Your guide to expat life in Singapore

Moving to Singapore

Singapore is a very attractive expat destination, and you’ll have little trouble acclimatising to its way of life. English is widely spoken and newcomers are warmly welcomed.

A melting pot of ethnicities and traditions, Singapore has plenty of colourful local customs for you to immerse yourself in. It also has a large and friendly expat community that helps to ease the transition when you first arrive. While the year-round humidity can take some getting used to, being located in the heart of Southeast Asia is ideal for travel – you can easily escape for the weekend to one of the many idyllic beaches and islands in the region.

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Basic info

  • Population: Around 5.7 million
  • Political system: Unitary parliamentary constitutional republic
  • Main languages: English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil
  • Main religion: Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Taoism.
  • Time: GMT+8
  • Electricity: 230V, 50Hz. Square three-pin plugs are used.
  • Currency: Singapore dollar (SGD)
  • International dialling code: +65
  • Internet domain: .sg
  • Emergency numbers: 999 (police), 995 (ambulance and fire)
  • Road traffic: Drives on the left

Next holiday



Hari Raya Puasa

If a public holiday falls on a Sunday, it's celebrated the following Monday.

Public Holidays

1 January New Year's Day
25–26 February Chinese New Year
10 April Good Friday
24 April Hari Raya Puasa
1 May Labour Day
7 May Vesak Day
31 July Hari Raya Haji
9 August National Day
14 November Deepavali
25 December Christmas Day
1 January New Year's Day
12–13 February Chinese New Year
2 April Good Friday
1 May Labour Day
13–14 May Hari Raya Puasa
26 May Vesak Day
20 July Hari Raya Haji
9 August National Day
4 November Deepavali
25 December Christmas Day

Your relocation checklist

Moving to a new country takes a lot of planning. To help you get started, here are some of the things you need to do before you leave home – or just after you arrive.

Key phrases

  • Hello Hello
  • Good Evening Selamat petang
  • Goodbye Sampai jumpa lagi
  • How are you? Apa khabar?
  • Thank you Terima kasih
  • Yes Ya
  • No Tidak
  • Do you speak English? Bolehka anda cakap Bahasa Inggeris?
  • Can you help me? Bolehkah anda membantu saya?
  • Sorry Minta maaf

Top tips

View a selection of tips sourced from expats about Singapore:

“It’s financially good, the quality of life is good, education for children is excellent, and there are more travel opportunities than we would have had in home country. As a family we all now have a global view and have experienced different cultures through living it.” Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

“Ensure that there is schooling available for your children, take time to choose your residence, be aware of the high cost of cars.” Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

“Income in Singapore may seem to be very high with very low tax rate, but beware house rental is getting too expensive, and tighter measure have made it harder for foreigners to buy property.” Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

“Singapore actually has a lot to see and visit. Besides the popular tourist spots, there are a number of places which are very special and exclusive. For example, the wetland reserve or botanic gardens.” Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

“Read up on all the public rules and the fines that come with it, for example ’No chewing gums’, ’No spitting’ etc...Get a guide of Singapore and note down all the important areas near your home, for example 24 hr clinic, food courts/malls, schools and places of interest, banks etc. Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

“Research the real cost of living i.e. food and alcohol prices, health care, air con utilities plus rental, transport, travel and schooling before moving don’t just focus on tax rates. Less tax can be eaten up be other expenses.” Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

View more hints and tips for Singapore

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Really think about how many possessions you need - and leave some space for buying new interesting Oriental furniture!

Expat Explorer Survey respondent

View more hints and tips for Singapore


With one of the world’s busiest ports, Singapore handles shipments efficiently. But you can buy furniture at a reasonable price when you arrive, so consider what you really need to take before you pack up your entire home.

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Shipping by sea

Sending your belongings to Singapore by sea is likely to be your cheapest option, but it can take a number of weeks longer than other shipping methods. Sea freight costs are usually based on the volume of the items you want to send.

Prohibited items

Singapore has a long list of prohibited items, including chewing tobacco, controlled drugs, copied CDs and DVDs, and any material deemed obscene or treasonous.


Cats and dogs from countries with a high risk of rabies are quarantined for either 10 or 30 days when they arrive. Quarantine space must be booked three months in advance, and some breeds are banned from Singapore altogether. All pets must be microchipped and have up-to-date vaccination records as well as a valid Veterinary Health Certificate.

All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in October 2020. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.