Singapore – WHERE LIFE IS GOOD
|Singapore is a small republic in Southeast Asia with a year round tropical climate. It is a melting pot of different cultures – its population is a mix of predominantly Chinese, Malay and Indian people with a growing international ex-pat community. Singapore’s culture is extremely diverse as a result – with a unique combination of religions, languages, cultural traditions and cuisines.The standard of living is high in Singapore, and you can see evidence of this when walking around the city. Brand new shopping malls and towering skyscrapers define the Singapore skyline, the public transport system is efficient and the city is known for its clean streets.The Mercer Quality of Living 2015 ranked Singapore top for quality of life in Asia.
A GLOBAL BUSINESS HUB
The business climate in Singapore is marked by robust trade and investment, providing professionals and investors a strong platform for working and doing business. Global citizens can fit into life in Singapore easily, with over 7,000 multi-national companies operating here. Singapore offers a stable base from which companies can drive their expansion into the emerging markets of Asia.
The major industries in Singapore are electronics, oil and gas, financial services, shipping and chemicals. The Singapore government seeks to maintain its competitiveness by diversifying into value-added activities in the manufacturing and services sectors, as well as identifying and investing in new growth sectors, such as clean technology and biotechnology.
Around one in four skilled workers in Singapore come from overseas. To work in Singapore is to join an international workforce that is highly skilled and proficient in English and often one other regional language. The government and corporations also believe in training – offering continuous opportunities to boost the qualifications, productivity and skills of the labour force. All these factors make Singapore-bred talent highly valued and sought after, especially in the light of a global economy.
Singapore AT A GLANCE
HOUSING in Singapore
* This data is based on over 3000 entries from almost 500 different contributors between April 2014 and April 2015. For more information please visit: http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/country_result.jsp?country=Singapore
Both furnished and unfurnished accommodation is available in Singapore, so it’s important to decide whether shipping goods from home is necessary.
Use a property agent
If the Singapore property market is new to you, the advice and guidance of a property agent can make the whole experience a lot easier, especially when it come to negotiations with local landlords. An agent will ensure you avoid becoming victim of a fake landlord scheme.
Most property agents charge the equivalent of half a month’s rent in the event of a one-year lease and one month’s rent in the event of a two-year lease. In addition, there is a 7 percent Goods and Services Tax (GST) surcharge.
Safeguard your “good faith deposit”
In order confirm your interest you must provide an LOI or Letter Of Intent. In addition, you need to make a so-called good faith deposit or booking deposit which is usually one month’s rent. By accepting the LOI, the landlord in return will not rent out the unit to anyone else during the negotiations that follow between the two parties.
The good faith deposit is non-refundable, so you should be 100% certain that this is your desired property. Always add an expiry date to the LOI, usually one week later. That way the landlord will have to return the good faith deposit immediately upon expiry.
And always ask for a valid receipt upon handing over the cheque. If a good faith deposit is given with the Letter of Intent, then this amount should be deducted from the advance rental and the security deposit.
Awaiting the landlord’s reply
One of two things can happen next. Negotiations may stall, after which the landlord rejects the LOI and refunds the good faith deposit. Alternatively, the LOI is received well and the expat can move on to the TA, or Tenancy Agreement stage.
Amending your Tenancy Agreement
If various amendments to the TA are needed, it’s best to have the final draft checked and verified by a lawyer, especially since Singapore’s laws can be regarded as quite landlord-friendly.
Negotiate your rent
Rents are negotiable. Rental tenures in Singapore are generally for one or two years, an expat can use this fact in their favour during negotiations. Some landlords split up the rental amount into rental of premises, rental of furniture/fittings/etc. and maintenance fees. So, ensure that the rental amount that has been agreed on is in fact the final tally.
Safeguard your deposit
Request for the deposit to be placed in an escrow account and modify the clause that says, “The landlord will return the full deposit minus any repairs within 14 days.” Add a line stating, “Failure to return the deposit within the agreed-upon time frame will result in interest being levied of 2% per month until such time the full deposit has been returned.”
