Singapore today is known as one of the best cities in the world to stopover en route to wherever you are going on your journey. Singapore Changi Airport is one of the world’s busiest airports, and the largest in Southeast Asia, as well as being rated the best airport in the world seven times in a row. With all the accolades it’s only a matter of time until you head over to the region and find yourself on a Singapore stopover and need some things to do.
Stopovers for some can be boring if you find yourself stuck on the floor of a terminal trying to connect to WiFi or craving a hot shower and a meal. Stopping over in Singapore has never looked so good especially when there are exceptions to Visa’s required to enter the country.
For most nationalities, all you need to enter is a passport with six or more months remaining, money that will last your stay, and a confirmed ticket to your next destination.
Singapore layovers for up to 30 days are Visa-free but be sure to check with your government website prior to entering Singapore as passports from country to country have different rules and regulations.
Things to do on a 24 hour Singapore Stopover
1. Eat Chilli Crab
If you only have 24 hours in Singapore you need to at least try the food! Without a doubt, Singaporean is my favorite food while traveling in Asia. There are a lot of meals to choose from but one stands out from the rest and that’s Singapore Chilli Crab.
Eating a crab can be one of the messiest things you can do food related so be prepared to make a mess. However the dribbling tomato, chilli and basil sauce down your shirt is so worth it.
Singapore Chilli Crab in most places is very expensive but for a cheaper meal of the exact same quality, head to Chinatown where most restaurants and vendors will serve you up a freshly cooked crab for around 20 Singapore Dollars (SGD or S$). Expect to pay S$100 plus in Boat Quay or downtown Singapore.
2. Explore Chinatown
After finishing a delicious chilli crab, keep exploring Chinatown as there are plenty of things to do in Singapore here. The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple tops the list and hence the name, this temple is said to hold one of the Buddha’s teeth in this massive, architectural masterpiece rising to five stories high.
Chinatown also has the cheapest food and drink anywhere in Singapore so if you are keen on local cuisine, Chinatown is your best bet.
Pretty much every street within Chinatown has some sort of restaurant, cafe or street vendor selling delicious local cuisines such as chilli crab, papaya salads, or Singapore’s famous runny egg and toast.
Getting to know Singapore’s past can be done by visiting Chinatown. Baba House is a museum in Singapore and shows just what the life of the Peranakan culture used to be and what it is still like.
The Peranakan people are descendants or were related to families with an immigrant who then went on to marry a local Malayan. The Peranakan culture is unique as the local Malaya women would create a whole new set of traditions.
3. Walk around Mount Faber Park & Southern Ridges
Mount Faber Park & Southern Ridges would have to be one of the most chilled out places in Singapore. It has the most beautiful natural corridors complete with tropical rainforests, monkeys and exceptional views of Sentosa Island and the distant Singapore skyline.
The whole Southern Ridges area from Mount Faber Park to Kent Ridge Park are not often busy places so expect to have the gardens to yourself. My favorite thing to do is find a giant fan-palm to sit under and chill out Singapore style.
Singapore is known for some very unique bridges including that of Henderson Waves, a bridge-shaped into a wooden wave which connects Mount Faber Park to neighboring Telok Blangah Hill Park.
Before development and the tourism boom began in Singapore, places like Kent Ridge and Mount Faber were culturally rich with kampong (traditional houses) and a life relatively untouched until the turning of the tide.
4. Cycle Pulau Ubin Island
Pulau Ubin Island is my number one must do while in Singapore. Singapore isn’t a big country but getting to Pulau Ubin can be a bit of a mission especially if you are based in the downtown Quays area.
I chose to take the bus all the way across Singapore and alight at Changi Village (not Changi Airport) the bus/ train section takes around one hour.
From Changi Village, you’ll need to walk to the coast and through an undercover food market which is ideal to fuel up on food before boarding a bum-boat to Pulau Ubin Island at Changi Point Terminal.
A ticket one-way costs under S$3 which can be bought when on the boat or at the boat dock. The boat ride takes around 10 to 15 minutes each way and is quite scenic as Pulau Ubin Island sits in the Strait of Johor.
Pulau Ubin Island is a step back in time and reflects what Singapore used to look like, long before industrial development. Today, Pulau Ubin might seem a bit ‘touristy’ with bike hire stalls flocking the main street but there is more to the island that definitely needs to be put on your list of things to do in Singapore.
