Spread across 3 terminals, with a possible fourth coming up soon, Changi airport is sort of a mini city in its own right. With attractions, duty-free shops and dining options galore spread across the airport, no amount of time is good enough to see everything. Every attraction, be it small, big or out-of-this-world is perfect in its own right and deserves rightful attention. Hence it is best to plan your time well or you may miss out on the best and possibly even your flight.
To ensure you are on top of things, begin first by connecting to the free wifi available at the airport. For the wifi password you will need to go to the nearest Information and Customer Service counters which are spread across all terminals and are clearly visible. The friendly staff there will help with any other concerns you may have as well. On handing over your passport they will give you a paper docket with all the needed details. As your wifi session will only last for 3 hours upon connecting you will need to approach the counter again for a new password. Unless you know of the below workaround.
Once on the wifi, download the iChangi app on your smartphone (iOS and Android). This app is a must have and will give you every single detail about the attractions and facilities. It will also help you locate your flight, terminal and gate number. Once you have downloaded this app you can extend your 3-hour internet session to 24 hours. However, for this, you will need an OTP (One Time Password) over SMS.
I am certain that Vodafone India doesn’t charge for receiving SMS on international roaming on prepaid. You only pay for the services you use, such as sending a SMS, making or receiving calls. Hence, to get things working for me I connected to the local mobile network making sure my cellular data was off. In a few minutes, I received my OTP and then went back onto flight mode. I wasn’t charged a dime for this. To be sure, I would recommend you contact your mobile service provider in advance for rates and to ensure that international roaming is activated.
The Airport Experience section of the iChangi app will give you the list of Attractions, Things To Do and Services available at the airport. Depending on the time at disposal, the terminal you are in and your interests you can draw a plan. However, if you wish, you can stick to the below list for starters.
This unmanned and completely computerised metro-like train is the perfect way to commute between terminals – 1, 2 and 3. For me, who has never travelled on an unmanned vehicle before, it was a free peek into the future. The first time I boarded it I was searching for the motorman. On seeing none I only hoped for the best with a prayer on my lips. Even now, after my repeated trips, I find it amusing.
Where: Across the airport. See signboards for directions.
People often don’t consider this as an attractive attraction, but not me. Travelling economy without the comfort of extra leg room is a pain (wherever it pains you the most). And if something or someone can massage your aching feet and spring you back in action he/she/it is worthy of every bit of praise. Add to it if the massage is completely free, then it’s nothing short of a miracle. Across the airport, in the sitting areas, you will find many such foot massage machines. These machines come with multiple modes to suit your preference and intensity levels. So go, indulge and pamper yourself to the greatest extent possible. Such opportunities don’t come often.
Where: Across the airport, in the sitting areas.
The world’s first butterfly garden in an airport is a tiny piece of the Amazon rainforest enclosed in glass. Amidst lush greenery and blooming buds that sway to the beats of a 6-metre grotto-waterfall, you will find about 1000 vibrant and free-spirited butterflies from 40 species vying for your attention. You can also sharpen your butterfly knowledge or bust any myths you’ve had by reading the information displays and witnessing the breeding and feeding of butterflies at close range.
It is recommended you visit the garden only in the morning or afternoon. Towards the evening these insects tend to get less active.
Where: Terminal 3, Departure Transit Lounge, Level 2 and 3.
Basking in every ray of golden sunlight the sunflowers at the airport are sure to put a smile on your face. Beautiful and bright from the word go they make every onlooker a fan. Even though they are tall and bow to no one apart from the sun they never feel intimidating. In fact, if I could have had my way I would have sat among them and given them a tight embrace. Up to that point, I had never seen sunflower’s in person, so my excitement was over the top, but I didn’t care. After all, isn’t life about the moments that take your breath away?
Planted on the rooftop nursery, these flowers also give visitors majestic views of the runway and parking bays. If like me, you love the sight of silver birds ascending and descending and the roar of the engines, this place will feel like heaven. At night, using special light, this garden gets transformed into a mystical wonderland.
