Continuing from my previous blog post, I am going to talk about our experience on the location, Utilities and phone services
After you have decided on the type of accommodation, you must also decide on the location. Few people who work in Central Business District (the CBD, in the south central part of the island) have the luxury of being able to walk to work, as there are few houses or apartments in the area. However, there is an abundance of real estate within a10 minute drive.
Popular areas include River Valley Road, which is lined with condos, and Orchard Road, Singapore’s main shopping street, where there are condos and a few houses – including the gorgeous shophouses at Emerald Hill, which are just behind the many shopping malls. Tanglin Road is at the top end of Orchard Road and has condos and some fabulous houses. However, these are prime neighbourhoods and prices are high.
A little further west are the cosmopolitan Bukit Timah and Holland Village, which are popular with expats, although there are also many locals in the area. There are plenty of good restaurants and bars in these areas and they are close to some international schools, which all adds to their appeal. Transport links are also improving, with a new MRT station due to open soon. While properties in Bukit Timah and Holland Village have a high price tag, areas like Queenstown and Clementi, which are nearby, are more affordable.
The area East Coast, which runs along the southeast coast towards the airport, also has its fans. Proximity to the airport and East Coast Park, with its beach restaurants, picnic areas and bike paths, are big selling points. New condos lining the East Coast Parkway have ocean views and excellent amenities, and the homes often have more outdoor space than those centrally located. Rents are also much lower here, although that’s not enough incentive to move east for some who find the 20- to 30-minute drive into the city too far. Woodlands, further north and a 30- to 40-minute drive away, is also popular with American expats, mainly because of its proximity to American School.
Sorting out utilities should be hassle-free as service providers in Singapore are generally well organised and efficient. Electricity is supplied by SP Services, who also act as agents for the Water Authority. One of Singapore’s three telephone companies (Singtel, Starhub and M1) can provide you with a landline. There is not much choice between them. Starhub can also provide you with a cable connexion TV which expats are usually very happy to install: The local channels show some popular American and British series and movies, but many programmes are produced locally and are quite lowbrow. Your real estate agent can help you contact the appropriate provider. You may need to provide them with a copy of your work ID and lease as proof of residency. Itemised bills will be sent to you on a monthly basis.
Mobile phones are something of an obsession in Singapore: almost everyone has one. Although mobile phones, or cell phones as they are called here, can be expensive, calls are relatively cheap by international standards. There are also great discounts if you take out a subscription for a fixed period, as opposed to buying a prepaid card SIM. The market is highly competitive and there are always new offers.
Accommodation in Singapore often includes a maid’s room, although you might mistake it for a broom closet. Many locals and expats have a maid in the house. Most are from the Philippines, some are from Indonesia or Sri Lanka and almost all speak English to a greater or lesser degree. The role of the maid is negotiable. Some employ their maid to cook and clean.
Others, especially families where both parents work, employ a maid mainly to watch their children. Most maids do a little of both. Although many expats are initially uncomfortable with the idea of having a stranger living in their home, those who take the plunge are overwhelmingly happy with their decision. However, many choose not to and do quite well without.
If you do decide to hire a maid, contact an agency that will find you a maid for a fee, or look for recommendations on bulletin boards in shopping malls that are popular with expats. Expats leaving the country will advertise the availability of their maid to help her find work: If the maid does not find new employment, her former employer will have to pay for her repatriation (a maid can only stay in Singapore for as long as she is employed, plus a short time to look for new work after her employment ends, so you may have to repatriate her all the way back to her home country).
Whether you find a maid through an agency, a bulletin board, or word of mouth, it’s always a good idea to interview the maid at least once and talk to the former employer to get their honest opinion about the maid’s strengths and weaknesses. A good maid is a wonderful luxury that doesn’t cost the earth and is worth investing in.