Whether you’re new to Singapore, you’ve been here a while, or you’re just sick of doling out advice to newcomers, there’s no denying that S’pore’s a wonderful place to live with a family. Settling into life on the Little Red Dot however can take a little longer, so to make it easier for you (or any visitors you might have!) we’ve put together our very handy Beginner’s Guide to Singapore. From how to get around to where to buy groceries, it’s got everything you need to get started mama!
First thing’s first
One of the first things you’ll notice when you arrive in Singapore is the sheer cost of alcohol! With high import taxes (that are set to increase by a further 25% in the coming months!) you’ll want to make sure you stock up on duty-free wine, beer and spirits when you come through Changi Airport (plus it’s one of the cheapest places to buy wine on the island!).
On your bike
Thanks to one of the world’s most efficient, affordable and safest public transport systems, getting around Singapore is a relative breeze. Purchase an Ez-link card from the ticket office at any major MRT station – little ones over 0.9metres in height will need their own concession ticket – load it with credit (again can be done in most MRT stations or 7-11 stores) and away you go! Buses and trains work on a tap on, tap off system, and only charge you for the distance travelled (see this app for help!). Taxis are generally reliable (we say that because when it rains getting a taxi becomes almost impossible), affordable and can be booked from the comfort of your… couch. Download any of the taxi booking apps – we tend to use this one — but bare in mind that surcharges apply for pre-booking a cab (between SGD$2.30 & $3.30) and also during peak times (Mon to Fri 6am – 9:30am, Mon to Sun 6pm to midnight, as well as midnight to 5:59am).
Setting up sticks
Once you’ve arrived in the Little Red Dot, choosing where to rent an apartment is one of the first big decisions you’ll need to make. Most people tend to live in condominiums – where facilities such as swimming pools, tennis courts, gyms and playgrounds are common – or choose to live in landed houses without facilities. There’s plenty of family-friendly areas around that are close to shops, schools and public transport and include Bukit Timah, River Valley, Orchard, the East Coast, Holland Village, Mount Faber, and Buona Vista, with many families moving into areas like Serangoon, Woodlands, Upper Bukit Timah and Pasir Panjang to be closer to the big international schools. Head to this website to help get you started on the property search!
Making a house a home
Once you’ve landed in Singapore, tackled the public transport system and signed on the dotted line for your new digs… the next step will be prettying up your new nest! Furniture superstore staple, IKEA has two locations in Singapore – Tampines and Alexandra – and is overflowing with flat-pack-put-it-together-yourself type furniture (stress inducing to say the least – take it from us) and quality cheap home furnishings. If you prefer a different style, then check out our Top 10 Favourite Furniture Stores in Singapore or browse our Guide to Children’s Décor in Singapore article if you’re looking to banish the mess and make your little one’s room awesome! Naturally, if you’d like to get your hands on some vintage goodness, there’s plenty of Second Hand Shopping to be had in Singapore… who knows what you’ll unearth, plus our friends over at Travelshopa have loads of suggestions for where to shop for furniture whatever your style.
When you’ve just relocated with little ones, as a matter of sheer survival, knowing where to go to fill the fridge is a must! Basic grocery items are always essential, and with our handy Guide to Buying Groceries in Singapore you’re bound to find a much-needed supermarket close by. If dragging the kiddos around a new supermarket is enough to raise your blood pressure, you can always turn to the Internet to order all your fresh produce and pantry staples… see our Guide to Online Grocery Shopping to get you started. Singapore is also home to a bunch of wet markets, where the market aunties will sell you fresh produce, eggs, meat, seafood and even fresh flowers… we head to Tiong Bahru Market or Tekka Centre when we’re in the mood.
When you don’t feel like cooking…
If you’ve managed to fill your fridge, but the motivation to cook from scratch just isn’t there then pack up the kiddie winks and head to your local hawker centre. Brimming with local delights – our kids adore chicken rice – most hawkers are filled with super cheap, tasty meals that go from stovetop to plate in a matter of minutes. For weekends, we love a bit o’ brunching with the fam, and find any of the places in our Best Family Friendly Weekend Brunches guide sure fire winners for a chilled Sunday meal. If you’re craving a good cup of coffee (for those mornings when you need match sticks to keep your eyelids open – thanks kids!) and have littlies underfoot, then drag yourself to any of Singapore’s Kid Friendly Cafes for that much needed caffeine hit.
Whether you’re looking for an obstetrician, a pediatrician or a general practitioner, there’s plenty of clinics in Singapore that’ll meet all your medical needs. Local clinics operate on a walk in basis (so be prepared for a bit of a wait) but are super affordable and reliable and are great for when you need to see a doctor quickly – see here for more info! We love International Medical Clinic (they recently took out the top gong for the Best Family Clinic award in our Sassy Mama Awards) for their all-in-one-health-care-clinic that meets a mama’s need for quality health care for the whole fam.
Need a hand?
One of the great luxuries of living in Singapore is access to full-time live-in help for the home. Many families choose to hire Domestic Helpers to assist with childcare duties, household chores and running errands, and employers are expected to provide accommodation, food, toiletries and insurance for their helpers. If you’ve never hired help before, heading to a reputable maid agency is always a good first step — we hear good things about Prestige and G&A Maid Agency (#05-35 Far East Shopping Centre) — to help with recruitment and paperwork. Having a stranger living in your home can always take a while to get used to, and we’ve found advice from our Agony Uncle, Andreas, to be invaluable!
Make a friend
When you’re desperate for a coffee and a chit chat and are keen to make some new friends your first stop should be one of our Mama Meetups! A wonderfully casual morning where our mamas meet to mingle over coffee and cake (with toys for the kiddos!) it’s a great way to make new friends. The New Mother’s Support Group is another fab resource for new mamas and mamas new to Singapore and they host a bunch of fun events each month, from coffee mornings at Loewen Gardens to walks in the Botanic Gardens with bubs in strollers.
Learn and discover
With inquisitive toddlers under your feet who always ask why why why, finding a good preschool becomes a high priority for a mama new to S’pore. Our Ultimate Guide to Preschools in Singapore is a great place to start and is packed with helpful suggestions for good early learning centres on the island. If your teeny tinies are too small to start preschool, you can always find them the perfect Baby Class to keep them (and you!) occupied, or if you want to get your kiddos immersed in a second language turn to our Guide to Chinese Classes and Playgroups to get you sorted.
Got the itch?
The travel bug that is! One of the great joys of living in South East Asia is its fantastic geographical location. Whether you want to zip away for a quick weekend on the beach, or fancy heading further afield, there are so many interesting places to visit that don’t take more than a couple of hours to reach. Head to our Travel Section to get some jet-setting inspiration… it’s jam packed with family-friendly travel ideas that’ll help make organizing your next trip easy as mama!
Sooo…. for all those newbies who have just moved or are still finding their way around this gorgeous island, open your eyes and enjoy every minute. Singapore’s a great place to be and we know you’ll love it just as much as we do!