No matter how much money the city-state of Singapore sinks into making Changi the “most beautiful” airport in the world, it is still an airport. It still has the sort of funny airport smell, the smell of a million footsteps coming and going, the smell of stress sweat as confused people try to find their gate in time, the smell of boredom multiplying by the hour. Even with all the visual distractions and fancy amenities, the carpet is still somehow ugly as fuck.
So maybe Singapore Changi truly is the nicest airport in the world. That’s like saying yours is the nicest circle of hell: true as it may be, you’re still in hell, and no one really wants to be there.*
Here’s how to survive.
1. Book your nap room ahead of time
There are plenty of areas in the airport with lounge chairs that some people seem to have no trouble falling asleep in, but I am not one of those people. If you are also not one of those people, believe me, when your flight gets in at 4 am you’re not gonna want to hear that they don’t have any nap rooms left. Book in advanced, and give yourself like 5-7 hours, basically a full night sleep. I booked a room at the transit hotel, which is S$60 per 6-hour block. The Ambassador Transit Hotel is located at Terminals 2 and 3, and you can reserve a room online. You can also reserve a nap room (as opposed to the hotel) for about S$40. Both options have showers and access to a transit lounge with all-you-can-eat, mediocre food and decent Wi-Fi. There are also some other transit hotel options, depending on which terminal you’re in.
2. Plan a fun airport activity
Like maybe the gym (if you’re into that), the swimming pool, or the spa. That’s 2-3 hours. Most transit hotels or lounges have gyms that you can access for a fee. The swimming pool is in Terminal 1 and costs S$17. There is a free movie theater in both Terminals 2 and 3. There are spas available in Terminals 1, 2, and 3 where you can get standard treatments like massages, facials, and manicures.
3. Wander around aimlessly like some sort of Victorian ghost
Walk around pretending like you have a destination when you really don’t. Look at all the pretty gardens or weird sculptures or slides.
4. Leave all your hand luggage
Leave everything besides a purse with the essentials (phone, wallet, passport, ChapStick). There is a caveat with the luggage storage though: You are technically not supposed to leave an valuables, and they will search your bag. Not very thoroughly, but they will search it. My second long layover, I had my laptop so I couldn’t store my luggage so I couldn’t go anywhere. (Thus the rant above about how ugly the carpet is.)
Luggage storage is available in every terminal, and costs S$5 for a small bag or loose items for 24 hours, and S$10 for a carry-on sized bag for 24 hours. (You can leave bigger luggage and the price goes up accordingly.) Also be patient, as they take for-fucking-ever to process things and get your stuff squared away.
5. Go out and explore Singapore!
Singapore is so easy to navigate and there’s tons to see even with just a few hours. I left the airport around 2 pm (I had to be back by 10 pm) and it felt like such a long time! I walked through China town, down to the main Marina, through the parks and then finally went to a night market on the beach, all with plenty of time before going back to the airport.
If you have less time and prefer to be guided along, Changi airport does offer free tours, but they do fill up so make sure to sign up in advanced. Also, I have never taken them and apparently they are a bit of a pain in the ass? Up to you, really.
6. Eat your way around the airport
If you don’t have the time or energy or inclination to go out into Singapore proper, you can still sample the amazing variety Singapore has to offer. In Terminal 2, for example, there is an International Food Court on the 2nd floor that is open 24 hours. You can get a huge variety of Asian foods there, from congee and dumplings and pho and Korean BBQ. Look through the different options and see what appeals to you the most.
7. Get on your plane and get out
Because you don’t want to live at the airport forever. Really.