Hiring a bicycle on Pulau Ubin Island
To best see the island you’ll need to hire a bicycle which will cost anywhere between S$10 and S$20. Don’t be coaxed into paying more as a large proportion of the bicycles breaks cease to work. I was told that it’s best to ride anti-clockwise around the island.
As you cycle from one end of the island to the other, there are remnants of old Singapore with kampongs scattered around. A kampong is a hut generally built on stilts to avoid water rising in the monsoon season and allow air to ventilate the hut when humidity skyrockets.
Along with the kampongs, the island is known for its variety of wildlife especially monkeys and exotic bird species fluttering throughout the thick rainforest.
At the eastern end of the island, the Chek Jawa Wetlands is worth paying a visit for bird sightings and one of the highest points on the island for rather good views of Pulau Ubin Island.
Getting back to the mainland of Singapore is easy; just return your bike where you hired it from and head for the one and only dock adjacent to the main street to board a bum-boat.
5. Explore Gardens by the Bay at Night
One of the very best things you can do on a Singapore stopover is visit Gardens By the Bay. Most cities at night are spectacular if you know where to go, and Singapore is no different. Many people are mesmerized by bright lights and tall buildings, but in Singapore, it’s also easy to be impressed by the Gardens by the Bay.
Gardens by the Bay are a year-round destination and the top thing to see and photograph in Singapore. They are accessible during the day, but nighttime is when they really come alive.
The architects of Gardens by the Bay named a series of skeleton looking trees called ‘SuperTrees.’ Each unique tree is sculpted from metal and covered from roots to the canopy with lights that change color every few minutes.
To get exceptional views of the SuperTrees, there are a few spots to check out such as the Singapore Flyer, an extremely large Ferris wheel. The Singapore Flyer goes so high those not only are the SuperTrees down below easy to see, lights from Indonesia and Malaysia become visible which is seriously mind-blowing!
6. Take in the Views from Marina Bay Sands
Marina Bay Sands is one of, if not the most architecturally stunning and weird hotels on earth.
Marina Bay Sands has to be seen to be believed and it’s not hard to see in Singapore. From the ground, take a walk from Fullerton Road past the iconic Merlion along the edges Marina Bay.
The best time to do so is during the night as the hotel shows off an incredible display of dazzling lights and lasers along with water fountains that appear miraculously out of Marina Bay in a breathtaking display of choreography.
At the top of Marina Bay Sands, there is an infinity pool that gives the impression of being one with the city skyline but don’t look down, it’s seriously high up.
The only way you can access the infinity pool is by being a guest of the hotel. If you are not one of the lucky bunch that gets to stay at the Marina Bay Sands there is another section which you can access, delivering views of Marina Bay, The Singapore Flyer, SuperTrees and the Singapore skyline. The best time to go onto the viewing deck is at night.
7. Chill out in Sentosa
Sentosa Island is very much unlike the rest of Singapore and the complete opposite of Pulau Ubin Island. Sentosa is designed to be a little piece of paradise amongst the vibrant city of Singapore, a place close to downtown that is accessible for locals and international visitors.
Sentosa Island is the tourism hotspot in Singapore with everything from a world-class golf course, Universal Studios, tropically styled beach to massive shopping centers.
Sentosa Island is more of a playground for fine dining, drinking, and just having a whole lot of fun and there is something for everyone.
It may be hard to find a piece of the old Singapore on the island but a few remaining locations will ensure you don’t become completely overwhelmed by towering roller coasters and wave pools.
The Malaysian Street Food Hawker Centre will give you traditional Singaporean dishes as well as a mix of Malaysian goodness.
If Sentosa becomes a bit much, take the cable car to Mount Faber Park on a scenic 10 to 15-minute ride. One way costs under S$10 Singapore dollars.
8. Little India and Kampong Glam
Singapore’s SuperTrees were made to signify the multicultural nation that the country holds so dearly and Little India is a reflection of just how everyone gets along with one another despite cultural differences.
As the name suggests, Little India is one of Singapore’s most colorful suburbs for all things food, people and culture along with a series of vibrantly painted houses. Little India is a piece of traditional India tucked away from the futuristic feels of Singapore.
It’s here that you can expect the people, food, and culture of this place to thrive and be everything India is with marigold’s sold in excessive amounts to fragrant wafts from nearby wholesale markets.
