Moving to Singapore Guide

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Looking to move or spend some time in Singapore? We've got you covered. We did research related to an expat traveling to Singapore and compiled information to give you a quick expat guide to Singapore. You'll learn more about the country including the laws, local customs, health care, travel, and tips. A small island nation north of the equator, Singapore is located in Southeast Asia and is the world's only island city-state being both the country and its capital.

OVERVIEW
Thanks to tropical green spaces, a mix of stunning, state-of-the-art constructions and colonial-era architecture, along with a world-class food scene and global sporting and cultural events, Singapore shook off its "stopover" status long ago.

Instead, the city-state is now home to a huge community of expats that made it a destination in its own right. Non-residents find it very easy to settle here, with a quick and efficient transport system and a low level of serious crime5. English language is the default in Singapore.

BEFORE YOU GO

Passport validity
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Singapore and if you're planning on leaving Singapore to visit neighboring countries. You will be refused entry if you have a damaged passport or missing pages.

Customs regulations
We reccomend that you research customs regulations in Singapore before you travel by visiting the travelers section of the Singapore Customs government website.

HEALTH
Visit your health professional at least 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. While there are no mandatory vaccinations required to enter Singapore, all travelers should be up-to-date with their routine immunization program.

Hand, foot and mouth disease1 is common in Singapore with more serious outbreaks from time to time. Young children are particularly at risk.

Haze can affect air quality in Singapore. You may find it helpful to monitor the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) updates and seek health advice from your doctor prior to visiting.

If you need urgent medical attention, dial 995 for emergency services (ambulance and fire). Make sure your travel health insurance is adequate and you have accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

Medication
Some prescribed and over-the-counter medicines available in your home country are considered controlled substances in Singapore. You must apply for prior authorization and a permit at least ten working days before your travel date from the Singapore Health Sciences Authority. You can bring a three-month supply of medicines that do not contain a controlled substance without prior approval, however you must bring supporting documents such as a letter from your doctor or a copy of the prescription as proof that the medicines are for your personal use.

Arriving from the Middle East
If you're arriving from an airport in the Middle East, you may be subject to screening for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). If you display any symptoms, you may be asked to undergo further testing or be quarantied.

More information on all aspects of entering and staying in Singapore can be found on the Singapore Government Immigration and Checkpoint Authority website.

LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS

It is illegal to drink alcohol in a public place between 10.30pm and 7am. You may drink alcohol between these hours in restaurants, bars and cafes, along with outdoor areas of private condominiums and chalets, and outdoor events that have obtained a permit. Geylang and Little India are designated as 'Liquor Control Zones' where drinking in public places is prohibited all weekend, on public holidays and the eve of public holidays. Drunk and disorderly conduct are treated seriously, and can lead to a fine or being sent to prison.

The death penalty exists for certain offenses, including murder and drug trafficking. There are severe penalties for all drug offenses in Singapore.

It is illegal to bring vaporizers (e-cigarettes, e-pipes, e-cigars) and refills into the country. These items are likely to be confiscated, and you could be fined or sent to prison.

Penalties for overstaying your visa include fines, imprisonment, corporal punishment and deportation depending on the length of overstay2.

Road travel
Road travel rules are different around the world. Get informed about Singapore's road travel guidelines before operating a vehicle there.

FAMILY LIFE
Accommodation and rent
Before you begin your property search in Singapore, consider your lifestyle; each district has a unique character, from bustling urban life at the center, the calmer area to the north, beaches to the east and cultural hotspots to the west.

High-rise condominiums are a common part of city living and often include leisure facilities and a swimming pool as well as shared open spaces in the compound. Supermarkets, doctors' surgeries are easily accessible. 

Education and schools - Singapore's excellent schools are consistently at the top of international league tables3.

Your child can attend an affordable public school, but if you'd like them to follow your home country's curriculum, a private international school could be the best option. As a foreign national, you'll pay higher fees than those charged to the locals. And it's also worth noting that some schools may have long waiting lists.

WORKING LIFE
With a common business language, it's easy to adapt to working life in Singapore. Asian and Western cultures come together happily in an environment that rewards hard work.

For those covered under the Employment Act, there is a maximum working week of 44 hours in Singapore, with standard business hours from Monday to Friday and a half day on Saturday. There are 11 public holidays in Singapore and 8 recognized festivals.

The information on this page is for educational purposes only and is not medical, legal or financial advice. Always consult appropriate professionals for proper advice, including prior to taking an international assignment.

References

  1. Health Hub, Foot and Mouth Disease https://www.healthhub.sg/a-z/diseases-and-conditions/44/hfmd Accessed February 2018
  2. https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/singapore/local-laws-and-customs Accessed February 2018
  3. OECD PISA report: Where does the UK rank in the international school league tables? - results in full, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2016/12/06/oecd-pisa-report-does-uk-rank-international-school-league-tables/ Accessed February 2018
  4. Cultural Etiquette, http://www.ediplomat.com/np/cultural_etiquette/ce_sg.htm Accessed February 2018
  5. CNBC, Crime Levels https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/16/singapores-crime-rate-is-so-low-that-many-shops-dont-even-lock-up.html
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