Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cost of Living in Singapore – So expensive lah?!?

A few months back, a friend from the beautiful island of Philippines came to visit me. She heart Singapore. For her, everything is just fit for an urban girl like herself. But, oh yes there is a “BUT” she complained that it is quite expensive. $1 for a bottle of water that is like what 30 plus pesos already! $11 for a pack of cigarette! Thank goodness I don’t smoke. You paid what?!? For just a room. My that is a cost of a whole house back in the Philippines. And the litany continues……………

Contrary to her, when I first came to Singapore I have no idea how much is the cost of living in Singapore. I just think it was an opportunity of a lifetime so I grab the bull by the horn without thinking whether I will get gorged or not. I realized that there will be two reactions of people as to the expenses here in this tiny island-state. One group is that they will find everything expensive. The people who belong to this category are those who are good in math. For every dollar they spend, they convert to pesos ;-). Another category is those who find things here cheap. These people are poor in math or kaya t*nga lang ;-) and hehehe I belong to this category. When I purchased my first pair of shoes I said “wow 28 lang samantalang sa Pilipinas 500 plus na ito…” Nyahahahaha …see what I mean… T*ng* nga!

But seriously, what is really the cost of living here in Singapore. As per the latest survey they say that Singapore ranks 10th place in the most expensive cities to live. But let’s see it through the eyes of a Filipina who strives to live a good life for less ;-) Ok let’s start with the basics.

Accommodation: The sky-rocketing cost of real estate has been a topic of concern for most Filipinos and other migrants in Singapore. A bigger percentage of your monthly income should be allotted to your accommodation’s rent. It is true that to rent a flat in Singapore could and will cost you. A typical 3-bedroom flat will cost around 1800 – 2300 SGD (24,000 – 69,000 PHP). Even before you move in, you will have to shell out around 2 months’ rent that is one month advance and one month deposit. And if you have an agent an additional one month or half a month cost of the rent goes to the agent. So how do you cope with this? All of us must have a decent roof above our head right? Well for most Pinoys, we have well perfected the art of the concept of sharing :) to help us minimize cost and of course “para hindi naman masyadong malungkot”. So for one flat that say cost around 1,800 SGD if three people share, then you will just have to shell out 500 -700 SGD (15,000 – 21,000 PHP) per month for rent.

Food: If you are the type who can do away of eating at fancy restaurants, Singapore can still be a food haven for you. There are a lot of hawker centers (open-air complexes that house many stalls that sell a variety of inexpensive food) here where you can get a good meal for around 3 – 5 SGD (90 – 150 PHP).
hawker center photo courtesy of

But if you are the type who enjoys home-cooked meals and you are sharing with other people, then you can still get even cheaper as food ingredients are relatively cheap here. Take for example my case, I stay with 3 other people and our budget for food is 40SGD per person (1200 PHP) a week. Expensive? No because it includes 3 meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner plus our normal beverage (like coffee or tea). And we regularly have salmon pa nyan! Oh diba sosy?!? Just learn to cook and find cheap places to buy your food ingredients and you can live a champagne life on a beer budget ;-)

if you want to enjoy baked salmon, buy the fish and bake it at home...way way way cheaper.... :)

barbequed/baked spareribs....ang mahal nito sa Cafe Cartel kaya we decided to make at home... :)
7sgd per kilo lang ang baboy ;-)

our not so vain attempts at the kitchen

this is how chefs do it......

with bare hands!!! ;-)

Transportation: Another necessity is transportation. Owning a private vehicle in not advisable in Singapore. However, if you are quite confident about your financial status, then go ahead get yourself a car because after all driving around in Singapore is a breeze and quite an enjoyable experience. Just be prepared to shell out around 1,000 -1,500 SGD (30,000 – 45,000 PHP) a month for a low-range to mid range car.

But you might have heard that the transportation system is one of the most efficient in the world. And yes you have heard it right. The MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) is the most efficient way of getting around Singapore. With the MRT spanning the entire city-state, one could never if hardly get lost  in Singapore. Plus there are buses that operate from as early as 5:30 AM to as late as 2:00 AM. Given the convenience and the security it provides, the fares only ranges from 0.69 – 2.00 SGD (20 – 60 PHP).

