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Upper Seletar Rocket
Photograph: T.H. Chia/Unsplash

The best free things to do in Singapore

Free exhibitions, attractions and more – here's how to spend nothing in one of the world's most expensive city

Written by
Cam Khalid
,
Delfina Utomo
&
Nicole-Marie Ng
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The best things in life are free – and we couldn't agree more, especially when we're looking to save some dough while still having fun. A lot has been said about how expensive it is to live or vacation in Singapore, but that doesn't mean you have to break the bank. From enjoying ticketless art exhibitions and offbeat attractions to exploring Singapore's great outdoors, here's how to live it up the city gratuitously.

RECOMMENDED: 101 best things to do in Singapore and things to do in Singapore this week

  • Attractions
  • Public spaces
  • Marine Parade

The iconic former Big Splash water theme park reopens as Coastal PlayGrove, a 4.5-hectare outdoor play area featuring Singapore's tallest outdoor play tower, a classroom by the sea, a nature play garden and water play area. The centrepiece of Coastal PlayGrove is the reconstructed Big Splash Tower, which now houses the Vertical Challenge. Kids can take a scramble up its colourful rope-based obstacles, including stepping pods, hammocks, grip wall and disc swings. Be treated to expansive views of East Coast Park at the top of the tower, then take a thrilling ride down the 7.3-metre and 11.9-metre slides from the third and fourth levels. 

  • Things to do
  • Mandai

No doubt, alfresco restaurants and bars are great for unwinding under the stars. But when it comes to catching astronomical wonders, it’s best to take it to Upper Seletar Reservoir. The highlight of this 15-hectare space is its 18-metre-tall lookout tower which looks like a rocket ship. Burn some calories with a quick cardio workout by climbing up the tower's winding stairs and be awarded with an aerial view of the park's water body, surrounding greenery and the starry sky come nighttime.

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  • Things to do
  • Bukit Panjang

The central part of the Rail Corridor has recently reopened, so strap on your best shoes for some exploring. Besides its lush natural landscapes, the Rail Corridor is also known for its rich heritage. The railway line was used for commuting and transporting goods between Singapore and Malaysia from the beginning of the 20th century until 2011. And now it has been enhanced for easy access. Look forward to the sensitive restoration of landmarks like the Bukit Timah Railway Station and two steel truss railway bridges, lookout decks to soak up nature’s beauty, and paths to immerse in the rainforest experience.

  • Things to do
  • Changi 

The newly opened 3.5-kilometre Changi Airport Connector allows you to cycle, skate, run, jog, and walk to Jewel Changi Airport and the terminals from East Coast Park or any of the Park Connector Network (PCN), and vice versa. It’s also home to the city’s largest permanent outdoor display of life-sized dinosaurs Changi Jurassic Mile, as well as pit stop facility Hub & Spoke where you can rent bicycles from GoCycling, cool off with a pay-per-use shower after a sweat session, and dine under the stars at Hub & Spoke Café which offers a menu that captures a colourful, multi-cultural variety – from toast and kopi to eggs Benedict and bubble tea.

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  • Attractions
  • Beaches
  • Central

Siloso Beach illuminates every weekend from 7.30pm to 10.30pm with the immersive light and sound show Magical Shores. The multi-sensory experience also invites you to interact with light art on the sandy beach, inspired by diverse elements ranging from water flow to marine creatures. Whirl around and see the striking visual effects change on the sand, or take a breather and soak up the light and sound symphony which accentuates the beauty of Sentosa's landscape. Remember to book a time slot online before heading down.

  • Things to do
  • Changi 

What’s more relaxing than a seaside stroll under a blanket of stars, complete with the sea breeze and calming sounds of the crashing waves? Start at Changi Creek in the east before traversing the 2.2-kilometre stretch which looks out to neighbouring Johor. At sundown, the path is illuminated with pretty lights. In the day, you can catch bumboats taking day-trippers out to Pulau Ubin, and some wildlife as you pass by Changi Beach. It also makes a great vantage point of the stunning sunset (or sunrise).

