Mastering the long layover – Singapore and Changi Airport

Welcome to Changi

Welcome to Changi

Airports can make you feel like a lemming. Keep in line, one foot in front of the other and eventually you expect to get where you’re going. As an international flier, it’s even more mind numbing to run a gauntlet of long layovers in multiple boarding lounges before getting to your destination. So, it was a great surprise when I landed in Singapore’s Changi Airport and found that a 14 hour long layover wasn’t long enough.

Changi ConcourseInternational travelers often suffer the longest transfer delays between flights. The Singapore airport designers knew this and their challenge has been making the space work to take care of thousands of people going in and out from around the world daily.

It’s worked and led to winning over 400 awards from business and leisure travel publications and organizations. It’s more than just the design of the concourse, there’s much behind the scenes that has been focused to create seamless experiences for travelers and at the same time, keep scores of pilots to baggage carriers happy.

My travels took me through Changi with a 6 hour layover at the beginning of my trip and more than double that on the way home. It was a good match. I had time to rest before returning home. Facing a long layover when you can enjoy it is much more fun than being exhausted from prepping for a trip. Just an idea.

Here’s a few of the wonders at Changi that I only hope other airports will copy:

Long transfer itineraries:

Depending on how much time you have, take the guesswork out of how to spend it by reviewing the options for a 2 to 5 plus hour transfer with these itineraries arranged by the airport staff.

Snooze Changi airportSleep:

I’ve had my share of nightmare layovers spent leaning on hard armrests, crumpled in tight chairs or braving a cold, hard floor, but not at Changi.

Travelers are encouraged to rest! Take your pick of a number of open and free lounges. One Snooze Lounge is tucked away behind an upstairs food court with low light and comfy recliners. Another is graced with a garden and the sound of running water from nearby fountains. They can be found in every terminal. Snooze Lounge

Working layover:

Working between flights? Need a shower or workout? Looking for a more relaxed rest area? You don’t need to be a member of elite airline programs to take advantage of several Transit Lounges. They do cost and ours was $29.50 per person. However it was worth it for the menu rotation and beverages, the WiFi desks, deep chairs and the Sunflower Garden next door.

Need more privacy?

Locate one of the Ambassador Transit Hotels in your terminal (one includes a  rooftop swimming pool!) The costs are very reasonable, usually based on a 6 hour stay and pro-rated for more. Glamorous hotels lie just outside the airport but this is a great option for the more casual and budget minded. We spent the last 6 hours of one lengthy layover snoozing with abandon, taking long hot showers and sleeping soundly before being gently wakened by a call and had plenty of time to catch breakfast before boarding.

Check In Luggage:

If you want relief from toting your suitcases or if you’re leaving the airport, each terminal has a luggage check in service. Prices are very reasonable for up to 24 hours or more.

shopping changi airportWorld class shopping:

Window shop to your heart’s desire from Armani galleries to Swaroski Crystals. There also a Shopper Rewards Program and retail options for visitors or transit shoppers, from the high end travel togs to the simplest souvenirs.

Restaurants for every taste:

Changi abounds with a wide variety of restaurants, coffee and pastry shops as well as fine dining selections. Those visiting the ‘Flying or not’ shops will have the 7% GST tax waived. See the full list here.

Kid stuff:

During the Holiday Season the little ones were entertained by exploring the ‘world’s largest’ Pineapple house where they could visit with Santa. There was lots of Sponge Bob love to be had in Terminal 3, including the biggest ‘Bouncy Playground’ in Singapore.
Sunflower Garden Get up and explore: Perhaps you’ll landas we did in the middle of the night.  While the concourses were definitely quieter not everything was closed when we strolled through en route to the transit hotel.

Don’t miss the exquisite Butterfly Garden, and watch for flowering concourse displays. Ask where the Koi Pond is (not far from the Butterflies) and search out the rooftop Sunflower Garden. It was a great way to greet the sunrise. If you’re interested in taking in a free movie, enjoy screenings in a full theater setting upstairs next to the Ambassador Transit Hotel.

