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Layover in Singapore


The city-state of Singapore is an excellent place to take a break between flights to the Far East. We made a slightly over twenty-four-hour visit to Singapore on our way back to Finland from our honeymoon in Bali in April 2023. One day passed quickly in Singapore, and the layover was a very memorable experience in every way. I will tell you more about our experiences in this post, so keep reading!

This post is available in the Finnish language. You can read it here.

välilasku Singaporessa

Singapore in brief

Situated in Southeast Asia, Singapore is a city-state with a population of over 5.5 million, located at the southern tip of the Malaysian peninsula. The Republic of Singapore is actually also an island nation, with the main island covering an area of only about 710 square kilometers (270 sq mi). Hence, it is smaller than the State of Rhode Island. As a result, Singapore’s population density is the second highest in the world.

The lingua franca in Singapore is English, and the currency is the Singapore Dollar (1 SGD = 0.67 EUR). Slightly over 30% of Singaporeans are Buddhists, about 18% are Christians, and roughly 18% are unaffiliated with any religion. The country’s modern culture is built on a diverse history, drawing heavily from the cultural heritage of Chinese immigrants and international influences.

Singapore could be called the Dubai of South-East Asia. It is renowned as one of the world’s prominent financial centers and has a long history as a trading hub. The city is brimming with impressive buildings, luxury brand stores, and expensive cars.

The view from our hotel room window. Cargo ships arrive at the port of Singapore in the mornings.

Why have a layover in Singapore?

You probably won’t find a more convenient and enjoyable layover destination in Asia. Singapore offers plenty to see and explore for several days, making it an excellent choice for a city trip, too. We didn’t have enough time to visit all the planned attractions in just one day. Hence, I’m already looking forward to the next opportunity for a slightly longer stopover in Singapore.

Even though we missed out on a bunch of attractions, I can still recommend a one-night layover. Singapore provides entertainment within short distances, and the city is incredibly easy and safe to navigate. I was impressed by the meticulous cleanliness of the place and the overall efficiency that seems to apply to everything. Time is well spent in Singapore!

We stopped in Singapore on the way back home to Finland from our Bali honeymoon. Compared to Indonesia, Singapore feels like a completely different world, despite the flight between the two destinations being only 2.5 hours. Bali and Singapore are opposites in many ways, though both are certainly worth visiting. You can read more about our experiences in Bali in this post.

Changi Airport and the immigration

We flew directly from Bali to Singapore on a Scoot budget airline flight. Scoot is a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines and exceeded all expectations in terms of cleanliness and safety. In fact, it has been actually chosen as the best long-haul budget airline of the year in 2023.

EU and US citizens do not need a visa for entry into Singapore. However, before arriving in the country, everyone must fill out an Arrival Card. The Arrival Card is cost-free. The form can easily be filled out online, and the provided information will then be linked to your passport number. Hence, a paper version does not need to be presented upon entry.

The airport itself offers plenty to do and see, from shopping centers to mirror mazes and slides. Notably, Changi Airport is home to the world’s largest indoor waterfall, which is worth witnessing. Singapore is therefore an excellent choice for a few hours’ layover, also.

Upon arrival at the airport, it is recommended to allow at least 3 hours before your flight. Especially, if you want to see the waterfall located in the Jewel shopping center. If you plan to go shopping, it’s advisable to add a couple of more hours. You can familiarize yourself with the airport’s services in advance here and here.

Moving around in Singapore

Changi International Airport is massive, but getting from there to the city center is quite seamless. A taxi ride takes about 20 minutes, and the route follows mostly a forthright highway. You can also take the metro from the airport to the city center. Although, bringing luggage onto the metro is not advised, especially during rush hours.

As we had very limited time in Singapore, we opted for taxis instead of public transportation for getting around. I had done some research beforehand, and according to Google Maps, the journey from the airport to the hotel was actually half the time by car. Therefore, I went forward to pre-book and pay for airport transfers through Booking.com.

We stayed at the Conrad Centennial Hotel in the Suntec City area, right near the heart of Singapore’s downtown. The hotel was conveniently located within walking distance of the main attractions along the southeast coast. If you’re spending just one or a couple of nights in the city, staying within walking distance of the downtown attractions allows you to make the most of your time.

On the day of our arrival, we explored the city on foot. Also, on the departure day, we decided to take a morning walk in the hotel’s vicinity. After checking out in the afternoon, we left our luggage at the hotel and took a taxi deeper into the downtown area, about three kilometers (2 mi) away. I had already used a taxi app similar to Uber called Gojek in Bali, and it worked well in Singapore too. The short ride cost around 7 euros in the downtown area.

The climate


Singapore experiences consistently hot but unpredictable weather throughout the year. The humidity in the air is almost palpable, and there is a constant possibility of rain. Daytime temperatures range from +29 to +35 degrees Celsius (77-95 F), while nighttime temperatures drop to around +25 degrees Celsius.

