Prepare yourself for Singapore!

“I am coming to Singapore soon, what stuff should I bring, and what can I leave home?” . I get every now and then this question from people and friends coming to Singapore and whom want to make sure they get just the necessary and do the right things before coming. So here’s your todo-list and to-bring list before you get to Singapore.

~~~ YOU WILL NEED ~~~

  • An UNLOCKED cellphone. Then get a Singaporean SIM card for not much (about S$30, which is roughly 15 Euros or 23 US$) and it will come with credit. It’s not really worth going for a phone monthly plan, most people just go for the prepaid plan. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT that you UNLOCK your phone before coming otherwise it will not accept any other SIM card that those of your original mobile network. Besides, my experience with Motorola/Orange has taught me one should NOT COUNT on unlocking it here.
    Another thing you may want to know, is that (at least in France for sure) you can cancel a plan (no matter how long, and even if you just started the plan) if you provide your mobile network with sufficient proof. The great thing about this is that you gain a phone for free or almost !
  • A REAL BEACH TOWEL, and any other towel you will use. The towels in Singapore are AWFUL, the huge majority of them are of VERY POOR QUALITY, especially if you buy them in a neighbourhoud market. You can get acceptable towels at any Robinson’s (ie City Hall Mall) but after 4 months in Singapore I still haven’t seen any beach towel for sale.
  • ONLY one or two pullovers ONLY or a little jacket to wear ONLY when the AC is too strong (it is always too strong…). 100% of the colds in Singapore are due not to cold weather (it doesn’t exist) not to heights (they don’t exist) but to STRING AIR CONDITIONING : 16 to 22 degrees whereas the outside temperatures averages 28 degrees, it’s quite dumb but they love it this way.
  • SOME CASH, ideally a lot that you drew for free in your original country. That will save you a lot of tax because you won’t have to use your credit card at least initially. Remember : Almost EVERYTHING can be paid in CASH in Singapore, even the most governmental or administrative institutions.
  • IF you have enough time, do an AIDS chechup (“Depistage du SIDA” in French) and a tuberculosis analysis with LUNG X-RAY pictures and Urine analysis . Ask your doctors to do them in English, or translate it with them. That will save you overall about $100 because you must take or have recently taken these tests before being granted whatever pass allows you to stay in Singapore for more than one month.
  • DO A FULL MEDICAL (general condition, dermatologist, dental, kinesiology) CHECKUP and , if you come from a country that has a respectable and non-profit oriented health care system (i.e. France 🙂 one of my biggest national prides). Medical stuff is very expensive in Singapore : 40 Euros (S$80) JUST to SEE a doctor, plus the medications…University students may pay less to see a doctor at their university.

~~~ YOU MIGHT NEED ~~~

  • Any item you will need and that you know for sure to be the very local speciality of your country. No I didn’t bring escargots and frog’s legs : WE EAT THEM AS RARELY AS THE CHINESE EAT CATS. But I brought my local Romance and French Accent, it’s rare to find it in Singapore !
  • Any medication you use, MAKE SURE IT IS NOT A DRUG (otherwise jail and death sentence) and MAKE SURE TO HAVE A PRESCRIPTION OF YOUR DOCTOR for each item.

~~~ YOU WILL NOT NEED ~~~

  • A plug converter, you can find that EVERYWHERE in Singapore, at very low cost. In fact, unless the plug is a safety one (quite rare) you will just need a cotton ear bud to plug a European electric device into a Singapore plug (which is the same as teh British electric plug).
  • Heavy outfits for cold times, such as pullover, jackets, etc, One can be wearing shorts, slippers and shirts all year long.
  • To bring too many cloth or shoes, just bring your best/favourite stuff and don’t worry about the easiness of getting new cloth : Singapore is the only shopping center that has a seat at the United Nations 😉
  • Leave the suit at home, or at least the jacket of it. The business or business casual here (because of high heat and humidity) is just pants/shirt. In exceptional cases you may need a full suit (AC is very strong in Singapore) but you can get suits at very low cost here, even made-on-measure is cheap (starting from S$150 to say S$400 for a really nice one).
  • A local bank account if you are not staying for long and not being paid in Singapore by a Singaporean institution. For students like me, it’s better to just draw huge amounts of money at one time (to make fixed costs more profitable) every now and then. Contact your original bank before coming.
  • A gallon of your preferred brand of shampoo or soap, Singapore has a bunch of the best brands. In general most care products are very much the same as in the most developed countries. Leave that at home that will save you weight !
  • To relook yourself before coming (especially of you live in France were there’s an underlying addiction to fashion which we realize is costly only when we go to cheaper countries !) you will get 3 times more cloth here with the very same amount of money, and there’s choice !