The Tekka Centre Wet Market is where you will find a constant bartering and trading of fresh goods, spices and things you would ever imagine. Tekka Centre is certain to be a rush and you won’t necessarily find a cooked meal here instead walk or cycle to Dunlop Street for a guaranteed meal full of chilies and spice!
Kampong Glam is a hotspot for multiculturalism where everything seems to be happening right before your eyes. Kampong Glam is a short but humid walk across Rochor Canal and you hit Kampong Glam once you see the magnificent Sultan Mosque, dating back to the early 1900s.
Before you leave Kampong Glam, Kuan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple is a must see where pilgrims of Hindu faith ascend to be shrouded by the intense aromatic smells of incense all while aiming to get a rub of the bronzed Buddha’s belly.
9. Explore Boat Quay and Clarke Quay
Singapore has three quay spots to visit along the Singapore River with Boat Quay and Clarke Quay being the two must-sees. Boat Quay is the closest to Marina Bay with Clarke Quay a few minutes’ walk west of Boat Quay.
During my stay in Singapore, I chose to stay in Boat Quay given its close vicinity to pretty much everything in Singapore and it was a good choice. At Boat Quay, you’ll find many riverside restaurants, ferry terminals, and bars where the beer and Singapore Sling’s are anything but cheap.
From Boat Quay, everything is walking distance or if you prefer to catch a train, head to Clarke Quay Metro for access to Sentosa Island, Changi Island or Marina Bay.
Clarke Quay is a bit outdated with its 80’s style hotels and outdoor spaces but Clarke Quay is all about food and nightlife. Clarke Quay is a great place to relax but the nights often get busy so look at heading to Chinatown for a chance at getting a seat for dinner and drinks.
10. Fort Canning Park
Within walking distance from Clarke and Boat Quay’s, Fort Canning Park is a tropical haven for everything natural so expect to find ancient trees, giant fan-palms and vines reaching to the sky.
Fort Canning Park has a darker side despite its sheer beauty. During World War II, Singapore was seen as a strategic place to obtain and the defense of Singapore was crucial. Scattered throughout the park are cannons and other weapons used during these dark days.
Getting around Fort Canning Park is simple, with a few concrete paths zig-zagging throughout the lush space. At the northern end of the park is Singapore’s National Museum.
11. Visit the Asian Civilisation Museum
If you are near Clarke or Boat Quay, cross one of the bridges over the Singapore River to the Asian Civilisation Museum for insight not only into Singapore’s heritage, the museum offers vast collections of Asian artifacts from present times to thousands of years ago.
12. Explore Changi
Not all Singapore stopovers are lengthy so why not go for something super close to the international airport? Changi or Changi Village is an industrial suburb of Singapore which hugs a section of coast along the Strait of Johor.
Changi Village is nothing like downtown Singapore. Instead, you will find easier access to Pulau Ubin Island and a food center or “hawker” which serves some top quality Hainanese duck and rice.
Right near Changi International is the Changi Prison Museum and Chapel dedicated to telling the story of those fighting during WWII and how the prisoners of war survived the hardship.
13. Venture Around Changi Airport
Not all stopovers in Singapore are lengthy and many times you may not be able to leave the airport. The good news is that Singapore Changi International Airport happens to be the best airport in the world so don’t worry, you will get a taste of Singapore without ever having left the terminal!
Changi International is ridiculously big so the chances of seeing everything will be near impossible. A recent new addition to the airport’s interior includes a waterfall that cascades from the roof while lush gardens reach high to the ceiling of the glass roof.
Over the past couple of years, I have ventured to quite a few international airports and not being able to leave them and experience what lay outside of its doors really gets me down. To get over this I allocate S$20 of cash into the local currency so I can spend it on the food of the local cuisine. This way I will be able to get a taste of what the country would be like and gives me the motivation to start planning future trips to that destination. See more long haul flight tips here!
14. Enjoy Singapore’s Best Eats
Secretly, I am a big foodie and sampling local cuisines (in large proportions) is my hidden talent. Singaporean food tops the list for me anywhere in Asia despite it being one of the most expensive countries to get a meal. Howver a meal in Singapore can be as expensive or cheap as you want it to be. It’s definitely possible to spend less than S$5 if you know the right spot.
