A beginner's guide to transiting Singapore's Changi Airport

A beginner's guide to transiting Singapore's Changi Airport

Connecting flights often prove challenging for travellers and the actual ‘how to’ can vary from one city to the next, but here at Singapore’s Changi Airport transiting couldn’t be simpler – even for first-time jetsetters or those taking their inaugural international business trip.

For starters, Changi has three terminals, all for international flights, and which are conveniently numbered as T1, T2 and T3.

Qantas, Emirates and British Airways flights depart from and arrive into Terminal 1; SriLankan Airlines, SilkAir and Scoot use Terminal 2; Jet Airways flies through Terminal 3 and Singapore Airlines uses both Terminals 2 and 3, yet all of its Australian and European routes fly through only T3.

The three terminals are all connected ‘airside’, so if you arrive into one terminal but your onward flight departs from another – such as flying Qantas into Terminal 1 and connecting to Jet Airways in Terminal 3 – there’s no need to clear immigration or to leave and re-enter the building.

Connecting at Changi Airport: the basics

Stepping off your first flight, you’ll be delivered straight into the departure lounge among all other travellers. If you already have your onward boarding pass and any luggage has been tagged through, you’re free to head straight to your next departure gate, or to a lounge if you have access.

Navigating the airport is incredibly easy with clear signage wherever you look…

… and which often provides a rough estimate of how far you are from your desired gate:

Many assistance kiosks are also scattered throughout the terminals which allow you to enter your flight number manually or simply scan your boarding pass to receive visual directions to your boarding gate…

… and again, with a time estimate from your current location.

Connecting at Changi Airport: changing terminals

While it’s possible to walk from one end of one terminal to the far end of another, the sheer size of Changi can see that trek taking over an hour – instead, look for the Skytrain which runs between the terminals, arrives every few minutes and moves you around in mere moments.

Different trains move in different directions, so check the screens before you hop aboard. In this case, the Skytrain was bound for Terminal 1, taking us there from Terminal 3.

The trains are all driverless, so for a stickybeak of the airport around you, head to the front of the carriage where you’ll have a perfect view.

Note however that the normal Skytrain route from Terminal 3 (B gates) to Terminal 2 (E gates) is currently closed due to airport redevelopment works, so if that’s the route you were taking, follow the temporary shuttle bus signage instead:

Connecting at Changi: baggage but no boarding pass

If you’ve arrived but don’t have your onward boarding pass, instead keep your eyes peeled for the transfer counters (or ‘transfer lounges’) throughout the terminal concourse.

Some transfer counters cater only to specific airlines, but to make things easier for travellers each offers a printed list of airlines and shows which transfer counter you should approach for each one to check-in for your onward flight.

In most cases your luggage will be sent right through to your final destination and won’t need to be touched in Singapore, although in a few scenarios – particularly with low-cost airlines like Scoot – you may need to clear passport control, collect your baggage and then proceed to check-in again.

It’s certainly not the most convenient route, so make your first stop the transfer counter and see if they can help before taking that time-consuming detour.

Connecting at Changi Airport: security screening

Unlike most other airports where you’d first go through security screening and then enter the main departures area, Changi reserves the security formalities for the actual departure gate just before take-off.

Each gate or group of gates is separated as its own secure area and ‘closes’ either 10 or 20 minutes before departure, depending on the particular flight and airline.

For that reason, even if you’re flying in business or first class, it’s wise to arrive at the gate a little earlier than usual to avoid rushing through security, being stuck behind a long queue, or worse, missing your flight.

As you’d expect of any international airport, you’ll also be asked to remove your jacket before stepping through the metal detector and to separate both your laptop and any liquids from your bag, which you’ll have practiced before leaving Australia.

For more information about connecting between flights in Singapore, head to the Changi Airport website.

Also read: How to get fast-track passport clearance at Changi Airport

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Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!
 

28 comments

  • eminere

    eminere

    8 Dec, 2015 09:50 am

    SIN really is a lovely airport, whether you're originating, terminating or transiting there.

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  • Hugo

    Hugo

    8 Dec, 2015 10:48 am

    Everyone praises it to the moon, I'm not that enthused. 