Healthcare: “Singapore is not hard on people seeking medical treatment as there are polyclinics at every nook and corner of the country. These state-run medical centers render quality healthcare. The clinics can be spotted in most housing estates and town centers where consultation will cost you anywhere between S$10 and S$20 depending on the type of ailment and treatment given” from
There is one polyclinic just below our flat, and it’s so convenient because they are open 24/7. Not that I want to get sick, but sometimes you catch the bug and you “must see doctor” ;-) And of course for working professionals, we can always have it reimbursed from our company so in effect healthcare is relatively free.

Lifestyle: Electronic gadgets are cheaper here, especially if you know when to avail of the regular sales and promo. No wonder most people here own the latest cool gadgets. And with the advent of budget airlines, travelling around nearby countries is quite affordable. You can have a cool vacation at nearby Bintan Indonesia at an affordable rate. And there are parks everywhere. And public swimming complexes and if you are a bookworm there is the library. All these for free! However, “services-to-pamper yourself” are quite expensive. A manicure and pedicure (not the express whereby they will just color your nails without even cleaning it! To my horror of horrors!), I meant the real mani and pedi cost around 30 – 80 SGD (900-2,400 PHP)! Expensive right? And spa cost around 100 SGD (3,000 PHP) and a facial cost around 78 SGD (2,340 PHP). So how do you cope with these? My friends and I often arrange “kikay nights” whereby we will exchange pampering services to each other. Bonding plus pampering, not a bad way to spend a night-out with your girls!

sample cost of living expense break-down

In summary, if you are frugal and have creative ways of finding ways to live a good life for less, in an average you will be spending around 30,000 PHP for the bare essentials. Expensive, right? Wrong! Well it’s high if we compare it to spending an average of 10,000 – 15,000 PHP to cover our monthly expenses in the Philippines (bare minimum). But think of it this way; do you earn the same amount as you earn here? Right. In the Philippines, our expenses eat up the bulk of our income, whilst in Singapore, your expenses could be just a fraction of your income, leaving you some savings or enough to buy that latest cool gadget or enough to splurge on a designer bag or enough to have that dream Cruise vacation or enough to send money back home to the Philippines.

With all these considered, we can say that the essentials of life are affordable in Singapore. We get to see good for our hard work and enjoy a better quality of life.

Wait! Don’t hand in that resignation just yet and book the earliest flight to Singapore. There are still other factors we have to consider. Till the next post of this series. :)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My journey in finding a home away from home – A Singapore series –

I frequent a forum called GirlTalk, often as a lurker but from time to time a share my limited viewpoints in life. I love to frequent this forum because I get to learn amazing ideas from the fabulous sisters of GirlTalk. If you do have time try to visit You will get to meet funny, smart fashionistas there who are just simply fabulous. And they are very helpful too!

But anyways, this post is not about that forum, but it is inspired from a thread there. A lot of the girls are asking how to find work in Singapore, how is life in Singapore, what is the cost of living, what are the sights and sounds of Singapore. Etc, etc, etc. Well, as I have stayed here for 5 years and 3 months, I have some insights that I can share to all of you. So for the next couple of weeks I will be blogging about Singapore.

Indulge me as I begin this series on my story of how I get to discover Singapore. Once upon a time in a far, far away province in Central Visayas, there lived an idealistic ambitious girl who has never heard of a country called Singapore. Well, maybe I have because of the Flor Contemplacion story…but after the award winning movie of Nora Aunor (hehehe) I have completely forgotten about it.

Anyways, to continue with my story, I was just going about my business of earning a living and hopefully earning my Masters Degree, when I chance upon an opportunity of a lifetime. The consultant of my former company back in the Philippines who happened to be a Singaporean asked me one day thru YM if I want to work in Singapore. I was like….. Singapore? Where is that? Patiently, he told me about Singapore. It is a tiny island-state located at the tip of the Malaysian Peninsula. It has a population of about 4 million people. Though relatively small, but it is highly develop country – a first world country in fact. It boosts of high-rise buildings, advance technology, posh shopping malls; an ultra-modern city-state amidst a tropical verdure. Clean and green, with strict government rules. (To learn more about Singapore general information, you can check it out at Wikipedia.) Ambitious as I was then, my eyes suddenly lit up. Wow Singapore! I straight away said yes! I did not mind that I could no longer chew gum, or that I have to adjust to different cultures. For me it was an adventure.

