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The things you NEED to know about living and working in Singapore

There is more to moving to a new country than just making sure you can get a visa. As well as finding somewhere to live, you may have to deal with a new corporate structure, different public holidays, a change in wages and a change in how much your lifestyle will cost you.

Singapore is a really popular destination for expats, with outsiders making up nearly a quarter of the population in 2014.


Singapore is notoriously expensive – last year it ranked as the world’s most expensive city by the Economist Intelligence Unit, so be prepared to spend a little more. .

Getting a house

The same as if you were moving cities, the first thing you’ll have to nail down in a new country is somewhere to live. It may be advisable to stay in a hotel in your chosen area to get a look at the neighbourhoods you’d like to buy/rent in. 

Based on the information gathered by Numbeo, renting a 1 bedroom apartment in the city will cost you just over £1,600 per month, dropping to around £1,018 outside of the city.

If you’ve done your research and are looking to buy a house, 2016 could be your year. A lack of interest in the housing market as well as high-interest rates could see the housing market in Singapore take a hit of up to 8% this year, which is great for those looking to set up a home.

Calculate your cost of living

Before you leave to start your new life, it’s important to know how much it will cost. While getting somewhere to live is great, if you can’t afford food, you won’t have a great time.

Use websites like Numbeo to give yourself a rough idea of how much your weekly shop would cost before you leave. It’ll allow you to budget the money you have and make it last throughout your job hunt/until you get your first paycheck. Here are a few important(ish) examples:

Cost of living comparison.
  London Singapore
Milk 93p £1.50
White bread 99p £1.15
Domestic beer £4.00 £3.71
Mid-range wine £8.00 £15.34
Mid-range meal for two £50.00 £30.68



Don’t let the excitement of finding a new house and shopping in a new city let you forget about one of the most important things that you need to do when moving to Singapore.

It’s advised to take out a Current Account with a Singaporean bank, such as the Bank of Singapore or DBS. You’ll need it for the wages you’ll be earning, and to transfer your existing savings into. If you do have any savings to transfer over, you need to convert into Singapore dollars (SND). This is usually last on people's list of priorities when emigrating, but it’s actually a key part of the process. Take your time in finding somewhere with a strong exchange rate before converting your funds, it could really help you. All of the funds you transfer could take up to three weeks to clear, so be sure you have enough money with you to live comfortably.

The income tax rate here is one of the lowest in the world, with the highest rate of personal tax being 20%. As a non-resident, you will only be charged tax on income you earn in Singapore if you are there for less than 183 days. If you’re working over that time, you’ll be charged on all income incidental to employment there.

If a foreign worker is granted permanent resident status, they will be put on the compulsory Central Provident Fund scheme, where a portion of their earnings is reserved to pay for healthcare, retirement and housing needs.


The healthcare system in Singapore is run by the countries government. It was ranked 6th in the world in 2015 by the World Health Organisation.

Their 4M framework was put into effect in 1989 and consists of Medisave, Medishield, Medifund and Medication Assistance Fund. The first can be used to pay smaller hospital bills for the individual and his/her dependents. Medishield is a health insurance that covers more serious treatments and hospital stays. The latter two programmes are put in place to help Singaporeans that can’t pay their subsidised medical bills.

As healthcare is so cheap, it may be worth looking at only getting in-patient (Standard) insurance and paying for occasional outpatient procedures from your own pocket.

Job hunting

Most expats will look for work before leaving for their chosen destination. Today, there is a whole host of websites where you can look for employment overseas. From there you’ll either be invited to undertake a phone or Skype interview to assess your personal skills and see if you’re the right fit for the job. Generally, you’ll need to have a job before you can be granted a working visa in Singapore.

If you intend on working in Singapore in a professional, managerial or executive role then you will need an Employment Pass. An employer will apply for this pass on your behalf if your salary is over 3,300 SND. Each employment pass will have to be renewed after two years.
There are other work passes available to foreign workers with varying level of skills. Each has their own qualifying criteria and restrictions, so be sure to get the right pass for your intention.

EntrePass – if you’re an entrepreneur that wants to start your business in Singapore, this is the pass you’ll need to apply for. 

Personalised Employment Pass – a more flexible employment pass for high earners.

S Pass – a pass for mid-level workers that earn over 2,200 SND and meet entry criteria.

Training Employment Pass – If you’re going to be training for a professional position in Singapore (and earn over 3000 SND per month) then you’ll need this pass.

For more information on the above passes, visit the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

Now you’re working

• A working week for the Singaporean workforce is 44 hours long.

• The average holiday allowance varies depending on the company you work for and your years of service. You’re entitled to paid leave once you’ve been working for 3 months.

Do you have any tips for moving abroad? Let us know on our socials!

To learn about what it takes to live in Australia, click here.