Singapore is a vibrant, multicultural city that makes it one of the most desirable places to live in Asia for expatriates. The city boasts a strong economy, is a safe place for children to grow up in and has excellent education and healthcare systems. The standard of living in Singapore is very high, in addition to many career opportunities and a very stable infrastructure.When they move to Singapore, one of the biggest and most important decisions expatriates have to make is where they are going to live. Whether you are moving with your family, with a partner or on your own, you will need to find a place to call home. Before making any decision, it is important for you to be aware of all characteristics of Singapore's different areas as your experience of Singapore can be greatly affected by your chosen neighbourhood.
Finding a Place to Live
Choosing a place to live in a new city can be a little overwhelming and many people simply don't know where to start. There are a few things to consider before jumping into the search for a place to live. First and foremost, you need to examine your budget and consider how much you want to allocate on housing. This will probably be one of the determining factors to find out where you can afford to live. Then, you want to consider location. Where will you be working and how far are you willing to travel? If you come with your children, where will they study and how far away do you want to live from their school? Especially if you have a family, space will be a significant factor in your housing decision. How much space do you require to live comfortably, either on your own, with your partner or with your entire family? Finally, many additional details depending on your personal expectations will also influence your choice: are you looking for a family-friendly area? Do you want to live close to the beach, to your office, to the city center? Whatever you are looking for, know that Singapore has many different areas across the island that appeal to expats for different reasons, all with their own unique quirks and attractions.
If you want to live in the centre of it all, Orchard is the area for you. If you live in Orchard, a plethora of malls, restaurants, health and beauty services as well as many other amenities are right at your fingertips. The prime location of Orchard means that if your workplace is in the Central Business District (CBD), you will be able to roll out of bed and into work. And if your workplace is elsewhere, there is no need to worry since you will have great access to public transport. The vibrant and energetic feel of the area contrasts the green and quiet of the nearby surroundings, which can be a breath of fresh air if you are looking for some peace and quiet. The American Club and Tanglin Club are in close proximity if you are looking for somewhere to relax and unwind. Housing in Orchard offers modern-style, high rise condominiums that come at a high price. Since Orchard is shopping central, the area can get crowded, especially on the weekends which you may not want if you are trying to wind down after a busy week at work.
Over on the West of central Singapore is Holland Village, which offers an authentic neighbourhood feel and is home to many families. The central location of Holland Village means that you are within close proximity to the City Centre and everything you could possibly need or want is right on your doorstep. Holland Village is close to the Singapore Botanical Gardens and a number of popular expat clubs such as Hollandse Club and Tanglin Club. The eclectic Holland Village Shopping Centre is the perfect place for shoppers to find local fashion, jewelry and knick-knacks. And if you are looking for more restaurants and bars, Jalan Merah Saga offers a multitude of restaurants and shops you can explore. There are different types of property available to buy and rent, such as landed properties, condominiums and low rise and high rise apartment units. However, a downside to Holland Village’s popularity is the overpricing of property. Besides being in central Singapore, Holland Village is made ever more convenient by the nearby MRT station that provides links across the island via the Circle Line.
Tanglin is situated between Orchard and Holland Village, and is recognised as a prestigious area - one of Singapore’s most affluent neighbourhoods. You will be able find many luxurious housing options with price tags to match: spacious homes with gardens, bungalows as well as low and high rise condominiums are for sale and rent all year long. The area is quiet, with a lot of greenery and very close to the Botanical Gardens. Tanglin is often considered as a place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Nearby Dempsey Hill is the perfect spot for a nice meal and shops to purchase furniture and art. The downside of living in the area is probably the lack of public transport. There is no MRT station close by, and the public bus service can sometimes be unreliable.
Woodlands is located far North of the Island, acting as an access point to neighbouring Johor Bahru, in Malaysia. There is a large expat community, specifically Americans, due to the proximity of the Singapore American School to the neighbourhood. The suburban feel of Woodlands is perfect for families, where there are many large, reasonably priced houses with green space. There are many large malls with restaurants and shopping, and all the amenities you would want and need are easily accessible in the area. Woodlands is perfect if it is not too far from your workplace, as it is a 40 minute journey into the city. With that being said, most residents do not feel that need to travel to the city since Woodlands has everything that they need in the area. It is a calmer lifestyle up North, with surrounding parks and gardens to enjoy in your free time.
Sentosa Island is one of the most exclusive and expensive places to live in Singapore. Many of the properties have unrivaled sea views, with some houses situated on the sea which means you can enjoy a spectacular view of the Southern Sea every day. If you live in the Sentosa Cove, you will have access to the golf course, restaurants and there are a number of leisure activities to enjoy on the weekend. Vivocity, one of Singapore’s largest malls, is nearby to enjoy some shopping and more restaurants. You may be willing to put up with a longer commute to live in a stunning neighbourhood, with easy access to the beach at all times. Across the bridge is Faber Park, a neighbourhood with a suburban feel and lots of green, open space. The houses are large, spacious and more affordable. Any commute will be made easier as the motorway is easily accessible. You may need a car to commute into the city if you choose to live in the South, especially if you are working in or around the CBD.
A popular place to live for young expats is Tiong Bahru, a ‘hip’ neighbourhood with a more local vibe. The fairly small and compact neighbourhood is one of Singapore’s oldest residential areas, with a reputation for being ‘artsy’. This laid-back place is only 15 minutes away from the City Centre, with accessible public transport. If you are looking to be close to the city but not amongst the towering skyscrapers, this could be the place for you. There are many cafes, bakeries and local shops to enjoy and hidden gems to be found.
An increasing number of expats are choosing to live on the East Coast as the housing in the area is better value for money. There is a village vibe about the place, where the lifestyle is more local. Spacious condominiums are available on the East Coast and are a lot more affordable. The main attraction of the neighbourhood is the East Coast Park that has a beach and many other leisurely activities to take part in such as cycling, bowling or canoeing. You can also enjoy food at the many eateries in and around the park. The East Coast is 25 minutes from the CBD and is close to major expressways, which is convenient if you have a car. If you are travelling by public transport, it should be known that the MRT lines aren’t very convenient and public transport is not as good compared to other areas in Singapore. However, the East Coast is close to Changi Airport, so if you travel a lot for work or enjoy frequent trips abroad, this area might appeal to you.
If you love nature and the outdoors, Upper Bukit Timah may be somewhere you want to consider living. The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is close by, as is a great selection of restaurants and several conveniently located shopping centres. There are condominiums and semi-detached housing available – some with views over-looking the forest. The prices are more reasonable in this area and the property is good value for money. Although it is a longer commute to the CBD, there are convenient bus routes to make your journey into the city easier. If you have a car, there is easy access to the expressways which make it easy to drive to just about anywhere. Finally, if you are worried about school for your kids, the Singapore American School is conveniently located.
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Pictures: Orchard Road, Singapore (Credits: Chensiyuan, Wikipedia Commons) | Woodlands, Singapore (Credits: Slivester, Wikipedia Commons) | Sentosa Island (Credits: Chensiyuan, Wikipedia Commons) | Peranakan terraced houses in Katong (Credits: Expat Living Singapore) | Houses in Toh Tuck Road, Upper Bukit Tima (Credits: Expat Living Singapore)