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Home > Resources > Moving to Singapore - What We Wish We Knew!

Moving to Singapore - What We Wish We Knew!

So you’re definitely, possibly, or hopefully moving to Singapore? Congratulations! This page will provide you with lots of advice and tips to make moving to Singapore as smooth as possible.

Most expats truly enjoy their experience and find living here easy and fun. Singapore is a friendly, clean, and safe first-world environment offering a fantastic gateway for travel to Asia.

English is prevalent, but don’t be surprised if accents cause puzzlement. Persevere politely and you’ll get through. The government keeps a firm hold here, unusually so in the eyes of some Westerners, but it does keep crime rates low and the streets clean and tidy.

The year round tropical weather means clothing stays informal and lightweight on most occasions. Air conditioning makes the heat bearable, but you may want to bring a sweater or wrap for the movie theaters or restaurants.

Below are a few things to keep in mind if you are moving to Singapore. You can discover much more by checking out our helpful tools on our Useful Information page, or contact us with any specific questions you may have.

In addition, you can join the AWA before you even arrive! This gives you access to our broadcast email and our members-only Facebook Groups where you can talk to ladies who are already here.  Many new members really enjoy our Members Classified Facebook group, where you can shop for items you'll need once you arrive, items that you know have been curated by other AWA members.

What to Bring
What to Leave Behind
Planning Your Move
Moving Your Pet
Schools in Singapore
Getting Around
Expat Websites
What to Read

What to Bring
Under garments in Western sizes can be difficult to find, bring extra. As for clothing, depending on your body type it may be hard to find clothes that fit. Sizes tend to run small.

If you plan to travel to countries that have a winter, like skiing in Japan or trekking in Bhutan, you might want to consider bringing some cold weather clothes. There are a few stores in Singapore that have cold weather clothes, such as Uniqlo. Some camping and outdoors stores have gear as well.

Larger sizes for men (US 12 and up), for women (US 9 and up), and youth sizes can be difficult to find. Since you remove your shoes before entering home, slip-on style shoes are useful, as are Velcro sandals for toddlers. So, if you have larger feet, stock up on shoes at home and bring them with you.

Bed Linens
Local bed linens do not fit U.S. mattresses. And vice versa. If you plan to rent or buy mattresses in Singapore, consider buying linens here.

Baby Supplies
Baby items including diapers, formula, food, and strollers are more expensive in Singapore. Additionally, you may not be able to find your favorite brands. If you can, stock up on baby essentials and include them in your shipment to Singapore. Here are some useful resources to help you know prices and availability of these items in Singapore:
Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drugs
Visit the Health Sciences Authority website for the current guidelines on bringing personal medications into Singapore.

  • Gas or charcoal BBQ grills are available but very expensive. If you have the space in your shipping container, consider bringing a charcoal grill with you. (Gas refill containers in Singapore will not match overseas grills.) HoneyKidsAsia has an excellent article on buying grills in Singapore.
  • Halloween costumes and decorations can be difficult to find and are more expensive.
  • Special diet foods are available but you will need to do some research to find what you are looking for.
  • Vitamins and cosmetics are available but expensive.
  • Ovens in Singapore are smaller than in the U.S. Your turkey roaster and cookie sheets may not fit.
  • If bringing a U.S. size ironing board, bring extra covers and pads as the ironing boards used here are smaller.
  • Feminine hygiene products are limited so think about stocking up on preferred brands.
  • Likewise, deodorant, especially men's products.
  • Bring sports clothes and sports equipment.
What to Leave Behind
Photo Albums
Leave them in climate controlled storage if you can. If you want to bring your albums, leave negatives or electronic copies in storage for safe keeping. Most people don’t have a problem with mildew or warping, but keep in mind this could be an issue in Singapore.

The voltage in Singapore is 220 (U.S. is 110) and the plugs are different. Unless your electrical equipment is labeled as safe for both 110 and 220, it is best to purchase after you are here. High wattage items require big and expensive converters that you can buy here if you must bring them with you.

