Tips for International Students: Navigating Room Rentals in Singapore

A fresh start for a new chapter.

Congrats! You’ve gotten into the course you wanted and the university in Singapore you’ve always dreamed of. Getting accepted into your dream university is half the battle won. The next step? Finding a room for rent in Singapore (unless you can afford a studio for rent in Singapore). Here’s how you can navigate room rentals in Singapore. And then you can hit the ground running as soon as you’re fresh off the plane and build the life you want.

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The Rental Market in Singapore

Out of all the different apartments for rent in Singapore, there are three main types of housing for room rentals: public housing flats built by the Housing Department Board (HDB), private apartments in condo developments, and serviced apartments.

You can find HDB room rentals across the city, whether you’re studying in the Western edges or Eastern Edges of Singapore. If you don’t mind living further away from campus, you can consider room rentals in the suburbs of HDB estates on the Northern, Western and Eastern edges of Singapore.

If you’d like a more lavish environment, consider a room in a Singapore condo rental. Most private condominiums have premium recreational facilities such as swimming pools, tennis courts, and fitness centres. Some of them even come with squash courts and saunas. Location-wise, these private housing are scattered across Singapore. You can find plenty of these alternative housing options with proximity to universities.

For those seeking a hassle-free experience, you can find serviced apartments. For Singapore or condo HDB room rentals, you might have to negotiate the inclusion of home amenities. Sometimes, these private accommodation rentals in Singapore might not come with electronics such as a television, or they restrict access to using the kitchen. But with Singapore serviced apartments, including co-living spaces, you can find room rentals that are fully furnished. In fact, modern co-living spaces often come with plush communal spaces to encourage interactions between tenants.

Not only that, the living spaces in these furnished accommodation rentals often come with air conditioning, fully-equipped kitchen, as well as high-speed Wi-Fi. Some serviced apartment providers (like MetroResidences!) even additional services, such as laundry services and housekeeping services. But no matter what form of accommodation you’re looking at, it’s all about what you need.

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Rental Prices in Singapore

HDB Room Rental

Of course for full-time students, the cheaper and more convenient option is to rent student accommodations within the campus. But off-campus housing costs needn’t be too expensive. The more affordable housing options are in the public housing sector, where homeowners of the Housing Development Board (HDB) flats rent out their rooms. Often, you can find an HDB room rental in Singapore at around S$500 to $800. However, if you’re closer to the city fringe neighbourhoods like Farrer Park or Holland Village, rents can go up to $1,000 or more.

Singapore Condo Room Rental

There aren’t many affordable studio apartments around. That said, Room rentals in private apartments usually cost around $1,000 to $1,500 for suburban areas, while rents in the city fringe might go up to $2,000 to $2,500. Of course, if you’re in the middle of Orchard Road or the city centre (look at you!), monthly rents for 1-bedroom apartments or studio apartments may be as high as $5,000 to $8,000.

Serviced Apartments and Co-Living Spaces

Most serviced studio apartments start at around $3,500, and most of them are in the city fringe. Whereas one-bedroom Singapore serviced apartments go for above $4,200 a month.

Co-living spaces are often more available and affordable. You can find prices hovering around $2,000 for locations around the city fringe.  

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Understand Different Lease Terms

If you’re looking to study in Singapore, you’re not likely to search for short-term accommodations. Even diploma courses last between 6 months and 8 months for private universities like MDIS or Kaplan. Depending on your course duration, you can consider lease terms of 6 months to a year as you rent properties in Singapore.

If you’re planning to complete your Master’s Degree, or even a PhD (wow!), you can even consider a 2-year lease as you search for accommodations. If you want to continue working in Singapore, you may want to look for studio apartments, or even one-bedroom apartments. That way, you can lock down a furnished apartment in Singapore that you can call home for years to come. For those on a tighter budget, a longer lease term for a room for rent in Singapore can help you reduce rental costs in the long run.

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Get Ahead of Rental Jargons

Beyond the hassle of searching for private apartments in Singapore, you’ve got to be familiar with the different industry terms. With high property prices in Singapore, it’s best to know what you’re getting into, especially when you’re staying long-term. After all, most rental agreements will absorb your rental deposit if you break their lease. Fret not, we’ve compiled 10 of these rental jargons that you commonly see in Singapore.

But to get you started, here are 5 common jargon that landlords and property agents use in Singapore:

1. Good Faith Deposit

A good faith deposit is a small amount of money that you pay to the landlord to demonstrate their genuine interest in renting the property. It usually won’t amount to over $500 (so beware if they do!). It helps signal your commitment and is usually refundable if the tenancy agreement is not finalised.

2. Letter of Intent

A Letter of Intent (LOI) expresses the intention to rent the property. It outlines proposed terms and conditions, including the rental price, lease period, and any special requests. This document isn’t legally binding, but it’s a common practice that serves as a basis for negotiations and is another way for you to signal your commitment. Think of this as a precursor to the formal tenancy agreement, where it helps both parties establish mutual understanding before proceeding with the rental process.

