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The Surprise of Singapore

Shopping malls and food. A lot of food. Singapore’s two specialties.

I know Singapore probably isn’t on the top of many peoples preference list, it wasn’t even on mine, but it shouldn’t be completely overlooked.

I would describe Singapore as an entry level and gateway to the rest of Asia. Physically half way between Australia and Northern Asia, culturally it also resides between the two continents. Everybody speaks, somewhat good, English and is much more multicultural compared to the rest of Asia.

It’s a beautiful, clean, highly-maintained country. All the pedestrian overpasses, highways and roads are covered in greenery, it’s like living in the rainforest.

Some tips on living in Singapore and studying at NTU

  • Accommodation:
    • Living on campus is a much cheaper option (approx. $250 per month) but it does have it’s drawbacks. To be assigned to a dorm is completely by luck and only 3 of the 13 Halls of Residence have air-con, a big deal when everyday is at least 30 degrees and 70% humidity.
    • There are only basic kitchen facilities, a microwave, a sink and  an electric stove. However with no kitchen utensils or refrigerator it’s pretty useless. You will be eating the majority of your meals at the Hall cafeterias, which has pretty decent food and is very cheap ($4-8 a meal).
    • You will be slumming it out with some of the older halls. They are pretty run down and dirty, but with a little tidying it can be comfortable enough. No matter what Hall you are assigned to, you will be given a double room to share, with a local most likely.
    • The biggest downside about living at NTU is its location. It’s located on the far west of Singapore about an hour and a half from the city (with public transport), which is where most of the action is. I was assigned a hall but I chose to move out after a few weeks. My biggest decision to do this was its location. I was lucky enough to only have class from Monday-Wednesday so with 4 days of the week off I didn’t want to be separated from the rest of the country.
    • If you don’t get assigned a hall your best option to find something is on It’s worth getting a premium account for a couple weeks, which allows you to contact landlords directly and allows other people to contact you if your profile matches the tenant they are looking for. Your best bet is to get to Singapore a week early and go see some of the rooms for yourself. You are looking at $750-1100 a month, which usually includes utilities as part of the rent.
    • The best locations are walking distances to MRT stations on the green line (Google Maps will give you an idea of location). Tiong Bahru, Clementi, Boon Lay, Jurong are all good areas as they all go directly to Boon Lay or Pioneer stations which constantly have buses going to and from campus. They are also halfway between CBD and uni.
  • Transportation:
    • Buses and trains are super easy and extremely cheap. You buy an EZ-Link card which you then scan on entry and exit of all buses and trains. $20 would probably get you through a whole week.
    • The best thing about the transportation is they run on cycles rather than times, so your guaranteed a bus or train every 5-10 minutes.
    • Taxis are also very cheap. A 15 minute trip will probably cost you around $10-12.
  • Food:
    • Like most things in Singapore you can either eat dirt cheap and very expensive, with not much in between. Hawker centres, food courts and street stalls are cheap (approx $5 a dish) and very good quality. I’ve had some of my best food in dodgy stalls in the corner of a shopping centre.
    • Singaporean’s love their fast food and franchises. There are a lot of very average chains of “Western Food”. McDonalds, Popeye’s, Burger King and Starbucks are always busy!
    • Fairprice and Cold Storage are your two major supermarket chains where you can buy all fresh produces and groceries. Cold Storage holds a lot more Australian brands but is quite a bit pricier than Fairprice. Groceries, price-wise, are on par to Sydney prices.
  • Studying at NTU:
    • NTU is a big campus, if you have classes in different faculties you are going to have to catch one of the many shuttle buses.
    • Expect a frustrating subject approval process. You first need to get subject approved and then you need to register them. Classes fill up very quickly, so I doubt you’ll get your first pick of subjects, you’re going to have to go through a few resubmissions before you get your final timetable.

One of the best things about living in Singapore is the easy access to the rest of the Asian continent. Singapore airport is easy to get in and out of and with a 4 day weekend I have plenty of options for quick getaways. I’ve already got Hong Kong booked with Bangkok, Tokyo and Hanoi on the cards!

Well thats plenty of blabbering, I’m off to Kuala Lumpur.

George Saad

Found an Aussie friend at the bird park!


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