The lease security deposit will be forfeited on pre-mature termination of the lease. If any damage occurs to the property which does fall under the normal wear and tear clause, it is suggested you carry out the repairs themselves as this will be cheaper than waiting for the landlord to do it.
Finishing the procedure
Once the TA has been signed by both parties be prepared to provide: a copy of your passport and employment pass or work permit, as well as the first month rental in advance and the security deposit (usually one month’s rent for every year of lease). Note that the security deposit is refunded to the tenant – in most cases interest-free – once the lease term expires.
In order to make the TA a valid legal document to be honoured by all parties involved, it has to be stamped by the Singapore Inland Revenue Authority (IRA). The charges for this procedure, a so-called “stamp duty”, are to be borne by the tenant. To read more about and calculate stamp duty, visit: http://www.iras.gov.sg/irasHome/page01.aspx?id=724
HEALTHCare in Singapore
Singapore’s medical standards are some of the highest in Asia, and medical facilities are amongst the best in the world.
Singapore’s well-established healthcare system comprises a total of 13 private hospitals, 10 public (government) hospitals and several specialist clinics, each specializing in and catering to different patient needs, at varying costs.
Patients are free to choose the providers within the government or private healthcare delivery system and can walk in for a consultation at any private clinic or any government polyclinic. For emergency services, patients can go at any time to the 24-hour Accident & Emergency Departments located in the government hospitals.
Pharmaceuticals are available from numerous outlets including supermarkets, department stores, hotels and shopping centres. Registered pharmacists work from 9am till 6pm, with some shops open until 10pm.
Every working individual (Singapore citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident) including the self-employed, is required by law to contribute to the Medisave portion of his CPF account. Medisave funds can be used to pay for hospitalisation expenses for himself or his dependants. Dependants are defined as one’s spouse, children, parents and grandparents who must be Singapore citizens or Permanent Residents.
Medisave can be used to buy Medishield, a medical insurance scheme, for himself and his dependants. It can also be used to buy a non-CPF medical insurance such as Incomeshield but you cannot have both Medishield and another non-CPF medical insurance.
Medishield & Medishield Plus
This is a low-cost medical insurance giving you and your family financial protection against the expenses of medical treatment in the event of prolonged or serious illnesses. The premiums can be paid from Medisave. Members purchasing Medishield Plus get a higher insurance coverage.
Singapore international schools and education
Children of English-speaking expatriates usually attend a foreign international school where they are taught in English and may follow a UK curriculum or study for the International Baccalaureate. Expatriates on employment/professional visit passes may apply for their children to attend government or government-aided schools. Details of how this should be done are available through the Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE) website. If there are vacancies, a student pass needs to be obtained from the Immigration Department. Fees in these schools are much lower than in private schools. Singaporean children must attend a Singaporean State school, and can only apply to one of the foreign international schools if they have been in education abroad or if one parent is of another nationality.
There are many pre-school centres for children from six months old, some taking children as young as three months. Between the ages of three and six years children can be enrolled in a pre-school. There is a range of options across the island, including foreign/international pre-schools for the children of expatriates. Pre-schools are run by the private sector and must be registered with the Ministry of Education (MOE). Child care centres may also offer a pre-school programme. These are licensed by The Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS).
In Singapore children start primary school at the age of six, for six years. The criteria for attending a school is based on catchment areas – a set radius around the school campus. Some schools are more popular than others, mainly because of their exam results, and it is common for parents to buy or rent a home within a school’s catchment area to get a place for their children. At the end of six years, the child takes the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) before moving to secondary school for four or five years.
Secondary schools in Singapore can be government funded, government aided or independent. Depending on the results of their Primary School Leaving Examinations the child is placed into one of three levels – Special, Express or Normal. The Special and Express Courses prepare students for the Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education Ordinary (GCE O) Level exam over four years. Students taking the Normal Course can opt for the Academic or Technical stream, both of which prepare students for the Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education Normal (GCE N) Level exam after four years of study. On completion of the Normal level exam, students can enter the GCE O Level examination in the fifth year.