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Rochor

Cuturi Gallery has moved into a beautiful conservation shophouse in the ethnic enclave of Kampong Gelam in the bigger Bugis area (which has been named the coolest neighbourhood in Singapore, ICYMI). The new gallery space echoes its starting grounds on Scotts Road, with streamlined and minimalistic interiors that don't take away from the main highlight: the artworks themselves. Chin-stroke your way through exhibitions of French artist Louis Granet and local arist Marla Bendini.

  • Things to do
  • Bukit Panjang

New to the hiking game? Start with the 63-hectare Dairy Farm Nature Park. The main trail is paved, so you don't have to rough it out Bear Grylls-style with the little ones. Make your way to the Wallace Education Centre for hands-on activities and exhibits that tell the story of Dairy Farm’s changing landscapes. Keep a lookout for the striking red and yellow heliconias as well as the monkeys, pangolins, and butterflies along the way. For a chance to spot rare species of dragonflies and the critically endangered birds known as Little Grebe, head towards the scenic Singapore Quarry at the park’s south-western end.

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  • Things to do
  • Bedok

If you want to channel your inner Tony Hawk by the sea, then Xtreme SkatePark will suit you well. This all-inclusive, 1.4-hectare skate park is designed to fit into the beach setting and has areas for both novices and pros. It's decked with a combo bowl, a vertical bowl, and a street course featuring a mix of obstacles for skaters to nail their flips, grinds, and other gravity-defying tricks. Not only for skater boys (and girls), the park also welcomes BMX enthusiasts and their two-wheelers.

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  • Things to do
  • Lim Chu Kang

Strap on your best walking shoes and trudge through the swamps of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve to learn more about the flora and fauna that call this mangrove forest home. This wetland reserve of mangrove swamps, ponds, and the secondary forest is also home to 140 species of birds. Take a spot at the observation hides or BYOB (bring your own binoculars) to bird-watch. There are also nature trails where you can also spot mudskippers, monkeys, and climbing crabs on the mangrove boardwalks. But keep a lookout for warning signs about the estuarine crocodiles – they’re known to be around the area albeit uncommon.

  • Things to do
  • Tuas

Journey to the far end of the north for a sight to behold. Located at the tip of our Raffles Marina's breakwater, the charming 12-metre lighthouse overlooks the Tuas Second Link bridge, and lights the way for yachts navigating into and out of the marina. After soaking up the stunning scenery complete with the sea view and breeze, head to Raffles Marina Club and take a relaxing stroll along the promenade. While you're at it, check out the luxe yachts docked at the marina.

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Cross the oldest bridge in Singapore
Photograph: Shutterstock

Cross the oldest bridge in Singapore

The title of 'the oldest bridge in Singapore that exists in its original form' is none other than Cavenagh Bridge. The city's only suspension bridge links the Civic District on the northern bank to the Commercial District on the southern bank of the Singapore River. Built in 1869, it was originally named Edinburgh Bridge after the Duke of Edinburgh’s visit. But it later became Cavenagh when it was named after the last India-appointed Governor of the Straits Settlement, Sir Orfeur Cavenagh. The Cavenagh coat of arms and original signages still stand at each end of the bridge that's still used by pedestrians. Based on the vintage police notices that are still up, no vehicles – even cattle and horses – are allowed to cross to this date.

  • Things to do
  • Punggol

This peaceful park offers four unique themes with something in-store for visitors of all ages. The Nature Cove features a picturesque view of the waterway, with areas for families to spend lazy Sundays on the grass. At the Recreation Zone, little ones can let loose with activities like water play and sand play, while the rest of the family gets a workout at the fitness corner. The Heritage Zone offers gorgeous greenery along the stretch of the old Punggol Road where families can take a walk down memory lane, and the Green Gallery consists of a peaceful trail along the park's natural terrain.

