DSC05513

Singapore Airport: A Disneyland for backpackers

December 26, 2013

I’ve spent my fair share of time sitting in airports, usually in an isolated corner picking my nose and listening to Taylor Swift.

Earlier this year I spent about 12 hours sitting around in Mumbai airport, and a few years before that I was having the time of my life prancing around Nairobi’s airport for 18 or so hours.

Needless to say sitting in transit sucks. You probably haven’t showered for over 30 hours, all the good seats are taken, the food is ridiculously expensive and everyone is in a super shitty mood.

Unless of course you’re in Singapore’s Changi Airport.

Chances are you’ll have more fun in Singapore’s airport than you’ll have in actual Singapore. I promise, it’s so cool that I’m actually looking forward to the next time I have to transit here. The place is like a gigantic big kid’s playground, with more big screen TV’s, video games and computers than Dick Smith Electronics.

Let me show you exactly how much fun you can have while in transit in Singapore.

First of all, there’s a Left Baggage service available. For me personally I hate carrying stuff around the airport. Don’t you ever get sick of tying your backpack to your leg while you sleep? Or trying to strategically place your massive suitcase in the cubicle while you poop?

At Changi Airport you can leave your bags with someone else, and it’s cheap. I left two bags with them for about 12 hours and it cost me $5 USD!

Untitled

Trust me, you’ll be so happy to leave your bags somewhere because this airport is enormous. It has 3 terminals, all connected by the Skytrain. It comes every 4 minutes or so, and takes about a minute to get between terminals.

DSC05512

While in transit you always need to eat. Sometimes it’s good sometimes it’s not, but in Changi airport your only problem will be trying to choose. Every type of food is available – pizza, Burger King, chicken laksa, BBQ pork on rice, McDonald’s, wonton noodle soup, fried chicken and chips, vegetarian Indian…whatever you want – it’s here. The food’s not expensive either, this Hainan chicken rice only set me back $4USD! Or $12, cos I had 3 of ‘em :D

DSC05464

Then, it’s time to charge up your stuff. But what power plug do they use in Singapore? Doesn’t matter, because the airport has craploads of universal plugs, including USB’s. 856 of them to be exact. No more sitting on the floor against a random pillar, waiting for your phone to charge…

DSC05467

What I hate about sitting in the airport is the lack of fresh air. It’s like a big air conditioned greenhouse of zombies breathing recycled oxygen. Luckily for you, Singapore has a handful of garden areas where you can lay low, breath some real air and chill.

My favourite is the butterfly garden:

DSC05474DSC05477

The cactus garden and sunflower garden aren’t too shabby either:

DSC05519

DSC05504

Then, just when I start to get bored Singapore brings me back to technology. Scattered throughout the airport are free internet terminals, and there’s so many of them that they’re never full. The internet is fast, too.

DSC05516

DSC05482

Then once you’re done stalking your ex on Facebook you’ll probably wanna sit back and relax somewhere. Head to the free movie theatre and catch one of the latest blockbusters.

DSC05470

If the theatre’s full, don’t worry. Just head to the other one.

DSC05503

And if you don’t like the hush hush of the cinema, you can catch a movie on one of the many flat screens scattered through the terminal:

DSC05517

Once you start feeling weary, get a massage at one of the many health spas. Prices start at around $20USD, but most will be closer to $40.

DSC05488

Are you getting anxious about what’s happening in the markets? Just head to the free Bloomberg corner, where you can run rampant on Bloomberg connected computers and watch the market news. I didn’t even have access to this while working as an accountant!

DSC05491

I wish I knew what all these numbers meant…

Bored yet? Guess you better head to the game zone, where they have 9 free Playstation 3′s hooked up with the latest games. What!!!!

DSC05507

Huh? I’t’s been 18 hours already?

Once you’re done losing at Fifa, you can head to the sports TV, sit back in your lounge chair and watch the real thing on the big screen.

