Singapore’s Changi airport constantly wins awards as the best airport in the world, they have their own Fans of Changi and I’ve read people get to the airport hours before they need to (yes, on purpose they want to spend time in the airport). On my way to Melbourne on my award ticket, Singapore was my last stop on the three day journey. My layover would be nine hours which even for me was a bit much. Luckily, I discovered the free Singapore tour that the Changi airport & Singapore Airlines offers to passengers on a layover.
Reading the Changi website, I had a plan when I deplaned – to find the little stand and sign up for a tour or two (I thought I could squeeze two tours in 4-6pm and 6:30 to 8:30pm). Once I entered the carpeted terminal (yes, carpet in an airport!), I already knew this was no ordinary airport. Walking past the lounges, food court, movie theatre, butterfly garden, airport art and the plethora of shopping, I found the little stand.
I presented my boarding pass for the next flight to confirm I had ample time to do the tour and was told only one tour per person (boo!). It was just after 2pm, so I thought I could go on the 4pm Heritage tour but that one was full, I was lucky to get a spot on the 6:30 City Lights tour. They offer the tour in all three terminals and bring a maximum number from each (our terminal seemed to be about 10 people). I would need to be back at the stand by 5:30 pm. Off to the Singapore Lounge I went to wait, eat, read, explore the airport, stop at the Butterfly Garden, etc. until it was time to meet.
At 5:30pm our small group was met by a guide to escort us through the terminal via the monorail to the next terminal where we would meet the rest of the groups (total about 45 people). A new guide escorted us through immigration and out to the bus. Immediately, I was hit with extreme humidity and sticky heat. I had seen (and heard) the rains earlier in the day, this was the result. The bus, thankfully, was air conditioned.
Our quick tour would exit the airport and drive on a main road for about 1/2 hour just like any other city (I’m not sure what I expected of Singapore). The lush greenery along the road was a nice sight as our tour guide told us about the history and the sights along the way. While I had wanted to see the attractions on the earlier 4pm tour, this tour would drive us to the famous marina passing the Esplanade theatre on the way.
We drove inside the city center to reach the promenade to the marina. Exiting on the bridge, we walked down the stairs and along the water toward the crowds all taking photos and selfies. The instant recognition of the Merlion (the national icon of a lion and a fish to symbolizes the “Lion City” and the port) and the famous Marina Bay Sands (with SkyPark – a rooftop infinity pool overlooking the city) across the water signified that yes, I was in Singapore, even if just for a little bit of time. It was a bit surreal to be in Chicago and Seoul the day before, Singapore now and Melbourne in the morning.
We had 15 minutes to take in the view, take our photos, selfies, find coffee and then board the bus for the return trip to the airport. By this time, night had fallen and the city lights shone bright. We could see the Singapore Flyer (similar to the London Eye) and the Gardens by the Bay in the distance.
The free Singapore city tour was a good way to get out of the airport and see a few sights. Next time, I have a long layover, I will try for the Heritage tour or hire a private guide/taxi to explore the city on my own. The options are endless for a long layover. I’m already planning a return visit as the free Singapore city tour was the appetizer to make me want to explore and experience more.