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Take on the Coast-to-Coast (C2) Trail
Photograph: Reiner Kraemer/Flickr

Take on the Coast-to-Coast (C2) Trail

One for the adventurous sort, strap on your outdoor gear, and escape the urban gridlock for the 36-kilometre Coast-to-Coast (C2C) Trail. It cuts across the island and links Coney Island in the northeast to Jurong Lake Gardens in the west. If you're feeling ambitious and adventurous, journey through some of the best parks and nature reserves in Singapore like Bukit Batok Nature Park, MacRitchie Reservoir, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, and Singapore Botanic Gardens. Keep your eyes peeled for quarry lakes, parts of an old cemetery, and rustic forests along the way. If you're lucky, you might also spot Singapore's otter family at the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and rare migratory birds at Coney Island. Be sure to use the roadside paths and park connectors to navigate your way around. Oh, and don't forget to pack a bottle of water and stay hydrated.

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Raffles Place

There's an alternative way to soak up some nature without having to brave through the heat – or rain. A relaxing and scenic drive down one of Singapore's heritage roads is definitely the comfier option – think leather seat and air-conditioner – to be one with nature and learn a thing or two about the road's past. Roads including Arcadia Road, Mount Pleasant Road, Mandai Road, South Buona Vista Road, and Lim Chu Kang Road are lined with mature trees that form the backbone of the city's landscape and are a result of over 40 years of dedicated care and growth.

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  • Sport and fitness
  • Kallang

The massive sports enclosure has everything from an Olympic-sized pool, a sheltered running track, a water sports centre, a sports library, and more for you to get your fitness on. It also hosts various sports programmes and mass exercise sessions like Zumba and yoga for free. After, check out the adjoining three-storey mall complete with a rooftop water park and even a vertical playground for climbing enthusiasts called Kallang Wave – named after the classic crowd gesture seen at football matches during Singapore’s footballing heydays.

  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours
  • City Hall

Take a breather from the retail jungle of Funan and step out (and up) to the Urban Farm operated by Edible Garden City – who has long championed the grow-your-own-food movement in Singapore. Located on the seventh storey of Funan is an 18,000-square-foot Food Garden where you can find more than 50 types of fruits and vegetables including mushrooms, edible flowers, okra, basil, mint, watermelon, lemongrass and passionfruit. The urban farm is also open to the public (one of the few!) and is a space where visitors can learn how vegetables are produced and harvested. 

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Things to do
  • Literary events
  • Rochor

With a central borrowing library, reference library and a digital library in tow, National Library aims to be more than just a place for book-reading. Showered with architectural awards before it had even opened, the building is designed as two towers, linked by walkways and walled almost entirely with glass. Head to level 11 for its latest permanent exhibition, The News Gallery: Beyond Headlines. The exhibition is divided into five zones and features original copies of Singapore's earliest newspapers – even those from the 1820s – and a fun, fake news-busting game for the whole family.

  • Things to do
  • Lim Chu Kang

Home to 170 species of birds, 54 types of butterflies and 33 different kinds of dragonflies, this nature reserve is the perfect recreation area to observe and enjoy the island's wildlife. On top of that, there is an elevated observation tower for the best views of the sunrise and sunset. At 57 hectares and with a range of natural and green habitats, Kranji Marshes is Singapore's largest freshwater farmland

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  • Things to do
  • Mandai

The hot spring in Sembawang is a peculiar attraction in Singapore. First discovered back in 1909, the hot spring was popular with villagers who believed that the water had healing powers. Later on in 1922 when the site was acquired by soft drinks giant Fraser & Neave (F&N), the water was bottled and sold to the public. And during the Japanese Occupation, the place was converted into thermal onsen baths. It finally underwent a major facelift and reopened in January this year. The new Sembawang Hot Spring Park is where visitors can learn about the history and geology of the place, reminisce about the old kampung days by strolling through the fruit trees and edible plants, and of course soak their feet in hot waters at the pool or the wooden basins provided. 

