A Short Singapore Stopover: Into the City or Stay at the Airport?

In this article we show you what you can do during a short layover or stopover at Singapore Changi Airport.

Singapore Changi Airport

As Singapore Changi Airport is such a large and important aviation hub, many passengers find themselves here with some hours to kill in between flights on their layover.

Given that Singapore is a fantastic city in its own right, it can certainly be worthwhile to plan in a proper stopover on your flight ticket, whether this is half a day, a full 24 hours or even longer.

No matter how short or long your Singapore layover is, there is always something fun to do.

It’s remarkably fast and easy to head into downtown Singapore from the airport, and even Changi Airport itself has plenty of things to see to keep you occupied.

An afternoon in Singapore

My flight from Surabaya had arrived at Singapore’s Changi Airport at 1.30pm and my onward flight was only at 7.25pm.

Even though I have visited Singapore before for a couple of days on a previous occasion and did not really have the need to go out and explore the city, I figured that it would nonetheless still be a better idea to stretch my legs a bit outside the airport for a while.

My plan was to take the metro into the city, have a walk around the waterfront and head back to the airport with plenty of time left to check out Changi Airport and the Singapore Airlines Krisflyer Lounge.

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The baggage reclaim area of Singapore Changi Airport. ©Paliparan


Singapore’s has an efficient public transport system which is easy to use. All signs and directions are in English, so you are unlikely to get lost.

As Singapore is only a small city state and the distances are short, taking a taxi into the city is also a fast, viable option – although this will of course be more expensive.

I went into the city using the metro. It was two stops on the Changi Airport branch line to Tanah Merah station, and from there quite a few more stops to the City Hall MRT station.

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Into the Singapore metro. ©Paliparan
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Singapore’s public transport system is easy to use. ©Paliparan


The City Hall metro station is right in the heart of downtown Singapore and it’s an excellent starting point for a short walk around town and some great views over the Singapore skyline.

First up was the Padang, which in the Malay language means ‘field’. It basically is a large grass lawn in the heart of the Singapore.

During British colonial rule it was used as a cricket and parade ground, and nowadays the padang still is the venue of some mass events, concerts or sports activities.

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I got out of the metro at the City Hall MRT station. ©Paliparan
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Approaching the Padang. ©Paliparan
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From the Padang there are some great views over the Singapore skyline. ©Paliparan


From the Padang, my walk continued to the esplanade and the Singapore waterfront, which in my opinion is the best location for a leisurely walk and some marvellous views over the impressive Singapore skyline.

At the esplanade, you have panoramic views not only over the skyscrapers of Singapore’s central business district, but also across the water to the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel.

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Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. ©Paliparan
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View over the Singapore skyline from the esplanade. ©Paliparan
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Marina Bay Sands at the opposite end of the water. ©Paliparan

Back to Changi Airport

After snapping a few pictures at the waterfront, I turned back to the MRT station for the return trip to Changi Airport.

I just love how peaceful and well-designed Changi is and it for sure ranks among my top five airports in the entire world. In fact, it might very well be my favourite airport of them all.

Singapore Changi Airport is huge and there is so much to see and do that you don’t even have to leave the airport premises if you have a short layover or stopover.

There are lots of shops to browse through and all kinds of different food outlets to enjoy, which means that time will fly by fast if you only have a short layover at Singapore Airport.

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Singapore Changi Airport. ©Paliparan
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Check-in desks at Singapore Changi Airport. ©Paliparan
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Singapore Changi Airport. ©Paliparan
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Singapore Changi Airport. ©Paliparan
Singapore Changi Airport. ©Paliparan


You can freely move between Terminals 1, 2 and 3 of Singapore Airport by using the Changi Airport Skytrain, an automated people mover (APM) system.

Even though my flight would depart from Terminal 2, I first headed to Terminal 3 as it’s by far the nicest terminal of Singapore Airport to explore.

Besides, it also has a butterfly garden – which is a cool attraction in its own right!

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Singapore Changi Airport terminal 3. ©Paliparan
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Singapore Changi Airport terminal 3. ©Paliparan
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Singapore Changi Airport terminal 3. ©Paliparan

Butterfly Garden

If you only have a short layover at Singapore Airport, I would highly suggest to make the trek to Terminal 3 to see the lovely butterfly garden as it’s such a beautiful spot.

I just love the place and I always make a quick visit when I’m at Changi. Besides the simple fact that the butterflies are amazingly beautiful to watch, I also find it extremely relaxing to take a walk around this tropical garden.

