Layover in Singapore: Explore the Remarkable City in a short time frame

Gardens by the bay. The picture is of large man-made plant structures during the daytime and a colorful man made dragon below it.
One of the best things that you can do in Southeast Asia is to stop over in Singapore. Singapore Changi Airport is one of the best airports in the world for layovers. There are enough activities to keep travelers entertained inside the airport for hours. And, most of Singapore’s biggest attractions are a short drive from the airport; making it easy to explore the city during a long layover.
This guide outlines everything you need to know to make the most of a layover in Singapore. Read on to learn how to see the key sites in the city during a short time frame, and how to make the most of the airport’s facilities during your time there.
Disclaimer: Many facilities in the Singapore Airport are closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. City-wide regulations that impact whether you can leave the airport to visit during a layover change often. This article is for long-term travel planning & inspiration, as much still remains closed due to COVID-19.

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    What to do in Singapore Changi Airport

    Changi Airport in Singapore. This picture was taken during a layover in Singapore. This is the worlds largest indoor waterfall. The waterfall is surrounded by greenery.

    Some people say that they would be satisfied with only visiting Singapore Changi Airport for a vacation and doing nothing else. That’s because the airport is a tourist attraction in and of itself. It’s the best airport for a layover in Southeast Asia. It’s usually the case that a shorter layover is better when en route to a destination, but in Singapore, the longer the layover—the better.

    There’s usually so much that one can do to entertain themselves during a long-layover, but in Singapore, you don’t have to think of what to do alone because they give you everything you need to enjoy. Here’s a comprehensive list of the best things to do in Changi Airport during a layover in Singapore:

    • Check out the World’s Tallest Indoor Waterfall: The Rain Vortex is a waterfall located inside of the Singapore Airport. It’s a massive display; measuring 7 stories tall. 
    • Visit the Butterfly Garden: There are over 1,000 butterflies in the Singapore Airport butterfly garden. 
    • Spend Time in the Entertainment Hall: Play video games & watch movies in the Entertainment Hall. 
    • Watch a Movie in the Theatres: Check out a new release in the Singapore Airport Movie Theatre. 
    • Check Out the Flora & Fauna: There are many parks & gardens inside the airport with various plants and flowers. There’s a: Cactus Garden, Enchanted Garden, Hedge Maze, Orchid Garden, Pedal Garden, and more! 
    • Take a dip in the pool & jacuzzi: Pay a day rate to spend time in a rooftop pool & jacuzzi. 
    • Get a Spa Service: Indulge in a spa treatment at the airport spa. 
    • Go Grocery Shopping: Most airports have small food vendors with basic items. Singapore airport has a full-blown supermarket where you can find almost any kind of food that your heart desires. 
    • Bring Your Kids to the Family Zone: Keep your kids occupied in the family zone. The area has a small playground, books, and games.
    • Jump Around on the Bouncing Net: There’s a giant trampoline in the airport that visitors can bounce around on. 
    • Watch the Latest Sporting Events or TV Programs: Watch TV or Sports Programming in the TV & Xperience areas. 

    Facilities to Use During a Layover at Singapore Changi Airport

    Facilities in Singapore Airport
    Singapore Airport has a ton of facilities available to travelers. Here’s a list of some of the best things available that will assist you during your layover in Singapore:
    • VIP Lounge Access: There are over 20 VIP lounges in the Singapore Airport. Some of these lounges allow passengers to pay for access. Here’s a full list of lounges in the Singapore Airport, including where and how to pay for access upon arrival.

    • Baggage Storage: This will be an important facility to use if you plan to leave Changi Airport and explore Singapore during your layover. There are baggage storage facilities in several locations throughout the airport. The process is simple: locate a baggage storage room, fill out some paperwork, and let them inspect your bag. When you return, you’ll pay a fee to retrieve your luggage. Note that, if you choose to drop your baggage off in a location outside of your terminal, you’ll have to take it through security in order to re-enter the terminal when you return.

    • Free Rest Areas: The free rest areas in the Changi airport are perfect for budget travelers that want to catch some shut-eye but can’t afford to pay the VIP lounge fee. There are comfortable chairs in the area that are meant for napping & relaxation. This is the ideal place to crash if you’ve got a lengthy layover in Singapore and don’t want to spend much to relax.

    How to Explore Singapore During a Layover

    There are two ways that you can see Singapore during a long layover: via an organized tour or independently.
    • Take the Free Singapore Tour from Changi Airport: If you’d like to see Singapore via an organized tour then this is the way to go. The tour is free to all travelers with tickets that route through the Changi Airport. You must have a layover in Singapore for at least 5.5 hours to join the tour. The tour itself is about 2.5 hours long, but you’ll need that extra time to check-out and in the airport.

      You can register for the tour as soon as you arrive at the airport. Tour hours are usually from around 7 AM to 6 PM. There are three different itineraries that you can choose from: The Jewel Tour, the Heritage Tour, and the City Sites Tour. Click here to view current tour information & itineraries to choose from on the Changi Airport Website.

    • Explore Singapore Independently: Exploring Singapore without an organized tour group is a good option for tourists that want to see something that’s not offered on the free tour that’s offered by the airport, and/or who want to spend more than 2.5 hours exploring the city.

      Mass transit is abundant, efficient, affordable, and safe in Singapore. The best way to get from Changi Airport to the main tourist attractions is by taxi. You can hail public taxis at the airport and then use taxis to get to and from different locations on your tour.

      If you visit Singapore without a tour, it’s recommended that you start your tour at Gardens by the Bay or Marina Bay Sands, which are both located in centralized locations.

