March 07, 2014

Scooting through Singapore. Travelling on the cheap.

Singapore has recently been named the most expensive city in Asia, overtaking Tokyo, and I was flying there and stopping over in transit for 12 hours on my way to explore the volcanoes of Java. I wanted to do it as cheaply as possible. Here is how I did it.

1. Fly a low cost carrier. I went on Scoot,  the low cost offshoot of Singapore Airlines. I had heard good and bad things about Scoot, and had low expectations. I was pleasantly surprised. Helpful and efficient cabin staff (even better than the parent airline), comfortable seats, reasonably priced food and drinks, an arrival 30 minutes earlier than scheduled, and a ticket half the price of Garuda or Qantas.

2. Check in early for a free seat upgrade at the airport. In these days of checking in via the web, it actually pays to  do it the old fashioned way. I got a really good seat on an emergency exit doing this. Scoot charge $60 more for these seats when booking online, being an expensive seat on a low cost carrier these often remain unsold, until they become available at no extra cost during Airport check in.

3. Sleep for free at Changi airport. There are some great spots which have comfy chairs and loungers on the main departure level at each of the three terminals. But even these get a lot of foot traffic, talkers and airport announcements. Head up to the second level and you will find darker and quieter areas. My pick is near the cinema in terminal 2 (dark, and nice chairs). Alternatively pay $40 for a bed for 6 hours in the Ambassador Transit hotel, just walk up and see if they have any vacancies.

4. Make use of all the wonderful free things at Changi airport. I watched `Life of Pi` at the free cinema, wandered through the sunflower gardens on the roof, and availed myself of the free internet. For a small cost you can have a swim in the rooftop pool, a massage, or a coach tour of Singapore

5. Eat cheaply. There are lots of restaurants in the airport, and they are reasonable priced compared to Australian and European airports, with approx. S$20 getting you a meal and drink in the food court. However, pop outside (you will need to go through Passport control) and go to the Staff Canteen and you end up in a fully blown and very cheap Singapore Hawker market. There is a choice of many types of cuisine at the 30 stalls- Western, Malay, Chinese and Indian, and mostly at around S$2.50 a dish. Anyone can eat there, airport staff get an extra 10% off.  There is a staff canteen at each terminal, but my favourite is at terminal 2. Walk to the western end, by the Tiger Airways check in, walk past the Starbucks towards the car park, and go up to level 3M. Open from 06:30 to late.

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