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3. Diplomatic Clause

This provides flexibility to tenants on fixed-term leases who may need to terminate the tenancy prematurely due to specific circumstances. For international students, it may be because of family emergencies, or that you decide to stop studying.

Most rental agreements include this, but do keep a lookout either way. Because the diplomatic clause allows for the termination of the lease without penalties, though it’s usually subject to certain conditions and notice periods.

4. Security Deposit

You’d have to pay for this one. The security deposit is a sum of money paid to the landlord as a form of security against damages or unpaid rent. It is typically refunded at the end of the tenancy, barring any outstanding obligations such as repairs or unpaid bills.

The amount usually depends on the length of the lease. A one-year lease often commands a one-month deposit, while a two-year lease commands a two-month deposit. Most of the time, it’s taken from the good faith deposit, along with a top-up of the remaining amount.

5. Inventory List

An inventory list is a comprehensive documentation of the condition and contents of the property at the beginning of the tenancy. The tenant and landlord can use it to document any damages or missing items, which helps to reduce disputes during the move-out inspection. For a fair assessment of the property’s condition, both parties must carefully review and agree upon the inventory list. Typically, the property agent will review the inventory list with you prior to your move into the Singapore condo rental.

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Furnished vs Unfurnished Apartments

The accommodation for students already comes with furnishing for most of the time. Even single-bedroom co-living accommodations come furnished. Finding furnished apartments in Singapore is often the more convenient way of staying for longer rental periods, since you don’t need to find furniture.

But, if you’re up for it, you can find more affordable accommodation if you rent an unfurnished apartment in Singapore. You won’t need to buy kitchen appliances, since it’s usually included in the apartment. We suppose there’s always IKEA after all.

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Solo Living vs. Shared Spaces

We probably don’t need to explain too much about having your own bedroom rental in Singapore: you get your own peace and quiet, on your own terms.

But if you’re looking for a cheap room for rent in Singapore, you might have to deal with less-than-satisfactory roommates or housemates. While you can take it up with the landlords, they may not be the most effective either.

If you can tolerate it, you can look to room-share platforms like Homates. Or, you can find Facebook groups where people post their room-sharing listings. For queer international students, one option is to look at Singapore LGBTQ+ Property Listings, by Haus of Pride.

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Getting Around

If you haven’t known by now, you will very soon. Singapore’s public transportation system is world-renowned; cosmopolitans across the world has copied. There are bus stops everywhere you go. With the latest Thomson-East Coast Line, the MRT system now covers 130 local stations.

Not to mention, some of those stations have direct access to universities. For example, the National University of Singapore is near Kent Ridge MRT. Singapore Management University is near Bencoolen MRT and Bras Basah MRT, as with Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. More are in the pipeline—Nanyang Technical University will have its own station on the upcoming Jurong Region Line.

To travel between the different MRT lines and bus services, all you need is an EZ-link card. Nowadays, you can simply pay your transport fare via your debit card or credit card on Apple Pay or Google Pay.

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How much does it cost to live in Singapore for international students?

It might not be the first time you’ve heard of it, and it won’t for long if you hear ramblings about it too: Singapore is the second most expensive in the world. Most of the time, your budget will be tied up in rental costs, and then spread across your lifestyle needs.

Here are some of the costs that you’d need to consider as an international student in Singapore:

Expenses TypeAverage cost in SGD
Internet usage (8mbps speed)$45 per month
Cost of Books & Stationery$150 per annum
Single visit to a public polyclinic$50 per visit
Meal at a restaurant$20 per meal
Street food or meal for 1 at a fast-food restaurant$4-$8 per meal
Utility bills for one person in a Studio Apartment (Approx 480 square feet)$94 per month
Utility bills for 2 people in 900 square feet apartment$158 per month/ $79 per person
Hourly rate for house help (house cleaning)$18
Cost of a taxi trip$13 for five miles
Toiletries (shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, toilet paper etc.)$20 per month
2 tickets to the movies$26 (usually at student discounts)
Short visit to a private doctor$57 per visit


Getting the monthly rent right is only one part of living in a rental property in Singapore. This is the first taste of being an adult. It’s scary to think and plan for so many new things. So take it one step at a time. Pretty soon, the apartment block you walk to everyday will become your home away from home.


MetroResidences—A Trusted Name in Singapore’s Furnished Accommodations Landscape

Looking for your home away from home? Our Singapore apartment rentals and serviced apartments are perfect for a longer period of stay. We have properties in luxury developments across Singapore’s most coveted addresses: Bugis, Bukit Timah, Shenton Way, and Novena.

And, you can rest easy at any of our properties. We adhere to our strict Property Standards that account for the comfort and cleanliness of all our serviced apartments. Our fully-furnished apartments come with amenities like wi-fi, air conditioners, and a fully-equipped kitchen.

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