Are you dreading the long layover that you have to experience before you head off on your next flight? Well, you must. But not if you are in Singapore’s Changi airport. With so many things to do for all types of passengers, Changi airport is easily a destination by itself. You could easily spend a day here engaging yourself with the many activities at their four terminals; which probably explains why a few airlines also allow you to check in 48 hours before your flight. So the next time you get to make a choice for a long layover when travelling to Yogyakarta or Langkawi, choose Changi to experience these.
We recommend at least ten hours of layover at Changi Airport to check out all these things to do.
But before you start off on your adventure, do remember to download the Changi Airport App. You could always head over to the helpful counter at every terminal to get Wi-Fi access for three hours, simply show them your passport to avail this facility.
1. Take a sneak-peek of Singapore through the free City Tour:
Singapore has long been a hub for tourism and this initiative of organising free tours as an introduction to the city is a stroke of marketing genius. If you have more than 6 hours of layover, then you are eligible to go on a city tour that is absolutely free where they take you by bus to different parts of the city. There are two tours to choose from – one is the Heritage tour covering the areas of Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam and the other is the City Sights Tour that covers the Esplanade, Marina Bay Sands and Gardens By The Bay. The Heritage Tour gives you a taste of old Singapore and its ethnic areas whereas the City Tour shows you what the city is today with its tall buildings and first-world feel.
Just visit the booths at the terminals T2 and T3 for details and booking. The booking starts at 7 AM and generally tends to fill up pretty soon, so it would be wise to be there before time as the only way to book the tour is in person and on the same day. If you have not visited Singapore before, we suggest taking the City Sights Tour in the evening. Click here for more info.
2. Tan yourself at the Sunflower Garden or Cactus Garden:
There are three outdoor gardens here which provide some respite from the air-conditioned interiors of the airport – the Lily Pad Garden at T1, Cactus Garden at T1 and Sunflower Garden at T2. The visually appealing Sunflower Garden can be visited at day when the sun warms up the flowers or at night when there is lighting that beautifies the entire garden. We visited the garden in the morning, just as the flowers were getting ready for a day of sunshine and we happened to catch quite a beautiful sight.
The rooftop Cactus Garden has quite a few visitors with their cameras in addition to the customers at the Cactus Bar. It boasts of over a hundred species of cacti at one area. When here, you could just settle back and enjoy watching the flights take off as you sip down on a drink of your choice. This seemed a very popular choice amongst most people there.
In the same terminal, take some time to visit the Lily Pad Garden, the design of which is inspired by lilies. With roofs in the shape of lilies and a walkway that represents ripples in a lily pond, the garden provides a unique experience to those visiting. The only turnoff here is that since these gardens are outdoor, they double up as Smoking Zones as well. Our visit to the Lily Pad Garden turned out a real bummer as we went in only to be greeted by a gust of cigarette smoke.
3. Game to your heart’s content on their free LAN gaming network:
Yes, you heard it right, there is an entire network of computers with games on them just waiting to be occupied by gamers. There is also an Xbox Kinect station and a few Playstation as well which are ideal for two-player games. Just head over to the Entertainment Deck on Terminal 2 for some gaming action. And to cater to hungry and thirsty gamers is a cafeteria that is usually bubbling with people. If gaming is not your cup of tea, then head over to the MTV booth where you could tune into your favourite songs on a 50-inch screen with speakers on your cushy sofa. The Entertainment Zone, on the other hand, provides bigger and better TVs, but no two-player games, although there is an interactive e-Postcard booth where you could send personalised postcards to your friends.
4. Grab some popcorn and watch a movie at one of the theatres:
Movie buffs could rejoice as they kick back and dig into a tub of popcorn when watching movies at the mini-theatre for free. The theatres are at Terminals 2 and 3 (T2 and T3) and the one at Terminal 2 is right next to the LAN gaming zone. Since there are limited seats, we suggest checking up with the Information Counters about the timing of shows and reaching just before the end of a show. The theatre runs English and Chinese movies and ‘Kong: Skull Island’ was playing when we were here.
