Changi Airport is layed out in a way that your nearest immigration will be a walk of maximum 5-10 minutes. Usually you take an escalator down to the immigration hall. Singapore is one of the most organized airports to which I have travelled. Immigration has never taken me longer than 30 minutes, with 10 to 15 minutes being the average. Right after immigration, there are the luggage caroussels.
Getting into the City
Right after the baggage-claim area, there are lines for the taxis.
Which type of taxi? The fare is about SGD 20-30 (about USD 15-22, EUR 13-20) to the city centre (Orchard Road/City Hall) with the blue or yellow taxis. Some surcharges (e.g. for peak hours, night fares, etc.) apply and a fee for the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) will be included in your fare. You can ask for a taxi accepting credit cards. The silver taxis are the premium taxis which are a bit more expensive.
Alternatively, you can use a Grab-taxi (similar to Uber; note: Uber does not operate in Singapore anymore) which is roughly the same price as (a bit cheaper than) regular taxis. It costs about SGD 20-25 (about USD 15-18, EUR 13-16) to the city centre. Please note that private cars and Grabs cannot pick you up from the taxi stand. You can specify the pick-up point in the Grab app. Also specify the door. Please check Grab’s website for some maps with all the pick-up points.
Taking a taxi/Grab to the city centre takes about 20-30 minutes (to Orchard Road/City Hall) depending on traffic.
You can also take the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit), ie. Singapore’s underground train system. It is by far the cheapest option – an adult ticket is SGD 1.75 (about USD 1.30, EUR 1.10), concessions apply. However, it is not only slower (about 45-60 minutes) but you also have to change trains. The MRT station is located at the basement of Terminal 2 – no matter at which terminal you arrive, you can walk to the station. Just follow the “Train to City”-signs. You can purchase a single ticket. If you plan to get around by public transport, I recommend to get an “EZ Link Card”. You can top up and use for all of Singapore’s public transport. I recommend making use of the great public transport system instead of being stuck in traffic.
You need to take the green line until Tanah Merah and then change trains (staying on the green line) to Tuas Link (the direction towards the city centre). Bugis and City Hall stations are the connecting stations to the major destinations in the city.
MRT hours: 05:31-23:18 every day except Sundays and Public Holidays; 05:59-00:06 on Sundays & Public Holidays.
MRT intervals: 7-9 minutes (peak hours), 12-13 (off-peak hours)
There is also a 24-hour airport shuttle which costs SGD 9 (about USD 9, EUR 7, concessions available), which leaves every 15 minutes (at peak hours, 30 at off-peak hours) and takes about half an hour to the city, depending on the traffic. The Changi Airport website advises to contact the 24-hour Ground Transport Concierge at the Arrival Halls for bookings. I personally have never used that service. In addition, you can also book limousine/van services.
Even though there are public buses, I recommend taking the other options as the busses are by far the slowest option.
Getting to the Airport
The options are the same as the ones I have listed in the Arrivals section. I recommend leaving the city centre 2.5 hours before your departure, depending on traffic. During peak hours, I would leave 3 hours before departure to be on the safe side.
Changi Airport has four terminals. Singapore Airlines and Star Alliance members are in Terminals 2 and 3. Most other airlines use Terminal 1. Some airlines use Terminal 4. The terminals are interconnected by train, shuttle bus or you can walk.
The recently opened Jewel is located between Terminals 1, 2 and 3.
Check-In, Immigration, Security
Usually, check-in and immigration take about 30 minutes, depending on the flight and airline. If you check in online or use the terminals, check your ticket if it says “Document Check Required”. Head to the Document Check counter of your airline and have your travel documents checked before you head to the immigration zone.
Your ticket and passport will be checked before you enter the immigration zone. Furthermore, you may be asked to have your carry-on luggage screened before you can head to an immigration counter.
Immigration is swift as well. Currently, Changi is testing a system of electronic gates for all passports with biometric pictures.
Please note that the security check is only before you board your plane. Bear that in mind when you buy drinks – you have to finish them before you board. Unfortunately, after you entered the boarding area, very often there are no counters or vending machines to buy drinks. There are, however, drinking water fountains.
Singapore has an Electronic Tourist Refund Scheme (eTRS) which lets you apply for your GST-refund in a paperless way.
For your checked-in items, proceed to the self-help kiosk at the Departure Check-in hall. Note: this is BEFORE immigration. Plan in enough time for the application of the refund and the inspection of the goods. For a refund for carry-on items, there are self help kiosks after immigration.
Changi is not a regular airport, if you have time, there are many things to explore. Terminal 2 has a 24-hour movie theatre – yes you are reading right. There is also an Entertainment Deck with video games.
Singapore itself is a very green city, so is Changi. There is a cactus garden on the rooftop of Terminal 1, an Orchid Garden and a Sunflower Garden at Terminal 2 and a Butterfly Garden at Terminal 3. There is also a swimming pool at Terminal 1 (the access fee is SGD 17; about USD 13, EUR 11). There are even small green areas in the transit zones.
For those in need of a break, there are complimentary rest areas with comfy chairs in all the terminals. There are also spas available at Changi.
Kids play areas are located in Terminals 1, 2 and 3 and there are baby care rooms in all four terminals.
If you feel unwell, there are clinics and pharmacies in all terminals.
