SINGAPORE - Staycations have replaced overseas trips in recent months, but unlike bang-for-your-buck getaways in South-east Asia, many hotels here will cost a pretty penny.
Even with the $100 SingapoRediscovers Vouchers that Singaporeans will receive from next month, guests will have to top up at least a couple of hundred dollars for four- and five-star luxury names.
So I go in search of cheap and chic digs where you can enjoy a staycation and still have change for a meal.
Well-meaning friends are doubtful. Will the hotels be sleazy and the hygiene standards wanting?
I come prepared, with a spare pillowcase, bug spray and bedroom slippers. For a touch of luxury, I throw in a few extras, including a white tea and ginger candle from home-grown brand Breathe Essentials Co and a lavender-scented pillow spray.
But I have underestimated these small hotels, which punch above their weight with clean rooms, unique decor, food recommendations and thoughtful touches.
Go with an open mind and do not expect grandeur.
If you can make do with small (or shared) bathrooms and a bit of noise from the street or your neighbours, there are lots of good-value gems to be had.
With the year-end holidays round the corner, rooms are selling fast. Here are four of The Straits Times' picks of budget-friendly stays.
Staycations were hosted by the hotels. For more staycation reviews, go to str.sg/SuiteLife.
Hotel Classic by Venue in Joo Chiat offers a comfy stay
When I arrive at Hotel Classic by Venue, a staff member proffers a cold towel on a plate.
I have travelled only 20 minutes from my home in the east and it has not been a tiring journey by any means, but the gesture reminds me of soothing resort lobbies and tropical welcome drinks from a long-forgotten time.
The hotel is among a trio of boutique properties under the Venue brand, all located in Joo Chiat. They are run by home-grown company Worldwide Hotels, which runs 38 properties in Singapore.
Ibis Budget Singapore Imperial is clean and modern
Rebranded from budget chain Fragrance Hotel last year, Ibis Budget Singapore Imperial in Lavender has had a much-needed facelift.
Gone are the lurid purple walls, cushions and bed runners, replaced by simple yet modern decor such as brightly coloured murals in the lobby, and neutral cream and beige tones in the rooms. A rooftop pool is temporarily closed.
So it's cheap, but is it comfortable?
Co-living gets cool at ST Signature Jalan Besar
Having spent the better part of my 20s staying in backpacker hostels to stretch my dollar, I am delighted to find that ST Signature Jalan Besar, which opened in May, has given communal living a leg up.
At the co-living hotel, guests share a kitchen, lounge and public spaces such as a meeting room, outdoor patio and various nooks and crannies where they can curl up with a book or a cup of tea.
Some rooms come with en suite toilets, while others share a communal, unisex bathroom and showers. No dingy, hair-sodden floors here - the bathroom's decorative lamps, Peranakan tiles, warm lighting and panelled mirrors make it one of the hotel's most Instagrammable spots. There are even Dyson hairdryers to boot.
Park 22 Hotel Little India is cosy and surrounded by history
With a black-and-white facade inspired by colonial-era bungalows, Park 22 Hotel Little India stands out from the riot of colour in its vibrant surrounds.
Owner Ng Aung San, who opened the hotel in 2016, has a soft spot for the architectural style.
Vintage touches, such as rattan chairs and black-and-white photos of colonial buildings, adorn guest rooms. Watercolour paintings of shophouses and more colonial architecture by local artist Davi Beschizza, brighten up corridors.
This staycation was hosted by the hotel. For more staycation reviews, go to str.sg/SuiteLife.