The Expat File: Top apps to download if you're new to Singapore

January 03, 2017

Happy 2017 everyone! As we launch into the new year I thought I'll do a different sort of post for a change away from the usual food reviews. This came about because I just met up with a friend who has just moved to Singapore to work for a year. I was trying to explain to him what is Singlish (I really couldn't - scroll down to see someone else who can) and some of the local customs. Then we got into a list of apps that he should download in order to get around and eat better because some of them are different from the US ones and I thought I'll just share the list in this post.

Note that most of these apps (except transport booking and delivery apps) will have desktop versions and are not that essential to keep on your phone if you don't have space.


Transport

1. Grab (App Store | Play Store)

A transport app that's similar to Uber (App Store | Play Store) which is also available in Singapore, Grab is very competitively priced compared to Uber which recently seems to be not as good as before. These apps generally get you cars for 20-30% cheaper than regular cabs especially after midnight and in CBD, though not during surge (you're better off hailing one from the street). There are attractive promos and GrabShare codes which could making getting from point A to B easier. Not many people know this, but Grab also has a GrabTaxi function which can help you book regular cabs (going by the conventional meter, payment by card or cash).

2. ComfortDelGro Taxi Booking App (App Store | Play Store)

When surge pricing hits, try conventional taxi booking via Comfort's app. They are the largest taxi operator in Singapore, so there could be cabs around. Just note that regular taxi drivers are usually more bad-tempered than Uber/Grab but it really depends on your luck.

3. MyTransport App (App StorePlay Store)

Primarily for bus timings and train breakdown notifications for those who take public transport. For locals we can also use Facebook Messenger to ask "Bus Uncle" but his replies are typically very Singlish/local.

Food

1. HungryGoWhere (App StorePlay Store)

Forget about Yelp or TripAdvisor. In Singapore, the de-facto food review site to trust is Singtel-owned HungryGoWhere, which you will see normally on the first page of search results for restaurants as well. The app version's handy for their location search feature. HGW is also available on desktop for those who just want to look at reviews/ratings for a particular restaurant.

2. Food delivery services 

F&B is so competitive in Singapore, even the food delivery services are as well.

Beyond the famous-by-association Uber Eats (App StorePlay Store), which recently started charging a similar delivery fee and only delivers up to a certain radius from the CBD/Central, there's also Deliveroo (App StorePlay Store) and Food Panda (App StorePlay Store).

I find Deliveroo to have the best coverage and options. Food Panda recently launched Food Panda Finest, which apparently offers fine dining options (the logic escapes me though because I would go to a fine dining place also for the ambiance and service...)

3. Restaurant reservations

Should you decide to eat in a restaurant instead, it's best to book ahead first as most popular restaurants will be full. Unless you want to participate in our national past time of queuing, use apps like HungryGoWhere (App Store | Play Store) (there's a reservation button next to those affiliated ones), Chope (App Store | Play Store) or Quandoo (App Store | Play Store) to reserve your spots and even earn points. Each app has their own list of restaurants - best is to Google for the restaurant, look for the HGW listing and also see if the Chope/Quandoo link pops up.

If you are not working during normal weekday 9-5 hours, try the Eatigo app (App Store | Play Store) as well which offers crazy discounts for off-peak reservation dining.

4. Online grocers 

The most famous e-grocer (not a traditional supermarket that went on e-commerce) will be local start up Redmart (App StorePlay Store), which has grown significantly in recent years. During some of their promotional periods you can definitely save more and free delivery is a given with a minimum purchase of $40. Just don't buy cartons of bottled water - tap water in Singapore is perfectly safe for drinking and it is much more environmentally friendly!

Other grocers include HonestBee (App Store | Play Store) which helps you buy from traditional supermarkets and smaller boutique grocers, and then there is your NTUC FairPrice ($7 delivery fee; min. $49 for click and collect and min. $99 for free home delivery) and ColdStorage (S12 delivery fee).

By the way, for on-ground grocery shopping in SingaporeFairPrice is the most ubiquitous supermarket in Singapore you can find in most surburbs, while ColdStorage is the better option for expats when it comes to selection and prices are not that bad either.

Shopping

1. Carousell (App Store | Play Store)

Instead of the antiquated Craigslist (which is still quite popular among expats, I think...), local homegrown startup Carousell is now the default app to buy and sell for everyone in Singapore. You can literally find ANYTHING on it, from furniture to macbook laptops and selling stuff is also a breeze.

2. Qoo10.sg (App Store | Play Store)

Technically I use the desktop version and don't have the app installed, but I just have to include this as a great site to buy little things like iPhone lightning cables and for the more adventurous, clothes. There are official stores for brands like 3M and Dyson so you can get your electronics/homeware online (sometimes cheaper).

Entertainment

1. inSing Movies (App Store | Play Store)

Most people just rely on lifestyle portals like Honeycombers (more female, expat lifestye) or TheSmartLocal (more local, students-centric) to find out what to do in Singapore. But Singaporeans' favourite past time is to watch movies. Use the app to check out movie timings and be linked to the respective apps to book your tickets (advisable during peak hours).

Golden Village has the most number of cinemas spread across the island and is the cheapest for some timings, while Cathay has more theatres in town (e.g. Cineleisure at Somerset, The Cathay at Dhoby Ghaut). Shaw has theatres in Lido (Orchard) and Suntec (City Hall).

2. The Entertainer App 2017 Singapore (App Store | Play Store)

Actually more for food and drinks, the Singapore Entertainer App 2017 acts like a virtual coupon booklet which gives you one-for-one discounts to loads of restaurants, cafes and bars (with their Cheers app). Since its the start of the year, it's great value to buy now (for S$125, get $20 off with promo code MONEYSMART2017). But since it is called the Entertainer App, I listed it here lor... :P

Bonus entertainment - the Singapore version of SIRI in Singlish according to mrbrown, the blogfather of Singapore and the differences between lah, leh, and lor in this Straits Times article.



Enjoy! Hope you found this list useful and do share with your friends if it is.

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