If you’re wondering where to live in Singapore, here’s an overview of the different neighbourhoods and the best places to live for expats. This is based on recommendations and views from other expats on the best places to live in Singapore from both our videos and articles online, and in the form of our ‘Street Talk’ feature in each issue of Expat Living magazine. Whether you’re just moving here, or you need to move homes because of work or school (or noisy neighbours!), we hope you find this helpful.
Recent trends around where to live
According to our Reader Surveys from recent years, when it comes to popular Singapore neighbourhoods and the best places to live in Singapore for international schools and housing types, these are the changes and trends:
- Orchard (including Ardmore), Tanglin, Holland Village, Bukit Timah and the East Coast are still popular but have seen a drop in the last few years.
- An increasing numbers of expats are choosing to live near Serangoon Gardens, Hougang and Pungol, where there is better value for money, and following the shift of more international schools to those areas.
- The Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) has also made areas like Pasir Ris and the northern parts of the East Coast more accessible.
- Pasir Panjang, West Coast and Clementi New Town are up-and-coming neighbourhoods.
- Telok Blangah and HarbourFront have dramatically increased in popularity over the last eight years.
- Hillview, Dairy Farm, Bukit Panjang and Choa Chu Kang have seen an increase in their expat population. This could be linked to better MRT access in those areas.
That said, each area has its unique attractions, and your experience of living in Singapore can vary enormously depending on the type and location of neighbourhood you choose. By reading our guide to Singapore’s neighbourhoods, you’ll be better informed before you head out with your agent or look online. And remember to get our advice on leasing a property in Singapore before you sign on the dotted line.
# City Centre
The main reason for living in the Orchard area is its unrivalled access to amenities and shopping. Despite the activity of Orchard Road, many of the surrounding neighbourhoods are quiet and leafy. Naturally, rents here are usually much higher. These are some of the advantages of living in such a central location:
- Easy access to Orchard Road’s retail shops, restaurants, cinemas and more.
- Rents are high, but they’re offset by the prime location, which also has many quiet, green pockets.
- The American Club and Tanglin Club are in the neighbourhood.
River Valley | Robertson Quay | Mohammed Sultan Road
Robertson Quay and Mohammed Sultan Road are popular Singapore neighbourhoods with singles and young couples who want to be close to the CBD and enjoy the nightlife, restaurants and bars along the Singapore River and make the most of expat life! UE Square is a large residential, retail and commercial complex on Mohammed Sultan, while Robertson Quay boasts several swanky new condominiums with river views.
- This popular area lies between Orchard (north) and the Singapore River (south).
- There’s a large concentration of modern high-rise condos here, but also conservation houses.
- Good bus links and easy access to the CBD.
Chinatown | Tanjong Pagar | Duxton Hill
- Close to the CBD.
- Great for foodies, from hawker stalls to excellent international eats and drinks.
- All kinds of accommodation options, from the distinctive Pinnacle@Duxton HDB block to character-filled shophouses.
- Trendy heritage area with an Art Deco vibe.
- More low-set and laid-back than some central neighbourhoods.
- Great coffeeshops, bakeries and boutiques, plus an excellent market for fresh produce.
# City Outskirts
Tanglin | Jervois Road
Tanglin is an older more established area. It’s home to many embassies and is considered one of the best places to live in Singapore. Properties vary from large houses with leafy gardens (including a selection of black-and-white houses), to low rise condominiums. Advantages include:
- A quiet, tree-lined area west of Orchard, with a mix of landed properties and condos.
- There is now MRT access in this area, with Napier station opening in November 2022.
- The Botanic Gardens are in this neighbourhood, with Dempsey Hill for food, furniture shopping and more.
Holland Village | Clementi | Bukit Timah
An old expat favourite is Holland Village (“Holland V”), which has a bit of a bohemian atmosphere and a good selection of restaurants and amenities. Bukit Timah is home to many expats, too, and is ideally placed for nature-lovers. Also:
- This is a traditional expat heartland, with Holland V offering restaurants, bars and shopping (start at the treasure trove that is Holland Village Shopping Centre!), and Bukit Timah backing onto beautiful jungle. Connecting the two areas is Sixth Avenue, full of family houses with gardens, cluster houses and attractive condominiums.