~~~ QUICKLY after you get HERE , get those ~~~

EZ-link card from any MRT (metro) station. It’s an transportation RFID card. It should be around S$12 and comes with $5 of credit on it.

SIM card, you’ll have the choice between 3 networks : SingTel, Starhub, and M1. See what works best for you.

UMBRELLA ! It rains very often in Singapore (almost daily is realistic). Always have it with ALWAYS….cause you never know!

Plug adapters…if you don’t like my ghetto technique above. Go to a market, not to shopping mall, it’ll be cheaper.

Liquid detergent for your cloth ! (NO POWDER OR TABLETS OR GELS….) The washing machines in Singapore are weird (for a European), and the use of almost ANY non-liquid detergent with leave disgusting stains on you cloth.

For self-care advanced products I suggest Watsons stores, but first check-out FairPrice, if they have the same item you’re looking for it will for sure be cheaper.

For para-pharmacy I suggest Guardians.

For your commercial food (cereals, milk, etc) go to FairPrice, it’s probably the least likely to rip you off.

For fresh products (fruits) go to local markets, the food is less processed, cheaper and the interaction more human. The fruits are much cheaper than in Europe. Example : 10 bananas for about S$2 !

For unhealty snacks I suggest McDonalds, BurgerKing and 7-eleven, the latest of which is also great for its rip-off prices 🙂

Expensive in Singapore compared to Europe : BEEF, MILK, HOUSE RENTAL, CARS, ANY FEE YOU PAY TO LEARN SOMETHING (Danse [see my article on Salsa], language…).
Cheap in Singapore compared to Europe : FRUITS AND VEGETABLES, TRIPS TO OTHERS COUNTRIES IN ASIA, NIGHTCLUBS ENTRANCE COVER CHARGE, CAB RIDES, TOWELS !!! 🙂

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Links:

  • Association Francaise de Singapour: Website | Email
    Le but de cette association est de faciliter l’installation et la vie quotidienne des francophones ca Singapour. Il contient toutes les “bonnes adresses” et les conseils de francophones qui vivent ou ont vecu a Singapour.
  • Xpat Xperience : Website
    A website that compiles ton of advice for people coming to Singapore. It addresses more those who are actually MOVING to Singapore. I find it over-detailed with sometimes info that is obvious and not pertinent (ie say goodbye to your friends before you leave…). Check it out and make you own opinion.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anything I forgot to mention?
Any info you haven’t found in this article ?
ASK ME THROUGH THE COMMENTS, I’LL BE GLAD TO ANSWER.

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8 thoughts on “Prepare yourself for Singapore!

  1. Merci mon cher Youcef pour ces précieux conseils :-)!
    Les check up médicaux doivent datés de combien de temps avant notre arrivée?

  2. Salut Jenny,

    La radio des poumons (tuberculose) et l’analyse du sang (VIH) doivent dater d’au plus 3 mois le jour où ICA (Immigration & Checkpoint Authority) examineront ton dossier pour le Student’s pass. Fais les donc un mois avant de venir, ça paraît raisonnable.

    Youcef, finalement j’irai pas au Bhoutan, c’est trop cher 🙂

  3. Merci Benoit 🙂

    J’ai une autre question aussi. Comment vous faites pour payer votre loyer si vous n’avez pas de local bank account?

    YB : En cash 🙂 Une fois de plus. “You can pay almost EVERYTHING by cash” 😉

  4. Farpaitement ! Le compte en banque à Singapour, c’est nécessaire juste si on compte avoir un salaire (y compris si on est boursier de NUS). Sinon, toutes dépenses en cash. Et ce, d’autant qu’ici, la tenue d’un compte coûte assez cher…

  5. Très intéressant l’article ! Si tu as aussi des tips to become a Singapore resident (for taxes), ça m’intéresse !
    [Au passage juste une petite faute d’orthographe (ou bien ?) : “to STRING AIR CONDITIONING”.]

    YB : corrigée, merci Erwin ! Qui plus est je vais demander aux expats français que je connais plus d’informations sur la procedure qui consiste à devenir résident, et biensur un retour sur la comparaison entre fiscalité française et singapourienne (car il y a certainement des contreparties a cette faible fiscalité)

  6. Ca, c’est un article utile ! Si seulement je pouvais trouver la même chose pour la Corée…

    Je me demande quelle proportion de ton billet s’applique à mon cas…

  7. Au fait tu devrais envoyer ton article à l’association française de Singapour, ça les intéresserait sûrement (mais traduit en français sans doute :-).

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