Singapore Expat Guide
Are you thinking of moving to Singapore? This city-state in Southeast Asia continues to be a choice destination for expats because of its high standard of living, efficient public transportation system, cleanliness, and safety. Find out what you need to know with this guide to living in Singapore.
Life in Singapore
Singapore is a sovereign island nation located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. It declared independence from Malaysia and became the Republic of Singapore on August 9, 1965. Its tropical and humid climate makes it feel like summer all year round, with temperatures ranging from 22 degrees Celsius to 35 degrees. Monsoon rains are typical from September to January.
Singapore is proud of its multiracial and multicultural population, with the majority being ethnic Chinese, Malays, and ethnic Indians. As of June 2017, 70 percent of its 5.47 million residents are Singaporean citizens and permanent residents, and 1.6 million are non-permanent residents. Its four official languages – English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil – reflect the country's reputation as a melting pot. English is the primary language of government and business and is the medium of instruction in both local schools and international schools.
Despite its limited land, Singapore ranks high when it comes to the economy, business climate, technology, and education. The country is second to Switzerland in economic standing, and ahead of the United States, Netherlands, Germany, Norway, and Taiwan. Singapore also takes the top spot for transparency, ease of doing business, lack of bureaucracy and best global innovation.
Thanks to its thriving economy, residents enjoy high-quality health care, education, personal safety, and housing standards. The Mercer 2018 Quality of Living Survey shows Singapore in first place for Asia, followed by Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei, and Kuala Lumpur.
Singapore's healthcare network includes a total of 17 hospitals currently comprising nine public and eight private hospitals. There are eight national specialty centers for cancer, cardiac, eyes, skin, neuroscience, and dental care. Several private hospitals accept international visitors, with many neighboring countries availing of Singapore's excellent reputation for medical care.
Public Transport in Singapore
Singapore is proud of its efficient public transportation system. Voted as the world's best airport six years in a row, Changi Airport serves as the nation's gateway to the world, and the crown jewel of Singapore's world-class transport network. This includes the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) which covers most of Singapore, the Light Rapid Transit and monorail systems. Other options include ferries, public buses, and taxis.
Due to limited road space, driving in Singapore can seem like a luxury, and there are many rules and regulations needed to own a car. If you're an expat in Singapore with an Employment Pass, Dependent Pass, Student Pass or Work Permit, you need to convert your foreign driver's license to a Singapore driver's license to be able to drive.
Pros and Cons
Moving to Singapore means living and working in an expensive city. The country is the fourth most expensive city in the world according to Mercer's 2018 Annual Cost of Living Survey after Hong Kong and Tokyo. You also have to contend with a population of 5.6 million squeezed into only 721 square kilometers, a ratio of 7,796 persons per square kilometer.
Housing usually takes up the biggest chunk of expenses of living in Singapore especially for addresses located downtown which are in high demand. Transportation, healthcare, education, and child care can also contribute to increased costs. Expatriates are usually advised to set up a bank account in Singapore prior to relocation in order to make financial transactions easier. Many international banks have branches in Singapore, making it easier to open a savings, checking and even multi-currency accounts, especially if you wish to keep a certain amount of your home country's currency on standby.
For recreation, there are many shopping malls that carry familiar international brands. Dining options include Michelin-starred hawker stalls to top-dollar restaurants headed by internationally-renowned chefs. Families can enjoy green spaces, beaches, hiking trails, skate facilities and theme parks for enjoyment. Many budget airlines also fly out from Singapore, making it easy to plan a weekend getaway to elsewhere in Asia.
Singapore's economic status, cleanliness, and multicultural environment allows its residents to enjoy a safe and enriched high standard of living that offers the best of Asian and Western lifestyles.