First week in Singapore, Things to do. The basics!

Hello Folks,

Thought of writing this blog for the expats who are new to Singapore.

Read about Singapore: wikisome pics

1: Get a local mobile connection/sim:
call charges can be pricey or cheap depending on where you are coming from, [for a comparison, local call typically costs around 8-16 cents/min where as in India it is 1.8 cents/min]
Getting a prepaid sim is very simple and hassle free, there are three main telecom providers in Singapore SingtelStarHubM1. [Singtel has good coverage and reception, M1 is cheapest and Starhub is good mobile and tv packages.(subjective opinion).]. You can get sim card at any of their respective outlets, or in any 7-eleven stores spread across the city/island/country.
If you are like me and wondering why your international roaming isn't working? Well! it turns out I had to manually select the network operator.
    • For Data: there are top-up/recharge cards for cheaper data/internet access.
    • For International calling: There are recharge cards (eg: Singtel's superhot-128, and similar from Starhub or M1) which allows you to make cheap? international calls at local call rates, through VOIP. [remember to dial "019 + country code + phone number" (018 for starhub) to make use of this or else it will be charged as normal international call]
    • One more option for you is to buy a calling card (Hello Card). [So that you can dial a pre-code or opt for a dial back option]
   If you are planning to stay around 2 years or more, then you can go for postpaid connections with contracts. [and get amazing handsets you fancy.] (You should have EP with required validity for Singtel postpaid contract, check with other operators for their respective T&C]. Or go for Sim-only plans to be contract-free.

[Communications ]

2: Get an MRT card:
Travelling can be quite pleasing or utterly irritating depending on whether you do/don't have an MRT card. It is a prepaid card, EZ-Link is the major card operator. You can get these cards and also top-ups from any MRT/tube stations nearby, and also 7-eleven.
Advantages of having MRT: The card is used to tap in and out of bus/MRT stations and fare will be deducted automatically. But, if you don't, you have to drop exact change in the box when you board a bus for ticket (as there is no provision for getting change back) and the driver/bus captain need to calculate the exact fare depending on distance. Which will be quite inconvenient for others and yourself too.

From any of the MRT stations' Passenger -service counters you can get a nicely folded MRT map leaflet. Or download the MRT map on your phone from internet.

Mobile apps that help you getting around Singapore, (in addition to google maps):
Android - Street directory  [gives time, cost and directions for travelling from one place to other using MRT, Bus, cab etc]
MyTransport SG [Give bus arrival timings at any bus stop via GPS, bus services, schedules etc]

And forgot to mention, the MRT and bus services are nicely integrated. So, no matter if you take the connecting trains, busses or an combination it is treated as on contiguous journey and charged accordingly on  KM basis. (free rides anyone?)

[Transportation ]

3: Collect your EP:
You need to get your EP applied and schedule an appointment with the EPSC (MoM) . for getting your fingerprint scanned and submitting photographs (you can get your photograph taken there for a charge around 6$).  The whole process takes about 15 - 20 mins [timings Mon-Fri 8AM-5.15pm or Sat 8AM-12pm] After 4 working days you can go and collect your EP card.
.      [Employee Pass ]

4: Aaah, the Bank Account:
There are quite a few banks in Singapore, you can open an account with any of them. For starters, you can read this blog to get an idea and for comparison. You can look for bank branches, ATM's (both in terms of their numbers and accessibility) and get the account in your desired bank.
    • Many banks need you to maintain minimum monthly balance for personal savings account.
    • Withdrawing cash from some other bank's ATM attracts charge (typically 2$ per transaction)
    • Some banks offer cheap alternatives for international money transfers (via VISA direct pay etc)
You need to carry your EP and photographs for getting a bank account/Debit card etc. In most banks, at least in DBS the whole process typically takes half an hour to one hour, and you walk out with starter kit [Debit card/ATM pin, RSA token, they setup your internet banking account and explain you the details, by the way, you can use the DBS Debit Card as your NETS card, MRT card etc. for convenience]

[Banking ]

5: Stay:
     Relocating to Singapore might involve you to find your own accommodation. Singapore is considered to be one of the costliest places to live as far as accommodation is concerned.

