Whether you’re a seasoned traveller or not, nothing dampens the feelings of wanderlust quite like long layovers. Finding ways to keep your boredom at bay while you’re stuck in the airport for hours can be challenging especially if you’re travelling with your little ones in tow.
But it doesn’t have to be so. With many exciting things to do in Singapore, turning your layovers into a stopover adventure is a great way to stretch your travel dollar and add variety to your trip.
Booking a short stay in Singapore need not entail additional work, either. Just reserve your accommodation seamlessly through the Changi Stopovers website, which offers a ready pool of participating hotels at various convenient locations across Singapore.
The bundled deals — which start from as low as S$63 per person* — are inclusive of a two-day, one-night stay at the hotel of your choice, free airport transfer and SIM cards (more details on this at the end of the article). This gives you easy access to tools that’ll help you plan your routes and stay in touch with loved ones at no additional cost.
So, whether you’re headed to destinations as far afield in Europe or the rest of Asia, a sojourn in Singapore could very well be the cherry on top of your epic escapade. With your accommodation sorted, here are our recommendations for what to include in your itinerary to see a different side of the lion city…
1. Indulge in some adrenaline-pumping or spine-chilling fun
Given Singapore’s warm and humid weather, Wild Wild Wet @ Downtown East, Singapore’s largest water theme park filled with a plethora of thrilling rides, should keep you and your little ones entertained for the better part of a day.
If you’re in the mood for something a little quirkier, head to Haw Par Villa, a unique theme park where you catch a glimpse of the afterlife. Join themed tours like the Twilight Tour: Journeys to Hell, which includes a guided tour of the famed ‘Ten Courts of Hell’ attraction located within the park. But be warned the attraction isn’t for the faint of heart as it depicts scenes of gruesome punishments that souls face in hell for committing various sins.
Fees: Prices for a full day-pass at Wild Wild Wet starts from S$24 per adult; S$18 per child (aged 3 to 12). Entry to Haw Par Villa is free for all. The guided Twilight Tour tickets cost S$20 per adult; S$10 per child (aged 7 to 12) and it’s held every Friday from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.
How much time you’ll probably spend there: A full day for Wild Wild Wet. Half a day for Haw Par Villa.
How to get there: Board the public train system — called MRT — on the East-West (Green) Line and alight at Pasir Ris (EW1) station then follow the directions within the Downtown East complex to locate Wild Wild Wet. If you’re heading to Haw Par Villa, take the Circle (Yellow) Line and alight at the Haw Par Villa (CC25) station instead.
2. Discover why Singapore is known as a city in a garden
Singapore has taken great efforts to cement its reputation as a Garden City with multiple small green spaces nestled within its community spaces. But, the most notable garden in Singapore, will have to be the Singapore Botanic Gardens, which was established in 1859 and inscribed in 2014 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Top of the list of attractions will be the Eco-Garden, where you’ll discover plants, trees, shrubs and herbs that can be used to create products such as spices, dyes, resins and fibres. If you’re travelling with your kiddos, make a pitstop at the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden, designed for your children under the age of 14. The nature-learning environment at the children’s garden may just instil a love for nature in them.
Otherwise, head to MacRitchie Reservoir to hike your way through the many off-road paths in the reservoir. Keep your eyes peeled to spot wildlife in action such as the long-tailed macaque monkeys, squirrels and monitor lizards. Don’t forget to also checkout the TreeTop Walk, a 250-metre aerial free-standing suspension bridge spanning the two highest points within the reservoir. Due to the off-road conditions, do remember to wear hiking or exercise shoes.
Fees: Free entry for all to MacRitchie Reservoir and Singapore Botanic Garden. Children aged 12 and below must be accompanied by an adult when they visit The Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden. Adults are only permitted entry to the children’s garden when accompanying a child. The TreeTop Walk is open daily until 5pm except on Mondays, unless it is a public holiday.
How much time you’ll probably spend there: Half a day at either Singapore Botanic Gardens or MacRitchie Reservoir.
How to get there: To get to Botanic Gardens, you may board either the Circle (Yellow) Line or the Downtown (Blue) Line and alight at the Botanic Gardens station (CC19 or DT9). The closest MRT station to MacRitchie Reservoir is the Caldecott station (CC17) on the Circle (Yellow) line. You will need to catch a cab from the cab stand to head to the reservoir.
3. Escape to Singapore’s smaller offshore island
Pulau Ubin is a lesser-known rustic destination where travellers will be able to explore the wonders of nature. If you’re an experienced cyclist, the Ketam Mountain Bike Park is filled with trails of tricky terrain that will allow you to hone your skills and push you to your mental and physical limits.
