Singapore may not be your final destination, but as far as layovers go — it is hard to beat in this category. For one, it’s the second wealthiest country in Asia: despite being a tiny island. The shopping opportunities here are unlimited, so get ready to splurge. Other than embracing expensive taste, what makes Singapore special are the multicultural influences at play. Nicknamed ‘Instant Asia’, a stop-off at Singapore feels a little like visiting multiple destinations at once. It doesn’t hurt that its public transport system is also ranked the 2nd best in Asia either.
Indulge in a duty-free, shopping spree
Even if your layover only lasts a couple of hours, it is easy to kill time without ever leaving the airport. Boredom is not an option at Jewel Changi — not when there’s a petal garden, IMax movie theatre, and an outdoor park to indulge in.
The centrepiece of all this opulence is the 7-storey rain vortex: as featured above and below. Although this attraction is all-around stunning, you will want to check out the light and sound show held at 8pm, 9pm, and on Fridays to Sundays: 10pm.
This may be your first time in Singapore, but chances are, you’re already familiar with the glitz and glamour as portrayed in Crazy Rich Asians (2018). Art imitates life — so why not embrace the fashionista within you by (window) shopping at the airport? Aside from saving some money by buying duty-free, the sheer variety of shops (around 300) is unbelievable — from all the designer retailers you’d expect to find, to the more affordable and commercial brands. It doesn’t hurt to look, at least…
Marina Bay Sands: more than a hotel
You wouldn’t be the first person to fake a stay at Marina Bay Sands, nor would you be the last. Only behind Dubai’s Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, this 5-star landmark building is the second most photographed hotel in the world on Instagram.
It’s a ‘world like no other’ — as described by Marina Bay Sands itself. Between the 200 meter high observation desk and infinity pool spread across 3 skyscrapers, the term fits. But the hotel provides far more facilities than King-sized beds — although it excels in hospitality.
Just next door are The Shoppes: an all-inclusive mall that specialises in luxury. From the gigantic Louis Vuitton store that sparkles under the sunlight, to celebrity chef restaurants and a MARQUEE nightclub — Marina Bay Sands is a destination made for the rich and famous: and those who dream of being those things.
Not so into the big brands? Check out the Art Science Museum instead. Step into an immersive world where culture and creativity fuses with science in full colour. Whilst you can pay extra for temporary exhibitions, entrance to the museum itself is free.
(If you are not staying at the Marina Bay Sands, you can buy a ticket to access the SkyPark. Find out more here.)
Discover why they call Singapore the ‘Garden City’
A metropolis like Singapore seems like an unlikely contender for environmentally friendly urban planning. Yet, almost half of Singapore’s land is allocated to gardens and parks — and the city-state has received the greenlight to take their eco ambitions to the next level by 2030.
You probably don’t have the time to explore every park in Singapore. At the very least, you have to check out Gardens by the Bay. This awe-inspiring attraction not only makes for the perfect backdrop for any picture, but is driving Singapore’s sustainability efforts.
Gardens by the Bay is passionate about protecting Asia’s biodiversity; and doing so in energy-efficient style. On the Kingfisher Wetlands trail alone, you’ll discover vibrant flora and fauna — in addition to a wide variety of brightly coloured birds.
Just as stunning (and quite surreal) is the Supertree Observatory. These futuristic pillars are vertical gardens which contain over 200 species of plant. Similar to Marina Bay Sands’ chic rooftop, you’ll find the best views of Singapore above and in the open air.
Make your way down in time for the evening Garden Rhapsody Show: where these Supertrees come into fluorescent full-bloom to a classical, musical symphony. Pick up some dinner at The Social Kitchen — and you have yourself dinner and a show!
Experience ‘Instant Asia’ on the streets of Singapore
So far, we’ve honed in on the lavish side to Singapore. But travellers seeking more budget-friendly activities will be delighted to know that there is a world outside of the innovative cityscape: unusual as it may be.
What forms the foundation of this extraordinary country is a celebration of different cultural heritage. Its citizens are primarily of Chinese, Malay and Indian descent —but foreigners also account for almost 30% of the residential population. What’s more is that near every major faith in the world is practiced within Singapore — making it one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world.
What does this mean for you exactly? The most obvious has to be Singapore’s legendary Hawker Centres — a must-try on any foodie’s bucket list. The Pan-Asian street food sizzles with spice and sumptuous flavours all at an affordable price. Vegetarian and vegan travellers are encouraged to take part in the fun. Aside from Indian food being possibly the most plant-based friendly cuisine to exist, you can find a few stalls that add their own spin to classic Chinese dishes as well. Find out more in our vegetarian travel guide here.
If you are looking for a more hidden gem, be sure to check out the colourful Arab Street. Considered to be the creative hub of Singapore, this whimsical district is perfect for idle wandering. The caffeinated and spicey scent only adds to the eclectic aroma already brought to life by the street art. Speaking of budget-friendly, the textile shops here are on the affordable side — although you may need to haggle a little, for tradition’s sake.
Marvel at the beauty of Singapore Zoo
A trip to the zoo might not quite be what you had in mind, but Singapore’s Mandai Wildlife Reserve is unlike anything you’ve seen before. There’s a reason why it has won so many awards, and why it keeps finding itself in the big league lists.
Split into 11 zones, around 2,800 animals live here in cage-free environments that closely replicate their habitat. Inspired by different regions within Africa and Australasia, Singapore Zoo is dedicated both to protecting endangered creatures, and for allowing visitors to interact with some of the animals in a way that is safe to all.
The Mandai Wildlife Reserve had this same attitude when creating the Night Safari: the world’s first ever night zoo. Located within the grounds, the Night Safari is more intimate but every bit as immersive. From a tram-and-walking adventure that takes you face-to-face with Indian rhinos and Asians elephants, to the extravagant ‘Evening in the Wild’ tent event — the Night Safari proves that entertainment and ethical treatment of animals can coincide.
Just as impressive is the reserve’s dedication to conservation and sustainability — a notable pattern across all of the Garden City’s major tourist attractions… No matter how much time you spend in Singapore, it truly is the gift that keeps on giving.