singapore airport

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 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!

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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.

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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

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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…

Singapore Airport

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:

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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:

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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.

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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!

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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!!!!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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 :)

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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.

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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…

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

Singapore Airport phones

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

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

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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.

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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!

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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 :)

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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 :)

Heading to Singapore? For help with finding the cheapest accommodation, I’d recommend Agoda – they usually get the lowest rates in town. For other attractions and things to do, you can’t go wrong with TripAdvisor. Happy travels!

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115 thoughts on “Singapore Airport: A Disneyland for backpackers

  1. 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

      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
  2. 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
    1. Yappy

      So we can actually stay in the transit area until the next morning if we were to return from overseas via flights beyond midnight?! I did not know about this!! I always have the impression that transit area is SOLELY for passengers who need transit and it is not available to others. Looks like a good idea to choose midnight flights and spend my night in the transit area next time till the next morning :)

      Reply
      1. Bren

        I would assume you can just stay in that area as long as you want to after you get off the plane. If anyone asks (which I doubt), just say you had to wait for a pickup/wait for a friend’s plane to land or whatever other reason you can think of :)

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

  5. 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

      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
      1. Goh Benjamin

        Thanks another singaporean here. i always rush to go home once i landed from the plane. haha guess you help me to find another reason to stay at changi airport. can i check with you if there any good place to take a nap? possible to sleep at the movie cinema or any good seat for sleeping?
        i can save myself some money and take the morning mrt back home =)

        Reply
  6. 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
  7. Daisy

    HI Bren! thank you for this post..never knew that T2 has a lot to offer inside! Last week I get to check it myself! Thank you for the info!

    Reply
  8. jaslyn

    Are these inside the departure/arrival hall? Im a Singaporean and never knew about these! Wanna go check it out but don’t wanna buy an air ticket for it hahaha..

    Reply
  9. Anonymous

    The reason singapore airports is rated what i think is top 5 best airports in the world. Not bad for a once fishing village island

    Reply
  10. Aiden Chong

    Hey bro! Thanks for sharing this, seriously!

    My girlfriend works in Singapore Airlines and she didn’t even know about those things you’re talking about in this post! Haha.

    I travel to Singapore quite often to stay together with her, and I myself don’t even know all these things exist.

    I just liked this post, liked your FB page, added you in FB so I can talk to you more about the crazily nice noodles that I’ve ever tried in Singapore, Malaysia etc (in case you’re coming over to the very east part of Malaysia, my hometown, Sabah or better known as Borneo Island :D), signed up to join your mailing list, replied to your FB page’s for the post, and now I’m replying here because there’s no way for me to post a reply on your About Me page (http://www.brenontheroad.com/my-story/).

    I was a local tourist guide in my hometown, and when I decided not to work for others and I wanna work in anywhere I want and still being able to travel around, I started to move towards the “working online” model… A very humble starting point, and it brings back my memories of how I got started in the online world.

    After reading a few of your posts, I think I’m even more deeply in love with your casual, humorous and lively writing styles presented on this site… to the point where I’m thinking if I could hire you/your team to write for one of our niche sites! LOL!

    Again, thanks for the post, me and my gf will definitely try out those facilities in the near future :)

    Aiden

    Reply
    1. Bren

      Hi Aiden, really appreciate all your support! I have been to Sabah actually, spent a week or so on Kota Kinabalu and definitely ate my fair share. Lovely place!

      That’s cool you’ve started creating freedom online, I’m quite new to this space but learning every day :)

      Reply
      1. Aiden Chong

        Sweet as!! You’ve already been to K.K?! Arghhh! If you’re planning to come back again do let me know, There are a lot of different kind of Chinese noodles around Sabah. Those which you’ve read from online blogs, I don’t think they cover everyone of those nice noodles! loll

        From what I can see on how you’re managing your blog, you’re definitely not really that “new” in the IM space, I’d say intermediate level loll…

        You site can definitely grow faster and bigger (in terms of profit and virality), I bet you’re learning quite a lot from the right people and direction.

        I saw you mentioned you’re “lazy” (probably from the post about your first month’s profit from Elance), and I have tons of (lazy) strategies which I’ve previously used to help other marketers to boost the undervalued part of their web assets.

        I’d of course love to share those lazy strategies with you too hahaha…

        Let’s get connected in FB if you don’t mind :)

        Have a good day wherever you’re right now!

        Aiden

        Reply
        1. Bren

          Hi Aiden,

          I’m sure there’s a lot more to uncover in that city, not sure when I’ll get back though as I’ll probably be checking out other areas of Msia first!

          I generally keep my personal FB for close friends and family, but feel free to email me at and we can discuss things there :)

          Cheers
          Bren

          Reply
          1. Aiden Chong

            Cool bro…

            Blog about the food you had in Malaysia when and if you’re travelling over here!

            Ok great, I’ll just send you an initial email to save your contact first, and if I were you, I’d delete the email right after this, to keep those shitty spam bots from spamming the email address to death haha

            Talk soon.

  11. norikox9

    Wow, im a singaporean but I didn’t know about any of these facilitties. But I guess it’s bacause I only visited changi airport only once and that was like 17 years ago. Guess it wasn’t like that then.

    Reply
  12. Bongiovi

    If you think the 3 terminals are not enough, wait till you get the chance to visit the 5th terminal when it is ready by 2030. It is bigger than the 3 terminals combined I heard. Works is on going for the small terminal 4 though

    Reply
  13. Ku Manahan

    I was in Changi a couple weeks ago, and I must say that your piece hits the nail on the head! Changi is a wonderland! I enjoyed every minute I spent there waiting for my flight back to Manila. so many things to see, so many things to do! Happy travels!~

    Reply
  14. Anonymous

    Im a Singaporean who travels a lot, but I have always been very proud of my country’s airport. Thanks for this write-up. It provides info that even I dont know about!

    Reply

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