Tipping and gratuities
Let’s talk about tipping first. Tipping is neither mandatory nor expected in Singapore. Many restaurants have a service charge built into the final bill, but hawker centres and some dining or drinking outlets do away with the service charge entirely. Having said that, a small tip is generally much appreciated and a good way to express your gratitude for excellent service in a restaurant, a great haircut, or a taxi driver who’s been particularly informative and helpful. If you’re not sure how much to tip, simply round it up or leave the change.
Alcohol prices and deals
Alcohol is expensive in Singapore because of the high ‘sin tax’. That being said, you can get cheaper alcohol if you know where to look. For something uniquely Singapore, there’s no substitute for a Tiger beer at a local coffee shop or hawker centre – which is likely to set you back much less than imported beer. Many bars have early evening happy hour deals that can include a discounted price on a bucket of beers or one-for-one cocktails or wine. Some bars have certain evenings of the week where you’ll get a great deal, like Social Hour on Tuesday nights at Marina Bay Sands.
Additional taxes and service charges
Restaurant menus in Singapore will normally show you the price of an item before service charge and GST (Goods and Services Tax). Service charges in restaurants are 10%, and the GST is an additional 7% on top of that. You may also see terms like ++ and +++ after hotel rates or prices in a restaurant. Double plus, or ++, refers to service charge of 10% and GST of 7%. Triple plus, or +++, is both of those plus an additional 1% government tax. If you see an item offered at 'nett' price, it means there are no additional taxes or charges – the price on the menu is the price on your bill.
Credit card matters
Credit cards are widely accepted in Singapore, but it’s also good to keep cash on hand for smaller establishments. Some shops and restaurants accept credit card payment, but may levy a small surcharge, as do taxis – so you’ll save if you pay in cash. Remember to check with your bank and credit card provider about overseas charges for credit and debit cards. Some merchants offer dynamic currency conversion, where you will be charged in your home currency but an administrative fee is imposed. Some cards offer better rates for frequent travelers, so keep an eye out for those!
Mobile phones and SIM cards
You can avoid getting hit with overseas mobile roaming charges in Singapore by getting a temporary mobile or data SIM card. Buying a prepaid SIM in Singapore is easy: you can get them at many supermarkets, petrol stations, 7-11s, and phone shops (look for Singtel, Starhub or M1 shops or dealers as these are the three main telcos in Singapore). You'll need to present your passport in order to buy a SIM card, and also make sure that your phone works with Singapore’s GSM 900 or 1800 frequency and that it’s not locked by your phone service provider.