Layover lowdown: Singapore Changi Airport

Sep 28, 2019

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While many people understandably try to minimize the time they spend at an airport, long connections (especially on international flights) are inevitable at some point in your journey. Many airports have gone above and beyond to make the passenger experience more enjoyable, but there’s only one airport I can think of that has taken this to the next level and worked to attract customers who aren’t even flying to come visit the airport (just don’t try and visit a lounge if you aren’t flying!). I’m talking about Singapore Changi Airport (SIN), voted the Skytrax World’s Best Airport seven years in a row. Today, we’re going to take a look at why this airport keeps winning awards, and how you can pass a layover of any length here.

At the airport

Earlier this year, Changi opened The Jewel, a 1.46-million-square-foot shopping and retail complex connected to the airport. The Jewel is home to the world’s largest indoor waterfall, the 131 foot tall HSBC Rain Vortex, which dumps over 10,000 gallons of water per minute through the center of the building.

Photo by Ethan Steinberg/TPG

Changi has four different terminals that are connected by a light rail system that runs right through the center of The Jewel. I was lucky enough to get to spend a day wandering around The Jewel shortly after it opened in April, and can easily say that most people could pass a full 24 hours wandering, shopping, eating and taking endless photos here without getting bored.

Photo by Ethan Steinberg/TPG

Long before this crown jewel opened its doors to visitors, Changi already boasted a long list of attractions to keep passengers busy including:

  • Butterfly garden (T3)
  • Cactus garden (T1)
  • Enchanted garden, orchid gardens, koi pond and sunflower garden (T2)
  • Movie theatre (T2 & T3)
  • Changi aviation gallery (T3)
  • Zone X arcade (T3)

Terminal 3 is also home to a 39-foot tall slide that can help kids and adults quickly transit between the different levels.

The famous slide in T3 of SIN

In addition, all four terminals feature baby changing and care rooms, music lounges, prayer rooms, massage chairs and free Wi-Fi stations.

Airport hotels

Changi airport has plenty of hotels to pick from, no matter your budget or what type of accommodation you’re looking for. There’s a YotelAir in The Jewel, which is fairly cheap with “cabins” starting at about $100 per night, but the rooms are incredibly tight.

Photo by Ethan Steinberg

Changi is also home to a Crowne Plaza for those looking for a full-service hotel experience, with rooms starting at about ~$200 or 40,000 IHG points per night. The Crowne Plaza sells day room passes for those simply looking for a quiet place to shower and recollect before their next flight, while the YotelAir sells rooms by the hour for the same purpose. Terminals 2 and 3 also feature an Ambassador Transit Hotel.

Shopping

Between The Jewel and the four airport terminals, Changi has a wide range of shopping options including duty free, high-end luxury brands, and even consumer favorites like an Apple store and a multi-story Nike store. In addition to the wide variety of options, there’s one thing that makes shopping at Changi more rewarding than other airports: the Changi rewards program.

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Changi rewards members can earn anywhere from 10 to 60 points per SGD$10 spent and can redeem their points for KrisFlyer miles, discount vouchers, travel accessories and more.

Getting downtown

Changi is well-connected to Downtown Singapore, and you have several options for getting to and from the airport. The easiest might be to hail a taxi or call a Grab, a popular ridesharing option in Southeast Asia similar to Uber. When I was in Singapore over the summer I found the prices to be fairly similar between taxis and Grabs, so you can pick whichever option is more convenient.

If you’re looking to save money and take public transit instead, the 36 bus will take you from Changi to the marina area, with stops at the Ritz Carlton and the Esplanade mall. The bus costs about $1.60 each way. Another option is to take the MRT, which involves going two stops over to Tanah Merah and connecting to the east-west line, which runs downtown. The price depends on how far you travel, but one-way tickets will be about ~$2.

For those with a longer layover who are looking to see the city, Changi also offers free guided Singapore tours in under 3 hours. You must be a transiting passenger with between 5.5 and 24 hours until your connecting flight in order to qualify, and you can choose between a “city sights” tour that will take you by the iconic Supertrees at the Gardens by the Bay, or a heritage tour through Chinatown and Little India.

SINGAPORE - AUGUST 09: The Marina Bay Sands and the Supertrees at the Gardens By The Bay are illuminated at night on August 9, 2016 in Singapore. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)
SINGAPORE – AUGUST 09: The Marina Bay Sands and the Supertrees at the Gardens By The Bay are illuminated at night on August 9, 2016 in Singapore. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)

Bottom Line

Long layovers don’t have to be a dreaded and unpleasant part of the travel experience, and airports like Singapore Changi are proving that they can actually be an enjoyable part of the trip. Whether you’re transiting Changi on your way somewhere else or simply arriving or departing from Singapore, this is one of the world’s most enjoyable airports in which to pass the time. I’ve been to Singapore twice in the last year, and on both occasions I left feeling like I could happily come back and spend a full day at Changi without leaving the airport once.

Featured image of The Jewel at Singapore Changi Airport by Ethan Steinberg/TPG

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