Singapore is one of the main hubs of South East Asia. Both times I’ve been to Indonesia and also for my future trip to Australia I happen to have a layover in Singapore. On the third flight that I had to do a stopover in Singapore I decided it would be a shame to fly there for the third time and not even see it. So I arranged my flights so as to have a 12-hour layover in Singapore, which would give me enough time to see the main highlights of the city. In this article I will take you to explore all of the best things to do and places to see in Singapore if you only 12 hours, or a long layover, and how to maximise your time there.
- 1 How to organise a long layover in Singapore
- 2 Best things to do in Singapore
- 3 Where to eat
How to organise a long layover in Singapore
Before I jump straight into the sightseeing of Singapore and the best things to do I want to cover the technicalities of doing a long layover in Singapore, all the things like where do you leave your bags, how long does it take to get into the centre and so on. My main tip is to do all your research and book entry tickets for places beforehand. If you have a limited amount of time you don’t want to be spending that time Googling what to do or queuing to get tickets for places.
Where can you leave your luggage at Singapore Changi Airport?
I flew from Yogyakarta to Singapore with AirAsia and my next flight back to the UK was with Norwegian Airlines so unfortunately I couldn’t just check in my bag at my first flight. If you’re lucky and your airline has a desk open that far in advance you might be able to check in your suitcase. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case for me so I had to drop it off at the luggage storage of the airport. At Terminal 4 it’s one small tiny room with only two people working there so be ready to wait for a bit if there’s a queue (I don’t know what the other terminals are like obviously, they might be bigger and quicker). Prices vary depending on suitcase size, I paid 10 Singaporean Dollars (SGD) for the whole day for my carry-on trolley. I had to keep my backpack on me as I had a laptop inside which they can’t keep in storage (don’t ask me why, it baffles me too).
How to get from Singapore Changi Airport to the city centre
I did some research before arriving in Singapore, considering I only had 12 hours there I wanted to maximise my time in Singapore and see as much as possible. All the things I wanted to do were around Marina Bay so that’s where I was headed and what I refer to as “city centre” in this article. I lost a couple hours at passport control, going from one terminal to the other (there are free shuttle services for this) and queuing for the luggage drop off. Once I was ready to go I decided to get a taxi to Marina Bay Sands. It cost me approximately 20 SGD and the drive from Changi Airport to Marina Bay Sands is only 15 minutes. Alternatively you can get the MRT train service, which will be much cheaper and they say is really cool, but will take you over 50 minutes. Since at that stage I only had 10 hours left (make that 7 if I wanted to be back in time for check-in, passport control, security and all other airport faff) I decided the extra cost of a taxi was worth to save all that time.
Best things to do in Singapore
So finally, we are done with technicalities and are ready to jump in the meat of this article, what are the best things to do in Singapore if you are only visiting for 12 hours or a long layover? These are the things I went to see myself based on personal choices, obviously take them with a pinch of salt and plan your Singapore itinerary based on your own interests.
Check out the view from the Sands SkyPark Observation Deck
I started my day at the viewing platform on top of Marina Bay Sands, also known as the Sands SkyPark Observation Deck. The view from up there is really stunning and it’s also surprising how varied it is. On one side you can admire the colourful nature of Gardens by the Bay with all the green trees and blue of the sea next to it, whilst on the other there are all the tall skyscrapers of the city. There is also a coffee shop on the viewing deck if you feel like having a drink while enjoying the view. I struggled a little to find how to get to the top since my taxi had dropped me off on the other side of the hotel, it’s easier to find if you head straight for Tower 3. The price to access the observation deck is 23 SGD, which is a bit expensive considering it’s just for the view. I was there on a Tuesday morning and there was no queue, however it’s always better to buy a ticket online if you can and save yourself some time on the day.
