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Low Budget In The Lion City: The 9 Cheapest Places to Live in Singapore

cheapest places to live in Singapore

Singapore isn’t really known as one of the world’s budget-friendly hubs. The metropolis easily clocks up one of the highest costs of living in Asia, falling only a touch short of the likes of infamously pricy spots like Tokyo and Hong Kong. But what are the cheapest places to live in Singapore? Where can you reside in the Lion City without breaking the bank?

That’s where this guide comes in. We’ve gone scouring the districts between the dahl-bubbling streets of Little India and soy-scented Chinatown on the hunt for the most wallet-friendly areas to live in in Singapore…

Our list of nine areas should have something to suit a whole host of new expats, from park-fringed neighborhoods on the Johor Strait to sleepy backwaters where you can escape the buzz of the Marina Bay. On top of that, we offer a little bit of guidance for would-be renters here on how to get the cheapest pads of all in government-subsidized HDB apartments.

Private Rentals VS HDB Properties

HDB apartments in SGP
Photo by shermanhojw/Pixabay

One important thing to keep in mind before we jump into the cheapest places to live in Singapore is the difference between private housing and public housing. If you’re emigrating on a tight budget, HDB (Housing Development Board) flats are going to be by far the cheapest option for renting in Singapore. HDB properties are heavily government-subsidized for citizens and residents.

HDBs are a significant part of Singaporean culture, making city life far more affordable for countless locals and migrants alike. Many Singaporeans will live in HDB housing at some point in their lives, and these apartment complexes often become community spaces for the hundreds to thousands of inhabitants who live inside.

Though some will prefer private non-HDB rentals, we will be discussing the cheapest places to live in Singapore based on HDB housing, with some added info on private housing costs for non-resident ex-pats migrating to Singapore. The districts and neighborhoods mentioned below will have cheaper rent across the board – for example, if HDB housing is cheap in Choa Chu Kang you can also assume that private housing, though not as cheap, will still be cheaper than most other places. Generally speaking, HDB rents can be up to 50% less than private rents.

Bukit Panjang

Bukit Panjang
Photo by Cecilia Chew/Unsplash

Located in the west of Singapore, Bukit Panjang is one of the most affordable districts in the country. A small area that has historically had limited infrastructure, it has started to change in recent years with the addition of two malls and a series of new roads. The area has also seen an influx of gastronomy in the form of local buffets, western restaurants, food courts, and even a wet market.

Because it’s so small, Bukit Panjang is also relatively easy to get around on foot. You’ll also find a reasonable amount of street hawkers and food stalls if you want to grab some cheap local fare. However, the main draw for us has to be the proximity of the Chestnut Nature Park. That opens up a whole jungle-covered hill of hiking paths just to the east of the area; a rare place to head to escape the sound of tooting traffic in this big city. The reserve there also hides big reservoirs and even the award-winning Singapore Zoo.

This neighborhood may not be a central location, but it has both an LRT and Downtown that make it extremely convenient to travel around the island when you need to.

  • 2-bedroom HDB apartment – $2,800-3,000
  • 2-bedroom private condo -$3,000-3,500
  • Room in a HDB apartment – $500-1,200
  • Room in private condo – $1,000-2,000

Choa Chu Kang

Suburb in Singapore
Photo by Danist Soh/Unsplash

Choa Chu Kang (sometimes written as just CCK) also deserves a spot among the cheapest places to live in Singapore. Cut through by the east-west running Kranji Expressway, it spreads out between the Peng Siang River and the shopping malls of Bukit Panjang (see above) to offer some budget-friendly rental accommodation that’s got access to some of the quieter, leafier parts of the big city.

If you’re someone who likes to stay put in your little corner of the world, then CCK could be perfect for you. It’s a very self-contained area that’s packed with things for families and older folks alike. There are street soccer courts, next to the all-in-one Choa Chu Kang Stadium athletics complex. You find prestigious country clubs with 18 holes of golf near to the Choa Chu Kang Park, which boasts playgrounds and skateboard rinks.

You should also find it a cinch to get to the more famous parts of Singapore from here – it takes about 55 minutes on the Downtown Line to get to Marina Promenade.

  • 2-bedroom HDB apartment – $3,000-3,500
  • 2-bedroom private condo -$3,000-4,000
  • Room in a HDB apartment – $800-1,200
  • Room in private condo – $1,000-2,500

Woodlands

Photo by Alexa Soh/Unsplash

Woodlands is the northernmost neighborhood in Singapore, located right up against the causeway that connects the island to Malaysia.

