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Local Tourism: 5 Budget-Friendly Alternatives to Vacation Abroad

With travel restrictions due to COVID-19, Singaporeans must look for other means for vacationing and tourism. In this blog post, we present 5 alternatives to international travel that are both affordable and enticing to the average Singaporean.

Singapore’s tourism sector has been dealt a major blow due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

On August 17, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that Singaporeans will be given S$320 million worth of domestic tourism credits as part of a campaign to encourage locals to vacation within the country. These credits, dubbed SingapoRediscovers vouchers, aim to boost tourism and support local businesses.

If you’re in need of a break from your daily routine, here are some suggestions on how you can make use of your tourism vouchers and vacation within the country.

1. Visit Parks and Nature Reserves

a picture of kent ridge park in singapore

There are over 350 parks, big and small, scattered throughout different neighbourhoods in Singapore. Some of the bigger and most notable ones to explore are Coney Island Park, Thomson Nature Park, Chestnut Nature Park and Kent Ridge Park.

Located in the North-East of Singapore, Coney Island Park is accessible via the Punggol Promenade Nature Walk Park Connector. The park is home to a wide variety of fauna and flora, including 80 unique species of birds.

At Thomson Nature Park, you can explore the 5 trails, which give you an insight into the traditional way of life on the site of the former Hainan village.

For hiking and mountain biking, head to Chestnut Nature Park which is the only park in Singapore to have separate trails for the two activities.

If you prefer a scenic slow stroll, walk along Canopy Walk – a 280-metre elevated boardwalk linking HortPark to the 47-hectare Kent Ridge Park and keep an eye out for various wildlife such as sunbirds, doves, squirrels, lizards and white-crested laughing thrush.

2. Sail to the Offshore Islands

There are a few beautiufl offshore islands in Singapore worth visiting.

The sapphire-blue waters and white-sand beaches on Lazarus Island; the friendly felines and clear-water lagoons on St. John’s Island--the surrounding islands have much and more to offer.

The Chek Jawa wetlands on Pulau Ubin contain one of Singapore’s most vibrant ecosystems, and Kusu Island is rich with ancient folklore.

Kusu Island is home to temple dedicated to the Chinese God of Prosperity and Goddess of Mercy. Every year, pilgrims flock here to pay respects. This has contributed to tales about the island’s sacredness and the miracles it brings.

Return Ferry Ride (adult)S$15
Return Ferry RIde (child)S$12
Holiday Bungalow (per day, weekdays)S$21.40
Holiday Bungalow (per day, weekends)S$42.80
Private Yacht RentalS$560

If you want an overnight stay on one of the islands, St. John’s Island provides lodging in its holiday bungalows. The islands are accessible via public ferry from Marina South Pier. If you want to splurge, you can rent a private yacht for the day and set sail to each of these islands to enjoy a beach day, or you can go on a nature trail.

3. Visit Different Neighbourhoods

Most Singaporeans rarely venture out of their own neighbourhoods unless they really have to.

However, new-ish estates combining residential areas with recreational parks like the Punggol Waterway Park and Sengkang Riverside Park are worth visiting. The former is Singapore’s longest manmade waterway and consists of four themed zones where visitors can enjoy activities like water play, sand play, cycling and inline skating. The latter is located adjacent to Sengkang Sports Centre, which houses an indoor pool and outdoor pool complete with slides. Sengkang Riverside Park is unique for its Fruit Tree Trail which consists of 16 different fruit trees, some bearing edible fruits that can’t be found in supermarkets.

Boat Quay restaurants and bars

Heritage districts like Joo Chiat, Katong, Kampong Glam and Little India are also worth a visit to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of these districts where local Peranakan, Malays and Arabs, and Indians have historically lived and run their businesses.

For a glimpse of Singapore’s colonial past, the neighbourhoods of Holland Village and Rochester Park consist of several colonial houses that people still live in today.

After a day of exploration, you can hunt down the best hawker food in these districts to satiate your hunger.

4. Book a Staycation

While you’re planning to explore different parts of Singapore, why not book a staycation in a quaint boutique hotel or an Airbnb away from the bustle of the city?

You can book a stay at Villa Samadhi, a colonial hotel nestled amidst a wooded hill in Bukit Merah for about S$459 per night or at the Japanese-minimalist-chic Mayo Inn in Little India, surrounded by trendy cafes and Indian restaurants for about S$150 per night.

You can even go glamping at East Coast Park for S$150 a night or book a stay in a boat home docked in Punggol for S$122 per night.

Due to COVID-19, hotels might offer discounts for staycations to attract customers so you can enjoy some savings compared to a stay during regular tourist seasons.

ActivityPrice (per night)
Villa SamadhiS$459
Mayo InnS$150
Boat House StaycationS$111
A staycationer in a sun hat

5. Visit Tourist Attractions

People who were born and raised in Singapore rarely visit tourists attractions. But since you’re vacationing in your own city, why not take the opportunity to visit the attractions you never had time to see or haven’t seen since you were a kid?

Head to the National Gallery and take a look at the Southeast Asian art, or see how flowers, artistry and technology come together at Floral Fantasy (new attraction at Gardens by the Bay) or pass the time in one of the beach clubs in Sentosa.

The National Gallery is currently offering free admission to all visitors until 31 August 2020. Drop by the Merlion along the way and appreciate the view of this famous monument and Singapore’s skyline across the river-- it’s free!

National Gallery
  • Free for Singaporeans and PRs
  • S$20 for foreigners
Floral Fantasy (Singapore resident rate)
  • S$12 (adult)
  • S$8 (senior citizen & child)
Floral Fantasy (nonresident rate)
  • S$20 (adult)
  • S$12 (child)

Splurge Now, Save More

According to ValueChampion's Average Costs of Vacations 2020 report, the average Singaporean household spends S$4,080 on vacationing each year.

A holiday in ASEAN countries costs between S$389-S$1,412 a week per person. Since you’re holidaying from within Singapore, money that you would have spent on flight tickets can be spent on a nice staycation in a fancier-than-normal accommodation.

If you splurge now, you’d still spend less than you would on an overseas trip during non-pandemic times. Some of the budget-friendly activities we’ve highlighted are even free. With that in mind, the remainder of your 2020 holiday budget can be rolled over to next year’s budget for future overseas trips to cities outside of the ASEAN region.

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