Student Hostels in Singapore: Reality Check

Merlion at SingaporeOur latest trip to Singapore with my daughter was a real eye opener. We were there to find student accommodation for her first year undergraduate studies in Singapore as the college dorm rooms were limited and she had not been offered a place there. The student accommodation we found was generally expensive, poorly furnished and sometimes just unpleasant.

First stop was at the college student services who gave us a long list of alternative accommodation options registered with the institution. We mapped out the options on a map based on price (from SGD 400/mth – 1200/mth) and proximity to her institute – LASALLE College of the Arts.

Early next morning after calling all the identified hostels we set off, guided by Google maps guiding us on our tablet PC.

The hostel is the pink building on the right and NOT the tall condos.

XIN Residences: The hostel is the pink building on the right and NOT the tall condos.

The first stop was the most recommended option by the student services staff and it was for lack of a better term – a dump. A long 15 minute walk from the closest MRT, it had 3 floors of double and triple sharing rooms. The door opened to the all-in-one service area with a washing machine, cooking stove and wash basin adjoining a tiny bathroom. In fact the bathroom was so tiny that one would need to stand really close to the pot to shower. Further ahead was the

service area at XIN Residences

Service Area at Entrance in XIN Residences

main room with metal framed beds, study tables and wardrobes and barely any space to move in between. It was really depressing. Free Wi-Fi was provided, but in addition to room rent required shared utility bills. It had no common areas and was managed by just one lady in the management office.

Some other places we saw were even worse with cramped, dirty rooms and varying stages of disrepair. It seemed as if the oldest buildings had been converted into money making hostels. The one

Global Residences of the Katong Group

Global Residences

that we felt was better than the other choices, Global residences at Tiong Bahru (managed by the Katong Group of Hostels), consisted of 3 double sharing bedroom apartments with a large living room and  separate kitchen and service area. The only downside was that it had only one bathroom between six residents. For lack of a better option, we booked a room here as it had easy bus and MRT access with shopping facilities just 5 minutes away.

While sharing our experience with friends we were pointed to an online site www.easyroommate.com.sg. With the stress of sharing a single loo with 5 other roommates, we decided to try this online service and signed up for a month’s subscription. From the very next day my mailbox was flooded with interest from prospective roommates/housemates. As I had signed up on behalf of my daughter as an 18year old looking to share room, there was interest from a lot of men — Eeeeeks. Also there were a lot of ‘small’ rooms available in great condos with facilities such as pool, gym, BBQ pits etc. On closer inspection, these small rooms were in fact maid rooms, for which SGD 700 upwards excluding utilities was being charged to house-sit the condo with the owner not in residence.

Other apparently attractive options – Salegie apartments were being offered which are only 2 mins walk from the school. On closer inspection and site visit by a friend in Singapore, learned that these were the smallest rooms she had ever seen. The already small rooms of the apartments had been further divided into two with a plywood wall such that the single room air conditioner was divided into two with the remote kept outside. It was so cramped that if the folding table fixed to the wall was setup, one could not move around.

HDB apartments and condos that offer ‘common’ rooms for rent also need to be vetted with respect to other residents, locality and finally the mystery roommate. These are generally on yearly contracts. It is indeed a roll of dice and you stand to lose the usual one or two months deposit if you choose to move out before completion of the contract period.

The other disadvantages of the online sites is the lack of real photographs and complete information. Currently due to scanty information, one needs to personally visit the room, meet the other residents, see the locality and then take a decision. Whereas, Information on student hostels online is misleading with beautiful photographs and requires personal time and effort to decide on a suitable place to stay.

If you are planning to look for student accommodation in Singapore, my recommendation would be to:tips

  1. Search online and create a list of student hostels in Singapore
  2. Register at easyroomamte.com.sg or any of the other similar sites specific to Singapore and make a list of relevant listings
  3. Plan at least 3-4 days in Singapore for room hunting
  4. Get an EZ-link card and check out each place starting from the ones closes to the school. The distance of MRT stations and Bus Stops is a major criteria for decision making.
  5. Also note proximity to shops and places to eat

In a stroke of good luck, a couple of days prior to moving to Singapore, we received information that the school dorm room was available, and we jumped at it. The room turned out to a really large airy room on the 5th floor. It was clean, comfortable and the bus stop outside the campus connected it to the school with a direct bus. Utilities are included in the room rent along with free Wi-Fi and the comfort of being surrounded with fellow students.

It was definitely a learning experience and totally at odds with my earlier information on student boarding in Singapore for school going children, that I received from parents, students and online research. Live and learn.

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22 Responses to Student Hostels in Singapore: Reality Check

  1. Poonam – Your hassle in locating your daughter’s hostel will surely be paid back by her brilliant career in the long run.
    Rajat Das Gupta

  2. Siddharth says:

    Nice piece of information….even I went for an online search for rooms in Vancouver, Canada while being in India…had a tough time to find a good place but finally got a really nice place to stay…patience pays off….though sometimes…it doesn’t!!!

