Singapore can be expensive, but with my guide to spending 48 hours in Singapore, it’s possible to see the city on even the smallest budget! There are so many cheap and free things to do around this amazing city: Check out the bright colours and rich smells of Little India, marvel at the decadent temples and bustling markets of Chinatown, take in the futuristic high-rise buildings downtown and the magnificent marina, and find the cheapest (Michelin starred) street food.
To help you figure out how to spend your time in Singapore, I’ve written a 2-day itinerary for your trip. Why only two days? This seems to be the average amount of time I see backpackers and budget travellers spending there. There are several reasons for this; it’s expensive, it’s a hub, so a lot of people stop off there on the way somewhere else, and despite Singapore being a large city, people often have the impression that it’s small enough to be experienced in just a day or two. I certainly had that impression before I visited! Singapore is chock full of things to see and do. So much so that I still have things on my to-do list despite having been here 3 times! That being said, you will see that it is possible to see and do a lot with 48 hours in Singapore!
If you have more than 48 hours in Singapore, I have included a few extra things at the end of this post.
*All $ prices are SGD and not USD
While you’re here, hop on a bus over the border of Malaysia and check out these stunning islands;
Or use my Complete Singapore & Malaysia Travel Guide!
How To Get Around Singapore
The subway (MRT) is the best way to get around Singapore. It’s cheap (around $1.60 / 90p / €1 per trip), it’s fast, the carriages are air-conditioned, and you have phone reception on the trains, which I LOVE! You can buy a tourist travel card for unlimited travel for 1-3 days. Alternatively, a smartcard costs $10 with a prepaid value of $5, which you can top up for further trips. If you have longer than 48 hours in Singapore, I would recommend this. Smartcards can be purchased at Passenger service centres in the train stations or 7-11 stores. Have plenty of change and small notes for the ticket machines; they only take coins and a max of $5 notes. Contactless bank cards are accepted, but fees apply to foreign banks. Uber is also popular here and a cheap way to get from A to B.
Where to Stay
There are so many options for travellers on every budget in Singapore!
Marina Bay Sands, from $752 /£441/ €514
If you want to splurge in Singapore, there is only one place to do it! Nowhere says ”I’m in Singapore” than staying at the iconic Marina Bay Sands. It really is, in my opinion, the ultimate splurge in Singapore. It’s iconic for a reason – imagine waking up with a view of Singapore harbour! If you want to see the Singapore skyline – choose ‘City View’ Room. If you want to see the harbour or Gardens By the Bay – you can opt for this too. This 5-star hotel has an unbeatable location and unparalleled views. 24-hour reception and concierge, and all rooms are complete with minibar, air con and ensuite. If you are looking for top quality, top service and a top location for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Marina Bay Sands is where I would pick!
The Scarlet Singapore, from $226 / £136 / €156
The Scarlet Singapore is a quirky boutique hotel. Set within a pre-war shophouse located in Chinatown, The Scarlet Singapore is such a unique stay. Its location is excellent, complete with air conditioning and a gym. You’re right next to loads of restaurants and nightlife while only being 10 minutes away from the Tanjong Pagar MRT Station. They have a rooftop restaurant if you want to stay in and delicious food within close distance of the hotel.
Champion City Hotel near Clarke Quay for $161/ £97/ €120
We stayed at Champion City Hotel near Clarke Quay. Fresh off a 12-hour flight, we needed somewhere we could relax and sleep in peace. We were given a clean and comfortable air-conditioned room in a great location, and the bed was a dream! They also have a 24-hour reception, useful for those arriving in on nighttime flights. Champion City Hotel, is great for budget travellers who don’t want to live the hostel life but also need to stay within budget!
Spacepod@Hive capsule hostel on Serangoon Road for just $34 / £20 / €24 per bed per night
For budget backpackers, check out Spacepod@Hive capsule hostel on Serangoon Road for just $34 / £20 / €24 per bed per night. A futuristic-style hostel with either single or double capsules. The capsules were super comfortable and plenty big for two people. I especially loved that the sockets were built into the capsules so we could charge all our devices here. Complete with reading lights, LED Lights and privacy screens; this was perfect for a short stay. We stayed here on our last trip to Singapore and loved it. Spacepod@Hive is a clean hostel with shared bathrooms and good wifi in a great location. They also have air conditioning and a shared kitchen, which is great for budget backpackers.
