Singapore is my favourite city in the world for layovers and stopovers. The first reason for this is that I love both Singapore Airlines and Singapore Changi Airport and it should be no surprise that they both constantly appear on lists of top rated airlines and airports worldwide. In fact, SkyTrax has ranked Singapore Changi the #1 airport in the world for the last two years in a row.
Singapore Airlines makes it incredibly easy to stopover or layover in Singapore as the website provides flight options for anything from a few hour layover in Singapore Changi Airport to a several day stopover in Singapore itself, usually with all flight options costing the same. I have taken advantage of this flexibility several times now and have made two separate three day stopovers in and one twelve hour layover in Singapore. Given my future travel plans, I am sure I will be able to plan several more stopovers and layovers in Singapore in the future and see even more of the city!
Part of what makes Singapore so great is that it was a former British trading colony influenced by Malaysian, Chinese, and Indian culture. Historically one of the world’s most important trading hubs, Singapore has evolved into a prosperous country of 5.5 million people. Although some may consider Singapore too heavily regulated, it is a very safe nation. Drug possession and trafficking is punishable by hanging and the sale of chewing gum is banned. Essentially, Singapore has a lot of rules and laws to promote health, safety, and good manners, some of which are a little outdated from its colonial days, but nevertheless, if you behave yourself you should have no problems.
On my first visit to Singapore, I was a proper backpacker tourist, stayed in a hostel called the Betel Box, and explored as many of the cheap sites as I could. The Betel Box Hostel in Singapore is one of my favourite hostels in the world and I have made a point of staying there when I can. The owners are very genuine and friendly Singaporeans and I learned a lot from them about Singapore’s history, culture, politics, and food. In fact, the Betel Box often offers “Food Crawls” which are essentially pub crawls for foodies!
Some cheap entertainment for Backpackers is to simply wander Chinatown, Little India, Riverside, Orchard Road and absorb the buildings and people. It is a great way to begin to understand Singapore’s ethnic blend, colonial history (take note of the old colonial buildings mixed in with modern skyscrapers) and try the hybrid foods in each place. The MRT is a cheap and easy (Air Conditioned) way to get around and sometimes when I was in need of a break from the heat I’d just go for a ride and watch the city from the train.
I also did a Tiger Brewery Tour. The Singapore brewery is now owned by Heineken Asia Pacific and brews ABC, Anchor, Barons Strong, Guinness Foreign Extra, Heineken, and Tiger. The brewery tour was fun and although I am not a huge fan of the beer, it was definitely a worthwhile experience.
On my second visit to Singapore, I timed it for the 2010 Singapore F1 Grand Prix. At the time, it was the only night race on the F1 circuit and I was thrilled to get tickets. F1 races are expensive everywhere, but at the time after factoring in the exchange rate, my tickets in the Bay Grandstand for 300 SGD didn’t seem too bad.
Of course, Grand Prix weekends are a time to really indulge and splash out, so I also booked at night at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel to make use of the roof top infinity pool. The hotel had just opened so unfortunately a lot of the complex and surrounding area was not yet complete, but I still enjoyed my stay. At some point I would love to return to the Marina Bay area and explore it further as there is now a SkyPark, Art and Science Museum, Supertree Grove, Gardens, Theaters, Casino, and more. Although you cannot use the pool unless you stay at the hotel, there are restaurants on the top floor that you can access to obtain the same views for less cost.
On my last visit to Singapore I only had twelve hours but certainly made the most of it. Since I’m constantly traveling, it is difficult for me to visit the dentist and my first stop was Ronnie Yap’s dental clinic on Orchard Road for a tooth clean. Singapore has very talented dentists and doctors and the costs are often quite low compared to Western countries so it is definitely a place worth considering for medical tourism. I was very happy with my cleaning, both the service and the cost, and would highly recommend Ronnie Yap for dental work.
After having my teeth cleaned, I explored Orchard Road. I had heard of Orchard Road a lot before, but it was my first time to actually visit the area. Funnily, Orchard Road was named because it was lined with nutmeg orchards in the 1830s. You would never know it these days as it is now a hectic row of hotels, shopping malls, offices, and other skyscrapers. I made my way to the eastern end of Bras Basah where there are still a few old colonial buildings and some of Singapore’s museums. Although I would have loved to visit the National Museum of Singapore and Singapore Art Museum, I had two friends in Singapore who I wanted to visit.
I love short stopovers and layovers to Singapore and will happily return over and over again. It is difficult to recommend particular itineraries since what you do really depends on your interests and amount of time, but the Changi Airport website provides a lot of great options, both within the #1 Airport in the world, and outside of it. Wherever you go and whatever you do, Singapore is a great place to visit and I cannot help but expect that you will enjoy yourself.