Pros and Cons of Moving to Singapore
When considering a move abroad, it can be all too easy to assume that a rosier life awaits in your new home. However, as serial expats can attest, all places have their own pluses and minuses.
For those expats who still need to make a decision about relocating to the Lion City, here's a list of some of the pros and cons of moving to Singapore.
Accommodation in Singapore
Much of the housing in Singapore comes in high-rise condo or apartment form. Even those that live in a free-standing home will find that backyards are rarities, but there are lots of green spaces and parks around the island to make up for it.
+ PRO: Lots of options
Whether expats want to rent an HDB (government-owned) flat or a privately owned condo, they’ll have lots of choice. High-rise developments are springing up all over Singapore. Most of the privately owned condos and apartments, especially the new ones, have amenities such as pools, playgrounds, gyms and function rooms included on site. Landed homes (similar to single family homes in the US) can be found in the suburbs.
- CON: Rent is expensive
Because land and space are in such high demand, rent in Singapore is really expensive. Expect to pay more for a place closer to the city centre, Orchard Road, Holland Village, and other desirable neighbourhoods. Landed homes are usually very pricey as well. Expats willing to move farther away from the central parts of town just might score a good deal.
Transportation in Singapore
Singapore might be a small country, but its road network and transportation system are extensive. Whether one drives, takes the train or rides the bus, it's easy to get around the island.
+ PRO: Great public transport
Getting around Singapore by bus or MRT is a piece of cake. Public transportation is really cheap, too. More train lines are expected to be built over the next decade, making even the farthest corners of the island easily accessible. Cabs, which are also extremely affordable, are an alternative mode of transportation.
- CON: Cars are costly
Owning a car in Singapore is a seriously expensive undertaking. Between heavy customs duties, taxes and insurance fees, as well as the price of tolls and parking, the convenience of owning a car comes at a high price.
Travel from Singapore
Getting to Singapore might be a long and arduous flight for most expats, but once settled here, the vacation spots in the area are just a short, and very affordable, plane ride away.
+ PRO: Cheap, accessible travel
If expats are looking to get away for a weekend, Singapore is an ideal jumping-off spot for travel in Southeast Asia. Several budget airlines offer affordable fares to neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. Sometimes planning a trip at the last minute can result in extremely cheap airfare.
Safety in Singapore
Although one hardly sees police officers or police cars out and about, Singapore is an extremely safe place to live.
+ PRO: Low crime rate
Singapore is a very safe country with low crime rates and a zero tolerance policy when it comes to drugs.
- CON: Poor pedestrian and cyclist safety
Pedestrians do not have the right of way in Singapore, so it's a smart idea to use crosswalks whenever possible. Sometimes bikes share the sidewalks with pedestrians, but sidewalks tend to be really small so this can be dangerous. Cyclists don't have dedicated bike lanes in Singapore and most cars and trucks do not look out for bikes on the road. Anyone who is going to ride a bike should wear a helmet and be as predictable on the road as possible. Use the Park Connector pathways when possible to avoid the dangerous roads.
Social scene in Singapore
It won't take long to make a group of friends, either expat or local, in Singapore; meeting people is usually easy and fun.
+ PRO: Easy to make friends
There are several online forums and Facebook groups that provide both expats and locals with the opportunity to come together over shared interests.
Otherwise, be on the lookout for organisations that hold social events, as these are great places to meet others. Becoming a member of an expat club or society, such as the American Association or the British Club, is a great way to find out what’s on.
Expats can also consider taking a class, volunteering, or starting a blog about life in Singapore. These are all great ways to meet people.
- CON: Pricey party scene
Singapore puts a heavy "sin tax" on alcoholic beverages, making a night out on the town a really costly experience. The nicer clubs and bars sell drinks at a premium.
Healthcare in Singapore
Quality healthcare in Singapore is affordable, compared to a place like the United States, whether one has insurance or not. Even if one does not have access to the city-state's socialised healthcare system, healthcare in Singapore is still reasonably priced as long as expats are insured.
+ PRO: Lots of doctors and facilities to choose from
There are a number of private hospitals, public hospitals and outpatient clinics throughout the island to choose from. Along with these facilities, there are also private medical practitioner clinics. Those who have insurance can contact their provider for a list of recommended doctors and clinics.
- CON: Unexpected upfront costs
An unexpected trip to the doctor can be a bit expensive if they do not accept direct bill settlement from the insurance company, and the patient is left having to pay the bill on the spot. If the doctor does not accept direct bill settlement, the patient is expected to pay for the consultation and any other services provided at the time of visit, including prescriptions for medication. These medical bills can usually be reimbursed by the insurance company, but that surprise medical bill can come as a shock if one is living on a budget. Contact the insurance company to see which doctors have a direct settlement option.
Education in Singapore
Whether expats want to enrol their child in a local public school or a private international school, there are several options for education in Singapore.
+ PRO: Great schools to choose from
There are many good public schools in Singapore which are affordable and provide a high quality of education. Private international schools are also a great choice, especially if one wants their child to continue with a school system from their home country.
- CON: Expensive school fees, hard to get into
Although public education is still really affordable in Singapore, expats may be required to pay more than the locals for school fees. Private international schools are yet more expensive. Both public and private schools in Singapore tend to be oversubscribed, so expat parents should start the application process well in advance of the move.