Alcohol in Singapore is expensive. In addition, there are high taxes on every bottle of alcohol you bring into the country.

Controlled and Prohibited Items
Singapore laws are very strict. Please refer to the Singapore Customs website for the current guidelines on controlled and prohibited goods, which include chewing gum, poppy seeds, firearms and drugs.

Planning Your Move
Metric system
Be sure to brush up on your kilograms, liters, kilometers, and centigrade conversions. When the weatherman says “high of 32,” he isn’t recommending that you wear a winter jacket. Find a handy smartphone app to have quick conversions at your fingertips.

For recommended immunizations, please refer to the USA Center for Disease Control and Prevention website or the Fit for Travel website in the UK.

Employing a Helper
If you are considering employing a helper in Singapore, you can check out a useful guide here. The guide is being hosted on the website of the British Chamber of Commerce and is available to the public. The guide has been written as a voluntary project by Singaporean Gerard Wong, who started the project whilst a student at the Singapore Management University. The guide includes useful best practice suggestions for employers.

Moving Your Pet
Deciding on whether or not to move a pet to Singapore can be stressful and many factors should be considered. How old is the animal? Is it in good health? Traveling and quarantine are very stressful on the pets. Will you be living in an apartment or a house? Only certain pets are allowed in certain housing. There are also limits on the number of pets you can have, depending on where you will live, the type of pets you have and the breed if you are bringing a dog. All of these factors need to be considered.

Transporting an animal to Singapore can be complicated so it is best to start making all the necessary arrangements as soon as possible. Depending on which country you are coming from, your pet may need no quarantine, 10 day quarantine, or 30 day quarantine. If you are coming from the US, start planning no later than four months prior to arrival in Singapore, if possible, so you can begin required series of rabies injections and serum test to qualify for the 10 day quarantine.

As all airlines have different rules and regulations regarding animals, it is imperative to check with the carrier your pet will be traveling on to get accurate, up-to-date information.

If handling your pet’s relocation yourself is too stressful, consider hiring a pet relocation service. They will help you with the import paperwork, remind you when to schedule the necessary injections and exams, and take care of the plane reservations. Some services will also pick up your pet for you in Singapore, take your pet to the AVA facility for its exam on arrival, and drive your pet to the quarantine facility for you. These services are expensive, so you will need to weigh the price against the convenience and what works best for your situation.

Remember that Singapore is a tropical climate and it will take some time for your pet to adjust to the weather. It is always summer, so shedding is increased and often constant. Special care must be taken to keep the skin healthy and to protect against ticks, fleas, and parasites. Veterinary care is good in Singapore, so you can get help reducing the risks of these infections. There are also “leash” and “scoop” laws in effect. If you would like to let your dog run, there are a number of dog parks on the island where dogs are allowed to run unleashed.

Schools in Singapore
An International School is considered by the Singapore Government to be one with a curriculum based upon a foreign system. For example, the Singapore American School (SAS) uses the American system. Stamford American International School (SAIS) uses both the American system and the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. The Australian International School has both an IB and Australian curriculum.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) licenses some schools as “approved institutions,” which allows eligible Singaporean citizens to utilize the Children Development Co-Saving (CDA) Scheme for the payment of kindergarten fees. It also means that they are childcare centers and can provide before and after-school day care to cater to working parents. For more information visit MSF.

Furthermore, if you are interested in reviews about these and other international schools, SCHOOL IN, a free online platform of International School Reviews, collects and provides opinions and recommendations given by other parents to help you find the right school for your child. 

This list is by no means exhaustive, but here are some popular international schools:
Wikipedia also has a list of international schools in Singapore, including local schools which offer a foreign education system.  If you are interested in having your child attend a mainstream Singapore school, visit the Ministry of Education website.

When moving to Singapore, some expats find it practical to stay at a hotel or serviced apartment while waiting for their belongings to be shipped over to Singapore. There is something to suit every budget, from six-star luxury hotels to lower priced guest houses.

