Singapore, a place on Earth where it’s always summer, hot and humid, a modern Asian megalopolis in Southeast Asia, where fast-food is healthy and people are friendly.
Singapore Changi Airport is a great stopover, where anyone can find something interesting to do, be it a couple of hours or a few days.
Having started our adventure from Amsterdam, and aiming to New Zealand and Australia, we had Singapore as a middle stop and another travel destination on the way, to have some rest between long flights and to add to our experience. That was a perfect arrangement: a clean, toddler-friendly, beautiful and diverse country with lots of things to do.
But even if you have just a few hours between the flights, you can find enough entertainment within the Singapore airport as well: a swimming pool, spa, playgrounds etc. If your stopover is between 5,5 and 24 hours, you can board on a free bus tour around Singapore.
In our experience, it’s best to have a long-haul flight during the night – there is not much entertainment on a plane, and sleeping is the best thing to do, especially for a toddler. Even if YOU cannot sleep with a child in your arms, you can at least watch movies (a rare luxury for many parents of little kids) and relax without thinking how to entertain your kid. Our flight from London to Singapore took 12 hours, most of which Sasha slept.
When we were booking our tickets, we were so happy to find bulkhead seats available. We jumped at the opportunity at once and were looking forward to testing it. Though our dreams to have a comfortable night didn’t come true.
The bassinet gets installed so high that it was impossible to put the sleeping child there without waking her up. She was clearly upset and it took a while to put her back to sleep. We tried to lay on the floor, on the blankets, but BA don’t allow that. Some airlines do, so maybe it’s worth trying. I tried to put our toddler in the sling but she had clearly outgrown that age – if this trick played perfectly when she was 1, on our long flight to Canada, now that she was 2 years of age, more wriggly in her sleep and definitely bigger, the sling was not comfortable for her at all.
Another bonus of the night flight is the opportunity to see the sunrise above the clouds. So beautiful, but the disadvantage of the bulkhead seats is that you cannot really enjoy the view.
You can see how considerate of the people in need Singapore is from the moment you land and enter the airport. Wherever you have to queue at the airport, there’s a special priority line for the disabled, pregnant and families with small children. Those lines were almost empty and we could quickly reach our taxi, well, as quickly as you can with a toddler.
Riding through the city in a taxi, it’s a good chance to see the city and hear stories only a local can tell, and the drivers were usually quite talkative and willing to share their experience and tips. Most people speak pretty good English, it’s one of the official languages in Singapore, so communication was never a problem.
Singapore is green and lush, due to the hot and humid climate all year round, you don’t tire to admire all the exotic palms, colourful birds and flowers which are everywhere, even on the territory of the airport. There are a lot of construction works in the city, and mixing trucks are frequent on the roads, to our toddler’s delight.
Singapore Public transportation system is very good, we haven’t had the chance to use it though, as the quickest and most convenient means to move about is a car anyway. We didn’t need to rent a car – it was never a problem to catch a taxi or Uber at any attraction and the costs are not much higher than public transport. Singapore has been the only country we’ve been to that has an Uber category with a child seat, so we could safely use it here. If you plan to use public transport a lot, a combined ticket would be a good option. We didn’t take it as, anyway, we usually walk a lot during our travels and we suspected that we’d mostly use the services of taxi or Uber. Singapore public transport is very clean too, partly because it’s forbidden to eat or drink there, water might be acceptable but still frown upon.
Singapore streets are also very clean. The laws for littering are very strict, from fees to imprisonment. Notwithstanding the hot and humid climate all year round, we haven’t seen any insects, except for a few mosquitoes. That’s because the streets are regularly washed and the bushes get sprayed.
Where to stay
You can find any kind of accommodation in Singapore. We like using Airbnb because it’s convenient, safe, you can choose a private room, a bed or a whole apartment, there’s always a kitchen, which is important when travelling with children and you can meet interesting people as an added bonus. On our way back we chose something completely different, but this time, it was a room with a private bathroom in a huge bohemian bungalow, where about 5 more rooms were rented, so we could meet some people from different corners of the planet and of various cultural background, exchange stories and experiences with them.
Where and what to eat
There are all kinds of places to eat here too: from expensive restaurants to hawkers, good even if really cheap.
On our first evening in Singapore (it was a night flight but we arrived in the afternoon, due to the 6 hours difference in time), we went to the nearest food court. A food court is not only a place to eat, but a piece of experience as well: amidst a clean and organised country there are these islands of real Asia, with all its hustle and bustle, loud voices and strong unusual smells. We were lost. A stall with Thai food drew my attention. The soup would taste good if it wasn’t for the aftertaste of burning fire in the mouth and throat. I couldn’t manage to eat much, it was just too hot.