Visit Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay are possibly the most recognisable attraction in Singapore. We have all seen photos of the big metal trees at night lit up with purple lights. Since I was spending such a brief amount of time in Singapore, this was definitely at the top of my list of places to see. After seeing the view from the SkyPark Observation I went back inside Marina Bay Sands to find a way to get to Gardens by the Bay. The road between the two is very trafficked and it didn’t look like I could cross it walking. Inside Marina Bay instead there is an indoors-pedestrian bridge that will get you across. You might have to walk around inside a bit to find the right door but all the staff is really friendly and were happy to give me directions when I asked. Access to the gardens is free and you can walk around almost everywhere, but you do have to pay for some of the attractions inside.
The Supertree Grove
The Supertree Grove, as the name implies, is the main attraction with the big colourful trees. It’s a very recognisable landmark so even if you don’t have Google maps or another map way to get around you can easily see them from other parts of Gardens by the Bay and walk towards them. It’s free to walk around them however if you want to access the walkway halfway up the height of the trees you have to pay an entry fee.
The OCBC Skyway
When you get to the Supertree Grove you will notice that there is a walkway path that connects some of the trees. I didn’t pre-book a ticket for this as I didn’t think I would have time for it or that it was particularly exciting, however when I got there and saw how big the trees were I knew I just had to see the view from up there. I bought a ticket for 8 SGD from the kiosk just under the trees but then had to wait 15 minutes or so since the wind had picked up and they momentarily closed the skyway. It doesn’t take long to walk along the walkway since it is only 128 metres long, however everybody takes their time taking photos along the way.
Conservatory Cloud Forest & Flower Dome
The conservatories in Gardens by the Bay are one of the main attractions of this area of Singapore. Similarly to the OCBC Skyway I hadn’t pre-booked a ticket for these either, as I wasn’t sure I would have time to visit them. When it got to around 5pm and I realised I still had some time I decided I couldn’t miss the highest indoor waterfall in Singapore. By then Gardens by the Bay started getting more crowded and I had to wait approximately 15-minutes in the queue of the ticket kiosk. If you know you want to visit the conservatories it’s once again easier to book online if you can. Entry prices are 12 SGD to one conservatory or 20 SGD for two. I only visited the Cloud Forest as I didn’t have much time and it’s the one I found more interesting.
Visit the ArtScience Museum
After spending so much time walking around Gardens by the Bay in the boiling Singaporean heat (it was only 26°C really but it felt like a lot more) the ArtScience Museum with its cool air-conditioning was my favourite part of Singapore. Not just because of the air-con, it is seriously awesome. There are different exhibitions within the museum, I only visited the Future World exhibition, as I didn’t think I had enough time to see them all and I was more interested in science than the natural history exhibition. Like most of the other places I visited the ArtScience Museum was also relatively empty and without queues, however I still recommend buying a ticket online beforehand to avoid the queues. Tickets to a single exhibition are 17 SGD or 28 SGD for a double exhibition ticket.
The Future World exhibition definitely deserves a visit. Everything is interactive and there are stations all throughout where you can play educational games. My favourite was the aquarium, where they gave you a sheet of paper with the outline of a fish drawn on it for you to colour in. Once you were happy with your fish you could scan it and it would appear on the wall swimming around with the fish drawn by other people. The part that blew my mind was that the wall was somehow sensitive to touch and if you touched your fish it would react like a real fish in an aquarium when you tap the glass and swim away.
Where to eat
Before heading to Singapore I kept being told how expensive it is so I was bit worried about breaking the bank, since even if I was only there for a day I would be hanging out at all the main tourist and central spots. However I found a place in Gardens by the Bay called Satay by the Bay, in my opinion it was too clever a name to ignore it and I’m glad I ate there since it was the best chicken satay I’ve had in a long time. It’s not just one restaurant, it’s actually a whole big food court area like the ones you might find in malls so there is a lot of choice for everyone. If you’re only visiting Singapore briefly I think this is a much better option than sitting down at a restaurant and wasting a couple hours.
Have you been to Singapore before? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below! Even if I only there for a long flight layover and got to spend just about 12 hours in Singapore I really enjoyed it. There are so many fun things to do, I would definitely enjoy heading back one day and spending more time in Singapore.
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