The next time you see that your flight plan includes a layover in Singapore, make it last a little longer! This well-developed island city-state has something for every traveller, from its top-notch shopping experiences and luxury spas, to the graffiti-walled back alleys and forest escapades. But before you shelve this Crazy Rich Asians destination under ’lifestyles of the rich and famous’, trust us when we say it’s possible to enjoy a good 24 hours in Singapore without going broke. Here’s how!
Assuming your flight lands at the break of dawn, you’ll enter The World’s Best Airport - Jewel Changi Airport. This is where your urban adventure begins and you’ll be in no hurry to leave either because the folks at Jewel Changi recommend five hours to fully explore this modern utopian playground. It’s a tourist attraction in itself! Spend at least three hours strolling around the grounds and its four free features: Discovery Slides, Foggy Bowls, Topiary Walk, and Petal Garden that are part of your basic $5 Canopy Park fee. If you’re travelling with kids - these spots will be a highlight for them - adults too! You can find meals and snacks below $10 at Shake Shack, Churreria La Lola, Emack & Bolio, and Hawker Asian Burger & Bun. Don’t forget to marvel at the 40-metre high Rain Vortex before you leave. It is currently the world’s largest indoor waterfall and the centre of life at Jewel Changi.
When you’re done exploring Jewel, head out to Orchard Road to window shop, or to explore the Central Business District for the rest of the afternoon. There are plenty of shopping malls and cafes to wander around or rest at. The newly opened Funan Mall even has public showers!
Go by bus or Mass Rapid Transit train (MRT) to get around. Both systems use cash or the same cash card (EZ Link). You’ll save way more than if you used an e-hailing transport service. Bus fares start at $0.70 and are generally cheaper than the MRT and you get a scenic view of the city while in transit. If you do use the MRT, here’s a tip: getting past the ticket counter before 7.45am on weekdays reduces your card fare by $0.50. You can also get a Singapore Tourist Pass from selected TransitLink Ticket Offices and pay a flat rate of $20 for a full day of unlimited bus and train rides.
You don’t have to spend on a local SIM card because Singapore offers free WiFi service across the country - Wireless@SG. There are hotspots available at many locations, from malls and museums, MRT stations and public libraries. So you can do all the Google map searches you need during these pitstop moments before walking about the city.
Speaking of the library, the Singapore National Library is a great place to hang out on a hot afternoon. There are several branches scattered all over the country, but no matter which one you step in, you’ll be charmed by its tranquility, unique architecture, and amazing facilities. Two exceptional branches are the Central Public Library featuring the World’s First Green Library for Kids, and library@orchard which has unique bookshelf spaces and little reading nooks and crannies attracting both Instagrammers and social recluses alike.
When the day cools down, you can head outdoors and get some breathing space at any one of Singapore’s free nature experiences: the MacRitchie Treetop Walk, the Southern Ridges, Singapore Botanical Gardens. After that, soak your tired legs in a natural revitalising hot spring in Sembawang. A whopping $4.3 million was spent redeveloping the Sembawang Hot Spring Park to include a clean cascading pool, wheelchair ramps, and other facilities that were suggested by the community. Yet with all the bells and whistles, entry remains free from 7am to 7pm. Well done Singapore government!
If that sounds too adventurous for you, make your way to Marina Bay Sands just in time to enjoy the sunset. Another way to appreciate the sunset if you feel you absolutely deserve to splurge by this hour, is on the Singapore River Cruise which departs from Clarke Quay. Adults tickets cost $25 and the full boat cruise lasts for 40 minutes, taking you from Clarke Quay to Marina Bay and back again. Otherwise, strolling along the long and pleasant walking area outside Marina Bay Sands to enjoy the breeze along the water’s edge and the view of the city skyline is just as rewarding - if not more, because it doesn’t cost a cent!
By this time, you would have covered quite a lot! All that’s left is a hearty dinner, and perhaps some budget shopping deals. For food, do it like the locals do - hawker-style! It’s true, the best food in Singapore isn’t necessarily found in lavish restaurants. Instead, some of the best local dishes cooked by experienced chefs are to be found at Amoy Food Centre, Lau Pa Sat, Market Street Food Centre, or Shenton House. You can easily get a meal at any of these places for $2.50 - $10 with good portions! An honourable mention goes to Tiong Bahru Wanton Mee where a large bowl of noodles costs only $3.50!
The most popular place for this is at Bugis Street. It is the largest and most exciting street shopping experience in Singapore. Here you can find clothes, accessories, shoes, and bags for men, women, and children that are all decently priced. Think dresses below $20 and hair accessories for $5! They don’t host your typical upmarket brands, but even local or brandless items are made of good quality and are just as fashionable. In places like these, you get to create your own style by mixing and matching pieces from whatever you find. It’s super convenient to get to. Just take the MRT train from City Hall MRT Station in the CBD and get off one stop away at Bugis MRT Station, Exit C. Bugis Street shops open from 11am - 10pm.
As we said, Singapore has something for everyone - 5-star hotels and cheap backpacker hostels. Backpacker hostels. You can find a decent room for two just under $40 a night at The Hive Hostel. RedDoorz Hostel has a couple of branches across Singapore sometimes offering a room and breakfast for less than $45 a night. If you want to do even lower, spend your night in a shared dorm with 7 other people for only $25 (breakfast included) at Betel Box Backpackers Hostel in Joo Chiat, a quaint little residential area known for its heritage homes. You’ll definitely get to meet and make friends with friendly backpackers from all over the world - a bonus for any travel experience! But since you’ll have an early flight the next day, it would probably be a better idea to book one of YotelAir’s cosy and clean rooms back at Jewel Changi Airport. Prices per night are around $150 but just remember you’ll be paying for privacy and convenience. You don’t want to miss your flight!
So there you have it! 24 hours spent in Singapore without going broke. Aside from your own shopping splurges or a slightly pricier hotel room, you’ll probably be able to have great meals and do most of these activities all for under $100. So what are you waiting for? Buy your flight ticket with us and make those 24 hours count!