Love-Hate Relationship With Singapore Changi Airport (SIN)

What makes a perfect airport for a budget traveller?

A girl sitting on the ground at Cebu Airport
Working at Cebu International Airport in the Philippines
[box type=”tick” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full”]

To me, it must have:

  • fast and free Wi-Fi connection;
  • a cozy corner where you can sit down and work or have a nap;
  • socket to plug in your laptop and other electronic devices;
  • free water;
  • affordable coffee;
  • air-conditioning or heater depending on the weather outside.
[/box]

Am I asking here for too much? Maybe… because so far I could not find my perfect airport. One of my favourite though is Moscow Domodedovo Airport, but a bottle of water or a cup of coffee costs the Earth!

In today’s post I would like to share with you my experience of staying at Singapore Changi Airport (SIN), most precisely my love and hate relationship with this place. We stayed there for a few hours when flying to Jakarta (Indonesia) in February 2014. There were things I could not stand here and things that I absolutely loved, so here we go…

The Bad

 #1 Locked electricity sockets

In Singapore, electrical sockets in public areas are locked “to prevent any misuse which may affect airport operations”. That was a real disaster for us because we could not charge neither our phones, mp3 players nor laptops. We checked out all of the sockets around and could not find even one unlocked. What was definitely the biggest disappointment.

Locked electricity socket at Singapore Changi Airport
Locked electricity socket at Singapore Changi Airport

 

#2 Poor Wi-Fi connection

Grumpy girl as Singapore airport
No Wi-Fi, no work, no work, no happy Agness

 

There was only one place where we could access a good and free Internet and it was McDonald’s restaurant. There is a computer spot where everyone could surf the Internet for 15 minutes without buying anything. Elsewhere we had to buy a coffee or cake to to get the password (Starbucks or Costa).

#3 No seats around

Singapore Chiang Airport
The Hall of Singapore Chiang Airport

 

It was hard for us to find a sitting spot. No benches, no seats, nothing. Of course I am not mentioning restaurants or coffee shops here. I mean a public seat at the airport. The only one place we could sit on was the floor or stars, but you can’t do it for too long. This place is way too posh so after 10 minutes a member of staff would ask you to stand up.

The Good

#1 Easy to get around

There are lots of sign boards in the airport that getting lost in it is nearly impossible (although it is a huge airport). Besides, there are lots of information centres with helpful staff, to provide assistance to travellers in any possible ways.

Singapore Chiang Airport
Singapore Chiang Airport

 

#2 You will never get bored here

SIN is famous for its live performances. There is a live band, piano playing and other performances. During festive seasons, for example, during the Chinese New Year, there will be stage performances on Chinese culture such as Chinese dance.

Airport guide Singapore Airport
Information stand

 

#3 It’s enormous

The number of shops in Changi Airport is enormous. There is a wide selections of goods from cigarettes to alcohol and books to electronic goods. Although the prices will shock you, everyone can find something for themselves.

Singapore Chiang Airport
It is packed with coffee and souvenir shops

 

#4 Impressive design and sophisticated look

There are numerous indoor nature trails to visit and even more indoor gardens to adore. One of the most fascinating trails is The Butterfly Garden which is a two-storey home of 1,000 butterflies from all over South East Asia.

Butterfly Garden in Singapore Airport
It’s so green!

 

Moreover, there is also a beautiful human-made pool with huge colorful fish swimming in it. The pool is decorated with some greens, thus creating a relaxing mood as though you are relaxing near a lake with green scenery .

Impressive design of Singapore Airport
Impressive design of SIN

 

#5 Food you can die for

In my opinion, I have tried the best smoked salmon baguette in my life here. Seriously, SIN is an amazing place to try some Chinese or Indian food as well as some Western dishes. I was craving a big brown baguette with salmon and veggies and I got one there! It costed the Earth, but I will never forget its creamy and crunchy taste!

SIN airport girl is eating a baguette
Digging into a salmon baguette!

 

Here you can find various dining outlets ranging from fancy restaurants to fast food outlets and a food court. If you are looking for a fancy place to eat, you might want to taste the scrumptious offerings of Dian Xiao Er or enjoy the lively Thai-inspired atmosphere in ThaiExpress.

