I Wish I’d Had a Singapore Neighborhood Guide Like This One…

Before coming to Singapore, I wanted to see how it was laid out as a city and where the cool places to be were. I couldn’t find a good guide anywhere! I know mine isn’t the best but I did learn a lot while there (staying with local friends) and they helped me organize this. I’ve since been back three times now, so trust me when I say I know where to stay in Singapore depending on what you want t odo!

Tiny Singapore is divided into many neighborhoods that encompass the diverse people of the country. In such a small place you have Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and more getting along peacefully.

The varied cultures make this an ideal destination for travelers because it allows you to see more of the world while staying in one place. Kind of like “Beers of the World” at Disney Land, but better.

Where to Stay in Singapore: A Neighborhood Guide

I’ve put together this Singapore neighborhood guide to help you get around. Everything is really close and easily accessible using the MRT (train), although walking might be a bit of a mission. Uber often has surge prices and you can opt to use Grab app if you want to go by taxi at a lower rate.

Little India

If you’re looking for where to stay in Singapore on a budget, Little India is said to be the cheapest area to sleep. This is THE place for backpackers from bars to food. For backpackers on a budget in Singapore, the prices are still going to be a little out of reach. If you’re only passing through give yourself about 30-60 minutes here to wander around and shop.

For super budget hostels or hotels in Little India, try the Traveller’s Loft @Jalan Besar, New Society Backpacker’s Hostel, or Footprints Hostel. Check here for more hostels in the area.

singapore guide neighborhoods little indiathis is not anything like India, and is definitely not dirty although by Singaporean standards it is

Similar to India?

Stepping out of the cab into Little India was pretty funny for me.. I’d read that it’s “dirty” and “like the old Singapore” but compared to “Real India”, it was clean and crisp! They sold Indian clothing, gold, electronics, bindis, and Indian sweets/food along the roads… at much higher prices that India. I feel a little bad saying it, but most of what I saw here was junk.

singapore guide neighborhoodswe didn’t quite understand this restaurant… jungle themed but they are Native American, no!? 

singapore guide neighborhoods

singapore guide neighborhoodsI love the puja flowers, and the sticks of clothing hanging out the windows

singapore guide neighborhoods

The gems were priced literally 10 times what they cost in India. I was quoted 200 SD for a very small moonstone pendant that should have cost maybe 20 SD, maybe less. She brought the price down to 50, which was still too high.

Eyebrow threading was about 15 SD whereas in India it cost me 20 rupees (about 30 cents) last time.  The guidebooks say Little India is the cheapest, but actually you can get threading done for 12 SD at the big shopping malls so don’t assume Little India will have best prices on everything. If you do get threading be sure to ask for tea tree oil after! There were signs for massage, reflexology, and Ayurveda treatments at higher than average prices, especially for an Indian market. Singapore is so far the most expensive place I have traveled.

singapore guide neighborhoods

singapore guide neighborhoodsproper Indian snacks

Check here for hotels in Little India & here for Airbnbs


singapore guide neighborhoods

Bugis is the most bustling area of Singapore with its many shopping malls, markets, and places to eat.

Top-rated hotels in Bugis include Andaz Singapore, ZEN Premium Kampong Glam, or Cube Boutique Capsule Hotel. Check here for more hotels in Bugis.

singapore guide neighborhoods

singapore guide neighborhoodsyear of the horse

The next stop for that day was Bugis. Luckily Dom, Ben’s university friend, has lived in Singapore for 3 years and was the perfect tour guide. It helped that his girlfriend is Singaporean! Although small (like everywhere in Singapore), I liked Bugis more than Little India and China Town.

Be sure to try some juice here! I explain how strange Bah Long Long is in my foodie post on Singapore.

Singapore Food

We got a couple snacks here. Peanut balls and a spring roll. The peanut ball had a  yummy exterior and middle, but the layer in between was very strange. The spring rolls were the freshest I have ever had!

Singapore Food

Here is where you will find the “greatest electronic mall of all time”: Sim Lim Square. I actually thought it was a lot of scams.

singapore neighborhood guideinstead of fancy electronics, I was content with this ice cream wafer sandwich (I could have had it between two slices of colorful bread too!)

