Expat Guide To Living In Singapore


Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Singapore is a sleek modern city sitting astride several islands at the end of the Malaysian peninsular.

The city has one of the strongest economies in the Asia Pacific based on banking, financial services and information technology.

Wages are high for the region, but so is the cost of living.

Home to 45,000 British expats, the country is not a cheap option for retirement but an excellent destination for career-minded expats on assignment.

10 Quick Facts About Living In Singapore

  • Singapore is not just a single island state – the country is made up of 64 islands all smaller than the mainland
  • The city zoo opens all night offering a unique chance to see nocturnal animals
  • Indoor waterfalls are popular – some drop more than 30 metres at Jurong Bird Park, Cloud Forest and Jewel Changi Airport
  • Singlish is the local English dialect that adds ‘lahs’ and ‘lehs’ in unexpected ways, while strangers are called aunties and uncles
  • Singapore is a modern city but has embraced parks, gardens and greenery to improve the environment
  • Singapore Botanic Gardens are lauded as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a home to thousands of orchids
  • The city symbol Merlion is a lion, but there’s no evidence lions ever lived on the island and historians suspect someone mistook a tiger for a lion when naming the city
  • On-the-spot fines are common for dropping litter, smoking in public – including vapes – and taking chewing gum into Singapore
  • It’s illegal to drink in public between 10.30pm and 7am except in a licensed bar, café or restaurant.
  • Kissing in public is allowed but indecent behaviour is forbidden – but there’s no guidance on if a kiss is lawful

Where To Live In Singapore

Where you live in Singapore depends on your lifestyle and budget. The city is divided into numbered districts which also have names. 

Each district attracts a certain type of expat – families with children, singles, nightlife lovers and the like.

Holland Village in District 10 is one of the favourite places for expats to live. The leafy streets have a range of accommodation and most are only a short walk from the botanic gardens.  Several good schools are in the district, too.

Orchard Road is a busy boulevard with swish designer shops, luxury eateries, clubs and bars. The neighbourhood is Singapore’s premier nightlife zone.

Sentosa is where the city’s theme park is based, together with sandy beaches and other entertainment.

The central business district is in Tanjong Pajar (District 2).

Singapore is a modern city with many homes in high-rise blocks, but that doesn’t mean expats cannot buy a house or villa, although they can attract a premium price or rent.

Non-residents can buy homes, but the type and locations are restricted.

Working in Singapore

Expats must earn a minimum S$4,500, rising to S$5,000 for the financial sector to qualify for a work pass from the Ministry of Manpower. Applications are made on behalf of employees by their employers.

A work pass entitles an expat to open a bank account in Singapore.

Singapore has a booming banking and financial services sector serving the Asia Pacific. Software engineers are also in high demand.

Singapore Cost of Living

Average monthly salary

Average Price – Singapore DollarAverage price £
Average monthly salary after tax and social security deductions5,102.362699.66
UK State Pension (Maximum payment)1,470.91778.26

Monthly rents

Average Price – Singapore DollarAverage price £
Family of four living costs (including city centre rent)9,971.58£5,275.97
Family of four living costs (including suburban rent)4,477.54£2,369.07
Family of four living costs (excluding rent)4,714.452494.42
Singleton living costs (including city centre rent)4,182.322212.87
Singleton living costs (including suburban rent)1,875.71992.44
Singleton living costs (excluding rent)1,294.76685.06

Eating out

Average Price – Singapore DollarAverage price £
Cheap restaurant14.537.69
Three-course meal for two at mid-priced restaurant70.1437.11
Domestic beer (500 ml draught)10.025.30
Imported beer (330 ml bottle)11.025.83
Coke\Pepsi (330 ml)1.850.98
Water (330 ml)1.470.78

Daily essential groceries

Average Price – Singapore DollarAverage price £
Milk (1 litre)3.181.68
Loaf of white bread2.291.21
Rice (1 kg)2.741.45
Eggs x 123.211.70
Cheese (1 kg)25.1713.32
Chicken fillets (1 kg)9.835.20
Beef (1 kg)22.2311.76
Apples (1 kg)4.742.51
Bananas (1 kg)2.971.57
Oranges (1 kg)4.332.29
Tomato (1 kg)2.871.52
Potato (1 kg)2.531.34
Bottle of wine30.0715.91
Cigarettes (1 x 20 Marlboro)14.027.42

Getting around

Average Price – Singapore DollarAverage price £
Taxi (per kilometre)0.790.42
Gas (1 litre)2.171.15
Buy new VW Golf 1.4 / 90 KW Trendine120,245.4363,621.92

Utilities (monthly)

Average Price – Singapore DollarAverage price £
Utility package for 85m2 apartment (Electricity, heating, air conditioning, water, garbage disposal etc)146.8977.72
Prepaid smartphone (1 minute)0.190.10
Internet (60+ Mbps broadband with unlimited data)45.3223.98

Sport and entertainment

Average Price – Singapore DollarAverage price £
Fitness club, monthly charge for x1 adult140.8274.51
Tennis court rent (1 hour on weekend)13.026.89
Cinema ticket x1 seat13.026.89


Average Price – Singapore DollarAverage price £
Preschool (or Kindergarten), full day, private, monthly x1 child1,305.76690.88
International primary school, yearly x1 child27,714.4714,663.74

Clothing And Shoes

Average Price – Singapore DollarAverage price £
Pair of jeans (Levi’s 501)82.2943.54
Summer dress in a chain store (Like Zara or H&M etc)54.3628.76
Pair of Nike running shoes121.3264.19
Pair of men leather business shoes128.4867.98

Rent (monthly)

Average Price – Singapore DollarAverage price £
City centre 1 bed apartment2,887.561,527.81
Suburban 1 bed apartment1,875.71992.44
City centre 3 bed apartment5,257.132,781.55
Suburban 3 bed apartment3,182.781,684.01

Buying an apartment

Average Price – Singapore DollarAverage price £
City centre price per square metre24,485.9012,955.50
Suburban price per square metre12,561.036,646.05

Mortgage rate

Mortgage rate – Fixed 20-year term2.16%
£1 to Singapore Dollar exchange rate: 1.89 (May 19, 2021)
Price data source: Numbeo.com

Singapore Schools and Universities

Singapore has a first-class public education system plus a network of top-rated international schools and colleges.

For a small island state with a population of just 5.7 million, Singapore has 36 universities for higher education.

Healthcare in Singapore

The World Health Organisation ranks Singapore’s health system as the sixth best in the world.

Life expectancy is high and infant mortality low.

Treatment costs can be high, and expats are expected to pay for their care unless they have medical insurance cover.

Expats on assignment can expect employers to include health cover in their remuneration packages, but these may not extend to cover a family or limit claims to treatment at public and not the more efficient private hospitals.

Read our in-depth guide and learn more about healthcare in Singapore.

Read our other city and country guides such as expats in Spain and expats living in Dubai. Or get up to speed before moving abroad.

Below is a list of related articles, guides and insights you may find interesting.

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