Changi Airport, Singapore: Arriving, Leaving, and Waiting for Flights

Updated on January 16, 2019
Anne Harrison profile image

I travel with a camera in one hand and a book (or a coffee) in the other. I have a goal in mind but always find an enticing byway.

Viewing the planes at Singapore Airport (c) A. Harrison
Viewing the planes at Singapore Airport (c) A. Harrison

Most airports I find stressful. Between checking in and waiting in the eternal queue to get through security, I feel tired and crumbled before even boarding the plane.

Yet once through these obstacles, Singapore is not a bad place to pass the hours before a flight; perhaps this is why Changi Airport is consistently voted one of the best airports in the world.

Butterflies, Anyone?

There is an impressive amount of nature on display at Changi Airport. Such as a butterfly garden in Terminal One, where over 1,000 butterflies flit amongst the dense foliage and tropical fruits on offer. Step inside to an oasis of tropical peace in the midst of an airport.

Also in Terminal One is a rooftop cactus garden (complete with a bar boasting an impressive array of cocktails), a sculptural tree garden, and a pool with a jacuzzi (just make sure you have some dry clothes for the flight!)

In Terminal Two is the Hello Kitty Orchid Garden. The orchids in Singapore are not to be missed, and this is a great place to see some if you are only in transit, or failed to make it to the Botanical Gardens in the city. There is also a sunflower garden, and in terminal four there is the Boulevard of Trees, with over 150 fig trees.

Butterflies at Changi Airport (c) A. Harrison
Butterflies at Changi Airport (c) A. Harrison

Make Sure You Have Right Terminal!

Changi Airport has four terminals, allowing the transit of some 85 million passengers per year - more than the entire population of Australia travelling through the place three times a year. Make sure to check from which terminal your flight leaves.

All the terminals are interconnected, with terminals 1, 2 and 3 by Skytrain (which arrives every few minutes and takes less than five minutes between terminals) and terminals 2 and 4 by shuttle bus, which take some 10 minutes. Both services run 24hours a day.

There are also travellators between the terminals if you’re keen to walk. Bear in mind, however, that the terminals themselves are enormous, and even in the wee hours of the morning are filled with a sea of people. Steel yourself for a long walk from check in to security, and then to the gate itself. If walking is an issue, it’s best to organise a wheelchair through your airline (via their website is usually easiest) a few weeks in advance, as those at the airport are offered on a first-come, first-served basis, and so may not be available.

The orchids of Singapore (c) A. Harrison
The orchids of Singapore (c) A. Harrison

Eat Your Way Around the Globe

Once through security, it’s time to enjoy those hours till your plane leaves.

Every type of food is in offer, from stalls resembling hawker malls to fast-food outlets, cafes, lounges, restaurants and bars. All that walking leads to quite an appetite, (and also helps burn off some of those calories you're about to consume).

Apart from the usual airport fare, I'd suggest The Heritage Zone. This is a strip of shops resembling those classic shop fronts which can still be found in Singapore. Singapore itself is a foodies’ delight, and Changi Airport proves no exception. May I recommend the Hainanese Chicken and Rice - a local specialty of delicately flavoured chicken with the rice cooked in the same sauce to poach the chicken - or the classical chilli mud crab.

Hainanese Chicken Rice (c) A. Harrison
Hainanese Chicken Rice (c) A. Harrison

Did I Mention the Shopping?

I love window shopping at airports, and Singapore is a delight. Every type of shop I can’t afford is here, complete with bright and colourful displays. Also, with the sheer numbers of people passing through the terminals, the shops aren’t empty, so occasionally I garner the courage to wander in and look at those things far beyond my price range.

Besides the high-end market, there are also endless bookshops, newsagents, craft shops and others which are not only affordable, but often hide great last-minute gifts, if only for yourself.

Why Not Grab a Massage?

Dotted about the terminals are free massage chairs. Sheer bliss. That’s all I can say.

There are also regular massage therapists, but if you have time, why not try a fish foot massage in Terminal One. Here tanks full of tiny garrarufa fish nibble away at the dead skin on your feet, leaving them remarkably smooth. It might sound foreboding, but as the fish have no teeth, they simply tickle as they swarm over your feet.

Don't Forget to Take in a Touch of Art

Each terminal has its own art work on display. Unfortunately, many travellers simply miss them.

Kinetic Rain, is the worlds largest kinetic structure with over 1000 copper and aluminium raindrops which dance through the air in Terminal One. In Terminal Two is A Million Times Changi, which is an analogue clock as well as a kinetic sculpture. The Han Sai Por, a 13m daisy, is in Terminal Three, while Terminal Four has Les Oiseaux, a sculpture of birds hanging from the ceiling. Nearby is another kinetic sculpture, Petal Clouds, and a bronze statue of a mother and child hailing a rickshaw.

