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A Layover in Changi Airport, Singapore

What to Do in Singapore's Airport While Waiting For Your Connecting Flight

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Transit lounge, Changi Airport Terminal 1

Transit lounge, Changi Airport Terminal 1

Image © Mike Aquino, licensed to About.com

Waiting for your connecting flight in Singapore's Changi Airport (IATA code: SIN, ICAO code: WSSS)? There are worse places to be stuck in.

Despite its status as one of the region's busiest airports, Changi Airport is a comfortable place to wait out one's long layover, with three (soon to be four) spacious terminals, a number of five-star amenities, comfortable transit accommodations, and easy access to the rest of Singapore should you get restless and decide to wander around while waiting for your next flight.

This article is the second of two parts: the first part provided an overview of Changi Airport, now we get to discuss what you can do in the place with a few hours to kill.

  • Location of Changi Airport: 1°21'45.8496"N, 103°59'27.9254"E (Google Maps)

Why Transit Through Changi Airport?

Changi Airport is by far the most painless flight hub in Southeast Asia. Singapore's legendary near-mechanical efficiency makes the Changi layover experience a positively pleasant one: you'll experience less queues and generally less trouble. And as we'll explain further down, you'll find plenty of interesting diversions that you'll find in no other airport in the world.

God help you, though, if you're passing through Changi Airport with live ammunition, or worse, illegal drugs in your carry-on. To find out why carrying drugs into Changi is a horrible idea, read this: Drug Laws in Singapore, or this: Southeast Asia's Harsh Drug Laws.

Changi Airport Transit Hotel

Visitors expecting an overnight layover at Changi Airport can check into the Ambassador Transit Hotel without having to clear immigrations or customs. After getting much-needed shuteye, you can simply walk to your flight from the airport without getting entangled in further red tape. Ambassador Transit Hotel's check-in desks can be found at all three terminals across Changi Airport.

If you're looking for a little more comfort in your Changi Airport stay, the Crowne Plaza Hotel gives you what you need. The hotel is connected to Terminal 3 via walkways connecting two levels of both the airport and hotel. Inside, guests can enjoy the hotel's 320 guestrooms, massive swimming pool, and relaxing spa treatments.

The Singapore Hotel Association operates a Hotel Reservations Counter at each of Changi's terminals, allowing you to reserve available rooms from any SHA member hotel right at the airport, 24 hours a day. You'll only need to pay for your first night at the counter; any additional charges are due at the hotel. Email any inquiries to the following address: hotelres@sha.org.sg.

For budget accommodations closest to Changi Airport, look up one of these Geylang, Singapore budget hotels, which provide cheap rooms only fifteen minutes' taxi ride away.

Changi Airport Shopping & Passenger Services

Where layover comfort is concerned, Changi Airport is by far one of the best in the world, not to mention Southeast Asia. You could easily get used to the place, its lofty ceilings, comfortably carpeted floors, and plenty of shopping, dining, and entertainment options that could vie with some of the world's classiest shopping malls.

Convenience stores, money changers, handicap-friendly bathrooms, changing rooms, even prayer rooms are all within easy reach, particularly within the airport's transit areas. The airport's massive size - with all amenities distributed across three (soon to be four) terminals - allow the management to put in some playful touches that you'd hardly expect to find in a major world air hub:

Butterfly garden. Terminal 3 offers a 330-sqm, open-air two-storey butterfly garden housing over a thousand free-flying butterflies. Visitors can observe the entire life cycle of the butterflies at work, from hatching to their pupa stage to live butterflies feeding at a number of food dispensers throughout the space. The garden is kept cool with a working waterfall. (Source) The butterfly garden can be found at the second level of the Departure Transit Lounge, Terminal 3.

Four-storey slide. Another diversion for passengers waiting at Terminal 3, The Slide@T3 stands four storeys tall and allows visitors to zoom through at a top speed of 13 mph. If you spend about SGD 30 on goods and services at the airport, you can use your receipts to redeem two ride tokens; you'll only be allowed up to 10 rides per receipt. If you're not planning to spend that much in the terminal, you can try the smaller, free-to-use slide at the basement, standing at one and a half storeys. (Source)

Movie theater. Both Terminals 2 and 3 have their own free movie theaters for passengers with a couple of hours to spare between flights. To see what's showing today at Changi's cinemas, check out this link - Movie Theatre - ChangiAirport.com. Terminal 3 also has a "4D" theater for thrill freaks looking for an amusement-park-style ride. More here: 4D Cinema - ChangiAirport.com.

Swimming pool. Few airports can lay claim to having their own swimming pool; Changi Airport's own rooftop pool can be found at Terminal 1, near the Departure Transit Lounge East on the third level. Use of the swimming pool costs SGD 13.91, but is free for guests of the Ambassador Transit Hotel. (Source)

Changi Airport Premium and VIP Lounges

Flyers waiting for their flight at Changi Airport can claim a spot at one of the airport's many premium lounges, depending on their carrier, their membership in privilege clubs, or their willingness to pay a little extra to escape the riff-raff in the general admission.

Airline-specific. Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, and Garuda Indonesia, among others, operate lounges in Changi for the benefit of qualified passengers. KrisFlyer (Singapore Airlines' lounge) operates both a SilverKris lounge for Singapore Airlines premium passengers and a KrisFlyer Gold Lounge for both Singapore Airlines and StarAlliance Gold members from other affiliated airlines.

The SilverKris lounge facilities, for instance, provides full WiFi access and refreshing facilities for Singapore Airlines Business Class/First Class flyers: showers, newspapers and magazines, and a buffet are all available.

For more details, read this page on Changi Airport's official site: Airline Lounges - ChangiAirport.com.

Pay-in premium lounges. A number of airline lounges provide a relaxing environment for patrons who can pay a fee before entering. These lounges include the Ambassador Transit Lounge, the Skyview Lounge and the Green Market, all located after the immigration desks.

The Ambassador Transit Lounge is a one-stop lounge for waiting passengers who want everything within easy reach. Pay SGD 30 for entry into the Lounge, and you'll gain the use of the facility's business services (Internet access, printing), spa services, a snack bar, beauty salon, and napping suites. The Lounge is accessible from both Terminals 2 and 3, level 3. More info here: Ambassador Transit Lounge - Official Site.

The Green Market is a nature-inspired lounge - more like a Japanese restaurant with lounge facilities - that provides a Japanese salad buffet, a fast WiFi connection, and widescreen TV, all in a peaceful non-hyper setting in Terminal 2. For a first-hand account, read our review of the Green Market Airport Lounge, Changi Airport, Singapore.

Exploring Singapore during Your Layover

Singapore is a pretty small country, and thanks to the highly-developed public transport system emanating from Changi Airport, visitors can explore much of Singapore's best tourist spots while waiting for your connecting flight.

A free sightseeing tour is available if you have at least five hours to go before your connecting flight, and if you haven't left the transit area yet. Highlights of the tour include the Marina Bay Sands (compare rates|buy direct), the Singapore Flyer, Little India, Chinatown, and the central business district. A "City Lights" tour takes place after dark, and circles around the Marina Bay district, Bugis Village and the Raffles Hotel (compare prices|buy direct).

Planning to explore Singapore on your own? Look for the Left Luggage counters in your present Changi Airport terminal, and deposit your bags before you step out. Your guide paid about SGD 10 to deposit two pieces of luggage for a couple of hours; this freed us to zip through to Marina Bay by train and have a leisurely noodle lunch before our connecting flight.

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