    Everywhere is a long walk from everywhere through a neverending shopping mall. You gotta go through security at the gate, which sucks. And I find it hard to navigate because every direction looks the same. 

    Maybe I'm nitpicking, it's just an airport, but I don't understand the enthusiasm.

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  • Mark

    Mightyreds

    8 Dec, 2015 11:18 am

    Hugo, if you think Changi is a 'shopping mall' don't goto Dubai, that is an aweful airport. Long walks, no atmosphere and just feels well below standard, especially compared to Changi, HK or Seoul.

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  • eminere

    eminere

    8 Dec, 2015 11:37 am

    "Everywhere is a long walk from everywhere through a neverending shopping mall."

    Have you been to DXB, ICN and BKK, just to name a few?  Give me SIN any day.

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  • Serg

    Serg

    8 Dec, 2015 11:43 am

    Yea, I like transit via BKK, but truly hate their airport! Singapore forever!

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  • AB__CD

    AB__CD

    8 Dec, 2015 11:55 am

    So how do you like transiting through an airport you hate?

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  • Serg

    Serg

    8 Dec, 2015 12:02 pm

    Usually I take overnight rest in Bangkok and most important it is significantly cheaper to fly via BKK comparing with SIN. If money where not an issue I would use SIN only.

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  • AB__CD

    AB__CD

    8 Dec, 2015 11:56 am

    KUL is even worse, IMO. I'd take a shopping mall over neverending expanses of glass and steel, and the occassional interesting shop tossed in.

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  • Mark

    Mightyreds

    8 Dec, 2015 10:31 am

    Great airport 

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  • Serg

    Serg

    8 Dec, 2015 10:42 am

    Nice guide, but yet would be even nicer if Cactus Garden and swimming pool was mentioned. Cactus Garden is really nice experience for those who have spare hour (or still smoke) and swimming pool is priceless for 4 hours transfer time. In fact when I flying via Singapore I try to plan schedule in such way that I will have 4 hours layover.

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  • Mark

    bobloblaw

    8 Dec, 2015 12:16 pm

    For those flying SQ or Silkair and transiting through Singapore, there is an entitlement to a "Changi Dollar Voucher" worth S$40 which can be used at the airport. I can't post the link but more details are available on Sinagpore Airline's website.

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  • eminere

    eminere

    8 Dec, 2015 12:51 pm

    It is a most excellent incentive for transiting passengers to choose SIN. Unless things have changed I believe this voucher can even be used at one of the pay-in lounges. 

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  • Ho Really

    Ho Really

    9 Dec, 2015 11:30 am

    Nothing has changed. The only thing is that the promotion ends in March every year and seems to start again (whether that is $SGD20 or $SGD40). Singapore and Changi like to give their guests incentives. Good on them.

    Cheers

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  • Mark Ward

    mjward555

    9 Dec, 2015 11:47 am

    The last two times I transited SIN I was only given $20, they said that was the value for Phuket and the 2nd time was from Manila. I challenged them on the 2nd occassion but they would not budge.

    I have just checked the link above and there is nothing on different values for these destinations. I suspect it was because I had one way tickets and would have happily shown them my SYD-MNL ticket if required.

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  • sim86on

    sim86on

    8 Dec, 2015 01:03 pm

    Transited through Changi last night. 

    Excellent signage & even with a late gate change (& terminal change) we departed on time (which means no one got lost!)

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  • wozcor1

    wozcor1

    8 Dec, 2015 01:29 pm

    I flew MEL>SIN>HKG for Cup weekend - and yes - received the $40 Changi Vouchers (2 x $20). Can be redeemed at the lounge upstairs. The redemption office is tucked away but easy to find. One voucher can be used for Duty Free & the other $20 can be used for general merchandise eg: magazines, meal. It is good value as I used $20 for duty free aftershave - and if you are travelling as a couple - you can use $40 for duty free.

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  • Fonga

    Fonga

    8 Dec, 2015 02:32 pm

    Thanks Chris, might be nice to run an article on how to make the most of the Changi experience. Each terminal is worth a visit if you have a long wait. They all have little hidden features. You can have a swim, visit a butterfly house, be mesmerised by the crazy water drop installation. Plus a load of restaurants and cafes and on-the-day performances to enjoy. If you want a truly unique Singaporean experience and you have a few evening hours to kill, catch the MRT a couple of stops to Bedok hawker markets and pig out on oyster omlettes, stingray, carrot cake and durian, washed down with sugar cane juice. It is very easy to escape the airline lounge/shopping mall cocoon!