- Plenty of preschools and schools nearby.
- The Circle and Downtown MRT lines provide easy connectivity.
Novena | Newton
Not far from Orchard are Novena and Newton. There are many modern condos here and it’s popular especially with younger expats living in Singapore. Main reasons for living in this area include the following:
- Just north of Orchard, with a mix of high-rise condos and houses.
- Among the eating options in the area is the famous Newton Food Centre, not necessarily the most popular hawker centre in Singapore, but one of the most iconic!
- Nearby Balestier offers a bit more bang for your buck with property prices.
Braddell | Serangoon | Lorong Chuan | Kovan
- Relaxed residential area with condos and spacious family houses, many with gardens.
- Popular with families from the many nearby international schools.
- Lots of food and shopping, including at NEX Mall and Serangoon Gardens.
- The southern end has the Singapore Polo Club and garden centres; the northern end has Thomson Plaza for food and retail. Further north has lower rents.
- Great area for hikers and joggers, as MacRitchie, Peirce and Seletar Reservoirs are all easily accessible.
- The Thomson-East Coast MRT line has started to open along here.
Upper Bukit Timah
Just beyond Central Bukit Timah lies Upper Bukit Timah, which is served by excellent bus routes and is conveniently near the Canadian International School, Dulwich College (Singapore) and others. Because it’s located at the edge of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, some properties have jungle views. The main reasons for choosing this area:
- It includes Bukit Batok and Dairy Farm Road, with lots of lush jungle nearby.
- There are good-value condos and semi-detached houses, some with forest views.
- You’ll also find several decent shopping centres, and good suburban restaurants.
- Further to the west, this area has had an exciting makeover in recent years, particularly around Jurong Lake.
- Shopping-wise you’ll find J-Cube, JEM and other malls, while several international schools are close by.
- The rest of the island is easily accessed via the AYE and PIE, and various MRT stations.
# South & Southwest
When it comes to living in Singapore, many expats love Sentosa’s oceanfront aspect and the neighbourhood feel; it’s an area made up of people from all over the world, and offering a unique lifestyle. Getting a taxi off the island can be tricky, but the financial district is very close. At the gateway to Sentosa is VivoCity, one of Singapore’s largest shopping malls.
- Sentosa Island has some of the most exclusive (and expensive) homes in Singapore.
- Residents of Sentosa Cove have access to golf courses and a marina.
- There are beaches, sea breezes, fun touristy activities by the bucketload, with VivoCity and HarbourFront still extremely close.
Faber Park, close to Sentosa on the mainland, has a spacious, suburban feel and a large, friendly expat community. The area’s benefits include the following:
- This is a leafy and sometimes hilly suburban area – in fact, Mt Faber is Singapore’s second highest hill.
- There’s easy access to the AYE/CTE expressways, and two huge malls in VivoCity and HarbourFront.
- Mount Faber offers great views and is where you take the cable car to Sentosa.
Pasir Panjang | Alexandra | Portsdown
Further up the coast, Pasir Panjang boasts the attractive, recently renovated West Coast Park. Advantages of living in this flourishing neighbourhood include:
- Many of the island’s older colonial homes are here.
- It’s convenient for a number of prominent international schools, and a straightforward commute to the CBD.
- For great walks, try Kent Ridge Park and the Southern Ridges, or Labrador Park by the sea.
Expats like to live in Woodlands for its space and greenery, and the proximity to the Singapore American School. Not surprisingly, there is a large American expat community here. It’s a friendly Singapore neighbourhood with lots of community activities, especially at Halloween time!
- Woodlands has big, reasonably priced family houses and a leafy, suburban feel.
- Attractions such as the Singapore Zoo and the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve are both close.