Singapore’s favourite sport is shopping. And that is also the main theme at Changi Airport. There are multiple duty free shops selling cosmetics, liquor and sweets. From premium luxury brands to mid-range brands such as Charles & Keith, there are plenty of options for a quick shopping spree before you board.
The dining options lack a bit in excitement when you compare them to the rest of the airport. There are some restaurants (high- to low-end) scattered across Changi, but the selection is not very widespread in my opinion. What I like is the food court called “Straits Food Village” at Terminal 2.
Seating Areas, Plug Sockets and Wi-Fi
There are plenty of seating areas near the gates and usually there are also many plug points to charge your devices. Changi offers complimentary Wi-Fi (Wifi@Changi). It is supposed to work by sending you a text message with the pin to your phone number. With my international numbers, however, I never received the messages. I then walked over to an information counter or the Wifi-kiosks, had to show/scan my passport and then got a pin code for complimentary Wi-Fi for three hours. This is actually quite a pain if you arrive at Changi and need to head out quickly and would like to check your emails…
All four terminals offer baggage storage services against a fee.
In addition to airline lounges, there are pay-per-use lounges with a fee of about SGD 50 (about USD 37, EUR 33) for a five-hour-access.
Transferring at Changi is convenient and efficient. As mentioned above, the terminals are interconnected by train, shuttle busses or by walking.
The skytrain between T1, T2 and T3 and the B-E-Shuttle Bus (connecting Terminal 2 Gates E and Terminal 3 Gates B) operate from 5am to 2.30 am. The Transit Shuttle Bus and the public shuttle bus between Terminal 2 and 4 operate 24 hours.
Even though Changi airport is one of the biggest in the world, it feels very compact and well organized.
If you have a longer transfer time, you can hop on a free 2.5 hour city sightseeing bus tour in Terminals 2, 3 and 4. For more information on the timings, please see the Changi website.
In 2019, the long-awaited Jewel was opened. I initially thought it is another terminal. However, the Jewel is open to travellers and non-travellers alike. It is a nature-themed complex hosting a big number of restaurants, shops and attractions. It is also the home of the largest indoor waterfall in the world.
During my trip, I saved my visit of the Jewel for my departure day. I checked in my luggage and then walked over. Alternatively, you can also leave your luggage in one of the storage places (either at one of the terminals or directly at Jewel’s Level 1 (more information here)) against a fee, if you have just arrived in Singapore and want to explore the Jewel or have a longer transfer.
However, as Jewel is not part of the terminal areas, you will have to do immigration upon your arrival in Singapore first. Similarly, if you have a longer transfer and wish to visit the Jewel, you need to clear immigration first. Please check the information by the Singapore government relating to the specific visa requirements of your country.
Jewel is connected to Terminal 2 and 3 via walkway bridges. In its centre there is the waterfall and the whole area around it feels like a giant botanical garden.
On Level 5 there are multiple attractions, for example, you can walk over the Canopy Bridge with a glass bottom at 23 metres of height. All of these attractions require a ticket – between SGD 5 to SGD 15. I personally found it a bit confusing which ticket includes which attractions. I guess the best call is to buy a package deal. Further attractions are the Canopy Park, a hedge and a mirror maze, walking and bouncing nets. It may be quite an expensive activity but I think if you have a longer layover with children it might be worth the investment. I think the slides will probably the highlight for kids as well as adults.
On Level 4, you can go on a journey to explore the virtual world of Changi Airport, learn more about aviation and the behind the scenes of airports. (Standard tickets are SGD 25, concessions are available)
As you are in Singapore, it will come as no surprise that you can shop till you drop at Jewel – local and international brands are avaiable. Of course, there is even an Apple store. If you need a quick touch up for your nails or hair or if you feel like having a massage, they are all located at Level 4.
Dining-wise there are also many options – I had to stop by Din Tai Fung for dumplings. And I also saw that there is a Shake Shack branch.
Personally, I found it interesting to finally see the end-result of the long awaited Jewel. Considering that this is at an airport, I do think the complex is very impressive. However, this also brings me to my major piece of criticism. I find it impractical that Jewel is not part of the boarding area. Passengers still have to find a way to store their luggage and clear immigration upon arrival. Furthermore, before I have cleared immigration before my departure, I am usually not super relaxed. Granted Singapore Changi is one of the most efficient airports in the world and immigration for departure only takes a few minutes, I still think it would be a better experience to have the Jewel connected to the boarding area – especially for those passengeres requiring visas to visit Singapore. I had the feeling that Jewel is yet another mall – yet a very sophisticated and beautiful one – which happens to be right next to the airport. The waterfall area has now made it onto to the list of top tourist sights which means tour groups are flocking the place even if they are not departing any time soon.
To sum up, I recommend visiting the new Jewel when you travel to Singapore. In general, Changi Airport is one of the most thought-out airports in the world with plenty of activities. It is nice to walk over and experience the indoor jungle. I think you should have seen it at least once.
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Original article published 02/2019, updated 11/2019. All information as of the date of publishing/updating and based on the website of Changi International Airport and the personal experience of Elisabeth Steiger. We cannot accept responsibility for the correctness or completeness of the data, or for ensuring that it is up to date. All recommendations are based on the personal experience of Elisabeth Steiger, no fees were received.