Secret to eating like a local (& cheaply) at Changi Airport

Eating at an airport is never a cheap option, even in Asia, where our Kiwi dollar goes much further. I always thought you just have to suck it up and chalk it to one of the costs of travelling. So, I was intrigued Lil Bro told me “You can get excellent hawker food at local prices at Changi!” It turns out Mi and Di had also stumbled across it; they had followed an informed traveller, but could not remember where it was located.

Changi airport is a old friend, Singapore being my preferred transit city, and I thought I had familiarised myself with all its nooks and crannies across the 3 Terminals; the Butterfly Garden, iConnect, the snooze lounge chairs and even where the supermarkets are located. But I’ve missed out on the most important part.

By the miracle that is Google, the secret was readily revealed. The food courts in Terminal 1 and 2 are in fact the staff canteens that are also opened to the public. The one in Terminal 3 is apparently a more fancy shopping-mall-type food court. These are all in the public side of Changi, which means you will have to go through immigration into the public area. A very straightforward task if you don’t have much carry-on luggage; you’ll have to fill in a departure card to say you’re in Singapore for 1 day and get your passport stamped.

For Terminal 1, go down the escalator to Level 1, head past Burger King (conveniently located by the escalator), then leave the building through the glass doors. Turn left and follow the Staff Canteen signage to the basement.

There are around 20 stalls, serving a range of dishes, from Chinese, Malay, Thai to Japanese. Not all the stalls are open at any given time. My first stopover, I arrived just before the closing time of 8pm, and only 3 stalls were still open, which included the drinks counter, the yong tau fu stall and a noodle stall. In the staff canteen, there are two prices; one for staff and one for the public. The public price is the ‘regular’ price, the staff prices are subsidied. My fist meal was a pan mee, which I found rather chewy, and the vegetarian dumplings did not taste that fresh.

At my second stopover, my hours were more civilised, so most stalls were open. Master Sham soup master was our favourite; Di’s chicken herbal soup ($8.00) with yam rice ($1.00) was fantastic. I came back to Master Sham at third stopover and had the pork and lotus root soup ($4.00), and it was outstanding. So tasty and comforting, exactly what you want in between flights.

My pick was from the Malay stall, nasi lemak ($1.60) and pulut panggang ($1.00). They were both excellent as well, though I found the sambal a mite too spicy for me.

I didn’t make it to the other two foodcourts, as I’d read that Terminal 1 was the best. Though next time I’m at Changi I will go and hunt down the other two.

Terminal 1, Basement
On Level 1, exit straight past Burger King to outside, turn left, go down stairs to the staff canteen.
Opening hours 7am – 8pm

Terminal 2, Level 3M
Go past Starbucks on Level 2 to the carpark, then take stairs up to Level 3M (
Opening hours 7am – 8pm

Terminal 3, Basement 2
Take escalator or lift to Basement 2

6 thoughts on “Secret to eating like a local (& cheaply) at Changi Airport

  1. Nom Nom Panda says:

    Nice one. We had some terrible food at the airport before we stumbled across something like this. Will need to pull out your directions next time we have a stopover in Singapore!

  2. easyfoodhacks says:

    The staff subsidy differs on item, the ice kacang was $1.70 for public, $1.00 for staff, and the noodle dishes were about 0.50 – 0.70 cents cheaper for staff.

    Hmm… good question about NZ airports. I haven't had any great food in or around Akl airport. My indulgence is Bookmarque in the Departure lounge for J'aime les macarons' salted caramel macarons.

  3. maddy says:

    Can you please suggest some good stuff that we could do over the Changi Airport. We have a lay off time for 9hrs and found your article interesting and someone who can guide us properly. If you can suggest us some good restaurants where we can get lunch at a cheaper rate and other parts of the airport where we can enjoy.

  4. easyfoodhacks says:

    Thanks for your comment Maddy. I would suggest getting out of Changi airport if you have 9 hours, – especially if your luggage is already checked through to the next destination. Singapore is really easy (and cheap) to get around. Head to Chinatown, or Arab St, or even Orchard Road.

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