A layover in Singapore is, hands down the place where you want to spend a layover. Strong and weird statement, I know.
But, do you elicit the same reaction as me, when those anxiety-ridden layover flights pop up on the screen? Which is, to immediately clear caches (in a frantic mode) and start the search over.
Welp, clear no more, my friend! And start ‘submitting to cart’ those layover options in Singapore.
Why choose a layover in Singapore?
Out of 44,000 airports in the world. Singapore’s Changi Airport has a running 7-year consecutive streak, being titled the World’s Best Airport awarded by Skytrax. This Juggernaut of airports is efficient, clean and comfortable. And, hosts a ginormous list of things to do.
Changi airport has a rooftop pool and jacuzzi, beautiful gardens, a movie theater, many spa options, a free snooze area, the World’s Tallest Slide (in an airport), gobs of eateries and shopping, transit hotels AND the newest attraction, Jewel (it’s where you can find the World’s largest indoor waterfalls).
Stepping out of the airport, lays an additional ginormous list of things to do. With the majority of the main sights being a mere 20 kilometers away in Singapore’s city centre. It’s this closeness, that provides a perfect opportunity for all types of travelers (family, a group, couple or solo) and layover lengths to get a good glimpse of Singapore.
Year over year, Changi flight traffic continues to grow. During the next 6 months, Changi Airport will experience increasing heavier traffic, especially in December.
And if you’re wondering, what’s the official language. There are four. English, Tamil, Malay, and Chinese. Also, Singapore is one of the safest countries in the world. And as a woman who solo travels, this is very important (and well received).
Because there’s a HUGE list of Things To Do during a layover in Singapore. Feel free to use the JUMP AHEAD TO; table of contents to help find exactly what you need.
To collapse and open the list. Click on the button to the right Jump Ahead To.
Short, Long and Early Morning Layover times.
Short layover in Singapore; 5 hours and below
When a layover is 5 hours and below. It’s best to stay at the airport. But don’t worry, you won’t suffer FOMO. Changi airport has been designed with the latest entertainment to amaze and meet the needs of all type of travelers.
Technically, if you’re right at the 5 hour mark. You can leave the airport. But key factors need to be in your favor. Are you feeling lucky? The perfect scenario is as follows; (which provides a 2 & 1/2 hr window for exploring).
- You are hyper focused and precision tuned on where to go, what to do and know how to get there (hesitation & long decision making is not in your wheelhouse).
- You’re a solo traveler (or with someone who also moves at lightening speed).
- You’re checked in for your next flight and checked luggage will automatically meet you at your final destination.
- You don’t need a Visa.
- There’s hardly anyone in the immigration lines & you don’t need to declare at customs.
- You’re SIM card, Sing cash and have downloaded the Grab App ready.
- You arrive back to the airport 1 hr and 1/2 before your flight.
Long layover in Singapore; 6-11 hours
A long layover gives you ample time to take a tour or hit a few key spots to get a sense of what Singapore is like. All can be accomplished with enough time to check back in, utilize a shower (if needed) and grab a bite before your next flight.
Extra long layover in Singapore; 12-24 hours
You hit the jackpot of layover times in Singapore. There’s plenty of time to relax, see some sights, enjoy a tour, and split your exploration between the airport and the hot spots that Singapore has to offer.
Early morning layover in Singapore; midnight – 9am
The vampire layover is not necessarily a bad thing. If catching some ZZZ’s is what your body needs, no problem. There’s plenty of hotel options and designated snooze areas to accommodate your weary body. But what about the wide eyed and bushy tailed who has the energy of a Duracell battery bunny (thanks jet lag)? There are some options for the wide awake, as well.
Transit and air side hotels.
If you are choosing to stay in a transit hotel (not leaving the airport). Check out Changi’s Transit hotel options and prices.
Booking an air side hotel involves clearing immigration & customs, collecting luggage, and checking into the hotel. All with intent to venture onto Singapore land. There are many options that are close by the airport. The newest and closest to Changi airport is The YotelAir Hotel (located in Jewel). It’s perfect for a layover with options to book by the hour (four-hour block with optional two-hour blocks on-wards).
