1 Day And Night In Singapore: Our Perfect Crazy Layover

Created by Colleen Sims | Updated : 15 January 2024 | ,

Are you planning a short stop in Singapore? Are you thinking it might not be worth a layover? Think again. We did a bunch of things to fill our time and it left us wanting more.

We didn’t have long in Singapore.  It was definitely more of a layover than a vacation but we were determined to make the most of our time. And oh my we walked from dawn to dusk and beyond and it was so worth it.

Artwork in Chinatown in Singapore seen during our guruwalk on our 1 day in singapore

Is Singapore Worth Visiting For 1 Day and Night?

If you’re flying with Singapore Airlines or your flights stops in Singapore you’ll have the opportunity to visit Singapore. It seems crazy not to stop doesn’t it? Even for just a few days.

If you’re like us and on the fence, then take the opportunity. Even in just 1 day and 1 night in Singapore you’ll managed to see and do so much. 

P.S. : We’ll hold our hands up and say that we actually had two nights in Singapore but we basically slept when we first arrived.

stalls in chinatown market in singapore

Getting To And From Changi Airport

Singapore airport is called Changi and it has an MRT (mass rapid transport) station allowing quick access to the city although buses and taxis are also available.  The airport has an excellent transport page of up to date information for new arrivals

Taxis And Private Transfers

If you have a lot of luggage, or you’re feeling tired after your travels, you may prefer to take a taxi to your hotel.  We travel light and so the MRT was not only very inexpensive but also quick and easy for us

If you’d prefer a taxi then I would recommend that you arrange a private transfer in advance; it might be cheaper and it will certainly avoid a queue at the airport.

If you haven’t booked in advance then don’t worry, there is a taxi waiting area in the arrivals hall and a helpful member of staff will organise your ride.

Using Singapore’s MRT(Mass Rapid Transport)

If you wish to use Singapore’s MRT then follow the MRT signs from the Airport terminal, which can involve quite a long walk but it is well marked.  Keep following the signs and you’ll end up in the Changi Airport MRT station.

  • The Downtown line will take you into the city.
  • To return to the airport take the East West Line to Tanah Merah MRT Station (EW4/CG), then transfer to Changi Airport MRT Station (CG2).
  • Alternatively, take the Downtown Line to Expo MRT Station (CG1/DT35), then transfer to Changi Airport MRT Station. 

Top Tip : We found the MRT easy to use and thoroughly recommend this as a way of getting around Singapore.

MRT Tickets And Payments

The easiest way to pay for a single journey is using a contactless bank card on the barrier.  BUT beware if you are a couple and you only have one card it confuses the system; at least it did when we were there.  I got quite the telling off at one booth because we got stuck.  You will need two cards, one for each passenger.

A good alternative is to buy a one (or three) day pass from the ticket office.  The office is a bit hidden but from the airport as you go down the escalator to the platform, behind you towards the rear of the station on the left, behind the escalators is a small ticket booth.

It is a little obscure but it is signed and if unsure someone will direct you. You pay a deposit for the card which is returnable when you return the card.

We purchased a 3-day pass for for 30$ each; you get 10$ back when you return the card.

Top Tip : Never take a Durian Fruit on the MRT as they are banned!

walking through Downtown Singapore

Can You Leave Singapore Airport During A Layover?

If you have a long layover at Singapore Changi airport you may wish to explore the city.  This is possible but you will need to complete the full entry procedures including the visa.

All travellers are required to submit their SG Arrival Card before arriving in Singapore, except those transiting/transferring through Singapore without seeking immigration clearance. The ICA website is https://www.ica.gov.sg/enter-transit-depart/entering-singapore/sg-arrival-card. You can only complete this 48 hours (or less) before your arrival.

You can store your luggage at the airport or perhaps you can transfer them on to your onward flight via your airline; check in advance and see what options are available to you.

Top Tip : If you fly with Singapore Airlines they offer a free city tour if your layover is longer than 5.5 hours and less than 24; this is a great option for shorter stays.

