Sarah Sandidge: Where to Live in SINGAPORE: Choosing Your Neighbourhood 🌳
Moving to a new city can be daunting. There are so many factors to consider, but one of the most important is where you will live. Your neighbourhood can drastically affect your move and how well you adjust to your new location. Some factors to consider when choosing a neighbourhood are public transportation, nearby eateries, safety, and the culture. There are other factors as well, but we’ll address all of these more in depth in another post.
For now, let’s look at some of the neighbourhoods here in Singapore and what makes them special. Though it’s a fairly small island, there are very distinct characteristics that make up each pocket.
1. GEYLANG AND PAYA LEBAR 🚨
Let’s just get this one out of the way, shall we? Geylang is known as the red-light district in Singapore. It probably wouldn’t be the best choice for settling a family. However, it’s known as a very lively cultural center with one of the largest wet markets on the island. So don’t skip out visiting it… during the day. You’ll find plenty of Singaporean history there and plenty of durian! The areas north of Geylang, Macpherson, Paya Lebar and Bartley are a bit quieter, but you won’t find many expats living in these areas.
2. ORCHARD ROAD AND TANGLIN 🏨
Older condo building in Orchard area
Orchard is the hub of Singapore. Think 5th Avenue in New York City or the Champs Elysees in Paris but quite a bit smaller. It is the main shopping district here, though you’ll find plenty of huge malls all over the island. However, if you want to hit everything all at once, Orchard is the place. You’ll also find most of the larger embassies in this area. It is definitely an expat hub when it comes to who occupies the condos and large homes in this district. It’s a pricier part of town, but you can still find good deals with more space in some of the older buildings just behind Orchard Road.
3. MARINA BAY AND RIVER VALLEY ⛵
Clarke Quay, Singapore
Going a little further south you will find the main downtown area with all the skyscrapers you see in many photos. The business district is surrounded by housing typically filled with expats and all the bankers of Singapore. (That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the picture.) You will definitely find plenty of expats living in this area along with all the shiny touristy bits the country has to offer to entice visitors such as Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore Flyer. There’s also a thriving nightlife and loads of restaurants from every culture at Robertson and Clarke Quay.
4. CHINATOWN 🏮
It seems odd to have a Chinatown in a city that is made up of mostly Chinese descent. Nevertheless, we have one! And it’s exactly what you would expect. There are lots of really cool shop houses in this area and a huge Buddhist temple. As far as living goes, you’ll find mostly locals in sprawling HDB buildings sprinkled with renovated shop houses. The local culture melds nicely with newer, hipster-type spots.
5. LITTLE INDIA 🎊
Tan Teng Niah home in Little India, Singapore
Just as odd as Chinatown is Little India, where, I’m sure you can figure out, many Indians dwell and shop. It’s a fun place to visit, and if you’re an expat from India, this might just feel a bit like home away from home.
6. TIONG BAHRU ☕
This little neighbourhood has become known for its hipster cafes and bars. It’s a quaint place to visit, but there aren’t many places to live in this area besides HDB flats, which are typically not the best choice for expats.
7. WEST COAST INCLUDING JURONG EAST AND WEST 🏘
What’s in west coast? Nobody knows for sure! If you really want to get out of the hustle and bustle of the big city, somewhere on the west coast might be a good choice. You will most likely find cheaper housing there while still having all of the conveniences such as large malls and grocery stores, etc. If you’re going to live in this area, it’s best to have a personal vehicle. Taking public transport from this side of town might take up more of your time than it’s worth.
8. DAIRY FARM 🏡
Just like the west coast, the Dairy Farm area, which also includes Choa Chu Kang, Bukit Panjang, Bukit Batok and Sengei Kadut, is sort of considered the suburbs of Singapore. It borders one side of the huge nature reserve that’s right in the middle of the island. So this makes it great for nature lovers. There are tons of beautiful trails around for walking and biking. The bus system here will still get you where you need to go, though it may take a little longer if you need to go to the central and southern areas.
9. WOODLANDS 🍚
Going up a little further, you’ll find Woodlands from where you can see Malaysia across the border. This is a very quiet area of Singapore where you will find lots of HDBs and a small but thriving hub of expats whose children attend Singapore American School. If it weren’t for the school being located there, I can’t imagine there would be any expats!
10. ANG MO KIO AND TOA PAYOH 🏠
Moving down along the other side of the nature reserve, you’ll find some more suburbia with an older generation Chinese vibe. You can find cheaper housing here for bigger, older units, but you may need to learn some Mandarin before you move in.
11. TAMPINES AND PASIR RIS 🏫
Way over on the east you’ll find a little area tucked between the airport and the air base. You won’t find too many expats in this area, although the housing is much cheaper here. So if you’re moving on a budget or without the help of a company, this may be a good spot to look.
12. EAST COAST PARK 🌳
East Coast Park, Singapore
Along the southeast border of Singapore, you’ll find a neighbourhood that is hopping with restaurants and towering condos where you’ll feel the ocean breeze. I didn’t know this was important until we moved here. It’s important! I’m always a bit jealous when I’m in that area as the humidity becomes slightly more tolerable with that ocean breeze coming in. It is a bit far if you live all the way on the coast, but depending on where you need to be on the regular, this might just be the best spot in town…!
13. SENTOSA 🌴
…Unless you want to move off the island completely to a well-manicured mini-island called Sentosa. This is where the best beaches are in Singapore. Here you will also find top-notch golfing and all of the major theme parks. So I’m sure you can imagine that living in Sentosa is not cheap. It’s also not ideal if you need to get to the main part of Singapore frequently, though we have friends who live there whose children go to SAS all the way on the other side! So it really just depends what you’re looking for in your surroundings and what your top priorities are.
14. HOLLAND VILLAGE AND DEMPSEY HILL 📕
Tiong Bahru Bakery in Holland Village, Singapore.
And finally, my own neck of the woods. Holland Village used to be a major expat hub, and you’ll still find quite a few there, but it’s quieted down over the last decade as more expats have moved toward Orchard and the River Valley area. It has a bit more of a bohemian vibe to it, thoroughly mixing hipster coffee shops with very local markets. There are many housing options to choose from. Though many of the older buildings where you can find tons of space for much cheaper are sadly being torn down. Dempsey Hill sits between Holland Village and Orchard/Tanglin. This is one of the more upscale places in Singapore and you’ll pay a pretty penny to live in that area. But if you can afford it, it’s a nice, quiet place to live that’s still close to the main hub.
There are plenty of wonderful and interesting places to live in Singapore. This covers the main areas, but there are pockets even within each of these often known by the actual name of the road. And the great part is, almost anywhere you go will be safe and near plenty of surrounding amenities. In the next article, we’ll talk about prioritizing your needs to help you choose the absolute best location before moving to Singapore.
If you’re moving to Singapore and want to ask me any questions about this, feel free to comment here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I’d be happy to help out in any way I can. I’ve also got a promo code for you if you’re moving in the next two to three months and would like to check out Moovaz, the international moving company I partner with and who sponsored this article.