When you travel to Asia, you’ll probably pass through Singapore, one of the main layover hubs during travels from Europe to Asia or Australia.
There is no doubt that this city is the ideal one for a layover. It gives you the chance to have a break from the long travel and it introduces you to the magic spirit of Asia.
Many travelers have long layover in Singapore. Though it can seem like a hassle, for travelers looking forward to the final destination, Changi airport is a destination in itself.
Located 23 km east of the city center, Singapore’s Changi International Airport is one of the most modern and comfortable airports in the world. In fact It is currently the World’s Best Airport (Skytrax 2016), for the fourth consecutive year and is one of the world’s busiest airports by international passenger traffic and cargo traffic. Actually, about 54 millions of passengers pass through Singapore’s airport every year.
As in most airports, it offers travelers a multitude of shops, a fitness center, a supermarket, a clinic, a business center and a hotel, the Crowne Plaza, which communicates with the terminal 3. There are many free internet terminals available to passengers and big foot massage machines.
But this is not your usual airport. It has a 24h swimming pool which costs about 15 $ (dollare singapore ) and includes a drink and the shower and free cinema for passengers in transit. If you want to relax after long travels, have a nap in the relaxing areas, close to small lakes with many exotic fish as well as butterfly and decorative orchid gardens.
Free tour of Singapore
Changi airport offers visitors another great option: free tours of the city. They are a really good opportunity to have a free visit of the city, but also to meet people from all over the world and share opinions and know a lot about different cultures.
-I had the special occasion to spend my layover-time with two guys from India and Bangladesh, one of them is in the featured picture. These kind of meetings are the ones that remind me why I love traveling.-
There are two tour versions, one during the night and one during the day that is called the “Heritage Tour”.
If you want to benefit of this service you simply have to go to an information point and register. You can decide the time, there are tours almost every hour!
They are completely free and the staff will help you with the documents to temporarily leave the airport. You don’t need a visa if you leave the airport just for the free tour.
You will visit the city by bus and it will take three hours, that is enough time to have an idea of this special city-state.
As soon as you leave the airport and you make the first step in the open air, you will be hit by the heat and the humidity. Don’t panic, you’ll get used to that weather!
Go on the bus and start your magic tour with a funny local guide, who will tell you a lot about Singapore. Get inside the culture by listening to interesting and useful information as you ride past the tall green trees that surround the airport.
A mix of cultures
Singapore is a city-state where three cultures live together and contribute to make it so special, charming and full of history. It is a mix of Chinese, Indian and Malaysian.
This is the reason why there are four official languages. In addition to Malaysian, mainly spoken by the Malay community, there is Tamil, the main Indian language and Chinese, in particular Mandarin. English is the fourth official language, which is the most important for communication. Singapore’s inhabitants must speak at least two languages in order to keep the mixture of the cultures alive.
Singapore’s name derives from Malay word Singapura, which was in turn derived from Sanskrit. It means Lion City (Singa=lion, Pura= city). According to the legend, the fundador of the island saw a lion and this is the origin of the name. However, it is unlikely that lions ever populated the island, he probably saw a Malaysian tiger.
Its flag consists of two horizontal bands: red, which represents the universal brotherhood and equality, and white, a symbol of purity and virtue. The half-crescent moon, which is in the red part along with five stars, represents the growth of the country, which in recent decades has become a very popular travel destination. Located in the southern part of the Malay Peninsula, it is the world’s fourth largest financial center. Its port is one of the top five in the world. Despite being the second most densely populated country in the world, after Monaco, Singapore manages to keep intact places of peace and relaxation, such as the Botanical Gardens, where visitors are welcomed by the fragrance of frangipani flowers, the small tropical flowers found in nearly every corner of the city-state.
The mascot of the city is the Merlion, half lion, half-fish, mostly present alongside fountains and monuments. Its body represents Singapore at the beginning when it was a fishing village, and the lion head symbolizes the actual “lion city” from the Sanskrit “Singapura”.
The fine city
Singapore is also known for its severe laws. In fact its nickname is the “fine city”.
Don’t worry, just keep them in mind since the fines are expensive!
Some laws are almost funny, such as the one to not chew gum or the the law against wearing Bermuda shorts and flip-flops. In addition, you can’t smoke in public areas and it is a violation if you forget to flush a public lavatory.
Then, you can’t urinate in the lifts. Though it may be weird, it is was a common problem.
Anyway, the result of these fines is not so bad, Singapore is one of the cleanest city in the world.
The first part of the city you will see is the Colonial District that has a historical importance because the first Prime Minister declared Singapore’s independence from the City Hall. From the bus, you will also see the Old Supreme Court that is now the National Gallery with the largest collection of modern art in the Southern Asia.
The Central Business District
Then, there is the Central Business District, with impressive and modern skyscrapers and feel all the metropolitan character of the city.
After, have a 20 minutes stop at the Merlion Park famous for the big fountain with the symbol of Singapore, the mythical creature with a head of a lion and a body of a fish.
Here you’ll have time to buy some typical food, such as noodles, or have a refreshing break with a sweet ice-cream.
Take a picture of yourself with the Merlion and the Marina Bay Sands in the background, a structure formed by three huge skyscrapers, home of the hotel by the same name and shopping venues, joined at the top by a huge boat-shaped terrace, the SkyPark, which offers pubs, restaurants, clubs and the famous infinity pool.
Marina Bay, the most spectacular road, passes by Helix Bridge. The Bridge represents the triumph of technology and design and, its DNA-like spirals, symbolize the continuity of life, rebirth, progress.
After this glimpse into the modern side of this cosmopolitan city, you are prepared to explore the cultural and ethnic part of the Lion City.
Pass through Chinatown by bus, the colorful, suggestive and spiritual district. There are many monuments and delicious food at every moment of the day. That variety of the religious sites makes it so special. In fact, you will see a mosque, a Hindu temple and a Buddhist one in the same road!
No less attractive and colorful is Little India. Look through the colored fabric and other traditional wares along the streets. The guide will explain to you that the most traditional celebrations here are related to the moon, such as the Deepavali, when Little India becomes even more colorful and fantastic.
The last 20 minutes stop is in Kampong Glam, the Malay neighborhood and the most original part of Singapore. This district also has a great Arabic influence. The golden domes of the Sultan Mosque, the most importante congregation point for Muslims, is a must-see if you want to discover the essence of the Malay community.
Of course if you have more time, there is more to see. But those with just enough time for a layover don’t have to miss out on this incredible city-state!
I am sure that this is a great solution.
You will see the city in a short amount of time with a local guide,
what more could you ask for?
Have more information about the tours here.