     You have the following options to find a place to live in Singapore.
          1. Renting out a Condo [Condominiums] 
          2. Rending out a HDB unit.
     There are pro's and con's for the above two options:
     Condos: They are the pricey/fancy option. If you need a above decent-to-luxurious place to live, with all the facilities [gym, swimming pool, 24hr security, fancy interiors, central business district] then Condos      make sense. They are roughly 50% costly than your average HDB.
     HDB: If you want a budget-to-decent place to live in, and can compromise on the facilities then you have the HDBs. The rentals are economical and have a flexibility/availability to choose from.

     [If you are single, you can also explore the option of flat-share where you can sub-let/rent a Master room or a common room, the difference between Master and Common is ensuite bathrooms.]
    propertyguru seems to a starting point for most in their home search.
     Note: Be prepared to shell out something like 0.5 month rent equivalent as agent commission for a 1 year contract. Or 1 month rent equivalent for a 2 year contract.

Some more points:
  1. Singapore uses Type G power socket bring a suitable adapter if yours is different.
  2. Major provision/grocery stores are FairPrice, Cold storageSheng Siong and if you are from India you would like to visit Mustafa Center in Little India

Hope that helps, and Enjoy your stay!


Munnar.. the marvel of the south!

Munnar can be truly said as a marvel of the South. It is a hill-station covered by lush greenery, that you feel like a feast to your eye. Munnar can easily be reached from either Coimbatore, TN. or from Cochin (Kochi), you can feel that the weather has completely transformed at about just 10 kms from Munnar.

Munnar is that one place where you can comfortably spend a week without getting bored, it has so many things to offer. If there is any true paradise in south, it got to be Munnar.

There is trekking, boating, and even you can get on to an elephant :) The scenic beauty of lush green plantations which carpets almost all the hills as far as your eyes can see. You will have a pleasant journey throughout Munnar.

You will be amazed by the view of the gigantic mountains from the "top point". There are waterfalls, there are trekking trails, there is that freshness in air and cool weather even in mid summer, that you feel like spending more time.

It is a place worth visiting several times.


Marvellous Manali

Manali.. said to be one of the most beautiful destinations in India, it is neither too cold as Leh, Ladakh nor warm as other 'hill stations' during summers in other parts of India. I never realised that India has so many hidden treasures, which naturally raised questions like why Indian travellers go to other countries when there is so much to explore in India itself.

Manali is a hill station in Himachal Pradesh one of the last states in the northern most India. Himachal derived from "Him-achal" means "Icy-drape". Manali like many other hill stations in India is one among the group of hill stations. Kulu is another hill station which is highly thronged with population and you can see all the slopes filled with houses, but contrary to Kulu, Manali is much cooler and much serene.

Once in Manali you will get the glimpse of the snow covered mountains and cool air surrounding you. There is snow even in mid summer and hence the "peak" period is May-June-July. There are loads of places to visit and many trekking trails. The place is filled with apple orchards which also bear fruit in the months of June-July which provide a magnificent views.

Manali also has many sporting activities like para gliding, zorbing and snow skiing. You could spend couple of weeks easily here and never feel bored. It takes nearly 12 hrs from Delhi and about 6 hrs from chandigarh. Many people prefer to visit Shimla as well which is very near.

No doubt, Manali can be easily said as one of the beautiful places to visit in India.

Travel from Chennai to Tirupathi

This weekend, I had taken my new baby (CBZ Xtreme) for a ride to the abode of Lord Venkateswara. This is my first long distance ride (at least in my view ;-)) on my new bike, some 300+ Km in total.

The ride was an absolute bliss but, may be my heart wanted more. 150cc wasn't enough to rev up on those highways, my stock CBZ maxed out at 110.

When I planned my trip, thanks to Google Maps, I assumed National Highways to be well maintained than state highways, but on the contrary it is the other way round :)

Driving through the green backyards of India, still the home of pleasant weather and picturesque scenes home of the eastern ghats, reached the foot hills of tirumala-tirupati in well over 3 hrs. The ride on the ghat roads which can be counted among the well maintained in the country was an absolute bliss, the 22 odd km on those mountainous ranges was a treat to the eye.

While returning though, once outside of tirupati the roads were engulfed in absolute darkness, I may be expecting a little too much from the "National Highways", still sagging in two lanes. Alas, we call India shining though we don't have any lights on the Highways.

I would suggest any one who are in proximity to ride to Tirupathi. It's just magnificent. A ride of a lifetime.