When considering a move abroad, it can be all too easy to assume that a rosier life awaits, and yet sometimes, it turns out the grass on the other side really does have a greener sheen. Nevertheless, all serial expats will attest that every city and country have their own pluses and minuses.
So, for those expats who are still hovering on the fence and weighing up the positives and negatives of relocating to the Lion City, here's a helpful list of some of the pros and cons of moving to Singapore.
Climate in Singapore
+ PRO: It's warm and balmy all year round
The temperature ranges from 86 to 92°F (30 to 33°C) from January to December, making it perfect swimming weather year-round. It's a bit cooler in the evenings, around 77°F (25°C), and most properties have air con. There's no need to bring jumpers or coats when you move here.
- CON: There are no seasons, and it rains a lot
The humidity here usually hovers around 70 percent or more and will certainly take some getting used to. New arrivals often take two or three showers a day, just to cool down. It also rains a lot. Not drizzle, but proper heavy tropical downpours, particularly during monsoon season. These are often short, sharp and sudden, but can also last all day. Seasoned expats are never far from an umbrella (which are also good for shade).
Education in Singapore
Whether expats want to enrol their child in a local public school or a private international school, there are several options that provide world-class education in Singapore.
+ PRO: Great schools to choose from
There are many good public schools in Singapore which are affordable and provide high-quality education. Private international schools are also a great choice, particularly for expats who want their child to continue with the school curriculum from their home country.
- CON: Expensive school fees, hard to get into
Although public education is the most affordable option in Singapore, most expats are required to pay more than the locals for school fees. Private international school tuition can be astronomical, but employers will sometimes cover education costs, or a portion thereof. Both public and private schools in Singapore tend to be oversubscribed, so expat parents should start the application process well in advance of their move.
Healthcare in Singapore
Expats will find that good quality healthcare is readily available in Singapore, regardless of health insurance. Even for those without access to the city-state's subsidised 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. Those who have insurance can contact their provider for a list of recommended doctors and clinics.
- CON: Possible upfront costs
An unexpected trip to the doctor may end up being rather expensive, especially if the facility or doctor doesn't accept direct bill settlement from insurance companies. If this is the case, the patient is expected to pay for the consultation and any other services provided at the time of visit up front, including prescriptions for medication. These medical bills are usually reimbursed by the insurance company, but the upfront payment can come as a shock for those living on a budget.
Accommodation in Singapore
Much of the housing in Singapore comes in the form of high-rise condos or apartments. Even those that live in a freestanding 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 a HDB (government-owned) flat or a privately owned condo, they’ll have loads of options, as high-rise developments are still 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 space on the island is at a premium, rent in Singapore can be exorbitant. Expect to pay more for a place closer to the city centre, Orchard Road, Holland Village, and other desirable neighbourhoods. Expats willing to move further 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 cheap as chips, too. Even more train lines are expected to be added to the already extensive network, making even the furthest corners of the island easily accessible. Cabs, which are also extremely affordable, are an alternative mode of transportation, and so are the bevy of easy-to-use ride-hailing apps.
- 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 journey for most expats, but once settled here, the city-state serves as an excellent base for myriad close-by getaways.
+ 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
+ PRO: Low crime rate
Singapore is an exceptionally 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 narrow so this can be dangerous. Although work is being done to rectify this, there is currently limited cycling infrastructure 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
+ PRO: Easy to make friends
It usually doesn't take new arrivals long to make friends in Singapore, be they expat or local. There are several online forums and social-media groups that provide both expats and locals with the opportunity to come together over shared interests.
Otherwise, be on the lookout for organisations that host social events, as these are great places to meet likeminded individuals. Becoming a member of an expat club or society, such as the American Association or the British Club, is another great way to find out what’s on in Singapore.
Expats can also consider taking a class, volunteering, or starting a blog about life in Singapore.
- CON: Pricey party scene
Singapore puts a heavy 'sin tax' on alcoholic beverages, making a night out on the town a costly affair. The nicer clubs and bars sell drinks at a premium.
►For an overview of life on the Little Red Dot, see Moving to Singapore
"I use buses and the MRT (the underground) and both are spotless and always on time. It’s right up there with the best I have used and it’s affordable. To add, taxis are relatively cheap compared to other global cities so transport, in general, is fantastic." Read more about Scott's expat experience, as a South African living in Singapore.
Are you an expat living in Singapore?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Singapore. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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