I am home now from our 8-day trip to Singapore and Melaka, and catching up with work at home. It was a fun week — it was my first international flight and the first time my siblings, my husband and I went on a trip together. How did it go? It was fun with a lot of walks. I joked that the Singapore trip will cripple me. Hahaha. Our trip was not budget travelling nor was it a luxury trip. It was what I call an affordable trip. So, I’m going to share our expenses, planning, and itinerary, some tips and tricks we did to save few pesos (and SG dollars and ringgits), and a few lessons learned from the trip.
Day 2 Cable Car + Sentosa Island + Mt. Faber and Henderson Waves
Day 5 Chinatown + Raffles Hotel + Esplanade + Merlion Park + Clark Quay + Makansutra
Day 6 Lounge at cousin’s apartment + Changi Expo + Shopping at ValueDollar Store + Changi
Day 7 The Changi Museum + Orchard + ION Orchard + Lucky Plaza + Tiong Bahru Bakery + Gardens by the Bay
Plane Tickets (P8,440, Silkair, paid 5 months advance)
We bought our plane tickets in April 2016, which was five months before the flight date. My sister, who is working on the Middle East, was to have her vacation in August, so we booked the flight on the time she would be home. We were thinking of booking the cheapest flight possible (as in P2,000 cheap) because we know some people have travelled to Singapore with that ticket price. Our cousin advised us to use Skyscanner
and I was so thankful I heeded her advise. The cheapest we found was with Silkair
(Singapore Airline’s regional carrier) priced at US$180.12 per person/round trip Cebu-Singapore. At the time we booked the ticket the conversion to pesos was P8,440.
Taxes + Terminal Fees (P2,390)
Well, Philippines. We paid P2,390 at the Mactan International Airport for P1,640 travel tax and P750 for terminal fee. The lady in the counter asked us if we are OFWs because if we are we are exempted from paying the travel tax. My sister said she was an OFW and she had her OEC number, but, unfortunately, she was not exempted from paying the travel tax because the OFW must be traveling to his or her work destination, not to a tour destination.
SG-Melaka-SG Bus Tickets (SG$36.00 via Redbus.sg)
I wanted to book ahead our bus tickets to and from Melaka because I read many TripAdvisor reviews that the bus from Melaka to Singapore are almost always full because of the connecting trip from Kuala Lumpur. There are many online booking websites for bus tickets but I decided to use Redbus.sg
because I saw that the website offered a 20% discount of the tickets. The original price of our tickets were SG$25 (SG-Melaka) and SG20 (Melaka-SG) = SG45. It was reduced to SG36 (P1,750) because of the discount. The bus we rode to and from Melaka was Starmart Express. I booked my 2 cousins tickets later than ours and only 1 week before our departure, and true enough, there were no more Starmart Express tickets from Melaka in the Redbus.sg
website. I booked their Melaka-SG bus tickets through another booking web site.
The Starmart Express buses were very comfortable and the drive to Melaka was great. No stops and at 100km/h. Only, on our trip from SG, the bus driver made us wait for an hour for additional passengers. The bus driver from Melaka was friendlier because he allowed us to eat and take a toilet break twice. You cannot eat inside the bus. Because it was my first time to reach Malaysia, I savoured the rural scenery (lots of palm trees) in the highway and the city sights in Johor Bahru (including Legoland). I also tried to work, which was totally doable because the road was paved well, no bumps, and almost no turns until you reach Melaka. Also, there was a plug in both sides in each row in the bus.
For our trip to Melaka, we bought one bag each so that it would be easier for us to lug our bags around during the immigration stops. Our cousin cautioned us against bringing lots of bags because the buses do not wait for passengers for too long and we may end up with lost baggage.
Cable car (US18.675 via Klook.com)
We initially decided to book tickets for Universal Studios at the encouragement of our cousin who has an annual pass, but we decided against it because of the more than P2,000 ticket and because I do not like rides. We just decided to book cable car rides and I used Klook.com
to book ahead our tickets. I paid US$18.675 each or Php908 at the time because I used the website’s mobile booking code. If you are planning to book through Klook.com
, please use my referral code: 71GYJ to get US3.2 off your purchase. The cable car tickets purchased with Klook are cheaper than the cable car’s official website
by P214 (SG33 x Php34).