Also, here’s a list of Trip Advisor’s Top Booked Hotels in Singapore. Most are in the city centre (a 20-25 min. car ride from the airport).
Stay at the airport; short layover.
Look at this place
Isn’t it neat?
Didn’t you know this airport can’t be beat.
Wouldn’t you think I’m the voyager
The voyager whose seen everything?
Look at this Jewel
So many adventures to unfold
How many adventures can one airport hold?
Lookin’ around here you’d think
Whoa. Changi’s Airport really does. Have everything!
It’s got gardens and theatres aplenty
It’s got entertainment centres and restaurants galore
You want Free Wifi?
Its got plenty
This airport cares!
A whole big deal
And there’s mooooreeeeee…….
The other activities that make Changi Airport extraordinary are: A free airport tour, get a complimentary cocktail at Long Bar by Raffles (3 pm – 11 pm); your first cocktail is on the house. Watch a Peranankan digital love story, experience the World’s Tallest Airport Slide, interactive art (the Kinetic Rain (in T1) is my favorite) areas and the Social Tree.
Check out the Changi’s website for more detailed information and more things to do.
Changi Airport Bonus Pro Tip:
Want to experience a hawker style food centre (a hawker centre is a food area with many food and drink stalls that sell a variety of inexpensive, local cuisine)? Visit a Staff Canteen food area located in Terminal 1 (in the basement) and 2 (at the rooftop above the carpark). Some dishes are under $5 and drinks can be found for little as 50 cents (note BRING CASH)! Open 7am – 9pm.
Jewel in Changi Airport.
Is the newest extension in Changi’s powerful arsenal of things to do. Known for hosting the World’s Tallest Indoor Waterfall. The Rain Vortex, is the epicenter of Jewel. The area also hosts a 5-story rope playground, a canopy bridge and park. A kid play area with fun foggy mist bowl, slides, a hedge maze, sky nets, mirror maze, a bamboo forest, a topiary walk, and a petal garden are all in Jewel.
Layover travelers do need valid travel documents, permits and entry visas to visit Jewel.
Don’t forget to check out the night show of the Rain Vortex (7:30 pm to midnight).
Stepping out of the airport.
Clear for clearance. Double check if you need a Visa to tour around Singapore.
Time frames & logistics to consider on a layover.
The time to exit the airport (disembark, luggage, visa, immigration, customs, retrieve luggage and wait for transportation) can take anywhere from 40 mins to an 1 hr & 1/2.
When returning to the airport, return with a minimum 1 hour 1/2 prior to flight time (remember gates can close 20-30 min prior to take off time).
Total time to leave and return to the airport is about 3 hours. Add additional hour(s) if you need to collect your luggage, want to eat at the airport and or shower.
What’s up with your baggage? Not not emotional baggage, your luggage, my dear. If your checked luggage will transfer through to your final destination – you’re golden. If you must collect your checked luggage you can easily utilize any baggage storage at any Terminal or in Jewel (where you can also check-in up to 24hrs).
Bank, Sim card and Cash.
Bank notice- ensure your travel notice is on for Singapore.
ATMS and cash exchange are available at the airport (& multiple options around the city). Most businesses take cards but it’s always a good idea to have cash especially for hawker centres, markets and when taxis suddenly decide they are cash only, as their credit card machine goes suspect and ‘surprisingly’ no longer works (it has happened to us a couple of times).
Pick up a Sim card at the airport
The best two apps to download are Google Maps and Grab (more on this below).
Transport options for Changi Airport.
Singapore’s subway, taxi and shared riding (Grab) are all easily available in Changi Airport.
Singapore’s public subway is the MRT (Mr. T as I like to call it). It’s cheaper than a taxi & shared riding but more timely. MRT opens at 5:30 am and last train runs at 11:25 pm to midnight (station dependent). The optimal ticket choice for someone on a layover, is the single ride pass.
The time and cost difference between the MRT and taxi / shared riding to the city centre is; an MRT is S$3 and an hour transit. A taxi or shared riding (Grab – it’s the Uber, Lyft) is 15-20 min ride at S$20 -S$30 (passenger & surge varied). Take note; if you choose to use a taxi and pay by a credit card. A 10% surcharge will be added to your total.
When traveling with young children; download GrabFamily App. GrabFamily has child seating from aged 1-7 years old for within 1.35m in height (4.26 feet).
PRO TIP: Grab is an easier cashless & time advantage. At the airport, the designated Grab pick up location is ‘Arrival Pick up Point’ (follow the signs).
How to get to XYZ and how much does it cost?
Is a commonly asked 2-part question. The answers my friend, lay within a trifecta of Google maps, Grab App and/ or MRT.
I use these APPs on the daily.
Google Maps is my guide dog and I heavily depend on Google to navigate, give me distance, public transport options and walking times. The MRT calculator provides cost between stations. And when I need a fast transport option, Grab App will provide cost with low waiting times.
What to know BEFORE venturing out for a layover in Singapore.
Weather. There’s one season and it’s year round. Hot, humid, sauna-like temperatures. While it does rain, it’s sporadic & short. The rain lasts anywhere between 20 min to 2 hours. There are days where it rains all day during Dec-Feb but those type of rainy days are few and far between.
Because of the humidity, it’s best to wear breathable clothing. Dry fit is the best material choice. Cotton is nightmarish to wear in humidity. Read here for additional tips on how to survive humidity.
A travel umbrella and or a hat and SPF for the sun. We are 2 degrees from the equator, which mean skin sun damage. A good layer between you and the heavy ultra violet rays is absolutely necessary.
Keep the buggies at bay with mozzie spray if you are going to parks.
Water. Unlike neighboring countries, the water from the tap is very safe to drink in Singapore. Fill up at any refill watering stations in the airport before venturing out.
Medications; bring your medications in their original prescription bottles. To be sure what’s allowable check it out here.
Cash; most places take major credit cards, but if you’re going to hawkers centers, in a cash only taxi or purchasing items from a market or street vendor, you will need cash.
Tipping: Tip a local guide who provides exceptional service. Otherwise it’s not customary. Do note, some restaurants and bars add a service fee onto the bill.
If you’re taking the MRT, take notice of the no smoking, eating, drinking and no durian signs on the MRT station. Not sure what durian is, check it all out here.
When riding escalators, stand on the left to allow others to pass on the right.
Tourist refund. Tourists are eligible for the 7% goods and services tax (GST). Read more for eligibility and qualifications.
In the highly unlikely event, here are the Emergency numbers are:
Emergency Ambulance & Fire: 995 and Police Emergency: 999
Pick your adventure.
Plan what’s important to you.
I’m going to go against the grain and say, when on a layover – Don’t do it for the ‘Gram. I say this for two reasons (while I duck & cover as I’m sure hate mail will be sent to my Inbox). If and when Instagram becomes MySpace. The sought after picture, just like MySpace will become obsolete.
There are ga’billions of Instagrammable location pics out there and using your layover limited time solely to get the ba”zillion’th photo, is a waste of your layover time.
Choose your adventure that fills your personal interests. Be the snowflake that you are and fill your time with memorable experiences, not superficial encounters.
Take a free tour organized by Changi Airport.
Changi airport offers a free 2.5hr bus tour . Do know, certain parameters and timings must qualify. E.g. your layover must be less than 24 hours but more than 5.5 hours and there are certain time slots the tours are available. It’s also a walk in registration, so, first come first serve basis.
The BIG Attractions.
Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the Marina Bay area is where all the heavy hitting attractions are.
It’s a quick 15 to 20 min. car ride from the airport. The only issue you will have, is wishing you had more time.
Cloud Forest, Gardens by the Bay, Super Trees and the OCBC Skywalk way, Singapore Flyer, Helix bridge, the Merlion, Views of CBD, Esplanade and the Flower dome. Is all in and around the Marina Bay Hotel and bay area.
Marina Bay Sands hotel is the iconic and most sought tourist destination in Singapore. Famously known for the infinity pool that offers views of the CBD from stories above (you do need to be a guest of the hotel to get access to the pool). The SkyPark Observation Deck provides the same view for a fee.
Best for those with the extra long layover. A 30 min car ride or 1 hour & 40 min MRT ride can take you to Sentosa Island.
Sentosa island is for kids and adult kids a like. It’s an island playground with theme parks, casinos, cable car rides, dining, beach clubs, and those who are looking to be lazy on sand. Universal Studios, S.E.A. Aquarium, Adventure Cove Waterpark, Dolphin Island and much more are on Sentosa Island.
Get Wild; Jurong Bird Park & Singapore Zoo.
Another option for a super long layover is to get within nature and wildlife. These parks focus on educating their visitors about animals, conservation and the environment. Along with a priority on sustainability.
Bird watchers would love Jurong Bird Park. A 40min car ride or a 2 hr public transport ride from the airport. Open from 8.30am – 6.00pm
Book a Tour with Hello Singapore Tours.
I am a huge proponent for tours. Especially during a layover. And more so, when it’s with a reputable and award winning company, such as Hello Singapore Tours.
Hello Singapore’s tour guides can meet travelers at Changi Airport and take them on journey through Singapore’s culture. The tour guides share Singapore’s history, fantastic foodie spots, fascinating neighborhoods, and of course bring you to the popular tourist attractions.
Hello Singapore‘s tour guides do not skip a beat. They are the ultimate hosts, whose interaction and service are unparalleled. Try getting that from a big bus tours.
But don’t let me convince you. Take a look at Hello Singapore’s stellar reviews on Trip Advisor. And notably their award winning record of the Certificate of Excellence in 2019 for Singapore, the Certificate of Excellence from 2015 to 2019 and the Hall of Fame certificate for Hong Kong.
Sit, learn and get the highlights.
This is a great option for those wanting to see Singapore with minimal walking. A hop on and hop off bus is suitable for the 10 hrs + layover. It’s an easy 20 min car ride from the airport (20 min ride) Suntec City Mall.
Singapore River Cruise.
Relax and learn about Singapore while sitting on your bum on a bum boat on a River Cruise. The boat will take you along the Singapore River and Marina Bay passing by and under historical landmarks. There are day and evening options (the evening option is more popular because of the laser light shows put on by Marina Bay Sands). This is best for those with a 6+ hour layover, where you can enjoy a 40 min or 60 min cruise.
The a la carte layover traveler. Pick your layover adventure.
You’re the DIY traveler. You’re the one that makes savvy plans and most likely an experienced voyager who has a clear focus on exactly what it is you want to do and see.
Get your best stretchy pants on, do some jaw exercises and bring your full on lumber jack appetite to one or all of the amazing hawker centres, Singapore is famously known for.
Hawker centres are your gastronomy savoir. WHY? 4 reasons. They represent the best of Singapore dishes with price tags as low as S$2 – S$6. And some of these street meat delights have been crowned with a Bib Gourmand Michelin award or with that beautiful, bright shiny Michelin star. Also, it’s where to find local favorites; chili crab, Hainanese chicken rice, laksa, kaya toast and kopi. Lastly, they are Anthony Bourdain approved.
“Singapore is possibly the most food-centric place on Earth, with the most enthusiastic diners, the most varied and abundant, affordable dishes — available for cheap — on a per-square-mile basis. The hawker centers (basically, food courts where individually-owned mom and pop operations serve street food from tiny shops and booths) are wonderlands of Chinese, Indian, and Malay specialties. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel making food porn in Singapore.” -Anthony Bourdain
Side note: Have you watched Netflix’s, Street Food? It’s a must watch and Singapore in on the screen (although my fav’ episode is Osaka, Japan). The show has been described as a hole that Anthony Bourdain has left (anyone else watch reruns of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations?).
