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.
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 living||1 bedroom flat in city centre (monthly rent)||Lunch for 2 (3 courses, mid range restaurant)||Transportation (monthly pass)|
|Singapore²||2,820 SGD||80 SGD||120 SGD|
|London, UK³||3,148 SGD||111 SGD||297 SGD|
|New York City, USA⁴||4,173 SGD||135 SGD||175 SGD|
|Berlin, Germany⁵||1,513 SGD||78 SGD||130 SGD|
|Sydney, Australia⁶||2,712 SGD||100 SGD||218 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.
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 month²||1,336 SGD|
|Single person, per year²||16,032 SGD|
|University student, per year⁷||6,000 SGD|
|4 person family, per month²||4,865 SGD|
|4 person family, per year²||58,380 SGD|
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 Singapore¹⁰||Average salary|
|Financial analyst||78,767 SGD|
|Graphic designer||37,077 SGD|
|Mobile developer||73,492 SGD|
|Product manager||77,996 SGD|
|Software engineer||66,804 SGD|
|Web developer||51,739 SGD|
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 Singapore²||Average 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|
|Utilities (gas, electric and water for a 85m2 apartment)||160 SGD|
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 service¹⁶||Average cost|
|Short visit to private doctor (15 minutes)||58 SGD|
|Cold medicine for 6 days||11 SGD|
|1 box of antibiotics (12 doses)||13 SGD|
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 Singapore²||Average cost|
|Gasoline (1 litre / 0.25 gallon)||2.26 SGD|
|Monthly bus/transport pass||120 SGD|
|Bus ticket, single use||1.83 SGD|
|Taxi start (normal tariff)||3.51 SGD|
|Taxi tariff 1km (normal tariff)||0.9 SGD|
|Toyota Corolla, new||108,017 SGD|
|VW Golf, new||120,000 SGD|
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.
|Preschool / kindergarten (monthly fee)²⁰||160-320 SGD|
|Independent schools (monthly fee)²¹||300-2,500 SGD|
|National University of Singapore tuition (new international students, undergraduate, business, one year)¹⁹||20,550-32,250 SGD|
|Singapore Management University tuition (new international students, bachelor programme, one year)²²||24,500-47,320 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!
- Wise - currency converter
- Numbeo - cost of living in Singapore
- Numbeo - cost of living in London
- Numbeo - cost of living in New York City
- Numbeo - cost of living in Berlin
- Numbeo - cost of living in Sydney
- National University of Singapore - cost of living
- Yahoo News - Expat cash salaries in Singapore drop, 5th highest globally
- The Straits Times - 18 recommendations of S'pore workgroup to improve wages and well-being of lower-wage workers
- Teleport - salaries in Singapore
- Singapore Department of Statistics - households
- HDB - eligibility conditions and guidelines
- Urban Redevelopment Authority - renting property
- ECA International - Singapore sees a drop in rental costs for expatriates due to the effects of Covid-19
- Internations - health insurance and the healthcare system of Singapore explained
- Expatistan - cost of living in Singapore
- US News - Singapore transportation
- UWCSEA - fees structure 2021/2022
- National University of Singapore - tuition fees for undergraduate students
- Ministry of Education - fees and financial assistance
- Ministry of Education - types of schools
- Singapore Management University - tuition fees
*All sources checked on October 20, 2021
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