The note at the entrance of the butterfly garden is by the way downright hilarious. It reads: “Note to visitors: Our butterflies are harmless.”

Harmless butterflies? As opposed to what? Predatory butterflies?

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The hilarious note at the entrance to the butterfly garden which implies there are also dangerous butterflies. ©Paliparan
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The butterfly garden in Terminal 3 of Singapore Changi Airport. ©Paliparan
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Singapore Airport butterfly garden. ©Paliparan
butterfly garden
Singapore Airport butterfly garden. ©Paliparan
butterfly garden
Singapore Airport butterfly garden. ©Paliparan
butterfly garden
Singapore Airport butterfly garden. ©Paliparan
butterfly garden
Singapore Airport butterfly garden. ©Paliparan

Swimming pool

There are two other great ways how to spend your Singapore Airport layover. What about having a swim in an outdoor swimming pool while overlooking the tarmac and planes down below?

The Aerotel Airport Transit Hotel in Terminal 1 has such an outdoor swimming pool.

Hotel guests get complimentary access, but even if you don’t have a room booked you can use the swimming pool for a minor fee of 17 Singapore dollars (10.60 EUR). Towels and even a complimentary non-alcoholic cocktail are provided!

Unfortunately, I never had the time to check it out myself, so let’s hope there will be a future opportunity to take a refreshing dip!

Jewel at Changi

Something which was not yet ready when I made this trip to Singapore but which has been completed now is the Jewel at Changi Airport.

Technically the Jewel is not part of Changi Airport itself as it’s actually located in a shopping mall just outside the airport, which means that as a transit passenger just must clear passport control first and enter Singapore proper if you want to have a look here.

The jewel’s centrepiece – the world’s tallest indoor waterfall in the middle of a lush tropical garden – does surely look absolutely stunning.


Even if you only have a few hours available on your layover or stopover at Singapore Changi Airport, there are some excellent ways how to spend your time.

Whether you decide to go into the city for a short walk around or to eat something or decide to stay at Changi Airport doesn’t really matter as both can be fun.

Going into Singapore on your stopover is absolutely straightforward as the city centre is only a short ride by taxi or metro from Changi Airport.

However, even if you would stay at Singapore Changi Airport itself for a couple of hours this is hardly a crime as it’s one of the world’s most beautiful airports, having tons of shopping and dining opportunities, a butterfly garden, swimming pool and even an indoor waterfall.

Singapore Changi Airport is one of those airports I always look forward to transit through and would easily rank among the best places in the world to have a stopover!

Trip report index

This article is part of the ‘Journey to Java‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:

1. Review: Wizz Air Bucharest to Rome Ciampino (Airbus A321)
2. Half a Day in Rome: A Walk Around the Eternal City
3. Review: Casa Alitalia Lounge ‘Piazza di Spagna’ Rome Fiumicino Airport
4. Review: Saudia Business Class Rome to Riyadh (Airbus A320)
5. Review: Saudia Alfursan Business Lounge Riyadh Airport
6. Review: Saudia Business Class Riyadh to Jakarta (Boeing 777-300)
7. Review: The Hermitage, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, Jakarta, Indonesia
8. A Day in Jakarta: Exploring Indonesia’s Bustling Capital City
9. Review: Garuda Indonesia Domestic Business Lounge Jakarta Airport
10. Review: Garuda Indonesia Business Class Jakarta to Yogyakarta (Boeing 737-800)
11. Review: The Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta – Mgallery By Sofitel
12. A Magical Sunrise Visit to Borobudur Temple
13. A Visit to the Great Hindu Temple Complex of Prambanan
14. Review: Yogyakarta to Surabaya (Indonesia) by Train
15. Review: Majapahit Hotel, Surabaya, Indonesia
16. A Day in Surabaya: Exploring Indonesia’s Second Biggest City
17. Review: Concordia Premier Lounge Surabaya Airport
18: Review: Singapore Airlines Business Class Surabaya to Singapore (Airbus A330-300)
19. A Short Singapore Stopover: Into the City or Stay at the Airport? (current chapter)
20. Review: SilverKris Lounge Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2
21. Review: Singapore Airlines Business Class Singapore to Manila (Boeing 787-10)
22. Review: PAGSS Business Lounge Manila Airport Terminal 1
23. Review: China Airlines Economy Class Manila to Taipei (Airbus A330-300)
24. Review: China Airlines Business Lounge Taipei Airport Terminal 1
25. Review: China Airlines Economy Class Taipei to Rome (Airbus A350)
26. Review: TAROM Economy Class Rome to Bucharest (Boeing 737-700)

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Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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