Cost of living in Singapore: Your guide

Zorica Lončar
18.12.21
5 minute read

Singapore is a fantastic expat destination, offering an exciting cultural mix, great career opportunities, and world class amenities. The standard of living is high - but life in Singapore doesn’t come cheap. That said, if you’re a student or living on a fixed income, you can make some simple lifestyle changes to make the most of your money. By shopping, eating and enjoying leisure time like a local, you can cut costs and have a more authentic experience.

Whether you’re retiring, temporarily relocating, or moving to Singapore for good, it’s helpful to have a picture of what life there will cost as an expat. Here’s a quick guide to the cost of living in Singapore.

How expensive is Singapore in comparison to the UK, EU, USA and Australia?

The official currency in Singapore is the Singapore dollar which is written as SGD on currency exchanges, and S$ in shops and restaurants.

You can find out the exact value of your money in SGD by using an online currency converter - but here’s a rough guide to what it is at the time of writing:¹

  • $1000 = S$1345
  • £1000 = S$1855
  • €1000 = S$1565
  • AU$1000 = S$1005
Comparing basic cost of living1 bedroom flat in city centre (monthly rent)Lunch for 2 (3 courses, mid range restaurant)Transportation (monthly pass)
Singapore²2,820 SGD80 SGD120 SGD
London, UK³3,148 SGD111 SGD297 SGD
New York City, USA⁴4,173 SGD135 SGD175 SGD
Berlin, Germany⁵1,513 SGD78 SGD130 SGD
Sydney, Australia⁶2,712 SGD100 SGD218 SGD

One major factor that adds expense for expats in Singapore is the cost of converting cash to SGD from their home currency. Even if your bank says it offers fee-free money exchange, you can be sure its cut is rolled up in the exchange rate it uses.

To get the best deal, you should use an exchange service such as Wise, which gives you the real, mid-market exchange rate - the same rate you find on Google. You can also open a Wise multi-currency account. With a quick service, and low transparent fees to transfer your money, this can be a much better deal than relying on your bank.

Join Wise today

What are the general living expenses for Singapore?

One of the major factors determining how expensive life in Singapore will be, is where you choose to live. Rental prices are fairly high, but move outside of the city center and you can rent in Singapore for much less.

Living expenses in Singapore (excluding rent)Average cost
Single person, per month²1,336 SGD
Single person, per year²16,032 SGD
University student, per year⁷6,000 SGD
4 person family, per month²4,865 SGD
4 person family, per year²58,380 SGD

What’s the average salary in Singapore?

The salaries in Singapore are fairly high in general. When it comes to expat earnings, it’s doing very well according to certain surveys. In fact, one by ECA International shows Singapore to be the fifth in the world when it comes to expat salaries.⁸

Also, one of the great things about living here is that the state is actively trying to raise the income of lower-wage workers. Various plans and strategies are being made in order to get closer to a more equal society.⁹

If you’re interested in knowing more about salary averages, read on. Check out what you could earn in Singapore:

Salary averages for Singapore¹⁰Average salary
Cashier19,664 SGD
Copywriter49,412 SGD
Financial analyst78,767 SGD
Graphic designer37,077 SGD
Mobile developer73,492 SGD
Product manager77,996 SGD
Receptionist25,535 SGD
Software engineer66,804 SGD
Teacher52,164 SGD
Web developer51,739 SGD

How expensive is housing and accommodation in Singapore?

As of 2020, over 80% of people in Singapore are homeowners, which is a very high number.¹¹

This is due to a well-developed public housing system made possible by the Housing and Development Board (HDB). Although the state apartments are eligible for a 99-year lease, Singapore citizens can also buy them.

Even though you’re a foreigner, it's still possible to find a good rental in Singapore. If you have an employment pass, a student pass or certain other documents, you have the same rights as Singapore natives.¹²

Your landlord will inform you of this, but keep in mind that you can’t rent a property for less than 3 months.¹³

This year, the rental costs have slightly dropped. Still, Singapore is fairly stable when it comes to rent prices.¹⁴ Here’s what you can expect:

Renting in Singapore²Average monthly cost
One bedroom flat/apartment (city centre)2,861 SGD
One bedroom flat/apartment (outside of city centre)1,913 SGD
Three bedroom apartment (city centre)5,466 SGD
Three bedroom apartment (outside of city centre)3,178 SGD
Internet45 SGD
Utilities (gas, electric and water for a 85m2 apartment)160 SGD

What about healthcare and dental costs in Singapore?