You probably want more video games now. You’re in luck, because they also have a free LAN cafe set up with six gaming PC’s, ready for you to Battlefield it up! OMG!

DSC05501

Hey guys, let’s just do one more and hope our plane is delayed, yah?

Getting tired? Take a nap! You can access a sleeping zone in a lounge for around $25, and around $9 will get you a drink and a hot shower.

DSC05468

After that you can head to the TV zone and relax in your own private television cubicle. There’s a lot of them, so you should be able to find an empty one :)

DSC05505

Can finally watch America’s next top model in peace…

Walking through this place is always interesting. It’s scattered with fish ponds and gardens which are such a refreshing change to the dull, sterile boxes that airports so often are.

DSC05509

Now you probably need to use the internet again but you’re bored of using a normal computer. Guess you better have a go with these wall mounted touch screen ones…

DSC05492

Miss your dog? Give him a call using these free internet phones:

DSC05494

Heading to the beach in Thailand or Bali? There’s always time for one more gym session:

If you really need a decent snooze, there’s a couple of transit hotels you can check into without needing to go through immigration:

DSC05481

And if you ever feel like you’re getting bored of the airport (which is impossible), there’s a free tour of Singapore on offer that will get you out into the real world.

DSC05514

Will I be back in time for one more game of Fifa?

Then came the best surprise of all. I was so exhausted from running around looking at all this cool stuff when I finally came across a massage chair. Ready to spend my few remaining dollars on a much needed foot rub, I sat down and twisted myself in circles trying to find the coin hole. Turns out, it was free! AHHHH!

Changi

But what’s even crazier than all this is that this isn’t even half of it! I had about 4 hours in here and I still didn’t get a chance to see the swimming pool, the hair salon, the other gardens, the 4 storey high slide, the Aviation Gallery, the Zone X video arcade (arrgh!), let alone browse through all the amazing duty free shopping on offer.

All I can say is, if you ever need to transit in Singapore don’t get upset. In fact, I’d try and change your flights up so you can make your transit even longer. I could spend 2 days in here and not get bored. LAN party, anyone?

Oh, and I nearly forget the most important part. There’s beer, too :)

DSC05520

Truth is, I was actually a little disappointed when it came time to board my flight. I felt like I was Charlie and my time in the chocolate factory was being cut short. Next time I’ll make sure I get a little more time here :)

Did you enjoy this post?
Learn more about how to travel more, for less.

My subscribers are able to ask travel questions, get free advice, get help with travel planning, and make requests for new posts and content. Just enter your email below, it's free!

Your email is kept private, and I NEVER send spam. That's a promise!

You might also like:

81 thoughts on “Singapore Airport: A Disneyland for backpackers

  1. Peter J Taylor

    I worked at Changi from 1968 to 1971 as a weather forecaster for the RAF. When not working, I could use facilities like golf, squash, badminton, yachting, fishing, bowling, swimming and water-skiing, and all types of food were available in Changi village. But few buildings were air-conditioned, and none of the cars, taxis or buses.

    Reply
      1. Peter J Taylor

        Yes, there is still an active golf course. You can see it on Google Earth, just west of Changi Village Road, and north of the newer Loyang Avenue. The sailing club still exists too. The bowling was the 10-pin variety, and it might just have been air-conditioned. It was next to the Astra cinema. As a Royal Air Force base it was huge, with a population of 12,000 if you include service families, their schoolteachers and other UK based civilians, and locally-recruited employees. But it wasn’t just a holiday camp. Confrontation with Indonesia was very recent.

        Reply
  2. Adeline

    Hi Bren, like many others, I came to your blog via a fb post.

    I’m a Singaporean and proud of my airport. Thanks for singing so much of its praises! Frankly, I didn’t even know we have this much facilities and amenities in there! And, like you, I was delighted to find out about the baggage deposit two months ago, while having to wait hours for my bro to pick me up.

    I also like the way you answer every single comment with so much sincerity. I’m gonna put in my first subscription of any blog here!