  • Kids
  • Playgrounds
  • Woodlands

Take a wild ride down any one of the 26 slides at Admiralty Park located on hilly terrain with Sungei Cina river running through it. Don’t mistake it for just any regular park, it's fitted with unique slide designs and is loosely separated into three main play areas: Junior Play, Adventure Play, and Family Terracing Play. The young and the young-at-heart can slide down The Curved Roller Slide, a 34-metre-long outdoor slide lined with black tubes similar to that of a conveyor belt for easy sliding. Besides the slides, there’s an inclusive playground fitted with a wheelchair swing and merry-go-round to support play between children with and without needs.

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  • Things to do

It is no wonder that Bedok Reservoir is one of the most popular fishing sites for the locals – especially the Easterners. In this nine metre deep reservoir, expect to catch many non-natives of Singapore, such as the African Walking Catfish, Armoured Sucker Catfish, Peacock Bass and Tarpon. As it is a reservoir, do try to use artificial bait only – as to not contaminate the water quality.

Stroll past the colouful shophouses in Katong
Photograph: Shutterstock

Stroll past the colouful shophouses in Katong

The main star of Joo Chiat and Katong? The rows of vibrant shophouses. Take a jaunt down Koon Seng Road where you’ll find the popular eye-candies adorned in ceramic Peranakan floral motifs, geometrical tiles, pastel hues and even Chinese couplets which are said to bring good fortune. While you can’t photograph its interiors, Rumah Bebe has eye-catching cerulean exteriors and bright Peranakan tiles that your ‘gram desperately needs. For something less in-your-face, take a stroll down Lotus @ Joo Chiat, a stretch of 18 white conserved shophouses with green windows and doors with intricate carvings.

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Embark on a wall crawl
Photograph: Ahmad Iskandar Photography

Embark on a wall crawl

In between our shiny skyscrapers and towering metal cranes, there are plenty of Insta-worthy urban artworks that simply take our breath away. From the graffiti that’s hidden in plain sight to pieces that lurk away in the backstreets, there are still some things about our little city that might still surprise you. Grab your camera and discover Singapore's street art with our nifty guide.

Get your culture fix at a museum
Photograph: Vernon Raineil Cenzon/Unsplash

Get your culture fix at a museum

There's more than meets the eye when it comes to museums here. Most of them, including the National Gallery Singapore, the National Museum Singapore and the Singapore Art Museum, are free for citizens and permanent residents, so gawk at its architecture and head in for a cultural fix. Feed both your curious minds with a spectrum of genres, spanning from state-of-the-art science, vintage memorabilia, cultural artifacts and historic treasures with interesting narratives. 

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  • Property
  • Changi 

Keep yourself busy at the latest lifestyle concept in the east, Jewel Changi Airport. This majestic dome is home to the tallest indoor waterfall – standing at 40-metres-tall – and over 280 dining and retail outlets, as well as entertainment areas. While the hourly light and sound show at the HSBC Rain Vortex remains temporarily suspended, you can unleash your inner kid at the Canopy Park which features six-and-a-half-metre-tall slides, whimsical gardens, hedge mazes, and giant nets to bounce and walk on. There's also the Changi Experience Studio featuring a number of interactive games that illustrate the work it takes to get Changi Airport working like clockwork.

  • Things to do
  • Marina Bay

Stop and smell the roses as you maneuver around the massive Gardens. The Supertrees may be the star of the show here, but don't leave without checking out the various themed gardens including the Heritage Gardens where the country's rich history is brought to life through plants. Then take a break from the flowers at The Canyon for the largest collection of sculptural rocks.