This is a popular residential area for expats, which is something to keep in mind if you’re looking to meet more English speakers or members of the international community. In particular, it has a large number of American ex-pats, both residents and non-residents.

Spots like the Woodlands Waterfront Park are perfect for looking out over the Johor Strait, and there are several excellent parks (Marseiling and Admiralty being two of the best) that make it lush, green, and family friendly. There is also no shortage of good bars, restaurants, and cafes you can check out on weeknights and weekends. Opportunities for shopping and basic entertainment are also easily accessible.

All in all, Woodlands is a mature and well-developed part of Singapore, and its affordability is just one of its many virtues.

2-bedroom HDB apartment – $2,500-3,500
2-bedroom private condo -$3,000-4,000
Room in a HDB apartment – $750-1,200
Room in private condo – $2,000-2,500

Punggol

Punggol
Photo by Ivan Yeo/Unsplash

Similar to Woodlands, Punggol is a popular spot for young families, though it has more of a mix of Singaporeans and expats. Punggol is a fairly new residential planning area in the northeast of Singapore. For two centuries Punggol was an underdeveloped tourist district, but it has gained popularity and a reputation boost in recent years due to extra investment. In fact, due to rapid development, this district is becoming a highly sought-after area – so its place on this list may change in the years to come!

Due to its waterfront location and copious flora and fauna, Punggol is quite a picturesque and charming town. Coney Island is also in Punggol, so residents have a place to go for hiking, bird-watching, and escaping into nature in general. There are plenty of children’s stores, schools, and learning centers to cater to a large number of families here. Waterway Point is the major shopping mall here, but there are two smaller malls to boot.

There is only one MRT in Punggol, and the CBD is a roughly 50-minute drive away.

2-bedroom HDB apartment – $2,500-3,500
2-bedroom private condo -$3,000-4,000
Room in a HDB apartment – $750-1,500
Room in private condo – $2,000-2,500

Sembawang

Sembawang
Photo by John Marvin De Jose/Unsplash

Located on the northern tip of the island between Woodlands and Yishun, Sembawang is a new residential town with an interesting history. The HDB blocks might be new, but the area was once home to the Singapore Naval Base and was also dubbed the Gibraltar of the East in the early 20th century.

Sembawang is known to have a more middle-aged population than other areas here, so you’ll find typical malls and shopping centers here alongside parks and community clubs. Don’t expect sophisticated boutiques and trendy bars and clubs that party until late. The town food scene is also more traditional than edgy, with classic Singapore-style restaurants and the Chong Pang Village Hawker Centre which has been around since the 70s.

There are also decent recreational opportunities if you aren’t inclined to leave the area. Sembawang Park can be found on the northern coastline. Not only is it a lovely place to spend the day with friends and family but it also has a fishing jetty, an urban beach, and BBQ pits to round off the weekend. This district is also known for having the Sembawang Hot Spring, the only hot spring in Singapore!

2-bedroom HDB apartment – $2,500-3,500
2-bedroom private condo -$3,000-4,000
Room in a HDB apartment – $750-1,000
Room in private condo – $1,000-2,000

Yishun

Photo by Amos Lee/Unsplash

In the northeast of Singapore, right beside Sembawang, you’ll find Yishun. For some time this area was thought of as a sleepy small town and it went by the name of Nee Soon. However, recent years have seen it develop rapidly and it’s adopted a far more lively and vibrant persona.

Yishun is full of amenities, as well as various coffee shops of top quality and community centers. The Northpoint Mall is an enormous shopping center with more than 500 stores and restaurants, and the town also has a multiplex cinema and two popular hawker centers nearby. Nature lovers can also enjoy the nearby Yishun Pond Park, the Lower Seletar Reservoir Park, and Springleaf Nature Park.

In terms of public transport, Yishun has two accessible MRT stations, Yishun Station and Khatib Station.

2-bedroom HDB apartment – $2,500-3,500
2-bedroom private condo -$3,000-4,000
Room in a HDB apartment – $500-1,500
Room in private condo – $1,000-1,500

Sengkang

Photo by Max Oh/Unsplash

Sengkang has existed as a residential town for about 25 years now. It can be found on the northeast side of Singapore, just to the west of Punggol. It has one of the youngest populations in the nation, so expect a more lively and vibrant atmosphere here than you get elsewhere, along with a coffeeshop and dining scene that pushes the boundaries a little.

