Guide for Expatriates

Expatriates who move to Singapore would generally rent either a private apartment or house although an increasing number choose to live in HDB flats. There are several areas that expatriates usually stay in but there are several features that should be taken into consideration when choosing a location to live in Singapore. These include location, budget and convenience.

The location of your new home in Singapore is very important.  Firstly, you need to know where you will be working, where your spouse will be working and where your children will be studying. The general idea is to select a home near to these places so that it will be convenient for the whole family.

Singapore is divided into 27 different districts and each district offers different options to expatriates. Among the popular places for expatriates to live in are the Central Area, Bukit Timah, Holland Village and East Coast.

The Central Area (District 1 to 9 and 11) are the most expensive and luxurious living areas in Singapore. Orchard Road falls within this area and it is comparable to Ginza and Roppingi in Tokyo and Oxford, Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus in London. It is the main shopping district in Singapore and has major departmental stores, hotels and boutiques lining its streets. Also in this area are various entertainment and attractions such as restaurants, bars and pubs.

Other residential areas located in the Central Area are Cairnhill, Grange Road and River Valley Road. Most of these areas consist of high rise condominiums but there are some areas with landed properties. The landed properties are mostly located in Cairnhill around the Mount Elizabeth area. Among some of the more popular condominiums located in this area are The Paterson Edge, Richmond Park, Four Seasons Park, Cairnhill Plaza, Elizabeth Heights, Richmond Park, Grangeford Apartments, Regency Park and Valley Park. The Central Area is popular among single professionals and young couples as it offers good public transportation to and from various parts of the island and is located close to entertainment and attractions such as restaurants, bars and pubs.

If you like outdoor activities or living in a quieter neighborhood close to nature, Bukit Timah would be a good place to live in. This area has many landed properties but if condominium living is your preference, there are also several to choose from. Bukit Timah is an area where a lot of the affluent Singaporeans live in. Another area that may be of interest to expatriates would be Holland Village which has a number of restaurants, cafes, bars and shopping amenities. It offers a wide variety of international cuisines such as Sushi, Mexican burritos and even Starbucks and similar coffee houses. Bukit Timah and Holland Village are located in Districts 10, 21 and some parts of District 5. Some of the more popular condominiums in this area would be Belmond Green, Duchess Crest, Fifth Avenue Condominium and Balmoral Residences.  

Districts 14, 15 and 16 are located from the Central Business District (CBD) towards Changi Airport. Known as the East Coast, this area has many condominiums, some of which offer views of the sea. This area is also popular with expatriates as it offers a variety of leisure activities, eateries and also the privilege of living by the seaside with the East Coast Park that stretches along the coastline.

Within this area lies Parkway Parade which offers large scale shopping opportunities in the middle of the East Coast. For those who like quaint shops and cafes that exude an aura of nostalgic Singapore, Joo Chiat Road in the suburb of Katong is the place for you. Condominiums offering wonderful views of the waterfront in this area include Bayshore Park and Costa Del Sol. Other condominium developments in this area are the Water Place, Sanctuary Green, Pebble Bay and Costa Rhu.

There are of course other options for expatriates in other areas of the island. Other locations that may interest expatriates include Woodlands – a very popular location with American expatriates as the Singapore American International School is located here.  As Woodlands is close to the Malaysian border, it allows its residents to commute across the border for a bout of shopping.

Once you find a location you are comfortable with, you need to know if properties there suit your budget. The rental rates differ from location to location and can vary depending on the availability of the apartments or houses.  Generally based on location, the closer you are to the CBD, the more expensive the rental. Also, the number of rooms and size of the apartment, house or bungalow will affect the rental rates of the place.

Rentals located in the central areas such as Newton, River Valley and Orchard can range from S$3,000 to S$7,000 for a 1- bedroom apartment. Terraced houses in this area start from S$6,000 while rental rates for bungalows range from S$15,000 to a hefty S$60,000.  Apartments, terraced houses and bungalows located in the East Coast are slightly more affordable with rental rates ranging from S$2,500 for a 1-bedroom apartment at the minimum and a starting rental rate of S$12,000 for bungalows. Rental rates for terraced houses in the East Coast area range between S$7,000 to S$10,000.