Check here for hotels in Bugis & here for Airbnbs

China Town

singapore neighborhood guide

The boys were worn out from touring around with me, so they sat at one of the street bars to down some Tiger beer, while I wandering through China Town. I have to say I was mildly disappointed. Maybe I’m just over shopping in tourist places, but it is really overpriced junk. T-shirts, plastic crap, Chinese slippers and robes made from bad material but priced as if it were real silk. There was such a variety of chopsticks I was almost tempting to buy some.

Best hotels to stay in Chinatown are: Sofitel Singapore Chinatown, The Club, and Chic Capsules. Check here for more places to stay in Chinatown.

Shopping Singapore

china town singapore neighborhood guide

Two things I did want to buy, but never got around to it:

  1. The waving cat. Too cute! And I don’t even like cats. 3-10 SD.
  2. My name or Ben’s written in Chinese. I know it’s something you do at amusement parks… but it looks so beautiful when illustrated. 20 SD.

singapore guide neighborhoods

singapore guide neighborhoods

singapore guide neighborhoodscrappy watches and “perfume” trinkets… drunk Ben and Dom bought 40 dollars worth of watches and wore them the rest of the day.

Check here for hotels in China Town & here for Airbnbs

Arab Street

singapore guide neighborhoods arab street

As you can imagine from the previous places, this is all Arab! The street is lined with delicious food and people smoking hookah. I’m partial to Persian food, but we saw Moroccan, Turkish, and many other countries represented. There are bars here with live music. We spent one evening here for dinner and drinks. Check out the huge Sultan Mosque– it’s beautiful at night.

Check here for hotels in Arab Street & here for Airbnbs

Orchard Road

Shopping Singapore

As for Shopping you have the famous Orchard road with 20-plus malls and Vivo city, which is on the way to Sentosa. Because shopping is one of my favorite ways to burn money, and Massy, my friend and local fashion designer told me the ins and outs, I’ve written up a separate post dedicated to shopping in Singapore.

Check here for hotels in Orchard Road & here for Airbnbs

Clarke Quay & Robertson Quay

singapore guide neighborhoods

Singapore Nightlife Backpacking Budget Near each other, these both have bars and restaurants along the river. There are loads of expats here, delicious brunch, and great spots to watch soccer games or people watch. More on what we got up to here in my post about Singapore’s food.

Check here for hotels in Clarke and Robertson Quay & here for Airbnbs

Marina Bay & the Financial District

singapore nightlifephoto credit: flickr

singapore nightlife

singapore nightlifephoto credit: flickr. I took some but none turned out well :(

This is talked about in more detail over here on my post about Singapore’s abundant nightlife, but you can go to the Marina Bay Mall during the day and see the Gardens by the Bay. We chose to go at night so we could see it all lit up after the laser show! This is one of the most memorable times I had in Singapore when we went to The Lantern in The Fullerton Bay Hotel for drinks and to see the show, then after went to Ku-deta, the most well-known bar in Singapore on top of the most well-known building.

Check here for hotels in Marina Bay & here for Airbnbs

Sentosa Island

singapore neighborhood guide sentosa Sentosa Sinagpore

We took a cab from Dom’s place to Vivo City Mall, where we caught the Sentosa Train out to the beach for 4 dollars. There are 2 stops on the way, the first being Universal Studios. At the last stop called Beach Station you will get off if you want the beach, pretty self-explanatory. We only spent an hour at Sentosa. We live on a beach, so I didn’t want to waste the small amount of time I had in Singapore getting a tan. It’s completely man-made and seems a lot like an amusement park. Prices are much higher than in town- and that’s saying something.

If you’re looking for where to stay in Singapore with a family of younger kids, Sentosa might be a fun choice with all the adventurous things it has to do.

For hotels in Sentosa, check out: Capella Singapore Hotel, Shang-ri La’s Rasa Sentosa Resort and Spa, or W Singapore Sentosa Cove. Check here for more places to stay in Sentosa.

singapore guide neighborhoods singapore guide neighborhoods

There are loads of activities to do at Sentosa:

Skyline Luge, starting at 8 dollars looked fun but a little to slow for us. WaveHouse looked very cool and Ben was all set to try his hand until he was informed he couldn’t without a passport.

singapore guide neighborhoods wavehouse

singapore neighborhood guide

 TIP: Take your ID with you!