ENTERTAINMENT IN Singapore
Singapore offers a lot of entertainment options ranging from colourful festivals to coastal resorts, concert halls and theatres, to nature reserves and parks, street opera to adventure sports. Escaping the city for outdoor space is easy, with over forty parks and gardens and eight nature reserves in Singapore. Or, get away for the weekend to one of the popular coastal resorts with many luxury hotels and spas.
The vibrant culture and beautiful city will never leave you short of things to do, however here are a few of our favourites:
Singapore’s last remaining green lung is a cool, bucolic retreat filled with joggers, dogs and tai-chi practitioners. Wander through the swaths of virgin rainforest (the main boardwalk through it is entered from Upper Palm Valley Road) and then take in the National Orchid Garden’s many-colored collection of 1,000 orchid species and 2,000 hybrids.
2. Chinatown Heritage Centre
Entire sets of bedrooms, kitchens and street scenes from the late-19th century and early-20th century have been faithfully recreated. It’s an authentic slice of Singapore’s history that’s made all the more fascinating by the gleaming skyscrapers just a few blocks away.
3. Haji Lane
This tiny lane, hidden away in the heart of the Muslim quarter, is a fashionista’s paradise. With very little fanfare, the collection of narrow shop-houses have, in less than a year, been transformed into an aggressively hip retail stretch recalling Le Marais in Paris or New York’s Meatpacking District.
4. The Singapore Flyer
The 165-meter-high Flyer is Singapore’s answer to the London Eye. The best time to hitch a ride is at dusk when the entire row of downtown skyscrapers is softly lit.
5. Eat at a hawker food market
First up, you’ll need some grub – and you’re in luck as Singapore has probably the widest selection of Asian food anywhere on the planet. From Malay dishes such as nasi lemak to local Chinese favourite Hainanese chicken rice, not to mention dim sum, dahl and Korean BBQ, grab a bargain meal with the locals at a hawker food market such as Maxwell Road or Lau Pa Sat.
6. Little India
Little India’s fragrant streets are filled with the smell of spices, flowers and food from across India. Paired with blaring music and multi-coloured buildings, it makes for an intoxicating mix. Explore the many temples and shrines before a visit to 24-hour shopping mecca Mustafa, the gigantic department store where you’ll find everything from perfume to peranakan trinkets.
7. National Stadium
The National Stadium on in June 2014. Located in Kallang, the National Stadium is a multi-purpose arena used mostly for football matches featuring a dome and retractable roof. As the only stadium in the world custom designed to host football, rugby, cricket and athletics events. With a mechanised and automated retractable seating configurations on the lowest tier, the arena can also host concerts, cultural and other entertainment purposes at any time. To find more information on upcoming events go to:
Social Clubs for Expatriates
There are numerous established social clubs and social activities clubs for expatriates, including the Pinetree Club, the Dutch Club, American Women’s Association, the Japanese Association Singapore and the British Club.
Singapore offers a multitude of deals from Happy Hours to Ladies Nights for you to take full advantage of.
While we have recommendations aplenty further suggestions can be found at:
Many shopping centers are open until 11pm at night, as well as the Mustafa Centre where you can enjoy 24 hour shopping. The Chinatown Night Market is a different shopping experience, with traditional and modern merchandise and dance performances to entertain shoppers.
Cinemas in Singapore are scattered all over the island and offer a wide selection of movies with screening times into the early hours of the morning. Tickets are inexpensive, and many companies have invested huge amounts of money to establish modern, luxurious and extremely plush multiplex cinemas where local as well as international movies are shown. There are over 30 cinemas all over Singapore.
The mix of different cultures and religions means there is always something to celebrate in Singapore – here are some of the biggest festivals that take place throughout the year:
KEEPING FIT in Singapore
Until a year ago, gym membership was only for the better-off in Singapore, as most gyms were in swanky hotels and cost thousands of dollars to join. Then 2 mega-gyms appeared and suddenly, going to the gym was not only affordable, but also fashionable.
