This international trade and technology hub is not much more than a glitzy stopover to some travellers, but expats who call the sunny island home enjoy a high standard of living, with safe streets, efficient transport and delectable cuisine.
Health and safety
Ranked second last year for health on the Legatum Prosperity Index, based on measures such as its infrastructure and preventive care, Singapore’s public healthcare is efficient. Private facilities cost on average 30 per cent of the equivalent care in the US for some procedures.
The south-east Asian island has been ranked the second-safest city among the 60 studied in the Safe Cities Index 2017. Crime rates were as low as 584 crimes per 100,000 people last year, compared with 758 in Hong Kong. Effective law enforcement and an island-wide network of surveillance cameras serve as deterrents.
The city state prides itself on its food culture, offering a variety of international cuisines alongside Michelin-starred street food. Popular stalls at Albert Centre and Bukit Timah Food Centre serve scrumptious but affordable meals made from family recipes handed down through the generations.
The two local Michelin-starred stalls are Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodles, which offers S$6 ($4.40) bak chor mee (minced pork noodles), and Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle, which sells chicken rice starting at S$2. It is the cheapest Michelin-starred meal in the world.
The Katong Laksa noodles at family-run 328 Katong Laksa are legendary. Stall owner Lucy Lim and her son Ryan Goh beat British chef Gordon Ramsay in a Hawker Hero cook-off in 2013. One thousand Singaporeans sampled laksa dishes cooked by the locals and the Michelin-starred chef, and voted via SMS for the locals.
Personal income tax rates are low. Residents earning less than S$20,000 annually are exempt, while those who make more than S$320,000 pay the top rate of 22 per cent. This applies to permanent residents and foreigners residing in the country for more than 183 days a year. Foreign-sourced income brought into Singapore is exempt from tax.
With English as the lingua franca, Singapore’s world-class schools are accessible for expats. Through the island’s bilingual programme, students learn a second language alongside English. This is most often Mandarin, although Malay or Tamil are available in some schools. This mirrors the local population, which is ethnically 76 per cent Chinese, 15 per cent Malay and 7.4 per cent Indian.
State primary schools cost S$650 a month for international students from countries outside the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which is significantly less than the fees charged by international schools. The Singapore American School charges S$46,399-S$48,539 a year for an elementary school student, depending on whether they have a US passport or green card. Top schools include Rulang Primary School, St Hilda’s Primary School, Dunman High School and Raffles Institution.
Local and regional connectedness
An excellent public transport network of buses and a mass rapid transit train system render cars all but unnecessary on the 720 sq km island.
Asia’s air transit hub, Singapore is well placed for quick, direct flights to major centres such as Beijing, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney. Hong Kong can be reached in less than four hours and Sydney in eight.
Photographs: Dreamtime; Getty Images