For many holidaymakers, shopping for best buys and extracting the greatest bargains is high on the agenda for their ideal vacation. The challenge is how to achieve the most, yet spend as little time as possible.

Here in Singapore, there is a reason why Changi Airport is among the top three airports in the world in terms of retail sales. If you are visiting the sunny island, let us share with you some cool things you never knew about shopping at the airport, and some useful tips on how to maximise the returns of your shopping spree.

1. Incredibly, the airport is one of the largest malls in the country. Everything under the sun can be found here.

For many, Singapore is known to have the world’s best airport. What is lesser known is that it is among the best to shop at as well. In fact, it is one of the largest malls in the country, with more than 360 retail outlets and 140 dining options. To cater to its diverse mix of international passengers, the retail mix captures brands across all spectrums - from high end designer labels such as Bottega Veneta, Hermes and Yves Saint Laurent, to mid-priced fashion labels such as Zara, Uniqlo and Converse.  Some of us may not know this, but all the three terminals of Changi Airport are connected by the Skytrain within the transit area, so passengers can terminal hop and shop till they drop.

2. Shopping is cheaper here. A lot cheaper, in many instances.

Contrary to common perception around the world that shops at airports are a rip-off, this is most certainly not the case in Singapore. In fact, at Changi, the prices are cheaper than a lot of other places in town. For a start, everything is 7 per cent cheaper, thanks to GST savings. For big ticket items such as designer handbags, jewellery, watches and electronics – many of which are fixed-price items – this represents substantial savings. For instance, 7 per cent savings on a S$2,500 handbag would be S$175!

For the duty-free staples – cosmetics, perfumes, liquor and tobacco – prices are guaranteed to be lower than downtown Singapore or major airports in the region. In the case of beauty products, many items are up to 40 per cent cheaper than those in the city. Hence, the common practice among locals of stocking up on their beauty stash only when travelling. Also unknown to many, brands at Changi that are part of a chain of stores are not permitted to charge higher prices at Changi compared to downtown.

3. Every year, one of the airport’s shoppers is made an instant millionaire (no kidding)!

A picture of a man celebrating in front of a sign called ‘Be a Changi Millionaire’ with currency notes raining down

Enter the Changi Millionaire draw and stand to win big

Yes, this is for real. Changi has made six everyday shoppers instant millionaires since 2010 – that’s one every year! The airport gives away a grand prize of S$1 million annually through its anchor promotion, ‘Be a Changi Millionaire’, which is the largest prize in a retail draw in Singapore, or any airport in the world. So far, the lucky winners have hailed from Singapore, Australia, Indonesia, Japan and the UK, having made purchases ranging from just a bottle of perfume to a DSLR camera. Last year, Linda Tobin from the UK qualified for the grand draw after spending $412.90 on a bottle of whiskey for her brother during her stopover at Changi. She walked away with a million bucks after an intense finale with seven other finalists. Now in its seventh year, the draw is on its way to changing the life of the airport’s seventh passenger in early  2017.

Now in its seventh year, the draw is on its way to changing the life of the airport’s seventh passenger in early 2017.

4. You can earn frequent flyer miles by shopping here – how cool is that?!

Discerning shoppers these days make sure they earn even as they shop. For those suffering from perpetual wanderlust, earning points and converting them to travel-related perks such as miles is a popular practice. Credit cards and airlines are not the only ones offering frequent flyer miles. If you’re a frequent shopper at the airport, you should definitely sign up for the Changi Rewards membership. Not only will it get you exclusive savings and rewards at more than 400 participating outlets, you also get to earn points for every dollar you spend. The points can be redeemed for Changi Dollar Vouchers which can be for spent at the airport, and can even be converted into KrisFlyer miles, giving you an extra boost for your next holiday.

A hand holding three types of credit cards in an airport terminal

With Changi Rewards, you can enjoy exclusive savings

And here’s a bonus tip: Changi Rewards members enjoy GST savings even when they are not flying, as GST for them is absorbed at the retail shops in the public areas of the airport as well.

The Changi Rewards programme offers three membership tiers – Platinum, Gold and Member – featuring different rewards and privileges.

5. For gifts or souvenir hunters, Singapore’s most famous home-grown brands are available here.

Food is at the very heart of Singapore’s culture. Travellers who have had a taste of the colourful local cuisine will no doubt want to take home some of the unforgettable tastes of Singapore to share with family and friends.

Rather than having to spend precious vacation time to make special shopping trips to buy local goodies, you can actually get them all at the airport, just before your flight home. Most of Singapore’s most popular deli brands have outlets at Changi Airport, making the airport a convenient one-stop location to pick up some of the best food souvenirs.

A picture of the sweet treats that are available at Changi Airport

There is plenty to keep a foodie occupied at Changi Airport

Some of our recommendations:

·         Pandon chiffon cake or kueh lapis (layered cake) from Bengawan Solo

·         Kaya (coconut jam) from Ya Kun Kaya Toast Family Cafe

·         Bak kwa (barbecued meat) from Bee Cheng Hiang or Fragrance Bak Kwa

·         Cooking pastes and pre-mixes from Discover Singapore (Chicken rice, Bah Kut Teh etc)

·         TWG tea

6. If you don’t feel like terminal-hopping to get all you want, you can shop online before your trip.

A lady checking out an online shopping page on a laptop

iShopChangi will have you spoilt for choice while making your gift or other purchases at the duty-free stores at Changi Airport

If you have time on your hands, check-in early and go on a terminal-hopping shopping spree to explore the full array of stores across Changi’s three terminals, which are connected by Skytrain. But if you are time-strapped, fret not as you can shop online at iShopChangi before your trip, and collect your stash at a single collection centre before you fly. Here, you can make purchases anytime from two weeks to 18 hours before your flight, giving you plenty of time to work out what you truly want.

From electronics and timepieces to fashion accessories, chocolates and beauty products, you can access over 400 brands and 6,000 products via Changi’s online shopping portal. Designated collection points across all the terminals make picking up your purchases easy and convenient.

7. You can use technology to help you navigate your shopping route, so you don’t get carried away and miss your flight.

If you value efficiency above serendipity, check out the airport’s shop directory beforehand, and plan your shopping route to maximise your time.

A person holding a smartphone showing the iChangi app

The iChangi app makes it easy to get updates about your flight

For this, you can use the iChangi app for travellers – a brilliant tool for mapping out your route throughout the airport. Get all the updates on flight times, terminal maps and shopping and dining indexes at your fingertips. You can opt to receive flight alerts and never be late for a boarding call again.

If you prefer a more personalised service, approach the information counters and ask for the service of a shopping concierge, who can give you useful tips and recommendations based on your needs. Remember to check in early the next time you visit Changi, to score the best deals.