He made arrangements for me to be interviewed by the hiring company. We had a successful phone interview and I heard the words that I wanted to hear “You are hired!” So Singapore here I come. But the excitement died when amidst preparing my documents I met several obstacles. 1) I don’t have a passport 2) I have no idea about POEA details as I was directly hired that time 3) Whilst processing my passport, I got a hit at NBI. A “hit” means that someone, somewhere out there shares the same name as me, happened to have committed a crime and I have to wait for a month before every thing would be cleared. (But I have heard lately that it now just take a week to have your NBI clearance? Is this true?) And 4) My dear mom has no idea I have signed a contract abroad!

With all those obstacles, still here I am in Singapore :). Oh, well I must have done something good somehow because the opportunity did not slipped me by but it waited for me. My employer wanted the skills I have (I eat fire by the way hehehe kidding) so they “patiently” waited for me.
So, 2 weeks before the much awaited day, I asked permission from my mom! She was surprised! (Surprise in a not so good way, I have to charm my way for her permission) I told her I cannot back out already as I have signed a one year contract and if I did back out I have to pay a month’s salary to them and that was a hefty amount. Of course it is a hefty amount because I am earning in pesos and the salary I have to pay back then is in Sing dollars! So my mom said ok, you are a big girl you know what to do.

Armed with just my in-principle letter (an employment pass pre approval, I have to personally have a medical check-up so I can get my employment pass), a two-way ticket (I did not want to bother with the nitty-gritty details at POEA so I posted as a tourist. Before it was like such a scary thing, but now, most of my friends and friends of friends I know do that. ) I boarded the plane to Singapore. I cleared immigration quite fast. I was met by my consultant friend and my soon to be lady boss. I had my first taste of authentic Singapore breakfast. Then they brought me to my accommodation.
Thus begin my journey of finding a home away from home began.

Watch out for my post on

- Cost of living in Singapore

- housing and accommodation in Singapore

-Finding work in Singapore

-Places to eat

-Our favorite pasttime - finding bargain deals - Shopping in Singapore

-others i can think of ;-)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Reminisicing Bangkok! (Circa April 2009)

Sights and sound of Thailand

It was my first time to visit the land of smiles. I did not know that my friend and I would have an adventure of a lifetime :) . I left Singapore around 10 am and landed at the bustling Suvarnabhumi airport a little past 12 noon Thailand time. (They are an hour delayed compared to Philippine and Singaproe time). Bustling I should say, probably I am used to the airport here in Singapore. But despite the crowd, I easily found my way to the immigration counter where I have my first taste of Thai hospitality and got my first warm “Sawadi Ka” greeting from the immigration officer. After immigration clearance cleared, I headed to starbucks as this is the place where my friend and I arranged to meet. (She left manila the night before and was already housed by our good friend who is currently based in Thailand finishing his master’s degree...) Boy, Starbucks was quite crowded that day or is it really that crowded always? Good thing, I right away spotted my friends so I did not have to wait long. From the airport, we went to our hotel accommodation, a budget hotel (First House Hotel) which we have booked via The location was just great, it’s near the famous shopping haven “Platinum Plaza”. The room only cost around 6,000 php for 6 nights! Sweet! That was indeed a deal isn’t it? They serve daily complimentary breakfast. Though there was not much variety from their breakfast buffet, but I guess it’s our money’s worth after all its budget travel. After we checked in the hotel, we spent the rest of the day touring the city via our tour guide our good friend who happen to be base there already.

Day 2:
After the much needed rest, my friend and I started out early for we are off to visit the Chatuchak Weekend Market. We have read so many great reviews about this place that we have included it in our must see places. It covers around 35 acres of land with over 15,000 stalls. Conquering this market is no easy feat. There is so much to see and so many choices to make. Just make sure that you bring a bottle of water along and wear comfortable airy clothing. For the born shoppers this is the place to be. Geny and I are not shoppers but we were able to gather quite a loot. Ying, you definitely must come here!
Later in the afternoon, as we still have time, we decided to go and Visit the Grand Palace, the home of the Thai King, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government. If you are wearing shorts and sleeveless then you won’t be allowed inside the Grand Palace. They do provide polo shirt and sarong for a rental fee at the entrance. But my friend vehemently disagreed that we go in wearing those. And these were her exact words “Anne, kalayo sa akong byahe para magpapicture ra sa grand palace na mura ko ug masahista! No way will I pay 300baht too look like a masahista in my pictures!” Translate “I travelled so far just to look like a ‘masahista’ in my pictures! No way!” Since it’s a no way for her, then we just settled having our pictures taking outside the palace. But we promised we will be back properly attired :)

Us in front of the grand palace properly attired. No shorts and no sleeveless blouses.

