Moving to Singapore – A Guide for Expats

An island nation that is ultra-modern and steeped in tradition, Singapore is a fascinating place to live. It is a melting pot of cultures from ethnic Chinese to Malays and ethnic Indians and manages to combine luxury hotels and shopping malls with authentic night markets serving up delicious street food.

Singapore is also working towards its aim of becoming “a city in a garden”, with skyscrapers covered in plant life, green spaces and a focus on sustainability. Add in white-sand beaches and great infrastructure and you can have yourself a very nice expat lifestyle. Read on for more details…


What is it like to live in Singapore? A city-state made up of one main island and 62 islets, Singapore ranked fourth for quality of life in the latest Internations expat survey and sixth in safety and security, a great overall result. It is compact – the main island measures just 50km by 27km – with fantastic public transport infrastructure, modern accommodation and a great social scene. You’ll certainly find a lot of people living like you, the population of Singapore is 5.1million with 1.65million non-residents and English is one of the official languages.

Cost of Living

Of course, there has to be a downside. Singapore can be an expensive place to live, particularly with space at a premium when you’re looking to buy or rent a place to live. To keep prices down, you may need to look for apartments further away from the business centre and opt for HDBs, which are Singapore state-owned housing. It’s a good thing that public transport works so well, too, as owning a car can be very pricy due to high taxes and insurance as well as heavy customs duties. Alcohol can also be expensive as it is heavily taxed, so nights out on the town are also costly.

Quality of Life

Singapore may be small, but it packs a punch when it comes to culture, history and interesting things to do. You can dine out in Little India, visit temples in Chinatown or head to the beautiful and ultra-cosmopolitan Marina Bay complex. After a day at the beach you can hit the sleek shopping centres, go to a Michelin-star restaurant or soak up the atmosphere at the bustling night markets in the evening. And if you feel like taking a trip, the rest of Asia is on your doorstep and just a low-cost flight away.


You can expect year-round warmth and high humidity in Singapore, with quite high rainfall. The highs are around 31-32C with lows of about 24C, with two monsoon seasons, one between December and March and the other between June and September and the hottest temperatures from May to July. If you get fed up with the hot weather at any point, you can always nip into the huge, air-conditioned shopping centres to cool off.


How do you get a visa to live in Singapore? Luckily, there are a whole host of different work visas available for Singapore, they are often referred to as “passes” and generally require you to have a job offer. There are Employment Passes for professionals with a job offer that pays a minimum of $3,600 (£2,700) a month, or S Passes for those defined as mid-level skilled workers, who must have an offer for a job paying a minimum of $2,200 (£1,670) per month.

There are also entrepreneur visas and those for people aged between 18 and 25 who want to work and travel for up to six months, while the Miscellaneous Work Pass will let you work in country for up to 60 days. The details are carefully laid out on the helpful Ministry of Manpower website.

Unfortunately there are no retirement visas to Singapore. This is normally only granted after years of working in-country.


Singapore is given high praise for the family lifestyle it delivers. Not only is it listed in seventh place in a global survey of expats when it comes to the availability of childcare and education but for education in particular it ranks second in the world after Finland. The schooling system is excellent and your children will be exposed to so many different cultures thanks to the make-up of the country’s population.

As a foreigner in Singapore you will be expected to pay school fees, whether you choose a private international school or a state school. But you can rest assured that the quality will be exceptional at either. Singapore puts a great emphasis on educating its citizens to a high level. This does mean there is an emphasis on exams and academic success, which can be taxing for some children. Due to the colonial British heritage, the system tends to mirror the British schooling structure quite closely (there are even O-Levels and A-Levels) and from primary school onwards, all teaching is done in English.


If your children want to progress to university, there are both state-run and private options and they can apply with their A-Level grades. Fees tend to be higher for foreign students at both and private universities are more costly than the six national state-run institutions. There are also polytechnics, which offer three-year courses on everything from engineering and business to nursing and can qualify students to go on to university after if they want to as well as offering a solid qualification if they prefer to then go straight into the working world.

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