To-dos as you step in Singapore

Singapore.
CC Image Courtesy: Román Emin from flickr

You are coming to Singapore for a fairly long visit. You already have your passport, tickets and other usual stuff. But you should also remember to do the following things to make your life easier. I have been asked these questions so many times from my friends or relatives visiting Singapore, that I thought of making a future reference for any visitors.


  1. Visa:  If you have to apply for work visa, with the help of company where he is employed. Its not easy to get until company applies for it. He needs a ICA (Immigration Checkpoints Authority, SG) approved letter. This letter could be treated as Visa. Or else, he needs to take social visit pass or something and then convert to work pass. So, your friend needs to get the invitation letter from company first and the company needs to apply for his work visa. Generally the visa is issued after coming to Singapore. Temporarily, a letter from ICA is used as a visa or social visit pass.
  2. Data plan : If you plan to travel a lot in and around Singapore without a tour guide, then I would recommend you to get some mobile data plan. You can navigate through any corner of Singapore using  GPS and google maps. Google maps also recommends the public transport routes.
  3. Forex : Depending on the length of the trip, you would need up to 100 S$ per person per week not counting your accommodation expenses. Get some money before hand.
  4. Prepaid Sim Card : As soon as you land in Singapore, the airport itself has few shops where you can buy a Singtel or StarHub Sim cards. Get a simple top-up if you think you need for just emergency. If you intend to call a lot, buy a 28 S$ top-up which gives 100 S$ local balance and  28 S$ international balance. One important thing to remember is that local calls are quite costly(8c/min) and you are charged for incoming calls too(8c/min).
  5. Taxis, Buses and Subway : Singapore is well-connected by public transport. But, some places are hard to reach still if you use the public transport. In such cases, you can take a taxi. It may be costlier but still works out to be cheap if you are going in groups of four. For anything else, stick to buses and subway. There is nothing cheaper and faster than that for most of the routes. Most taxis work with cards, but some prefer only cash payment. For buses and trains, use the Ez-link card.
  6. Ez-link Card : When you use the public transport in Singapore, Ez-link card comes in handy. You may think why not pay cash for few trips here and there for your small little trip. But a Ez-link card can cost you much less. You can buy one of these at any MRT stations for 12 S$ where you pay 5 bucks for the card and the remaining 7 S$ are put in the virtual wallet. One trip costs typically 1-2 bucks depending on the distance of your destination.
  7. International Credit/Debit Card : Some people may wish to carry some international cards but there may be a transaction fee for every ATM withdrawal. So, it is advisable to carry sufficient cash for at least 1-2 weeks.
  8. Bank Account:  If you are a student or an employee coming to Singapore on a long term visa, please apply for a bank account as soon as you land. It takes less than an hour on a typical weekday. This helps in setting your school scholarship account or job account. Take note of which bank you want to open an account with. Sometimes, some schools/companies have tie-up with a particular bank. You will need just your passport and temporary visa to start with. Commonly used banks are : DBS/POSB, UOB and OCBC. For Indians, there are few branches of State Bank of India too if needed. DBS/POSB is recommended for NUS students and in general because it is easy to find their ATMs all around the island.
  9. Accomodation : Please find accommodation before coming to Singapore as it is not cheap to get hotel rooms(100$ and above per night). There are a number of sites to search for roommates and rentals. Airbnb is also useful for a short term stay and later you could finalize the rental contract. If you are a student, please choose your school accommodation options as they are the best and nearest to your college. For NUS, typically, the best place to stay is UTown for post graduates and undergraduates have a lot of resident halls to choose from. The cost works out to 120$ a week and payment is made for a semester. Rental agreements are generally signed for a lease of 6 months to an year. So, one needs to choose wisely before entering into an agreement.

If you need more information, check out wikitravel for tips. If you have any other interesting tips to share, please add in to the comments.

This post was first published on my academic blog here.

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