An expat guide to Singapore

December 05, 2016

For the second year running, the 2016 HSBC Expat Explorer survey ranked Singapore as the top destination for expats. Of those expats surveyed, almost two thirds told HSBC that their quality of life improved after moving to Singapore.

Over 60% of respondents stated they earned more in Singapore than they did in their home country, with expats in Singapore earning $139,000 a year on average, while 23% of respondents earned more than $200,000.

In addition, 50% felt they were healthier living in Singapore, 84% said Singapore was safer than their home country and 75% rated the quality of education as better than at home.

Impressive results! If the island nation is on your radar for your next international assignment, our useful country guide can help you adjust to expat life in Singapore.

Main languages: English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil

Population: 5.69 million

Main religion: Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.

Political system: Unitary parliamentary constitutional republic

Currency: Singapore Dollar (SGD)

The 2016 Mercer Quality of Living Survey places Singapore 26th out of 221 cities evaluated on quality of life factors including political, economic, environmental, personal safety, health, education, transportation and other public service factors. Ranking Singapore as the No1 Asian city for quality of life.

One of the worlds cleanest and safest cities, Singapore has a lot to offer expats. Indeed, one in every three people in Singapore is an expat, resulting in a cosmopolitan melting pot of ethnicities and traditions.

With a large and friendly expat community and widely spoken English, the transition when you first arrive in Singapore may be easier than other Asian cities. 

Education standards are high in Singapore, offering a choice of excellent international schools catering to the education needs of expatriate children. Combined with the equally high standards of the local schooling system, Singapore is a great place to raise a family.

Food is a significant part of Singapore’s culture, from the numerous hawker stalls offering tasty but inexpensive street food to the high end fine dining restaurants, Singapore offers rich and varied dining experiences.

Outdoor living and sports are well catered for in Singapore, with many public parks providing exercise facilities, the sunny climate make participation in outdoor sports and water activities possible year round.

Regional access is excellent from Singapore, located in the heart of Southeast Asia, travel for both business trips and weekend breaks to one of the areas beaches or islands is easy.

All in all, the climate and cosmopolitan life style make Singapore a wonderful destination to work, live and play. The rich mix and harmonious co-existence of different cultures, lifestyles and religions coupled with a lively dining and entertainment scene, ensure that quality of life in Singapore is high.
So Singapore offers expats an exceptional lifestyle, however this comes at a price. Singapore is one of the world’s most expensive cities. While prices for food, clothing, public transport and utilities in Singapore are relatively low, accommodation, private education and cars can be expensive.

The public transportation service in Singapore is excellent and inexpensive.

Although Singapore is ranked by Mercer as the world’s fourth most expensive city to live in. Expat salaries are high and keep pace with the rising prices. Despite the relatively high cost of living, many expats say they have more disposable income than they did back home.
McDonalds meal SGD $8 (€5.30)
Litre milk SGD $3.25 (€2.15)
Pint of beer SGD $13 (€8.50)
Broadband SGD $50 per month (€33.00)
Studio apartment SGD $2500 per month (€1650.00)
Petrol SGD $2.14 per litre (€1.40)
Public transport (monthly ticket) SGD $95 (€63.00)
Healthcare in Singapore is well established with a mix of 10 public and 13 private hospitals, regulated by the Singapore Ministry of Health and its statutory bodies and staffed by highly qualified medical teams.

Although healthcare standards are high in both public and private hospitals, many expats opt for private hospitals for primary care. For expats, who may not qualify for any subsidies, the cost of medical treatment in both private and public hospitals is quite similar.

For emergency services, expats usually choose the 24-hour Accident & Emergency departments located in the public hospitals.

For an ambulance, dial 995 (an ambulance fee applies for non-emergency call outs).

For expats living in Singapore a good international health insurance plan is crucial to ensure continued access to quality healthcare and avoid expensive medical fees. When assessing health insurance options, expats living in Singapore should consider including a repatriation plan.

For more information on the healthcare system in Singapore, visit the Singapore Ministry of Health.
For anyone considering relocating to Singapore for work or study, advice and the most up date information on visa requirements and regulations can be obtained by visiting the Singapore Immigration and Checkpoints Authority here.
*Costs accurate at time of publishing