    10 of the Best Attractions to See During a Stopover in Singapore

    It’s easy to get a feel for Singapore during a long layover because most of the main attractions are close to one another and accessible from the airport. If you opt not to take the free Singapore tour that’s offered by the airport and choose to create your own itinerary, then choose from some of these places:
    1. Marina Bay Sands: This is one of the most unique hotels in the world. The top of the hotel looks like a boat and there’s an infinity pool on the roof. You can visit the top of the hotel by paying a small entrance fee. Once at the top, you can order a cocktail and take in some of the best views of Singapore.

    2. Gardens by the Bay: This is one of the top attractions in Singapore. It’s a combination of lush, natural plants and man-made structures that look like flowers. The park is open both during the day and night. At night, the man-made structures light up creating a unique and dazzling illumination. One benefit of visiting Singapore alone, vs via the airport tour, is that you’ll have the opportunity to see sights like this light up at night.

    3. Merlion Park: This park is in front of Marina Bay. You can take a seat in the park, and enjoy the views of the city from in front of the bay. This is a great place to visit if you’re looking to relax in the midst of your Singapore tour.

    4. Night Safari: If you’ve got a lot of time to spend in Singapore and decide to explore the city independently, then consider going on a night safari. The safari is a 30-minute drive from Changi Airport. You’ll have the chance to see animals active at night such as Asian elephants, lions, and leopards. The park is ethical, as it protects the animals and works to prohibit their species from going extinct.

    5. National Gallery Singapore: If you’re an art fanatic, then visit the National Gallery in Singapore. The gallery is full of Southasian art and is a short 15-minute drive from the airport.

    6. Kampong Glam: This is a neighborhood in Singapore that’s full of culture & heritage. If you’ve got some time during your tour itinerary, walk around the neighborhood. You’ll see markets with Southeast Asian goods & restaurants with varying cuisines.

    7. Haw Par Villa: This is a great stop for anyone that wants to learn about Singapore’s culture, eat great street food, see some sculptures, people watch, and walk around in nature. They’ve got non-stop entertainment with live shows and performances happening throughout the day and night. It’s a 30-minute drive from the airport and can be either a stop on your itinerary or your only stop depending on how long your layover in Singapore is.

    8. St. Andrews Cathedral: If you like visiting cathedrals around the world, then add a visit to St. Andrews Cathedral to your list. The architecture of the cathedral and the grounds that it rests on are beautiful.

    9. East Coast Road: This is one of the most popular areas in Singapore, and is a hot spot for foodie travelers. If you’re on a budget then grab a coffee or some ice cream. If you’ve got some more money to spend, then grab a seat at one of their renowned restaurants.

    10. Singapore Botanic Gardens: One thing that Singapore is known for is its lavish gardens. The Singapore Botanic Gardens are massive and a stroll around them will immerse you so much in nature, that you’ll wonder if you’re still in the city.

    Suggested Tour Itinerary for an 8-Hour Layover in Singapore

    View of Singapore Marina Bay
    You might be wondering how to structure your Singapore tour itinerary if you opt to explore the city independently. The least amount of time required for the free tour of Singapore via the Changi airport is 5.5 hours. If you go it alone, then 8 hours is the recommended amount of time to have available. This extra time is to leave room for “figuring it out” on your own, which can take some time in a foreign country.
    If you have more than 8-hours to spend in Singapore, then use this itinerary as a baseline to structure your trip around. You can swap out or add any of the attractions listed above into your itinerary, as they’re all within a 30-minute driving range.
    • Hours 1 to 2: Arrive at Changi Airport and get your bearings. You’ll land, maybe use the restroom, walk around, and exit the airport. The airport is huge so give yourself some time to acclimate when you first arrive. Also, use this time to leave your luggage in an airport baggage storage facility.

    • Hours 2 to 2.5: Hail a public taxi from Changi Airport and instruct them to take you to Gardens by the Bay. It will take you a maximum of 15 minutes to locate a taxi and 15 more minutes to drive from the airport to Gardens by the Bay. In total, the entire process should take you around 30 minutes.

    • Hours 2.5 to 4: Walk around Marina Bay Sands. There are a lot of things to see within Marina Bay Sands, and the recommended amount of time to spend there is 2 to 4 hours. Because you’ll be on a time crunch, settle for only being able to see a glimpse of it and spend 1.5 hours there.

    • Hours 4 to 5.5: Take a taxi from the Gardens by the Bay to Marina Bay Sands, which will take about 10 minutes in total (5-minutes to hail a cab and then 5-minutes to drive there), then spend about a little over an hour at Marina Bay Sands. Get a ticket to the rooftop and have a cocktail while there. You can take great pictures of the city from the top of the hotel.

    • Hours 5.5 to 6: Hail a public taxi, and take it back to Changi Airport.

    • Hours 6 to 8: Get your baggage from storage and check back into the airport for your flight. You’ll need two hours at the end of your itinerary as that’s the amount of time needed to check back into the airport for an international flight.

    So, Where Are you Headed After Your Layover?

    Singapore is the best city for a layover in Southeast Asia because of its geographical location, and the plethora of activities to do both in and outside of the airport. Whether you decide to stay in the airport during your stopover or to venture out, you’re bound to have a good time.
    There are many destinations in Southeast Asia that you could fly to/from with a layover in Singapore. Some of the best countries to visit in Southeast Asia include Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam. Check out the guides below for inspiration for your next trip.

    Read More Inspiration for a Trip to Southeast Asia

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