Are you travelling to Singapore or departing from there on your way back home or to another destination? If so, you’ll doubtless want your experience at the airport to go as smoothly as it can.
This means, for example, knowing how to get through customs and check-in as quickly and smoothly as possible with all the correct documents to hand. It also means knowing what items you’re allowed to carry (and, for liquids, in what amounts). In addition, it means checking what Singapore Airport baggage storage and luggage handling facilities you can avail yourself of on your way in and out.
So to facilitate your visit to or from the so-called Lion City, here’s a guide to arrivals and departures from Singapore Airport (code ‘SIN’, according to the IATA – International Air Transport Association). This guide is mostly based on the country’s contender for the world’s best airport, Changi Airport, although most of its advice equally applies to the less-famous Seletar Airport.
Arrivals at Changi Airport Guide and Tips
For those of you landing at Singapore’s airport, the steps to take are relatively straightforward. In brief, you’ll need to do the following:
- Pass through the immigration check, for which you’ll need your passport and, if applicable, your Singapore visa.
- Collect your bags at the baggage claim area, if you checked bags onto your flight.
- Exit immigration through the Green or Red channel, depending on whether you have goods to declare.
- If you’re tired or need assistance, then either stop off to relax at the lounge, request a porter to transport your baggage, or place it in the Singapore Airport luggage storage facilities.
- Get out and into Singapore itself! You might be staying at a nearby Singapore Airport transit hotel to start with, or you could be taking advantage of the ample transport links to immediately head to the city centre and the heart of the action.
In brief, getting off your flight, through the airport and into Singapore should be lemon squeezy! Just in case, let’s look at each of these steps in a bit more detail below:
1. Pass Through the Changi Flight Arrivals Immigration Check
When you get off your flight, you form a line at the immigration check. Once it’s your turn, the attending immigration officer will examine your documents.
Typically, you’ll need a valid passport to enter Singapore, plus a visa if you’re from any of 35 eligible countries including India, China or Russia. Alternatively, if you’re from the US, UK, EU, Australia or New Zealand, among other nations, then you’re exempt (woohoo!)
If you’re a frequent traveller to Singapore, you might consider enrolling for “contactless clearance” with the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA). This is available to Singapore citizens, long-term residents, those with a work permit and visitors registered on the ICA’s Frequent Traveller Programme. It requires you to submit your facial and iris data, but could save you time getting through immigration if you’re coming and going a lot!
2. Collect Your Baggage
When you’re past immigration, just follow the signs to the baggage collection area. You’ll see your bags spinning around the carousel, so make sure to catch them when they get to you. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until they revolve around again!
If you didn’t check in any luggage when you caught your flight, you can skip this area.
3. Exit Immigration, Depending on Whether You Have Goods to Declare
Next, you exit through the green channel if you have no goods to declare, and the red channel if you do. To explain, if you’re bringing new purchases into Singapore (such as cigarettes, tobacco or liquor), then you must declare them.
Fortunately, however, you’re exempt from paying the 7% Goods and Services Tax (GST) if your goods meet the following conditions:
- Your goods are neither tobacco nor liquor.
- You’ve been away for less than 48 hours and their value is below 100 SGD (roughly 75 USD).
- You’ve been away for over 48 hours and their value is beneath 500 SGD (roughly 375 USD).
It’s also worth noting that there’s a range of objects that it’s either prohibited to bring into Singapore or that you’ll require special permission for. You must also declare these items, and they include:
- Armaments or items shaped like these (such as lighters).
- Martial arts equipment.
- Other items including handcuffs and pepper spray.
4. Take a Break or Store Your Luggage if Need Be
At this point, you’re home free! You can choose to exit Changi Airport and head into Singapore. However, if you’re tired, want to relax having just got off your flight, or perhaps store your luggage to pick up later, then there are several Singapore Airport facilities to choose from:
- Visit The Haven, Singapore Airport’s lounge. It’s reportedly a premium facility, with 18 nap rooms and 13 shower rooms. Perfect to recharge your batteries!
- Store your luggage. This way, you can visit the airport’s shops, grab or coffee, or eat a meal without dragging your bags around with you, helping you to chill out.
- Ask for a porter’s services. If you’re carrying a lot of heavy luggage, you can request a porter’s services to carry it out to Singapore Airport’s transport links on your behalf.
5. Leave the Airport, to Either Enter a Hotel or Go to the City
Depending on your plans, you can now either choose to visit a nearby Singapore Airport transit hotel or head straight into the Lion City. The airport boasts an impressive range of transport links, including:
- Public buses
- From Terminals 1, 2 and 3, you can take Nos. 24, 27, 34, 36, 53, 110 and 858.
- From Terminal 4, you can take Nos. 24, 34, 36 and 110 from Car Park 4A, or Nos. 27, 53 and 858 from the SATS Inflight Catering Centre 1.
- Singapore Airport train
- Changi Airport has a stop on Singapore’s MRT (metro) system. It’s open from 5.31 AM Monday to Saturday, or 5.59 PM on public holidays and Sunday, and closes around midnight.
- There are taxi stands outside the Arrivals areas of Terminals 1 and 3. The ride takes about 30 minutes and costs from 20-40 SGD. There’s a small surcharge for taking a taxi from the airport.
- You can, of course, drive from the airport to Singapore. There are pick-up points in the Arrivals areas. It will take you around 15 minutes to reach the city centre, depending on the traffic.
- Singapore Airport shuttle
- This costs 9 SGD per adult and 6 SGD per child under 12. It departs every 15 minutes. To find out more, speak to the airport’s Ground Transport Concierges (GTCs) in the Arrival Halls.
