How Cheap Is Cheap?
Anyone who has visited Singapore knows that it’s an expensive city – one of 10 most expensive cities in the world in fact. There must be few places on Earth that charge an average of USD$11 a beer, and it’s easy to blow more than $200 on a quiet mid-week dinner for two.
With this in mind, it’s great to find things that are actually a bargain in Singapore – eating in hawker centres is one, public transport is another. But for the majority of things, you’ll just have to accept that it’s expensive – and this certainly doesn’t exclude visitor attractions. Having said that, there are several free things to do in Singapore – you can check out the downloadable Best Free Things in Singapore guide.
The Best $5 You’ll Ever Spend
But the challenge for this week was to find the BEST culturally interesting thing to do in Singapore for $5.00. If you only have $5 to spend, then my vote would go to the National Orchid Garden, every time.
The National Orchid Garden boasts the largest display of tropical orchids in the world. There are over 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids to admire, and they are all cultivated on site. The collection is presented in a beautifully landscaped area, with easy access via wide open paths, seating areas, waterfalls and shaded pagodas. In short it is a breathtaking collection of the most beautiful flowers on Earth.
Within the three hectares of the National Orchid Garden, there are several sections worth visiting:
The Orchidarium is where the orchids are allowed to grow freely, as they would in the wild. It may not be the showiest area of the gardens, but you can still seek out some stunning specimens in amongst the undergrowth.
The Mist House is home to the most exquisite collection of flowers. The beauty of these orchids will literally stop you in your tracks, and you could be here some time trying to photograph all of them, as every one is more spectacular than the rest. Also keep a look (or smell) out for the scented orchids in here.
The Cool House is where to head to when the heat of the day gets too much for you. This enclosed building is the ‘cool’ equivalent of a hot house you’ll find in botanical gardens in the cooler climates of the world. There’s an impressive collection of pitcher plants to admire while you’re cooling off in here.
Probably the most fun part is the VIP orchids section – in 1957, the Singapore Government began to honour state visitors and other VIPs by creating and naming selected orchid hybrids after them. There are now over 100 of these VIP orchids, and it’s fun to search through them all – such as the Margaret Thatcher, Princess Diana, Nelson Mandela, Jackie Chan and even Ricky Martin orchids!
Now You Do It
The garden is undoubtedly at its most beautiful when the sun shines, reflecting off all those incredible colours. However, while you are walking around there is little shade (unless you take shelter in one of the pagodas), so you might want to save your visit for a slightly cooler day (yes we do occasionally have these in Singapore!).
Alternatively, take an umbrella with you to provide you with some shade while you’re touring. Make sure you pick up a map at the entrance to ensure you don’t miss any of the highlights. Take a bottle of water and a snack with you so that you can take the odd break. It’s open from 8.30am – 7.00pm daily so there’s no hurry! There’s a lot to see and you want to get your money’s worth, so don’t risk getting tired and leaving before you’ve had a chance to take it all in!
The Orchid Garden is set within the Botanic Gardens, which are free to enter and roam around, so you could be here for the whole day, or return another day. Other highlights of the Botanic Gardens include the Rainforest, the Evolution Garden, and the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden.
For more budget ideas for Singapore, check out the downloadable Budget Singapore guide.