If you’ve ever thought about visiting Singapore there’s a good chance you’ve heard someone tell you how expensive it is.

You’ll find most of the tourist spots live up to this expectation, where the cheapest bottle of wine on a menu sits at $100AU and dinner at a nice restaurant can set you back $400AU. It turns out, this isn’t the way the locals live.

Savvy Singaporeans know where and how to find the very best things to see and do in Singapore, without breaking the bank. Here are some tips on how to explore Singapore like a local.

Delicious food

Steer clear of restaurants and bars in the heart of Singapore, instead opt for a trip to some well-known food courts and hawker centres for the very best food on offer. Hong Lim Food Court in Chinatown is famous for producing delicious food and most dishes will cost around $3 – $4AU. Be sure to try curry chicken bee hoon mee, wanton noodles and laksa. You’ll also find the East Coast Lagoon Food Village a fantastic place to eat. It’s by the water, packed with locals and the food here is divine and affordable. The seafood here is top-notch!

Affordable shopping

The high-end stores of Orchard Road are great, but not really affordable for most people. Instead, head to the Bugis Street Market, day or night. You’ll find three floors of markets crammed into a pretty small building, selling everything from clothes and costume jewellery to hats, make-up and everything in-between. It’s a great place to pick up bargains and souvenirs on a shoe-string and, yep, you’ll find locals here too.

You’ll find most of the tourist spots live up to this expectation, where the cheapest bottle of wine on a menu sits at $100AU and dinner at a nice restaurant can set you back $400AU. It turns out, this isn’t the way the locals live.

Getting around

It can be really tempting to catch taxis everywhere because they’re much cheaper than in Australia. All those cab rides add up and you won’t find many locals catching cab after cab. Instead, by an EZ-Link card from the MRT (train) station. It’ll cost you $12AU, which includes $7 travel credit.

The train system here is incredibly easy to work out and it’s really cost effective to catch both trains and buses around the island. If you need help, an app called Next Ride is a great way to figure out how to get where you want to go.

Coffee, tea and drinks

You won’t find the best coffee at a Starbucks or hipster cafe in Singapore, instead you’ll find it at your local food court or Hawker Centre. Even if you’re staying in the heart of Singapore, you’ll still find a food court hiding in the top or bottom of a shopping mall. Order yourself an Ice Kopi or Ice Teh-O, it’s strong, flavourful and delicious and shouldn’t cost more than $1.30AU.

When it comes to alcohol, there’s no getting around the cost due to taxes, but drinking a tallie of Tiger at a food court should cost around $7AU, which is far better than the $18AU pints you’ll find at Clarke Quay.

Sightseeing

Some of the best things in Singapore are free! Catch the MRT to the Gardens by the Bay and marvel at the Sky Trees. Visit Collyer Quay in the evening and watch the light show from Marina Bay Sands. Take a trip to Chinatown and watch old men play checkers, then stroll through the incredible Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.

Visit the East Coast Parkway and sit on the beach, watching the lights from hundreds of cargo ships twinkle on the horizon. Explore the incredible Fuk Tak Chee Temple near Telok Ayer, the oldest temple in Singapore!