Located strategically at the heart of South-East Asia, Singapore has long been considered the quintessential gate between the East and the West. Small as it may be, Singapore holds many unique discoveries waiting to be uncovered by the intrepid explorer. Amidst city skyscrapers and modern buildings, historically-preserved century-old shop houses stand as a memorial to the era gone by. Walking through the streets of Singapore, you will find a brilliant blend of ethnic cultures and heritage, cuisine and the arts, activities and attractions, all within the island's sunny shores.
Since its independence in 1965, Singapore has grown to become a major business and financial centre of the region. It has the world's busiest sea port, an award-winning airport that serves more than 60 major airlines, and excellent state-of-the-art communications and transportation infrastructure. A combination of government transparency, efficiency and political stability has given rise to a competitive economy that was rated tops in various reputable business reports.
Having a tropical rainforest climate means that Singapore has no distinct seasons - it is summer all year round. Temperatures in the day can range from between 26 - 36 degrees Celsius, with rainfall once every few days. The result is warm, humid and rainy weather, which calls for light summer clothing to keep the heat at bay. Temperatures hardly drop to below 20 degrees during the night, although the air-conditioning in certain indoor buildings, such as cinemas, shopping centres and libraries, can be quite cold so carry a warm jacket when going to such places.
Cost of Living
Although Singapore may have one of the highest living standards in the region, the cost of living is moderate.
It is a breeze to get around in Singapore, all thanks to the comprehensive taxi, bus and train services that ply the streets. The Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) forms a network of 51 stations that provide a comprehensive grid across the island, providing easy access to almost anywhere in Singapore. Trains start operating from 5.30am, and services end at 12.30am, with trains arriving at stations every 3 to 8 minutes. With 2 major bus companies, SMRT and SBS Transit, Singapore's roads are well covered. Buses operate from 5.30am all the way till midnight, and extended night services cover major routes on weekend nights and public holidays - you will be able to explore Singapore's nooks and crannies till the early hours of the morning. The best way to get around Singapore on public transport would be to use the EZ-Link Card. It is a pre-paid card that will allow you to pay for train or bus transport. Simply tap the card against the sensors, and that will automatically deduct the fare from your card. They are readily available at all MRT stations.
Taxis are also easily available. You can hail one at any taxi stand, or simply flag one down by the side of the road - just make sure that it's safe and that you don't hold up the traffic. Metered fares start from S$2.50, with surcharges payable during peak hours, after midnight hours, on the eve and on public holidays, or if you hail a cab within the Central Business District, Changi Airport, Seletar Airport or Singapore Expo. Passengers are also required to pay for surcharges incurred when passing under ERP (Electronic Road Pricing) gantries.
There is a wide variety of accommodation options that students living in Singapore can choose from, to suit their requirements and budgets. Students can choose to stay in dormitories, or rent a room or an apartment with other friends studying in Singapore. If renting a room or an apartment, students have a choice of renting government housing (Housing Development Board apartments), or private housing (landed property or condominiums). Marketing Institute of Singapore Training Centre will gladly assist students in arranging for accommodation even before they arrive in Singapore.
The local currency used is Singapore Dollars (SGD). Most major retailers will also accept other major currencies, albeit at a lower exchange rate. Major credit cards, such as American Express, VISA, MasterCard and Diner's Card, are also widely accepted. There is a 7% Goods and Services Tax (GST) imposed on all purchases made in Singapore. Majority of restaurants will also include a 10% Service Charge.
International students studying in Singapore may wish to open a savings or checking account. Banks are typically open from 9.30am - 3pm on weekdays, and from 9.30am - 1pm on Saturdays. To open an account at any major bank, you will be required to bring along your passport, Student Pass, and a minimum deposit (please check with individual banks for minimum amount). An ATM card will then be issued to you, and you will be able to withdraw money from any of the ATM machines operated by the bank, or even pay for purchases using NETS.
For more information regarding Living and Studying in Singapore, do visit www.singaporeedu.gov.sg for a complete list of what to do and things to look out for.