As Singapore is a relatively small city-state, many conditions are similar for housing areas to live in across Singapore, including security, environment, amenities, and the availability of public transportation. So then, most expatriates base their decisions on only a few factors including travel distance to the city center, proximity to work, nearby schools and amenities, attractiveness of neighborhood and the like.
Singapore is divided into districts, many of which are described below. The districts that are not highlighted are mostly either industrial estates or districts with almost all public housing, making them less attractive to the average expatriate.
Sentosa, Keppel Bay (District 4)
Located by the calm, soothing waters of the Singapore Straits is District 04 which encompasses Keppel, Mount Faber, Sentosa and Telok Blangah. An international business port bustling with tourism and trade, District 04 is a hub where people of all nationalities live together. Property prices vary from the cheaper condos in Telok Blangah through to the expensive landed properties in Sentosa Cove. In recent years this area has become extremely popular with expatriates and, although its location isn’t as convenient as elsewhere on the island, the recent introduction of a medical center, kindergarten, supermarkets and even a dog grooming palour has begun to attract expatriates in their droves.
|Preparatory School||Quayside Isle|
|Primary and secondary schools||International School of Singapore|
|Higher education||Singapore Management University|
Supermarkets: There is a Cold Storage and a Giant supermarket in Vivo City in District 4. Sentosa Cove offers both a small Cold Storage and a Jasons supermarket.
Restaurants: Quayside Isle and the W hotel both offer a wide range of dining options. There is a wide choice of restaurants available throughout Sentosa and there are several bars and restaurants at Vivo City.
Cinemas and entertainment: A cinema is available in Vivo City. The area has plenty of entertainment options on offer, including Resorts World, Universal Studios and plenty of theme park rides and attractions on Sentosa.
Sports facilities: There are plenty of sports facilities available at the Keppel Marina and Keppel Club. Many expats also run sports clubs and activities for the island dwellers.
Transport links: For easy accessibility to other parts of Singapore, the HarbourFront MRT Station is right on the North-East Line as well as the Harbour Front Bus Interchange. Expats living on Sentosa can make use of the free shuttle bus to Vivo City. However, is generally recognized that people who live on Sentosa purchase their own car.
Bugis (District 7)
Bugis is a rich and colorful area that juxtaposes old and new seamlessly. Many expatriates are attracted to this area because of the interesting mix of cultures and religions and it is a vibrant, interesting place and areas to live in. The residential options in Bugis are located within older buildings and are often nestled away above shophouses or down interesting back streets. The majority of expatriates living here are single or couples without children and the area is suitable for those who want to be near to the city and shopping districts. There are very few green spaces in comparison to some of the other areas in the city.
|Primary and secondary schools||Stamford Primary School
Alsagoff Arab School (Private)
Hong Wen School
Main supermarkets: Cold Storage is available in Parco Bugis junction and there is a Marketplace grocery store in Raffles City Shopping Centre. Both of these are expat favorites. There is also a wide choice of markets, independent food stalls and local grocery chains throughout the area.
Restaurants: There is a wide choice of dining options throughout the area covering every cuisine imaginable.
Cinemas and entertainment: Cinemas are available at Parco Bugis and Shaw Towers. There is a wide choice of entertainment throughout the area and there is plenty to do for everyone. The area has been improved through the recent addition of the National Library, an amazing place where it is very easy to lose yourself for hours amid the books and educational materials available.
Sports facilities: The Singapore Martial Arts Instructors’ Association, Singapore Recreation Club and other such clubs. Green spaces in the area are limited.
Transport links: Bugis is centrally placed and well connected. The Bugis MRT station can transport expats into the city within 5 minutes.
Cairnhill, Orchard Road, River Valley (District 9)
District 9 is located in the city’s center nearby Orchard Road (the city’s main shopping district) and along a portion of the Singapore River, with restaurants restaurants and pubs abound. This is a prime expatriate location with numerous high-rise condominiums available. Many embassies, social clubs, and international schools are located here as well, and the area provides great access to the CBD.
The Presidential Palace, the Istana, is also located along Orchard area. There is no shortage of entertainment venues, and countless shopping malls line the whole length of Orchard Road. Furthermore, foreign brands and foodstuffs can be easily found in nearby shops. Naturally, rental prices in these districts are correspondingly higher than in other parts of Singapore.
|Primary and secondary schools||Eton House International Pre-school
International School of Singapore
Catholic Junior College
Outram Secondary School
Overseas Family School (will be relocating to Pasir Ris in 2015).
Main Supermarkets: Carrefour at Suntec City and Plaza Singapura, Cold Storage at Takashimaya, Harrod’s imported food at Takashimaya, Jason’s Gourmet Food at Orchard Towers, The Marketplace at Paragon and Tanglin Mall
Restaurants: Options in this district are innumerable – simply walk along Orchard Road, River Valley Road, Mohd Sultan Road, or Robertson Quay to find restaurants of every cuisine and price range. Nearby Clarke Quay is also home to the prime restaurant and nightclub scene.
Cinemas: Golden Village at Plaza Singapura, Cathay at Cineleisure, Cathay at The Cathy building, Lido at Shaw house.
