Settling-in Singapore

Singapore Destination Guide

The Basics

Let’s Talk About Culture

Settling in Tips

Let’s Have Fun

Need Help?

The Basics

About Singapore

The island of Singapore lies at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. It has a total land area of 721.5 sq. km. Apart from the main island that is approximately 41.8 km long and 23 km wide, there are over 60 smaller islands and reefs. Connecting Singapore and Malaysia are two causeway bridges.

Singapore has an estimated population of 5.5 million. At 74.2%, the Chinese form the majority of population followed by the Malays at 13.3%, Indian (including Pakistanis, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankans) at 9.2% and other ethnic groups 3.3%. Malay is the national language, although English is used in administration, education and business. Most Singaporeans are bilingual in English and a second language, commonly Mandarin, Tamil or Malay. Singaporeans are a young society with a median age of 38.9 years.

Singapore is 136.8 km north of the equator, therefore, it has a tropical climate with average maximum of 32°C and minimum of 23°C. It has high humidity, often exceeding 90% at night, with an average humidity of 84.5%. Rain falls throughout the year, usually in short, sharp thunderstorms. The average annual rainfall is 229 cm; the wettest season being between November and January.

Dressing is normally casual in Singapore. Most people tend to wear cool fabrics, such as cotton during the day. Linen and silk fabrics are popular for eveningwear. Although the outside temperature is hot the same whole year round, it is a different story when you go indoors. Air conditioning is everywhere in Singapore and the Singaporeans like their air condition freezing cold. So, take a cardigan, pashmina or scarf which can easily be stowed away in your handbag wherever you go. Most businessmen tend to wear shirt and tie only (no jacket).

Singapore's Facts & Figures

Land Area: 721.5 square km
Population:5.535 million
GovernmentParliamentary Republic
Time ZoneGMT + 8 hours
CurrencySingapore Dollar
ReligionBuddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism
LanguageEnglish (official business language), Chinese, Malay, Tamil
WeatherTropical Rainforest Climate.
Temperature ranging 22 – 37 degrees Celsius.
Warmest months – April to May.
Wettest months – November to January (Monsoon Season)
Important Laws & Regulations

Do NOT bring:

  • Chewing gum (except oral dental and medicated
  • Chewing tobacco and imitation tobacco products such shisha and E-cigarettes
  • Cigarette lighters of pistol or revolver shape
  • Controlled drugs and psychotropic substances
  • Endangered species of wildlife and their by-products
  • Firecrackers
  • Obscene articles, publications, video tapes/discs and software
  • Reproduction of copyright publications, video tapes, video compact discs, laser discs, records or casettes
  • Seditious and treasonable materials

Let’s Talk About Culture

Local Culture

General Settings

The culture is a mixture of the Chinese, Malay, Indian, and British cultures, and is a reflection of its immigrant history.

Singapore places focus on the system of meritocracy. This ensures the best person, regardless of race, language, status, and religion can develop the fullest potential. Education is provided to all children to help them gain knowledge and improve the quality of life.

Social and religious harmony is heavily emphasized by the government due to the different religions in Singapore.

The concepts of democracy, peace, progress, justice, and equality are enshrined as stars in the Singapore national flag.

Business Settings

You may have heard how notoriously late some Singaporeans are when they attend functions such as Chinese wedding dinners. However, for business meetings, do try to be punctual as being late may be seen as a sign of disrespect. If you find yourself running late unexpectedly, do make it a point to call ahead and let your clients or associates know approximately what time you will arrive.

You will be expected to shake hands when introduced to new business associates. An exception would be if you are a gentleman being introduced to a Muslim woman. The easiest way around this would be to let the woman take the lead. If she does not extend her hand for a shake, a smile and nod will do; some will also give a slight bow.

When presenting and receiving business cards (also called name cards), make sure you use both hands and do not be too hasty in putting the cards away. Take a moment to repeat the name and look at the card to show respect. If you are seated at a table, do leave the cards on the table throughout the meeting and only keep them at the end of the meeting. Asians consider name cards as an extension of their personae, so it is considered disrespectful if you stuff the card into your pocket the moment you receive. You should also refrain from writing on the card.

