8 Hours in Singapore: Conquering the Lion City During a Long Layover
Singapore is the ultimate layover city for travelers making their way to and from Asia and Australia. Changi Airport has also been named the World’s Best Airport for six consecutive years. This tiny island city-state has had a remarkable transformation over the last century, transitioning from a developing country to an economic powerhouse within a generation. The skyscrapers and luxury shopping malls serve as a testament to the country’s economic progress.
Singapore is even smaller than Hong Kong, but offers a wonderful opportunity to stretch your legs during a long layover while exploring and tasting the wonderful, diverse cuisines.
The Easiest Route: Changi Airport’s Classic Tour
Changi Airport takes every measure to provide the best service and experience for travelers in transit.
If you want to explore Singapore hassle-free, join the free tours offered by the airport. The Heritage Tour offers a glimpse into the colonial and cultural centers of Singapore, while the evening City Sights Tour highlights modern Singapore with its bright night lights shining across the cityscape.
Since this is a popular and easy option, you can find all the registration details here.
What If You Want to See Singapore on Your Own?
If you’re an adventurer at heart, you can get around Singapore easily on your own. If you have a layover for at least eight hours, you can squeeze in an eventful day trip.
Store your carry-on luggage at the airport, and make sure your passport is good for entering the country.
Download the Grab app (similar to Uber) ahead of time and request a car to pick you up from Changi. The ride into the city only takes about 25 minutes and costs around SGD$ 18. Or you can catch a cab at the taxi stand.
For a more affordable option, take the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT). It’s a clean and convenient subway system, and a one-way ticket only costs SGD $2.40.
Pro Tip: Remember to allow two hours to come back to the airport for luggage pickup and check-in.
A Day Trip Itinerary
Start your layover by visiting Singapore’s national landmark at Merlion Park. The half-lion, half-fish Merlion statue pays tribute to the history of Singapore. The statue has a head of a lion representing the original name of Singapura or “Lion City” in Malay; its body of a fish pays homage to when the island was a fishing village known as Temasek, meaning “sea town” in Old Javanese. At the Merlion Park, you’ll have stunning views of Marina Bay.
From Merlion Park, swing by the National Gallery Singapore to take in the world’s largest public collection of Singaporean and Southeast Asian art. If you’re short on time, you can still admire the building as the Gallery is made up of two national monuments, the former Supreme Court Building and City Hall.
Continue your adventure by walking through the Marina Square and the Esplanade to take in the views of Marina Bay Sands and do a little bit of shopping. During the walk, you can’t miss the Singapore Flyer, a 165-meter Ferris wheel that offers a panoramic view of the city.
Helix Bridge + Marina Bay Sands + Esplanade
Cross the Helix Bridge, a pedestrian bridge inspired by the geometric curvature of human DNA, to reach the Marina Bay area. This area offers plenty of activities, from the ArtScience Museum, Sand SkyPark Observation Deck to Gardens by the Bay. If you’re here in the evening, be sure to check out the free light and water show Spectra at the Event Plaza along the promenade. Or soar above the clouds by going up to the Sands SkyPark Observation Deck for a panoramic city view from the 57th floor.
Stop by the Supertree Grove inside of Gardens by the Bay for the 16-story tall “trees” designed to provide shade in the day and come alive with lights and sounds at night. Other highlights of the Gardens include the Cloud Garden, which houses the world’s tallest indoor waterfall at 35 meters, or the Flower Dome, which is the largest greenhouse in the world.
For a quick bite, stop by a Kopitiam, Singapore’s traditional coffee shop, for the perfect combo: kaya toast, poached eggs, and coffee. Kaya spread is a sweet jam made from coconut cream and sugar, flavored with pandan leaves. You’ll find the most popular chain, Ya Kun Kaya Toast, throughout Singapore with a concentration in the Central district.
No visit to Singapore is complete without feasting at a Hawker Centre, an open-air food court packed with affordable food stalls. I visited the Newton Food Centre (remember Crazy Rich Asians?) and tried the famous chili crab, barbecue stingray, and seafood stir fry noodles. For a comprehensive foodie guide to Singapore’s hawker centres, run a quick search on HungryGoWhere.
Once satisfied with your meal, it’s time to head back to the airport to catch your flight to your final destination.
Tips on Surviving a Long Layover in Singapore
It’s easy to overlook the heat and humidity in Singapore when you’re packing. Don’t forget to pack a small carry-on backpack for your layover trip as you’ll be sweating through the tropical weather.
Pack an extra set of clothes
Bring summer clothes to change especially if you’re flying from a cold place. You’ll also be grateful for having fresh clothes if you need to take a shower at the airport before boarding the next long flight.
You’re bound to be sweating after exploring the city. Bring facial and body wipes, toothbrush, face wash, etc to freshen up before your connecting flight.
You never know when it’ll rain.
Check visa requirements
US passport holders don’’t need a visa to enter. Double check if you need to apply for entry visa here.