another point in favor for expats relocating with kids.
Singapore’s heartlands and eastern coast harbor several popular planned areas, too. They are often self-sufficient communities or unpretentious satellite towns. Due to urban planning, they have good connections to the public transport network, as well as shopping and entertainment facilities for local residents.
Bedok in district 16, Hougang (19), Bishan (20), or Simei (18) are among this kind of neighborhoods. Expats should note, though, that Simei has few schools, although it is close to several major hospitals.
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