Living in Singapore as an Expat: Key Tips for a Successful Move

Living in Singapore as an Expat: Key Tips for a Successful Move

Nestled on the southern tip of Malaysia, Singapore is a popular destination among expatriates. And for good reason: the cosmopolitan and dynamic city-state is one of the safest, richest, and most culturally diverse countries in the world. It also offers a high-quality of life. So, are you ready for the adventure? From settling into the country to discovering its thousand and one attractions, Foyer Global Health shows you the way to relocate to the Lion City.

Relocating to Singapore: Residence requirements

Singapore’s visa policy is quite flexible and allows many expatriates, including EU citizens, to enter and stay without a visa for periods ranging from one to three months. Expatriates from countries that are not exempted from an entry or working visa should request the relevant permit from the embassy of their country of nationality or residence.

In any case, you must be able to show the authorities that you purchased a return air ticket and provide them with proof of sufficient funds to support yourself for the duration of your stay.

If you wish to remain for a longer period in Singapore, you must apply for a renewable long-term residence permit. There are several types of permits and passes, depending on your level of qualification and remuneration. For example, the P1 Employment Pass is reserved to highly skilled expatriates, with a minimum monthly salary of $7,000.

Please note that it is forbidden to import certain products such as chewing gum (this is not a myth!) and electronic cigarettes.

Working in Singapore

Singapore is symbolic of economic success. Many sectors, including finance, the hotel industry, consulting, insurance, construction, recruit for both low-skilled and high-skilled employees…

To find a job, you can use traditional job search websites, local headhunters specialised in recruiting international talent, but you can also visit Singapore-based multinationals’ websites and even contact bi-national chambers of commerce for specific positions.

Singapore is also a hub for innovative local and international start-ups. In 2004, the government set up the EntrePass programme to attract foreign entrepreneurs and allow them to start and operate a business in Singapore with attractive conditions (the corporate tax rate is 17%). The Global Investor Program pass also allows expatriates, under certain conditions, to create their company while at the same time launching the process to obtain a permanent residence permit.

Where to stay?

Singapore is one of the most expensive cities in the world, particularly because of the price of property. Nevertheless, you can find a wide range of options for accommodation at different prices: HDB flats (cheap but only for residents), condominiums (more expensive, but very popular with foreigners as they are equipped with swimming pools and gyms), and detached houses (rare, very expensive and in high demand). Although the island’s living space is limited, ¾ of rentals are three-bedroom flats.

Remember to read all the clauses of the lease (especially the notice of termination) and do not hesitate to negotiate some of them before signing this is a common practice! Your tenancy agreement should state who is liable to pay the Stamp Duty (the registration of the lease with Singapore authorities), which is the only official proof of residence.

In Singapore, you don’t need pay slips, guarantors or bank statements to rent a property; all you need to do is pay one month’s deposit as well as one month’s rent in advance and sign the contract. That’s it! Sharing a flat is popular, especially among young expatriates.

Popular areas for expats include Orchard/River Valley, the international district in the heart of Singapore; Holland Village, the island’s chic neighbourhood near the Botanical Gardens; and Tiong Bahru, the fashionable district with fancy restaurants and shops.

Getting around

Singapore’s public transport system is efficient and very convenient, especially the metro. The rechargeable EZ-Link card allows you to use public transport on the island; it costs about $50 a month if you take the metro once a day. There are lots of taxis and using them is an inexpensive way to get around.

Having a car in Singapore, however, is a luxury. The government only allows for the availability of a limited number of cars for sale and the process for buying one is difficult and expensive. You first have to buy a Certificate of Entitlement (COE), a temporary license obtained from a successful winning bid in an auction that can cost more than $50,000 . After all these steps, and before you obtain your vehicle, you will have to pay for your car at an overcharged price (up to 150% tax).

Healthcare in Singapore

Singapore’s healthcare system is one of the best in the world. You can expect efficient health services, top-notch medical infrastructure, and highly qualified staff, both in public and private healthcare facilities. This excellence, however, comes at a price, so it is highly recommended for expatriates in Singapore to subscribe to an international health insurance policy specifically designed for expatriates.

What languages are spoken in Singapore?

Malay, Mandarin, Tamil and English are the four official languages of the country. ‘Singlish’ – Singaporean English – is a variety of English spoken on the island, incorporating elements of Malay and Mandarin. English is not only used at work but is also the first language taught in school. During your stay, you will probably learn and practice Singlish on a daily basis!


Singapore has a wide range of good quality public schools but is also home to numerous selective and expensive international schools, where English is the main language of tuition. Local public schools permit expatriate children to better integrate into the local population. Many expatriates, however, choose to enroll their children in international schools, most of which follow the International Baccalaureate curriculum. International school fees are very high (among the highest in the world!) and some employers offer to compensate for a portion of the tuition fees. In both public and private school institutions, places are very limited, and competition for placement is fierce. 

Singapore’s top attractions:

Singapore street food is accessible in the hawker centres: duck noodles at Kwee Heng Newton Food Centre; fusion noodles at A Noodle Story in Amoy Street Food Centre, Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice at Maxwell Food Centre.

  • Tiong Bahru’s offers trendy shops
  • Singapore’s Botanic Gardens are a natural getaway
  • Lazarus and John’s Island are famous for pristine beaches
  • National Gallery of Singaporeoffers exemplary exhibitions
  • Sri Mariammam Hindu Temple is a must visit.

Get to know all the top places you will wish to visit in Singapore here!

Lastly, to find out our prices for an international health insurance in Singapore, please click here: