Layover in Singapore
June 14, 2006 2:51 AM   Subscribe

I will be flying Heathrow-Auckland via Singapore Airlines in late July. En route I will have a layover at Singapore Changi Airport from 14:15 - 21:00. (It's a Sunday.) Is there enough time for me to see anything interesting? If so, what?!

I've never been anywhere remotely near to Asia and I'm extremely curious. (I'm also rather nervous about the language/culture gap, but having travelled extensively in Eastern Europe I'm hoping it will be okay. Besides, Singapore's super anglo, from what I understand.)

Although I definitely can't miss my flight and will certainly be jetlagged, it seems a pity to squander a seven hour layover in the airport lounge... Is that enough time to nip out of the airport and see a bit of Singapore life/culture/etc? Not particularly arsed about tourist sights, but if the easiest thing would be to hop on a tour bus I suppose that's okay too. Is the airport anywhere near the city? Any suggestions in general? Do I not have any time to do anything except soak up the airport ambience?

And will everything be shut on Sunday?

Many thanks in advance!
posted by Marquis to Travel & Transportation around Singapore, Singapore (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
i don't know about singapore proper, but there's a nice cactus garden in the airport. you sit outside and look at the cacti and enjoy the humidity and listen to the planes. i found it to be quite nice, and far far better than sitting in some chair waiting to get on board a plane.

ask someone at the airport for the cactus garden, they should be able to show you where to go (the airport is HUGE).
posted by twirlypen at 3:01 AM on June 14, 2006

Take the Free Tour of Singapore!
posted by Etaoin Shrdlu at 3:02 AM on June 14, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks Etaoin Shrdlu - I was just about to post on that. Has anyone taken one of these free "Colonial", "Cultural" or "Lifestyle" tours? Are they any good?

I'll have well more than 2 hrs available, though, so other suggestions are welcome...
posted by Marquis at 3:08 AM on June 14, 2006

Best answer: Erm, some previous Singapore posts here. Dining/shopping recommendations therein well worth your while.

Here's a plan, though - you have enough time to at least have a late lunch/early dinner. English is fine everywhere.

- If you don't have your boarding passes for SIN-AKL, try to get them from a transfer desk before you leave the airport so you don't have to worry about check-in lines on the way back in.
- Go through Singapore customs/immigration (woo new passport stamp!). It's painless with usually nonexistent/short lines, and they're used to people who answer "four hours" to "how long are you staying in Singapore?"
- Change some money.
- Ask at the tourist info office (clearly marked, very helpful) in arrivals if there's a deal on MRT (subway) tickets for transit passengers.
- Also ask the tourist info people where to find what you'd want (a great massage to get you over the jetlag? waterslides? a delicious Malay/Tamil/Chinese lunch? all manner of tropical fruit blended into insanely delicious and cheap smoothies?) and they'll give you exact recommendations clearly marked on free maps. An efficient lot.

The MRT will get you into the center of town in about twenty minutes and a taxi will take about the same to get back. Stash your carry-on somewhere at the airport - it's like walking into a sauna as soon as you go outside.

When you get back to the airport, get all the nasty Singapore-inspired sweat off you and take a dip in the hotel rooftop pool and enjoy a wonderful shower at the gym in the transit hotel. S$13.65.

It's the greatest airport ever, basically, but you've got enough time to visit another country! How could you say no?

Changi Airport website here.
posted by mdonley at 5:03 AM on June 14, 2006

Er, here.
posted by mdonley at 5:06 AM on June 14, 2006

Changi is pretty well set up for long layovers. I seemed to pass thru every few weeks not that long ago and it was never a chore. However, anything more than a 3hr stop is worth taking advantage of. It only takes about 30 mins to get into town on the SMRT LRT.

Suggestion: Get the LRT to Raffles Place. (On the same line as the airport) You're in the main financial district. Walk north towards the river & take a left to walk along Boat Quay. Lotsa little drinking/eating holes along here.

Cross the bridge at the end & walk back along the river towards the marina. Thomas Raffles' landing place, Parliament House etc on your left. Swing round with the river & head towards the Esplanade Theatre buildings, known locally as the durian. A great place to watch the city light up.

Singapore is easy - Asia Lite as a friend of mine calls it. Once you've got used to the place (about an hour) you'll be able to decide how much more exploring you want to do before you head back to the airport. Give yourself an hour to do it and you'll be fine.

One thing to check - make sure you can get a temporary entry permit or whatever it's called. Your airline should be able to tell you if someone here doesn't know.
posted by i_cola at 5:20 AM on June 14, 2006

Interactive city map here. Google Earth covers the aerial photography well although the mapping is crap.
posted by i_cola at 5:22 AM on June 14, 2006

Make sure you check out Orchard Towers, er I mean Orchard Street.
posted by tetsuo at 5:31 AM on June 14, 2006

Just been to Singapore for the first time. I'd second the advice above. Singapore's pretty straightforward, taxis are plentiful and cheap ... though if you're used to UK temperatures (with the exception of the last couple of weeks) you will find Singapore VERY hot and humid.

The Zoo is well worth a visit and ideologically sound ...
posted by dickdotcom at 5:31 AM on June 14, 2006

I second visiting the zoo, it's amazing!
posted by echelon at 6:07 AM on June 14, 2006

Is Tiger Balm Gardens still around? Haven't been to Singapore in over a decade, but the "10 courts of hell" diorama/sculpture/water ride at Tiger Balm Gardens is probably the attraction that has stuck with me the most. might be worth a visit.
posted by jrb223 at 11:59 AM on June 14, 2006

It was 20 years ago, and I don't remember how far from the airport it was, or anything about the island it takes you to, but the cable car ride has remained as one of the more terrifying experiences of my life. Other than that, Singapore was just shopping and Raffles (dull). I was only there 2 days though.
posted by aisforal at 3:07 PM on June 14, 2006

Singapore is almost the world's best day-layover, because it is so easy to get around and there's great stuff to do. Don't believe anyone who tells you it's all shopping malls. And nothing will be closed on a Sunday.

Have a look at the Tourism Board's website to get a feel for what you might like to see. They have great recommendations for what to see, eat and do.

The MRT does make it very easy to get around, but cabs are fast, cheap, honest and will drop you anywhere you feel like it, which is probably better on a tight timeframe.

I'd be inclined to ditch luggage etc as mdonley suggests, and then get a cab to Boat Quay and have a wander. Take a bumboat ride along the river and out to see the Merlion (better from the water) and the colonial buildings along the way.

Then I'd jump in a cab to Little India and/or Chinatown and have a wander around the crowded little streets, eat some fantastic food, and soak up Asia Lite. The Tourism Board calls it "uniquely enriching"!

The Visitors' Info Centre at Changi will be able to give you endless maps, brochures, walking tours, and suggested itineraries. And mdonley's right, leave time for a swim and a shower before you get back on the plane. You'll be hot as hell!
posted by szechuan at 8:25 PM on June 14, 2006

Tiger Balm Gardens (aka Haw Par Villa) has been closed for awhile, afaik.

Little India, Chinatown, Arab Street are all interesting places to check out. Do try to sample the food at the numerous hawker centres and coffeeshops in the area. Get to these places by cab - it will save you time and potential confusion with the MRT stations, and you can ask the cab driver for recommended places to check out and eat at.

I'm guessing that you'd want to steer clear of Orchard Road unless you want more Western-style shopping malls et al.

Like others have said, nothing will be shut on Sunday.

I've been living in Singapore all my life, so drop me an email if you have any more in-depth questions you'd like answered. Email is in profile.
posted by nihraguk at 8:35 PM on June 14, 2006

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