The Singapore dollar is split into 100 cents and is abbreviated SGD, S$, or just $ (as used throughout this article). Coins in the denominations of $0.05 (gold), $0.10 (silver), $0.20 (silver), $0.50 (silver), and $1 (gold) are available, as well as notes in the denominations of $2 (purple), $5 (green), $10 (red), $50 (blue), $100 (orange), $1,000 (purple), and $10,000. (gold).
The SGD10,000 banknote, along with its Brunei equivalent, has the highest intrinsic value of any banknote currently in circulation (valued at USD7,840 in September 2014). Despite the fact that Singapore is a spotless city-state, it will stop printing its currency in October 2014 since it promotes bribery and corruption in neighboring nations such as Indonesia.
Because the Brunei dollar and the Singapore dollar are tied at par and the two currencies may be used interchangeably in both nations, don’t be shocked if you receive a Brunei note as change. Unless it contains additional initials (e.g., US$ or USD to stand for US dollar), you may reasonably presume that the “$” symbol used in the island-nation refers to SGD.
Currency exchange booths may be found in almost every shopping mall and often provide better rates, longer hours of operation, and quicker service than banks. The massive 24-hour operation at Mustafa in Little India, as well as the highly competitive little businesses at the appropriately called Change Alley close to Raffles Place MRT, take virtually any currency at extremely excellent rates. Ask for a quotation if you’re buying a big quantity, since you’ll frequently receive a better deal than what’s on the board. The rates at the airport aren’t as favorable as they are in the city, and although many department shops take major foreign currencies, the exchange rates are often exorbitant.
Because Singapore is one of the region’s biggest financial centers, there are a plethora of banks to select from. Singaporean banks are increasingly regarded as an alternative to Swiss banks for the world’s wealthiest individuals to hide their assets, partly owing to strict banking secrecy rules and the fact that interest paid on bank deposits is not taxed in Singapore. It is simple to open a bank account in Singapore, and there are no limitations on foreigners holding bank accounts. United Overseas Bank (UOB), DBS Bank, and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation are the three biggest local banks in Singapore (OCBC Bank). HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, and Citibank are among the major international banks with a significant presence in Singapore.
In Singapore, ATMs are plentiful, and credit cards are frequently accepted. Visa and MasterCard are the most commonly accepted credit cards in Singapore, although many businesses also take American Express. Most businesses that appeal to visitors accept Discover, JCB, and China UnionPay cards, although they are usually not accepted in shops that cater to a more local audience. Although credit card surcharges are prohibited in Singapore, many businesses circumvent the law by providing discounts above the stated price if you pay in cash. Retailers seldom take travellers’ checks, although they may be cashed at most exchange booths and banks. Some convenience shops and fast food restaurants accept the EZ-Link and NETS Flash Pay cards.
Tipping is not customary in Singapore and is expressly discouraged by the government; nevertheless, restaurants often charge a 10% service fee before the local goods and services tax, or GST. Restaurants often show pricing like $19.99++, indicating that service fee (10%) and sales tax (7%) are not included and will be added to your bill; in most restaurants, the service charge is never received by the staff. When you see NETT, it indicates that the price includes all taxes and fees.
Bellhops still demand around $2 each bag. Taxis typically refund your change to the last 5 cents or round in your favor if they can’t be bothered to rummage for change; congestion or Electronic Road Pricing charges are often already included in the final price. All taxis must provide a hotline for customers to contact if they are unhappy. At the airport, tipping is not permitted.
Do not provide a tip to any government official, particularly police officers, since this is considered bribery and would very certainly result in you being detained and facing criminal charges.
Singapore is pricey by Asian standards, but inexpensive by OECD ones: $50 is a perfectly adequate daily backpacker budget if you’re prepared to cut corners, but you’ll definitely want to double that for comfort. The food, in particular, is a bargain, with good hawker cuisine costing around $5 for a large portion. Accommodation is more expensive, but a bed in a hostel can cost less than $20, a basic room in a mid-range hotel in the city center can cost anywhere from $100 to $300 per night, and the most luxurious hotels (such as Raffles Hotel and most hotels in Sentosa) can cost $300 after discounts during the off-peak season.
Prices in Singapore are about twice as expensive as those in Malaysia and Thailand, and 3-5 times more than those in Indonesia and the Philippines.
As a national hobby, shopping is second only to eating, which means that Singapore has a plethora of shopping malls, and cheap import taxes and tariffs, along with high volume, mean that pricing are generally extremely competitive. While there are no bazaars selling dirt-cheap local handicrafts (in fact, almost everything sold in Singapore is produced abroad), products are usually of high quality, and merchants are generally trustworthy because to strict consumer protection regulations. The majority of shops are open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., but smaller businesses (especially those outside of shopping malls) may shut earlier — 19:00 is typical — and perhaps on Sundays as well. Mustafa in Little India is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. On the final Friday of the month, several shops along Orchard Road and Scotts Road offer late night shopping, with over 250 establishments remaining open until midnight.
