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Tampines: Life in a Singapore Suburb

Tampines: Life in a Singapore Suburb

I can almost guarantee that of all the photos you may have seen of this tiny island nation, none were taken in the workmanlike Singapore suburb of Tampines. While there is probably good reason for this, I’m here to show you that a seemingly boring area can be a great place to live and a semi-interesting place to visit as a tourist.

Singapore is deservedly famous for its stunning skyline and mixture of historical influences. Throw in some highly rated shopping and the tourist playground Sentosa Island and you have more than enough to keep you busy for a few days. Most people rarely venture out of the tourist bubble that is the city centre, and while the tourist attractions in most suburbs, including Tampines, vary from thin to non-existent, this shouldn’t put people off journeying out and seeing where a typical Singaporean spends his time.

If you are thinking of living in Singapore, the best way to save money is to live in one of these suburbs. It may not be as exciting as living in a high-rise condo with a nice city view, but suburban life isn’t all bad. Here are some fun things to do in Tampines.

Food: Hawker centres and food courts

I’m a huge fan of the food in Singapore. While I might not take a photo of my meals like a lot of the locals do, I do eat like a local and I am pretty much the only western person I ever see at my local food courts/hawker centres. Within a 10 minute walking radius there are about 70 places to eat, ranging from one or two dish stalls to Pizza Hut and McDonalds. Hawker centres are full of small stalls selling everything imaginable, and this is where the majority of locals tend to eat. It’s cheap and there is almost infinite variety.

A suburban Singapore hawker centre in Tampines

Suburban parks

Most suburbs in Singapore have some kind of park or green open space. Sunplaza park/Tampines Eco Green is actually one of the better ones, an oasis of green amongst the desert of bland medium-rise buildings. If you are lucky you might spot some big monitor lizards, birds and if you go on a weekday, very few people. Parks like this probably don’t hold much interest for tourists, Pulau Ubin, Sungie Buloh Wetlands, MacRitchie Reservoir and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve are all far more interesting, but if you choose to live in Singapore these local green spaces can make for a good quick escape.

Tampines Eco Green, a park in the Singapore suburb of Tampines

Shopping in Tampines

I don’t really like to shop, especially not in Singapore because the malls are always so crowded, but if you are into your shopping there would be worse places than Tampines to indulge your habit. There are three malls which have almost merged together, which means you can find pretty much anything here at what I’m assuming would be cheaper prices than on Orchard Road, Singapore’s major shopping destination.

Tampines Central, a shopping area in the Singapore suburb of Tampines

Accommodation in Tampines

I haven’t seen any hotels in Tampines, so this really only applies to people wanting to live here. This suburb is completely filled with HDB flat (public housing) buildings, which all look the same. No-one would live here for the views or interesting historic architecture, but it is kind of interesting to me because it is so different to where I am from. Also, because it’s so densely packed with housing buildings, you never have to walk far before you reach a little area that has places to eat, 7-Elevens, supermarkets, clinics, shops and anything else you need in your day to day life. It makes for a really easy place to live, and with rooms going for as low as $500 a month, living in a suburb like Tampines is really the only option if you want to save money while living in Singapore.

An HDB flat block in the Singapore suburb of TampinesAvenue 2 in the Singapore suburb of Tampines

It might not have the glitz and glamour of the CBD or the history of Chinatown and Little India, but Tampines, a typical Singapore suburb, has a certain charm which makes for a good place to live and possibly an interesting place to visit.

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.


Monday 8th of September 2014

Hi Jon,

Tampines is indeed a wonderful place. It does have its bit of history and certainly not attractive simply because of the cheap rebtal rates. For those who are interested to meet people, simply join one of the neighborhood grassroots committees to be involved in community events! =)

Jon Algie

Monday 17th of August 2015

Sounds like a good idea Esther, I would have done that if I didn't work weekends!

Brian Naennals

Friday 7th of February 2014

I'd love to live in Singapore. It looks good.

Jon Algie

Monday 19th of May 2014

It's a nice place to live!

Sonia Kostova

Tuesday 21st of January 2014

Hey Jon, I've heard that Singapore is more of a place for families, but I am a single female , is it hard to meet people there ? Would love to hear your opinion.


Tuesday 21st of January 2014

There are a lot of expats here but not so many other teachers, and working all weekend makes it a bit harder to meet people with normal working hours. I'd say Taiwan was a lot more of a fun place to live, but I didn't save nearly as much money.


Tuesday 10th of December 2013

Hi Jon,

I am Bernard and i live in Singapore, i have always been inspired to travel and to teach, am currently doing my degree and will be going to thailand to do my celta course, before i start teaching.

Thanks, Bernard


Wednesday 11th of December 2013

Nice! I hear those courses in Thailand are a lot of fun and they usually find you a job afterwards.