- Woodlands is on the doorstep of one of two crossings between Singapore and Malaysia.
The area runs from Kallang Basin up to Changi Airport, and has long been popular with expats for its spacious and reasonably priced condominiums. Main advantages of living here include the following:
- This area runs from Kallang for 18km to Changi Airport and is known for its cooling sea breezes.
- East Coast Park is renowned for cycling, running, eating and entertainment.
- International schools and preschools are nearby, and three expressways provide easy connectivity.
Katong | Joo Chiat
Katong and Joo Chiat are favoured by expats who are keen to experience a more local way of life. These colourful neighbourhoods are lined with shophouses, karaoke bars, intriguing shops and excellent local hawker stalls.
- These Singapore neighbourhoods are inland from the coast a little, but closer to the CBD.
- They’re a great place for experiencing local Peranakan culture, including in Joo Chiat’s beautiful and colourful shophouses.
- Large malls in the area include Parkway Parade, i12 Katong and Eastpoint Mall.
Siglap | Bedok | Tampines
These popular East Coast neighbourhoods have a village feel. They offer a huge choice of local and Western restaurants, cafés and bars, and there are international schools in the vicinity.
- These areas are further north and have more of a village feel.
- Housing options vary from apartments and townhouses to spacious, detached bungalows.
- There are MRTs for accessibility, and Changi Airport is nearby.
Changi | Loyang | Pasir Ris
- These neighbourhoods are as close to the airport as you can get in Singapore.
- They also offer easy access to the sea, with sailing clubs and, in certain areas, even a country feel.
- Make the most of the outdoors at Pasir Ris Park, along Changi Boardwalk, or across the water at Pulau Ubin.
Seletar | Yishun | Yio Chu Kang
Wondering where to live where you can still get a lot of house and garden for your money? The area comprises part of Upper Thomson and includes the Lower Seletar Reservoir. Seletar Airport was previously a British military base and now offers regional flights and flying lessons. There’s a good expat neighbourhood at Seletar Air Base, plus nearby restaurants and malls. Buses, MRTs and and the CTE and TPE expressways all provide access around the island.
- This area has good-value houses, some condos and a cluster of colonial homes that you can bid on.
- It’s convenient for several international schools.
- New dining destinations and malls continue to pop up, and there are green spaces for walks and bike rides.
How to choose your Singapore neighbourhood
Make sure you tick the following boxes when working out the best neighbourhood for you.
- What’s the proximity to your place of work?
- What’s the length and style of the commute?
- How are the public transport connections?
- Do you prefer having plenty of restaurants and bars nearby, or nature areas?
- What are the neighbourhood preschools and schools?
- Do you like older buildings for character or newer developments for mod-cons?
- Would you like to be near to a club
- What leisure facilities do you want (pool, gym, tennis court, barbecues)?
If you’re a family that plans on living fairly near to an international school, read our huge guide to education options. We also have loads more information on Singapore neighbourhoods in our Street Talk features and our showcases of readers’ homes.
Watch quick videos on various Singapore neighbourhoods using our Google Map:
Living in Singapore as an expat isn’t all about champagne brunches, staycations and beach breaks (as much as we love all that!). Serious and important questions like where to live are part and parcel of moving to and living here, whether you’re new to these shores and still in the research phase, or if you’re a seasoned long term resident. Which neighbourhoods have larger condos? Which are close to the MRT and a nice walk? Do you prefer something closer to work, or more kid-friendly and close to good schools? The list is endless.
Looking at a map is all very well, but you need to get the low-down from people who actually live there: the proper “word on the street.” Expat Living is all about first-hand recommendations, and we’ve also got them in video form! Just click on the blue stars to explore the area and watch our reader interviews about life in different Singapore neighbourhoods, including recommendations on condos, shops, schools, parks and more.
If you’d like to share details of your neighbourhood or your views on the best places to live in Singapore, get in touch at email@example.com. Hope to hear from you soon – and good luck with the house hunt!