- Antiques: If you’re searching for the genuine thing, the second floor of the Tanglin Shopping Centre on Orchard and the stores on South Bridge Rd in Chinatown are excellent places to start (or high-quality reproductions).
- Books: Borders at Wheelock Place is no longer in business. However, the biggest bookshop in Singapore is Kinokuniya, which is located in Ngee Ann City on Orchard Road. It also has two additional locations, one in Liang Court (near Robertson Walk) and the other at Bugis Junction (a shopping complex located directly above Bugis MRT station). Many second-hand book shops can be found at Far East Plaza and Bras Basah Complex, where you may try to haggle if you are purchasing a large quantity of books. The bookstores at the National University of Singapore offer the best pricing on the island for university textbooks, saving up to 80% compared to prices in the West.
- Cameras: Peninsula Plaza, near City Hall, offers the largest variety of camera stores in Singapore. There are no spectacular discounts to be found, and many camera shops in Singapore (especially those at Lucky Plaza and Sim Lim Square) have a reputation for defrauding even the most cautious visitors. The ideal approach is to know precisely what you want and then stop by the stores in the airport’s transit area to check prices and see if they have any specials when you arrive. Then proceed to the downtown stores and compare prices/packages to find which one offers the best value. Always check pricing and bundles for anything you’re interested in at big shops first, such as Courts, Harvey Norman, and Best Denki, to be safe. When shop employees try to sell you a brand or model that isn’t the one you want, be wary; a few shops in Sim Lim Square, Lucky Plaza, and others have been known to utilize this technique and sell goods for two to four times their real list costs. Keep an eye out for bait-and-switches. Examine the item’s model number and condition before paying, and don’t allow it out of your sight. (The most frequent fraud at Lucky Plaza is increasing the fee without your consent.)
- Clothes, high-street: The most branded shops can be found at Ion, Ngee Ann City (Takashimaya), and Paragon on Orchard. Another mall, Raffles City, is situated near City Hall MRT and has a range of brands like as Kate Spade and Timberland.
- Clothes, tailored: Almost every hotel has a tailor shop connected, and promoting tailors may be a nuisance in Chinatown. If you don’t have the time for numerous fits or the expertise to inspect what you’re receiving, you’ll get what you paid for, and you’ll get bad quality. Prices vary greatly: a shirt may be made for $40 at a local store using low-cost fabrics, while a shirt from Singapore’s best-known tailor, CYC the Custom Shop in the Raffles Hotel, would set you back at least $120.
- Clothes, youth: Bugis caters to the youthful, trendy, and budget-conscious. Bugis St (opposite Bugis MRT) is now the most popular shopping street in the Bugis district, with three floors of stores. Some Orchard locations, such as Far East Plaza (not to be confused with Far East Shopping Centre) and the Heeren’s top floor, also cater to the same clientele, albeit at a higher price.
- Computers: Sim Lim Square (near Little India) is ideal for the hardcore geek who knows exactly what he wants – component pricing lists are accessible on HardwareZone.com and are distributed throughout Sim Lim, allowing for simple price comparison. Lesser mortals (i.e., those who have failed to do their price-checking homework) are at danger of being ripped off while shopping, although this is seldom an issue with most businesses’ pricing lists. Some Singaporeans buy their electronic devices during quarterly “IT exhibitions” hosted at the Suntec City Convention Centre or the Expo, where prices on electronics are often reduced (but often only to Sim Lim levels). Another option is to shop in Funan IT Mall, where the shops are often more honest (according to some). Do not be enticed by side gifts/sweeteners such as thumbdrives, mouse, or other similar items; they simply serve to conceal increased costs.
- Consumer electronics: Singapore used to be renowned for its low pricing, but these days, electronics in Singapore are usually more costly than those sold by US and worldwide internet retailers. Mustafa (Little India) and Funan IT Mall (Riverside#Buy|Riverside) are also excellent options. If you want to avoid being ripped off, stay away from the tourist traps on Orchard Road, especially the infamous Lucky Plaza. Avoid shops on the 1st and 2nd levels of Sim Lim Square, as some of them rip off tourists and locals alike by overcharging by 100% or more, adding ludicrous charges beyond what was agreed upon, swapping items for used ones, leaving out cases and batteries, and a variety of other practices that should (or are) illegal. Please do your homework before purchasing electronics from any store in Singapore; internet research and pricing comparisons from several stores (as well as occasional haggling) are required. Mustafa, like Challenger and other major fixed-price shops, offers set, reasonable pricing and is an excellent choice. Remember that Singapore utilizes 230V electricity and a three-pin British-style plug for all purchases.
- Electronic components: Sim Lim Tower (opposite Sim Lim Square), in Little India, has a large selection of electronic components and related equipment for do-it-yourselfers and engineers. Most typical electrical components (such as breadboards, transistors, different ICs, and so on) are available, as are discount pricing for greater quantities.
- Ethnic knick-knacks: Chinatown boasts the highest concentration of glow-in-the-dark Merlion soap dispensers and ethnic souvenirs in Singapore, mainly but not completely Chinese and almost all imported from outside. Geylang Serai and Little India are the finest locations to shop for Malay and Indian items, respectively.
