The best places to live in Singapore
Although it’s not the largest destination, choosing an area or suburb in bustling Singapore can nonetheless be a daunting task, and the best neighbourhood for one expat may not be another's cup of tea. An expat's decision on where to live will largely depend on their lifestyle priorities, family situation, the location of their workplace and personal preferences.
The city-state is divided into 28 districts which can be grouped into five main areas: Central, East, North, North-East and West. Here's an overview of some of the best areas to live as an expat.
The central area is situated, perhaps somewhat misleadingly, towards the south of the island. This large area includes the main business district as well as several popular residential areas, such as Bukit Timah and Bukit Merah. It provides easy access to some of Singapore's best spots for shopping, entertainment and eating out.
Housing is predominantly found in high-rise condos and apartments – often fully furnished and serviced – that tend to come with shared amenities, such as pools and gyms. Pricing varies from reasonable to astronomical, leaning more towards the latter, as this is generally considered to be the most expensive area in Singapore.
Families will have plenty of choices when it comes to international schools in this area. Options include ISS International School, Swiss School in Singapore, Tanglin Trust School, and UWC South East Asia.
Although the Central Region affords a cosmopolitan lifestyle and great access to almost everything, it's significantly more costly than accommodation found outside the hub. High noise levels from traffic and ongoing construction work can also have an impact on quality of life.
Although the north is considered to be "far" from the city, in truth it's only about 15 miles (25km) and is easily accessed by car, MRT or bus. Expats will be able to see Malaysia from the Woodlands district in this part of Singapore, and there is a causeway bridge that connects the two countries. The area is lush with greenery and features golf courses, plant nurseries and reservoirs.
Areas such as Woodgrove, Woodlands and Sembawang are home to many American expat families due to the presence of the Singapore American School.
The lush greenery of the area with its estate-type living conditions is usually what attracts expats of a certain inclination. Those keen on a night out should be aware that the North Region is a fair distance from the city and that it offers little in the way of nightlife.
The eastern area of the island includes the districts of Bedok, Pasir Ris, Tampines and Changi.
The Changi International Airport is situated here, and its neighbourhoods are blessed with character that marries old and new. The area has a diverse population, but many residents work in airline-related industries. There is excellent access to amenities, restaurants, schools and shops.
The Global Indian International School Singapore has two campuses in this area of the island, and Stamford American International School is also close by.
Residents of the East Region enjoy a coastal lifestyle, with beach facilities and numerous parks. Condominiums are larger and less expensive than in the city and retain a sense of community. And while there may not be an abundance of bars, there are numerous exquisite eateries in the area to make up for it.
The western area includes Bukit Batok, Choa Chu Kang, Clementi and Jurong. The neighbourhoods in this space vary widely but are generally densely populated and have exceptional amenities.
Parks and recreational and sports venues are scattered throughout Choa Chu Kang, offering its residents a range of outdoor activities. Jurong, on the other hand, consists of large industrial and residential areas, and a golf course.
Expats in this area are truly spoilt for choice when it comes to international schools. Options include Canadian International School, Chatsworth International School, German European International School Singapore, Integrated International School, Nexus International School Singapore, and One World International School.
Rentals in the West Region tend to be reasonably affordable, and it's a great area for families, with properties that include gardens. That said, the commute to the Central Region might be rather long for some expats.
Expats looking to settle in Singapore's northeast area are often attracted to Serangoon, which is home to the French School of Singapore.
Terrace homes, semi-detached houses and bungalows can all be found here, and there are also plenty of spots to shop and dine out, as well as an abundance of green spaces.
There are some good housing estates and a plethora of eating-out options in the area, but expats may find that rental prices can be rather expensive.
Areas to avoid in Singapore
While Singapore is renowned for its safety and cleanliness, certain areas have garnered attention for being relatively less safe. Areas such as Geylang, Woodlands, Yishun, Jalan Kukoh and Bendemeer have been associated with higher reports of theft, robbery and other safety concerns. Residents and visitors must be mindful when traversing these areas.
Geylang, known for its vibrant nightlife and food scene, also has a reputation for illicit activities and rowdiness, especially late at night. Woodlands, bordering Malaysia, is generally safe but has occasional reports of cross-border crime. Yishun, despite its many amenities, has seen sporadic cases of unusual crimes, earning it a quirky reputation among locals.
Jalan Kukoh and Bendemeer, while central and well-connected, have reported instances of petty crimes. Residents and visitors to these areas should take standard safety precautions, like being cautious after dark, securing belongings and avoiding confrontation.
Despite these concerns, it's important to remember that these areas are part of a city that ranks highly in global safety indexes. The Singapore Police Force is active and efficient, ensuring that even these areas are far safer than similar urban neighbourhoods in other global cities.
What areas in Singapore do expats recommend?
"The East Coast is a great option for families. More central areas such as Orchard, Newton offer great options. Also, a good area is in the CBD such as Tanjong Pagar or Outram." Scott, a South African expat, shares his experience of life in Singapore in his interview.
►See Transport and Driving in Singapore for more on getting around
Image credits: Skyline from Bay East Garden by Chensiyuan, sourced from Wiki Commons. Jurong Gardens by paVan, sourced from Flickr. Serangoon Road by Akuppa John Wigham, sourced from Flickr.
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