Image: Cathy Yeulet/123rf
When a weekend hanging out in Singapore can cost more than a 3D2N trip to a neighbouring country, you know it’s time to start thinking of cheaper things to do.
That typical Singaporean Saturday that starts off with brunch at an expensive hipster cafe, continues with a shopping spree on Orchard Road and then ends with dinner at a restaurant and then overpriced cocktails at a supposedly secret bar can easily set you back more than $100.
While some people are happy to spend all of their spare time gaming or watching Korean dramas, that doesn’t have to be the case if you try out some of these free weekend activities that you can enjoy with a bunch of friends, minimal planning required.
1. Have a nice picnic at one of Singapore’s many parks
Anyone who’s lived in colder countries will tell you that after the initial novelty, winter is pretty depressing. There are lots of things you can’t do when it’s freezing outdoors, like going for a stroll at the Botanic Gardens or hanging out at Sentosa.
While Singapore weather is undeniably quite unbearable before 4pm, the late afternoon/early evening hours are almost always perfect for picnicking, so it’s sad Singaporeans don’t do it more often.
No need to be an overplanner and spend the whole week preparing gourmet finger food for the picnic. Just pick up a few items at the deli section of your local NTUC and get a cheap ground sheet from Daiso for $2 and you’re all set. Other nice non-essentials include a fully-charged laptop, portable speakers, a ukulele and beer (but only before 10.30pm).
Other than the usual Botanic Gardens and Gardens by the Bay, you can also choose from a whole bunch of very nice neighbourhood parks like Toa Payoh Town Park, Bishan Park, Pasir Ris Park and East Coast Park.
2. Follow a hiking trail through the jungle
Singaporeans are always complaining about how this country is such a concrete jungle, and there’s no nature, unlike New Zealand yada yada. But I bet 95% of these people have never even bothered to venture to any of the nature spots in Singapore like the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve or Sungei Buloh Wetlands.
Most of Singapore’s hiking spots are free. Sure, you won’t find yourself scaling another Everest and you’ll probably be less tired than you would be after climbing up a few flights of HDB stairs. But it’s a nice change from breathing in stale air while being jostled by thousands of other peoples in shopping malls.
Other than Bukit Timah Hill and Macritchie, tracing the Rail Corridor before it undergoes redevelopment and attempting the HSBC Treetop Walk are also worth a shot.
3. Visit a public swimming complex that looks like a theme park
Fantasy Island might now be a thing of the past, but some of Singapore’s public pools more than make up for it. We’re talking about some seriously impressive water slides, floats for rent that you can ride down rivers and wave pools, and even jacuzzis. Even if you live in a condo with a pool, a trip to some of the more impressive swimming complexes is worth a shot.
The public pools with these crazy facilities are Sengkang, Choa Chu Kang, Jurong East (the biggest and best), Jurong West and Pasir Ris Swimming Complexes.
No need to waste money at RWS’s Adventure Cove Water Park, which charges a ridiculous $36 ($26 for kids), when a visit to any of the above swimming complexes costs only $1.50 to $2 ($0.80 to $1 for kids)–more than 15 times less!
4. Host games night
Board gaming is getting more and more popular in Singapore, but it’s still very much a niche hobby. Those who are clueless about board games perceive board gamers as all being hardcore Dungeons and Dragons fans.
The secret to hosting a games night that your non-gaming friends will actually want to take part in is to pick games that either everyone knows how to play, or that are easy to catch on to.
Poker and mahjong are obvious favourites in Singapore, and having a loyal bunch of mahjong kakis is the tai tai’s secret to maintaining a social circle. Other hot favourites are Cards Against Humanity, Twister, Taboo and Pictionary. Lubricate with a bit of alcohol and you’re guaranteed a fun night that’s way better than yet another evening at a random bar.
If inviting your friends home isn’t an option, you can even use public spaces like the Esplanade rooftop garden and the open air area by Marina Bay. Make sure you don’t gamble openly or you might receive some unwanted attention from the police.
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