Become a digital nomad in Singapore

Become a digital nomad in Singapore
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Published 2022-06-03 07:05

One of the world's most futuristic countries, Singapore is a melting pot of people, cultures, cuisines, architecture, and opportunities. For a digital nomad, this city is an urban inspiration, as well as a gateway to the rest of Asia with plenty to explore nearby: Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, China, and more. Boasting one of the highest standards of living in the world and a very friendly-visa policy, Singapore is one of the globe's most popular travel destinations.

Why Singapore?

Singapore is one of the world's most affluent countries and as such, offers its visitors a very high standard of living. From the modern transportation system in the form of an extensive MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) network to one of the world's fastest internet speeds, Singapore embodies efficiency and has everything to help you be as productive as possible.

However, all the comforts of the big metropolis come at a price: Singapore has topped the list of the world's most expensive places to live in for five years running, from 2013 to 2018. As a nation-state, Singapore will save you the trouble of picking a city to stay in, but this doesn't mean you'll be limited in terms of experiences there: the country is an urban quilt woven of many one-of-a-kind pieces.

The internet and coworking spaces

With the average broadband download speed reaching 192.17 Mbps and the average mobile download speed estimated at 52.84 Mbps, Singapore is one of the best places in the world when it comes to working online. So if the internet is essential for your productivity, you'll fall in love with Singapore's efficiency and the ever-present wifi hotspots. No matter where you go, you'll be able to connect to smooth and fast wifi, which really proves you can work on the go in Singapore.

Coworking spaces are abundant over the country. Despite the nation state's relatively small size (a total area of just 719.9 square kilometers), you'll be able to find a wide choice of modern Google-style shared offices complete with rooftop swimming pools, gyms, and sky gardens, as well as quaint coffee shops perfect for typing away on your laptop while sampling local desserts like the creamy chendol or the sweet pandan cake.

Coworking Spaces in Singapore

The Working Capitol, 1 Keong Saik Rd.

The Hive, 59 New Bridge Rd.

Trehaus Co-Work, #03-01, 442 Orchard Rd.

This list isn't exhaustive, but it's a good place to start. The reality is, there are plenty of affordable coworking spaces scattered throughout Singapore, so you never have to look far or long to find one.

Leisure in Singapore

Singapore, though small, is an exciting entertainment hub housing all sorts of facilities needed for fulfilling recreation. You can go on a relaxing walk through Gardens by the Bay, enjoy a relaxing day at the island resort of Sentosa, go on a night safari, or dine at one of the world's highest revolving restaurants, the Singapore Flyer. With cheap flights available all year round to other Asian capitals, it's a popular gateway for further travel.

What to know before arriving

Singapore is very friendly to international visitors; residents of the majority of the world's nations can travel to Singapore visa-free. Those who need to apply for a visa prior to visiting Singapore are further subdivided into those eligible for an e-visa and those requiring a stick-in visa.

No Digital Nomad Visa

Unfortunately, Singapore doesn't have a digital nomad visa at the time of writing. This means you need to either stay for up to 30 days as a tourist or apply for an actual visa to stay longer. For example, you might be able to apply for an EntrePass work pass, depending on the nature of your work. Or if you're a recent graduate, you can apply for a Work Holiday Visa, which will allow you to stay for up to six months if you're granted this visa.

Cost of living is high

Being a digital nomad can be wonderful because you're earning money anywhere you can get an internet connection. This gives you the freedom to hop from country to country if you wish. In some cases, you'll earn enough to save up tons of money since the cost of living in some areas is amazingly low. However, Singapore won't be one of those places.

In fact, this nation has one of the highest costs of living, so staying here won't be cheap. Renting an apartment in a central area will cost you around S$2,000 per month, without utilities included. Basic utilities (excluding internet) will cost at least S$100 a month, and internet itself will cost S$30 a month. If you opt for a coworking space, then that'll cost you an additional S$50 per month.

If you want to eat out, it'll cost at least $10 per meal, so you may want to adjust your dining habits in Singapore.

Singapore is very clean

Take a walk down any street in Singapore, and you'll see that it's immaculate. You might think that the ban on chewing gum is a hoax, but it's actually real! You have that in part to thank for such clean streets since there's no annoying substance on the floor for dirt and grime to stick to.

Singapore is so serious about no chewing gum that sales have been illegal since 1992. And the only exceptions were allowed in 2004, which include therapeutic, dental, and nicotine chewing gum. If you're caught, you may be fined up to S$1,000 just for your first offense! Needless to say, this has been effective in keeping people from chewing gum and littering.