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  • jianga

    jianga

    8 Dec, 2015 05:43 pm

    Not sure if anyone mentioned it already but Changi also has cinemas (T2 & T3 I believe) for transiting passengers and I think they are free. There are spa/massage centres too at some of the terminals. Also look at the amount of money they spend to keep the airport fresh and new, the renovations they did/doing with T1 and T2, the upcoming new T4, the new garden/marketplace complex they're building in the middle of the three termials (it's like a mini Gardens by the Bay), not the mention their grand plan for the future T5. Changi is already among the best but they always want to be better than the best, and that's what makes it THE BEST airport in the world!

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  • Ho Really

    Ho Really

    15 Dec, 2015 06:24 pm

    According to the World Travel Awards announced on Saturday (12 Dec) in Casablanca, Morocco, Changi has won the title of World's Leading Airport 2015. The sixth consecutive award and the ninth in the last ten years.

    Cheers

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  • Robert Heath

    Sema4beach

    8 Dec, 2015 09:31 pm

    Singapore for Me, Outstanding,Sometimes when I am in SGN I actually go down to the Staff Canteen, Have a Bite, Then go for an Hour or so Look Around,Gr8t Fun! No Flight No Hurry!!

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  • Himeno

    Himeno

    9 Dec, 2015 04:14 pm

    I've had some people who often transit through SIN note things mentioned on the airport website, such as the movie theatre, pool, gardens, etc say they could never find them as there is next to no signage of the attractions at the airport.

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  • Jonnie

    Jonnie

    9 Dec, 2015 09:28 pm

    Changi gets my vote for fav airport...I'm always amazed there's no line at immigration. If Swampy could only manage that.

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  • Frank

    Frank

    10 Dec, 2015 05:28 pm

    Our favourite airport in the world, except for Perth when we arrive home!  My only gripe, is the MRT connection.  I may get this wrong, but as I recall last time we used it, we had to get there via internal train, waiting to use a lift as part of the process with no escalator, then walking past a change counter to the ticket machines which at that time did not accept credit cards, and only certain denomintaion of notes. This required a return to the said change counter, so there was a constant stream of people passing each other a number of times in opposite directions as they worked out the system.  Given how everything else in Singapore works seamlessly, it is a let down. I believe I got the sequence of events right, others may advise that this no longer happens, I hope.

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  • Ho Really

    Ho Really

    15 Dec, 2015 02:55 pm

    The MRT station at Changi runs at 90 degrees to Terminals 2 and 3 and lies approximately between Gate E20 (T2) and Gate B5 (T3). See map above. The MRT concourse can be accessed from both these terminals by escalators and lifts. Again see above map but from the Changi website for more detail. Terminal 1 is not directly connected to the MRT. That's where you need to use the Skytrain (internal shuttle). Signs are reasonably clear, however if all fails, airport staff are very helpful. Ticketing is pretty straightforward. Use cash for single run tickets. Credit card can be used but not for purchases below $SGD10 and I think this can only be done at the ticket counter. The General Ticketing Machines take Singapore's equivalent of our EFTPOS. I use the EZ-Link cards and top up.

    Cheers

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  • Neville Miller

    neville101

    21 Aug, 2016 05:06 pm

    Anyone know why Scoot insists that I have to clear customs and immigration if I arrive with another carrier on my way to Perth.  I don't understand why, if I have checked in online and have my boarding pass and only have carry on luggage, I need to go out and back in???

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  • puppy79

    puppy79

    11 Mar, 2018 10:50 am

    a great airport.i only wish i was going through there on the way to europe this year but i missed out on some great deals singapore airlines had going earlier on before i booked my flights at the end of the day on qatar.
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  • Pritha

    Pritha

    27 Mar, 2019 01:35 am

    Does booking through same airline or code share partner airline is very important to change terminal for transit flight? I heard if you didn't book transit tickets like that you are not allowed to go to other terminal. Is it true?
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Guest

16 Jul, 2019 04:47 pm

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