When dealing with business clients, bear in mind the importance of ‘showing face’. Be direct but keep your emotions to a minimum; be sincere with your praise but don’t overdo it. It is best to keep at least an arm’s length from the other person when conversing with him or her. Touching (even on the forearm) may not be a good idea unless you know someone very well.

In more traditional companies, hierarchy is manifested in the seating arrangements at a meeting. The most senior in the group are usually given places of honors, normally furthest into the room. If your team is seated on one side of the table, your counterparts in rank are likely to be seated across from you.

Singaporeans may feel uncomfortable about saying ‘no’ right to your face, especially if the main decision-maker is not present at the meeting. Do pay attention to nonverbal cues and body language.

In a business context, you should be careful when you give gifts as this may be construed as bribery. If you are gunning to do business with a company, giving a present before the deal is struck is a no-no. You could be seen as trying to buy your way in. It may be better to wait until the contract is signed and the deal is closed. If the company you are working with is government-related, you should not even entertain the idea of giving any kind of gift as this can be construed as a bribe.

Settling in Tips

Getting Around

Travelling around the island is easy, thanks to a systematic and integrated land transport master plan that incorporates an efficient rail and bus system, a carefully designed road and traffic structure, and controlled car ownership.

The stored value smartcard (EZ-link Card) is a contactless tap-and-go smart card for making payment for public transport services and other payments such as Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) transactions with the new generation In-Vehicle Unit (IU), Electronic Parking System (EPS) car parks, payments at shops and more. Simply head on down to any TransitLink Ticket Office at MRT stations and selected bus interchanges to purchase one. For more information on the EZ-link Card, visit

Air Travel

Singapore has one major airport – Changi Airport located at Changi, in the eastern tip of Singapore. All terminals serve International Flights.

The airport can be accessed easily by:

Road: Located at Airport Boulevard, which is at the end of the East Coast Parkway Expressway. For travel via public taxi, it would cost between SGD20 and SGD40 for a 30-minute trip from the airport to the city.

Train: The airport has its own train station, the Changi Airport Station located at the basement of Terminal 2 and 3.

Bus: Public bus services serve the airport, such as bus number 36 which links the airport to the city area.

Bus Services

Public bus services are operated by the following transport operators: SMRT Buses, SBS Transit, Tower Transit, and Go-Ahead Singapore. The fare system is regulated by Transit Link, and EZ Link passes can be used for transport on public buses. Various private bus operators also operate services which run on limited routes for peak periods. Cash payment is accepted by these private transport operators.

Train Services

The 2 main types of train services available in Singapore are:

  • The Mass Rapid Transit System (MRT)
  • The Light Rail Transit System (LRT)

Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) Systems

There are 5 main MRT lines forming a system in Singapore, with some under construction. The system is controlled by two operators.

The SMRT Corporation operates three main rail lines:

  • North South Line, East West Line, Circle Line

SBS Transit Limited operates the North East line and Downtown line.

The Light Rail Transit system runs above the ground, and operates on a lower capacity to provide shuttle services around the housing estates of Choa Chu Kang, Seng Kang and Punggol.

The centralised fare payment and ticketing system is operated by Transit Link Private Limited, which operates ticketing machines and counters at all train stations.


Taxis can be hailed on the street and have a Taxi sign-box located on the roof of each vehicle. Strict regulations are governing the operation of taxis in Singapore, and there are no illegal taxis in Singapore. All taxis charge fares are based on a standard fare system legislated by the Singapore Government, and strict enforcement prevents taxi drivers from asking for cash lump sum amounts.


Local Food

Singaporeans take great pride in the dining options available on the island around the clock. Being an immigrant society, most Singaporeans are descendants of migrants hailing from China, Malaysia, and India. Local food of Chinese, Malay and Indian origins can be easily found at relatively affordable prices.

There are 3 types of local food and beverage establishment categories, commonly found in every estate:

Food Centres: These are government regulated, non-air conditioned centers with multiple food stalls located under one roof. Individual food stall operators, also known as Hawkers, prepare and cook the food within their stall premises. Seating is an open concept, and no services are provided. Prices generally range from SGD 3 to 5 for a main dish.