Where: Terminal 2, Departure Transit Lounge, Level 3
Filled with more than 100 species from the far flung deserts of Asia, Africa and America, this roof garden is a popular place for visitors. To ensure you don’t get carried away with the ambience and think you are in a parched territory, there is a bar in the garden to get your throat wet. Here visitors can enjoy a drink or two, stretch out and bask in the sun.
In the garden, I saw many different species of cacti, even the flowering ones. It was nice to see some common ones too. As much as I hate to admit it, the Bollywood guy in me woke up and quoted a dialogue from the recent Hindi flick ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil‘ – Thorns are better than flowers. Flowers wither and die, but thorns survive. In the case of unrequited love, the pain of love, the thorn, is better than the flower. Saying this I left singing a song from the same movie, “Accha chalta hoon, duao mein yaad rakhna”.
Where: Terminal 1, Departure Transit Lounge, Level 3.
Combining magic and nature, the Enchanted Garden is like a magic story that slowly unfolds. Using motion sensors the garden lights up with your every step, fills your ears with the soulful sounds of nature and the moment with a rush of excitement. In fact, every time I took a step I couldn’t contain my excitement for what it had to offer and for what came next. It is funny but the garden indeed brought out the kid in me.
The centrepiece of the garden comprises of four giant glass bouquets decorated with reflected stained glass. Together these make amazing pics and great selfies.
To experience this in full make sure there are few people around you and it is not too busy. Late evening or night would be ideal.
Where: Terminal 2, Departure Transit Lounge, Level 2.
If you have time to spare there is no dearth of entertainment at Changi airport. Open 24 hours the two theatres, one each at Terminal 2 and 3, play different genres of movies from the latest collection of hits. You can refer to the Things To Do section of the iChangi app for the screening schedule.
Where: Terminal 2, near Sunflower Garden, Level 3. Also at Terminal 3, near Ambassador Transit Lounge, Level 3.
Xbox Kinect room/Xbox 360/Playstation 3
These put together are a gamer’s paradise. From tennis to bowling, soccer to action-packed point and shoot games, these are sure to while away your time without a sweat. Plus, it’s a great activity to get the entire family on their feet and moving.
Where: Terminal 2, next to the Sunflower Garden
Other free attractions in the Transit area include
Piazza Garden, Terminal 1
The Piazza Garden features seasonal and thematic plant displays throughout the seasons.
Sculptural Tree Garden, Terminal 1
The garden features three tall tree-like sculptures clad with an interesting collage of foliage.
The Social Tree, Terminal 1
Share your photo and video memories of Changi instantly on this nine-metre interactive installation.
Orchid Garden, Terminal 2
Brighten up your journey with a colourful collection of rare orchids.
Birds in Flight, Terminal 3
Shaped by a plasma cutter, the sculpture symbolises freedom, hope, exploration and infinite quest.
Going Home, Terminal 3
The sculpture represents a family nucleus through three varieties of metal.
Saga Seed, Terminal 3
This super-sized saga seed by Kumari Nahappan is cast in bronze and varnished in red.
The Memory of Lived Space, Terminal 3
Australian artist Janet Laurence cleverly blends architecture and nature to create ambiguous spaces that compel you to revise your sense of location.
Vessel, Terminal 3
Exhibited within glass enclosures, the stoneware sculptures depict cuisine and traditional performing arts in the region.
The attractions at Changi airport are not only limited to the transit area. The airport goes out of its way to make the experience special, both for the traveller and the visitor. If you are in transit and happen to step outside the airport, which you can without a visa (read how), don’t miss out on the following attractions in the public area.
Kinetic Rain, Terminal 1
Stand mesmerised by the dance of 1,216 polished copper raindrops. The art installation depicts the joy of travelling and is Terminal 1’s centrepiece.
Changi Aviation Gallery, Terminal 3
From here, you can observe the aircraft’s on our tarmac and gain insights into Changi’s ground operations and Singapore’s eventful aviation history.
Daisy, Terminal 3
Daisy by Christian Moeller is inspired by the transportive nature of Changi Airport and Singapore’s seaport.
Floral Inspirations, Terminal 3
A nod to our Garden City that continues to sprout and flourish, Han Sai Por’s Floral Inspirations resembles a cluster of larger-than-life seed pods.
The Slide @ T3
Take a ride on the world’s tallest slide in an airport.