What to do in Singapore while on a layover

What to do in Singapore layover

Wonder what you can do while you are on a layover in Singapore and if you should get to the city or wait at the airport till your next flight?

We have been in Singapore 3 times already and all 3 were with a long time layover, so we decided to write this article to recommend you what to do, where to go and the must-see places when you are here.

As we are based in Greece we flew from the capital of Greece, Athens to Bangkok in 2018, and to Saigon in 2019, both flights were with a layover in Singapore. The flight is about 10 hours straight with the Scoot Airlines which is very convenient as you get inside in Europe and get out in Asia without a stop but it can also be tiring trip if you are not used to long trips like this.

Scoot Air / Tigerair is a Singaporean low-cost airline owned by Singapore Airlines and since 2017 the company started executing long haul flights from Singapore to Athens, and in 2018 from Singapore to Berlin. With Scoot you can book really cheap flights one way or roundtrip as the prices can get as low as 165 euro for one way flight during the promotion period. As this is a low-cost airline you should not expect comforts like on flight entertainment, wi-fi or meals, because everything comes with extra charge.

traveling from athens with scoot
ready to board the Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Singapore’s Changi airport

Changi airport is the main airport in Singapore, one of the biggest transportation hubs in South East Asia and personally our favourite one. At Changi, which has been rated since 2013 as the best airport in the world, you can enjoy your layover by staying inside or get out to explore the city if you have enough time.

If you decide to spend your time at the airport you have many choices but if your transit is during the night them sorry but the most shops and entertainment activities are closed. During the day you have many more things to do to kill your time here.

Some of them are:

  • Spent time at the duty-free department as except the common goods like perfumes, souvenirs and tobacco you will find several branded electronics, smartphones and clothes at good rates.
  • Buy a snack or beverages at the 7-11 mini market.
  • Chill at the gardens. Except for the small gardens inside the airport, there are bigger ones like the Sunflower garden, the Cactus garden and the Butterfly garden at different terminals.
  • Relax by the pool at the Aerotel Transit Hotel. Enjoy a swim and watch planes take off from the runway at the same time! Located at Terminal 1, the pool also features a jacuzzi, poolside bar and shower facilities. The entrance costs about 17 Singapore dollars.
  • Play games on xbox, playstation or watch a movie for free. There are two small cinema rooms located in terminal 3 and 2.
  • Go to check the Kinetic Rain, the world’s largest kinetic sculpture in terminal 1.
  • Visit the interesting Aviation gallery at terminal 3 and learn the aviation history of Singapore.

On the other hand, if comfort means everything to you we suggest have a nap at the airport’s hotel, have a relaxing massage, use the gym or the business centre. If you are flying with a business class ticket or you have a lounge member card you can enter the several lounges Changi airport hosts. But even the travellers who are flying on the economy class can enter by paying at the entrance. Some of the facilities in the lounges are free wi-fi, shower, workstations, massage chairs and of course plenty of food and beverages. Advise the airport’s webpage or browse the site we recommend to get info for every airport in the world, it’s called Sleeping in Airports.

In April 2019, a few days before writing this post, we were notified that a new section in Changi airport has been opened to the visitors and travellers. The Jewel Changi complex, as it is called, cost 1.3 billion dollars and include about 280 shopping stores and food outlets, recreation facilities, and a 40 m indoor waterfall, the world’s tallest. The complex lies outside the immigration control and it is a must-see attraction for those who are on a layover in Singapore.

tallest waterfalll made by man
watch the video of the new complex in Changi airport

Now, before getting out you have also one more option. There is a tour booth located somewhere in terminal 2 and 3 that offers 2 free guided tours. The Heritage Tour runs five times daily and the City Sights Tour runs twice daily. Each tour includes two short stopovers at famous landmarks.
If you have more time to spare or have a really long layover, you may want to consider a Changi Stopovers package instead, and take your time to discover this beautiful island – state. Unfortunately, we couldn’t experience those tours to describe you the experience as the seats are filled up really fast, so if you are interested you have to get there directly when you get out of the airplane.