Food Courts: These are air-conditioned food centers privately operated by Food and Beverage companies, who lease the entire premises, typically located within Shopping Malls. Seating is also an open concept, and no services are provided. Prices generally range from SGD 4 to 7 for a main dish.

Coffee Shops: Also known as “Kopi-Tiam” (in the Chinese Hokkien dialect) these are similar in concept to the food courts, except that they are usually located in open shophouse areas, and are not air-conditioned. Prices generally range from SGD 3 to 5 for a main dish.

No additional taxes are charged for local food, over the quoted prices. Payment is made (via cash) upon collection of food, which is over the counter.

International Food

With 28% of the population being foreigners, there is a wide variety of internationally recognized food available in Singapore.

Fast Food – Major fast food outlets such as McDonald’s, Burger King, and Kentucky Fried Chicken can be commonly found in most estates.

Sandwiches – Subway, Quiznos and O’Briens Sandwich outlets can be commonly found, mostly in the city areas.

Cafes – Major coffee outlets are Starbucks, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, and The Coffee Connoisseur

Restaurants – Fine dining restaurants serving international fare, including Japanese, Continental and Italian cuisine are readily available in Singapore.

Note that in cafes and restaurants, these typically charge additional taxes and service charges, marked by ‘+++’ trailing the cost prices of dishes.

Payment is made at the end of the meal, and the check is delivered by service staff.

Handing out tips and gratuities to service staff is not a norm in Singapore as these charges are included in the service charges.

International restaurants helmed by star chefs are typically found in high-end hotels, such as:

  • Marina Bay Sands Hotel
  • Mandarin Oriental Hotel
  • Fullerton Hotel
  • Four Seasons Hotel
  • Resort World Sentosa
  • Grand Hyatt Hotel

It is advisable for reservations to be made in advance (at least one day before) for a table to be available.

Medical Care

Healthcare in Singapore is ranked the best in the region. With a world-class healthcare system, Singapore has fast become a hub for medicine for many international patients flocking to Singapore for medical tourism. Not only do Singapore’s health services offer quality, but it is affordable and more advanced compared to some neighboring cities.

Both public and private healthcare in Singapore are reliable, with the level of patient services being the real difference between both.

Private Clinics

Fee structures of private healthcare establishments are different to government health services, so it is advised to inquire about the estimated cost for services. Most expats opt for private healthcare for the high service levels. There is also an increasing number of expat doctors practicing their medical expertise in Singapore.

Useful websites:

Paragon Medical Centre:
Camden Medical Centre:
Gleneagles Hospital and Medical Centre
Mount Elizabeth Hospital
Novena Medical Centre

Government Hospitals

The Ministry of Health provides healthcare nationwide ranging from outpatient care, A&E, pediatric and other medical needs. The cost of government healthcare is lower than private medical services, but this option is not favored by expats due to longer waiting times.

Useful Websites:

Singapore Ministry of Health:
Singapore General Hospital:
Tan Tock Seng Hospital
Changi General Hospital
National University Hospital
KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital
Alexandra Hospital
Khoo Teck Puat Hospital
Ng Teng Fong General Hospital
Institute of Mental Health Hospital

Hosing in Singapore

There are generally two types of housing in Singapore:

Public Housing: High Rise Apartments built by Housing Development Board authority.

Private Housing: All other types of housing built on land owned by individual owners.

Expatriates in Singapore would typically lease properties under the private housing category, and these can be leased for:

1) Temporary Accommodation: this would be for short-term leases of 1 week to 12 months in Serviced Apartments.

2) Permanent Accommodation: this would cover long-term leases of 24 months – the most common lease period available in the market. Leases are for a fixed period of 12 months, which can then be terminated thereafter with a 2 month notice period (subject to conditions). Minimum of 3 months leases required by law, and availability of such short-term leases are in very limited quantities.

Temporary Accommodation

Serviced apartments are available to offer expatriates a warm and homey substitute till they find their perfect home.

These fully furnished residences are usually centrally located, equipped with all the amenities of a condominium and the housekeeping services of a hotel. Some even offer complimentary breakfast.

