Singapore Airport Guide
If there’s a place to get stuck for a layover, travelers would be lucky to spend a few hours at Singapore Changi Airport. Imagine a day that starts out with a swift workout at the gym, followed by a dip in a rooftop pool, perhaps an hour-long massage treatment at the spa, with a walk through a butterfly garden to top it all off. For many, this may sound like a visit to a tropical resort; for weary travelers, it could be a layover at Singapore Changi Airport.
A global transit hub, Singapore Changi Airport virtually pioneered the concept of an airport as a destination. Despite the fact that Singapore is a medium-sized city-state of 5 million residents, Changi (pronounced Chang-ee) has built itself up in the late 20th century as an exchange hub for finance, cargo and as a vital transit link among Europe, Asia and Australia.
Spread out over 3 main terminals, including a budget satellite terminal, Changi offers amenities to travelers that other hubs haven’t begun to contemplate. Here’s what you’ll need to know to navigate this mini-city unto itself.
Coming and Going
Since Singapore itself is only 270 square miles, Changi Airport is located just 11 miles from the city center. Options include shuttle buses, the public train system MRT and car rental. The MRT connects Terminals 2 and 3, and will bring visitors to the nearby Tanah Merah station where a transfer is necessary to reach the city center. The most popular and convenient option, however, is a taxi, which will take you to most points in the city center for under $20 USD.
Plenty of accommodations are near Changi Airport, such as a new Crowne Plaza located at Terminal 3. However, Changi is one of the rare airports in the world to feature transit hotels, full hotels and services located within the immigration confines of the terminal itself. That’s right, leave the terminal to retrieve your luggage at the baggage carousel and you won’t be able to access these hotels.
Each terminal has an Ambassador Transit hotel, but visit the hotel at Terminal 1 to access the rooftop pool. Hotels in Terminal 2 and 3 offer hair care and aromatherapy, and there’s a 24-hour gym at Terminal 2. Transit passengers can book these rooms for daytime use, in between flights or just to relax before exiting the terminal.
For those who don’t want the hotel expense, the airport has designated napping areas, where lounge chairs equipped with alarms can be set to vibrate and wake you before your flight.
Changi Airport is full of innovations and surprises light years ahead of the competition. Shower and massage facilities are offered at the transit lounges of each terminal, some of which offer free 15-minute foot massages. Beyond the typical duty-free boutiques and more than 300 shopping and dining options, the airport also provides simple conveniences, such as drug stores, changing rooms for parents with infants and a salon for that much-needed haircut.
Just about every kind of cuisine is offered within the airport. For an authentic Singaporean experience, visit the 24Hr Food Gallery in Terminal 3 for a sampling of the local hawker- style street food. Dig into Hainan chicken rice, Singaporean laksa, and mee siam (Siamese noodles), all of which are highly addictive staples of Singapore’s cuisine. Singapore is also home to a sizeable Indian population, and one of the best dining options is an airport branch of Ananda Bhavan restaurant, an Indian vegetarian restaurant that wins over even the fiercest carnivores.
On the more recreational end, visitors can seek out the entertainment deck (Level 3, Terminal 2), a full complex that features free Xbox and PlayStation consoles, along with a cinema-style movie theater that plays second-run movies.
Airport Nature Trail
For those who feel cooped up, the airport offers a variety of landscaped gardens, including a 5-story-tall butterfly garden in Terminal 3, and orchid garden and koi pond in Terminal 2, and a sunflower garden, also in Terminal 2.
Like any modern airport, Changi has many wireless internet options. Paid options include connecting through a local internet provider, or visiting one of the business centers at each of the 3 terminals. For free internet, visit one of the airport information centers to obtain a free access password to the airport’s Wi-Fi, which offers limited speeds. In addition, free computer kiosks are set up throughout the airport. So if you forget your laptop, tablet or smartphone, you still have options to get connected.