Each week, around 6,800 flights land at Singapore’s Changi Airport, carrying passengers travelling to all parts of the world. All up, some 55 million passengers will pass through Changi each year. I don’t know about you, but that figure kinda blows my mind. With that many people passing through the airport each year, if you’re a traveller, you’re most likely going to find yourself transiting through Singapore at some point. While some layovers will see you with a few hours to spend in the airport itself, others will have you fending for yourself overnight, while you wait for your connecting flight the following day. This presents you with the opportunity to get out and explore some of what Singapore has to offer! To help you make the most of your time, here’s my guide on how to survive an overnight layover in Singapore.
Eat like a local
Singapore is famous for its incredible food scene, it also tends to have a reputation for being expensive. I gotta say, if you eat like a local, food in Singapore is incredibly cheap. Rather than heading into the centre of Singapore and paying exorbitant prices for wood-fired pizzas, you should eat like the locals. From Changi Airport you can grab a taxi and take the quick, 12-minute ride to one of my all-time favourite places to eat; the East Coast Lagoon Food Village.
This place is a must-visit because it will show a side of Singapore most visitors don’t get to see. The Food Village, a Hawker Centre, is located at the East Coast Parkway, along the beach. You’ll get to see the huge number of big ships out on the water, waiting to visit one of the world’s busiest ports; the Port of Singapore. The food here is fantastic! I recommend you do a lap, then order a few different things to try. My top tips would be; chicken rice (of course!), carrot cake (there’s no carrot in it), chicken wings, satay, hotpot, popiah, fried kway teo, Hokkien fried mee and some of the fresh seafood on offer, cooked to order. You can also buy a few cold, tall bottles of Tiger to enjoy while you eat. The food here is not only delicious but super affordable. It’s your best chance to try great local food and have a real locals experience. Read more tips on must-try food in Singapore here.
Watch: My video ‘Exploring Singapore’s heartland’s on the Makan Bus’
Things to see and do
With limited time, you’ll want to plan your itinerary carefully and keep costs down. If you’ve got some extra time up your sleeve, peep my guide on how to spend 48 hours in Singapore. To get you started, here are some fun, easy and budget-friendly things you can do on your Singapore layover:
- Stretch your legs and get a dose of fresh air by strolling along the waterfront or hiring a bike and riding at the East Coast Park.
- Visit Gardens by the Bay and check out the incredible Supertrees. Entry is free and, each evening, they put on a light show
- Take a trip to Little India and stroll the streets, popping into local shops, visiting the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple
- Visit some of the best rooftop views in Singapore, soaking in views or having a cold drink
- If it’s your first time in Singapore, pop into Orchard Road to marvel at the huge range of shops in one place (window-shopping only, if ya broke!)
- Get your bad self on the hop-on-hop-off bus to make the most of your time and see Singapore from up high
- Spend some time exploring Marina Bay on foot, you can soak in views of the harbour, Marina Bay Sands, Merlion and more
- Pop over to Chinatown to visit the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, grab something to eat at the Hawker Centre, pick up some cheap gifts and wander the wet market
Getting around town
Finding your way around Singapore is really easy and affordable too. The train system in Singapore is called the MRT and there are stations all over the place that are easy to find. The MRT system is really easy to navigate as it’s pretty small, compared to somewhere like London, and the network map is really easy to read. You can find a copy of the map here. Trains arrive every few minutes, they’re air-conditioned, incredibly reliable and are my favourite way to get around Singapore when I’m there because it’s just so easy! You can pay cash for tickets on trains and buses, but I’d recommend you get your hands on an EZ-Link card.
EZ-Link cards are stored-value cards that save you having to line up for a ticket every time you use the train or bus. Using an EZ-Link card also reduces the fare amounts, for example, a short bus fare is usually $1.40 but costs 77 cents with an EZ-Link card! To get a card, visit the ticket office at an MRT station. The adult card costs $12 ($5 non-refundable card cost and $7 travel value). You can top the card up as you go, but you’ll be amazed at how far that $7 value gets you.
If budget isn’t a problem for you, then I’d recommend using Uber to get around, followed by local taxi’s. Just keep in mind that it can be hard to get a taxi at peak times, like those typically rushed commuter hours or if it’s raining. In these instances, you pay extra for a taxi or Uber. Usually though, the rates for either are pretty affordable. You find more detailed information on how to get around Singapore here.
Where to stay
After you drag your sorry, jet lagged butt off a plane, the last thing you really want to do is endure any kind of journey that keeps you away from a shower and a bed. So, my weary friend, may I humbly suggest you set yourself up at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport. I spent two nights trying this place out for myself, after flying long-haul, and really enjoyed my stay.
It’s easy to find the hotel, you can walk there quickly and easily from Terminal 3. If you’re arriving at another terminal, you just jump on the inter-terminal SkyTrain to get to Terminal 3. Standard check-in is 3pm, with check-out at 12pm. That said, they do offer early and express check-in as well as late check-out, perfect if you need some extra time in the room between flights.
I stayed in a Deluxe Room and loved it. The room was very spacious, with plenty of space for me to spread out, walk around and stretch after my long flight. I really liked there were different places for me to sit and work in-between my flights, rather than being confined to a small room where your only option is to sit, sleep and work on the bed. Speaking of which, the bed was a great size and really comfortable, perfect for catching up on much-needed sleep. The bathroom was also huge, with plenty of space around the basin as well as a bathtub and separate shower with rainforest showerhead.
In addition, the hotel has a pretty gorgeous pool, that makes you feel like you’re properly on holidays, not just hanging out an airport waiting to transit. The trees around the pool give it a tropical vibe, almost Bali-esque. There’s also an on-site fitness centre, spa, two restaurants and two bars. It’s easy to get a taxi from the lobby and buzz out to do some sightseeing.
I really enjoyed my stay at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport. As someone who has lived in Singapore and visits regularly, I can honestly recommend it as a great spot to base yourself for a quick visit to Singapore, either in-transit or for a one or two night stop. It offers a convenient base and makes your life easier when you’re in-between flights.
Watch our ‘Singapore for first-timers’ video.
Phoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger with a love for storytelling. Phoebe creates practical, fun and engaging written content designed to inspire and energise travel-lovers and dreamers. Follow her and Matt’s adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and through Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.