The healthcare system in Singapore is very strong, in both the state and private sector. The public sector is financed through the Medisave contributions that permanent residents pay each month. So, if you’re a permanent resident, most of your medical costs are covered.¹⁵

Since non-resident expats don’t fall into this category, their public healthcare bills can be quite big. That’s why most of them have private health insurance. The private sector will cost almost the same as the public, but it ensures less waiting time and better services.¹⁵

The prices can vary, so it’s best to check before choosing a doctor. Here’s an overview of some basic prices when it comes to Singapore healthcare:

Healthcare service¹⁶Average cost
Short visit to private doctor (15 minutes)58 SGD
Cold medicine for 6 days11 SGD
1 box of antibiotics (12 doses)13 SGD

How much is travel and transport in Singapore?

One of the best options when getting around Singapore is using its Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) subway system. Not only is it fast, but it’s also cheap and clean. If you get the rechargeable EZ-Link card, you can save even more money.¹⁷

You can opt for taking the bus or taxi as well, both inexpensive. Driving is more expensive, since parking can cost a lot. However, UK expats will find driving here easy, since people in Singapore also drive on the left.¹⁷

Check out the prices you can expect when it comes to travel and transport in Singapore:

Transportation and vehicle prices for Singapore²Average cost
Gasoline (1 litre / 0.25 gallon)2.26 SGD
Monthly bus/transport pass120 SGD
Bus ticket, single use1.83 SGD
Taxi start (normal tariff)3.51 SGD
Taxi tariff 1km (normal tariff)0.9 SGD
Toyota Corolla, new108,017 SGD
VW Golf, new120,000 SGD

How much does education cost in Singapore?

Private education in Singapore is highly valued, and comes at a cost. A year’s high school tuition in UWC South East Asia, for example, could run up to nearly 50,000 SGD¹⁸.

Depending on the field and level of studies, the tuition fees at the National University of Singapore go up to around 160,000 SGD. Also, the fees can be different for international students.¹⁹

Unsurprisingly, standards are high - the Singaporean education system is regularly ranked as one of the best in the world.

SchoolAverage cost
Preschool / kindergarten (monthly fee)²⁰160-320 SGD
Independent schools (monthly fee)²¹300-2,500 SGD
National University of Singapore tuition (new international students, undergraduate, business, one year)¹⁹20,550-32,250 SGD
Singapore Management University tuition (new international students, bachelor programme, one year)²²24,500-47,320 SGD

Singapore is an exciting place to be, whether you’re considering a permanent move, or just looking to spend a year or two exploring somewhere new. The cost of living may be a little high, but the experiences you can get here are truly memorable.

Good luck with your new life in Singapore!

Sources:

  1. Wise - currency converter
  2. Numbeo - cost of living in Singapore
  3. Numbeo - cost of living in London
  4. Numbeo - cost of living in New York City
  5. Numbeo - cost of living in Berlin
  6. Numbeo - cost of living in Sydney
  7. National University of Singapore - cost of living
  8. Yahoo News - Expat cash salaries in Singapore drop, 5th highest globally
  9. The Straits Times - 18 recommendations of S'pore workgroup to improve wages and well-being of lower-wage workers
  10. Teleport - salaries in Singapore
  11. Singapore Department of Statistics - households
  12. HDB - eligibility conditions and guidelines
  13. Urban Redevelopment Authority - renting property
  14. ECA International - Singapore sees a drop in rental costs for expatriates due to the effects of Covid-19
  15. Internations - health insurance and the healthcare system of Singapore explained
  16. Expatistan - cost of living in Singapore
  17. US News - Singapore transportation
  18. UWCSEA - fees structure 2021/2022
  19. National University of Singapore - tuition fees for undergraduate students
  20. Ministry of Education - fees and financial assistance
  21. Ministry of Education - types of schools
  22. Singapore Management University - tuition fees

*All sources checked on October 20, 2021


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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