Though these properties were initially targeted for a short-term stay, serviced apartments are in such demand that developers now lease them for long-term usage.

Permanent Housing

For long-term accommodation, there is a variety of private housing available:

  1. Condominiums
    • High-rise Apartments
    • Gated communities guarded by 24 hours security
    • Leisure facilities such as playgrounds, swimming pools, tennis courts, and common
      garden areas
  2. Bungalows
    • Premium, stand-alone detached houses on privately owned land
    • Facilities would depend on the design of an individual property
  3. Semi-detached houses
    • Low-rise gated houses on privately owned land, with two units sharing a common
      partition wall in between
  4. Terrace units
    • Low-rise gated houses built in a row, with three or more units sharing common
      party walls in between
  5. Townhouses
    • Low-rise apartment blocks, similar to condominiums but with fewer facilities or no
      security services
  6. Colonial houses
    • Also known as black and white houses, built in the pre-war era (before the year
    • Large spacious layouts located in quiet, exclusive estates
    • Typically expensive to maintain due to the age of properties
  7. Shophouses
    • 3 to 5 storey properties built in a terrace format, located along main roads with/without commercial shops on the ground floor
    • Mostly old properties built between 1900 and 1960, these properties tend to be spacious but expensive to maintain
    • No parking spaces are available as these units face the main road

Once you have selected a preferred property, our consultants will assist you to submit a Letter of Intent to indicate your intent to rent the accommodation. It is important and recommended that you have obtained approvals for your immigration prior to taking up a leasing contract. Below is a list of typical documents needed to be presented to Landlord:

  • Passport bio-data page of Transferee and accompanying family member(s)
  • Employment and Dependent Pass Cards (If you and your family has not obtained the physical cards and completed immigration formalities, you can first submit the In-Principle Approval letters as issued by the Ministry of Manpower as an initial sub mission to the Landlord)
  • Employment Letter (only upon request by Landlord)

Our Consultants will also assist in negotiating and reviewing the lease contract to safeguard your interest. After your lease acceptance, our Consultants will support a pre-handover inspection and the actual handover to ensure the landlord’s compliance with lease commitments and to document the property handover process for your safe keeping.

1. Holding deposit:Required upon the signing of the Letter of Intent. The amount is equivalent to one month’s rental, and this will usually be used to offset the first-month rent.
2. Security Deposit:Required upon the signing of the Tenancy Agreement. For one year lease, the amount is equivalent to one month’s rental. The deposit will be refunded upon the successful hand-back of the apartment.
3. Stamp Duty

Tenancy Agreement will need to be stamped by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore to be considered a valid contract. This fee will be borne by the Tenant.

Calculation for Stamp Duty

If the lease period is less than 4 years or 48 months, Stamp duty amount = 0.4% of the Total Rent

Total Rent = Monthly Rental x number of months

4. Agent Commission

Monthly property rental of $4000 and below for 2 years lease

can subject the tenant to a 1-month commission fee.

1-year tenancy contract can subject the tenant to a ½ month
commission fee.

International Schools

An international school is broadly defined as a school that does not require their students to learn the local curriculum or the language of the country that the school is located in. Singapore is home to both a sizeable expatriate population and several excellent private international schools.

The international schools offer either an internationally recognized high school diploma or a high school diploma recognized in a specific country. This is an important consideration because most of their students will attend a foreign university upon completion of their K-12 education.

The majority of the international schools in Singapore offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma. The IB Diploma Programme is a worldwide leading university entrance course. The curriculum consists of 6 subjects, an extended essay of up to 4,000 words, participation in ‘Theory of Knowledge’, and a minimum of 150 hours in ‘Creative, Action, Service (CAS)’. For each subject, marks are awarded based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 being the highest. To receive an IB Diploma, candidates must get at least 24 points.

Most of the international schools use English as the medium of instruction. Some schools (e.g., United World College, Singapore American School, Tanglin Trust School) have strict English proficiency level as part of their admission criteria while others (e.g., Overseas Family School, Canadian International School) accept students who are not yet proficient in English. A few other international schools (e.g., Japanese School, French School) offer a country specific curriculum taught in the national language of the country.

