Tips and Guides

Expat Family’s Ultimate Guide for Moving to Singapore

Relocating to a new country can be an exciting but challenging experience, especially when moving with your family. Singapore attracts expatriate families with its exceptional quality of life, outstanding education system and vibrant cultural offerings.

This comprehensive guide will help you navigate the process of moving to Singapore and provide your family with the essential information you need to ensure a smooth transition.

Before You Move

Visa and Work Permits

Before moving to Singapore, ensure you have the appropriate visas and work permits for your family members. The type of visa you need depends on your employment status and duration of stay. You can consult the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) website for detailed information or contact your new employer’s Human Resources Department for assistance. 

Singapore’s visa system categorises individuals into different groups based on the purpose and duration of their visit. The most common visa types that you should be familiar with are the following:

  • Personalised Employment Pass (PEP) – For high-earning individuals who wish to work in different sectors or start their own businesses.
  • Employment Pass (EP) – For foreign professionals, managers, executives, or skilled employees working in Singapore.
  • S Pass – For mid-level skilled workers in various industries.
  • Dependent’s Pass (DP) – For spouses and children of Employment Pass or S Pass holders.
  • Student Pass – For international students enrolled in educational institutions in Singapore.
  • Long-Term Visit Pass (LTVP) – For common-law spouses, stepchildren, or parents of Singaporean citizens or permanent residents.

Knowing the visa and immigration requirements and process of Singapore is vital as it allows you to live, work, or study in the country.

Housing Options for Expats

Research your accommodation options before arriving in Singapore. Below are the main options that are available in Singapore:

  • Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats: HDB flats represent government-subsidised residential units, offering a diverse array of sizes, from studio apartments to multi-bedroom accommodations, thus catering to various family sizes and financial considerations. In many instances, HDB flats are considered a cost-effective alternative compared to condominiums and landed properties. These facilities are strategically spread across Singapore, frequently positioned in close proximity to MRT stations and bus stops. However, they generally lack certain amenities such as gyms and swimming pools.
  • Condominiums: While this housing option comes with a slightly higher price tag than HDBs, it provides an extensive range of amenities, including swimming pools, fitness centres and enhanced security protocols. Expatriates, in particular, prefer condominiums due to their inclusion of facilities that improve comfort and convenience in daily living.
  • Landed properties: This category includes bungalows, semi-detached and terrace houses, offering residents more spacious living arrangements and increased privacy. It is essential to note that landed properties generally entail a higher cost when compared to other housing alternatives.
  • Serviced apartments: Serviced apartments are a convenient and flexible option for individuals or families relocating to Singapore, especially if you need temporary accommodation while searching for a permanent home. These apartments are fully furnished and equipped with all the necessary amenities for a comfortable stay.  

Popular expat areas include Orchard, Bukit Timah, Holland Village, River Valley, and East Coast areas. Consider factors like proximity to schools and public transportation when choosing a location. Many expats prefer to reside near Yishun, Serangoon Gardens, Hougang, and Punggol due to favourable rental rates, greenery and the recent relocation of numerous international schools. 

Before formalising any rental agreements, it is recommended to consider the following factors:

  • Establish your budget: Initiate the process by setting a pragmatic budget encompassing rental charges, utilities and associated expenditures. Conduct comprehensive research to determine the current rental rates in your selected neighbourhoods, ensuring an accurate assessment of affordability. Keep in mind that while most neighbourhoods are located within a 10–20-minute distance from each other, the price variations can be significant. Exploring areas beyond the conventional popular spots might unveil peaceful and cost-effective alternatives.
  • Select your preferred location: Thoroughly investigate the varied neighbourhoods in Singapore to identify one that seamlessly aligns with your specific requirements and preferences. Consider the proximity of your prospective residence to your workplace or your children’s school, as this consideration can translate into time and cost savings.
  • Engage a real estate professional: If you are a newcomer to Singapore and have limited knowledge of the local housing market, it is advisable to engage the services of a reputable real estate agent. These professionals can provide expert guidance, grant access to a wider range of property listings, and negotiate favourable terms on your behalf. To identify credible real estate agents and firms, consult reliable sources such as PropertyGuru,, etc. It is advisable to discuss and confirm all fees, including any agent commissions, before engaging their services to avoid surprises later on.
  • Conduct physical property inspections: Whenever possible, plan a visit to Singapore before committing to a long-term lease. This allows you to conduct on-site inspections of potential properties, allowing for assessments of their physical condition, location suitability, and alignment with your requirements.
  • Familiarise yourself with rental regulations: Allocate time to grasp the complexities of tenancy agreements and the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants within the Singaporean context.