Other options include trapeze, rock walls, and resorts that offer spa services.

singapore guide neighborhoods

singapore guide neighborhoods

singapore guide neighborhoods

You can stay the night there at one of the resorts and the beachside restaurants have many intercontinental options. Sentosa was not my favorite place; I found it strange how artificial it seemed. There were trolleys taking people around like at Cedar Point between the two beaches: Siloso and Palawan. I think if I lived in Singapore I’d go on the weekends because it’s a nice break from city life, but as a tourist with limited time, I do see it as a little bit of a tourist trap. If you have the money go there and drink all day and the time to chill out by the sea, then you should definitely go. If you are a backpacker with limited time and budget, this might be something to skip.

Check here for hotels in Sentosa & here for Airbnbs

I have more articles on Singapore that you might like:

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About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Hippie in Heels, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Hippie in Heels has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.


  1. J in Beijing March 12, 2014 at 8:31 am - Reply

    Great idea for a guide Rachel. I always like to read about the different neighbourhoods a city has to offer before I head out there- so I’ll definitely refer back here if I get to Singapore at some point. I love that Singaporeans think Little India is the grubby end of town, when it actually seems clean to you by comparison! I guess all their anti littering, gum, spitting etc laws pay off!

    • Rachel Jones March 12, 2014 at 12:09 pm - Reply

      Yes, it’s so funny that they think it’s dirty! I mean if I dropped a really good chip on the ground there… I might pick it up and eat it. I might. I mean it looks like the scrub the streets.

  2. Emily March 12, 2014 at 4:52 pm - Reply

    I had no idea Singapore had such a variety of neighbourhoods. I like this guide as it gives a realistic heads up of what to expect as far as costs are concerned!

    • Rachel Jones March 13, 2014 at 4:03 am - Reply

      & the costs are big! The only negative about Singapore.

  3. Catherine March 13, 2014 at 7:52 am - Reply

    This is a great guide. Love the way that the city is split up into different areas representing other countries; a great way to experience different cultures without having to go very far at all :)

  4. Jade Atkins March 17, 2014 at 5:31 am - Reply

    We recently travelled around India, and afterwards went to Singapore. Luckily it was my boyfriend’s birthday whilst we were away so his parents paid for our hotel! We could not believe how clean it was!! And found it hilarious that little india was the only area with any mess! Singapore is the only city I’ve been to and thought that I could live in, we loved it!

    • Rachel Jones March 18, 2014 at 2:13 am - Reply

      Lodging is always the most expensive so you got very lucky! I loved Singapore too. It was a great break from India most definitely.

  5. Glamourous Traveller March 30, 2014 at 11:18 pm - Reply

    Cute outfit ;)

    As an added bonus, you could go and check out East Coast Park which is located on the way to the airport. It’s an extremely local park stretching about 10 km and right by the sea. You can rent bikes, walk or jog the pathway, have a picnic, or visit the numerous restaurants along the way (including an awesome East Coast Park hawker center). It’s deff cheaper than visiting Sentosa (and they have a special wakeboarding pond as well)

    • Rachel Jones March 31, 2014 at 1:44 am - Reply

      I would love to rent a bike in Singapore! Great idea.

    • Steph March 8, 2015 at 9:13 pm - Reply

      The Singapore zoo is really amazing too! Probably the best I’ve ever seen.. I did it as a daytrip from Bangkok with a good deal on JetStar and it was awesome!

  6. Jess Ross March 21, 2017 at 10:54 am - Reply

    Hi, just wondering where that little shop was in Chinatown where you wanted to get your name painted in Chinese :)

  7. Sarah October 23, 2018 at 11:36 am - Reply

    Seems like everything you did “wasn’t your favorite”. Did you find anything in Singapore to be worth your time and money?

  8. […] Any other places you would like to add?  Save this pin for later for your next trip to Singapore.  Check out this post for a complete guide to the neighborhoods in Singapore. […]

  9. […] so making use of the very efficient MRT will save you a fair whack of money and there are some great neighbourhood stays in Singapore that are cheaper for accommodation and the MRT makes them very accessable. A new MRT line is under […]

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