- Fabrics: There is a good variety of foreign and indigenous fabrics, such as batik, on Arab Street and Little India. Chinatown has reasonably priced and inexpensive textiles; haggling is permitted, so know what you’re looking for. Fabrics in Singapore may not be as inexpensive as those in other countries since most fabrics are imported.
- Fakes: Unlike other Southeast Asian nations, pirated products are not publicly available for purchase, and bringing them into the city-state is punishable by steep penalties. Fake products are not difficult to obtain by in Little India, Bugis, or even the Orchard Road underpasses.
- Food: Supermarkets in the area Cold Storage, Prime Mart, Shop ‘n’ Save, and NTUC Fairprice are all over town, but Jason’s Marketplace in Raffles City’s basement and Tanglin Market Place in Tanglin Mall (both on Orchard) are two of Singapore’s best-stocked gourmet supermarkets, with a wide range of foreign goods. Takashimaya’s basement (Orchard) contains several tiny eccentric stores, making for a more fascinating browsing experience. Seek out any neighborhood wet market, like as Tekka Market in Little India, for a more Singaporean (and far cheaper) shopping experience. In addition to a food court or two, most shopping malls include a variety of tiny snack shops and restaurants in their basements.
- Games: Although video and PC games are readily accessible in Singapore, they are not always cheaper than in the West. Although some games imported from Hong Kong or Taiwan are in Chinese, most games marketed for the local market are in English. Note that Singapore’s official region code (along with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other Asian countries) is NTSC-J, which implies that games sold in Singapore may not be compatible with consoles in mainland China, North America, Europe, or Australia. PC, Xbox, Wii, and PlayStation games costs may decrease at the four times a year IT Shows, if not the games will be packaged with others (Example: Buy 2 for $49.90). Look for trustworthy stores online and, as usual, avoid the first two levels of Sim Lim Square.
- Hi-fi stereos: The Adelphi (Riverside) offers the finest variety of audiophile stores in Singapore.
- Marine sports: Many of the shophouses on Beach Rd in Bugis opposite The Concourse offer fishing and scuba diving equipment.
- Mobile phones: Due to large consumer volume, mobile phones are very reasonably priced in Singapore, and they are accessible both used and new across the nation. Phones are never SIM locked, so you may use them anywhere you choose, and many stores will let you “trade in” your old phone to help pay for a new one. If visitor stories are to be believed, don’t buy phones in Lucky Plaza because there’s a good chance you’ll be nearly physically stolen.
- Music: Singapore’s biggest music shop, HMV, is located at Marina Square. Unfortunately, many local CD shops have closed due to rampant digital piracy. For those willing to sample Asian music, CD Rama at local bookshops Popular still the best option.
- Peranakan goods: Although the Peranakan, or Malay-Chinese, are dwindling in numbers, their vibrant apparel and artwork, particularly the unique pastel-colored pottery, are still readily available. Antiques are costly, but contemporary copies are reasonably priced. On the East Coast, Katong has the greatest variety and best pricing.
- Sporting goods: The Queensway Shopping Centre, off Alexandra Rd and a little off the main path (hire a cab), seems to be entirely made up of sporting goods stores. Sporty clothes and shoes in international sizes are also available. Make a deal! For the same goods, expect to save 40-50 percent if you buy in Orchard. Velocity in Novena is likewise a sports store, although it is a little more upscale. Although most of the clothing stores surrounding Pagoda Street in Chinatown offer basic silk taiji/wushu outfits, martial arts equipment is surprisingly hard to come by. It’s worth noting that if you want to purchase weapons like swords, you’ll need to request for a permission from the police (costs about $10) to get them out of the country.
- Tea: For both price and variety, Chinatown’s Yue Hwa (2nd floor) is unmatched, while Time for Tea in Lucky Plaza (Orchard) is also an excellent choice. Around Orchard Road, English tea is also commonly offered. TWG, a local company that specializes in high-end luxury tea blends, has locations all over the island to serve this market.
- Watches: High-end timepieces are reasonably priced. Ngee Ann City (Orchard) contains dedicated Piaget and Cartier stores, while Millenia Walk (Marina Bay) has the Cortina Watch Espace, which has 30 brands ranging from Audemars Piguet to Patek Philippe, as well as many other freestanding boutiques.
You may be able to receive a 6% refund of your 7% GST at Changi Airport or Seletar Airport if you spend more than $100 each day per participating store, however the procedure is a bit of a headache. You must request a tax refund check at the store. Present this cheque, together with the goods bought and your passport, at the GST customs desk before checking in at the airport. It’s a good idea to have the receipt stamped there. After that, check in and walk through security. Bring the stamped check to the refund counter to cash it in or have the GST refunded to your credit card on the ground side. For further information, go visit Singapore Customs.
Many stores lower their prices by 50-80% or more during the annual Great Singapore Sale. This implies that residents go insane since most of them save up for a year only for the sale, and as a result, virtually all retail malls, particularly those along Orchard Road, become very packed on weekends. If you prefer not to shop in crowded malls, take advantage of discounts on weekdays when the majority of the population is at work.