Following the outlined steps should guide you in discovering the ideal residence for your family, a place you can comfortably call home for many years to come.

Health Insurance

Ensure you have comprehensive health insurance for your family. While Singapore has excellent healthcare facilities, medical costs can be high without insurance.

Financial Planning

Open a bank account in Singapore, and consider currency exchange options for your savings and expenses. It’s advisable to consult a financial advisor to optimise your finances for your new life in Singapore.


Expatriates moving to Singapore should be aware of the various education options available for their children. Singapore offers a high-quality and diverse education system, but there are certain considerations and procedures that expats should keep in mind:

Types of Schools in Singapore

  • Preschools: If you have young children, consider enrolling them in a preschool or childcare centre. Singapore offers various preschool options, including both local and international options.
  • Public schools: Singapore’s public schools are known for their high academic standards and are an option for expat children. However, there are limited places available for non-citizens, and competition can be fierce.
  • International schools: Many expats choose to enrol their children in international schools. These schools follow various international curricula (e.g., International Baccalaureate (IB), British, American, Australian, etc.), offer a diverse environment and world-class facilities, and often provide a smoother transition for expat children.

Admissions-related Matters & Tuition Fees

  • Application procedures: Research the application procedures and timelines for your chosen school, as many international schools have specific admission criteria and application deadlines.
  • Fees and costs: Be prepared for substantial tuition fees, especially in international schools. Some companies include educational allowances as components of expatriate relocation packages. Public school tuition fees for expats vary, ranging from SGD 490 to SGD 888 per year. On the other hand, international school fees in Singapore range from SGD 14,000  to SGD 60,000 per year.
  • Vaccinations: Verify the list of mandatory vaccinations for entry into Singapore, as specific requirements may exist for employment and enrolment purposes.

Transportation & Accessibility

Singapore has a reliable public transportation system, but consider the school’s proximity to your home and its accessibility.

Extracurricular activities

Look into the extracurricular activities and support services offered by schools, as these can significantly enrich your child’s educational experience.

Planning and preparation are key to ensuring a smooth transition for your children’s education in Singapore. If you are still determining whether a public or international school is the right choice for your child, consider reading this article for further insights and guidance.

To assist you in making the best decision for your child, we strongly advise you to read the article “8 Key Factors to Consider When Selecting an International School in Singapore.”

Choosing the Perfect Neighborhood in Singapore

When determining your ideal place of residence in Singapore, it’s essential to consider various factors. These include your proximity to your workplace, preferred commute style, accessibility to public transport, dining choices, educational institutions, housing preferences, and the availability of recreational amenities. Let’s explore some of Singapore’s highly sought-after neighbourhoods and understand why they stand out as excellent choices for establishing your home.

Central Area

  • Orchard Road is Singapore’s ultimate shopping and entertainment destination, attracting those who value convenient access to high-end malls and restaurants. Despite the higher rental costs, this area offers tranquillity in its lush neighbouring areas, accompanied by prestigious clubs such as the American Club and Tanglin Club, elevating the neighbourhood’s sense of luxury.
  • Nestled between Orchard Road and the Singapore River, River Valley and Robertson Quay areas cater to singles, young couples, and families looking for a vibrant environment and easy access to the Central Business District (CBD), offering modern high-rise condos and beautiful conservation houses (shophouses). Additionally, the area’s excellent bus connectivity and proximity to the CBD make it a preferred choice for working professionals, with the added appeal of a lively nightlife scene along the Singapore River.
  • Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar are perfect for those who work in the city and enjoy a diverse food scene, with a short commute to the CBD and a wide range of housing options to suit various preferences.
  • Tiong Bahru is a trendy neighbourhood known for its rich heritage and hipster ambience. It’s also a haven for food enthusiasts with its cosy cafes, bakeries, boutiques and a huge fresh produce market.