#6 First-class treatment

In Changi airport, customers are the top priority and you can see it and feel it. If you ever get lost here, the staff here will be more than happy to help you out. They are all well-equipped with iPads and able to communicate in up to 16 languages! Customers can provide valuable feedback through a computerised feedback system provided in several spots such as restrooms and customer service counters.

#7 Free drinking water

Everyone could drink some water when in the airport to keep themselves hydrated which is a big advantage of this place.

Singapore airport
Drinking water stand

 

To sum up, SIN has not been my favourite airport. Nothing can compensate the poor Wi-Fi and lack of sockets, even the fancy restaurants, live performances or sophisticated design. We were forced to spend a lot of money to get what we would get for free at other airports…

What’s your experience with SIN? What’s your favourite airport and why? 

Get insured

"It will never happen to me" said every person before it happened to them. Accidents happen at home and abroad. The difference is that they are usually more costly when you're in a foreign country. That's why travelling without insurance is a bad idea. There's just no excuse to put yourself in such a risk.

>>voice from the crowd<< Travel insurance is too expensive!

>>voice of the common sense<< If you can't afford travel insurance then you can't afford to travel.

Don't take chances and get yourself insured now. Check out our budget travel insurance page.

More from Agness Walewinder

Camping in Morocco

Morocco is an exciting and exotic destination for camping. Here are just...
Read More

46 Comments

  • Agness…
    I wonder if we had been in the same airport…
    I just read my own review of Changi and don’t remember not having internet or wifi… That would had been a catastrophe!

  • Hi Agness,

    Nice review of what has often been voted the best airport in the world.

    It’s maybe a couple of years since I last went through this airport. One thing I do know is that when I do go I like to have lots of time there, it is massive! I keep discovering new things when I’m there as I wander round. If you have international connections then don’t underestimate the time it could take to walk between gates and terminals. It once took me around 30-40 minutes and I don’t walk slow.

    Free wifi is certainly something we’d all appreciate. I must admit that I struggle to find too many airports that offer unrestricted free wifi. I think it will be a matter of time though.

    As for being expensive, sadly I think this is a reflection of most airports. They have a captive audience with a monopoly so people have little choice. Prices are high because they can be and the airports charge the traders a high fee for rent. I rarely buy duty free these days because I really don’t see much value in it.

  • Is this kind of thing common outside of the US? Those locked sockets make no sense at all. If they don’t want people to abuse them, then don’t have them at all, right? Most all airports in the US have wifi. Although I was in one (I think it was in Philly) where sometimes you had wifi but in other places you didn’t. No seating sounds terrible. Not even to wait for the next flight? All USA airports and public areas have “drinking water stands.” That’s a funny name. Here they’re called water fountains or drinking fountains. Haha. I really like Portland International Jetport in Maine (why Jetport? I have no idea). I went to Salt Lake City’s and that was really nice, so big too. What’s your favorite airport? It’s obiously not this one.

  • That’s odd. IIRC the wifi via Wireless@SG is free even though it’s not user-friendly to set up. There are benches both inside and outside the transit area (in the viewing gallery for the latter). I know that for a fact having slept on them!

  • Poor thing, you. Let me give you a tip or two in case you transit there again next time.
    1. When you arrive, head straight to the information counter to request for a free wifi ticket. You will get a piece of paper with password for 6 hours free wifi access. The speed is pretty good, and the 6 hours start counting from first login. The airport has 3 terminals and each ticket only works for the specific terminal so you can’t use Terminal 2 wifi password at Terminal 3.
    2. Coffee – Starbucks and Coffee Bean are expensive, yeah. If you are not particular about the taste of the coffee, you can get cheaper coffee if you look for the local brands. I think they’re called Ya Kun or something. S$2 still expensive, but much cheaper than S$8 :)
    3. The power sockets are a pain, so far on my transits, I have never seen any usable power sockets outside the check-in zone. But inside the passport/immigration check-in area, they have those lounges in certain areas with nice couches. Look for that type of area, there is always one or two rows of cubicles with power ports. You can sit there for hours and nobody will come and shoo you away.

    I transit in Changi every time I fly to the US for work, every time there are 6-8 hours waiting time. Every time I arrive, this is what I will do: I will get the wifi ticket, then go for a nice lunch (company paying), then hang around in Coffee Bean for 2 hours until my laptop battery is almost dead (company pay for the expensive coffee too), then check-in, grab a cheap S$2 coffee (this I pay myself) and sit at the power port place that I mentioned, until boarding time.