48 hours in Singapore Budget Trip Itinerary Day 1: The Botanic Gardens, Little India, Masjid Lane, and Gardens By The Bay
Start the day with a trip to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. You can easily get there on the Downtown MRT line (the dark blue one) – the stop is called Botanic Gardens, so you can’t miss it.
I’m not sure if it’s because I’m from Ireland and used to being surrounded by green stuff, but I love to visit the botanic gardens in any big city I visit. The Singapore Botanic Gardens is probably the best one I’ve ever been at. It’s open at 5 a.m., so it’s a great thing to do in a city that doesn’t really wake until 11 a.m. It’s absolutely huge, so you completely forget you’re stops away from the bustling downtown area. With 3 lakes, 5 restaurants, and over 60,000 species of plants, it’s easy to pass the time here.
There are morning yoga classes and Tai Chi classes, which you can book online if you’d like to vinyasa away your jet lag. There are also some great running tracks if you want to come early for a morning jog. If you’re a dog lover, you will be in heaven! This is a popular dog walking spot; so many gorgeous pups are out with their owners. They are also very obliging if you want to pet them :). The park is very strict on proper etiquette, so all dogs are leashed, spotlessly clean, and super quiet.
Save the Pennies
Pick up some food from a nearby market and have a breakfast picnic overlooking Symphony Lake.
Splash the Cash
Have breakfast or brunch in one of the five restaurants in the garden; there are some great choices. You’ll find the options on the Botanical Gardens website.
Little India, Masjid Sultan and Haji Lane
Cost: All sights are free, lunch from $5 / £2.95 / €3.45
When you’re finished in the Gardens, hop on the Downtown MRT line to Little India Station. This is 3 stops from Botanic Gardens station. Take Exit E.
Little India is a fun and vibrant area, it makes us feel like we’re back in the hustle and bustle of India! From the station, walk down Kerbau Road to see Tan Teng Niah, the last Chinese house in Little India. Take time to admire the beautiful, brightly painted building. If you’re hungry, the Amaravati restaurant across the road serves some great, cheap Indian food – try the Paneer Butter Tikka; it’s incredible! Keep walking toward Serangoon Road and spend some time walking around the area. Take detours down little laneways and snap some photos of street art and colourful buildings. Buy some souvenirs, get henna done in the markets, chat with shop owners and take in the sights and sounds of the streets. Visit the Indian heritage centre, visit Sri Veeramakaliamman – Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple, Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple, and marvel at the Abdul Gafoor Mosque.
Once you have finished exploring Little India, make your way on foot across the Rochor River to Arab Street. It’s a busy and colourful palm tree-lined street filled with cafes, restaurants and bars. This is a popular hipster hangout and a great place to people-watch for a little while. You could also eat here if you weren’t hungry in Little India, although it would cost a little more.
At the end of Arab Street is the gorgeous Masjid Sultan with its iconic gold dome roof. If you’re interested in photography, you can get some great shots of this mosque. (Especially from the bottom of Arab Street).
Save the pennies
Grab a coffee or a beer in one of the cafes on Arab Street and people-watch for a little while.
Splash the cash
Maison Ikkoku is a few minutes walk on Kandahar Street and well worth visiting. This Japanese cocktail bar has no menu. Instead, you tell the bartender what you’re in the mood for, and he’ll whisk you up a cocktail that suits your mood. Feel like something sweet and gin-based? Or sour and whiskey-based? How about something smokey with bourbon? They’ll make you a cocktail that’s just what you’ve been looking for. Cocktails are $25 / £14 / €15 each.
A 10-minute walk through busy streets with some great street art will take you to Haji Lane. A narrow street filled with stylish boutiques, grungy coffee shops, chilled-out bars and many tourists armed with SLRs trying to take the perfect shot. It’s a popular tourist spot, but it’s well worth a visit. It is a great place to people-watch and chat with other backpackers and tourists.
Cost: from $6 / £3 / €4 for food. Beer is $10 / £5 / €6 for a pint and $5.50/ £3 / €3.50 for a can.
Once you have finished at Haji Lane, walk a few minutes to the nearby Bugis MRT station. Take the Downtown line 4 stops to Telok Ayer (7 minutes). Take exit C and go to Lao Pa Sat hawker market for dinner. This popular market is filled with cheap delicacies from all around Asia. Try the Hainan chicken – a popular local dish, and carrot cake (not actually cake, it’s a savoury dish). Sit at any table in the market and try dishes from as many stalls as you like.