The most expensive places to get a meal in Singapore are downtown Singapore, Sentosa Island, Mount Faber, Clarke and Boat Quays and Marina Bay Sands so expect to pay over S$20 for a starter meal and upwards of S$30 for a main course.
Chinatown, Little India, Changi Village, Pulau Ubin Island and Kampong Glam are your best bets for street food like Hainanese duck and chilli crab.
You have probably heard of the famous Singapore Sling, a cocktail invented at the Raffles Hotel. The Singapore Sling is a mix of liqueurs and spirits that taste a bit like cough medicine; unfortunately you won’t find many places that sell this cocktail cheaply apart from corner stores.
Anywhere in Singapore, expect to pay S$20 or more for the Singapore Sling otherwise a corner store is more reasonably priced at S$7 (it comes in a bottle).
Scattered throughout Singapore are places called ‘Hawker centers’ that are renowned for serving top quality street food for a very cheap price. That’s where the above two photos were taken.
Food ranges from Indian, Malaysian, and Singaporean to Thai, generally open all day long. The best Hawker Centers are located in Changi Village near the ferry terminal and at the entrance to Sentosa Island near the cable cars.
15. Relax at Telunas Resort
Telunas Private Resort isn’t really an option for those with only 24 hours in Singapore, but rather for those on a long layover in Singapore. Natasha and Cameron had a six-day layover in Singapore and chose to spend for of those at Telunas, an exclusive beach resort that is a two-hour boat ride away from Singapore – technically in Indonesia.
Telunas is a true island eco getaway where those can come and relax away from the city staying in beautiful overwater bungalows. At Telunas Private Island there is no WiFi anywhere on the property and no 3G signal. So come with a good book in hand and get ready to relax! It’s hard to paint the true picture in just this paragraph, so you can read the full review and see the video here!
Timing your Singapore stopover
With Singapore being a small country with efficient modes of transport you’ll be able to get from the airport to Marina Bay in 20 to 30 minutes via taxi. Uber and taxis are an affordable way to get around, but the metro and buses are also fantastic.
Here are my personal things to do in Singapore recommendations if you have 24 hours or less.
Three full hours in Singapore city (six hours of layover time):
- Marina Bay Sands
- Tooth Relic Temple
Six full hours in Singapore (nine hours of layover time):
- Marina Bay Sands
- Gardens By the Bay
- Little India
10 full hours in Singapore (12 hours of layover time):
- Pulau Ubin Island
- Changi Village
- Mount Faber Park
- Boat Quay
- Gardens By the Bay
24 hours in Singapore
- You could viably fit everything on this list in if you hustle your way around the city and try to fit as much in as you can, but that can be exhausting, so consider what interests you the most before doing that. We find that hitting less places for a longer amount of time keeps us happier than running ourselves ragged around a destination.
When is the Best time to Travel to Singapore?
Singapore’s has two kinds of weather; very humid or monsoonal rains.
Mornings in Singapore are the best before the sun rises and the humidity skyrockets. Any time after that, air conditioning will be your best friend. If you’re ever feeling hot just duck into one of the many shopping malls.
Anywhere from midday onwards, storms form and bring torrential rain to the city and generally will cool everything right down. One minute it can be clear blue sky, the heavens will have opened.
Luggage Storage for your Singapore layover
It is possible to leave your luggage in storage while you go enjoy the city. this is much more enjoyable than lugging it around with you if you don’t have a hotel for the night.
All terminals in Singapore Changi airport have baggage storage 24 hours a day. Prices range from S$5-S$20, see all the details here.
Getting Around Singapore on your layover
Getting into the city is very straightforward once exiting Changi International.
Taxis are frequently available 24 hours of the day outside of the international terminal so getting a ride is always simple task. Expect to pay upwards of S$20 to Clarke or Boat Quay.
Trains frequently depart the international terminal and head everywhere around Singapore. Trains are much cheaper than taxis and are clean, safe, and efficient. Look for signs leading to METRO.
Once you are out of the airport, getting around is very easy with bicycles readily available but expect to be lathered in sweat after a ride, humidity often soars above 80% all day, every day.
METRO stations are everywhere in Singapore meaning you can get wherever you need without spending too much money. If you plan on using buses and trains, purchase an EZ link card which will enable you to use the card on both buses and trains with ease.
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