We enjoyed Chinese restaurants in Singapore. And that’s where our picky eater changed her food preferences. After our trip to Italy she was obsessed with spaghetti but the noodles Asian style she didn’t like at all. Rice took the favourite place in her every day menu.
The most amazing thing about Singapore food is the fruit, sold everywhere: in supermarkets, at food courts, in the streets. What you can not find in Europe, durian, is a popular fruit here. We bought it, and tried, and couldn’t eat it. The fruit is considered to be very healthy but it stinks so bad. What was left (that is, pretty much everything), we gave to a Thai woman who also rented a room in our bungalow. She was happy, we too (hate wasting food).
Things to do in Singapore with a toddler
Singapore is very child-friendly: there are playgrounds all over the place, outside and inside, separated for toddlers and bigger kids and equipped with water areas, so handy in such a hot climate; changing mats are present in both female and male toilets, the people are very fond of little kids and in kids stores there’s an enormous choice of goods, including cloth diapers, which I had never seen in physical stores before.
Locals avoid going out during the day, when it’s hot, preferring the air-conditioned insides of homes, offices, malls or transport, and going out in the evening, when the air cools down a bit. But having 3 days to explore the city, we dared out during the day as well. The city is busy at night, no less than during the day, but night entertainments are not for a family with a small child.
Day 1: Botanic Garden
Though usually a botanic garden is not our first choice of activity, in Singapore it’s well worth it: the lush greenery of all possible sort and kind, huge, tiny, poisonous, healing, all divided into areas (admission to the poisonous area only with a guide), playgrounds with sprinkles, giving so needed refreshment.
There’s even a stage for concerts, with beautiful green slopes serving as the amphitheater.
When you get hungry, Food for tots is a nice cafe to have a light meal. They have pencils and paper for the little ones and fans, which make survival in the heat easier.
Day 2: Singapore Zoo
Singapore Zoo is big, has interesting exhibits, and lots of activities that you can do on the premises, like night safari, river safari, various guided tours, camps, educational and entertainment, or combined – edutainment (education+entertainment) programs, you can even have a jungle breakfast!
The zoo has well-thought-of facilities: at the entrance you can rent a stroller or a wagon for the kid(s), an electric scooter, or a wheelchair; for those who don’t like to or cannot walk, there is a guided tour tram ride; fans hang in the places where many people can gather and finally, at the exit, there are showers in the WC (very handy in such a climate)!
For the little ones, there are playgrounds, lots of activities, changing mats in almost all the toilets, including male ones.
In our toddler tempo, with visiting playgrounds, eating, resting, walking up and down the stairs, and the seal show, we spent around 8 hours in the zoo. For those who can be more mobile, it can take about 4-5 hours. We didn’t go on any safaris or guided tours, preferring avoiding the stress of guided activities conflicting with toddler needs.
When we are at a new place, we go to a museum as the last resort, like, when the weather is bad or there’s nothing else left to do. Singapore has plenty of things to do, but walking in the streets during the day is almost mission impossible, not to mention sleeping. It was our initial plan to walk the Esplanade Park with our toddler sleeping in her stroller but the heat made us hide in the nearest museum, The Asian Civilisations Museum. It was a good decision: it was cool and mostly quiet there, so Sasha could sleep in peace and we enjoyed a couple of hours of culture. The museum is particularly interesting with its different focus on the historical events: the things that European museums wouldn’t tell, like how the Dutch were coming to Asia, taking goods and knowledge from the local cultures and no matter how they tried, failed to achieve the level of the Asian masters.
After the museum tour, lunch at the museum cafe is a good choice, for two reasons: it is the closest restaurant and has a very nice play corner.
Having a plan to attend a concert at the theatre, we had to hurry to avoid the tropical rain making us soak. Luckily, the theatre is combined in an enormous complex with metro and shopping malls, thus you can safely spend a day there, without the need to go into the scorching heat or pouring rain. Marina Square has playgrounds and kids shops.
Our third day had to end much sooner initially but our flight was delayed by 9 hours (thanks Jetstar), from the convenient time of 8pm – our toddler’s bedtime, to 5 am. Luckily, our Airbnb room was free that night, and the hosts kindly offered us to stay, without any additional costs. We were at a loss, what to do, go to the airport and hope that our toddler will sleep in the stroller there, or spend a few hours in bed and then go in the middle of the night. Both variants were less than ideal, but we made the right choice, going back to the room, having a couple of hours’ nap, a shower and feeling so much refreshed and ready for the airport hustle. Sasha slept for 6 hours that night and woke up already in the airport in a great mood – she was in her mommy’s arms, surrounded by lots of airport lights and other fun things, she was ready to explore that new space. By the time we got on the plane, she was tired enough and ready for her nap. This unexpected difficulty showed us that flying with a toddler is so doable, in any circumstances.