16 outlets in Singapore, this is a great option for working professionals in the CBD who require easy access to a gym. They also have an extensive range of classes and overseas access for the benefit of frequent travellers. For the price you may be paying for other gyms, Fitness First does offer you one of the most value-for-money for gym memberships in Singapore – Ranges from $100-160 per month/ $1500-$1700 per year (standard)
The club has equipment for on-trend exercises like anti-gravity yoga and power plate workouts, alongside high-tech cardio and weight training machines by Technogym that can store workout information, track your progress and even ensure that you’re keeping pace while you’re working out. Workout attire is provided (except shoes) and you can even take naps in their zero-gravity sleep pods – One-time activation fee of $199 and a weekly fee of $42.50
This is the gym of choice for those who are willing to pay top dollar for the full range of premium equipment. They provide workout clothing, free iPods and headphones for your time in the gym. Other luxury amenities include free Wi-Fi, free-flow coffee, soft drinks, apples and a juice bar. Their machines are equipped with DVD entertainment system as well as individual cable TV screens. With a wide variety of group classes and dedicated fitness trainers, they also offer skyscraper views of Marina Bay Sands, ArtScience Museum and Esplanade at their Asia Square outlet as well as Orchard Road at their Knightsbridge outlet – $150-$250 per month.
Being one of the biggest giants in the fitness industry has its perks, including being in prime locations. With its sprawling facilities, exercise studios as well as its trademark classes- $89 per month (one club access), $119 per month (All club access).
Run by the True Group, one of the main benefits of True Fitness is that membership can give you access to all True Yoga and True Fitness outlets, including those overseas. Being one the biggest fitness chains in Singapore, this gives the added convenience of being able to work out anywhere in the island or even while traveling. They also have unlimited classes for members to attend – $100-$200 per month
Fitness bootcamps may sound intense and can appear to be intimidating to beginners but they are actually a fun and affordable way of keeping fit. Another advantage is that most bootcamp classes take place outdoors in scenic parks. Instructors are often motivating and there are classes for all levels. If you wish to try something different you can check out some of the bootcamps below:
Sports teams in Singapore are plenty and they all boat a thriving social calendar of regular events, trips and tours – so there is a great opportunity to socialise and meet people whilst you get fit.
Founded In 1967 Bucks RFC is one of the two oldest clubs in Singapore. They have a long a proud history of success on and off the pitch in Singapore and strive to become the premier rugby club in South East Asia. They field three men’s teams in the Singapore league and one women’s team. They represent over 15 countries of origin and skill levels from elite to grass roots/novices. They train at 7pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Go to http://bucksrugbysingapore.com/contact/ to get in contact or speak to the Head of Nicoll Curtin’s Singapore Office – Tom Dunsmore – who is on the committee as 1st Team Manager.
Bucks Netball, recently acquired by Bucks RFC, has near 100 members over about 6 teams, including mixed teams. For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
ANZA Cricket fields four teams (ranging from Division 2 to 5) of the Singapore Cricket Association. The season runs from late January to October. Games are on Saturdays or Sundays. They use the cricket nets at the Australian International School on Lorong Chuan for training on Sunday mornings from 9:30 to 11:30am.
For those less serious but interested in a social game, the “Dream Team” play each month, usually 30 overs per side matches against other social teams. Visit https://www.anza.org.sg/?page=Cricket for more information.
The world’s favourite game is also Singapore’s most popular sport. The ESPZEN (espzen.com) website lists both 11-a-side and Indoor Futsal (five-a-side) teams looking for players of all levels and they run a soccer school too.
Most social clubs and many condos have tennis courts, so finding somewhere to play is not difficult. But if you’re looking for a partner, check out the Tennis Friendz Network (tfntennis.com), a forum that lists buddies to play with, equipment to buy and tournaments to enter.