We thought of going back to the hotel but as the day is still young, we stopped by Suan Pakkad Palace. ‘The Suan Pakkad Palace is the first museum in Thailand where the owner, their Royal Highnesses Prince and Princess Chumbhot of Nagara Svarga, decided to convert their private residence, built in the traditional Thai style opened in 1952, is located on 6 Rai on Sri Ayudhya Road, Bangkok, containing their Royal Highnesses Prince and Princess Chumbhot of Nagara Svarga's collection of antiquities, which has been passed down through successive generations. The Suan Pakkad Palace is a combination of fine arts and ancient artifacts from the era of H.R.H. Prince Paribatra Sukhumbandhu, son of His Majesty King Chulalongkorn, Rama V and Her Majesty Queen Sukhumala Marasri.’ From

Behind us is BKK tallest building
Day 3
One of the highlights of the trip is the declaration of State of Emergency of the Thai government when the ‘Reds’ are protesting against the government. The Thai government protesters standard color is yellow. So during the whole duration of the trip red and yellow clothing was a definite NO NO. But that didn't stop us from having fun. Other highlights of our trip was a day tour to Ayuthaya. We get to ride an elephant. (Our elephant poses though are not post worthy therefore no pics to show ;-) and froliciking at Siam paragon , a posh mall :) :) :)...

hmmm why is the Buddha wearing yellow?

the posh Siam Paragon
Nah why am I suddenly walking down memory lane? Because I will definitely visit Bangkok Thailand again for some serious shopping ;-) and have I mentioned that the food was great?!? :)

ox tail
sticky rice and mango

kebab (Persian food at Siam Paragon)

some Thai dish i forgot the name (its sweet and salty with lots of chili paddi)
.....and a friend just announce some travel plans to visit the land of smiles. And I straight away said “Count me in”…. Just hopping that there won’t be any political unrest so all the shops would be open. But if there is, I can always have a pose with them again ;-) *winks*

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

My guiding word...

photo courtesy of

Days are moving so fast. I was excited this morning when my boss told me that I might be able to start working with a project on SIMPLE (actually it’s customized SAP and we are programming on ABAP) hahaha!!! Whatever lol!. But I still think that is it nice, I have felt so useless in my work already at least now I have something to look forward to. But the catch is I have to wait for a couple of months because the project would kick off on April still, well at least I have some time to brush up my ABAP skills.

But come to think about it, I should just be grateful for what I have. Life is not all about work; life is about living life and hoping for the best to come. So therefore I guess I should be thankful and make the most of my circumstances.

A read from an acquaintance blog (acquaintance because I’m not sure I have the right to call her friend but nonetheless I like following her blogs and we have met a few times a couple of years back before they migrated up up north to the US of A….so, ok maybe I will call her friend.) Hi Caryl ;-)

Ok, so I read from a friend’s blog about adapting a word to guide you for the year. And I find her idea interesting. It’s true that resolutions are meant to be written and left in the shelf to gather dust. Yes, I have years of experience on that ;-) So instead of coming up with resolutions, I will adapt my friends idea of a guiding word for the year.
My guiding word for 2010 is GRATEFUL.

2009 was busy and hectic for me. A lot of travels and a lot of new things, but still at the end of the day I often find myself complaining. I have “googled” and “binged” a thousand and one sites on “how to have a better life”, “how to have an interesting life” and have read all the wiki hows on this subject. But maybe I just forgot to be GRATEFUL. Maybe I don’t need to get a better life, I only need to appreciate that I do have a better life.

Sometimes life’s anxieties, "ordinaryness" and worries bogged us down that we forget to give thanks to the everyday miracles we experience. This year I am more determined to appreciate these blessings. Less complaining,… more gratitude, because in a nutshell pursuing happiness is being GRATEFUL for what you have.
So what is your guiding word?
photo courtesy of

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