Be sure to also visit the Chek Jawa Wetlands and take a walk along the boardwalk to see fiddler crabs and mudskippers in their natural habitat. Then, scale to the top of the seven-storey high Jejawi Tower during sunset to take in the bird’s-eye view of the island.
The best way to get around the island is on a bike given the mix of flat and off-road terrains and bike rentals are inexpensive, costing between S$7 to S$10 for a full-day rental. As there are no ATMs on the island, do withdraw your cash — about S$50 to S$75 per person is more than sufficient for bike rides and meals on the island — from the nearest ATMs at Changi Village Hawker Centre or in the city.
Fees: Entry to Pulau Ubin is free.
How much time you’ll probably spend there: One day.
How to get there: Take the East-West (Green) Line to Tanah Merah (EW4) MRT station and then board Bus No. 2 which will take you to the Changi Village bus interchange. The Changi Point Ferry Terminal — not to be confused with the Changi Ferry Terminal — is a two-minute walk away. To get to the island, you’ll need to take a bumboat ride from the jetty and the journey costs S$3 per ride and lasts between 15 and 20 minutes. You do not need to produce your passport.
4. Discover local gems to add to your shopping cart
End your hunt for stylish fixtures and ornaments to spruce up the look of your abode or statement fashion pieces to express your individuality at Design Orchard.
Located at the junction of Orchard and Cairnhill Road, the retail-cum-innovation incubation space features notable homegrown labels and brands.
Travellers can shop for stylish threads from local fashion retailer Ginlee Studio or treat yourself to some toothsome artisanal cookies from SUCRE.
For bargain hunters eager to get a good deal, Bugis Street is a hotspot to shop for trendy and timeless fashion at unbeatable prices. There are hundreds of shops spread across three levels including a special Korean-themed zone where you’ll find clothes and cosmetics to give yourself a K-Pop makeover.
Pro-tip: make sure you explore the whole shopping mall before buying anything, or you might find yourself paying more for something you could’ve gotten for a cheaper price a couple of doors down.
How much time you’ll probably spend there: Half a day.
How to get there: Head to Somerset train station (NS 23) located on the North-South (Red) line then locate Exit B. The Design Orchard complex is about a two-minute walk from the exit. There are two lines — the East-West (Green) and Downtown (Blue) Lines — that will take you to the Bugis (EW12 / DT 14) station. Walk to Exit C where Bugis Street is located just two minutes away.
5. Savour the flavours of Singapore’s food scene
It’s no secret that Singaporeans are foodies — just explore our streets and you’ll notice that there’s a coffeeshop on almost every corner.
Even last year’s Hollywood blockbuster film, Crazy Rich Asians, featured a scene where the protagonists were dining at the iconic Newton Food Centre.
Head to places like Tiong Bahru Market which offers the same authentic flavours.
While the list of must-try Singaporean dishes often includes Chilli Crabs, Hainanese Chicken Rice and Laksa, you should give other underrated dishes a try. This includes Bak Kut Teh — boiled pork ribs served either in a peppery or herbal broth with a bowl of rice; Braised Duck Rice; or Chwee Kway — steamed rice-flour cakes topped with preserved radish and chilli. And head down early to beat the crowds and avoid disappointment.
How much time you’ll probably spend there: About two to three hours.
How to get there: Take the train on the East-West (Green) Line and alight at Tiong Bahru station (EW17) take exit B which is about 8-minutes away from the market.
6. Try your hand at farming
While Singapore may not usually be associated with the agricultural scene, when you look a little deeper, you’d realise that our landscapes are dotted with an impressive variety of farms.
You should drop by the Hay Dairies Farm in Lim Chu Kang between 9 and 11 am daily to catch the milking of over 800 mixed-breed goats that live on the farm. Otherwise, purchase a packet of Alfalfa Hay (S$5 per packet) at the farm for a hands-on feeding experience with these gentle animals.
Prefer to learn how to plant your own veggies instead? Then head over to Bollywood Veggies and attend any one of the farm’s fun and insightful classes and events. The topics range from how to properly pot your plants, how to plant in the rice paddy fields or even whip up a delicious meal in a culinary class. After wandering through the lush surroundings around the farm, pop by the Poison Ivy Bistro and refuel with a hearty meal prepared using ingredients grown on site.
Fees: Free entry for all to both Hay Dairies Farm and Bollywood Veggies.
How much time you’ll probably spend there: About three to four hours at each location.
How to get there: Take the Kranji Express shuttle bus service from Kranji MRT (NS7) station on the North-South (Red) line and it will take you to both Bollywood Veggies (8th stop) and Hay Diaries (10th stop). The bus runs from 8.30am to 5.45pm and a standard ticket costs S$3, a concession ticket costs S$1 per adult aged 60 or older and per child aged 12 and below. The ticket is valid for multiple trips within the same day.
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