Things to do in Singapore on an 8-hour stopover

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If you’ve travelled in South and Southeast Asia at all, you’ve more than likely spent some time in the Singapore Airport. If you travel there a lot, you’ll eventually find yourself staring down the barrel of an 8-hour (or longer) stopover or stopover in The Lion City.

Eight hours of stopover in Singapore sounds like a long time, but with the right itinerary, you’ll wish you had much longer. You can run this like a checklist if you’re there during the day, or pick from the night-time options if your stopover covers the red-eye shift.

You’ll have to move fast to get to everything, so grab your carry-ons and ready…set…go!

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0:00 Take the SMRT train to the Bayfront Stop

That’s the EW line to the Paya Labar stop, then change trains for the Circle line to Bayfront. Singapore’s subways are a city sight all of their own, so clean and well-run by western standards. Even if you’re from another cosmopolitan city, let yourself enjoy the sheer variety of nationalities, dress styles and languages you’ll experience while packed in with the city’s visitors and residents.  The ride is 40 minutes in motion, but round up to 60 to account for bad timing.

1:00 Tour Gardens by the Bay 

Walk past and under the Supertrees through the Marina Bay gardens, aiming for the futuristic geodesic domes between you and the water. The indoor Gardens offer two options – one an indoor cloud forest, the other a collection of flora from all over the world. Even people who show up knowing how impressive the Gardens are come out surprised. Give yourself 90 minutes to fully enjoy, then walk back to Bayfront station. Including walking time, this part of your stopover will take a good two hours.

3:00 Hit Chinatown. 

Take the Downtown line from Bayfront to Chinatown (less than ten minutes in motion), then take Exit A and ride the long escalator to one of the most interesting views of the city: colonial-style buildings surrounding a market in the foreground, with the high-tech towers of the business district behind.

Singapore’s Chinatown has markets as well as the Buddha Tooth Relic Museum, a Buddhist Temple, a Hindu Temple, cultural sites and cheap massages all available in 9 square blocks. For high-density, time-effective tourism there’s no better spot in Singapore. Give yourself an hour to feel the vibe, but leave the party while you’re still having fun.

4:00 Dinner at a Hawker Center 

Skip the Chinatown Food Court (which is hard to miss) and instead head southwest off Smith street to the Chinatown Complex. There you’ll be greeted by two stories of hawker stalls atop a bustling wet market. Homesick westerners can find Oregon-brewed beers in the northeast corner and European sausages in the building just to the south – but seriously, get adventurous. Pick a local and just “have what she’s having.” Ask what it is once you’re finished. Eat quick. You still have lots to do.

4:45 Walk Boat Quay 

Either take the MRT (Chinatown to Dhoby Gaut by the Northeast line, then Raffles Place by the East-West line) or walk to Raffles Place using one of the street maps you can find anywhere in the city. Each route takes about 20 minutes, so it will depend on what shape you’re in and how hot the day is.

Raffles Place is a strip of art-surrounded urban plaza in the middle of Singapore’s business district, and a site for lovers of great city and bad science fiction. From there, walk toward the water (you’ll be able to see it) and stroll along Boat Quay to take in the sights. If you have room after your Hawker Center feast, stop for a pint at one of the pubs lining the water. Give yourself an hour and fifteen for the whole tour from Chinatown to done.

5:30 Whirlwind Shopping Bonanza 

Take the five-minute trip by SMRT from Raffles Place to City Hall, then cross Stamford Road to Raffles City and the Esplanade to sate your shopping urge. It’s not Orchard Street, but you won’t pay Orchard Street prices. Enjoy the air conditioning and pick up some clothes, books or other souvenirs of your stay, or snack in the lower-level food options.

Singapore Raffles City #rafflescity #goprosg #goprohero4 #goprooftheday #goprophotography

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6:45 Grab a Singapore Sling at the Raffles’ Long Bar 

Leave Raffles City via the North exit and cross Bras Basah Road into the sprawling Raffles Hotel complex. The historical hotel itself is closed to visitors but spend some time exploring the surrounding mall and imagining you’re in Singapore back during the colonial days. Those with deeper pockets can do some high-end shopping here, and most visitors should find the Long Bar and sip a Singapore Sling or chug a pint of Carlsberg. Relax and review your skipping-stone-stay.

7:45 Hail a Cab and Head Out

Use the cab stand in front of the Raffles (Singapore doesn’t allow random taxi hailing in this and many other neighborhoods). It’s fifteen minutes back to Changi. As with your trip into town, most visitors will be amazed at how clean the cabs are, and how well the drivers know the city.

If something on this list doesn’t suit your fancy, don’t panic. Head back to the airport early. Changi International has an astonishing amount of stuff to do right on the grounds – the usual shopping and dining, but a movie theater, massage options, swimming pool and fitness complex as well.

If this sounds like exactly your cup of traveller’s tea, use our flight booking engine to set up an intentional stopover. Get your passport stamped and take notes for when you can come give Singapore the time and attention it really deserves.

Things to do in Singapore on an 8-hour stopover was last modified: March 2nd, 2017 by Jason Brick
Author: Jason Brick (78 posts)

Freelance writer, work-from home dad, ninja warrior and occasional gourmet cook. Writing is what I do, and my family is why I do it.