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  • Art
  • Rochor

Scooch on down to the back alleys of Muscat Street for a rad hidden gem, an outdoor art gallery. Two parallel walls burst with a kaleidoscope of colour thanks to over 30 Instagram-worthy works by artists from the region and beyond. Strike a pose by the pop culture-dominated creation by multi-disciplinary artist PrettyFreakyFantasy or the bold, terrestrial piece by graphic designer Liyana Farzana before exiting to Baghdad Street.

  • Things to do
  • Jurong East

Surround yourself with the flora and fauna of this national – and natural – treasure in the west. The gardens include Lakeside Garden, Chinese and Japanese Gardens and Garden Promenade – previously known as Jurong Lake Gardens West, Jurong Lake Gardens Central and Garden Promenade respectively. Take a relaxing walk on the bridge by the waters, chill out in hammocks overlooking the pagodas, or for something more active, unleash your inner kid at the obstacle course and playground.

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  • Things to do
  • Kent Ridge

This venue is temporarily closed.

This little theme park of horrors is both terrifying and impressive at the same time. Multi-coloured statues and tableaux depict scenes from Chinese history and mythology in bright, gaudy colours, making it look more menacing than they should. Still, it's fun to explore this sloping park in the West with the little rugrats. New to the park? Read our guide for the best bits to look out for.

  • Kids
  • Playgrounds
  • Marina Bay

Despite the name, this water park isn't just reserved for pint-sized terrors. Adults can also beat the heat with a cool off here. Surrounded by the lush greens of Gardens by the Bay, this outdoor playground has one mission in mind: to get everybody drenched. There are water tunnels, stepping springs and various jets your pint-sized terrors – or your mischievous side – can use to hose everyone else down.

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  • Things to do
  • City Hall

While the grown-ups will appreciate the history of this modest-sized mound in the heart of the business district, the kids… well, they don’t need any excuse to tumble around in a park as verdant as this, do they? As they explore the many nooks and crannies of Fort Canning Park and its many colonial-era relics, learn more about the paramount roles it played in the defense of the island and even before the British arrived, when it served as the residence of Malay royalty. While you're at it, check out the spiral underground crossing at Fort Canning Park, which makes a great backdrop for your next Instagram shot.

  • Art
  • Kent Ridge

For a fresh rotation of modern visuals and art events, stop by Gillman Barracks, the former colonial army base – originally built for the British Army – where 11 art galleries set up camp. Go through the ticketless doors of Chan + Hori Contemporary, Fost Gallery, Mizuma Gallery, among others, and contemplate over captivating displays. Need a break? Cool down at The Naked Finn or catch a live band at Timbre.

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Tanglin

Grab a picnic basket and head to the Singapore Botanic Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Surrounded by trees on all sides, the gentle slope of Palm Valley is the ideal picnic spot. At the bottom of the slope is the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage, which holds regular music events, the most popular of which is the Singapore Symphony Orchestra's Symphony in the Park series.

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  • Things to do
  • Lim Chu Kang

Located all the way up north, Kranji is home to over plenty of farms that welcome visitors throughout the day. Pat friendly goats over at Hay Dairies, learn more about fish at Nippon Koi Farm and discover all sorts of delicious greens at Bollywood Veggies. We've mapped out the farms here.

  • Attractions
  • Beaches
  • Central

While we aren’t the Maldives or Bali, Singapore has plenty of beaches where you can soak in the sun. Sentosa’s your best bet for variety as well as cleanliness. While Siloso and Tanjong Beach are where the majority of the action happens, check out Palawan for a quieter family-friendly respite.

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  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours
  • Central Water Catchment

MacRitchie Reservoir is one of the city’s oldest and most popular nature parks because it offers both easy trails for weekend strollers and ambitious hikes ranging from three to 11-kilometres for the intrepid explorers. Head up to the TreeTop Walk (temporarily closed) for a breathtaking – and not just because you’re winded after the climb – view 25-metres above the forest floor.