Tips for being a successful digital nomad in Singapore

One of the biggest things people struggle with is time zone differences, especially if they're new to being a digital nomad. When taking on clients, you need to take note of what time zone they're in and always be conscious of the difference in time. Make sure you schedule meetings at convenient times for both of you, and always double-check the time before you call them to ensure you aren't going to wake them up in the middle of the night.

With that said, you shouldn't be burning the candle at both ends. While yes, you want to be as available as possible to your clients, you need to draw a line somewhere. Make clear when you're “on the clock” so they know when you're reachable. You deserve to enjoy some personal time, after all! And clients should understand that with the time difference, there will be times when they have to wait to get in touch with you.

Healthcare

Singapore is one of the countries in the world that has universal healthcare. This is thanks to a public mandatory insurance system, as well as government subsidies. However, if you're a digital nomad and you're only staying temporarily, unfortunately, you won't get to take advantage of this healthcare system for free. Instead, you'll need to get international health insurance in order to use the healthcare system in Singapore.

Once you're covered, you'll have access to 10 government hospitals and some specialist clinics, as well as over 12 private hospitals. This means you can choose between registering with a GP at a public or private hospital.

On that note, you do need some vaccinations before you can be admitted into the country. More specifically, you'll need to be vaccinated for typhoid, hepatitis B, and yellow fever. In addition, as of February 2022, you need to also be vaccinated against the coronavirus if you're receiving any work passes or long-term visitor's pass. Permanent residents are required to be vaccinated as well. The only exception is if you're medically ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Also, you should note that while some medications may be legal in your country, it's likely they're illegal in Singapore. Generally speaking, these will apply to medications like sleeping pills, strong painkillers, and anti-anxiety medicine. Before you bring these over without notice, you should check with the Singaporean government to see if you need to get approval first. This is especially true if you need a supply of more than three months.

Internet

As we've mentioned before, Singapore has one of the fastest internet speeds in the world. You'll be able to get affordable wireless, fiber, and broadband connection packages. In most cases, these contracts will last between 12 and 24 months, and if you want to break out of them early, you'll need to pay some hefty fees.

If you're planning on only staying in Singapore on a short-term basis, then consider signing up with MyRepublic, as they're the only company that has a no-contract plan. You'll need to be with them for three months before you can cancel without any penalties, and you'll have to pay a monthly subscription and for the installation as well (which is normally free with a contract). However, this can be a much better deal fo your wallet than signing up for a year or more of internet.

Do note that some websites will be blocked in Singapore, thanks to the Media Development Authority (MDA) and its censorship. However, you'll mostly find that international sites will load fine.

Don't forget about taxes

You might be overjoyed to get steady income rolling in from your clients. But don't forget that you have tax obligations wherever you go!

The taxes you're responsible for will depend on whether you're considered a resident or not. If you're a Singaporean citizen or permanent resident who only has temporary absences in the country, then you're considered a resident. You're also considered one if you're a foreigner who's resided in Singapore for 183 days or more in the previous year.

If you have a business income source in Singapore, then it's taxable. The same goes for e-commerce businesses if the transactions are carried out in the country. But if the business operations are carried on outside of the nation, then your income is considered foreign-sourced. In this case, it's only taxable if remitted back to Singapore, and you can get exemptions in some cases.

Join social events to make friends

As a digital nomad, it can be a lonely life, especially if you're used to hopping from country to country. But thankfully, there are many effective ways to combat loneliness, and you can meet other expats and/or digital nomads in the process!

Try to look online for in-person meetings for expats or people who are into the same hobbies you are. For example, you can join the American Club, which isn't only for Americans! Networking online can be a huge help, especially if you're shy and find it tough to approach people in person.

Starting up a sport can also be a fantastic idea. Not only will you make some friends, but you'll also keep yourself fit too. There are plenty of hiking and running groups you can join. If you're not that sporty, then there are organized walking tours where you can socialize and discover Singapore too.

Learn the language

While English may be an official language in Singapore, there are 3 other ones: Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil. Many people also speak Cantonese. So if you want to blend in with the locals more, then it can be worth it to learn any of these 3 languages, especially if you're planning on staying for a while.

Even if you're staying for just a short while, locals will appreciate it if you learn a few basic phrases, even if it's in Singlish (Singaporean English). So if you show a little effort, it'll pay off big. For example, you can say “liak bo kiu” (meaning “catch no ball”) if you don't understand something, “ang moh” (meaning “red hair”) for Western expats, “paiseh” (meaning “embarrassed”) if you've made a mistake and need to apologize, and “shiok!” if you're feeling great, such as after you've eaten great food.

Useful links:

Singapore Tourist & Travel Guide

Free wifi hotspots in Singapore

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