  • I have been to Singapore Changi Airport four times and after hearing and reading all the thrilled reports about how amazing it is I was a bit disappointed and found SIN a bit overrated.

    I quite like Dubai International Airport (DXB), but regarding free WiFi Dubai is horrendous because you can only use the internet for free for 30 minutes! After that you have to pay 4,95 US-Dollars per hour. As far as I know Costa Coffee there is the only place where you can surf for longer but you have to buy a coffee to get the code. Even at Starbucks you have to use the airport internet.

    Other airports I like are Beijing Capital International (PEK), Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK) and Frankfurt International Airport(FRA). Frankfurt has 24 hours free WiFi. :)

  • Agness, I think I’ve got their message:

    We haven’t put any seats for you, because it’s an airport that you land in and depart. Why do you want to sit and use WIFI and consequently charge your devices? Instead, take a guidebook and explore our airport. I’ts very large with impressive design and easy to get around. You can even buy nice food and PAY for it, but water is free. Drink as much as you like!

  • Wow, that was good that you shared about the electric sockets being locked. That could be a disaster for folks who were in dire need of a charge to any/all of their devices! I really liked that you said the airport staff is very attentive and helpful to passengers. But, why oh WHY was I not there to share that salmon baguette with you, Agness??? Yum, yum, yum… :)

  • Hi Agness, it has been a long while since I was in Changi Airport. Back then I didn’t travel with lots of gadgets but now I always travel with my cellphone, laptop, etc. Like you, I would be very frustrated too if I can’t find any sockets and good wi-fi connection. It’s actually surprising considering Singapore is a high-tech country and Changi is considered one of the best airport in the world. I agree with your positive points. But when I’m in the airport, I don’t like walking around sightseeing and checking out shops. For me, airport time is a time to slow down and catch up with emails, edit photos, and update blog. If I can’t do that, it’s not a good airport time for me.

  • I find Changi to be ok, but then I’m from Australia, where ideas of customer convenience are about 20 years behind the rest of the world!! My favourite airport in the world? KL and Dubai are pretty good (at least for the criteria you mentioned, which are pretty important for me too). Worst? Tehran’s old airport, Kolkata is quite sad, Melbourne is pretty hopeless, Amman is disgusting, and Chennai’s old terminal needs to be demolished!

  • I did like many of the facilities and attractions at Changi when I was there for the first time last year but I have to agree with you that the lack of good wifi connection would be quite annoying, perhaps more so somewhere like Singapore where we almost expect technology to be at its best! The food is just amazing though isn’t it?!

  • Hey Agness. Totes agree about everything you said about this airport. Our flights were delayed 4hrs and even in the normal wifi friendly zones, we couldnt get on. We discovered after purchasing coffees from Starbucks, that if we went downstairs to the ‘help desk’, they were issuing wifi logins, but it was very patchy and seemed to drop out a lot.
    We had access to one of the airport lounges, so we only had to waste a few hours before everything was back to normal. The food was amazing, the pretty garden/waterfalls etc were delightful too. The airport was prob the cheapest part of our trip, we found Singapore to be one of the most expensive cities we have ever visited.
    Anyways, great review. Have a happy week.
    Cheers,
    Anna

  • I am still baffled they have the electronic sockets locked up. They should cater more to their customers. This is just a shame. And I hate when an airport has poor wifi connection but will advertise they have it. What a waste. Great article

  • Hmm… wifi didn’t work for me at all (at least on my phone) but worked everywhere perfectly for my bf. I’ve no idea why :D
    I think Chiangi has the best food court I’ve ever seen at any airport :D And the movie theater was awesome!

  • It’s a weird airport, that’s for sure.
    I remember the green environment. It was interesting and I wish they had more green. Also at other airports.
    Yes, there were very few seats around. I had to “walk for miles” to find an area with seats and there were barely a few left.
    Too few shops for such a big airport, few options for eating. And most of them were closed – I was taking a midnight flight. Shops closed very early!

  • While Changi is definitely not the cheapest airport in the world, it definitely makes up for it with the value it delivers. They get so much of the traveling experience right!

  • It’s one of the best airports for the good points you listed here. Then again like everything else, they can’t have everything can they? There’s always a con. Glad to see you never got bored and had your fill with foods. :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *