In my opinion, Singapore is one of those places where you can truly take in as much of the city in a short amount of time. My first visit to Singapore was in April of 2012, and I spent a total of 3 days there – frankly, that was too long (maybe it seemed super long because it was on the tail-end of a 2-week long trip to Hong Kong and Thailand…).
Since Dad has never visited Singapore before, I decided to squeeze in a quick stop there on our way to Sydney earlier this year… and I made it a point to prove to him that you can infact take in [most of] what Singapore and Changi have to offer in just 12 hours.
Here’s 5 ways to maximize your layover in Singapore:
Free Singapore Tour: Upon landing in Changi, there are two free tours that can be taken – the Heritage Tour and the City Lights Tour. Both of these free tours are sponsored by Changi Airport and Singapore Airlines. Dad and I opted to take the the Heritage Tour, which ran about 2 hours. The Heritage Tour was conducted via air-conditioned bus, and the tour guide provided an extensive history lesson about the Singaporean culture. The tour included a 15-minute stopover at the Merlion Park for pictures of/with the iconic Merlion and Marina Bay Sands. Other stops along the way included: The Singapore Flyer, Gardens by the Bay, The Esplanade, and Colonial District. Frankly, I thought the tour was just “OK”, primarily because we were tired from flying and there was a long wait for the entire group to clear immigrations before the tour started; however, I’d definitely recommend this tour if you want an excuse to venture outside of the airport for some fresh air, meet other fellow transiting travelers, and have some time to take some quick touristy pictures like this one:
Another free tour option is the City Lights Tour, which runs from 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm each night, allowing you the privilege of seeing breathtaking panoramic views of Singapore’s famous attractions and skyline, while finishing with a stop in the heart of the city at Raffle’s Hotel (home of the legendary Singapore Sling).
To register for either of the tours, simply approach the FST booths (Free Singapore Tours) located at Terminal 2 or Terminal 3 at least one hour prior to your desired tour departure time. You can find out more information about both of the free tours here.
Just some notes though: from what I remember, you’re only allowed one immigrations exit stamp, and you must return back to Changi with the tour group. If you plan to spend more time in Singapore at the conclusion of the tour, you’ll be responsible for getting back into the city on your own.
Changi Transit Program (aka free $40 voucher to spend at the airport): Changi is one of my favorite airports to transit through not only because of their great lounges, but also because there’s just so much to do. Between catching a movie at the movie theater, taking a dip at the pool, and visiting the in-airport beautiful butterfly garden, you’ll never have a dull moment. If you find yourself transiting through Changi Airport between now until June 30, 2013, do know that there is a special promotion available providing $40 for eligible travelers who have an inbound and outbound flight on Singapore Airlines or SilkAir. You may see if you are eligible for the voucher here, and the voucher is valid at virtually any store or experience in Changi (including lounge access for those without status). Need inspiration? Here are some recommendations on how to spend your voucher. Caught with a short connection this time around? No worries – once you claim your voucher, it’s valid until March 31st, 2014.
Hawker Stations: Yummmm… one thing I truly miss about Singapore is the multicultural food. I love the hints of Indian influence, and the signature spicy crabs are to-die-for. If you have time to explore the city and try some authentic food, skip a pricey restaurant and opt to stumble upon a “hawker station”. There is truly nothing that can compare to experiencing authentic food in a foreign place. Hawker stations, comparable to modern-day food courts, provide exotic tastes in a modernized, yet culturally-stimulating setting. Each “stand” features one family’s authentic cooking at an incredibly-reasonable price. The portions are plentiful and, I don’t recall ever spending more than ~$12 per meal.
Marina Bay Sands: If you get a rush from casinos, or perhaps you’re fascinated by some pretty incredible architecture, pop into Marina Bay Sands. Aside from just gambling, there’s plenty of shopping and dining options inside too. If you have the time, I’d definitely say it’s “worth it” to buy a ticket to SkyPark (which is the very top observation deck) where you can see amazing views of Singapore, and you can peek at the famous Marina Bay Sands infinity pool. On my last visit to Singapore, we opted to purchase the SkyPark and ArtScience museum combo pass. If you have time to check out the museum, I’d again say it’s “worth it”. To be honest, I am not a museum lover. At all. But, I was completely blown away by the Andy Warhol and Titanic exhibits that were happening at the time (April 2012). The many hours I spent in there felt merely like minutes because I enjoyed it so much. You can easily spend a few hours at Marina Bay Sands (and in my case, the ArtScience museum), and it’s definitely a must-see if you’re visiting Singapore – layover or not.
Orchard Road: To satisfy your inner shopper, albeit window shopper, Orchard Road provides an array of aesthetically-pleasing high-end designer shops to stroll by. Located in Singapore’s Financial District, Orchard Road also features Tanglin Centre, one of the oldest shopping centers in Singapore. Frankly, I found my time on Orchard Road to be quite short since upscale shopping is really not my thing. Instead, I took it upon myself to walk from Orchard Road all the way to Merlion Park (3.6 KM, approximately 45 minutes). It was definitely a scenic walk, but keep this in mind: Singapore is quite a hot and steamy city, so be prepared to arrive at Merlion Park pretty drenched!
I hope some of these tips are useful to you the next time you find yourself with a layover in Singapore! If you have any other suggestions to add, feel free to drop a line in the comments!