The Best Way to Spend a Layover in Singapore
I had a 36 hour travel “day” ahead of me en route to the Philippines and I was actually kind of wishing it was a bit longer. Why on earth would I want that? My itinerary included a four hour Singapore stopover and I actually wanted some more time to check out the airport. Weird, right?
Changi Airport is widely regarded as the best in the world. While most airport experiences are drab and soul-sucking, visiting Changi is actually a pleasure. With all of the amenities available, you wouldn’t be remiss in thinking that you might have landed at a resort instead of an airport. Between the butterfly garden, world-class shopping, and rooftop pool, I wanted more than a couple hours to explore but even with one or two you can get a taste of what Singapore has to offer.
What You Need to Know Before Leaving the Airport
Before you make plans to explore Singapore beyond the airport, check ahead to see if you’ll need a visa. American and Canadian passport holders can visit visa-free. Be sure to factor into your plans the time it will take to clear immigration. I don’t recommend leaving the airport for layovers less than 5 hours.
If you don’t want to take your carryon bag with you, you’ll need to allot time to check your bag into one of the baggage storage facilities in each terminal. It’ll cost you S$8 for a carryon bag and S$12 for a larger bag for up to 24 hours of storage.
The airport is located 20km from the city center, which makes exploring convenient. There’s an MRT train station at the airport that can connect you with the rest of the city. It costs S$3 and will take almost and hour. You can also use taxis or ride-sharing apps like Uber, RYDE, SwiftBack, or SWAT. Taxis will be around S$20 but only take 20-25min to get into the city.
Less than 5 Hours
If your Singapore stopover is less than 5 hours, you’ll be staying in the airport, but there’s lots to do. I highly recommend checking out the butterfly garden in Terminal 3. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a connection with butterflies, especially when I travel, so this was #1 on my Singapore airport layover to do list. The garden is a two level oasis filled with lush green plants and a thousand butterflies. Seriously, it’s magical.
Someone at Changi has a green thumb based on the number of gardens they have. On your grand tour of the airport be sure to visit the orchid garden (T2), enchanted garden (T2), water lily garden (T1), and koi pond (T3)
If you’ve gotten off a long-haul flight you’ll probably want some fresh air so head to the sunflower garden (T2) or the cactus garden (T1). I love that you can step outside and feel the sun on your face while still at the airport. The sunflower garden is small but even 15 minutes here will make you feel refreshed.
If you actually need to freshen up though, swing by one of the pay-per-use lounges in any of the terminals to make use of their shower and spa facilities. Or drop in to the rooftop pool (T1) for a dip between flights.
If you’ve had enough of gardens, you can shop your little heart out with over 350 stores spread across the terminals. There are over 50 fashion and accessory stores alone! Depending on your ticket, you may be eligible for up to S$40 in free Changi Dollar Vouchers. Who doesn’t like free money?
If you prefer to be entertained without walking, there are movie theatres in both terminal 2 and 3 with free screenings of current movies 24/7. Can you say movie marathon? If you prefer your screen time to be a bit more active there’s the Entertainment Zone (T2) filled with xbox and PlayStation machines so you can game your heart out while waiting to take off.
Getting a bit peckish? There are over 80 different places to fill your belly with something better than airplane food.
Between relaxing gardens, shops, movies, and the pool, five hours will fly by before you know it.
If you have more than five hours to kill during your Singapore stopover you can actually leave the airport and take a free city tour. Yes, free! There are two 2.5 hour tour options available: the Heritage Tour (4x daily) and the City Sights Tour (2x daily). Registration for each tour closes an hour before the start time and you can sign up at booths in the terminals. This is a fantastic opportunity and I wish more city airports offered city tours for long layover passengers.
Note: DO NOT pass through immigration before registering for the tour.
If you prefer to stay on site, you may need a nap. Lucky for you there are transit hotels in each of the three terminals, with pricing starting in a 6 hour block. Perfect for a refreshing power nap or doing battle with jet lag. Tip: if you book at the Aerotel (T1) you’ll also get access to the rooftop pool and jacuzzi.
More than 8 Hours
For Singapore stopovers longer than eight hours you may want to leave the airport and do an independent trip into the city. Visit the famous Merlion statue at Merlion Park and get selfies with the Marina Bay Sands hotel. Walk through the Gardens by the Bay and take in the majesty of the Supertree Grove. Drink a Singapore Sling at Raffle’s Hotel. Shop until your wallet cries on Orchard Street. Eat your fill at hawker stations and sample Singapore’s famously fabulous food like chicken rice, chilli crab, and char kway teow.
Just be sure to leave yourself at least two hours to head back to the airport, collect your bags from luggage storage, and get through security. The last thing you want is to miss your flight and have a potentially expensive unplanned extended Singapore stopover. When you get to your gate keep an eye out for the free foot and calf massage chairs and give yourself one last treat before you leave the Lion City.
If you’re going to have a long layover in a city, there’s no place better to have stopover than Singapore.
Have you ever had a Singapore stopover? What did you do?