Getting your travel taxes back - GST refund in Singapore

Traveling through Singapore, we learned something new that we think some of you might find really useful.

If you make certain purchases as a traveler in Singapore, it's actually possible to claim the Goods and Services Tax (GST) back as a refund.

This benefit most likely escaped us because we rarely ever buy anything when we're traveling. In fact, we discovered it due to a mistake we made on our travels that put us in the position to do some quick shopping;  hopefully it's a mistake that'll end up helping others!

You might be asking why we're shopping while backpacking. Aren't we minimalists? What about our budget?

Well, all of that is true and still holds, and the reality is that since starting our trip, we still have not bought anything.

Unfortunately, however, one week into our trip we lost the camera tripod. Robert was able to make do for a few weeks with his small, backup tripod, but we really needed to get a normal-sized one to keep working.

Also, we had come to notice that Robert's camera bag was a tad small for his camera and three lenses, so we decided to find a new one that was a little bigger. (The good news on the second purchase is that with some quick research, we were able to sell the old camera bag in Singapore for the same price as the new one!)

So, on getting the refund: We spent around 180 SGD (130 USD) on purchasing both the tripod and camera bag. When we were about to pay, the salesman asked us if we had our passports to proceed with the GST refund. Had he not mentioned it, we would never have known. Plus, if we hadn't been able to come back with our passports the following day, we also wouldn't have been able to get our money back.

The refund turns out to be about 7%. Although it's a small amount, every dollar counts when traveling!  


So, what do you have to do to get those taxes refunded?

It’s a simple process that only takes a few minutes in the store and at the airport.

  1. Spend over 100 SGD on a single purchase to qualify.
  2. Bring your passport to the store. It will be used to create a special receipt that you have to turn in at the airport. Continue to #3.

3. At the airport (before departing), you will find the GST refund area after immigration control.

4. Here you'll be able to process the receipt through a combination of a self-serve machine and a request for your refund at the counter.

That's it. It's that simple.

For more information on this refund, check out this link. We paid with credit card and got the refund in cash, but there are other ways to do it. 

For us, this refund meant getting a “free” lunch in Singapore. Think of what this refund could be for you!