Melaka Accommodation (P533 per person, via AirBnb.com)
I also pre-booked our Melaka accommodation for fear of not getting a good night sleep after a four-hour bus trip. Our Melaka accommodation will deserve one special post because we were very pleased by our stay. Choosing which place to stay in Melaka through AirBnB took me some time because I was thinking of our cost. In the end, I decided to book with a small guesthouse near Jonkers Street and I was glad because the host was easy to communicate with, gave me tips on where to go and eat, and was very professional.
Connectivity (SG$15 Starhub)
Connectivity, I realized, was important in Singapore — it is a first-world, super modern country after all. While I could live with printed maps and asking around in the Philippines, Google Maps, Uber, MRT and SBS apps are helpful in Singapore. It was not difficult getting connected. We just bought a Starhub sim card at the nearest 7-11 store for SG15 (Php510, half with my husband) and used it with my Samsung phone, which was the only open-line phone we had. We had to wait five minutes while the cashier registered the number. I used SG7 for 7 days of 1G data plan in Singapore and SG$5 for 1G data pack in Melaka (but, unfortunately, this didn’t work I don’t know why). When in Singapore (and in other countries), bring an open-line smart phone and power bank to be connected. BUT… it is not necessary. You can always just travel the traditional way and I am sure it will not be more difficult than not being connected with the Internet all the time.
Because we pre-paid almost everything before our flight, all we brought to Singapore and Melaka was money for transportation, food, and shopping. I spent about SG$35 for fare in Singapore. This includes bus, train and 4 Uber rides (with SG10.00 off my first time to use Uber). My cousin’s place was more than an hour from the city center so if you are staying within the city center, then I don’t think you can consumer SG$35 for transportation. Uber was convenient but was expensive. I preloaded my MRT card with SG$50 (card was free from my cousin) and I had about SG$20 left even when I bought food and drinks from 7-11. You can use the MRT card to pay at 7-11 and some stores (including Popular bookstore and McDonalds).
We only paid RMB15.00 each for taxi in Melaka as we just walked around town the whole time. All tourist spots in Melaka are within walking distance to each other. And the city does not have any form of public transportation except for taxis (teksi) and their taxis do not have meters.
Transportation expense = P2,291.40 (or P286.42 per day). This did not include the fare for MyBus from SM City Cebu to airport (P25 each person, really convenient, and only 20 minutes at 11:00AM), but included the taxi from our apartment to SM City Cebu. Our original budget for fare was P1,750.
My biggest expense was on food. We ate in restaurants, at our cousin’s community hawker center, 7-11s, fastfood, street food, cafes, bakeries, at the airport — anywhere! Most of our breakfast we made at our cousin’s apartment but we ate a lot of snacks and full meals all the time every day. We ate really well.
Food expense = P10,100.90 (or P1,262 per day). I thought it was too much but I think I spent just enough for food. This even included buying street side food that I shared with everybody and buying food for my brother who seemed to have depleted his resources buying too many chocolates at every Value$ we come across.
This also included eating at McDonalds twice (bad decision because it was expensive), Pizza Hut (also expensive), Makansutra (expensive but the salted egg crab was good), Nando’s (expensive but really good), Tiong Bahru Bakery (expensive tart and expensive but not that good coffee), SG$21.00 breakfast that I made for everyone, and Coffee Bean at the Changi airport.
This also included the P120 I spent for food at the employees’ canteen in Waterfront Lapu-lapu. This was my brother’s #tipidtip: when you are at the Mactan International Airport and you do not have money or do not want to spend money for food inside the terminal, go to the employees’ canteen. It is across the departure terminal.
We only actually ate once at a hawker center, so I’m sure you could save more money if you do not eat at restaurants inside malls. Our original budget for food was P5,600. And I spent almost triple. Boo, such a glutton.
My other biggest expense was on souvenir shopping (about 11 shopping bags). Haha.. I always say I should cut my expense on souvenir shopping, but I just couldn’t help it. It will probably be a long time before I can go back to Singapore and Melaka.
Shopping expense = P7,670.
Other expenses (P357)
Additional expenses also include the Starhub sim card (mentioned above) and the SG$3 we paid for the tram at Gardens by the Bay because by the time we were there, I felt like crawling already.
I always say I need to trim down the food and shopping expense in the next trips, but, oh well! The memories are worth more than the money spent!
P.S. We were able to spend more on food because we did not spend for our accommodation in Singapore as our cousin was kind enough to accommodate us in her apartment during the whole stay. This is one way to really cut the amount of money spent, although there are also cheaper backpackers hostels and AirBnB home stays in Singapore. But do not expect Philippine cheap as I spent more than 2 months scouring the net for good and affordable accommodation in Singapore before finally deciding to just stay with our cousin.