A New Arrivals Guide to Settling in Singapore With Kids
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated in any way with any businesses or groups mentioned, unless specified. This is not a sponsored post.
If you're thinking of moving to Singapore / just about to move to Singapore / recently arrived in Singapore and feeling a bit in at the deep end, I gotcha. Two years ago when we moved here I basically didn't really know anyone, and certainly no one with kids. I won't hash out the same old sob story, but it was something of a bewildering, slightly lonely period. I had a toddler with a limited supply of pull ups and a nummy (dummy / pacifier) that kept going awol, and a little boy who refused to eat anything that wasn't white and pasta shaped. Chuck into the mix us finding ourselves jet lagged new arrivals in this hectic city (hectic compared to Devon anyway), and I was rife for some sort of maternal breakdown. So yes, when I say I get it, it's because I really, really do.
Ok, you need to get yourself to an MRT station and get yourself some travel cards. You can buy them elsewhere, but if you have kids under the age of 7, then you need to go to an MRT station for their travel card anyway. So two birds, one stone. Adult travel cards are called EZ-Link cards, and it will cost you $12 ($5 for the card, with $7 ready loaded onto it). You can also buy an EZ-Link card for $10 at convenience stores ($5 for the card, with $5 ready loaded onto it), just in case you're wondering. Then you just top it up as and when needed. You use it by scanning the card as you get on and off buses, the MRT, some taxi's, some coffee shops even. They're not limited to travel, but they're also not accepted everywhere (non-travel related) as a form of payment, but useful to know nonetheless.
Kiddie's under the age of 7 travel free, but they do need their own travel card. They're easy to get, simply pop along to one of the many TransitLink offices (inside MRT stations, full list here) with your child and their passport for the card to be issued. Simple as that. Kids over the age of 7 (expat kids that is) will need an adult EZ-Link card.
Travel with pushchairs is getting easier in Singapore. MRT stations and trains are all spacious and have lift access throughout. Buses however are only just getting on board with facilitating family travel around the island. As of 2nd April 2017, prams were FINALLY allowed on buses without being collapsed. But - this is Singapore - there are rules.
If taking the MRT / buses is too much hassle with little one's, which to be honest, it really is sometimes, then the easiest way to get around is via taxi. If you're using "proper" taxi's (as opposed to Grab cars or other private hire vehicles), then kids don't need a booster seat. But if child safety is top of your agenda then you can use RideSafer Travel Vests here and mi-fold booster seats legally, and they're not SO bad to lug around wherever you go. If you want to use private hire vehicles then legally children under 1.35m need to be "secured with a child restraint appropriate for a person of that height and weight, use a booster seat to supplement the seat belt or an approved adjustable seat belt." It is worth pointing out that you can book a "family" vehicle via Grab, however they typically only provide one booster seat so if you have more than one kid you're still stuck.
This is the BIG one. The easiest way to meet people is to get involved with some of the Facebook groups who have linked meet up's. If you're not on Facebook it's pretty tough, but I'll link all the details anyway...
Buying Baby / Kiddie Supplies
Luckily there are LOTS of options here. Whether it's a bulk delivery of nappies you're after or to try out every brand of pushchair whilst getting expert advice, Singapore has you covered. And it's all very straight forward!
For online / app ordering and home delivery then our favourites are Amazon Prime (2 hour delivery!!!!!!) and Redmart (you have to order a coupe of days in advance typically, but good for weekly groceries). Whereas for shops you can visit, try Motherswork (think John Lewis baby department, but even lovelier AND founded and run by a fellow Mama!) or Mothercare (as in the British high street staple).
Also, somewhat related, if you're looking for a particular brand of formula milk or weening foods (we all have our favourites), but can't find what you're looking for here, then British Corner Shop actually have a GREAT range and of course they deliver to Singapore. We have worked with British Corner Shop before and I can tell you first hand how great their customer service is - if there's something they don't sell which you think they should then let them know! And also, if you want to read my interview with them, you can here!
One Last Thing
It takes time to settle somewhere. And the early days are tough going, even when you think you've conquered life overseas you might have days when you just want (or do) cry for the familiarity of home. Although it will take some effort and energy when you're probably feeling entirely depleted, the absolute best thing you can do for yourself is to meet other people, other mum's. I read somewhere once that expat friendships are equivalent to dog years, so for every one year of an expat friendship, you're at the closeness of a seven year friendship at home. It sounds intense, but when you meet your people it actually feels incredibly normal. And it's a new sense of normality that you need.