The company you are moving with will usually assign you a real estate agent who will help you to find somewhere permanent to live. There are many options available from condos to houses. It is a good idea to do some research before you arrive. Check out Property Guru for more information. Or try their smartphone app, PropertyGuru Singapore.

When searching for housing, you may want to consider things like:
  • how close the house or condo is to an MRT station or bust stop so you can get around easily
  • where the closest grocery store is
  • what is the closest shopping mall (which is often where you'll find your necessities like a grocery store, pharmacy/drug store, office supply store, clothing stores, etc.)
  • if you like to shop for the freshest ingredients at the best price, you may want to be near a wet market.
  • how close you want to be to your child’s school. All schools have busses, so proximity to school may or may not be a factor for you.
  • whether the bus routes for your school includes your neighborhood.
Getting Around
Cars are very expensive in Singapore. Not only are the prices very high, but with the myriad of Singapore taxes added on, plan on spending about S$150,000 for a new midsize car. Plus you will need to purchase a Certificate of Entitlement (COE). The prices of the COE fluctuate but can be upwards of S$40,000.  Leasing a new car can be a less expensive option.  Keep in mind that driving is on the left.
Conversion of a Foreign Driver’s License
If you are residing in Singapore for less than twelve months, you are not required to convert your foreign driver’s license to a Singapore driver’s license. You may drive in Singapore on a valid foreign license for up to twelve months. If your foreign license is not in English, it must be accompanied by an official translation or an International Driving Permit, which is available from the Automobile Association of Singapore.

If you will be residing in Singapore for more than twelve months or if you are a Singapore Permanent Resident, you are required to convert your foreign driver’s license to a Singapore driver’s license. You must convert your foreign license within 12 months from the date you first entered Singapore. You only need to take a written exam, the Basic Theory Test, to demonstrate you are familiar with Singapore’s Highway Code.

For more information on how to apply for and take the basic tests, please visit the Singapore Police website.

Public Transportation
Buses and Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) (a.k.a., the subway) are accessible, affordable, and safe. You can purchase an Easylink card at any MRT station. It is an add–on value card that can be used for the buses, MRT, and some taxis. The card needs to be swiped getting on and off the buses, as well as the MRT, so that it can work out the accurate fare and deduct the value automatically.

Pro tip: When you get on a bus in Singapore, enter through the door by the bus driver and exit through the door at the back of the bus.  Information about buses can be found at:
All MRT stations are integrated with bus stops and many with taxi stands.  Some handy apps are:
  • gothere.sg allows you to enter your destination and determine how to get there via bus, train, taxi, or by driving, as well as how long it will take you to get there, and how much each option costs.
  • Explore Singapore allows easily navigate your way through Singapore's MRT with this handy app that includes not only a route planner, but a cost and time planner too!
  • MyTransport is an app provided by the Land Transport Authority which has many features such as bus arrival times, a journey planner, alerts when the MRT breaks down, locations of traffic camera, and more.
Taxis are clean, reasonable, and numerous.  To avoid standing in line at taxi queues, consider using one of the following smartphone apps:
  • ComfortDelGro Booking App: A user-friendly app that offers convenience to registered and non-registered users by allowing them to book a taxi from their current location using their phone GPS. Bookmark your favorite addresses and experience accelerated access for future bookings.
  • Grab & GoJekTwo private car hire companies popular in Singapore are Grab and GoJek. To use them, you need to download their apps from the app store for your smartphone and create an account.
Expat Websites
Here are a few additional expat websites if you are looking for more information about Singapore.
What to Read
Here are some books that can also provide additional information about Singapore.
  • Living in Singapore Reference Guide, by The American Association of Singapore
  • Lonely Planet: Singapore by Lonely Planet Publications
  • Culture Shock! Singapore by Marion Bravo-Bhasin
  • Mighty Minds Street Directory & Bus Guide
AWA does not specifically recommend, endorse, or otherwise promote any companies and/or products listed in or linked to this website. This website is provided for informational purposes only.