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Maximizing Your Layover: Singapore Edition

What to do on a layover in Singapore

· 5 min read

Are you staring at a long layover in Singapore but don't want to waste your time waiting at the airport? Luckily, Singapore is so small and well-connected, that with some savvy planning and a spirit of adventure, it's possible to transform your stopover into a whirlwind mini-vacation. When planning your mini-adventure, one of the key factors really is how much time you have.

Layover time: Less than 5 hours

As much as Singapore Changi Airport is possibly one of the most efficient airports in the world, and Singapore's so small you'll need no more than 1.5 hours to get from one end of the country to the other, 5 hours is a fairly short amount of time. Factoring the time required for check-ins, we don't recommend that you venture too far out from the airport.

Source: Sharon Hahn Darlin
Source: Sharon Hahn Darlin

But not to worry, even within the airport, there are things that you can do!

Visit Jewel at Changi Airport

You can't miss exploring the Jewel at Changi - an incredible entertainment and retail complex located right within the airport itself. It is connected right next to the arrival hall of Terminal 1, and if you are arriving at Terminal 2 or 3, there is a link bridge that leads you all the way to Jewel. You will easily be able to spend at least an hour or two exploring the place and shops, which will take up most of your layover time. There is also a cinema in Jewel if you would like to catch a movie!

Source: Changi Airport
Source: Changi Airport

While at Jewel, don't forget to visit the iconic Rain Vortex, the world's tallest indoor waterfall. And if you are travelling with children, consider heading to the Canopy Park on level 5 where there is an array of attractions like the bouncing net. Or head to Singapore's only Pokemon Center in Jewel to snag up some exclusives!

Explore Changi Airport Terminal 3

And if you have more time, or if you will be departing from Terminal 3, you can spend some time exploring the public area of the terminal. There is an area in the basement for movie screenings, and Terminal 3 also has an indoor slide and climbing wall that young children would find enjoyable.

Source: Changi Airport
Source: Changi Airport

And if you are lucky, there are sometimes also themed events and pop-ups held at the terminal.

And even if you decide to just stay in transit, Changi Airport has a lot to offer. Transit lounges aside, there are many other things that you could do airside:

Explore the Changi Airport Terminals

There are many shops within the transit area, and Terminals 1, 2, and 3 are connected in the transit area so you can explore all 3 terminals. You can either walk from one terminal to the next, or hop onto the sky train.

Get your fix of nature at one of the gardens

If you are cooped indoors for too long and want some greenery, head over to the Butterfly Garden in Terminal 3, which is home to over 40 different species of butterflies. And if butterflies are not your type of thing, there's also a Sunflower Garden in Terminal 2, or head over to Terminal 1 for the Cactus Garden!

Source: Changi Airport
Source: Changi Airport

The gardens are probably not as grand as you would like them to be, but it's definitely a good touch of nature in the airport!

Try some local food

Even if you are staying in the transit area, you will have a chance to try some of the most popular local dishes. Try the Kaya Toast Set from Ya Kun in Terminals 1 and 2; the Wanton Noodles from Pontian in Terminal 1; Crave Nasi Lemak in Terminal 1; or head to the Singapore Food Street in Terminal 3! And if you are in Terminal 4, head to Heavenly Wang for your fix of local food.

Layover time: 5 hours to 7 hours

If you only have slightly above 5 hours, but want to get out of the airport, you can head out to Changi City Point, a shopping centre that contains multiple factory outlet stalls and is just one MRT stop away.

Changi Airport Jurassic Mile
Source: Changi Airport

Alternatively, you could check out Jurassic Mile just by Terminal 4, which in all honesty isn't all that exciting — but is a good walking trail if you just wanted to get out of the airport and get some fresh air. There is also a bicycle rental shop nearby if you wanted to cycle through Jurassic Mile instead; and not to worry, there are pay-per-use shower facilities at the Hub & Spoke Cafe just outside Terminal 2 that is available from 7am to 10pm if you wanted to freshen up after your ride.

Layover time: 7 hours to 12 hours

With more time on hand, you might actually have time to visit a couple of attractions in the city. Most of the key attractions in Singapore are mainly centred around the Marina Bay Area and are in close proximity to each other. From the airport, it takes about an hour to get to the area by MRT, or if you are taking the taxi or private hire, it is just a 20 minutes drive.

Source: Ank Kumar
Source: Ank Kumar

Once you get to Marina Bay, some of the key attractions include the Merlion Park, the Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay Sands and ArtScience Museum, and the Singapore Flyer. Depending on how much time you have and how much time you spend at each of these attractions, you could possibly cover 1 or 2 of these areas. Of these, we recommend that you start with the Gardens By the Bay for a more unique experience. Or if you really want something iconic, then head to the Merlion Park. And if you have time for a meal, Lau Pa Sat would be the closest option for a more local experience. There are also a couple of malls in the area if you would like to do some shopping.

Source: Dietmar Rabich
Source: Dietmar Rabich

Alternatively, if you are not quite interested in seeing the main attractions, consider exploring one of the more cultural districts of Chinatown, Little India, or Kampong Glam instead. These areas have a distinctly different vibe, and could be rather interesting for those who want to get a taste of the multi-cultural nature of Singapore. At these areas, you will also find some of the best food in Singapore. For some of the best hawker food, head to Maxwell Food Centre or Chinatown Complex.

And if you wanted to just explore Singapore without the stress of planning, Changi Airport also provides some free toursthat brings you to the areas aforementioned, so be sure to check those out too!

Layover time: More than 12 hours

With more than 12 hours, you essentially have almost a full day to explore the city. This is more than enough time to cover all the key attractions in the Marina Bay Area, and possibly even slot in another area. Alternatively, if your layover crosses into the night, head over to Clarke Quay, the heart of Singapore's night life! Do however remember to take note of the timings for the last trains if you are planning to take the MRT back to the airport.