singapore currencysingapore currency

Understanding Your Bills and Charges in Singapore

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 25 Apr 2019  

Singapore’s world-class status is not for nothing; an efficient transport systemaffordable foodimpressive architecture and safety have shaped the city to be a rather enviable one to live in. Alas, something’s got to give – so get clued in on smoking restrictions, outdoor alcohol consumption hours and charges you may incur while here.

chicken rice

GST and service charge

Much like Value-Added Tax (VAT), Singapore imposes a Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 7% for purchases made in Singapore, regardless of the nature of goods or services provided. These may only be factored in at the point of payment.

If you’re on a relatively tight budget, try having your meals in a kopitiam (coffee shop) or hawker centre, which are usually GST-free. There're scores of fantastic hawker stalls 'round Singapore, several of which hold the Michelin Bib Gourmand. Restaurants and cafes may charge an additional 10% service charge on top of GST, as in ‘S$14.90++’. If an item is offered at a nett price, you're in luck – won’t pay more than what’s indicated on the menu.

atm credit card

Credit cards or cash?

Credit cards, particularly Visa and Mastercard, are widely accepted at hotels, restaurants and shopping malls in Singapore. Some merchants impose a transaction fee of between 2% and 4%; others may charge you in your home currency, subject to an administrative fee. Always ask before making a payment, and check with your credit card provider about overseas charges for debit and credit cards. Certain cards offer better rates for frequent travellers, so make your comparisons before committing to anything.

All that said, though, it’s best to have cash on hand for meals at smaller establishments and hawker centres. You’ll also find no shortage of ATMs around the island – particularly in high traffic areas such as Marina BayChinatown and Orchard Road – many of which feature the Cirrus and PLUS systems. Otherwise, try a currency exchange shop. Far East Exchange in Marina Bay Sands has competitive rates, but you’ll find scores more money changers in Raffles Place and Harbourfront Centre.

coffee and bills

Tipping etiquette

Tipping isn’t customary in Singapore, since most establishments levy the previously mentioned 10% service charge and 7% GST. If you insist on tipping, give only what you’re comfortable with – or use the following as a gauge.

Taxis: Round up the fare or tell the driver to keep the change
Hotels: Hotel staff may expect a small gratuity. Porters and bellboys receive S$1 and up, depending on the number of bags carried or the complexity of the errand.
Airport: Tipping is not allowed in Singapore Changi Airport or any of its restaurants and facilities.

beer drinks

Alcohol consumption

Drinking alcohol in Singapore isn’t prohibited, but consuming your bevvy in public places (read: outside an alcohol-licensed joint) is not okay between the hours of 10.30pm to 7am. The cut-off time for the purchase of alcohol, whether from convenience stores or supermarkets, is 10.30pm daily.

But don’t be overly alarmed: this just means you can only drink at licensed establishments during the restricted hours. There’re still pubs and restaurants selling alcohol all over town. Or enjoy 50% off cocktails at Marina Bay Sands during Social Hour on Tuesdays – you’re bound to find a favourite.

sim card

Data roaming options

Singapore’s main telcos, Singtel, M1 and Starhub, offer a wide range of international data roaming options. Currently, all three offer 4G 100GB prepaid tourist SIM cards. If you’re staying for seven days, try the Starhub Travel Prepaid SIM or M1 Prepaid Tourist SIM (S$12 each) – with the former offering more minutes of international calls and 1GB of roaming data. Extending your trip for up to 12 days? The cheapest option is the Singtel hi!Tourist SIM Card. For S$15, enjoy 100GB local data, 3GB roaming data and 90 minutes of international calls.

Your prepaid SIM card can be purchased from any Telco shop or dealer, supermarket, petrol station or 7-Eleven. Bring your passport along, and ensure that your phone works with Singapore’s GSM 900 or 1800 frequency – and that it’s not locked by your service provider.

With these tips in mind, go forth and plan the finer details of your trip – or find out more about dressing for the weather, Singapore’s transport system and local emergency numbers to know.
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