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Free tour booth at Changi airport

The third choice is to discover amazing Singapore by yourself. First thing is to leave any unnecessary luggage at the left baggage service at the airport. The half-day service should cost you no more than 5 euro. After clearing the immigration which is quite fast, follow the signs ‘train to the city’, they will lead you to the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit). MRT is the fastest way to get to the city centre, you can find the MRT station in the basement of Terminal 2. Buy a roundtrip ticket from the ticket machine (takes only Singapore dollars) and get into the train that runs every 10 min from 05:30 am – 23:20 daily. The ride will last about 30 minutes. For more details you can also check this article afterwards.

what to do in singapore on a layover
Changi airport: MRT, Left Baggage service and Ambassador Lounge

Places to see in Singapore

Since layover means that you have not much time we suggest a few things we did ourselves. Whether it is sightseeing or just walking across the city and enjoying your time, Singapore will amaze you with its modern means of transportation, the cleanliness of the city, the huge parks and the mixed architecture and culture. Founded as a British trading colony in 1819, Singapore is one of the great cities of the world with its blend of Asian and European cultures. You can imagine Singapore as a city built inside a huge garden as everywhere around you, you can see trees, parks and beautiful exotic flowers. So let’s start our tour!

Visit Chinatown

When it comes traveling in Asia, Chinatown is a word synonym to great fancy street food, shopping souvenirs, traditional Chinese medicine or just have fun by watching the people’s daily life. The mornings in Chinatown of Singapore generally are quiet but late in the evening this place gets quite busy. Spend some time here to eat like a local or just have some beautiful pictures of the architecture and the small scenic alleys. Don’t forget to visit the Thian Hock Keng temple built in traditional Chinese style and the famous Buddha Tooth Relic temple. It’s a five-storey serene place of worship dedicated to the Buddha that also hosts a Buddhist Culture Museum and a Sacred Relic Chamber. Nearby you will also find the Sri Mariamman Hindu temple dated from 1827. Those temples are not only a great opportunity to admire three distinct buildings and cultures but also to take some amazing photos for your Instagram account.

top temples to visit in Singapore
Buddha Tooth Relic temple

Shop on Orchard Road

Singapore is the right city for lovers of shopping. Here you can find almost everything. Huge trendy malls, glamorous stores from brands like Gucci, Armani and many local shops ideal to buy cheap electronics or maybe your next i-phone. Orchard road is the famous shopping area of Singapore. Have a walk to praise the great department stores, luxury hotels, restaurants or just sit at one of the cafes to relax for a while before continue your day.

Some of the stores and malls that you will witness are, the high-end shopping center of Paragon, the Plaza Singapura, the Ngee Ann complex, the Liat Towers, the Ion Orchard that houses luxurious stores of Prada, Louis Vuitton, D&G and many other. The list is so big that it would keep me writing for at least one hour. If you will be in Singapore during Christmas or the Chinese New Year then you will enjoy the colourful decoration of the street even more.

what to buy in singapore
Shopping on Orchard Rd. in Singapore

Have a lunch at Clarke Quay

Clarke Quay is a riverside part of Singapore’s that you will surely find yourself at some point during your walk. The area was the city’s commercial center in the late 19th century where the various goods were transferred by boats and stored at the warehouses that nowadays are restaurants. During the day Clarke Quay is a quiet and beautiful spot to have a lunch or enjoy a cup of coffee but later it becomes a meeting point for young people. Buzzing nightclubs, bars, pubs and beautiful people having fun, is what you will see at this historical place when the sun goes down.

Other things to do around is catching a boat and enjoy a 30-minute cruise on the river. It is a bit pricey attraction but we are sure that you will enjoy it and have some amazing photos of Merlion Square, the Marina Bay Sands, and the rest picturesque riverside areas. Also, a must stop is the beautiful Chinese temple Hong San See. It is a tranquil 100-year old temple where you can pay respect and light an incense for good fortune. Go there early in the morning to enjoy its serenity and avoid the crowds (open from 8am till 6pm).

entertainment in singapore during day
Quench your thirst with a beer at Clarke Quay’s Hooters

Have a Singapore Sling cocktail at Raffles Hotel

Raffles Hotel is the most famous hotel in Singapore and across Asia, It is a colonial-style luxury hotel named after British statesman Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore. The hotel started operating as a beach bungalow with only 10 rooms in 1887. Many famous personas have stayed here like Charlie Chaplin, Liz Taylor and Michael Jackson. The famous Long Bar that serves the Singapore Sling since 1920 is still open and many tourists visit it to taste the iconic cocktail inspired by the head bartender Ngiam Tong Boon in 1915 right at the place where it was born.
The property is managed by Accor Hotels and is currently closed for restoration, planned to reopen in August 2019.

