A stopover in Singapore is almost inevitable for many travelers making their way to South East Asia, Australia, or other parts of Asia Pacific. The Singapore Changi Airport is one of the biggest airports in the world, serving more than 100 airlines with over 6,400 weekly flights connecting Singapore to 300 cities in about 60 countries and territories worldwide. Needless to say, there are lots of routes that connect in Singapore and our route from Australia to Toronto this past December was one of them.
We managed to score this flight for under $2,000 return – a great deal for this time of the year. At first glance, the flight itinerary didn’t look appealing – two 7-hour stops along the way and a total door to door time of over 40 hours! “Yuk” you might say, but we saw it differently. We saw it as an opportunity to make the most out of our stopovers, and in Singapore we did exactly as we planned – WE ROCKED OUR STOPOVER!
Singapore is one of those cities that makes it easy to enjoy a long layover, if you are prepared and well informed you too can rock your Singapore layover. Here are a few of our tips!
Give Yourself Enough Time
Singapore Changi airport is located about 20 kms from the city centre, making it easy to get in and out of the city. But keep in mind that you’ll need at least 1-2 hours to get off your first flight, find a place to store your luggage, and get out into the city. You’ll need another 2-2.5 hours to get back to the airport, pick up your luggage, and check into your next flight. Unfortunately, if your stopover is only 4-5 hours, it just won’t be enough. You want to have at least 2-3 hours in the city to make it worthwhile. So aim for 8 hours or more in between your flights.
Book Both Flights on One Itinerary
The benefit of having flights on both sides of your layover operated by the same airline or by airline partners is that they will save you the logistical hassles during the stopover. You’ll be able to check your luggage all the way through, get both of your boarding passes before the first flight and not have to worry about any of this when you arrive in Singapore. You’ll be ready to step off the plane, go through immigration and head straight to the city.
Leave Your Luggage and Carry-Ons at the Airport
If you aren’t able to book both flights on the same itinerary, don’t worry. Singapore makes it easy and cheap to leave your luggage at the airport while you explore the city. Every terminal (there are 3 of them at Singapore Changi) offers Luggage Storage services, available for just SGN $5 per bag for the first 24 hours. Follow the signs at the Terminals or ask one of the Customer Service Reps for assistance in finding the Luggage Store Offices.
Even if your luggage is checked through to your final destination, it might be a good idea to leave your carry on luggage in storage while you explore Singapore. A little 5-7kg backpack doesn’t feel heavy when you are carrying it onto the flight, but trust me, 4 hours of walking around the city with a 7kg backpack on your shoulders is NOT a good idea. (I speak from experience, a rather painful one!)
Make Sure You Can Legally Leave the Airport
Most nationalities can enter Singapore without a Visa, however there are exceptions, countries like Russia, China, Ukraine, Moldova, Hong Kong and others. So check the Immigration Authority Website to avoid surprises at immigration.
Take Advantage of the FREE Singapore City Tour
DO NOT PASS THROUGH IMMIGRATION/SECURITY!
Changi Airport offers free Singapore City tours to all transit customers. It’s a perfect way to get an overview of the city if you only have 5-6 hours to spare.Tours lasts 2 hours and visit many of the major sights in Singapore, like the Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade, Marina Bay Financial Centre, Bugis Village, Chinatown, Little India, and more. Tours departs at designated times daily between 9am until 4pm (for the Heritage Tour) and at 6:30pm for the City Lights Tour.
Note: Free Singapore Tours are only available to transit customers and thus have to be booked prior to passing through security and immigration. The kiosks where one can book these tours are easy to miss (we did), so it’s best to ask a Customer Service Representative for help as soon as you get off the plane.
The tours are certainly great for those that want a little overview of Singapore, but they only make one stop at the Marina Bay Promenade and don’t allow you much time to explore the city. If a bus tour doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, don’t do it. Exploring Singapore on your own is easy, and in my opinion, much more enjoyable!