Sports facilities: District 9 is centrally located and despite the large amounts of shopping malls there are a number of parks and activity areas, including Fort Canning Park, a fantastic escape from the hoards of shoppers on Orchard Road. The youth park next to Sommerset MRT is a very popular venue for skateboarders and skating and offers a regular program of entertainment.
Transport Links: District 9 is extremely well connected. There are numerous Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) stations distributed throughout the area including Somerset MRT, Orchard Road MRT, Dhoby Ghaut MRT, Little India MRT and City Hall MRT stations. The area is also well served by the road network and buses and taxis are readily available. The roads can get busy and driving in the area can be challenging at times.
Central Bukit Timah, Tanglin, and Holland Village (District 10)
Famous celebrity haunts, luxury homes, delectable food, a forest reserve, a horse racing track and the highest hill in Singapore are some of the highlights of District 10, which spreads westward from the city center and Orchard Road. Comprising central Bukit Timah Road, Farrer Park, Holland Village, and the Tanglin area, it is highly popular for offering both the scenic view of nature and the closeness of city life.
Bukit Timah Road, Singapore’s longest at 25 km, runs east-west, parallel to and above Orchard Road, and the neighborhoods above and westward of the Botanical Gardens along Bukit Timah are lovely choices for those who can afford landed properties or one of the luxury condominiums. Singapore’s famous Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is located nearby, which adds to its high land value and the area’s beauty. Although people who have homes close to the nature reserve need to safeguard against unwanted visitors in the form of snakes and monkeys.
Holland Village, an expatriate enclave just north of Buona Vista MRT Station, offers a number of lovely condominiums, terraced homes, and higher-end houses, as well as a lively shopping and restaurant scene. The area is served by the Holland Village MRT Station.
The Tanglin area extends immediately west of Orchard Road, and includes the revamped colonial barracks-turned-shopping mecca at Tanglin Village along Dempsey Road. This area is also home to streets of elite landed properties and is home to some of Singapore’s most affluent families.
|Primary and secondary schools||Nanyang Primary School
Hwa Chong International School
St Margaret’s Secondary School
Supermarkets: Cold Storage Holland Village, Wet Market in Lorong Mambong, Marketplace Tanglin Mall.
Restaurants: Numerous favorites abound around in the Holland Village Shopping Center, including Tapas Wine Bistro, Wala Wala Pub, Harry’s Bar, Cha Cha Cha, and La Nonna, and along nearby Jalan Merah Saga, including Michaelangelo’s and Viva Brazil. Dempsey Road is also a major hotspot for a variety of beautiful restaurants including Long Beach Seafood, Au Petit Salut, Samy’s Curry, Hacienda, PS Café, and Red Dot Brewhouse.
Cinemas: Nearest cinemas are located in District 9
Sports facilities: Recreational facilities such as the West Coast Recreation Center and natural parks provide recreational opportunities to all age groups. There are plenty of sporting activities available, including biking, hiking and abseiling at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.
Transport links: There are a number of Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) stations throughout District 9, including such as Orchard MRT, Commonwealth MRT, Holland Road MRT and Farrer Road MRT stations.
Novena, Newtown, Thomson and Watten Estate (District 11)
District 11 comprises many exclusive private housing areas, large reservoirs, renowned schools and religious buildings. It is a place where Singaporeans can enjoy myriad facilities that cater to their everyday needs. Newton and Novena, just north of Orchard Road near the top of Scotts Road, provide great access to Orchard Road and offer a number of high-rise condominums and quieter landed property neighborhoods. Homes in Novena are generally more expensive due to its location and amenities, though some believe they remain undervalued given their proximity to the city center.
The Newton area is famous for its hawker centers, specifically the Newton Food Centre at Newton Circus, which offers mouthwatering local fare in a nice outdoor environment. Along Dunearn Road, which runs parallel to Bukit Timah (it is virtually the same road in this area, with Bukit Timah running westward and Dunearn running eastward), a number of well-known landed property neighborhoods including those near Chancery, Kheam Hock, and Watten Estate (just west of Adams) are prime spots for expatriates and affluent Singaporeans alike.
|Primary and secondary schools||Anglo Chinese School
Kingston International School
Alliance Francaise de Singapur
Catholic Junior College
|Higher education||Tourism Management Institute of Singapore
ITE College West
Supermarkets: Cold Storage at UE Square, Novena, and Balmoral Plaza
Restaurants: Cafe Iguana, Chat Masala, and Greenwood Fish Bistro on Greenwood Avenue, Globetrotters and Bungalow Tapas at UE Square
Cinemas: Nearest cinemas are located in District 9
Sports Facilities: Singapore Polo Club, MacRitchie Nature Reserve
Transport links: District 11 is served by the North South MRT Line at the Novena MRT Station and Newton MRT Station.
Clementi / Dover (District 05) and Upper Bukit Timah / Ulu Pandan (District 21)
Moving just west of Holland Village and a tad further away from the city center, expatriates interested in quieter residential living still within a close commute often choose the green side-by-side neighborhoods of Districts 5 and 21. Districts 5 and 21 cover the central-west of Singapore and are located close to two major local universities, popular international schools, and the popular expatriate enclave, Holland Village with its vast array of cafes, restaurants, shops and bohemian atmosphere.