In other districts of Singapore, the rental rates for a 1-bedroom apartment start from S$2,000 and can go up to S$3,000. The rental rates for terraced houses are between S$5,000 and S$10,000 while the rental rates for bungalows are between S$8,000 to S$20,000.

For a quick guide and estimate of the rental rates in Singapore, refer to the table below:-


Type of Property

Rental Rates

Central Area


S$15,000 to S$60,000

Terraced Houses

S$6,000 to S$25,000

3 to 4 Bedroom Apartments

S$4,500 to S$20,000

1 to 2 Bedroom Apartments

S$3,000 to S$8,000

East Coast


S$12,000 to S$40,000

Terraced Houses

S$7,000 to S$10,000

3 to 4 Bedroom Apartments

S$3,500 to S$15,000

1 to 2 Bedroom Apartments

S$2,500 to S$5,000

Other Districts


S$8,000 to S$20,000

Terraced Houses

S$5,000 to S$10,000

3 to 4 Bedroom Apartments

S$2,800 to S$8,000

1 to 2 Bedroom Apartments

S$2,000 to S$4,000

These rental rates are only an estimate based on rental rates as at 2007. These rates are illustrated as a guide only.

If the rental rates of the abovementioned houses and apartments seem too steep, you may consider renting an flat from the Housing and Development Board’s (HDB). HDB flats are usually much cheaper than private apartments and houses. In outlying areas such as Jurong and Pasir Ris, a 5-room apartment may be rented out from as low as S$800.00. The rental rate for HDB flats located closer to the CBD starts from S$1,000.

Do take note that since it is illegal to rent out HDB flats for profit, owners will usually rent out the whole apartment but keep one room locked-up. This allows them to claim (when queried) that they are living in the flat and hence they are not renting out the whole unit. Facilities such as swimming pools, gyms and tennis courts in the HDB flats are non-existent though some HDB Executive Condos have such facilities.

House or Condominium
Now that you know your budget, the next thing to consider would be whether a house or an apartment would suit your lifestyle better. Whether you choose a house or an apartment depends on your budget and preference. A landed property will give you a more privacy as compared to living in an apartment. In Singapore, renting a landed property can sometimes be significantly cheaper than renting a similarly sized condominium. However, it may be difficult to actually find landed property to rent as many Singaporeans who own houses prefer to live in them rather than rent them out.

Condominiums offer more facilities such as swimming pools, gyms, tennis courts and children’s playground. Condominiums are located in a gated compound with security guards thus it gives you better peace of mind.  While it is possible to have a pool in a landed property, this is rare as plot sizes in Singapore tend to be small.

Other Considerations
Other than location and budget, transportation is another important factor to consider. It will make a lot of difference in terms of convenience and could also affect your monthly expenses.

Singapore has one of the most modern and well planned transportation systems in the world. Generally, it is very convenient and hassle free to travel from one end of Singapore to the other. All in all, it would not take more than 1 hour to commute around Singapore. Singapore provides the following transportation options:-

    • Mass Rapid Transport (MRT)
    • Bus
    • Taxis
    • Private Cars

Public transportations such as buses and MRTs are usually concentrated around HDB flats and as such may not be convenient to you if you are living in areas that are not as well served by buses and MRTs. Buses in Singapore cover a wider network than the MRT.

It may be difficult to get a taxi during peak hours as this is the transport of choice for many single professionals. Extra charges may apply during peak hours and for taxi call bookings. Some expatriates may choose to own or rent a private car. While having a car may give you the freedom of traveling around with greater ease, it is also an expensive option. In fact, it is much cheaper to hire a taxi than to drive in Singapore. All in all, getting around Singapore is relatively easy and can be made easier if you choose a good location to stay in.