5. Shop till you drop at the countless shops:
From duty-free spirits to birds’ nests, pretty much everything that you could think of is available at one of the 350 stores here. The best part is that if you are travelling by Singapore Airlines, you get a coupon for 20 SGD that could be used anywhere at the airport. Since there is no GST applicable at many shops, the prices are considerably lower than shops outside. Surprisingly, few brands are not permitted to charge prices higher than that they do outside. Cosmetics are up to 40% cheaper than they are in the city and are a real bargain. The most convenient option would be to check out their discounted products online and collect them when you reach Changi.
6. Take Social Media to a whole new height, literally:
We are talking about a height of 9 metres, that is how tall the Social Tree at Terminal 1 is. Featuring giant screens atop the tree that display your pics on various backgrounds, this digital tree sure is a great way to connect with Changi Airport. You could also play a simple game where you pit yourself against the other people present there. Try beating the top scorer of the day or better yet, the top scorer of the year.
7. Bring out the Lepidopterist in you:
An airport may seem the unlikeliest of places to spot butterflies, but Changi stands out by providing a free Butterfly Garden on their premises. But that is not the only thing it can boast of, there are at least a thousand butterflies flitting around the garden that also houses a waterfall. The entire sight is spectacular and informative as well, with well-placed educational boards dotting the premises. You may actually need to watch your step when you walk here as a few of the little insects actually rest on the wooden steps leading to the second floor. We spent most of our time here trying to find the more elusive butterflies that hid behind the waterfall.
8. Find peace by observing the Koi fish:
If butterflies do not interest you, then the Koi fish in ponds placed at various terminals surely should. Koi, a type of Carp fish, are believed to bring good luck and mostly found in Japanese homes. While we are not sure about the luck part, they did bring us a lot of peace. There is something relaxing in watching these fish swim by and they can be found in more than one location at Changi. Even more relaxing were the free Massage Chairs found right next to the pond. The free massage chairs are another Changi thing, just to make your experience more relaxing.
For people with kids, the best way to relax would be to let your kid play at the Art Rubbing Station so aptly named ‘Interactive Art’. This would be a good chance to let your kid take home a self-made souvenir.
9. Enjoy the Indoor Gardens:
If getting a tan is not on your list, you can still enjoy the gardens that are inside the airport itself. The first on our list, the Enchanted Garden, at first sight, looks shut down and lifeless, but step closer and you will find that it magically lights up to reveal an array of beautiful flowers housed in huge glass bouquets decorated with colourful mosaics. We were hurrying to the Oasis Lounge when we saw this and could not help but stop and marvel at this amazing garden.
At the time of writing this post, there was also a Mystical Garden featuring Sanrio characters in a Christmasy setting. There are many such Mystical Gardens spread throughout the terminals, but this was clearly the biggest. This garden doubled up as a children’s play area. If you do get to visit Changi sometime around the starting of 2018, you can be sure to catch this beautiful garden.
Not all indoor flowers are made of glass, try the Orchid Garden at T2 to see orchids placed in a beautiful setting with a pond of Koi fish. The theme here represents four of the five elements of nature: Air, Water, Earth and Fire, each represented by orchids of different colours such as blue and violet orchids for Water and white for Air. While it may not appear so, there are more than 700 orchids in here, just waiting to be photographed by you.
10. Rest at the free lounges:
Although, this may be the last option that you may think of during your layover, there are free and also pay-per-use lounges at Changi, most needed during long layovers. When you are done visiting all the gardens, theatres, ponds and shops, you may want to rest your eyes at the ironically-named Snooze Lounge. There are many other such lounges spread throughout the airport, with reclining chairs to sleep. If you do want a bed, then you could head over to one of the transit hotels present in every terminal. We ourselves headed over to the Oasis Lounge at Gate E6 in T2 during our layover. Unlike many other lounges we have been in, this one contained charging ports next to each reclining chair. And the chairs contained an alarm system as well which gently rocked the chairs.
In the world of airports, Changi has done well to distinguish itself from the rest. The facilities provided here are usually free and are even better than a few airports that charge for usage of their facilities. The wonderful part about the airport is that it caters to all types of passengers, it is kid-friendly as well as business-friendly, it can impress the nature-lover as well as the technology-lover. This ability to cater to a large clientele is the reason why Changi gets featured regularly in the list of top airports of the world. We have had the pleasure of having two long layovers here and cannot even seem to remember how we spent our time here.