Each of the listed below 6 hawker centres are 15-20 min. car ride from the airport with 5-10 min. drive in between each other (in case you want to get your Hawker hopping on).
Lau Pa Sat: in the heart of the CBD. 18 mins away from the airport. The satay is a sought after favorite and you’ll be swimming in the many options.
Maxwell Food Center: In Chinatown and popularly known for Hainanese chicken rice at Tian Tian Chicken Rice.
Chinatown Complex Food Centre: Is also in Chinatown. Eat at a Michelin star hawker stall; Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle.
Newton Food Center: On Orchard road, famously known for its’ scene in the movie, Crazy Rich Asians.
Tekka Center: In Little India, try 545 Whampoa Prawn Noodles, an Anthony Bourdain favorite. Lots of vegetarian options here.
Geylang Serai Market: Get the best Malay dishes and desserts here ( fantastic options for Halal food. It’s also a great place to pick up a souvenir.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget to bring cash and a pack of tissues (napkins) to ‘chope’ – reserve a seat at a table.
Local Festivals / Art and Food shows.
There’s always something extra happening every month in Singapore. You will find festivals centered around music, art, change of season, food and drink, cultural and religious events.
The National Sports Arena is a collection of events (sports, concerts, parades), the stadium is close to the CBD and hosts many events. TimeOut, Eventbrite and HoneyCombers always have their finger on the current happenings in the area.
Hike in the National Parks or Botanic Gardens. #getoutthere
Is nature calling? Not to the toilet kind of calling, but is your ‘inner wild’ calling to be surrounded by flora and fauna.
If the mention of hiking in thick foliage, seeing wildlife and hearing lots of noisy insects in dense vegetation, captures your attention. Then get your heart pumping in Singapore’s rain forest. A hike in the National Parks or a stroll through Singapore’s Botanic Garden are the best options.
Each of the below areas are a 25-35 min car ride from the airport. Which is plenty of time for those with a super long layover. Don’t forget to leave ample time to head back to the airport for a meal and a shower.
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Hike to the highest summit (540-ft/166-m) in Singapore. A vast 164 hectare (400 acres) in dense jungle.
MacRitchie Nature Reserve. Hike along the Tree Top Trail and get a birds eye view of the reserve. Tons of wildlife here.
Botanic Gardens. The first and only tropical Botanic Garden on the UNESCO list. These bountiful gardens covers 83-acre of botanic gardens.
Pro Tip: Bring mozzie spray, water and keep any backpack zipped up and on your person. Cheeky monkeys will test their pick pocketing skills in the reserves.
For those who get their exercise when shopping (or need retail therapy). Orchard Road will meet your needs. A 25 min car ride from the airport, is a stretch of 2.2 kilometers of stores and malls. Yup malls, plural with the full gamete of all price points.
Newton Food Centre can be be found here. One of Singapore’s most popular Hawker centers (also a Crazy Rich Asian location site).
If you want to walk the retail mile. Have Grab or a taxi drop off you off at ION Orchard Mall. From there walk along Orchard Rd towards Plaza Singapura mall.
Crazy Rich Asians Areas.
Either you read Kevin Kwan’s book or watched the movie (or both) and you’re intrigued to see where the magic happened.
Don’t fret, you’re in a safe stalker admittance zone. This is the healthiest form of obsession stalk’erie. With my right hand raised up, I too, am a novel / movie overly enthusiastic crazed fan. My obsession was the book and movie, Midnight in the Garden of Good in Evil.
The Crazy Rich Asian Hot Spots are found in; Marina Bay Sands & Gardens by the Bay, Merlion Park in Marina Bay, the Newton Food Center, Raffles Hotel, Chjimes, Sentosa Island, Ann Siang Hill Road.
Most of these spots are in the Marina Bay Area or Civic District Area. Sentosa island is south of Singapore’s CBD and Ann Siang Hill is in Chinatown.
If your aim is to visit all these areas, it’s best to have the longest layover – as Sentosa is an hour via public transport from the CBD or 15 min car ride.