After Bali, Singapore felt even more hot and humid. On the second day, the temperature reached almost +40 C (104 F). However, it seems we arrived during an unusually hot period, as locals mentioned that the city isn’t usually that searing. A taxi driver mentioned how even Indonesian customers had complained about the oppressive weather, despite Indonesia typically being hotter than Singapore.

The weather in Singapore looked like this. Feels like 39°C (103 F) – Yep!

Fine City

This wordplay about Singapore is entirely true. Fine City can be interpreted as either a fancy city or a city of fines. Singapore is indeed known for its numerous and sometimes peculiar rules, which are indicated by various signs. Violating these rules can result in penalties ranging from thousands of dollars in fines to even whipping or the death penalty.

Prohibited activities in Singapore are enforced with the threat of punishment including selling chewing gum, spitting (both gum and regular spitting), littering, eating or drinking in public places and public transportation, feeding pigeons, and bringing durian fruit into public spaces. Smoking in public areas is also prohibited. From a Finnish perspective, it seems quite odd that smoking is mainly allowed indoors only!

Any jaywalking is forbidden in Singapore, and violators can face substantial fines or even imprisonment. Despite this, you still see people crossing the street as they please. Severe penalties are also imposed for vandalism and graffiti. Trafficking or possessing drugs in Singapore can lead to the death penalty.

When arriving in Singapore, it’s important to note that you cannot bring snus or e-cigarettes into the country. Only one open pack of cigarettes would be allowed. All tobacco and alcohol products must be declared. I had a slight panic in the arrivals hall when I saw all the warning signs and the list of goods that require declaration. Fortunately, we didn’t have anything to declare, but it crossed my mind that maybe I should have researched the matter a bit better in advance.

Shopping and the price level

Singapore is famous for trading, so you don’t need to hunt for shopping opportunities in the city. Luxury shops and boutiques of Western brands can be found in several different shopping centers. You’ll also come across a few vintage shops on the streets.

Despite the abundant options, it’s advisable to have a substantial budget for shopping in Singapore. If you’re looking for good deals and affordable finds, Singapore might not be the right destination. Brand-name products are priced similarly as in Europe.

Välilasku Singaporessa
The lion-headed Merlion statue is the official mascot of Singapore. The waterfront promenade passing by it is crowded with tourists all day long.

Generally, the cost of living in Singapore is expensive compared to Finland. It is the most expensive country in Asia and the seventh most expensive country in the world. The monthly cost of living for one person in Singapore is just under 5000 euros.

This is also reflected in the prices of daily goods and restaurants. Staying in a basic room in a luxury hotel costs an average of 300 euros per night. A meal at a local fast-food restaurant costs around 20 euros per person. Beer at a restaurant costs about 8 euros, and petrol is around 2 euros per liter. Just like in Finland, it’s a familiar shock every time you look at the receipt!

Attractions

Indeed, there’s plenty to see and do in Singapore from morning till night. The city is home to increasingly unique and extravagant buildings that dazzle with their architectural wonders. How about an indoor waterfall (or two), a series of gigantic illuminated super trees, a ship held up by three tower hotels, a Formula 1 street circuit, or one of the world’s largest Ferris wheels? All this you can experience in Singapore.

The downtown skyscrapers and the older buildings blending among them are an interesting attraction itself. For example, compared to the somewhat uniform skyscrapers of New York, the buildings in Singapore are uniquely fascinating. Some of them are defying the laws of physics and showcasing impressive feats of architecture. The city also has various cultural districts with their own attractions, such as China Town and Little India.

Restaurants and the vegan challenges

The definite advantage of multiculturalism is the abundance of ethnic restaurants. In Singapore, you can easily find all the Asian flavors from sushi to tikka masala, both from street food stalls and fine dining restaurants. The restaurant quarters in shopping centers are filled with all sorts of unique-looking stalls, where you can choose the ingredients for your own dish from a fresh selection. The selected ingredients are then cooked by the chef in a wok-style meal, and you can watch the process through a window.

Unfortunately, for someone following a vegan diet, Singapore can be a bit of a headache. According to Google Maps, there are some vegan restaurants, but we didn’t manage to locate any. Part of the problem was probably our poor navigation skills. By chance, we stumbled upon a vegan falafel restaurant. Unfortunately, my falafel quota has already been filled a long time ago, so I didn’t go try the vegan restaurant.

In traditional restaurants, the challenge was twofold. Few menus included a single vegetarian option, let alone a vegan one. When I inquired about a vegan meal at a street food stall, my question caused outright confusion. After a moment’s consideration, I was offered meat as a vegan option. My “no animals” explanation didn’t really help the situation as the whole concept seemed to be completely unfamiliar in a traditional restaurant. Even in a Korean tofu restaurant, there weren’t many meatless options available. Instead, tofu was served as a side dish to all possible animal parts.

Would I travel to Singapore again?

Undoubtedly, yes! We left so much still to see. Singapore has its own unique and relaxed atmosphere – despite all the rules – which makes me yearn to return for another visit. This dynamic metropolis undoubtedly has the capacity to offer a fresh and different experience each time!

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