Something a little more exotic on offer (c) A. Harrison
Something a little more exotic on offer (c) A. Harrison

Some Other Suggestions

All of the terminals have viewing galleries of the runways, guaranteed to keep many a child (or adult) entertained. There are also children’s playgrounds at every terminal. Both Terminal Two and Three have free movie theatres. Also in Terminal Three is The Slide; at 12m it is the tallest slide in any airport around the world.

Should you have over five hours until your next connection, Singapore Airport offers tours of the city, easily arranged at the enquiry desk.

Leaving the Airport

It is incredibly easy to organise a car to take you to the city via a self-service kiosk once through customs. Cabs are plentiful, reliable, safe and clean. There is a bus service into town, while there is a subway station beneath the airport and is easy to use.

When staying only a day or two, I often use the Changi Airport Hotel. I love collecting my bags, passing immigration and walking into reception. Despite being in an airport, the rooms are well soundproofed, and the soft lighting helps with whatever time zone my body is in. The buffet breakfast is highly recommended, and there are cabs at the door or the train station just below the hotel to get into Singapore.

Enjoy your time!

Joss sticks in a temple - sightseeing in Singapore (c) A. Harrison
Joss sticks in a temple - sightseeing in Singapore (c) A. Harrison

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Anne Harrison

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      • Anne Harrison profile imageAUTHOR

        Anne Harrison 

        5 months ago from Australia

        I hope you do make it there, Liz xx

      • Anne Harrison profile imageAUTHOR

        Anne Harrison 

        5 months ago from Australia

        Hi Ann,

        I hope you have time to hop of the plane and at least have a foot massage!

        Anne

      • Anne Harrison profile imageAUTHOR

        Anne Harrison 

        5 months ago from Australia

        Hi Bill,

        Glad you liked my post. My profile photo is from a metal-sign outside a bookshop in Assisi, although such dragons appear in many places, I'm sure!

        Anne

      • bdegiulio profile image

        Bill De Giulio 

        5 months ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Anne. Hopefully I make it there someday. Very interesting with great suggestions. Would love to visit Singapore.

        I was looking at your profile picture and I know I have seen this somewhere? Was this from the Alhambra?

      • annart profile image

        Ann Carr 

        5 months ago from SW England

        Lots of great suggestions here. I hate flying but I love Changi airport (and Singapore); it's relatively peaceful and beautifully decorated with, as you say, lots to do. They have the best public toilets/rest rooms I've ever seen! I'm due to fly back from Sydney to Heathrow via Changi, in February, but I don't think we leave the plane as it's just a fuel stop - shame!

        Ann

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        5 months ago from UK

        That sounds like a good idea. Maybe one day I will make it that far.

      • Anne Harrison profile imageAUTHOR

        Anne Harrison 

        5 months ago from Australia

        Thank you for thoughts, Mary. The orchids are indeed beautiful.

      • Anne Harrison profile imageAUTHOR

        Anne Harrison 

        5 months ago from Australia

        I'm glad to have given you such a lovely arm-chair journey, Linda.

      • Anne Harrison profile imageAUTHOR

        Anne Harrison 

        5 months ago from Australia

        I think it must be time you gave the airport visit, Liz! Maybe en-route to Australia?

      • Anne Harrison profile imageAUTHOR

        Anne Harrison 

        5 months ago from Australia

        I'm glad you enjoyed my article, Chitrangada.

      • Anne Harrison profile imageAUTHOR

        Anne Harrison 

        5 months ago from Australia

        Thank you John. Time for another trip!

      • aesta1 profile image

        Mary Norton 

        5 months ago from Ontario, Canada

        I used to love Changi but I have not been through it recently with so many flights to choose from. I used to love the orchids and also the use of the day hotels when you have a long wait for your connection.

      • Carb Diva profile image

        Linda Lum 

        5 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Ann your description of the airport is wonderful. I doubt I'll ever go there in the few years I have left on this earth, but with your descriptions and photos, I can close my eyes and (almost" imagine being there. Thank you for the lovely visit.

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        5 months ago from UK

        You give a great insight into what Changi airport is like. It sounds and looks very interesting. I have noticed great variations in the quality of airports in Europe alone. Some try to give passengers an enjoyable and memorable experience whilst others are like cattle sheds.

      • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

        Chitrangada Sharan 

        5 months ago from New Delhi, India

        Great article about the Changi airport and your experience. This sounds interesting and useful information.

        Thanks for sharing the wonderful pictures and the helpful details.

      • Jodah profile image

        John Hansen 

        5 months ago from Queensland Australia

        I have been to Changi Airport twice on the way to and from Indonesia from Australia, but it was nine years ago. It is incredible and has everything you can imagine. Thank you for sharing this update, Anne.

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