Life in a foreign country can be particularly difficult for solo expat women, with safety being a primary concern. Fortunately for women in Singapore however, this isn’t a huge challenge. In terms of crime and safety, this Asian city-state has one of the best reputations in the world. In fact, the Garden City stands in sharp contrast to most countries in the region, where crime rates are often high and women’s rights have a long way to go.Crime rates in almost every area are low in Singapore, and have been continuing to decline for years. Violent crime in particular is extremely rare, including murders, gang violence, and mugging and other theft-related violence. Street harassment and sexual assault is also quite rare, and most women say they feel extremely safe being out alone, even late at night. The only type of crime that has seen an increase in Singapore is cybercrime and credit card fraud. Apart from this, there are instances of cheating and other scams, especially when dealing with unauthorized retailers and other commercial agents. Petty crimes such as pickpocketing and purse snatching are also known to take place, but these too are relatively infrequent. Most long-term expats in Singapore say they have never encountered any crime. It’s also worth mentioning that those who have been victims of crime say that the Singapore police are prompt, helpful, and efficient when needed.
In spite of all this, safety is of course not guaranteed, and it’s important to take a few measures to stay safe, especially as a solo expat woman.
Don’t take your safety for granted
This might seem too general to be of much value, but it’s probably the most important piece of advice that is specific to a place like Singapore. In countries that are largely safe, and especially in places that are safer than their home countries, expats tend to let their guard down. This isn’t entirely a bad thing – after all, an important reason for choosing to live in a place like Singapore is that it allows you to feel safe. It’s a great joy to not need to constantly look over your shoulder, worry about personal space, and so on.
However, it’s important to not get entirely complacent. A low crime rate doesn’t mean that crime is non-existent, and there’s no way to know if and when you will join the one per cent of the population that has been the victim of a crime. This isn’t to say you should always be on high alert. However, never let yourself feel so safe that you forget to lock your front door at night or leave your valuables in plain view.
Don’t reveal your solo status to strangers
Criminals are well aware that foreigners without a close support network in Singapore are vulnerable and make easy targets, especially if they’re women. Even though you’re unlikely to face much harassment or any unwanted attention in Singapore, it’s best to avoid letting on that you’re here without family or a partner. If you end up talking to people on the street, in shops and markets, in bars, or on public transport, keep your solo status to yourself. In some parts of the world, solo women are advised to wear a decoy wedding ring to ward off unwanted attention without needing to actually say anything; this is probably unnecessary in Singapore, but it’s a tactic you may want to keep in mind.
Avoid being out alone late at night
You will frequently hear women in Singapore say that they feel safe walking home alone past midnight, or even staying out much later. While it’s true that Singapore is among the safest places in the world in such matters, like we’ve said before, this certainly doesn’t mean that crime is non-existent.
Don’t make it a habit to stay out late, and on the nights when you do this, take a few basic precautions – stay alert, keep away from dark and deserted streets, and keep local friends informed. It’s also advisable to stay away from certain parts of the city at night, especially if you’re out by yourself. Areas such as Orchard Towers, Geylang, and parts of Joo Chiat Road are known for prostitution and other gang-related activities. This doesn’t usually affect passersby who mind their own business, and there is also some great shopping and eating to be done here, but it’s best done during the day.
Keep your belongings safe and secure
Petty theft is among the most common crimes in Singapore, and although it too is quite rare, it’s probably the type of crime that you are most likely to encounter as an expat. Pickpockets tend to strike in crowded areas, so it’s important to keep all your belongings (such as your wallet, your cell phone, and any other devices and valuables) secure either in your pockets or in a closed bag. Remember that experienced, skilful pickpockets can smoothly get stuff out of pockets in loose clothing such as jackets – pockets in snug clothing are better, especially if they can be buttoned or zipped. A more brazen crime is bag snatching, which is most likely to happen if you have a bag that is not secured to you with a strap and if you’re distracted. Mobile phones can also be snatched in this manner.
