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Flying into Singapore Changi Airport (SIN): What you need to know
6 min read
Updated on May 29, 2024

This is part of the Been There, Done That series, where our expert globetrotters travel the world to get the insights and information you need for a seamless travel experience.

As you descend into the bustling island nation of Singapore, the waters below are a hub of cargo ships and global commerce, a testament to the city's role as a vital gateway between East and West.

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Travelers enjoy the Jewel of Changi outside Terminal One of Singapore Changi International Airport. | iVisa

The port serves as a microcosm of the city itself, where ancient traditions meet the energy of modern business, and French cafes coexist alongside local hawker centers.

For me, returning to Singapore after a four-year hiatus due to the global pandemic, the descent is a warm welcome back to a place I once called home.

As an expat navigating the line between East and West, I'm eager to see how Singapore Changi International Airport (SIN), consistently ranked as the world's best, has evolved since my last visit.

On the descent, the familiar announcement from the flight attendants reminds us of Singapore's strict laws regarding drugs, paraphernalia, and weapons, including anything shaped like a weapon.

It's a testament to the nation's commitment to safety, making it one of the safest places in the world. So, leave those items at home; you won't need them here.

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Travelers disembark from the plane at Singapore Changi International Airport | iVisa

Arrivals and Immigration: A comprehensive guide to Singapore's largest airport

As you disembark at Singapore's airport, you'll be immediately greeted by a long arrivals hallway that leads to the immigration area. Whether you're a resident or a visitor, everyone, including children, must complete an SG Arrival Card (SGAC) before entering the country.

You can pre-register online up to three days in advance, but if you haven't already, don't worry! The immigration hall has QR codes and fast Wifi for easy access to the form.

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Singapore arrivals QR code outside the immigration auto-gates at Singapore Changi International Airport.| iVisa

Once you've completed the form, you'll likely be in the automated immigration lanes. You'll scan your passport and fingerprints here as the gate takes your photo. However, don't be alarmed if your fingerprints are rejected on the first try.

This can happen for various reasons, such as frequent handwashing and hand sanitizer use, chemical exposure, age, or genetic factors.

If your fingerprints are not accepted, you'll be directed to an immigration officer for manual processing. I noticed that this happened to a few passengers, including myself.

Despite going through the manual immigration process because my fingerprints could not be read at the auto-gates, I found the line for an officer to be relatively short, thanks to most passengers passing through the auto-gates. I passed through quickly and without issue.

The overall process, from arrival to immigration, took around twenty minutes. If you go through an autogate and have your form pre-filled out, it’ll likely take you less than five minutes.

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Travelers wait for their luggage on the baggage carousel at Singapore Changi International Airport.| iVisa

After clearing immigration, you'll be taken to a clean baggage claim area where your luggage will be waiting. If you have nothing to declare, you can simply pass through customs and step into the vibrant city of Singapore. The efficiency and speed of this international airport make it a welcoming and stress-free experience for travelers.

Pro-tip: Singapore has a high vice tax on items like cigarettes and alcohol. It is much cheaper to buy these items Duty-Free right after immigration.

Arrivals Hall: Your one-stop destination

The Arrivals Hall at Singapore's airport is a well-organized and convenient space for travelers. It features multiple international ATMs and money exchange counters, ensuring easy access to local currency. While credit cards are widely accepted in Singapore, it's worth noting that smaller establishments like hawker centers and local restaurants often only accept cash. So, if you plan on exploring the local culinary scene, carrying some cash with you is advisable.

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A traveler withdraws Singapore Dollars in the arrivals hall at Singapore Changi International Airport. | iVisa

Getting Connected: Where to get cell connection in Singapore

Staying connected is a breeze in Singapore, thanks to the availability of SIM cards at the Changi Recommended booths throughout the arrival halls in every terminal.

These booths offer a selection of telecom providers, although the short-term tourist SIM cards can be a bit pricey.

For a more cost-effective option, consider purchasing an eSIM before arrival or getting a SIM card once you're in the city. Alternatively, you can rely on Singapore's fast and free WiFi, which is available throughout the city, making it easy to stay connected without a SIM card for a short period.

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A traveler waits near a Changi Recommends booth before collecting their SIM card. | iVisa

The Changi Recommends booth serves as a one-stop shop for tourists, offering SIM cards, concierge services for booking tourist experiences, and assistance with transportation. It's a great resource for getting the most out of your visit to Singapore.

Pro-Tip: Download the Changi App to see all the amenities, services, attractions, restaurants, and airport information. It's your personal airport concierge!

Transport - Getting around is a breeze

Singapore boasts some of the best roads and public transportation systems in the world, making it incredibly easy to navigate the city from the airport. With multiple convenient options, you'll be able to reach your destination with ease.

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Sign displays different rideshare apps in Singapore. | iVisa

Right next to many of the Changi Recommends desks, you'll find QR codes and ride-sharing coupons from the airport into the city.

Popular Southeast Asia apps such as Grab, Gojek, Zig, Ryde, and Tada are all safe and reliable options for getting around the city.

Signs are strategically placed throughout the airport to guide you to the designated pick-up areas for ride-hailing services.

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A sign points to public transportation from Singapore Changi International Airport. | iVisa

Alternatively, you can use Singapore's clean, comfortable, air-conditioned public buses to reach your destination. The city's well-connected public transportation network makes exploring the various neighborhoods and attractions at your leisure easy. The easiest way to get on the right bus line is to plug your destination into a map app and select public transportation.

The information is kept up to date and can easily be tracked on the SG Buses app. To get there, look for signs pointing to MRT or city buses.

Pro-tip: Get a public transport card to save money and time when using public transportation throughout the city.

Eat and shop at Jewel Changi Airport

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Travelers enjoy the Jewel at Changi shopping center outside terminal one at Singapore Changi International Airport. | iVisa

Jewel Changi Airport boasts a stunning shopping and dining center. It features a grand waterfall in the middle, called the HSBC Rain Vortex, the world's tallest indoor waterfall. This magnificent feature makes Jewel a must-see attraction, even if you're just transiting through Singapore.

While exploring Jewel, you can indulge in various delicious food options from the numerous restaurants and eateries. It's a great place to grab a bite while waiting for your hotel check-in time. I took one of the buses between terminals to do just that.

Before your trip, make sure to also read Traveling to Singapore: 9 Useful tips for a hassle-free trip and 8 unusual things to do at the Jewel Changi Airport.

Are you departing from Singapore Changi International Airport? Check out our Departures Guide here.

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