We had 8 hours in Changi airport on our flight from Phnom Penh but stayed and explored the Jewel, Changi’s very extensive shopping, eating and leisure area next to Terminal 1.  

The only issue with the Jewel is that it is on the ‘landside’ of the airport so you do need to comply with immigration requirements.  But it is a great way to spend a few hours; especially if you like shopping!

★★★★★

Private Guided Tour of Singapore

  • Private full-day tour of Singapore
  • Receive personalized recommendations from your guide
  • Learn about Singapore’s history and cultural attractions
  • Cover more ground in one day with a private tour

Getting A SIM Card And Singapore Currency

We previously would get a SIM card at the airport but we’d read that it was cheaper to wait and buy in town; so take advantage of the free airport wifi when you land.   Once in town we stopped at a Seven-Eleven shop and bought a SIM card for 14$; it would have been 40$ at the airport.

For cash we found an ATM in the arrivals hall and withdrew Singapore dollars for the trip.  We travel with a Revolut and Wise bank card and both make international travel and currency exchange a doddle! The good news is that Singapore is happy to accept payment by card so you don’t need a lot of cash.

Top Tip : These days we purchase E-Sim cards from Airalo in advance of our arrival, which is often cheaper and certainly more efficient and saves the queues at the airport too.

Our walking tour of Chinatown in Singapore

Start Your Day With A Walking Tour Of Chinatown

If you only have a short time in a city then we always recommend a GuruWalk Walking Tour. It’s a great way to learn a lot and see a lot in a short space of time.

Singapore offers several tours but we opted for Chinatown and spent three hours exploring the well-known and lesser known corners of Singapore’s Chinatown.

We met our guide at the MRT stop; we stress again how easy the MRT is although on this occasion our hotel was close enough that we walked.

Good to know : Our IBIS Bencoolen hotel was in a great location and just a few minutes walk from two MRT stations. It’s reasonably priced for Singapore, the rooms are clean and comfortable and the breakfast was excellent. We were happy with the choice.

Our guide was an young enthusiastic Singapore woman who genuinely loved her city and was full of knowledge and anecdotal stories. We started with a history of the Chinese women who helped build Singapore,  We walked onwards as she explained the history of the street art, modern housing costs, film set locations and food markets. Partway through we stopped for coffee in Maxwell Food Centre where we ended up being interviewed for a film by the Singapore Tourist Board!

We continued on through more streets, more art, more history and more temples. This was a glorious way to spend a few hours. We totally recommend this city walking tour;  book a spot and you wont regret it!

Lunch At Michelin Star Hawker Stall

Our guide told us about the Hawker stalls in Chinatown and how one, Hawker Chan, become so good and so famous that it twice won a Michelin Star.  We returned there for lunch but the queue was an hour long so instead we headed into the nearby Chinatown Complex Market and Food Centre.

We opted for a stall with a reasonable queue (it must be good if the locals queue right?) and found ourselves delicious chicken and rice followed by a freshly made pineapple and soya milk smoothie for just a few dollars.

I know some folks are a little nervous to jump in and join the foray but trust me, the food is great and it’s well worth a visit.

Hawker Stalls in the Central Market in Singapre

Exploring Little India

If you have time, then try to squeeze in a quick visit to Little India.  Just as with Chinatown the area has a unique heritage and is everything you would expect to find. It’s a vibrant district steeped in history and culture.  Once home to cattle herders and lime kilns the neighbourhood has evolved into one of the cities favourite corners.

There are many streets lined with colourful shops and markets, spices and music.  A few places to visit include :

  • Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple: This colorful Hindu temple is the oldest in Singapore and dedicated to the goddess Kali.
  • Tekka Centre: This bustling wet market is a great place to experience the everyday life of Little India. You’ll find fresh produce, spices, flowers, and food and drinks.
  • Abdul Gafoor Mosque: This beautiful mosque features a white facade and green dome, and is a peaceful oasis amidst the chaos of the district.
  • Serangoon Road: This main street is lined with shops selling everything from sarees and jewelry to spices and flowers. Don’t be afraid to haggle for a good deal!

Along with these places you’ll find lots of lots of Indian restaurants including my favourite gluten free Dosa. 

visit little india during your singapore layover, even if just for an hour you'll discover colourful shops and displays

Singapore Botanic Gardens

The Singapore Botanic Garden was founded in 1859, inspired in part by the botanical gardens created by Sir Stamford Raffles (of Singapore Sling fame).

The gardens were part of a wider project that saw Singapore collect and experiment with a range of plants; one of the most successful being the Hevea Brasiliensis, a rubber plant.  This became a hugely important crop for the region and in part helped Singapore and SE Asia to prosper.

I can’t overstate how large this garden is; an 82-hectare garden which in 2015 was recognised as the first and only tropical botanic garden on the UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list. 

From it’s own MRT stop, it’s easy to wander directly into the gardens and there is no charge to explore.

The park opens at 5:00am and closes at  midnight and on different Saturdays throughout the year there are free walking tours; check the Botanic Garden Website for more information and times.

There are well laid out paths and opportunities to stop for refreshments.  But be warned some were very expensive, so perhaps take some water and your own snacks.

The Botanical Garden website has a good plan, detailed instructions and a map showing the different entry points which you can download ahead of your visit.

a plan of the Singapore botanical gardens

Botanic Gardens At Night

The park is open until midnight so you are also able to explore at night too.  We never had an opportunity for a night visit but we read that many of the trees and plants are lit and it’s a beautiful time to visit.  Another advantage of visiting at night is that it will be cooler and no need for sunscreen.

There are also some guided tours that start at 4pm or 6pm (most start in the morning).  You can check on the Parks Website to see what’s on when you visit.

There is also an open air stage within the park, known as the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage.  It’s it built around a small body of water called Symphony Lake

Musical events are hosted here throughout the year, some of which can be found on the Singapore Symphony Website.

The National Orchid Gardens

We wanted to explore the National Orchid Gardens, we’d read that they were particularly impressive.  Indeed in the early 1900s Singapore Botanic Garden started an orchid breeding program and pioneered hybridisation techniques. 

From the Metro we took an hour to walk to the orchid area.  It’s a beautiful walk through the vast park and there is so much to see so ensure you wear comfortable shoes.

It cost us 15€ to enter the National Orchid Gardens but only 3€ for Gerry (over 60’s get a big reduction!). 

I would say it was worth the entrance fee and we spent a good hour wandering the site and the Orchid house was just stunning.  It reminded me a little of the Orchid House in Estepona in Spain

There are also guided walks of the Orchid house so check on the park website for times.

Raffles : A Legacy of Elegance And The Famous Sling

No visit to Singapore would be complete without a visit to Raffles Hotel.  Honestly, I never even knew that there was a Raffles hotel in any other city except Singapore.  However, I knew that if we ever visited Singapore then a Sling in the Long Bar was a must.

Raffles Hotel in Singapore isn’t just a hotel; it has become a timeless icon woven into the city’s history. Its fame owes much to its colonial past and a certain pink cocktail that sparked global fascination. 

Raffles is a beacon of colonial luxury with it’s elegant building and hushed grandeur. It felt rather indulgent just to walk through it’s hallowed halls.

The Long Bar became the unlikely birthplace of the Singapore Sling in 1915.  Bartender Ngiam Tong Boon, created a drink for women that “looked good, tasted good, and kicked like a mule,”   It was a hit and it’s fame spread and eventually became synonymous with Singapore itself.

Today, the peanut-shell-strewn floor, mahogany counter, and the expertly crafted Slings continue to transport visitors back in time and no trip to Singapore would be complete without a visit. 

For some reason I expected to just walk right in but of course, I’m not alone in wanting to experience this famous cocktail.  So there was a queue.  Expect to wait in line for perhaps 30 minutes.  But it’s worth it.

Gerry went off piste and ordered the Original Sling but I stayed true to traditional and opted for the Singapore Sling;  if I’m honest I preferred his.  The drinks come with a bag of peanuts and you are expected to drop the shells on the floor; such decadence indeed

We wanted to stay and linger and people watch and order another; this is a location to be savoured BUT the clock was ticking and we knew we had a few more items on our itinerary.

a singapore sling and an original sling complete with the bag of peanuts from the Long Bar in Raffles

Gardens By The Bay At Night : Sound And Light At Supertree Grove

We had such limited time in Singapore that we didn’t have time to be tired; jetlag would have to wait.  Instead we took the MRT to Gardens by the Bay and Supertree Grove.

We wanted to see the Supertrees at night and we wanted to walk the Skyway. 

Every evening at 7:45pm and again at 8:45pm you can watch the trees come alive with a sound and light show.  Entrance is free to the grove but arrive early and expect a long queue.

We knew that we wanted to walk the OCBC Skyway so we purchased our tickets ahead of time online.  I recommend that you do the same if time is short as the ticket office and the Supertree Grove are in different areas of Gardens By The Bay. 

We queued but missed the first show, but this meant we were at the front for the second show.  Once inside the main grove area we headed for the Skyway. We had to queue for another 30 minutes until we were ushered into the lift.

The OCBC Skyway attraction is not for anyone fearful of heights.  The floor does tend to bounce and the walkway is narrow and the sides are open, although secure.  I’m not a huge fan of heights and I found it ok but for some it might just be too high.

At night the views are magical and the trees are other-wordly. We walked and paused and stopped and admired the view and took photos and meandered as slowly as we could until we reached the other side on the walkway and had to take the lift down.

There are no fireworks with the evening show but it’s a magical experience and the Supertrees are so unique that I am happy that we were able to experience this.

Top Tip : There are regular maintenance closures and changes to schedules so be sure to check on the Gardens by the Bay website when planning your visit.

Gardens By The Bay Supertrees at Night in Singapore

Night Cap At Marina Bay Sands Hotel

If jetlag hasn’t defeated you then you could end your crazy 1 day and night in Singapore with a night cap from the roof bar at the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel. This was our plan but we have to confess that the time-zone defeated us and we never made the bar; we’ll have to save that treat for the next time.

But for those with more stamina than us, the rooftop bar and restaurant is on the 57th floor and open to non-residents; booking ahead is a good idea.

★★★★★

Private Guided Tour of Singapore

  • Private full-day tour of Singapore
  • Receive personalized recommendations from your guide
  • Learn about Singapore’s history and cultural attractions
  • Cover more ground in one day with a private tour

Is It Worth Spending 1 Day and Night in Singapore?

We did so much during our day in Singapore.  We had a schedule and I am so happy that we managed to stick with it; except for the night cap.

We know that we just scratched the surface of Singapore and that there is so much more to see but we learned that Singapore is amazing.  Whilst we regret not having more time we also know that this is a place that we want to revisit.

If you get the chance to layover in Singapore, even if it’s only for one day and night then do it.  You’ll be really glad that you did.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Whenever you travel, you should have a great travel and medical insurance policy.  None of us expect anything bad to happen, but in the event of an incident, you want to be sure that your insurance will be there for you.

I’ve ended up in hospital in Peru, Indonesia, Portugal, Japan and Ireland! Every time my insurance took care of everything. I would never leave home without full and comprehensive insurance.

TrueTraveller : We have this policy and we are very happy with the cover, especially considering our ages and pre-existing conditions.

Globelink : We have used and recommended Globelink for years and we’ve not heard of any issues. They are a great choice for European and UK Residents.

Safety Wing : Many of my travelling buddies from the USA have recommended this company to me, although we’ve not used them personally.

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Colleen in Salamanca on the Via de la Plata

Hey I’m Colleen. I’m married to Gerry, we’ve three fabulous kids and been living in France for almost two decades. I fell in love with Spain in the 1980s and I’ve walked 1000s of miles along the Camino de Santiago. Now we’re exploring and walking the world and I can’t wait to share what we’ve learned!

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