    Hope you’ll return to this Sunny island! ^_^

    Reply
    1. Brendan Lee Post author

      I usually fly through Singapore when I go anywhere, so I will definitely return. Also I’m so glad to have you as a subscriber! Hope you enjoy my future articles as much as this one :)

      Reply
  3. Pingback: Late arrival early departure - need hotel advice - FlyerTalk Forums

  4. sandip

    Nice blog; I love Changi. One of the best things abt Changi is that it’s always changing and never the same; each time I transit, they’d have added something new. Amazing!

    Reply
  5. Clement

    Every time I come back to Sg from overseas I always take the last flight (midnight) coz it is usually cheaper (if not cheapest), then i always go to the cinema to watch movie till I dozed off, then wake up in the morning to take train back home (save more money for midnight taxi, haha..). OR if I din have anything that day, I will just stay inside. Yes, it’s fun to roam around there. I wonder though, how if Sg was my final destination but I had baggage? lost and found? Coz I always carry all my things.

    Reply
  6. Iain

    I’ve been through Singapore just over a few times en-route to Australia but aside from using the free internet & more recently the wi-fi i haven’t noticed alot of what was in your excellent piece, the rooftop garden looks a great place to kill sometime, next time i head through Changi it will be one of the many places i check out.

    Happy travels Bren.

    Reply
    1. Bren Post author

      Hi Iain, yes I’m surprised a lot of people didn’t know about all this stuff, although I’ve been to SG 3 or 4 times and only discovered most of this last year! So I’m just as bad. Now we all know Singapore has it’s own Disneyland!

      Reply
  7. Brooke

    Hi Bren, glad to hear that you had such a delightful time in Changi Airport! As a Singaporean and a traveler myself I’m really proud of our airport – not just the amenities but also how clean and efficient it is. Even the public areas are a delight to stroll around. Cheers~

    Reply
  8. Des

    Bren, you have missed one important feature.. smoking room. Changi airport has the best ones in all the airports I have been (less than 15). Spacious, clean and “breathable” air. Ironically the sg govt bans smoking most areas in the island. Probably you dont need one, good for you. :)

    Reply
  9. JoeOng

    Hu Bren, Terminal 5 is on the approved blue print already. Thanks for your good write up of our International airport. Do not know about other airports but in Singapore, our airport is so designed that we Singaporeans consider the place as part of the go-to for shopping, feasting, chilled up and to a certain extend kids’ playground, without a blink on an eye and or surprise look from any Singaporeans. I never am bored going to my Changi Airport and proud of it.

    Reply
    1. Bren Post author

      That’s strange, in New Zealand, I’d never go to the airport unless I’m flying somewhere. It’s not exactly a fun place to be, hah

      Reply
  10. Erin

    Hi, Bren, I’m a Singaporean and am already 19 years old this year. I travelled almost every year of my life and never knew the airport had amenities like these! Hopefully I will get a chance to check out the movie theatre (that really caught my eye!) in future! And yes, the prime minister announced at last year’s National Day Rally that they will be building another TWO terminals! Even I can’t wait for them to be built because I really love Changi Airport, even if I’m just there to soak in the travel atmosphere :) Make sure to check out the two new terminals when they’re built! Thanks for the amazing article; so proud of Singapore!

    Reply
    1. Bren Post author

      How about you guys do something nice and come and donate one of those terminals to New Zealand. With a movie theatre and a butterfly garden :D :D

      Reply
  11. Cheryl

    Hi Bren, I’m a fellow Singaporean who came across your blog post through facebook. I’ve never traveled much and I am so amazed at the facilities in our Airport. I heard about the cinema, gardens, and swimming pool but the gaming corner was a new thing for me and I am so jealous! Just a question, are most of the facilities in T3? Because T1 and T2 don’t have much fanciful stuff compared to T3. Btw, Singapore is currently building a T4 and it’s going to be really grand. Hopefully by the next time you drop by, T4 is up :D You can go google it.

    Reply

Share your thoughts!