Areas in a Close Proximity to the Central Area

  • Tanglin area is undeniably appealing to those seeking a peaceful, lush residential environment. Its merits encompass a variety of housing options, from landed properties to condominiums, offering a serene getaway from the bustling city life. Residents can conveniently access the nearby Botanic Gardens and Dempsey Hill, which offer a wide range of dining choices, enhancing the overall appeal of this area.
  • Holland Village, renowned for its bohemian ambience, is a preferred choice for expatriates. In contrast, Bukit Timah is a paradise for nature lovers, with its abundant jungles and quiet living surroundings.
  • Nestled north of Orchard, Novena, Newton, and Balestier are popular due to their central location, convenient access to amenities, including medical facilities and educational institutions, diverse housing options, and a mix of shopping, entertainment, and green spaces. Additionally, Balestier stands out for its historical significance and cultural identity, while ongoing infrastructure development contributes to the overall appeal of these neighbourhoods.
  • Braddell, Serangoon, Lorong Chuan, and Kovan are desirable residential neighbourhoods appealing to families seeking a peaceful living environment. These areas provide spacious housing options, including condos and family houses with gardens, and offer convenient access to NEX Mall and Serangoon Gardens, known for diverse shopping and dining experiences.
  • Thomson area offers a diverse neighbourhood featuring a variety of attractions, including the Singapore Polo Club and pristine nature reserves. Residents and visitors can enjoy natural escapes through accessible green spaces like MacRitchie, Peirce, and Seletar Reservoirs, explore retail and dining opportunities at Thomson Plaza, and benefit from enhanced transportation links thanks to the Thomson-East Coast MRT line.


  • Seletar, Yishun, and Yio Chu Kang offer an appealing blend of spacious living and lush green surroundings, including the scenic Lower Seletar Reservoir and Upper Thomson. The area also provides access to various dining options and shopping centres, making it an attractive choice for residents. The region has affordable housing options, from houses and condos to charming colonial homes. It offers convenient proximity to international schools alongside ongoing growth in dining destinations, malls, and recreational green spaces, ideal for leisurely walks and bike rides.
  • Woodlands is a family-oriented, spacious, green neighbourhood renowned for its affordability and suburban atmosphere. Living in Woodlands offers the advantages of reasonably priced family homes, proximity to natural attractions such as the Singapore Zoo and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, and its role as a convenient gateway to Malaysia.


  • Upper Bukit Timah presents a serene suburban escape bordering the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, perfect for those who appreciate nature. It offers a picturesque setting with lush jungle surroundings and diverse housing options, ranging from affordable condos to semi-detached houses. Additionally, the neighbourhood boasts an array of shopping centres and delightful suburban restaurants, enhancing its overall appeal.
  • Jurong area offers ample opportunities for retail therapy, with shopping centres like J-Cube and JEM making it an attractive choice for families. Additionally, Jurong benefits from excellent transportation links, including the AYE and PIE expressways and multiple MRT stations, ensuring seamless connectivity to various parts of the island.


  • Sentosa Cove provides an exceptional oceanfront living environment with a thriving international community. Renowned for luxury living, Sentosa Cove offers access to recreational facilities such as golf courses and yacht clubs. Additionally, the neighbourhood offers many lifestyle amenities, including beautiful beaches, exciting tourist activities, and a VivoCity shopping mall.
  • Mount Faber, located on the mainland near Sentosa, offers a serene suburban atmosphere and a vibrant expat community. Its key features encompass a picturesque landscape with lush hills, convenient access to expressways, and an abundance of shopping and dining options at VivoCity and HarbourFront malls.
  • Pasir Panjang, a neighbourhood renowned for its colonial residences, provides a cosy and convenient way of life. Its distinctive attributes encompass the historical charm of housing many of Singapore’s older colonial homes and an easy commute to the CBD. Additionally, residents can enjoy nature escapes by exploring Kent Ridge Park and the Southern Ridges or enjoying seaside relaxation at Labrador Park.


  • The East Coast, stretching from Kallang Basin to Changi Airport, remains a sought-after destination for expats, offering spacious and reasonably priced condominiums. Its alluring features include a coastal lifestyle and the vibrant recreational hub of East Coast Park, providing great opportunities for cycling, running, dining, and entertainment, facilitated by the seamless connectivity offered by three expressways.
  • Katong and Joo Chiat are known for their local Peranakan culture, characterised by picturesque and colourful shophouses, vibrant street life and a wealth of local hawker stalls. These neighbourhoods also offer diverse shopping and dining experiences with large malls like Parkway Parade, i12 Katong and Eastpoint Mall. While not situated on the coast, they enjoy convenient proximity to the CBD.
  • The East Coast neighbourhoods of Siglap, Bedok, and Tampines offer a cosy village-like ambience, drawing in families and individuals seeking a tranquil living environment alongside an array of local and international dining choices. Housing options are diverse, spanning apartments, townhouses, and spacious detached bungalows to cater to various preferences. Additionally, the convenience of MRT stations for easy accessibility and the proximity of Changi Airport make these areas highly appealing for residents.
  • Changi, Loyang, and Pasir Ris are the closest residential neighbourhoods to Singapore’s airport, ensuring unparalleled convenience for frequent travellers. They provide a combination of seaside proximity and a tranquil countryside ambience, offering multiple outdoor adventure opportunities through attractions like Pasir Ris Park, Changi Boardwalk, and Pulau Ubin. These areas promise a serene living environment with a strong connection to nature, making them a unique escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.

