Have a layover in Singapore? Here's what you can do.
Singapore is one of many layovers on our round the world trip. We have just under 24 hours here - and we're not the only ones. Singapore is one of the most popular layovers in the world. With its compact layout and an airport that serves as a hub for endless international destinations, Singapore offers short term visitors a lot of city in just a little time.
We will arrive late at night from Bangkok and will go straight to our hotel. The next day we're partnering with a tour provider to do a comprehensive city tour in the morning and a cultural tour in the afternoon.
We're arriving late at night, so I've researched our transportation options from the airport to the city centre. Happily the subway system, the MRT, runs late and has great options for us!
Leaving to Chance:
Not a thing! We're fully booked!
Our usual dilemma - what to do for breakfast? When you have little time and you're in an entirely new place, it helps to have breakfast taken care of with accommodations. Happily, we got a place that serves hot breakfast!
For us, it's the MRT all the way. The Singapore subway system costs only a few dollars and it's clean, comprehensive, and efficient.
Splurges and Souvenirs:
None at all. While Singapore might be a shopping haven, we can't afford any of their designer wares - nor can we afford to haul them around the world with us.
Sooo... How Did It Go?
Things seemed to be off to a rocky start when our promised tour partner stopped communicating with us less than two weeks before we arrived in Singapore. Final, slightly frantic emails were sent up to 36 hours before our flight but to no avail. Therefore, we were flying blind, without any idea of where to go or what to do in the city. Lesson learned - I'll never skip doing my own research in favor of relying on a tour guide again!
Our arrival in the city via MRT went off without a hitch. Well, almost - finding the right set of doors when we exited the MRT station was a bit of an adventure and we managed to somewhat break into a shopping centre. Happily the night staff were able to set us straight!
I've never seen any city as passionate about Christmas like Singapore. Orchard Road was absolutely blinding with the most elaborate Christmas displays I've ever seen. As a Canadian who's never spent a Christmas away from home, the idea of such a tropical location decorated with faux snow, snowflakes, snowmen, Christmas trees, reindeer, and miles and miles of lights - well, it was a surreal sight!
We located our hotel right away - even though the entire front was obscured by construction. I knew there was a reason I loved maps! We were in our hotel for all of 8 hours and, overall, we had a great sleep with just one exception. In the early hours of the morning we were awoken by the start of the annual Singapore Marathon!
It was no wonder the marathon started so early. Singapore is scorching hot! We were sweating as soon as we left the hotel. Thanks to Singapore Airline's magazine, we had a plan for the day. Our boarding passes entitled us to buy hop-on, hop-off bus tickets for just $8SD each. Such a great deal! While this kind of travel isn't our usual style, we had a great time and really felt like we had a thorough overview of the city. (Hint: If you have a shorter layover than us, you can do a complimentary city bus tour from Changi airport)
After circuit one, we got off to explore Chinatown on foot. We had a wonderful time exploring the narrow streets and market stalls (with the exception of the durian pancake stand - that fruit requires a tough nose.) There was such a contrast between the city's sleek, modern skyscrapers and the heritage buildings in the Chinatown. Singapore really is a city where old and new collide.
After stocking up on ice cream, it was time to hop on the bus for another circuit of the city. This time we hopped off at the Singapore Botanical Garden. What a difference from the congested city! The velvety grass was the color of emeralds and the air was perfumed from hundreds of flowers. As we passed joggers and dog walkers, we were able to visit a ginger garden and an orchid garden - truly unique experiences!
Little did we know that while we enjoying the beauty of nature, nature was planning a way to strike back! After a general tour around the gardens we decided to do a short walk through the rainforest section. I was reaching down to place my hand on the rail when - BAM! - I became a victim of a wildlife attack!
Behold the vicious creature that maimed me. Beneath the innocuous looking fuzz lurks a venomous beast, waiting for an unsuspecting victim to pass by. The lack of support services for those targeted by rogue caterpillars is truly shocking. As I nursed a wound that felt and looked very similar to a stinging nettle burn I realized Singapore's reputation as a model of public safety was clearly a careful constructed sham.
With an effort that was nothing short of heroic, I dragged my injured body back to the hotel to pick up my luggage and then we were back on the MRT on route to the airport. While we would soon board our overnight flight to Syndey, there was some last minute entertainment in store. Changi airport featured a giant pineapple house surrounded by a winter wonderland, all for the purpose of meeting Santa Claus! Thus, Singapore ended as it began, with a busy airport and some holiday cheer. I whole heartily recommend Singapore as the perfect layover location - just beware of the wildlife!
Previous Stop: Bangkok
Next Stop: Sydney
Related: Why We Stayed At A Holiday Inn in Stylish Singapore