Four Story Slide:

As soon as I have a chance to return I’m riding one of the world’s largest slides in Terminal 3. It’s 4 stories high! Watch the video here: Slide @T3:

Departure looms but this is one long layover I would like to repeat.



  • Such great info! I see a lot of fare deals with long airport layovers so this great for those who don’t know what to do. I’d book a trip knowing I didn’t have to sleep on the floor for 10 hours between flights. I love the sleeping lounge and the slide!

  • Hi! Seems that airports are becoming more and more modern and comfortable. The coolest one where I was the Singapore one, with the gardens and things to visit even within the airport. Changi airport looks OK as well. Pity that the hotel there is so expensive…

  • Great tips on how to make a layover less painful. I try to do work and also have a really good look around. A transit hotel would be perfect for long haul. I’ve flown UK to Australia and back a couple of times and getting halfway, you feel like having a comfortable lie down and shower. Thanks for sharing

    • So true about needing a lie-down and shower when you’re on a long flight or series of flights. Transit hotels and snooze lounges should be mandated at every international airport!

  • I’ve never wanted to stay at an airport so badly in my life! lol the slide at the end was just epic!! I’ve always heard stories about how awesome the airport was but never saw a full review. Thank you for this post! It gave me a good inside look!

  • I love it when airports have those lounger chairs! There were some at the airport in Rome recently that I relaxed in. They do fill up quite quickly though. And…a slide!? Hahaha!

    • Yes, the lounger chairs filled up quickly in Changi also but they had sleeper lounges scattered throughout the airport so with a little hunting you could find an empty one. I felt it was especially helpful to be able to check in your luggage and then not worry about it while I dozed. That slide cracks me up too!

  • Great tips. I’m a freelance translator, who somehow always end up working in the airports. I totally second your tip. Paying for the lounge is so worth it if you need to concentrate.

    • Yes, a paid lounge visit can be a big help. I loved the one we visited with it’s different seating arrangements, showers, food and outside patio. Working when you can keeps many of us living the digital nomad life!

  • I’ve actually heard everyone rave about this airport, though never managed to fly through for a layover yet myself. Sounds like it’s almost worth making sure your layover is in Singapore to be honest!! What a fab idea to encourage rest – I’ve also had my fair share of sleeping on airport floors, so I would jump at the opportunity of being able to check my luggage and retiring to something called the snooze lounge!!!

    It’s decided – my next layover home to Aus will be via Singapore!!!

    • Thanks for writing, Megan. Sleeping on an airport floor is no fun! I’ve done it if absolutely necessary. How great if more airports took care of passengers with public transit lounges. Unfortunately in the U.S. everything seems to be moving the opposite direction!

  • EVERY airport should have a snooze lounge! That’s incredible! And a slide? We’ve had some long layovers in some pretty horrible airports – we’ll be choosing this one as our layover destination when we can! Thanks for sharing!

  • Oh my gosh, GET ME ON THAT SLIDE! I’ve been to some terrible airports in my time, the worst being Manilla so far but this rocks!

    • I’m with you there. Would’ve loved to ride the slide but it was in a different terminal than we stayed in. Next time I’ll try it one way or the other. Just love Singapore and Changi is the best.

  • Hey Elaine,

    Lots of great tips here on how to manage a long layover in Singapore.

    I’ve never experienced an airport quite as good as Changi. We had a 10 hour layover a few years back, landing at midnight and flying out again at 10am. We decided to stay at the transit hotel for the night and found it to be very affordable for what you get. The room was a great size, comfy bed and power shower. After a few hours sleep and a good shower we were fully refreshed and ready for our onward 9 hour flight.

    Don’t you wish all airports were made equal?

    • I do wish all international airports were made equal. Transit hotels, even pocket sleepers like they have in Japan, can really save a trip. There’s no substitute for a good night’s sleep and a shower is heaven.

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