Out the back of the market, you’ll find a smokey outdoor section filled with stalls selling all kinds of Satay. This area has a bit more atmosphere than inside and is popular with young Singaporeans meeting for dinner and drinks.
Cost: Free to enter, up to $36 / £21 / €24 for attractions
After dinner, it’s off to the Gardens by the Bay – one of the top things I’ve seen in two years of backpacking! Try to get there before 7:45 to watch the light show. There is a show at 7:45 and 8:45 p.m. every night, lasting 15 minutes. To get there, hop on the Downtown MRT line to Bayfront (2 stops). From here, it’s about a 10-minute walk to get into the garden from the station. There is the option to get a shuttle, but it’s a beautiful walk with lots of photo opportunities, so I’d recommend walking.
If you want to watch the light show and see the ‘trees’ in the Gardens, then you don’t need to pay a thing, just walk in. There is also a skywalk you can do between the tops of the trees. This costs $12 / £6.90 / €8 per person, and tickets must be bought inside the garden. Queues can be huge, but you can book in advance here.
Next to the Garden, there is the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. You can buy tickets at the entrance to the Gardens, right outside the station exit. The queues here don’t tend to be as large as inside the Garden, we got there at 7 pm on a Saturday night, and there was no queue at all. If you would rather be prepared, then you can book tickets at this link. It’s $53 / £30 / €35 to see both of these and they’re right beside each other.
Is the flower dome and cloud forest a must-see for the budget backpacker?
The flower dome is a massive conservatory filled with exotic plant life from around the world. The cloud forest is a spectacular waterfall you can walk behind and see the beautiful gardens surrounding it. There are some photos in the gallery at the end of the post of the two. If you have the money in your budget, I would recommend going to these, but unless you’re a flower enthusiast or are very into photography and want to get some shots of the two places, I would go to the Garden and perhaps do the skywalk. We really enjoyed all of these attractions, but the light show in the Garden and the Garden itself are the main attractions in the park.
Save the pennies
Skip the skywalk, flower dome and cloud forest, and your visit will be completely free. You can still walk through the gardens and see the light show, which is a big highlight. Feel free to lie down on the spotlessly clean ground and enjoy the spectacular colours and music from this light show. It was an incredible experience!
Splash the cash
Finish up the evening with a drink at Cé La Vi Skybar. Located on the 57th floor of the iconic Marina Bay Sands. 10 -15 minute walk from the Gardens by the Bay Lightshow. $30 / £18 / €20 gets you entry to the bar. This is redeemable against a drink of your choice. The bar has incredible views overlooking the gorgeous Singapore skyline. The dress code is smart casual after 10 p.m. Have a celebratory toast for your action-packed 48 hours in Singapore!
You might want to end your evening here after such a busy day, but if you do have the time, you could make it over to the Marina Bay Sands to watch the light show at 8 pm or 9 pm (or there is a later 10 pm show on weekends). This free light show is one of the more popular things to do in Singapore and really is a spectacular event! There is plenty of space to sit and watch the show and a great atmosphere with so many people around. You can walk here from the Gardens by the Bay in about 15-20 minutes. You’ve finished the light show and still don’t want to go home?
Head to Kulnari Mystery Golf if you’re feeling adventurous and want to experience an activity unique to Singapore! The brainchild of a mother and son in 2020, Kulnari Mystery Golf has become one of the most unique attractions in Singapore. It’s a mix of an escape room, storytelling and mini golf. Solve a murder mystery in a 1920s immersive experience, complete with a redeemable drink voucher in a secret bar at the 9th hole, tickets cost $25. Play through 18 holes of mini golf while simultaneously solving a mystery in the 1920s. Book your tickets here.
Save the Pennies: Head to nearby Clarke Quay and find yourself a happy hour deal along the river.
Splash the cash: Head to Raffles, the home of the Singapore Sling and try their famous cocktail at its birthplace. Ok so this is a really, really touristy thing to do in Singapore, and we did contemplate not going for that reason, but curiosity won over! Raffles Club was made famous as home to the original Singapore Sling and is a super popular place for tourists to taste the old colonial era. The bar itself is full of charm and takes you back in time to another world. They’ve even kept the old bamboo fans and the colonial decor. You can get here via the Downtown MRT line from Bayfront to Bugis in 20 minutes. Or grab an Uber, which should be pretty cheap at this time of night. The classic Singapore Sling cocktail will set you back $37/ £22 / €25.
