Surprisingly, one of the most exciting things that you can do in Southeast Asia is to schedule a long layover at the Singapore Changi Airport. The airport is ranked one of the best in the world for long 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 tells you 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: Some 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
Some people say that they would be happy just visiting Singapore Changi Airport on their vacation. That’s because the airport is a tourist attraction in and of itself. It’s the best airport for a layover in Southeast Asia. Usually, a shorter layover is better when you’re going to your final destination, but in Singapore, the longer the layover—the better.
There are many things to do while you wait for your next flight during a layover in Singapore. You can find everything you need to have fun right in Changi Airport. Here is a list of some of the best activities:
- See the World’s Tallest Indoor Waterfall: The Rain Vortex is a waterfall located inside the Singapore Airport. It is a massive display; measuring 7 stories tall.
- Visit the Butterfly Garden: The Singapore Airport Butterfly Garden has over 1,000 butterflies.
- Spend Time in the Entertainment Hall: You can play video games & watch movies here.
- Watch a Movie in the Theatre: Go see a new movie at the Singapore Airport Movie Theatre.
- Check Out the Flora & Fauna: There are many parks and gardens inside the airport with different plants and flowers. There is a Cactus Garden, Enchanted Garden, Hedge Maze, Orchid Garden, Pedal Garden, and more!
- Look at the Art Exhibits: There are countless art installations & exhibits at the airport. Some favorites are The Memory of Lived Space & Singapore Rojak.
- 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: At most airports, you can find small food vendors with basic items. However, Singapore airport features a full-blown supermarket where you can find almost any food you might want.
- Bring Your Kids to the Family Zone: Keep your kids busy 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 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
If you have a layover in Singapore Airport, there are a lot of great facilities available to make your time easier. Here are some of the best ones:
- VIP Lounge Access: There are over 20 VIP lounges in the Singapore airport. Some of these lounges allow passengers to pay for access. If you want to use a lounge, here is a list of lounges in the Singapore airport and how you can pay for access when you arrive.
- Baggage Storage: If you want to explore Singapore during your layover, you can leave the airport and store your baggage at a facility. There are several locations throughout the airport. Just go to a baggage storage room, fill out some paperwork, and let them inspect your bag. When you return, you’ll have to pay a fee to get your luggage back. Keep in mind that if you drop off your baggage in a location outside of your terminal, you’ll have to take it through security before re-entering the terminal.
- Free Rest Areas: If you need to take a nap but don’t want to spend money on a VIP lounge, the free rest areas in Changi airport are perfect. There are comfortable chairs where you can relax and sleep. This is a great place to relax if you have a long layover in Singapore and don’t want to spend much money.
How to Explore Singapore During a Layover
There are two ways to see Singapore during a long layover: on an organized tour or by exploring on your own.
- Take the Free Singapore Tour from Changi Airport: If you would 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 will need that extra time to check-out and in the airport.
When you arrive at the Singapore Airport, you can register for the tour. Normal tour operating hours are 7 AM to 6 PM. There are three different itineraries that you can choose from, and they vary due to COVID-19 regulations. Click here to view the current Singapore tour itineraries offered from Changi Airport.
- Explore Singapore Independently: If you want to see something different than what the free airport tour offers, or if you want to spend more than a few hours exploring Singapore, then exploring the city without an organized tour group is a good option. Be sure to read Singapore’s current COVID-19 regulations before setting out on your own.
Mass transit is efficient and affordable in Singapore. The best way to get from the airport to the tourist attractions is by taxi. You can hail a public taxi at the airport and then use taxis to get to different locations when traveling through Singapore alone.
If you choose to explore Singapore on your own, it is recommended that you start your tour at Gardens by the Bay or Marina Bay Sands. These two locations are in central locations and easy to find.
10 of the Best Attractions to See During a Stopover in Singapore
During a lengthy delay in Singapore, it’s simple to get a feel for the city since most of the major attractions are near to one another and accessible from the airport. If you don’t want to take the free Singapore tour provided by the airport but rather develop your own itinerary, consider these options:
- 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.
- 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 during the day and at 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.
- Merlion Park: This park is in front of Marina Bay. You can sit 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 during your Singapore tour.
- Night Safari: If you have a long layover in Singapore and it’s during the night, you can go on a night safari. The safari is about 30 minutes away from Changi Airport. You’ll be able to see animals that are active at night, like Asian elephants, lions, and leopards. The park helps protect the animals and also prevents their species from becoming extinct.
- National Gallery Singapore: If you’re an art fanatic, then visit the National Gallery in Singapore. The gallery is full of South Asian art and is a short 15-minute drive from the airport.
- Kampong Glam: This is a neighborhood in Singapore that’s full of culture & heritage. If you’ve got some time during your tour, walk around the neighborhood. You’ll see markets with Southeast Asian goods & restaurants with different cuisines.
- Haw Par Villa: This is a great place to learn about Singapore’s culture, eat great food, see some sculptures, and people-watch. There are live performances throughout the day and night. It is a 30-minute drive from the airport. You can make this your only stop or add it to your itinerary if you have a lot of time to spare during your layover.
- St. Andrews Cathedral: For travelers who enjoy seeing cathedrals from around the world, adding a trip to St. Andrews Cathedral to your itinerary is a must. The church and its surroundings are beautiful.
- East Coast Road: This is one of Singapore’s most popular areas, and it’s a favorite foodie destination. Grab a coffee or some ice cream if you’re on a budget. If you’ve got some more cash to spend, consider dining at one of their renowned eateries.
- Singapore Botanic Gardens: One thing Singapore is well-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
You might be wondering how to structure your Singapore tour if you choose to explore the city on your own. If you take the free tour from Changi airport, it will take 5.5 hours. If you go it alone, then 8 hours is the recommended amount of time to have available. This extra time is 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, use this as a guide to help structure your trip. You can swap out or add any of the attractions listed above into your itinerary, as they are all within a 30-minute driving range.
- Hours 1 to 2: Arrive at Changi Airport, get your bearings, and 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 30 minutes to drive from the airport to Gardens by the Bay. In total, the entire process should take you around 45 minutes.
- Hours 2.5 to 4: Walk around Marina Bay Sands, which is located next to Gardens by the Bay. 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. It will take about 10 minutes in total. (5-minutes to hail a cab and 5-minutes to drive there.) Spend about 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 the airport.
- Hours 6 to 8: Get your baggage from storage and check it back in at the airport for your flight. You’ll need three hours slotted at the end of your itinerary for this, as that’s the amount of time needed to check in at the airport for an international flight from Changi Airport.
So, Where Are you Headed After Your Layover?
Singapore is the best layover spot in Southeast Asia because of its geographical position and the variety of things to do both inside and outside of the airport. You’ll have a lot of fun whether you choose to remain at the airport or go out while on your layover.
There are plenty of places to go in Southeast Asia that you may fly between with a stop in Singapore. Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam are some of the greatest countries to visit in Southeast Asia. Check out the guides below for inspiration for your trip to Southeast Asia.