How I prepped for my big move to Singapore

It’s been a crazy last few weeks packing and moving but I finally landed in Singapore last night! As you might imagine, there’s a lot that goes into a big move like this. I’ve been keeping track of all of the decisions I’ve made along the way. Hopefully this is helpful for anyone thinking about making a similar move to Singapore.

Employment pass

In order to work as an expat in Singapore, you need a work permit. There are different tiers depending on your needs, but your salary is one determining factor. You can learn more on the Ministry of Manpower website.

My HR team handled most of the work getting the employment pass. As part of the process, I signed a letter of secondment (not pronounced second-ment) that outlines the terms of my employment under our Singapore business entity. I also filled out a form with standard questions about my passport, work authorization, etc. The only odd thing that stuck out to me was that I had to provide proof of my education via college diploma.

Phone plan and other tech stuff

Possibly the biggest mental hurdle the last few weeks was switching from iOS to Android. I wanted to keep my phone number (partly for two-step verification) and have easy access to data in all the countries I visit without having to worry about picking up SIM cards. Switching to Google Fi was a no-brainer, since you have access to data in over 200 countries. As a treat to myself, I picked up a Pixel 3 on sale for $200 off, so I should have some nice photos for you all. If you’re interested in Google Fi, you can sign up via my referral link (we both get $20 off).

I already had WhatsApp on my phone from my last UK trip but was reminded by my friend Ian that this is what everyone uses to communicate.

Singapore uses a type G power plug adapter, the same as the UK. Our IT helpdesk sent me a few to use in the office. Due to the different voltage, I won’t be able to bring my CHI flat iron, which makes me a little sad because my hair needs all the help it can get to combat the humidity!

Picture of Charles Schwab card, Citi card, & type G travel adapter

Banks & credit cards

I already own more than a few credit cards with no foreign transaction fee, so I brought those along. My favorite cards are the Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points since you can transfer to partners like United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and Hyatt Hotels.

For cash, I love using Charles Schwab because you can use ATM’s around the world essentially fee-free (they refund you ATM fees at the end of the month). Earlier this year I had borrowed my sister’s card to use in China & Japan and it worked like a breeze. I opened my own Charles Schwab checking account recently and found out they were running a promo: if you are referred by an existing member, you will receive a $100 signup bonus (got mine last week). You can sign up through my link if you’re interested.

Finally, I set up travel notices for all of my cards. Fingers crossed I don’t run into any issues withdrawing cash anywhere.

Plane travel

I booked the longest flight in the world – 18 hr, 45 min – in Premium Economy on Singapore Airlines from Newark to Singapore. More to come on that experience in my next blog post 🙂

Since I was moving from Chicago, I did the math and found that it was a shorter total flight time connecting in NYC versus LA or SF. Not to mention, I’ve had terrible luck in over 50% of my flights between Chicago & SF having delay/cancellations and wanted to avoid being stuck in SF for a night.

Travel vaccines

I submitted a travel form through One Medical, my primary care clinic, listing which countries I intended to visit around Southeast Asia. They sent me back information on vaccines and medications that I may need. I then made an appointment and went in and got my vaccines. Since vaccines are preventive care, my insurance covered the cost 100%.

Research on living

This is the fun part! While there are countless blog posts out there that warn you about the humidity, I wanted to get a sense of what else I should know about living in Singapore, as an expat or local. Here are my favorite resources, which I’d recommend for expats in any city.

Refinery29 Money Diaries – These are fun to read if you like to live vicariously through others, judge other people’s financial decisions, or want to get an accurate sense of cost of living. These diaries provide a detailed perspective of what women living in Singapore actually spend on a weekly budget and also where they shop, eat, and workout because that’s also important 🙂

Facebook Expat groups – There are tons of expat groups, including some niche ones, but I’ve found the largest, most active groups to be the most helpful. These have been an amazing resource in allowing me to passively pick up knowledge in my news feed about whether Bintan or Batam is a better vacation spot, how you should make sure your letter of intent (for renting) includes a diplomatic clause, and much more.

Screenshot of Singapore Expats Facebook group

Instagram hashtags & location – I have used these to spy on views inside an office or hotel and check out pictures of the delicious food.

YouTube videos – After a lot of reading, I wanted to watch videos to see even more of Singapore. I started off with some Singapore travel guides and then spent an entire Saturday night watching videos about hawker food… One of my favorite channels is CupOfTJ. She has tons of food guides throughout Asia’s biggest food cities!

Reaching out to my friend Ian – It’s always nice when you can get advice from someone who already lives there. Thanks for answering my many questions, Ian.

So, that’s what has been keeping me busy. And now that I’m here, there are still many more things I have to do like get a bank account and a local number for phone calls. If you have any tips, please share in the comments.