48 hours in Singapore Budget Itinerary Day 2: Brunch, Street Art Tour, Chinatown and Hawker Markets
Indulge in a leisurely brunch.
Cost: Around $30 / £16 / €18 per head for restaurant or around $10 / £5 / €6 for market or food court breakfast.
You’ve had a busy day yesterday (and possibly a night out), so take it slowly this morning and start your day with a relaxed breakfast to get your energy back for sightseeing. Western breakfasts are popular in Singapore, and there are some great options around the city to eat in the morning. Try Common Man Coffee Roasters for great smoothies and an egg white & kale scramble that is so good you’ll forget it’s healthy. Strangers at Work and its sister restaurant Strangers Reunion make an awesome breakfast and amaaaazing truffle fries. If you’re after a traditional breakfast or something cheaper, head to your nearest hawker hall or shopping mall food court for the best place to go. (Shopping mall food courts in this part of Asia are so much better than in Europe; it’s not just KFC and Burger King but lots of great food here, too.)
Explore the streets of Singapore
You’ve spent the previous day ticking off some of the top sights in Singapore. Now it’s time to get to know the heart of the city. Singapore is great to explore on foot – it’s really diverse and full of charming little streets and laneways waiting for you to explore them. There are loads of museums and centres where you can learn more about the history and culture of Singapore.
I’d recommend starting around Clarke Quay. Following the path along the river, take a look at the beautiful streets surrounding you. Crossing over the river to visit the Asian Civilisation Museum. You’ll pass the National Gallery, the beautiful Victoria Theatre right nearby, and the Singapore Art Museum if you’d like to go in and take a look.
From Clarke Quay, you can also take a boat trip down the Singapore River to the Marina for some spectacular views. Or walk downtown and take in the views of the Marina Bay Sands during the day. There are boat trips that go from Boat Quay and Clarke Quay down to the marina for the light shows, so if you didn’t make it last night, you could do it tonight.
Stroll around Chinatown
Cost: Free to explore, around $10 / £5 / €6 if you get lunch
Chinatown is within walking distance from Clarke Quay (15-20minutes). It’s a really nice walk, so I’d recommend not getting an MRT. Walk up South Bridge Road and see the street become more colourful as you spot the many street decorations. If you haven’t already eaten, walk down Chinatown Food Street and get some lunch at one of the stalls here. Go to Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Chicken stall on 78 Smith Street. This is the cheapest Michelin-starred street food in the world.
If you are more of a foodie than a history lover and want a little direction on choosing/finding the best dishes, why not try a local food tour in Chinatown? This gives you a chance to taste both Michelin-star food and popular local dishes and gives you a unique insight into the amazing food scene in Singapore!
Spend some time exploring the markets and temples of Chinatown and maybe pick up a souvenir or two. Buddha Tooth Relic temple is a must-see; it’s beautiful, and you can go inside to look. There is a dress code, but they have wraps to cover your shoulders inside. Sri Mariamman is a Hindu temple nearby that is well worth a look. Its elaborately carved roof is stunning, and you can go inside to see more carvings. Again, there is a dress code, but you will be given a cover-up if needed.
If you’re interested in the history of Chinatown, visit Chinatown Heritage Centre ($18 / £9 / €11 entry) to learn a little about the struggles of the first Chinese immigrants in Singapore. You can see the tiny living spaces whole families had to live in when they settled in their new homes. The Heritage Centre has been temporarily closed since April 2021. It is undergoing a big restoration process, so keep your eyes peeled for when this reopens!
Colonial buildings and street art of Singapore
Right next to Chinatown is Craig Street. You will walk past a long row of traditional Singaporean houses with a futuristic modern skyscraper towering behind them. It’s a great place to take some photos and appreciate the change that Singapore has gone through in recent years. Nearby streets such as Everton Road have some great street art and old colourful shophouses that have been converted into homes. The streets are mostly windy and cross over each other constantly. It’s such a great place to get lost for an hour or two. Some great coffee houses are nearby, such as Strangers Reunion, where you can get Riesling, Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc-flavoured teas! I tried the Riesling, and it was delicious.
