On the way to my new job in Indonesia I had to take a 24 hour layover in Singapore in order to work out my visa situation. Of course, i wasn’t going to spend my time laying about in my hotel room, I wanted to see the city! Turns out, Singapore is a great destination for an extended layover and I ended up having a great time. It was an awesome introduction to the city but also wetted my appetite to go back and see more. I was on a major budget, so almost everything I did was free or cheap. If you only have a day or two in Singapore, here are some places that you should go!
First things first, you’ll arrive in the Changi Airport. This airport is known as the best in the world and is huge. You can find anything you need there, so even if your layover is so short that you can’t actually leave, you’ll still have lots to do. The shopping is insane, there is a multiple story slide, and hotel cubes you can rent by the hour.
If you are able to go out and see the city for a day or two I would suggest getting the tourist pass. The tourist pass comes in 1, 2, or 3 day options and ranges from $10-38 Singapore dollars depending on the pass you purchase. You put down a down payment for the pass when initially buying it, but as long as you return the card in time you get the deposit back. Believe me, this isn’t a gimmick, and I am so glad I got one. I got my card in the airport MRT station (train) and returned it on my way back to catch my outgoing flight. I went everywhere exclusively on the MRT.
With the pass you get unlimited rides on the train or bus and get exclusive discounts on many of the tourist attractions around the city. There’s a lot more to the pass than just this and check out their site for more information.
The Gardens by the Bay
If you head to Instagram or Pinterest and put “Singapore” into the search bar, I can almost guarantee the Gardens by the Bay will be one of the first photos to pop up. This is the quintessential thing that all tourists must do, but it is totally worth it, I promise. During the day you can walk through the immense gardens and be dwarfed by the huge Supertrees, man-made structures that are covered in vines and foliage. Once you arrive at the Gardens you can choose to walk or take a shuttle for a small fee to visit the main attractions.
There are three main things to do in the gardens, two of which you have to pay a more significant fee for, so I’ll get to those last. I only took part in the Skywalk (which was about $7) which allowed me to go 22 meters up and walk at the tops of the massive Supertrees. The views were lovely of the surrounding gardens below and offered a great photo spot for the Marina Bay Sands hotel (next on the list). I spent quite a while up there taking in the skyline and ocean nearby. I unfortunately had to catch my flight later that evening, but if you happen to be in Singapore at night, make your way to the gardens. The Supertrees light up in what I’ve heard is a spectacular show and not one to be missed!
You can also visit the Flower Dome, a land a spring all year round. The Flower Dome offers just that, flowers in the largest glass greenhouse in the world. Learn about plants from all over the globe for $28 a ticket. Along with your ticket you can also visit Cloud Forest, a conservatory dedicated to plants living in the highlands.
The Marina Bay Sands Hotel
You’ve probably also seen photos of this hotel, and you’ve most certainly seen photos of the pool if you’re an instagram user. This is the hotel that looks like it was a ship perched on top of three pillars and has an infinity pool overlooking the skyline. It’s very famous and although I couldn’t afford to stay in the hotel, I still payed it a visit. The hotel sits right across from Gardens by the Bay which makes it super easy and convenient to see both. It’s interesting enough to walk through the lobby, but the main draw to the hotel (apart from staying in it) is the SkyPark. The SkyPark is a viewing deck at the top of the hotel that offers an almost 360 degree view of the city. Bummer is that it’s $23 to visit, but I shelled out the money in order to take in the view and I must admit it was worth it. The Singapore skyline is very unique and filled to the brim with creative architecture. Once on the deck, I was surprised at how uncrowded it was. Unless you are a hotel guest you can not go anywhere near the infinity pool, but by going on the viewing deck you at least get a glimpse at the pool and can appreciate the exact same view – sans cool, refusing water. There is a gift shop and bar on the viewing deck. One bit of advice, when trying to find the entrance to the SkyPark, I found the hotel workers were quite unhelpful and cranky. I understand that they probably get annoyed having to deal with so many people who aren’t hotel guests asking questions, but really, it’s your job. Maybe I caught them on a bad day, but don’t expect to much help from the workers.
China Town & Little India
I had heard a lot about China Town and I love Indian food so I made both of these a priority. They are just a few train stops away from each other and China Town, at least, is worth it. China Town is vibrant and colorful. The architecture is reminiscent of Singapore’s European roots and it is a must stop for shopping at the market. There were dozens of stall to buy your perfect souvenir and many places to grab a bite to eat. The Chinese lanterns dangled above as incense wafted through the street from a nearby temple.
Little India wasn’t quite what I hoped, and I ended up not staying long. It was a perfectly good neighborhood but other than one rather colourful building there wasn’t much to do or see. Yes, you could grab some food but otherwise it was just your basic neighborhood. I’m not a sucker for tourist traps, but with such a short amount of time in the city, I think Little India could be crossed off the list.
The Botanical Gardens
My last stop was the UNESCO World Heritage site: The Singapore Botanical Gardens. The gardens are free and huge. By this time my feet were in so much pain from walking and I had to pee something fierce, but I was determined to explore till the last minute. Upon entering you can grab a map (which I strongly recommend) and make your way to the different areas. I suggest hitting up the Evolution Garden which is filled with ancient and beautiful plant life found during the time of the dinosaurs. You could spend hours and hours in the gardens but could also make it a short stop. There are plenty of places to sit and relax and you may just run into a bride or two getting their bridal portraits done. It’s quite a magical place!
There you have it – four or five budget things to do on a layover in Singapore. There is much, much more to be seen in this vibrant place, but I hope this has sparked your interest!