I love traveling, but sometimes layovers can really get you down. If you have to spend seven hours in an airport like Riyadh that only has like two cafes and one shop, it can be draining. A layover in Singapore is the complete opposite of all of that. The better question is what CAN’T you do during a layover in Singapore?
Arguably the most INCREDIBLE layover site on earth, Singapore offers a wide variety of things to do during a layover or intentional visit. However, everything is HELLA expensive in Singapore and the longer you stay in this glorious city, the lower the number in your bank account will appear. Trust me. You want to plan for what you want to do so you still have cash for the next stage of your journey.
Plus there’s a “sin tax” on booze and anything fun so you’ll end up paying nearly DOUBLE for booze due to the tax plus any markup made by the store/bar. Welcome to hell ladies. Budget accordingly, or save your boozing for when it’s complimentary on your next long-haul flight.
So, what can you do during a layover in Singapore that won’t completely rinse your vacation savings? Here are my best recommendations to make the most out of your lengthy layover and have a whistlestop experience in Singapore!
1. Stay in the airport
The Singapore Changi Airport LITERALLY has anything you can imagine. Feeling like watching a blockbuster? Head over to Terminal 2 or 3. Want to chase butterflies and explore your “inner child,” look no further than Terminal 3! There’s even a rooftop pool! I certainly didn’t stay long-enough…
Let’s be honest, you’ve probably seen the pictures of the giant waterfall and gardens in the center of the airport. It’s actually stunning. It’s a tourist attraction in itself and that’s without even stepping a foot outside of customs! There are cacti gardens, huge pools, movie theaters, and more. Definitely pack your swimsuit in your hand luggage or bring your camera with you to explore the more natural attractions in Changi Airport.
2. Check out the local architecture
If you’re not following me on Instagram, you’re missing out. I tend to post WAAAYYY more pictures of my adventures on Insta, but more importantly, my most recent uploads look nearly ALIEN. Be sure to head to the Marine Bay for some breathtaking photos, checkout the “Gardens by the Bay” solar-powered trees at night, and be sure to witness an amazing water and light show just in front of the ArtScience Museum!
Singapore is an awesome melting pot of architectural styles from old colonial to modern skyscrapers. Whatever kind of architecture you’re into, you’re sure to find it here. Especially if you’re into uber-modern buildings and want to experience the next big thing in design, then taking an architecture tour around Singapore on your extended layover is going to be right up your street!
3. Sample local food at the Maxwell Road.
After getting used to the idea of blowing $15-$20 USD on a SINGLE adult beverage, we got pretty comfortable with the idea of eating cheap local food to balance out the cost of a night out. We headed over to Maxwell Road with $10 USD each and DID WORK! If you’ve ever seen Crazy Rich Asians and wondered where that iconic hawker scene was set, it’s Newton Food Center, known locally as Newton Circus. It’s a pretty similar vibe to Maxwell Road and both are absolutely delicious and great value for money.
The outdoor food vendors in Singapore are subjected to certain health and safety standards so you’re in safe hands while dining locally. Don’t be shy with sampling either! We got a CRAZY amount of different food… plus smoothies. I don’t know why. They just looked delicious. Let’s be honest, everything looked delicious. It was also super reassuring to see that locals were eating here as well as tourists. You know the food is good when that’s the case!
4. Head to the Singapore Zoo
OMG I’m such a kid when I’m surrounded by animals. It was definitely one of the highlights and potentially THE best zoo I’ve ever seen in the history of my life… which is basically 23 years, but who’s counting? Be sure to take public transportation since the zoo is a bit of a way off, but it’s WELL worth the journey. There’s also the “River Safari” that’s a separate portion, but it’s still well-worth the fee considering they have the PANDAS there.
If you’re on a longer layover it’s definitely worth heading out to the zoo and it’s so cool, but you need to make sure you have enough time to get out there and back to the airport with enough time. This is one where you definitely want to have closer to a full day or two rather than five or six hours.
Locals Note: Go to the “River Safari” towards the end of your day as that’s when the unexpected Singapore showers are more likely to hit and the Safari has a covering since it’s so new! It’s the best way to still enjoy your extra time in Singapore without getting soaked through before having to go back to the airport.
5. Have a drink at an outdoor bar.
For those who have to endure the seasons, the privilege of having an ice-cold whiskey with a cool summer breeze only comes around once a year. In January, Singapore isn’t as covered in a “historic amount of snow” over and over again so you’re able to relax and stay comfortable in shorts and a tank top nearly all year round.
Unless it’s raining. Which it does a lot. Just because we’re in the tropics doesn’t mean it’s sunny and dry all of the time!
So, make sure that your outdoor bar is stocked with decent parasols to shade you from the harsh sun and protect you from unpredictable tropical downpours. Enjoy a super icy beer, watch the world go by, and sample some deliciously spicy and flavorful Singaporean food while you sip the day away!
6. Go to the Hotel Marina Bay Sands
… And potentially break into their legendary infinity pool. It was a long-standing tradition for seasoned travelers to swim in the Marina Bay Sands rooftop pool but now they’ve closed it off to just guests… because life is full of disappointments and then you die. If you want to see an INSANE view of the city, look no further than the Ku De Ta Restaurant and Bar. With THE premiere view of the Bay and city skyline, it naturally attracts both super interesting and super obnoxious people in one convenient location. You’ll notice a lot of influencers, tourists, and some visitors who are taking in the view before heading down to the hotel’s impressively swanky casino. You’ll notice who is who by the dress code – guests can’t wear flip-flops, sleeveless tops, or casual shorts. Just a heads up in case you have the cash to stay at this exclusive and iconic Singapore location!
If you want to get the best view of the city and bay skyline, head up in the early evening. Although you’ll have to pay to go up to the observation deck, you’ll be able to take in the view both in the daytime and at night – and the sunset? It’ll be incredible. Honestly, if you’re going to pay to do one thing on your Singapore layover, this is probably one of the most iconic things you can do.
Locals Note: Arrive just before 9 pm to gain free access! Especially since you’re going to be paying $20-25 USD a drink once you’re inside – get those freebies while you can and spend the savings on a cocktail that you can nurse for the next couple of hours…
So, if you find yourself with an extra long Singaporean layover, don’t feel sad or annoyed at the inconvenience – make the most of it instead! There are a ton of amazing things to do instead, whether you stay in Singapore Changi Airport or venture out into the city. From awesome food and drink to outstanding architecture to ridiculously cool airport terminals, the choice is all yours!
What’s your favorite thing to do in Singapore? Let me know in the comments below – I’d love to hear your recommendations for the next time I’m over there!