What Do You Need to Know as an Expat in Singapore

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Singapore is a unique Asian city-state that boasts friendly locals, delicious cuisine, a variety of job opportunities, and a host of fun things to do with family and friends. So if you’re ready to make your move and become an expat in Singapore, rest assured that, once you get into the swing of things, you’ll find that this is an exciting place to live, work, and play.

Article by OFX

Please be advised that while every effort is made to keep this information up to date, OFX does not provide employment, immigration or tax advice or the like, and you should always consult an employment, immigration or tax professional about your unique circumstances.

Are you planning on making a long-term, or perhaps even permanent, move to Singapore? To help you prepare, we’ve compiled some information on everything from how you can get around easily, to what you can do to connect with others just like you after you’ve settled into your new home abroad.

Here are a few things that you should know if you are thinking about moving to Singapore:

  • Visa requirements to make your move to Singapore

  • The languages that are spoken in Singapore

  • How to get around in Singapore

  • Memberships, associations, and clubs for expats in Singapore

  • The best ways to pay for goods and services in Singapore

  • Getting health care in Singapore

What languages are spoken in Singapore?

Singapore’s official languages include Mandarin, Malay, Tamil, and English. But you might be surprised to find out that you could get by with just speaking and writing in English, as it is commonly spoken there and students learn the language in school. Plus, English is also the official language in the world of business, too.
 
Generally, if you can only speak English, it isn’t likely that you’ll encounter many problems communicating with the locals, so if you’re worried about your ability to learn a new language before your move, you could set your mind at ease. 

What are the best ways to get around in Singapore? 

If you have moved to Singapore and you have a driving license from your home country, you could use that for up to a year without having to convert it to a Singapore driving license. So, if you are only planning on living in Singapore for less than a year, you will not even need to think about having your license converted. Pretty convenient, right?
 
On the other hand, if you are planning on staying in Singapore for longer than a year, you will need to have your license converted. You can do this by taking and passing the Basic Driving Theory Test, which will prove that you know all of the rules and regulations associated with driving in Singapore. In addition to passing this test, you will also be required to submit the appropriate documents before you can receive your official license.
 
If you wish to have your car imported from abroad, you could do so as long as it is under three years old. Just bear in mind that, in Singapore, people drive on the left side of the street, so right-hand drive cars are the only ones that are allowed in the country (you will not able to register your vehicle if it is a left-hand drive car).
 
As an alternative to driving yourself to wherever you need to be, you could get around affordably and easily by taking public transportation instead. Trains are a great option because they are cheap yet efficient, but you also have the subway, buses, and taxis to choose from as well. Public transportation is also a good idea for those who are on a budget, as purchasing and owning a vehicle of your own in Singapore could be quite pricey, thanks to taxes, insurance, customs duties, parking fees, and tolls.

What are some memberships, associations, and clubs for expats in Singapore?

Moving to a new country could be an intimidating experience, especially because you might not know anyone as you focus on adjusting to your new way of life. Thankfully, though, Singapore is considered a cultural melting pot, so you will find a lot of different people from all over the world there. On top of that, you could also locate some additional resources for expats just like you.

Settling into a new country could become less daunting if you find memberships, associations, and clubs that could provide you with extra support. Whether you want to make new friends, network with fellow professionals, or just find other expats in Singapore, consider checking out clubs and associations like the following, as these are set up for people just like you:

  • American Association of Singapore
  • American Club
  • British Association of Singapore
  • British Club
  • Australian and New Zealand Association
  • American Women's Association of Singapore
  • Canadian Association of Singapore
  • Kowloon Club
  • PrimeTime
  • Singapore International Foundation
  • Singapore American Community Action Council
  • Spanish Speaking Women's Association
  • The Singapore Recreation Club
  • The Tanglin Club

What is the best way to pay in Singapore?

When it comes to paying for goods and services in Singapore, whether you are shopping for clothes, eating at a restaurant, or paying for a ride in a taxi, credit and debit cards are an option. However, cash is also widely accepted, and many people use ATMs to get cash fast whenever they need it.
 
It is a good idea to open up a new bank account in Singapore once you’ve settled in. By doing so, you could easily use OFX to transfer your funds from your old bank account into your new account. And when you use OFX for your international transfers, you could get the money you need without getting hit with the high margins and fees that your bank would charge for the same type of transfer.

How can you get the health care that you need in Singapore? 

Singapore boasts an affordable health care system, along with an infant mortality rate that is one of the lowest on the planet, and a life expectancy at birth that is up to three years longer than that of the U.S. or Britain. Plus, the World Health Organization has even ranked the health care system there as one of the best.6  
 
Throughout Singapore, you will find government health care facilities and hospitals, as well as private health care facilities and hospitals. And there are also public and private health insurance options.
 
Both citizens and permanent residents could receive subsidized health care at government facilities. However, if you are a foreigner who is employed in the country, you might be exempted from a savings scheme known as the Central Providence Fund (CPF), so you might not be able to receive the subsidized health insurance. In this case, you could seek out a private health insurance plan if your employer does not offer a health benefits package for you and your family. Several private insurers are available so that you can find the coverage that is best for your needs.

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