Cost: $5 / £2.75 / €3 and upwards for dishes
Maxwell Food Centre is an award-winning hawker market popular with locals and tourists. Most tourists with higher budgets tend to come here for lunch rather than dinner, so in the evenings, you can meet a lot of backpackers here. Like Lau Pa Sat, you can sit anywhere and try food from any stall. It’s a little easier to navigate than Lau Pa Sat and has more Indian food stalls.
We tried Saag Paneer and Takka Dahl with some roti for $10 / £5 / €6 for the two of us, it was so good! You can buy fresh fruit, fresh juices and cane juice that’s made right in front of you. Beer is sold in some stalls. The atmosphere is great, and it’s open until 2 a.m., so if you get hungry later, you can stop by again for more food.
Club Street / Ann Siang Hill
Cost: Happy hour is usually 2 for 1 beer, wine or prosecco, but numerous deals can be found.
If you have ever been to Hong Kong, this area will remind you of Lang Kwai Fong. These two streets are right beside Maxwell Food Centre and are heaving with locals who are out for the night. There are high-end romantic restaurants mixed in with bars blaring music and offering good happy hour deals. If you’re with a group, you can get a good deal on a beer tower. This would also be a good place to meet other travellers or locals if you’re alone. People in Singapore are really friendly and happy for a stranger to join them if they are on a night out! It’s such a lovely quality about the people here, and it can be awesome if you’re away for a long time and want to chat with some new people.
Finish up the night here or head to the nearby Pekin Street for another strip of bars with happy hours!
If You Have More Than 48 Hours in Singapore
That’s just about everything I could fit into my two days here. Below are a few other things you can do if you have more than 48 hours in Singapore. These are a little further out of the city but are definitely worth a trip! If you don’t have any data when you’re in Singapore, then screenshot this guide. Star all of the locations on Google Maps before you leave your hotel or hostel wifi. The map will still load offline once you have loaded it up previously online. This way, you can route your way to each place.
ArtScience Museum is an incredible place to visit if you have more than 48 hours in Singapore. This museum features amazing touring exhibitions and also permanently holds the ”FutureWorld” exhibition. It’s a creative way to learn new things, and I really enjoyed the many interactive exhibits here. You could easily spend some hours going through the eye-catching and interesting exhibitions here. No doubt you will have already seen the Instagrammable ”Mirror Maze” which is held in the FutureWorld exhibition. The ArtScience museum is fun and creative and gives you space to let your inner child run free! While you can get tickets at the door, you should book your tickets to get the time and date you prefer; you can book your tickets here.
This is a popular spot where locals go to escape the city and enjoy a bit of nature and exercise. Fitness enthusiasts will love the hikes and nature trails here. The highlight of this reservoir is an 11km nature trail, and there is also a treetop canopy walk you can do. There are other 3.2 and 4.8 km trails that you can do and canoe or kayak. The reservoir has an almost jungle feel to it as the trails take you around the water’s edge and right into the forest. You will likely see some macaque monkeys and monitor lizards.
The island is often called the last part of the old Singapore. This island has no sandy beaches, but it’s perfect for nature lovers and adventurers. It is ideal if you want to escape the city and go for an easy hike.
You can reach Ubin in 15 minutes on a bum boat from Changi Jetty, so it’s a quick day trip from the city. Rent a bike, cycle around the island and stop to chat with the locals who still live on the island. Hike to Puaka Hill for a magnificent view over an old granite quarry, and check out the Check Jawa Boardwalk. Stop by the picturesque Pekan Quarry and climb up the 20-metre-tall Jejawi Tower for a great view of Ubin.
These peaceful and tranquil gardens sit on Jurong Lake, connected by the bridge of Double Beauty. If you want to chill out and take a few hours to relax in a beautiful setting, then this is the place for you. If you’re in Singapore at Chinese New Year or the mid-autumn festival (September or October), then this is the place to go.
Another popular Hawker market that’s full of cheap eats from all around the world. We never managed to visit, but it was recommended so often that I thought I should pop it on here! I would go if you were in the area.
Hope this helps you to plan an amazing trip to Singapore! It is a wonderful place, and there is so much to see and do, no matter your budget. Whether you have 48 hours in Singapore or if you are lucky enough to visit multiple times, there is always something to see or do here! If you have any other suggestions to add for readers here, then leave a comment below and let us all know 🙂
Thanks for reading!