A few months ago I was jogging around Fort Canning and was stopped by a father son duo visiting from USA. They had enough of Marina Bay Sands, Sentosa and wanted to know where to go that doesn’t look like “Disney” (their words, not mine). After chatting with them to understand exactly what it was they were looking for. I directed them to Club Street in Chinatown, Amoy Street in the Telok Ayer area and Haji Lane in Kampong Glam.
Neighborhoods are a great way to see a mix of temples, mosques, shophouses and skyscrapers. Here are the top most visit neighborhoods sprinkled within the city centre.
Chinatown – A bustling section of Singapore that many tourist frequent. Visit their hawker centres, meander around the streets to shop the souvenir shops and take in the murals by my fav’ local artist Yip Yew Chong. Shop along the boutiques on Club Street and visit the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum.
Little India – Personally one of my favorite neighborhoods. Visually this neighborhood is eye-popping-color-candy stimulating. To get a good sense of local life, visit the Tekka Centre. The Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is one of my favorite temples here in Singapore and the food at Banana Leaf Apolo is delicious.
Bugis / Kampong / Arab Street/ Haji Lane– Get surrounded by colorful murals, unique boutiques, bustling cafes and in close walking distance is Atlas Bar – 5th rated one of the top 50 bars in Asia for 2019 and 3rd in Singapore.
Sights Landmarks, Historic Sites, Architectural Buildings.
Calling all history buffs, museum goers and generally the interested who are curious to learn more about Singapore’s history. Visit the Historic Civic District. These colonial -era buildings are located northwest of Marina Bay.
A fun way to venture around this area is renting a scooter.
Fullerton Hotel: Not to be confused with the One Fullerton and Fullerton Bay Hotel – both on the bay, not on the river. National Gallery: it’s hard to not spend hours in this massive museum. Catch a rooftop view from one of their rooftop restaurants.
Early morning layover. Things to do at midnight to 9 am.
Early morning layovers take a bit more research. Also, will you be jet lagged or ready for adventure? Whatever the feelings are, the body’s sleep cycle will ultimately be the decision maker.
Things to do at midnight to 3am.
Midnight to 3 am is the tale end of nightlife. If you are able to get to the CBD around 11pm-midnight. Most eateries will be open and can take the last order at 2:30am – 2:45am. Bars and nightlife in the Quays (along the Singapore River), Club Street (Chinatown) and Haji Lane (Kampong Glam) – will be open for those looking for last call.
What’s open UNTIL 5am to 6am.
Cosmic Bowling – Bowling, open until 6am.
The Mind Cafe – Board games open until 6am on wkds.
K-Star – Karaoke open until 6am.
Eat Ramen at Keisuke Ramen Lobster King in Clarke Quay (along the Singapore River) open until 5am.
Try Swee Choon Tim Sum near Little India in Jalan Besar to eat dim sum (open until 6am but closed on Tuesday).
Early morning brekkie options.
Tekka Wet Market in Little India; 6:30am – MRT Little India Blueline.
Teck Seng Soya Bean Milk opens at 5am in Tiong Bahru hawker centre.
Killiney Kopitiam: opens at 6am. Great place to experience a Singaporean breakfast. 67 Killiney Rd, Singapore 239525. (kopi, soft boiled egg, kaya toast)
Boomarang: along the Singapore River in Roberston Quay and opens at 6am. 60 Robertson Quay, #01-15 The Quayside.
The 24/7 hour options.
Mustafa Centre. A massive shopping centre in Little India offering a wide variety of items (grocery’s, clothing, electronics, etc).
Don Don Don Donki is a Japanese supermarket in Orchard Central products from cosmetics, to electronics, food, and even costumes and toys.
In Jewel there are some eateries that are open 24/7.
Head over to the spa that’s open 24/7.
Try prawning and have a beer – open 24/7,
Khakabo gaming centre.
There you go. A HUGEMONGEOUS list of options of things to do during a layover in Singapore. The secret sauce to surviving a layover…. is planning great things to look forward to.