So with this information to hand, your Singapore Airport arrival should be a breeze for you! From here, you’re able to visit top tourist attractions including the Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay Sands and the Merlion fountain.
Departures from Singapore Airport Guide and Tips
To depart this country from Singapore’s Changi Airport, you have to go through numerous checks. These include making sure you’ve got your valid passport and flight tickets, putting your belongings through security, plus finding your flight gate. Here are the steps to follow:
Before You Arrive
- Before you go to the airport, check that your mobile operator offers you phone coverage and internet access while you’re abroad. If it doesn’t, then consider unlocking your smartphone so that it accepts foreign SIM cards, so you can buy one to use on your trip.
- Pack your luggage, ensuring that it complies with your flight carrier’s size and weight limits, as well as the security regulations for liquids (see below for more details).
- Check in for Singapore Airport online in advance, if your flight carrier allows you to. If it doesn’t, then you’ll have to check in once you arrive at Singapore Airport.
After You Arrive
- Once at Changi and you’ve checked in, you go through the Singapore Airport security screening. You’ll first need your passport and boarding pass ready to enter this area. Then, to prepare your luggage for checking, you’ll need to separate both any liquids and electronics from your things.
- Once you’re past security, check the screens to find your flight gate. If you’ve arrived early, it might be yet to be announced, in which case you can relax or visit the shops!
- When the screens say that your flight is ‘boarding’, go to your gate. You’ll again need your passport and flight ticket to show the boarding staff. Have a pleasant flight!
Please find below more detail about each of these steps.
1. Check That Your Mobile Operator Offers Foreign Coverage
Depending on where you’re flying to, your mobile operator could provide you with international calls coverage, internet access or both. However, it’s best to confirm this in advance, as well as the fees they’ll charge you.
If you feel that the fees are excessive, you might consider unlocking your mobile to enable you to install a foreign SIM card while you’re abroad. You can do this at any good telecommunications shop. The advantage of this is that you can then buy a local SIM while you’re away to make calls and access the internet at domestic rates!
2. Pack Your Luggage in Line with Weight, Size and Security Rules
Changi Airport’s luggage weight and size allowances are as follows:
- For economy passengers, your hand luggage can be up to 7kg and 115cm (width and height).
- For economy passengers, your checked-in luggage can be up to 20kg.
However, these rules may vary according to your flight carrier, so check in advance. Also, you’ll have to pay a fee to take any excess luggage with you on the flight.
Be aware that you can only take liquids in containers up to 100ml in your hand luggage. These must be placed in a clear plastic bag and separated from the rest of your luggage during the security screening, so it’s best to pack these somewhere you can easily access in advance.
You can take liquids up to 1 litre in total (so up to 10 containers of 100ml each in the clear plastic bag). Any liquids above 100ml must be placed in your checked-in luggage.
Also, you’ll have to separate your electronic devices at the security screening, such as laptops or tablets. Given this, it’s also handy to pack these somewhere convenient to get to.
In terms of how you dress for the airport, it’s worth noting that, if you wear any baggy coats or jackets, high-cut boots, or hats, you’ll have to remove these for the security screening. So to save you time at this point, it’s worth considering dressing lightly and in trainers.
3. Check in, Either Online or at the Airport
Once you’ve checked your mobile coverage abroad and packed your bags appropriately, it’s a good time to check in for your flight. If your flight carrier allows you to do this online, this is probably the best option, as it saves you visiting the Singapore Airport check-in desk. To check in online, you’ll typically need your flight reservation and your passport numbers.
If you can only check in at the airport, then here are the steps to do so:
- Once at the airport, examine the screens to find your flight carrier’s check-in desk.
- Approach the desk with your passport, flight confirmation and visa if required.
- If everything’s in order, you’ll be issued your boarding pass.
- Exit the check-in desk and head to the security screening area!
As well as the check-in desk, Changi Airport also provides FAST (Fast and Seamless Travel) check-in terminals for you to enter your details and obtain your boarding pass by yourself.
4. Go Through the Security Screening
Once you’ve checked in and you’ve got your boarding pass, you head to Singapore Airport security. To enter this area, you’ll first need to scan both your passport and boarding pass.
Here, you place your luggage onto the trays provided, making sure to separate any liquids and electronic devices as we state above. Then, place the trays onto the conveyor belts. Both your luggage and yourself are scanned and, provided everything’s tip-top, you simply collect your luggage on the other side of the checkpoint and go on your way!
However, if the security staff detect anything either in your luggage or on your person, you may be subject to further checks. This could include a pat down if the machine beeped as you walked through or, if it’s your luggage, the security officer might want to take a look inside.
5. Check the Screens to Find Your Flight Gate
After you pass security, check the screens to see what gate your flight is leaving from. Depending on how early you’ve arrived, the screen will either show you the gate number and the estimated time to boarding, or directly say that your flight is already boarding.
If the former is the case, you’ve got time to look around the Singapore Airport duty-free shops and grab a drink or meal. If the latter’s the case, get a wriggle on, as your flight’s getting ready to depart already!
6. At the Boarding Gate, Catch Your Flight
At your boarding gate, you’ll need to show the staff your passport and boarding pass again. Once they’ve done so, it’s time to say ‘goodbye’ to Changi Airport and ‘hello’ to your plane! Bon voyage!
If you like Singapore so much that you decide to move here, then read our article on How to Obtain Singapore Permanent Residence to start a new life in the Lion City.