Useful link:
The Ministry of Education:

Daily Needs


It is advisable to maintain a banking account in your home country with checking and Automated Teller Machine (ATM) withdrawal capabilities. A quick, low cost and reliable way to transfer funds from your home country accounts to Singapore is to make an ATM withdrawal from your home country account and then deposit into your new Singapore account.

It is recommended to learn the correct form of writing cheques in Singapore to avoid prolonged deposit time. Cross and strike out “or Bearer” when necessary. Any changes or corrections on local cheque MUST be authorized with your signature. Singaporean banks are very strict with any changes on cheques. Only Check Truncation System (CTS) cheques are used in Singapore.

Full-service local banks in Singapore:

  • DBS (Development Bank of Singapore)– owns POSB, their facilities can be inter-used
  • UOB (United Overseas Bank)
  • OCBC (Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation)

Full-service foreign banks in Singapore:

  • BNP Paribas
  • Citibank
  • HSBC
  • Maybank
  • Standard Chartered

There are many other full service restricted foreign banks in Singapore, but these are restricted to one location and do not offer full consumer banking here. Enquire with your home country bank to find out more.

Money Remittance:
Most banks offer money remittance services or online banking for your money transfer needs. However, online money remittance centers provide convenience with cheaper fees and faster service:

Western Union:


A provisioner can provide a ‘shop-at-home’ service for things you require, from groceries to household needs. You can make your order on the phone or online, and the provisioner delivers the items to you. Ask around the neighborhood for the nearest provisioner to you.

The popular supermarkets here are Giant, Cold Storage, Fairprice, and Marketplace supermarket.

List of recommended online grocery stores:

Kenny Grocery:
Cold Storage:
The Butcher:


The 3 largest telecommunications providers in Singapore are SingTel, Starhub and M1.

Services and pricing schemes differ, so shop around for deals that suit you best.

Home PhoneSingTel Home Line Provide standard fixed phone lines. No need for Internet connection or additional equipment. Additional charges for all outgoing local calls.StarHub Digital Voice Home Phone line service using cable technology. Requires an additional modem. Free incoming and outgoing local calls.M1 Fixed Voice Service Fixed lines available for free with fibre broadband. Free incoming and outgoing local calls. Applicable to selected locations. May require an additional residential gateway.
Mobile Phone...
Internet Broadband...
Cable TV/IPTVMio TV Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) with over 68 channels available in a number of packages.Starhub TV Cable TV and Internet Protocol (IPTV) with over 250 channels available in a number of customizable packages.M1Box Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) pay-as-you-view powered by M1 high speed fibre broadband.
Document RequiredOriginal passport, Employment Pass and Tenancy Agreement

Home Repairs

Handymen and Plumbing services are easy to find around the clock. Most handymen charge an upfront transport fee of approximately SGD 40 per visit. Labor charges for each repair can range between SGD 50 – 100, depending on the extent of repair needed. The direct cost of parts would also apply.

Should you wish to purchase your own equipment for do-it-yourself (DIY) home repair or furnishing, hardware shops can be found at various locations all over Singapore, stocking items such as paint, brushes, plumbing parts, nuts, bolts, and screws.

A common high-end DIY shop is Home-Fix, which can be found in many major shopping malls.

Flexi Home Services:
Home Fix DIY :


The Public Utilities Board (PUB) provides an efficient service for water, gas, and electricity. Tap water is moderately soft and safe to drink. Billing for all utilities is handled by SP services as a one-stop customer service for electricity, water, and pipe gas supply.

SP Services:
Tel: 1800 2222 333

The electricity supply in Singapore is 200/400 volts using both 2 and 3 pinned plugs. To use foreign plugs, you can easily purchase an adaptor or a local electric cord. For appliances with a higher voltage, it is advised to use the device with a transformer.

Since December 2013, Singapore has adopted DVB-T2 (Digital Video Broadcasting – Second Generation Terrestrial) as the digital broadcasting standard for the migration to digital TV. Therefore appliances running on the analog system do not work in Singapore.

