An Expat’s Comprehensive Relocation Guide: Singapore

An Expat’s Comprehensive Relocation Guide: Singapore

Singapore has been one of the most popular expat destinations in recent decades and one where you can earn higher rates of pay than anywhere else in the world. But will you have more money left in your wallet after rent, tax and other living expenses? Read on to discover the complete relocation costs of moving somewhere like Singapore.

Key Industries

Singapore has been built on several key industries. To stay atop of the global economic landscape, some of the most heavily invested in (and developed) industries include electronics, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, finance, logistics, and shipping.

Income Tax Rates

Personal income tax rates in Singapore are some of the lowest in the world. Individuals are taxed only on the income earned within the Republic. The income earned by expats while working overseas is not subject to taxation barring a few exceptions. Individual residents in Singapore are taxed on a progressive tax rate as seen here.

Singapore climate

Visa Information

As an expat to work in Singapore you would need a work permit, often referred to as an EP (Employment Pass). These are grouped according to salary rather than occupation.

There are three types of Employment Passes for professionals who already have a job offer in Singapore:

  • P1 is for people with a fixed monthly salary which exceeds that of SGD 8,000+
  • P2 is for those who earn more than SGD 4,500 and are equipped with relevant recognized qualifications
  • Q1 is for everyone with a fixed monthly Salary of a minimum of SGD 3,000 and recognized qualifications and/or relevant work experience.

There is a useful self-assessment tool provided by the Ministry of Manpower, which can help applicants find out which work permit they qualify for. 

Main Relocation Costs

Moving to a new country always comes with some considerable costs. The biggest expenses you should expect will likely be rent, transport (whether you buy a vehicle or use public transport), and schooling for those with children. (see private schooling fees below)

Costs of Living

In recent years, Singapore has moved up to be ranked as one of ten most expensive cities in the world, for expatriates. Within Asia, Singapore remains the 5th most expensive, falling shortly behind Tokyo, Osaka, Hong Kong, and Beijing.

Food and general living is not too overly priced with a host of local market cuisine options, however Singapore definitely has a range of upper market dining options available. Alcohol however is an exception, with those who enjoy a glass of wine or specialty beers finding their drinking options limited due to the enforcement of high import and alcohol taxes, as well as having fewer local manufacturers.

The most influential factor in regards to the cost of living is the exceptionally high priced rent. One of the most expensive markets to rent in the world, a 3 bedroom apartment in the city centre is likely to cost around $4,139.06 USD per month on average. The same apartment outside of the city centre will cost an average of $2,542.73 per month.

With rent being alarmingly high, living outside of the city centre is an option many expats take. With public transport readily accessible, you can be in Singapore city within 30-45 minutes, depending on how far away you live. Ensuring your apartment is close to public transport routes is essential however as it can be difficult to get around if you are not close to a transport hub.

Singapore food

Lifestyle Synopsis

With an equatorial, humid climate, Singapore offers a unique climate that is pleasing to live in all year round. Singapore is generally warm and humid. For those who enjoy the sun and heat, Singapore can’t be beat. With many beaches on the island you will have just as many opportunities to enjoy the weather.

At first glance the cost of living in Singapore may seem alarming. If you simply look at the cost of living ranking and the online literature, you may develop the view that it is unrealistic to live comfortably there. With more thoughtful consideration though, the cost of living is not as a serious detriment. Singapore offers the highest standard of living in South East Asia; when you take into account your higher disposable income available, a slightly increased cost of living can easily be managed.

It was also recently ranked as the second safest city to live in, in the world in terms of personal safety, infrastructure safety, health security and digital security. Traditional crime rates are now at its lowest point in decades making it an enticing location to move to with your family.

Private Schooling Fees

As mentioned previously, education expenses are some of the biggest factors in relocation costs. International schools’ tuition fees can range from S$6,000 to over S$20,000 per year.

English has been the official first language within the Singaporean school system. However, many native Singaporeans speak “Singlish.” Singlish is a hybrid of English which borrows words from various Chinese dialects, Malay and Tamil. This language can be hard to grasp for newcomers to Singapore, especially those who were expecting widespread use of the English language.

Expat Community

The expat community in Singapore is a blend from nationalities all around the globe. However, some typical generalizations can be seen based on the types of professions of the expats.  Among the white-collar workers arriving in Singapore, the majority of expatriates come from Australia, India, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Blue collar workers typically come from Malaysia, Bangladesh, and India.


As the world continues to evolve, the growth and influence of Southeast Asia continues to rise. Centrally located within this up-and-coming region is none other than Singapore. With its world-class port and shipping centres, Singapore is and will continue to be the epicentre of this region’s advancement. Whether you aim to capitalize economically on the great access to the nearby markets of Indonesia, India, Australia and the rest of Asia, or you hope to establish a perfect home base so to easily travel to these other locales, Singapore’s real estate can’t be beat.

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