Beset on both ends by two riverbanks, it’s a scenic district with amply opportunities for afternoon strolls and cycling. Sengkang Waterway Park is the closest park and the Punggol Waterway Park is nearby too, so you’re never short of nature-based activities, as well as jogging and cycling trails for outdoor exercise. It also has plenty of public amenities, with more than enough schools, shopping complexes, and recreational centers for its residents.

Traveling around Sengkang, and connecting to the rest of the island, is seamless thanks to the two MRT stations, the LRT line, and the bus interchange that can all be found here.

2-bedroom HDB apartment – $2,500-3,500
2-bedroom private condo -$3,000-4,000
Room in a HDB apartment – $800-1,500
Room in private condo – $1,000-2,000

Bukit Batok

Photo by Cheong Chong/Unsplash

Bukit Batok (usually written as just Bt Batok) is a long-established residential town in western Singapore, next to Bukit Panjang and Choa Chu Kang. Though it has received some bad press over the years due to pest control issues, it is largely considered an accessible and highly convenient place to live.

This area has some of the best, most extensive, and most affordable groups of coffee houses in Singapore, making it a great place to grab an inexpensive cup of joe with friends. There are also more than enough shopping opportunities and amenities, including four malls, three wet markets, and plenty of supermarkets.

For more outdoorsy people, Bukit Batok has a good amount of forested areas and two considerable parks, Bukit Batok Nature Park and Little Guilin. If you want a regular jogging or cycling route in the mornings, these are two great spots to head to.

Keep in mind that Bukit Batok is the furthest-west neighborhood on this list, making it a little less convenient if you want to travel to the City Center regularly.

2-bedroom HDB apartment – $2,000-3,500
2-bedroom private condo -$3,000-5,000
Room in a HDB apartment – $500-1,500
Room in private condo – $1,000-1,500

Hougang

Photo by Jonathan Khoo/Unsplash

In the northeast of Singapore lies Hougang, a mature residential town with a strong and vibrant political history. Cultural sites, famous murals, and plenty of green open spaces can be found here.

Hougang is also well-known for its excellent food culture. You’re sure to find plenty of food courts, restaurants, and eateries packed with delicious (and affordable) offerings. For foodies looking to live on a budget, Hougang is probably the place for you.

For shopping and amenities, there is a diverse blend of shopping opportunities including several popular malls (most notably the large Hougang Mall), supermarkets, and independent retailers. Hougang is a well-established residential area so there is no shortage of reputable schools, gyms, and parks on top.

Two MRT stations and a bus interchange also connect this area to the rest of the island.

2-bedroom HDB apartment – $2,000-3,500
2-bedroom private condo -$3,000-4,000
Room in a HDB apartment – $800-1,500
Room in private condo – $1,000-1,500

Where are the cheapest places to live in Singapore? Our conclusion

The cheapest places to live in Singapore right now are Bukit Panjang, Sembawang, Punggol, and Choa Chu Kang, as all have very similar rental costs, though their upper limits for rent can vary. However, towns are constantly being developed and redeveloped so the cheapest locations change a lot. For example, Choa Chu Kang was one of the more expensive areas back in the 90s. Overall, Western Singapore is largely considered the most affordable region of the island.

Remember that Singapore is small, so rent will always be the major factor in diverging costs. Don’t expect the price of food, transport, and entertainment in Singapore to vary hugely from place to place, unless you’re living in central areas, particularly the Central Business District and around the Marina Bay.

Is Singapore an expensive place to live?

Yes, Singapore is one of the most expensive cities/countries in the world, particularly where rent is concerned. Average rent prices are around $2,800 SGD for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center and around $2000 SGD for a one-bedroom apartment outside of the city center. Food, utilities, and transport tend to be on par with most western countries, if not more expensive, so don’t come to Singapore expecting the same affordability you can find throughout the rest of Southeast Asia.

Can you live cheaply in Singapore?

You can live somewhat cheaply in Singapore, though it may be difficult, and not necessarily cheap”by the standard of most Asian countries. The cheapest way to live would be to rent a single bedroom in an HDB apartment in one of the towns/districts mentioned above. You can also shop in local wet markets to keep your outgoings on food nice and low.