  3. 22 November 2013
    TO: Poonam

    My grandson (Arko- Debarghya Ghosh) in mid 2013 was offered admission in the following University –

    Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), Netherlands for “3MS Control Engineering” course to have a post-graduation degree in Engineering. Blissfully, he had no problem in getting a hostel accommodation which was arranged by the University itself. Maybe, in general in the Western countries the educational institutions are more caring for the students compared to their Eastern counterparts.
    Rajat Das Gypta. .

  4. lily tahir says:

    Hi…my son is going to Lasalle this july. What I like to know is where is the location of school dorm that you mention above ? How much for the cost ? Is it convenient for public transport and food hawker around ? Hope to have your reply soon…thank you very much for your help.

    • Poonam Sagar says:

      Hi Lily,
      The Lasalle hostel is on East Coast road within the St Patricks School compund. It takes 40 minutes by the direct bus to the school. There are many hawker centers in the vicinity.More information on the hostel here http://www.lasalle.edu.sg/Admissions/International-Student-Guide/Accommodation#st-patricks-house
      Hope this helps,
      Poonam

      • nessuna says:

        Hi Poonam,
        I am considering the dorm at St Patricks School. I might not be able to visit Singapore to see the rooms myself. If you have seen them, could you kindly let me know whether the double/triple sharing rooms are decent? Is there sufficient living space? What is your daughter’s opinion about it all.
        Your advice and contribution is deeply appreciated.
        Thanks
        Gobbong

        • Poonam Sagar says:

          Hi Gobbong, The rooms at St Patricks are decent and is in close proximity to hawker centers and the bus stop.
          Hope this helps,
          Poonam

          • ysleong says:

            Hi Poonam,
            Thanks for the info.
            My daughter will go to lasalle in Aug. just a quick check, double or triple is better (spacious or just a matter of more ppl in a room?). My info say it take about 20mins bus to the school, can you assist to verify?

            Many thanks.

  5. Poonam Sagar says:

    Hi Ysleong,
    All the rooms are of the same size. So its just more people in the same room. I have taken the bus from St Patricks to school and it usually takes between 30 -40 mins plus waiting time.

    Hope this helps.
    Regards,
    Poonam

  6. Bangur says:

    hi poonam

    informative write up. just wanted to know if you have also seen the studio apartments at st.patricks. Will u pls guide me. my dauyghter is supposed to join this august. do they also have any accommodation where one room (for two) has two bathrooms? my daughtrer is a little finicky about sharing bathrooms. Thanks a ton

    • Poonam Sagar says:

      Hi Bangur,
      I have not seen the studio apartments which have 2 attached bathrooms. Do they actually exist? The ensuite rooms for 2 have only 1 bathroom and the residents have to be responsible for the cleanliness and upkeep of the same.
      Wishing your daughter the best at Lasalle.

  7. Anashua Chowdhury says:

    Hi ..my dttr is going to lasalle this aug…am concerned bt hostel facilities…no food n lodging scopes

    • Poonam Sagar says:

      Dear Anashua,
      I would recommend that you apply for the St Patricks hostel for Lasalle so that your daughter has a place to stay with other students, for the first year. She can then be more familiar with Singapore and rent an apartment along with a few friends for the subsequent years at Lasalle.

      Hope this helps and best of luck to your daughter.

  8. Sunny says:

    Hello! I’m an 18 year old female joining Lasalle this August… and I was wondering what your daughter’s opinion on the St Patricks hostel was? I’m currently considering staying at the place but a student residing there has told me about how she has no privacy there at all despite staying in a single room, and of various other discomforts such as perpetually extremely slow wifi, etc. It would be lovely to have more inside information on how it’s like living at the hostel! I look forward to receiving your reply, thank you 🙂

    • Ysleong says:

      Hi,
      Generally no other issues observed or negative feedback from my daughter after 1 year stay at the hostel, apart from the slow wifi 😎 , it is cozy n comfort to stay. I believe the management heard it and looking for a long term solution. SG is very safe n enjoyable to study as well. Let allow yourself to be familiarize first by staying in the hostel before make other choices.

  9. Neela says:

    Hi my daughter will be joining from this August. She will be staying in the st. Patrick’s hostel . Any suggestions on food . She is vegetarian

  10. Philip Viegas says:

    Hi Poonam: Going through your site was very useful! Thanks. I’m frantically looking for a hostel room for my daughter who’s got admission at NAFA, Singapore. Any advice/suggestions in this regard would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    • Poonam Sagar says:

      Hi Philip,
      My article is now 4 years old and Singapore is changing rapidly. There maybe many different options available now. It might be a good idea to find an AirBnB to spend sometime in Singapore to look at all the options suggested by the NAFA team as well as a google search. Look for a short term contract, like 3 months, which can be extended initially. She will soon learn from her peers and friends of other more suitable options or house shared opportunities.

      Hope this helps,
      Poonam

  11. Supriya Agarwal says:

    Hi,
    I’ll be joining LaSalle this year and will be staying in St Patrick’s House.
    Just wanted to know about the kitchen facilities and how to go about daily meals.
    Thanks.

    • Poonam Sagar says:

      Hi Supriya, wishing you a great learning experience at LaSalle. They have common kitchen facilities at St Patricks. So you do have the facility to cook. There are also many food joints just across the road and you can also explore Indian tiffin services in Singapore.

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