Domestic Help

Employing a domestic helper is very much part of living in Singapore. Most homes or apartments have an area in the house to accommodate live-in helpers. Whether part-time or live-in, getting a domestic helper is affordable.

Part Time Helpers

On a per hour basis, part-time helpers provide flexibility for those who want to keep their privacy at home. Most agencies work on a contract basis so do not be afraid to request for the same helper again so she is familiar with your cleaning requirements.

Average salaries:
Part-time (4 – 20 hours per week), SGD 400 – SGD 800 per month

Live In Helpers

Live-in helpers usually come from the Philippines, Indonesian, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka. The average salary is SGD 550 – SGD 600 per month.

To employ a foreign helper, a Foreign Worker Levy is applicable at $265 per month. Agencies are available to process the work permit for the helper with a fee. This includes insurance, and a bank guarantee to the government in case your helper becomes an issue for the country.


Nannies in Singapore have different rates to better fit your needs, ranging from hourly, daily or monthly. For support beyond daycare services, it is more common for a live-in helper to be engaged for childcare services.

Let’s Have Fun

Leisure & Entertainment

Although Singapore is known for its culinary diversity, it also has a wide range of entertainment activities.

  • Located 15 minutes from the city, Sentosa Island is home to an exciting array of attractions, including Universal Studios, three beaches, a golf course, and an indoor skydiving facility.
  • The Esplanade is home to Singapore’s premier entertainment destination, in the form of shows, musicals and more.
  • Museums include the National Museum, Asian Civilisation Museum, and Singapore Art Museum.
  • The Botanical Gardens offers 183 acres of lush garden and flowers, and the Gardens by the Bay have three distinct and new waterfront gardens.
  • The Singapore Flyer is a big attraction in the Lion City. Standing 165 metres off the ground, it allows the flyer to be the world’s largest observation wheel.
  • Tour buses provide strategically placed stops and interesting commentary on Singapore’s history, building, and sights.
  • Holland Village is a bustling hub, popular with young people and expatriates, dominated by eateries, bars, and shops.
  • Shopping in Singapore is considered a national pastime, and the top location is Orchard Road, packed with modern malls.
  • Nightspots such as “Ce La Vi” on top of the Marina Bay Sands, bars and hip restaurants down Club Street and the clubs at Clarke Quay are all Singapore’s hottest locations after dark.


Being in a new environment can take away your important support network. With established expatriate communities in Singapore, there are many support groups to help many just like you. Several clubs and associations also provide similar support groups so it is good to start your search from there.

Contact Singapore is an official organization formed by Government statutory boards to provide information about and attract foreign professionals to work and live in Singapore.

Singapore Expats
These useful websites offer tips and networking opportunities to expatriates living in Singapore.

New Mothers Support Group
This is a volunteer organization for parents of Singapore to get together and share experiences as parents and learn about raising young children in Singapore. Membership with this support group includes workshops and information talks by professionals on topics of pregnancy, post natal childcare and other guides to raising children.

SACAC (Singapore American Community Action Council)
Dedicated to promoting mental health within the local and expatriate community, SACAC provides counseling, workshops and psychological and well-being activities for children in their growing years to deter youngsters from unwanted incidents of drug use.
Sports office:
40 Woodlands Street 41, H216
Tel: 6363 6454
Counseling office:
10 Claymore Hill
Tel: 6733 9249

Need Help?

Emergency Contacts


Police Hotline:1800 255 0000
Non-Emergency Ambulance:1777
Civic Ambulance:6333 3000
SCDF General Enquiries:1800 286 5555

Services Contact

SP PowerGrid-24hr (Power Failure): 1800 778 8888
Citygas-24hr (Gas Leaks/ Supply Disruption): 1800 752 1800
PUB-24hr (Water Supply/ Flooding/ Drainage): 1800 284 6600

Copyright @ Asian Tigers Ltd • 15/1/2019

We make every effort to ensure the information contained in these destination guide is accurate and up-to-date. However, do keep in mind that the rules, regulations and other material in these guides change from time to time, so we cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions. We suggest that you contact the appropriate Asian Tigers office if you have any questions. They will be glad to help you.