Be cautious when using public transport
You’re unlikely to be harassed, assaulted, or robbed outright on Singapore’s public transport, but you might just be cheated or pickpocketed. Here too, pickpocketing is most likely to occur in crowded places, such as on buses and trains, and can be avoided by keeping your belongings securely on you and staying aware of them at all times. If you are being harassed, inform the driver or conductor immediately; a good option is to sit near the driver to begin with. If you’re using taxis, use only the accredited, registered cab services. Taxis are supposed to have meters, but if yours doesn’t, discuss the fare before you get in. Meter-less taxis often fleece customers by insisting on an outrageous amount at the end of the ride.
Be cautious when renting property
Property rental scams seem to be one particular danger that expats in Singapore need to be wary of. The Australian government’s travel advisory specifically mentions these scams as something to watch out for. Fake postings are made on property rental websites by criminals posing as landlords, who eventually ask for a token amount or deposit in cash, and disappear with it. It’s advisable to work with only accredited estate agents, and even then, avoid dealing in cash. You should also look up details of the property with the local authorities (the Singapore Land Authority is one), to ensure the authenticity of the deal, and meet with the landlord face to face when signing any documents.
Keep your house secure
Burglaries have decreased in Singapore, and they are almost never violent; however, they do still happen and should be guarded against. Expats here tend to take home security for granted because break-ins are so rare, and will often leave doors unlocked at night and when they’re away during the day. Some even get a little careless about their longer absences, and take only the most minimal, perfunctory precautions. As a single woman, your house will regularly be empty or have only a single occupant. Ensure that your doors and windows can be properly locked, and that you do so as a matter of habit. Be cautious when opening the door to strangers for deliveries or any other reason, and remember that there’s no reason to disclose the fact that you’re alone.
Take adequate precautions when using your computer and the internet
Cybercrimes are among the most common crimes in Singapore, and this is the one type of crime that has actually been increasing in the country. Ensure that your computer and your internet connection are secure, so that none of your data can be stolen. Make it a point to install antivirus software on your computer, and consider also using a secure VPN connection. Avoid using internet cafes for any sensitive activities and transactions, and when you do use them, ensure that you aren’t being spied on and that you delete your browser history and cache before you leave. There are also many cases of cheating and scams on e-commerce sites, so be careful when shopping online. In addition, Singapore also sees quite a bit of credit card fraud, so this is another area where you need to be careful. Avoid using cards at shops and vendors who are not known to be reliable, and whenever you use your card, check your receipts and any alerts you receive from your bank to ensure that you have only been charged the correct amount.
Install a personal safety app on your cell phone
There are now probably hundreds of personal safety apps available for all kinds of mobile devices, especially iOS and Android devices. These apps typically have the ability to set off a local, real-world distress signal that will attract the attention of passersby while also sending a text message or some other alert to a predetermined list of contacts on your phone. The alert typically includes your location, so that your contacts know where to get to in order to help you. Some apps also show you the locations of nearby support services such as hospitals and police stations. You can choose to use almost any such app, but the ideal is an app that has been created specifically for Singapore. One example is the YWCA Safety Alert app created by YWCA Singapore, which contains local helpline details and can send an alert to other users of the app who are in your vicinity.
Ensure that you don’t break the law yourself
It might sound odd, but an important way to stay safe in Singapore is to know the law and keep within it. An important reason why Singapore is so safe is that the country is so strict about crime. While this is great in many ways, it can also be a bit scary for outsiders. Many expats say that they are more worried about inadvertently breaking the law themselves than about being targeted by criminals. The authorities can be extremely strict about activities that most outsiders are likely to see as minor nuisances or entirely harmless. These include littering, chewing gum, and eating on public transport. Drug use is seen as an extremely severe offence, and smoking in most public places is banned. Traffic rules are also strictly enforced, and offenders can be fined severely and even jailed. Corporal punishment is also used for some crimes, and foreigners are typically not shown any leniency.