The list of sports available and accessible in Singapore is extensive, and you will also find a prevalence of: Cycling, Basketball, American Football, Baseball, Hockey.
GETTING AROUND in Singapore
Traveling in Singapore is both easy and economical, with an incredibly efficient public transportation network; everywhere in the city is easily accessible by bus, taxi, boat, trishaw and the ultra modern MRT-Mass Rapid Transit system. It has earned Singapore a reputation as the easiest city in Asia to get around.
Singapore’s modern Changi International Airport is vast, efficient, and organized with a huge range of facilities – from money-changing, restaurants, business centres and saunas to free films, swimming pool, and even a mini Science Discovery Museum, as well as over a hundred shops. There are two terminals and the Changi Skytrain monorail shuttles between them. The airport is about 20km from the city centre and ‘airbus’ shuttles run from the airport directly into town at very reasonable rates.
Singapore has over 15,000 air-conditioned taxis, which provide comfortable, hassle-free traveling at reasonable costs. They can be flagged down in some locations and well marked taxi stands are available outside most major shopping centres and hotels. An extra charge is added during peak hours and for advanced booking – which is advised during rush hour.
Clean, punctual, and air-conditioned, Singapore’s MRT subway system is the easiest, fastest, and most comfortable way of getting around. Operating between 6am and midnight, its well known for its cleanliness – a result of fines imposed for littering, smoking, eating and drinking in MRT stations and on board trains. The cost varies for individual journeys, or you can buy a TransitLink Card if you are intending to travel around a lot by either bus or MRT. The TransitLink Guide lists all bus and MRT services.
Singapore’s bus network is extremely frequent and comprehensive. Most buses operate between 6 a.m. to midnight, and fares are cheaper than the MRT.
Singapore: “The world’s biggest departure lounge” – A cynical label given by some maybe, but it’s also very true. By its very location, Singapore is a gateway to parts of the world many can only dream of visiting. So for Expats posted here, one of the biggest pluses is the opportunity it throws up to travel.
Southeast Asia offers the traveller a multitude of choices, from world-famous beach resorts to big cities to quiet secluded islands. The beauty of it all is, you don’t need to spend a lot of time or money – the places we list below can be a weekend getaway for as little as S$100, or less if you intend to drive.
Pulau Ubin, also called Ubin Island, is a small island (10.19 km²) situated in the north east of Singapore, to the west of Pulau Tekong. Granite quarrying supported a few thousand settlers on Pulau Ubin in the 1960s, but only about a hundred villagers live there today. It is one of the last rural areas to be found in Singapore, with an abundance of natural flora and fauna. It’s appearance is likely to change forever soon – modernising plans are well-advanced and if you want to see it in its original state, we recommend a visit sooner rather than later.
Thailand is equally well known for both its beach resorts and the shopping and nightlife of its busy cities. Popular destinations include the capital Bangkok, Chiangmai, and the resorts in Phuket, Koh Samui and Pattaya. There are daily flights out of Singapore, as well as several cruises that sail out to Phuket and back. At present, most packages to Thailand should not cost you more than $400 for a 3-day/2-night stay, inclusive of a return air ticket.
Mae Hong Son in Thailand – The improved accessibility has thrust Mae Hong Son into prominence as a new destination for tourists seeking adventure and tranquil beauty. You can go trekking, rafting or elephant riding, combining these activities with visits to hilltribe villages. At least two villages of a rather unique nature can be visited within a half day trip on the back of an elephant or by longtail motorboat.
Indonesia is the largest country in Southeast Asia and is best known for its numerous island resorts peppered across the archipelago. Of these, Bali, Lombok and Bintan are the most popular. It is not uncommon for local golfers to take a quick ferry to either Bintan or Batam to enjoy the golf courses there, or for families to escape to these places for a weekend.
Vietnam is fantastic for low prices, the exotic food and the mystic temples. The 2 main cities are the capital Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Five-star hotels cost only about US$70 per night while budget travellers can stay at guest houses for as little as US$15 a night.