Ultimately, the best neighbourhood for your family will depend on your unique preferences and priorities. It is essential to do thorough research, perhaps with the assistance of a local real estate agent or relocation expert, to find a neighbourhood that aligns with your family’s needs and expectations.

Cost of Living in Singapore

Like many things in life, the cost of living in Singapore depends on the choices you make regarding your lifestyle. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, as everyone has different priorities. Keep in mind that when moving as an expatriate, there are initial setup costs to account for, including expenses related to relocation, shipping your belongings and furnishing your new home. Additionally, you may need to make upfront payments or deposits for activities like enrolling your child in a school or joining a gym.


Singapore is a small island nation with limited natural resources, resulting in relatively high costs for essential utilities like electricity and water. If you opt for round-the-clock use of the aircon, you will quickly realise this when you receive your first monthly electricity bill, which may prompt you to reconsider your living habits.

Typically, bills for electricity and water are bundled together and managed by the national provider, SP Services. However, you do have the option to explore alternative providers. The costs for these utilities can vary considerably, starting from SGD 150 per month, depending on the size of your property and your usage patterns.

Television, Cable and Broadband

Television, Cable, and Broadband Internet services are typically bundled under a single provider in Singapore, such as Singtel or StarHub. Like many things in Singapore, you will find various deals and offers based on your preferences. Singapore is known for its robust and efficient technology infrastructure, so that you can expect reasonable costs for high-speed internet and generous data allowances.

For example, high-speed broadband Wi-Fi is available at a monthly rate of SGD 40 – 60, while cable TV and sports channels can be added for an extra SGD 50 – 100, depending on your chosen channels. The monthly cost of a mobile phone plan in Singapore typically ranges from SGD 20 to SGD 60, contingent on the data and call/SMS allowances provided by the plan.


The cost of food and grocery shopping in Singapore can vary widely depending on where you shop, what you buy and your personal preferences. Singapore is known for its diverse food scene, with options ranging from affordable hawker stalls to high-end restaurants and supermarkets. Here are some general guidelines to give you an idea of the cost of food and groceries in Singapore:

  • Hawker centres: Hawker centres (food courts) are popular in Singapore for their affordable and delicious local cuisine. You can find meals for as low as SGD 4 to SGD 10. A plate of chicken rice or a bowl of laksa typically falls into this price range.
  • Local markets: Wet markets and neighbourhood grocery stores are excellent options for purchasing fresh produce, meat, and seafood. Prices may vary, but you can often find affordable fruits and vegetables at lower rates than those in supermarkets.
  • Supermarkets: Singapore has several supermarket chains, including FairPrice, Cold Storage, Giant, and Sheng Siong. Supermarket prices are generally higher than wet markets, but they offer a wider variety of products. The cost of groceries can vary, but as a rough estimate, a weekly grocery bill for a single person might range from SGD 50 to SGD 150, depending on your shopping habits and dietary preferences. You can also discover unique Japanese grocery stores and shops that offer a wide range of international products, including items from the Baltic, France, Germany, Australia, and gourmet selections.
  • Dining out: Dining out in Singapore can be costly, particularly at upscale establishments. Anticipate spending approximately SGD 50 to SGD 80 or above per person for a meal at a mid-range restaurant, with fine dining establishments often being considerably more expensive.
  • Alcohol and imported goods: Alcohol and imported goods come with higher price tags in Singapore, attributed to taxes and import duties.
  • Delivery and takeout: Additional fees might apply when ordering food for delivery or takeout, and the cost can fluctuate based on the restaurant or the food delivery service chosen.
  • Cooking at home: Cooking at home is typically more budget-friendly than eating out. You can cut costs by cooking your meals from scratch using locally sourced ingredients.

It is important to remember that prices may vary due to inflation, global economic conditions and government policies. For the most accurate and current information on food and grocery prices in Singapore, it is recommended to check the websites of local supermarkets or seek advice from residents currently residing in the country.


Singapore boasts a relatively low tax system, featuring personal income tax rates from 0% to 22%. Additionally, the city-state imposes an 8% Goods and Services Tax (GST) on most goods and services.


Healthcare in Singapore is renowned for its high quality, though it often comes with a substantial cost. Having comprehensive health insurance is essential for residents to mitigate the expenses linked to medical treatment. Healthcare costs vary depending on the type of services needed, but it’s typical for a single visit to a specialist doctor or hospital to exceed SGD 200.


