Planning a move to Singapore can be overwhelming. So here’s a quick guide to help you out!
Living in a new city is one thing, but a new country? That’s a challenge on a whole other level. We bet you have tons of questions whizzing through your head. Where are the best neighbourhoods to rent a house in? If you have kids, which schools should you send them to? And what are the top attractions to visit? This handy guide will cover what you need to know about living in Singapore.
Everything you need to know about living in Singapore
1. Where to stay
Singapore may be tiny, but we’ve got plenty of accommodation options to choose from. Stay in a Housing Development Board (HDB) flat for the heartland community. There are 3- to 5-room flats to choose from. And you may even be able to score a maisonette with two floors in mature estates.
Alternatively, go for serviced apartments that are perfect for stays of short or extended periods. We’ve got our eye on Far East Hospitality, which has several serviced residences in idyllic spots around the city. They’re also in strategic locations with flexible leases and fuss-free booking processes. No matter which you pick, you’ll explore the best of our island without having to go far. The cherry on top? Some apartment locations are pet-friendly!
For access to quality amenities and facilities, you can also consider renting a place in a condominium, co-living space or serviced apartment. If you’d like more room and can afford it, rent a black and white heritage house or move into a landed property to experience living in some of Singapore’s coolest neighbourhoods.
2. Moving in and setting up
If you’re planning on living in Singapore for a long time, you’ve probably got a ton of things to bring over. But don’t worry, that’s no headache. Schedule a chat with professional movers that’ll have it done in a pinch. These companies will help you decide on the best mode of transport, pack and label your items and send them off. Prepared to go all out with creating the perfect home? We have plenty of all-star shops that sell top-notch decor and home accessories. Remember to pick up some kid-friendly pieces if you’ve got little ones!
Time to get your finances sorted. The main local banks to look out for are DBS (Development Bank of Singapore), OCBC (Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation) and UOB (United Overseas Bank). Make sure you’ve got an IC or passport and an address on hand before heading over. Don’t forget to cover all your bases with essential insurance plans. This means everything from health to critical illness to life insurance policies.
There’s also no way we can survive without good Wi-Fi or broadband plans to keep us entertained. Singapore has plenty of stellar service providers to help you stay connected. SingTel and StarHub are the most well-known. But you can also check out MyRepublic for no-contract plans if you’re a bit of a commitment-phobe.
3. Get help on immigration matters
For tips and advice on all things related to Singapore’s immigration system, you can count on The Immigration People. This is the leading authority in Singapore’s inbound immigration matters, from permanent residency to citizenship applications and more. Its team of dedicated staff has over 25 years of collective experience, and they pride themselves in strategising applications and seeing them to fruition. You’ll find insights on immigration matters on its website and client testimonials on its YouTube channel, too.
4. Settling the family
Relocating with the little ones? If so, picking a suitable school for them should be on your priority list. Good news: Singapore has loads of great schools for you to choose from. You can enrol your child into a local school, which follows the Singapore education system (ranked one of the best in the world), or have them join an international school to follow the syllabus of your home country or the International Baccalaureate.
Nexus International School (Singapore) is an example of the latter, also a winner of three categories in HoneyKids Asia’s Education Awards 2022. It has some of the best facilities, and provides its learners with authentic and innovative learning experiences. You can also check out HoneyKids Asia’s School Selector tool for a glance at all the best international schools Singapore has to offer.
To help you and your family smoothly integrate into the expat community, join a private club. It’s pretty much like getting a fast pass to Singapore’s social scene. Plus, it’ll give you access to an array of activities, events, facilities, and shopping and dining perks.
5. Shop for groceries and essentials
We’re home to countless local and international supermarkets. Ones that sell everything from everyday items to gourmet groceries from around the world. Whether you’re looking to stock up the pantry or going for Korean snacks, Japanese produce or Australian meats, there’s a retailer for you.
Get your meals, groceries and daily necessities delivered to your doorstep with just a few convenient clicks – foodpanda has you covered with plenty of restaurants and cafes, plus 13 pandamart cloud grocery stores that stock daily necessities and groceries. It’s completely stress- and fuss-free. If you need something delivered, use pandago for a reliable parcel delivery service – real-time tracking included. Psst: keep an eye out for attractive deals and promotions!
Leaning towards the sustainable route? We’ve got plenty of zero-waste stores you can go to. Some even provide jars for you to cut back on your plastic waste! Just bring ’em in, fill them up with nuts, soap, or snacks, and you’re good to go. And if you don’t have time (or energy), we totally get you. That’s why we turn to online grocery stores so we can get everything delivered to our doorstep.
6. Take care of your health
It’s never too early to take charge of your family’s health. Better safe than sorry, as the saying goes. Regular health checkups are key to catching potential health issues early, to expedite the process of recovery. There are clinics and hospitals scattered all over Singapore, and you can book an appointment for screenings at any time.
Thankfully, we’ve also got plenty of 24-hour clinics and after-hours family doctors who can take care of your young ones when they’re ill. Make sure you take note of which ones are close to home, so you don’t get flustered when it’s time to make a trip over.
We can’t forget about mental health either! Having someone to share your struggles with can help a lot. And we’re not just talking about full-on rants with friends. Seeking professional help from counselling centres is nothing to be ashamed of. Call them up for a listening ear and non-judgemental advice.
7. Explore the island’s best
All settled in? Now comes the best part of living in Singapore: exploring our beautiful island city! Singapore has one of the finest public transport systems in the world. So even if you don’t have a car, you’ll find it super easy to get around. You can get an EZ-Link card for use on buses and trains at Transitlink ticket offices or convenience stores. Download a good public transport app (we recommend Citymapper) that’ll show you the most efficient ways to get around.
For the ultimate bucket list, we’ve put together a massive list of fun things to do in Singapore (some of ’em are free!). You’ll also have to visit all of the city’s best attractions. We’ve got everything from family-friendly activities and shopping malls to nightclubs and amazing museum exhibitions. If you’re more of an outdoors person, make sure you slot in time to explore our lush hiking trails and kayaking hotspots on the weekends.
8. Fuel up on good food
Want to treat yourself? Reserve a seat at our stellar fine dining restaurants, award-winning bars, and gorgeous cafes. It’s a food paradise here in the little red dot. Or, if you want to save a few dollars and chow down on amazing local dishes, visit your closest hawker centre and order some delish chicken rice and Hokkien mee.
If you’re looking to spice up your next date night, turn away from regular romantic restos. Hit up unique dining experiences in Singapore instead! In the mood for brunch? There are lots of cafes that serve some mean fry-ups, and some that do it the boozy way with champagne. We love getting all kinds of cuisines around town. Whether it’s Chinese, Indian, Italian, Mexican or Mediterranean, the city’s got you covered.
9. Check into a luxe staycay
We’ve got plenty of amazing hotels for a staycation in our garden city. From charming boutique ones and eco-friendly resorts to swanky five-star stays and relaxing spa hotels, there’s something for everyone.
If you’re looking for a quick getaway within Singapore, we recommend Villa Samadhi. This is the city’s only resort villa within a lush nature reserve, tucked away in the verdant Labrador Nature Reserve. Housed in a 1920s black and white colonial garrison, it offers a luxe stay with all the modern amenities you’ll need. Enjoy delicious Thai and Burmese nosh at Tamarind Hill created by a team of Thai chefs, and explore nearby attractions including Chinatown, Esplanade and National Gallery Singapore.
We hope this guide makes living in Singapore less intimidating for you. We can’t wait to have you here!
[This article was originally published in 2022 by Samantha Yeo and updated in 2023 by Ashe Liao]