drinking cocktails at raffles hotel
The historic Raffles Hotel of Singapore

Enjoy an ice-cream at Merlion Park

Grab an ice-cream to refresh yourself from the heat and go to meet the Merlion. Half-fish and half-lion, the iconic statue and legend resides at the waterfront Merlion Park placed at the Singapore river to welcome all visitors coming to the city. The body symbolises Singapore’s humble beginnings as a fishing village when it was called Temasek, meaning ‘sea town’ in Old Javanese. Its head represents Singapore’s original name, Singapura, or ‘lion city’ in Malay. Built in 1972, the Merlion statue stands tall at 8.6 metres and weighs 70 tonnes. Don’t miss the chance to have a picture of it, it is a must-see sight for tourists visiting Singapore, similar to other significant landmarks around the world.

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Merlion statue, symbol of Singapore

Escape the heat at Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay is a nature park and Singapore’s premier urban outdoor recreation space spanning on 101 hectares so there is a small chance that you will have time to visit it during a layover except if you just visit a small part of it. At the Gardens by the Bay, you can visit the Cloud Forest, the Flower Dome, the Supertree Grove, the Children’s garden and several more attractions. Check their website to find out the operating hours and the tickets rate before planning a visit.

attractions for kids in singapore
The amazing Gardens by the Bay

Visit the Botanic Gardens

An alternative to the Gardens by the Bay is the Botanic Gardens. Strolling around the Botanic Gardens is one of the most peaceful ways to spend a morning or evening in Singapore. Singapore Botanic Gardens is a 160-year-old tropical garden located at the fringe of Singapore’s Orchard Road shopping district. It is one of three gardens, and the only tropical garden, to be honoured as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. More than 10,000 species of flora is spread over its 82-hectares area.

Visit the Ginger garden with its waterfall, have a short break next to one of three lakes located inside or buy a ticket to enter the national Orchid garden and discover the amazing species of wild orchids. Those beautiful gardens receive about 4,5 million visitors every year and are the ideal place to relax from a tiring trip.

cost of living in singapore
Botanic Gardens in Singapore centre

Enjoy the view from Marina Bay Sands

Named as the most expensive construction in 2010 costing almost 6 billion dollars the iconic Marina Bay Sands is a multi-purpose building. It houses various shops, art-science museum, the biggest convention centre in Asia with 250 meeting rooms, a huge casino, luxury restaurants and of course the well known homonymous hotel with 2.500 rooms and suites. The most impressing spot is the hotel’s popular and most photographed infinity pool that offers a panoramic view of the city. As only hotel residents can use the infinity pool your only chance to enjoy the view from above is by visiting the Sands SkyPark Observation Deck on level 57. The view of Singapore from here is breathtaking and one in a lifetime experience. Although if you will be staying overnight in the city then it will be a great experience to stay at the Marina Bay Sands hotel itself. Visit their site to check the prices, they run offers occasionally on Booking.com.

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Have fun at Resorts World Sentosa

It will impossible to combine a visit to this place with the rest sightseeing spots if you are on a short layover because it is simply huge. Resorts World Sentosa is an integrated resort on the island of Sentosa, off the southern coast of Singapore. The almost 5 billion dollars resort houses many attractions for kids and adults including one of Singapore’s two casinos, a Universal Studios theme park, Marine Life Park, Dolphin Island, a water park and an aquarium which includes the world’s second largest oceanarium. You can spend your entire day here and we believe it is a good idea to save the visit for your next time in Singapore.
If you schedule a stay or you decided to visit the Sentosa Resorts click below to buy a ticket or book an affordable tour offered by Get Your Guide in Singapore.

As you can understand a short layover in Singapore isn’t enough to explore its beauty and attractions but you can have the first taste of this stunning city. Singapore is a multinational hub that combines traditional and modern architecture, a unique destination with an interesting history that you will never get bored visiting and we are pretty confident that you will want to return to over and over again.

Let us know if you have traveled to Singapore in the comments below, and what you liked the most or suggest doing.

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