Take the MRT Into the City
If you have decided to explore the city on your own, you have 2 options for getting into the city centre: MRT (Singapore’s Subway System) or taxi. a Taxi into the city will take roughly 20-25 minutes and cost S$ 20, while the subway will be closer to an hour but cost only S $3 each way. If you are traveling in a group, taking a taxi is a no brainer, but if you are a budget traveler. If you are traveling solo, as a couple, or if you simply have the time, take the MRT.
Most of the subway lines from the airport to the city run above ground giving you great views of the different suburbs of Singapore along the way. The subway is clean, air conditioned, and comfortable and unless you are traveling in rush hour, you are almost guaranteed a seat.
One of my favourite things about taking the MRT in Singapore is that it allows for great people watching. It truly gives you a taste for the local life, local culture, and customs. To me that’s worth the extra 30 mins on the train!
Pick Only 1 or 2 Areas to Explore
Once you get into the city don’t try to do everything! Singapore may seem small, but its a massive city with a ton of little neighbourhoods all offering their own sights and attractions. Pick 1 or 2 areas (depending on how long your layover is) and stay awhile. Need advice on where to go and what to do? Here are a few of our suggestions:
Chinatown: one of the best areas for culture and cuisine in the city. The area is contained between Pagoda Street and Smith Street, although the official Chinatown borders extend further south and east. Check out the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, grab a bite to eat at the hawker stalls set up on Smith Street, or shop for souvenirs and Chinese trinkets at the shops all around the pagoda. Finish off your evening with a beer at one of the local pubs or a cup of tea meticulously brewed at Tea Chapter
Marina Bay/Financial District: The area is best known for the Marina Bay Sands Resort that is home to a hotel, casino, shopping mall, convention centre, and museum. It also features the newly opened Gardens by the Bay, an absolute delight for nature and photography lovers. You could spend hours roaming around the gardens and admiring the views of the Marina Bay. (We definitely did)
Orchard Road: If your heart goes “boom boom boom” at the idea of shopping, then look no further than the main shopping streets in Singapore – Orchard Road and Scotts Road. Here you’ll be greeted with several kilometers of road lined entirely with upmarket shopping malls. Not my idea of fun, but hey it’s heaven or some!
Riverside: If you are into art, museums, and culture head to Riverside where you’ll find the majority of Singapore’s historical attractions. This area is home to the Merlion, Singapore’s official symbol, as well a number of museums, theatres, and concert halls.
Little India: This vibrant area is the centre for the Indian community in Singapore. Head over to Serangoon Road, right into the heart of action. Enjoy some shopping, people watching, and make sure you try the uniquely Singaporean dish – fish head curry
Sentosa Island: If you are traveling with the little ones (or maybe you are a little one at heart?) the Sentosa Island is the place for you. Get there by taking the monorail from the MRT station called “Harbourfront” and spend your free time checking out Singapore’s Universal Studios Theme Park. There are also gardens, nature trails, and sandy beaches that are probably more suitable for a shorter layover.
Don’t Forget to Eat
One of the best things about Singapore is the food. From hawker centres to upscale restaurants, this city has it all. Try Singapore’s famous chicken rice, chilli crab, and char kway teow, or go beyond the usual choices to try something wacky and different.
Come Back to the Airport Early to Enjoy a Much Needed Foot Massage
If you spent a few hours roaming around Singapore your feet will be begging for some pampering! Plopping down in a comfy chair and having your calves and feet massaged after hours of walking around the city is not a luxury, it’s a necessity! But don’t worry an airport foot massage won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Do get back early to snag a seat right in front your departure gate and enjoy a much deserved FREE foot massage!
Want to extend your stay by a few days? We recommend the Bliss Hotel Singapore for its modern decor and great location in the heart of Singapore’s Chinatown. Click here to check availability for your travel dates!
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Have you ever rocked a layover in Singapore or another city?