I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Singapore twice, once for a week as part of a 3-week holiday in South East Asia, and then as a stopover on a flight home from Indonesia. Both times I managed to pack in a ridiculous amount of things into the time I had available.
Singapore is the epitome of a vibrant, modern city. You can get around easily using public transport (which is clean and air-conditioned – a must for the ever present heat and humidity) and there are so many things to do, that pretty much any type of traveler is catered for.
If you are planning on having a few hours for a stopover in Singapore or even if you have a couple of days to enjoy the city, here are some of my recommendations for ways to pass the time:
1. Stay in the Airport
I’m not even kidding, Singapore has the BEST airport in the world, there are so many things to do and see that even if you only have a hour or two between flights, you might not even get to experience it all. There are gorgeous gardens spread across the different terminals, including a sunflower garden, a butterfly garden and a rooftop cactus garden. If technology is more your thing there are gaming rooms and a movie theatre that screens free movies all day (it’s a perfect spot to take a nap in the dark after running around the city like a crazy person).
Shops for days, free Wi-Fi, plenty of restaurants, the world’s tallest airport slide and a swimming pool overlooking a runway are some of the other things you can experience. You can never complain that you are bored during long transits at this airport. It’s my favourite airport in the world!
The airport website is a fantastic resource for when you first plan a trip to Singapore, you can view it here.
2. Take a free tour from the airport
If the timing gods are on your side, you might be able to take advantage of the free Singapore tours offered at the airport. The tours take 2.5 hrs. and you need to book at least an hour before the tour starts, all you have to do is register with your passport and boarding pass at one of the Free Singapore Tour booths located in Terminal 2 and 3. This is the easiest way to experience the city if you are a bit of a nervous traveler who can’t stand the idea of getting lost.
3. Explore the city by yourself
This option requires a bit more advanced planning than the other two. You will need to decide on which touristy things you would like to do the most and plan your time around them. Although Singapore is small and easy to get around, concentrating on one or two areas to experience during your stopover is probably best.
Before you start your adventure
If you are carrying tons of hand luggage, you may want to make use of the airport’s baggage storage facilities. They are located inside the transit lounge areas at the different terminals. To make life easier, pick the terminal your flight will be departing from later. You simply drop the bags off, they tag them and you pay a fee. I left my laptop (as a very paranoid South African) and had no issues whatsoever. It was the best decision ever.
After your bags are no longer dragging you down, you will need to fill in an arrival card and pass through immigration (don’t leave your passport in the luggage you just stored). South Africans do not need a visa to enter Singapore! (YAYAYAYAY!) Don’t forget to exchange or withdraw some money while you are at the airport. Most places accept credit cards, but cash makes certain things much easier.
Then you will need to catch some form of transport to get to where you want to go. If you are rich, go for a taxi, but the best way to get around is via the MRT (the train). Download an MRT map app while you still have Wi-Fi, this way you will know how many stops you have before you need to get off and you can plan routes to your next destination. The MRT has a station at the airport, super convenient for stopovers.
You can pay for a ticket for each train trip or you can opt for the Singapore tourist pass. This pass will allow you to have unlimited trips on any of the busses or trains for a specified duration. You pay a S$10 deposit for the card, which you get back once you return it. A one day pass costs S$10 (R115) making it the most affordable option to get around. (You can see more details here)
Choosing where to go:
If heights present no problem to you and you want to get a bird’s eye view of Singapore, you have a couple of options available. You can head on over the to the Singapore Flyer, a 165m high observation wheel which takes about 30 minutes to complete a revolution. This a a spectacular way to get a view of the whole the city. A trip costs S$33 (R370) per person.
You can also opt to have a cocktail on top of the Marina Bay Sands hotel. This iconic boat shaped hotel has a spectacular infinity pool with sprawling views of the city. Only hotel guests are permitted to use the pool, but there are options available for the everyday tourist who also wants to experience Singapore from 57 storeys up in the air. You could waste your money and buy tickets for the observation desk, but if you are a bit more savvy, you can rather opt to enjoy a drink at the CÉ LA VI Club Lounge, which overlooks the infinity pool. The drink prices are ridiculous, but the views are amazing and it’s better value for money than buying a ticket for the observation deck.
Whilst you are in the Marina Bay area, you may also want to visit the famous Merlion to take some clichéd tourist photos.
A bit of Excitement
If you are looking for a bit of a heart stopping adventure, hop on the train to Sentosa Island. There you will find Universal Studios Theme Park, which has plenty of rides for the daring (think twisty roller coasters) as well as the less brave (King Julian’s Party go Round).
Universal Studios is small enough to visit in one day, and you can buy tickets online so you don’t have to wait in any queues. Tickets cost S$74 (R830). I’ve written more about Universal Studios here.
Nature and Wildlife
If the calmness of nature is more your thing, you will be happy to know that even though Singapore is a city, there are a number of different plants and animals you can enjoy. Singapore Zoo is one of the best Rainforest Zoos in the World, you can also visit the Jurong Bird Park, or if you don’t live in Africa, go on a Night Safari (It’s kind of lame if you have been on a real safari).
If trees are more your vibe, there is a Botanical Garden, a Chinese Garden, an Orchid Garden and even a Tree Top Walk (this looks fun, it didn’t exist on my first trip, and I didn’t have enough time to visit on my second trip).
Shop ‘til you drop
If you are a big spender or a penny pincher there are shopping malls in Singapore that cater for you. From the high end shops along Orchard Road to the bargains in Little India or the Tourist Crap in Chinatown, you will find something to spend some money on. Little India has a multi storey shopping complex that sells everything, called Mustafa Centre. I mean everything. It’s a great place to pick up a spare suitcase for all the new things you will probably buy.
If you are ever heading over to the Far East, try and spend a bit of time in Singapore, you won’t regret your decision. You can also head on over to Webjet to find out more about Singapore and to book flights and holiday packages.
Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by webjet. All thoughts and views expressed are my own. Please do not use my pictures without my permission.