  • Things to do
  • Bukit Merah

Two roads diverge in the woods – the clearly marked out tracks of Singapore’s pristine parks and the gritty, unpolished trails for the fearless scouts. Check out the Seah Im Bunker, a hidden WWII bunker at the foot of Mount Faber located behind the Seah Im carpark. Just remember to pack your torchlight.

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Appreciate public art at Little India
Photograph: Ahmad Iskandar Photography

Appreciate public art at Little India

Little India is not just rich in heritage and things to do at every turn, it’s also splashed with colour thanks to the eye catching murals that decorate its buildings. See how many you spot the next time you’re down at this district. The fact that the pieces are totally Instagrammable is an added plus.

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  • Things to do

More than 100,000 traditional Chinese graves, including the 600-square-metre tomb of 19th-century business supremo Ong Sam Leong, are dotted among the trees in a beautiful 233-hectare rainforest. Bukit Brown Cemetery is the city’s largest and also one of its oldest, with the first grave dating back to 1833. Buried here are many Singaporeans whose names are a distinctive part of the city today – names like Chew Boon Lay, Tan Kheam Hock and Chew Joo Chiat.

  • Art
  • Buona Vista

The black-and-white colonial houses in the Wessex Estate near Portsdown Road sit amid lush greenery. Head to the picturesque neighbourhood for a quiet stroll and then wander into Colbar – short for ‘colonial bar’ – that was once a canteen for the British Army. With its vintage photographs and décor, the diner is a relic from the past that invites guests to step back through time. The blocks of walk-up apartments and semi-detached houses were built in the ’40s and previously used by non-commissioned British officers and soldiers. Today, the houses are mostly residential, with a small enclave of artists who use them as studio space.

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  • Attractions
  • Beaches
  • Marine Parade

If you have a bike then cycling through the city is a weekend activity that won’t cost an additional dime – and with services like Mobike, renting a bicycle for a couple of hours is pretty cheap, too. Start at East Coast Lagoon Food Centre and ride straight down to Marina Bay for captivating views of the southeastern coast of Singapore and the reflection of the city skyline glistening in the water.

Take a walk down memory lane at Lorong Buangkok kampong
Photograph: Shutterstock

Take a walk down memory lane at Lorong Buangkok kampong

Hidden away up in the northeastern suburbs, off a major road, is the Lorong Buangkok kampong, the last village of its kind away from Pulau Ubin. Built in 1956, the collection of pastel coloured wooden huts is more living history than anything else, as rumours are constantly circulating that it’s due for demolition. If you go, be respectful – residents often complain of people taking photos without their permission.

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  • Things to do
  • Marina Bay

Back in the good old kampong days, children entertained themselves with homemade kites fashioned from scraps they found littered around the compound. Relive those days by taking your own FOC DIY kite up to Marina Barrage and watch it take flight.

Explore the city with these trails
Photograph: Shutterstock

Explore the city with these trails

What better way to get to know the city than on-foot? Strap on some sturdy walking shoes and uncover Singapore's rich heritage and stories via these heritage trails. Go on an art trail and peep at some colourful murals, street art and sculptures that are spotted around the city. Explore the great outdoors with these nature trails – don't forget to slap on some sunscreen and grab a bottle of water!

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  • Things to do

Fancy a break from your usual work-eat-shop-play routine? Why not use your time to volunteer towards a worthy cause. Rack up those karma points by lending a hand to those less fortunate. From caring for children and the elderly to helping rescue animals and clean-up drives, there are several local charities that are working tirelessly for a number of causes. So pick one from this list of causes that you feel strongly about and get involved, starting today.

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Clean up the coast
Photograph: Ocean Cleanup Group/Unsplash

Clean up the coast

Everyone loves pretty beaches but not everyone understands that it takes hard work to keep them pristine and clean. The team and volunteers at International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), head out regularly to our beaches and mangroves around the island to help combat the problem of marine litter.

Discover Singapore for cheap

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