It is possible to cash traveler’s checks in most Singapore banks and specialized exchange offices. Consider that banks charge a fee of 3 SGD for this operation. Therefore, it pays to exchange traveler’s checks for local currency in Licensed Money Changers that don’t charge commission fees. Passport is required in order to cash traveler’s checks.
Thomas Cook and American Express checks, issued in US Dollar or pound sterling, are the most frequently accepted ones in Singapore.
Some large shops and restaurants in Singapore accept traveler’s checks: it is enough to show your pass in order to make a payment. However, their exchange rate is usually somewhat lower than in exchange offices.
Credit cards are widely spread on the whole territory of Singapore and are the main form of payment: they are accepted in hotels, restaurants, shops and even taxis. The country is going to transfer entirely to non-cash payment for goods and services in the near future. Cards of local banks and almost all major international cards are accepted here: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club.
It is not a problem to withdraw cash in Singapore – cash machines are installed literally on every corner: near banks, on subway stations, in shopping centers, and even in small cafes and private shops. Be aware that you might be charged for paying with credit card in some shops – it is illegal.
The Singapore national currency is Singapore Dollar (international designation is SGD; inside the country – S$) that equals 100 cents. There are coins at par value of 10, 20, 50 cents and of 1 Singapore Dollar, and banknotes at par value of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000 and 10 000 Dollar in circulation.
Singapore forms currency union with Brunei, and therefore Brunei Dollar circulates on a par with Singapore one. It is accepted for payment at the rate of 1:1.
Foreign currency can be exchanged for Singapore Dollar in banks and in Licensed Money Changers. The exchange rate is stable and, as a rule, is the same in all exchange points.
Most banks are concentrated in the city business center and especially near the Orchard Road, where the largest shopping centers and restaurants are located. They work from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on work days and from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday. Keep in mind that some banks don’t exchange currency on Saturdays. Almost all banks are closed on Sunday, and only some branches of large banks on Orchard Road are opened from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Money Changers can be easily found in the airport, in hotels, in large trade centers in the downtown, and in Singapore ethnic quarters. They are usually opened from 10 or 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., some of them work until 8 or 9 p.m. Try to exchange money only at the Licensed Money Changers.
Besides Singapore Dollars, many large trade centers and department stores accept American and Australian Dollars, as well Japanese yen and British pounds.
One of Singapore’s peculiarities is a large number of public catering centers that offer a large choice of dishes at affordable prices. The most popular ones are Hawker Centre and Food Court that can be found at any large trade center. A dinner costs from 4 to 7 SGD (2,5-4,5 €) here. A dinner at the fast-food restaurant is somewhat more expensive.
An average bill at economy-class restaurant makes up 24-40 SGD (15-26 €) per person without drinks, at middle-class restaurant – 40-80 SGD (26-50 €). The cost of a dinner at elite restaurant is higher: from 90 SGD (60 €) up to several hundred Euros.
Strong drinks are very expensive in Singapore. A half-liter bottle of beer at a bar may cost up to 10-14 SGD (6-9 €).
The cost of living in Singapore is one of the highest ones in Southeast Asia. Thus, a hostel costs approximately 20-40 € per night. Double room with breakfast in affordable hotel costs from 40 to 80 € per night, in a middle-class hotel – from 80 to 220 €, and the same room in a top-level hotel – from 220 €.
At the same time, Singapore hotels often offer 25-50% discounts on their services. There are usually special offers for regular guests, tourists who book a room for a long time, as well as for corporate clients.
A taxi is a convenient and relatively cheap mode of transportation in Singapore. Payment is made only by the meter. Boarding in a taxi costs about 2,8 - 3,4 SGD (1,75 - 2,15 €) and includes a one mile journey (1.61 km). Then, you pay 0,22 - 0,3 SGD (0,15 - 0,2 €) per 375 meters at a distance of up to 10 km, and further the same sum per 350 meters.
There are a number of markups to basic rates, at that. Thus, from Monday to Friday during peak hours – from 7 to 9:30 a.m. and from 5 to 8 p.m. – you will have to pay additional 25 - 35% of the total fare. And a night trip – from 12 to 6 a.m. – will cost 50% more. In addition, there is a rate surcharge of 3 SGD (about 2 €) from Monday to Saturday, if you cross the central business district of Singapore (CBD) in the period from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. A cab ride to/from Changi Airport costs 5 SGD (3,15 €) from Friday to Sunday, from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. and 3 SGD (about 2 €) at other times.
It is easy to catch a taxi in the street in Singapore; in addition, there are special taxi terminals in the airport, and almost near all major shopping centers and shopping malls. You can arrange a taxi in advance, but this service costs 2,5 - 3,5 SGD (1,6 - 2,2 €) extra.
Service prices in virtually all Singapore hotels and restaurants include 10% premium for services, therefore tips are not encouraged here. And in the local airport they are even prohibited by law. The practice to leave tips contradicts Singaporeans’ lifestyle.
But with development of international tourism, the situation is gradually changing in direction of European standards, and Singapore service workers expect tips from foreigners more and more often. Therefore, chambermaids in hotels often get 2 SGD per day, porters and doormen – 1 SGD, employees of beauty salons – from 2 to 4 SGD.
Singapore has the Tax Free system, which enables foreign tourists who leave the country to refund 7%-tax, which is imposed on all goods and services.
In order to do so, you need to purchase goods for at least 100 SGD in shops that participate in GST Tourist Refund system: as a rule, they have ‘Tax Free Shopping’ or ‘Premier Tax Free’ logo. It is also possible to accumulate the necessary sum by collecting three checks in one shop in one day. Then, ask a cashier to give you special global refund receipt (passport is required).
Afterwards, you should show compact purchases, shop receipts and global refund receipts at the GST Refund Inspection Counter, located in the departure lounge of the Changi Airport. Large-size purchases along with all necessary receipts should be shown at the customs control counter. It must be done before registering the luggage, at that. After customs officials have stamped all your purchases, you can receive your money at the Global Refund in one of the two airport terminals. The tax is usually returned in cash, or transferred to the credit card, or sent per post as a bank check.
Remember: in order to refund 7%-tax you must leave Singapore no later than two month after making a purchase and within 12 hours, after customs officials have stamped your receipt.