Monthly transportation costs in Singapore vary based on your daily travel distance and choice of transportation. Living closer to work and the city centre can result in lower expenses than commuting from farther locations. Buying a car in Singapore is generally expensive, with additional monthly car-related expenses. For most people, a combination of affordable public transport and occasional ride-hailing services is a practical choice, with an estimated monthly cost of around SGD 100 for public transportation plus an additional SGD 80 for occasional ride-hailing needs.


Singapore is a melting pot of cultures with various traditions and festivals. You will find a welcoming and inclusive society where diversity is celebrated. While many cultural events and attractions are affordable, there are also plenty of upscale options for those looking to indulge in the arts and culture scene.

Simplifying Your Move to Singapore with Expert Relocation Services for Expats

If relocating feels overwhelming, consider seeking assistance from reputable relocation agencies. They can support your entire journey, whether your needs include locating the ideal property, arranging school tours, or logistics services.  

Consider reaching out to the following well-regarded relocation agents:

  • Crown Relocations has been a dedicated advocate for successful global relocation for over 50 years. The company offers comprehensive services, guiding individuals, families, and employees worldwide with expert advice and seamless management throughout the process.
  • LandPlus Group is a distinguished partner in the global relocation management sector and is renowned for its tailored programmes, value-added support and unparalleled service delivery. Its commitment to individualised experiences ensures a seamless transition for each transferee, recognising the uniqueness of every move.
  • Santa Fe Relocation, a Global Mobility company, specialises in managing and delivering top-tier relocation services worldwide. The core competence lies in facilitating seamless relocations for corporations, their employees, and their families, maintaining consistently high standards locally and globally through internal operations and trusted partners.

These relocation agencies can efficiently narrow down suitable properties that align with your preferences, negotiate lease terms on your behalf, and guide you through the rental process. Moreover, they possess in-depth knowledge of the local education landscape, including international schools, local schools, and various curriculum options. They are well-equipped to assist in school selection, support with applications, and navigate admission procedures, ensuring a seamless transition for your children.

Many relocation companies offer supplementary support services to facilitate your family’s adaptation to the new environment. These services may encompass orientation tours, assistance with utility setup, acquisition of essential documents, and connections to vital amenities such as healthcare providers and transportation services. Your relocation journey to Singapore can be made smoother and more manageable with these trusted experts.

Discover XCL World Academy International School in Singapore

Moving abroad as an expat family can be a daunting endeavour, but XCL World Academy (XWA) international school is here to facilitate a smoother transition for both you and your children.

At XWA, we not only offer a rigorous and well-balanced International Baccalaureate (IB) continuum education for students in Singapore but are also fully committed to fostering a nurturing and inclusive learning environment tailored to the specific needs of your children.

Recognising the significance of a seamless transition to a new country and school, we have established a robust support system for both newcomers and existing students. Our experienced Admissions Team and Parent Ambassadors are always ready to connect and answer all your questions regarding international schools in Singapore and how to choose the best curriculum for your child.

Moreover, we are committed to addressing students’ social and emotional well-being during the transition period and beyond. The school offers comprehensive counselling services and social-emotional support, equipping your children with the essential tools to navigate any challenges they may face as they embark on their journey in Singapore.

We go the extra mile to ensure your children feel welcomed and receive comprehensive support. We take pride in offering peer-to-peer support through our Student Ambassadors and Mentors programme, fostering our students’ sense of belonging and camaraderie.

Furthermore, as an expat family, we understand that having a robust support network is crucial. We foster a sense of belonging and encourage parental involvement through parent engagement workshops and community events. Our Parent Engagement And Connection Committee (PEACC), a dedicated parent-run volunteer group, organises engaging events such as family fun days, cultural food fairs, parent coffee social mornings, and more. By participating in these activities, you and your family can connect with other expats in Singapore, share your experiences, seek advice, and forge lasting friendships.

Nestled in a safe residential area surrounded by lush greenery, XWA is conveniently located just a 20-minute drive from Singapore City Centre. Accessible by car, public transport, and MRT, the school is surrounded by various housing options, including condos, townhouses, and HDBs. The area is filled with local markets, hawker centres, cafes, and the Northpoint shopping mall, offering residents and visitors diverse retail and dining choices.

If you are considering relocating to Singapore with your family and looking for an international school for your children, we encourage you to contact our Admissions Team without hesitation. They are available to discuss and guide you through this exciting new journey.

Disclaimer: All fees are accurate as of November 2023; however, prices may undergo annual adjustments. We recommend visiting individual websites for the latest and most accurate information.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using our website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.