Let’s be honest, Singapore’s reputation for being a highly expensive location doesn’t exactly endear it to the average budget-conscious online worker. However, there is one overriding reason why this tiny little island city-state at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula continues to draw in thousands of digital nomads (and expats) each and every year. Not, it’s not the high quality of life, near total absence of crime or extensive culinary delights. Nor is it the tropical weather, excellent public transport or the fact almost everyone - Chinese, Malay or Indian – speaks English.
It is the rate of productivity
As locations go, nowhere in Asia (or perhaps even, the world) is more conducive to getting work done than Singapore. Everything here runs in hyper-drive as Singaporean culture encourages its citizens to push themselves to their occupational limits every day. It’s only when you come to Singapore that you realise just how much more you could be achieving.
So, if you’re an online worker who has experienced a dip in productivity recently (perhaps you’ve been kicking back in Thailand too long) then this could be well be the next destination for you to pencil in on your ever-flexible itinerary.
And despite what you may have heard, it needn’t cost you the earth.
Here’s how to make the most of this safe, clean and surprisingly charming city:
Step 1: Get settled
If you arrive in Singapore from another Asian country then the accommodation prices you’ll encounter will probably make you weep. It is often the case that wandering online workers with modest budgets end up staying in backpacker hostels for the entire duration of their stay as this approach tends to be the most economical (more so when the hostel owner is willing to negotiate rates for a long-term stay).
Digital nomads who are a little more flush (or happy to share with others in the same boat) may be able to entertain the idea of renting an apartment for a prolonged period of time. In general, staying further away from the city centre will yield the most wallet-friendly results, as will committing to a long-term stay (the longer you stay, the cheaper your rent will be). Two years is the length of a ’standard’ Singaporean rental contract, although this is not set in stone (there is normally a lot more flexibility when renting a room in a hostel or private home).
It should be noted that most rental apartment tenancy agreements expect the tenant to facilitate minor repairs and routine maintenance, as well as pay for utilities, telephone (and cable TV) services, and servicing of air-conditioning units.
In general, a few Singapore neighbourhoods for those Western digital nomads who can afford the rates are: Orchard, Tanglin, Holland Village, Novena, and Bukit Timah.
Step 2: Get around
The fact that Singapore is so compact means it is an easy city to get around. Although it is supremely safe and clean (you will not see a cleaner metropolis anywhere in the world), walking is not always the best way to get from A to B as the oppressive heat and humidity which hovers over Singapore for much of the year can make even the briefest stroll feel like an exercise in endurance.
Fortunately, the city’s world class MRT (Mass Rapid Transport) system ensures getting around is always a breeze. Made up of three main lines which bring almost all of Singapore within easy grasp, the MRT is supremely efficient, super clean and totally user-friendly. Funnily enough, it’s also pretty good value too, with most short journeys in the city centre costing little more than S$1 (take note London Underground).
Buses and taxis are also available. Although considerably less rapid than the MRT, the bus network is cheaper and more comprehensive. Singapore taxis are plentiful yet ludicrously expensive so you should only really use one if you’re in a hurry to get somewhere.
Step 3: Get wired
As one of the most technologically endowed destinations in all of Asia, Singapore is a great place for wandering online workers to get wired with relative ease. Along with hotels, hostels and familiar outlets like McDonalds, Coffe Bean and Tea Leaf offering free (and sometimes password protected) Wi-Fi, Singapore is also blessed with a free government sanctioned public Wi-Fi service - Wireless@SG - which affords users access to up to 2 megabits per second via several thousand hotspots dotted all across the island. These speeds can easily accommodate video streaming and VOIP so you can save yourself a lot of money if your work entails Skyping and/or long distance phone calls. All you need to take advantage of this wonderful service is a Singapore-registered mobile.
Unsurprisingly, Singapore is also well set up to accommodate residents and visitors who like to work in co-working environments. Of the options available, the funky young environs of Scape HubQuarters (on the Orchard Link) and the energetic surroundings of Hub Singapore (on Somerset Road) are arguably the best places to head to ramp up productivity.
As well as being extremely well connected, both in terms of Internet and transportation, Singapore is a great place to meet fellow digital nomads, expats and backpackers. Sure, it’s pricey – there’s no getting away from that; but it’s fair to say you definitely get what you pay for in this town; and anyway, your inevitable spike in productivity will surely help to mitigate some of the more significant costs you’re likely to encounter!
If you have experience of living and working in Singapore as a digital nomad then please take a few moments to share your thoughts and feelings with us in the comments box below:
Image: author’s own photo