There are also a number of bars around Holland Village to spice up the night scene. These neighborhoods are also in close proximity to nature parks, too, such as Labrador Park and Mac Ritchie Reservoir. Although close to the city, it is shielded from the hustle and bustle of city life, offering its residents a much more quiet stay compared to the city.
|Primary and secondary schools||Canadian International School (Elementary)
CrossWorlds Education Centre
|Higher education||Singapore Institute of Management
Methodist School of Music
Supermarkets: Cold Storage at Jelita, Fairprice Finest at Bukit Timah Plaza
Restaurants: There are a lot of local delights, including hawker centres which serve local delicacies.
Cinemas: The nearest cinemas are in districts 9 and 10 in the city, 10 minutes drive away.
Sports Facilities: MacRitchie Reservoir, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Turf City
Transport links: District 21 has a number of MRT stations, including Clementi, Dover and Buona Vista. There are also a number of bus routes available via the Singapore Bus Service and Singapore Mass Rapid Transport bus service.
The Woodlands (District 25)
District 25 is the Woodlands District, located at the northernmost tip of Singapore and a far cry from the city center. Nevertheless, it is a popular choice amongst some expatriates due to its proximity to the Singapore American School, the largest international school in Singapore. The property prices are relatively cheap, but the availability of private and landed property here is scarce, as the area is mostly filled with public housing estates. There are limited food and shopping options in the area, though Causeway Point, located at The Woodlands MRT, is one’s best bet, and its Cold Storage carries an array of Western foods. Its location near the Causeway joining Singapore and Malaysia also means that a weekend trip to Johor Bahru for cheap shopping is only a short drive away.
|Primary and secondary schools||Kranji Secondary School
Henderson Secondary School
|Higher education||University Health and Wellness Centre
Innova Junior College
Singapore American School
Restaurants: Various franchised restaurants at Causeway point, including Jack’s Place for Western food and Crystal Jade for Chinese. Singapore’s first (and now-famous) American-style hawker restaurant, Botak Jones, is also located just near The American School at #30 Woodlands Avenue 1.
Cinemas: Cathaty Cineplex at Causeway point
Sports Facilities: Singapore Turf Club. There are many parks and playgrounds available throughout the area.
Transport links: Road transportation is taken care of by the SBS (Singapore Bus Services) which have their extensive line of services in the district. There are also SMRT (Singapore Mass Rapid Transit) buses that cover longer distances. Regular MRT services are available in this district and can be accessed from Kranji, Yew Tee and Choa Chu Kang MRT stations.
Katong / Marine Parade (District 15) and the East Coast (District 16)
District 15/16 refers to the East Coast areas of Singapore, covering rustic Katong, the beach-bordering Marine Parade, Siglap, and Bedok. Though at a distance from the heart of Singapore, these suburban areas are equipped with all the necessary amenities and are only a short 15-20 minute drive to the city. Residents here also enjoy the added convenience of being close to the airport, an important factor for the frequent flyer.
Many foreigners have purchased properties and established a strong presence here, so many are businesses specifically target foreigners. The environment is thus very convenient with many of the restaurants providing authentic international fare. Rental in these areas are lower and offer a better value overall. It is also very close to East Coast Park, which most Singaporeans regard as a favorite play area offering cycling, wide green spaces, and an array of watersports.
|Primary and secondary schools||Tanjong Katong Secondary School
Singapore Korean School
|Higher education||APSN Centre for Adults and Children with Special Needs
Victoria Junior College
ITE College Central
Singapore Institute of Commercelo;’/
Supermarkets: NTUC in Marine Parade and Cold Storage in Parkway Parade and Siglap Centre.
Restaurants: This area is an hotspot for traditional Perankan restaurants along Joo Chiat Road, and is also famous for the East Coast Seafood Center, which is home to favorite waterfront seafood restaurants including Long Beach Seafood and No Signboard Seafood.
Sports Facilities: East Coast Tennis Centre, Laguna Golf Course, Meridian Sailing Club, Water-Venture
Transport: The area is serviced by a number of MRT stations, including Aljunied, Bedok, Tanah Merah, Simei Paya Lebar, Eunos, Kembangan and Kallang.
Other modes of transportation in District 15 and 16 are the Singapore Bus Services (SBS) and Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) buses. There is a bus interchange at Eunos that caters to the people of this district. Taxis and carpools are easily found here.
Additionally, some interesting new developments and historic shophouse rows can be found in the Little India area (District 8), near Arab Street (District 6), and along Middle Road (District 7), placing residents in the midst of Singapore’s historic and cultural center and in very close proximity to the CBD. Also, the northern outlying neighborhoods in Seletar / Yio Chu Kang (District 28), Sembawang / Yishun (District 27), and Springleaf / Upper Thompson (District 26), and westward in Bukit Batok / Dairy Farm (District 23) offer larger condo developments and landed properties with yard space that some expatriates find well worth the added commute.