Interested in finding out more about Singapore? Read out expat guide so you’re prepared for your move and then find out how Barclays can help.




As of December 2015, the population of Singapore is 5.6 million

Source: CIA World Factbook

Main languages

Mandarin 35%, Chinese dialects 23.8%, English 23%, Malay 14.1%, Tamil 3.2%, others 0.9% . There are four official languages (Malay, Mandarin, Tamil and English). Malay is the national language, but administration and business in the main sectors are commonly conducted in English. 

Sources: Statistics Singapore [PDF, 3.7MB]


Buddhism 42.5%, Islam 14.9%, Taoism 8.5%, Christianity 14.6%, Hinduism 4%, other religions 0.6%, no religion 14.8%. 

Source: Statistics Singapore [PDF, 3.7MB]

Time zone

Singapore Time (SGT) is GMT + 8 hours

Popular employment sectors

Singapore has been built on several key industries , including tourism, shipping, petrochemicals and financial services, and is a major trading hub in Southeast Asia. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index, it is ranked second. 

Manufacturing is in decline but still accounts for around 25% of Gross Domestic Product. Unemployment stands at less than 2% (seasonally adjusted) and the workforce is growing, largely due to the expansion in the service and construction sectors.

Sources: World Economic Forum, Nations Encyclopedia, Ministry of Manpower


The Employment Pass (EP) is the main type of work visa for foreign professionals or skilled employees. Your fixed monthly salary must be more than S$3,300 and you should have a degree from a reputable university. The EP lasts for two years and can be renewed by your employer, at the discretion of the authorities. EP holders who earn at least S$5,000 a month can apply for their families to join them on Dependant Passes (DP). EPs can apply for Permanent Residence (PR).

Source: Ministry of Manpower

Political system

Singapore is a republic with a parliamentary system of government based on the UK government or ‘Westminster’ model. 

Source: EDB Singapore


The voltage is 220 – 240V. Plug type G, which is the same as a British three-pin plug.

Source: World Standards


The currency used in Singapore is the Singapore Dollar (SGD), abbreviated to S$.

International dialing code

The international dialling code for Singapore is +65

Internet domain

The internet domain for Singapore is .sg

Social media

Social media is hugely popular in Singapore - with around 90% of the population having an active account with one or more sites. WhatsApp is officially the most used social network. Facebook is also very popular with around 2.4m people logging on each day.

Sources: Statista


Fibre broadband is widely available in Singapore. Download speeds, an indicator of performance, are the best in Asia at an average of 12.7 Mbps. The country also has the highest average peak speeds recorded in the region at 108.3 Mbps.

Sources: IDA SingaporeState of the Internet [PDF, 163KB]

Mobile network coverage

There is excellent mobile coverage in Singapore, with a high proportion of residents owning a smartphone and other electrical devices. 4G coverage is now almost as widespread as 3G.

Source: The Straits Times

Emergency numbers

Police 999. Fire & Ambulance 995. Non-Ambulance Emergency 1777.

Source: AngloINFO


Healthcare provision in Singapore is excellent, and the World Health Organisation ranks Singapore sixth based on the quality of its healthcare. Expats generally obtain private health insurance. Employers are not required to offer private care to Employment Pass holders, but they do have a duty of care towards foreign workers, including providing medical cover.

Sources: World Health Organisation, Expat Arrivals, Ministry of Manpower


Singapore is a melting pot of cultures and this is reflected in the cuisine. Local food is a fusion of Chinese, Malay and Indian influences. Hawker centres, popular open-air food courts, serve dishes such as hokkien mee (noodles stir-fried with egg, pork and prawns), satay and fish-head soup. Western cuisine is also popular.

Source: YourSingapore


Singaporeans are usually casually dressed. Business casual is common, with jackets and ties reserved for client meetings.



Tipping is not part of Singaporean custom. It is becoming more common in western restaurants, where a 10% service charge is routinely added to the bill.

Source: The Straits Times

Education system

Most expats use the private system. There are more than 70 international schools in Singapore, catering to almost 52,000 students. The Singaporean government co-ordinates the availability of international school places in line with demand.

Cost of private education

Private education costs vary and are rising, ranging from S$15,000 to S$40,000 a year.

Source: The Straits Times

Top universities

The standard of university education is high, although British degrees are still sought after by Singaporeans looking for international experience. British expats often return to the UK for university.

Source: Quora

Cost of childcare

Childcare centres and nurseries cater for children up to the age of seven, and costs vary from a few hundred Singapore dollars a month to a few thousand. They are licensed by the Early Childhood Development Agency.

Source: Ministry of Social and Family Development

Cost of a nanny

Live-in nannies and home-helpers are a popular option for working parents with costs starting at S$600 per month plus board and lodgings.


Cars are expensive, with a mid-sized car, such as a Volkswagen Golf, costing around S$140,000. This is largely due to the tariff of the Certificate of Entitlement (COE), which is essentially a lease from the government to own a car in Singapore, and therefore limits the number of cars on the road. The COE typically lasts for 10 years. An attractive alternative to buying a car is leasing one. You will also need to factor in car park charges and road tolls, which are paid for through a rechargeable card in the car.

Vehicles drive on the left side of the road, and the Highway Code is similar to the British system. You will need to apply for a driving licence, and undergo a test, within six months of moving to Singapore if you wish to drive. It is against the law to drive a car on the road without a valid insurance policy.

Sources: Expatistan, Land Transport Authority, General Insurance Association

Train ticket costs

Public transport is clean, efficient and cost effective, paid for using a rechargeable card.

Cost of a taxi journey

Taxis are also inexpensive. Depending on the time of day, a taxi from Changi Airport to the Central Business District costs around S$20.

Source: Land Transport Authority

Main airport

Changi Airport Singapore

National Insurance Contributions

When you live and work in the UK, you make National Insurance Contributions (NICS), which mean you’re entitled to claim a state pension at retirement and other benefits. If you move abroad and stop paying UK NICS, the amount of state pension and other benefits you can claim when you return to the UK could be affected. However, you can make voluntary payments to top up you contributions. There are two types of contribution that you can make, either Class 2 or Class 3.

Source: GOV.UK

The information above has been collated from a range of reputable sources. Some of the lifestyle information may be anecdotal or the opinion of the source and is therefore a guide only. If living abroad and planning to return to the UK, you may want to continue making National Insurance payments in the UK to contribute to a state pension. Visit for more information.

What's next?

If you are thinking of moving to Singapore then Barclays can offer you the following services: Banking, Savings, Foreign Exchange and our Relationship service.

If you would like to discuss these services further, please call us on +44 (0)1624 684316*

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