Capital City: Singapore
Climate: Tropical Rainforest
Language: English, Malay, Mandarin, Tamil
International Dialing Code: +65
President: Halimah Yacob
Singapore, an island city-state in Southeast Asia, is known mainly for its wealth, cosmopolitan living, and glitz and glam. However, this nation has more to offer expats, including beautiful parks, a mix of cultures, a thriving culinary scene, and relaxing beach resorts.
Singapore is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, but it’s also one of the greenest.
There are parks all over the city, earning it the name “The Garden City.” These parks are teeming with wildlife, and are a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Before Singapore was called the Garden City, it was known as Temasek. The founding of modern Singapore began in 1819 with the British, who came looking for potential strategic ports in the Strait of Malacca.
A treaty was signed giving the British control of the whole island. Trade flourished, and the population grew from a few thousand to over 80,000 by the 1860s.
In 1956, the country became fully self-governed in all matters but defense and foreign affairs, and three years later, it held its first independent general elections.
In the following decades, Singapore’s government worked to improve the economy, and the country transformed from a developing nation to a first-world country in a single generation.
Today, Singapore is a parliamentary republic and part of the Commonwealth of Nations. It has a developed economy and is the most open and business-friendly nation in the world, with low corruption and favorable tax policy. This has attracted investors and expats from all over the world to live and invest in this promising Southeast Asian destination.
Singapore is positioned close to the equator, just 1.5 degrees to its north, and has a tropical climate with no distinct seasons. Daily temperatures range from 75°F to 85°F, with humidity around 85%. It rains heavily almost every day, so you should keep an umbrella or a raincoat with you at all times.
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It rains even more from November to January because of monsoon season… it sometimes feels like a steam sauna and there’s almost no wind to help you cool off. If you’ve never lived in the tropics, this can be an adjustment. Check out our survival guide for life in the tropics.
Life here is a mix of tranquility and city buzz.. Locals are friendly and everyone is optimistic. The people are proud of their country, its success over the decades, its leadership in innovation, technology, and the coexistence of different ethnicities.
Cultural diversity abounds in Singapore. The three main ethnic groups are the Chinese, Malays, and Indians.
There are also four official languages: English, Standard Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil. This mix of cultures in such a small space has given birth to a distinct Singaporean slang called Singlish (Singaporean English). It takes time to get used to, but you’ll eventually catch on.
With one of the largest expat populations in the world, socializing isn’t an issue. If you’re looking for expats from your own country, your best choice is to search for Facebook groups and ask to join.
These groups organize regular meetings, usually during their countries’ holidays to feel closer to home.
Singapore is one of the most expensive places to live on the planet. With the highest rate of millionaires per capita, it’s not surprising that the local cost of living reflects the population’s high net worth. That said, ordinary people can still enjoy the lifestyle here without breaking the bank.
Condominiums are the most popular housing choice for expats, and they come at all price levels.
Fairprice, the largest grocery store in Singapore, is the cheapest option for grocery shopping and offers a variety of products including international brands.
Expect to pay US$15 to US$20 per meal in a mid-range restaurant, and more than US$40 at an expensive place. Taxes on alcohol and cigarettes are high, so take advantage of happy hours to save a few bucks.
Singapore is famous for offering world-class health care through both private and public medical facilities. Although the government owns the public sector hospitals, they function as private limited companies that compete on service and quality with the private sector.
For a non-Singaporean, choosing between private and government health facilities doesn’t make any difference in costs, as the two sectors directly compete with one another.
The only difference is in the level of service and the waiting lines, which are better in private health care facilities. This is why most expats and medical tourists choose to go private.
Changi Airport is a major transportation hub in Southeast Asia and offers flights to every destination imaginable. It’s often rated the best airport in the world, and with good reason. Everything works quickly and conveniently, and it’s visually pleasing. You’ll find direct flights to and Changi Airport from multiple cities in the States.
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Singapore has an excellent public transport system. Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), or subway, and Light Rail Transit (LRT) are the fastest and most popular options and can get you anywhere quickly around the city. Take the green MRT line to get to the city from the airport, or grab an Uber for about S$20 to S$30.
The Civic District and Central Business District (CBD), located in the city center , represent the spirit of Singapore, with the old and the new blending in a mix of colonial buildings and ultra-modern skyscrapers.
Neighborhoods like Arab Street, Bugis, Downtown Core, and Chinatown are all unique, and you can truly experience Singapore’s cultural diversity here.
While you’ll find accommodations for any budget in this area in condos, HDBs, and older low-rise apartment blocks, prices tend to be high. Because it’s a business district, few health facilities are available nearby, and no international schools.
While this shouldn’t be a problem with all the public transport options at your disposal, this part of the city is for those who prioritize uber-urban living.
The East Coast spans from Marina Bay east to Changi Airport. With a 15-km long stretch of scenic coastline, this area is perfect for those who enjoy outdoor activities and living next to the sea. Those who travel frequently benefit from the proximity of the airport.
Expats looking to get more bang for their buck, lots of open space, and a more relaxed pace of life prefer these neighborhoods.
The closeness of the ocean means a sea breeze that keeps these districts slightly cooler. There are plenty of housing options and health facilities available, and, while still low compared to other districts, the number of international schools is increasing.
"Panama City will be the next Singapore..." I couldn't tell you how many times I've heard that prediction—from Panama property developers, real estate agents, investment advisors, and market pundits—over the years I've been doing business in this country. I was in Singapore not long ago, and I can tell you that Panama City doesn't stack up. The infrastructure and levels of quality, service, and overall experience don't compare. But you've got to put any comparison between these two places into...Read more