For such a small island, Singapore remains full of tourists from all over the world year-round. Almost a decade back I went to Singapore on a vacation and had a gala time. Recently I had an opportunity to visit it again, OK not exactly visit, transit Singapore, but this time around I had more gala time because I enjoyed a whistle-stop tour of Singapore for FREE!!! Yup Free.
Well not only me, any passenger who is transiting through Singapore airport can enjoy a free Singapore tour. Read on to know how.
I was en route to America with my family and had a 12 hours halt at Singapore’s Changi airport. To tell you briefly,the award-winning airport has 4 terminals (5th is due to open shortly); is seventh busiest in the world and second busiest in Asia. One can easily while away the layover time exploring the airport and the various attractions it offers. While we were traversing around, we chanced upon the booth where they take registration for free Singapore tour and boy, were we glad to see that! Of course, and immediately stood in the queue to register ourselves.
Tip: There is no facility to book the free Singapore tour online, you have to be physically present at the booth; one located at terminal 2 and another at terminal 3.
What is Singapore tour:
If you have a long layover at the airport, you have an opportunity to discover this beautiful island by availing the facility of free Singapore city tour, courtesy Singapore’s Changi airport and Singapore airlines. An air-conditioned tourist bus with a dedicated guide will take you on a whirlwind tour of the city, showcasing a few of the best spots Singapore offers. There are 2 different types of tour which you can choose from depending on the time of the day:
- Heritage tour: During daytime the passengers can go on the heritage tour, which covers Marina Bay and Malay Heritage Center.
- City Sight Tour: This is a night tour which takes you to the beautiful Gardens By the Bay and Marina bay.
Who are eligible for the tour:
Anyone who is transiting through Changi airport with minimum 5.5 hours to maximum 24 hours at hand till their connecting flight, can join the guided tour. Each tour last for around 2.5 hours.
The tour is available daily, all seven days a week. The operating hours of the booth is between 7 am – 6:30 pm. The day tour starts from 9 am and last one is at 4pm; If I am not wrong there are good about 5 in total during day and only two for night tour, one at 6 pm and other at 7:30 pm which ends at 10 pm.
The registration booths are located at two terminals in the transit area, T2 ( next to orchid garden) and T3 (near transfer lounge A and gate A1-A8). At booth you have to show your boarding passes, passport and valid visa at the time of registration.
Now here, I must mention my experience: When we reached Singapore airport we started exploring it instead of going to the registration booth straightaway. By the time we reached the registration booth , we were quite surprised to see the long queue. We wanted to go for the morning tour when it’s not hot out but the seats started filling up really fast and we got the spot in the afternoon one only, which we had to take as after that the free tour would not have been feasible for us, considering the timing of our next flight.
Tip: It’s advisable to head straight to the booth, get yourself register the first thing. The free Singapore tour is quite popular and seats fill up quite fast ( I think they take maximum 17-18 people per trip)
If your connecting flight departs from T3, I suggest you get yourself register here only, as tour starts and ends (drops people back) at this terminal. So you just need to collect your handbags from the baggage storage (read next para to know more on this )and continue with the onward journey from terminal 3 itself. For those whose boarding gate for next leg of journey is from Terminal 2 should naturally prefer the registration desk here only. The inter-terminal connectivity is also good though, either via complimentary sky train ( connecting Terminal 1,2 n 3) or shuttle service( connecting T4 to T2) which hardly takes 4-5 minutes to drop you at the destined terminal.
OK so now what’s with the handbags: Naturally you will have cabin bags with you, these need to be deposited at the baggage counters cabin which are there at each terminal in the transit area (you are not allowed to carry the handbags in the tour bus). You can drop the baggage for S$5 each.
How about Visa?
Singapore has relaxed Visa rules for Indians, you may be granted 96-hr free visa on arrival ONLY if you have onward travel ticket, which means only if you are a transit passenger and have valid visa stamped on your passport of the following countries Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, United Kingdom, America, Germany, Switzerland.
So we got our Singapore visa stamped at the immigration desk before we boarded for the tour. Throughout the process, one guide always be there to help you with all the formalities.
One also doesn’t need a Singapore visa if someone has US/Shenzhen visa that is valid on the date of the transit.
The tour bus passes through some important locations in the Singapore about which the tour guide keeps explaining. Our tour guide was a jovial lady who kept us engaged by providing interesting tit-bits about the country; both its history and the current state of affairs .
Soon we reach our first stop, The Marina Bay. The bay is located in the central area of Singapore. The bus halts and all of us quickly disembark as we were given only 20-25 minutes to walk up the iconic Merlion statue ( the official symbol of the country), take pictures in front of it and soak in the surrounding sights.
The iconic Merlion Statue.
Marina Bay Sands in the background
Second stop was the Malay Heritage center. The area reflects a strong Malay-Arab influence with beautiful lanes and by-lanes , along with an artistically built Sultan Mosque. Here also we were given 20 minutes to explore the surroundings. The area has many narrow streets, with traditional shops, independent boutiques and eating joints. Its indeed a beautiful area to explore by foot.
The impressive Sultan Mosque
Colorful buildings in one of the by-lane
Tip: The tour runs on a tight schedule, its better if you stick to the time limit of 20 mins each place as directed by the guide. We had to leave two passengers behind , though the bus waited for an extra 10 minutes. Hope they manage to reach the airport on time.