I have traveled to many countries, but am not seasoned enough to know the world inside out! Travel is expensive and time consuming. My favorite airport so far has been in Singapore because I like being able to take a shower, a nap, get a gourmet Chinese snack, coffee, and get a massage, all for a reasonable price! But, there are many other great airports out there too! Unfortunately for the USA, we are falling behind the Asians. Most of the great airports in the world seem to be in Asia, and ironically, not even necessarily in wealthy countries!
My opinions about airports
Too many airports in America are slow, poorly designed and boring with inefficient parking & shuttle service. America doesn’t feel like it wants to be on the up and up anymore. Asia is rearing to rule the world, and their airports show it. But, most airports are too much about architecture and who. Singapore is the only country that gets it. It is about giving passengers what they want and need to enjoy long hours far from home! People need a hot shower more than they need great architecture. A thrilling movie is a nice way to pass the time during a sixteen hour layover. People like it when they can in and out quickly more than they will appreciate glass walls or a glass ceiling (especially women.) Having choices of twenty things to do at an airport shows that they are thinking about me. Honestly, I give Singapore top bidding in my personal ranking system. The other airports need to think about services before I would speak highly of them!
Singapore’s Changi Airport
This is an airport with movie theaters, indoor jungles, comfortable napping lounges, luxury showers for only a few dollars, and more. You can get a massage, have choices of many nice places to have Chinese or Western food, not to mention great bars and coffee houses. You can entertain yourself for hours there. Stopovers are actually a pleasure for me in Singapore. I look forward to a chance to rest and clean up on a long flight to India. Sure, it’s nice to have a quick ice cream (with a complimentary bow) in Japan, but nothing beats that shower and nap at SIN. Additionally, they have a rooftop pool, hotels, and even a butterfly garden!
Another point I’ll make about Changi is that upon arrival, you get in and out faster than at any other airport. They check your bags before you ever see them. You just go through the immigration line, show your passport, get a quick stamp, pick up your bag, and the cab drivers are waiting for you at the exit desk. How easy! Just remember — the penalty for drug trafficking is death… (gulp!)
Additionally, you can get by with English, Chinese, Malay and sometimes Tamil in this clean and inviting country! Singaporean food is excellent with noodle shops everywhere. Try their famous Chili crab and also try a Singapore Sling — their national drink (tastes like spiked hawaiian punch by the way.) Don’t forget to visit their National Museum, the Zoo and Clarke Quay if you want to sample restaurants with great ambiance from around the globe!
Incheon International Airport — ICN
This airport serves more than seventy airlines. They have a Korean culture museum. They are very clean, have great rest areas, internet, and many choices for Korean food.
Munich Airport — Press 1 for German, or press 2 for German.
This is a very artistically designed airport with walls and ceilings made of glass. My personal experience at this airport is mildly noteworthy. There were nice restaurants in the airport complex. I witnessed some European girls enjoying a beer at 9:30 AM. You know you’re not in America when people drink beer in the morning! I got a nice (small) rental car for a reasonable price and it was easy to return as well. The clerk at McDonalds gave me a cup of water when I asked for it and told me he was doing me a favor. Maybe you will get lucky, and you will get a favor too in the form of a glass of water that would be a free courtesy in almost any other country in the world. Calling the airport about my flight was not so easy. Your language options were German, Deutch, and more German. I guess it is not like America where we cater to the needs of Spanish and sometimes Asian language speaking folks. So, I had to physically go to the airport since nobody in the entire nation of Germany would assist me in making that phone call to the airport. I guess that brings new meaning to the concept of — German Hospitality! A pretty airport is nice, but being treated like a human being gets more mileage in my book!
Hong Kong International Airport
This is one of the best airports for dining and baggage delivery. They have excellent shopping and it is also one of the cleaner airports. Enjoy a nine-hole golf course if you have a few hours to expend! The attributes of this airport are predictable. Cantonese people like to shop and dine — it is not a mystery why they have excellent facilities for both at the airport. Also, not surprisingly, Taiwan’s main airport looks more like a world trade show than an airport — that is their reason for living!
Other high ranking airports
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
Great dining, shopping and leisure options. Former military airfield.
Tokyo International Airport- Haneda
This airport is very clean and has excellent shopping.
Beijing Capital International Airport
Beijing airport has a huge volume of traffic and stays very busy.
Leave it to the Swiss! This airport has excellent security, immigration and dining facilities.
Vancouver International Airport
This airport is not that busy, but has beautiful Pacific Northwest Totem-poles and artwork throughout the airport. This airport was named best airport in North America and is reputed to have excellent staff and help facilities.
London’s Heathrow Airport
This airport is renowned for being one of the world’s busiest, most efficient and practical. But, lacks the niceties that the Singaporeans have. I guess if you fly from New York to Zurich, a stopover in London might be more on the way, than Singapore, but I still have my preference.
A final note or two
Bangalore built a new airport which started being used while I was there in 2008. In many ways it compares to some of the world’s best although it is not on anyone’s top ten list. They had many unique restaurants, coffee shops, and bars that were more eclectic and creative than in any other country I have seen. They kept the floors immaculately cleaned, but the bathrooms were a mess. The paid attendents just sat on their rears collecting two rupees per guest and let the place be a filthy disaster of a rest-room! You can build a 1st class structure in India, but if you let low-class people manage it, it will still have filthy bathrooms — guaranteed!
Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia
Although, not on anyone’s top ten list, the architecture was stunning with a massive domed ceiling and angular roof supports giving the building a very roomy feeling. The food and coffee houses were great, although I didn’t like having to change my currency. Why can’t they accept rupees or dollars without making a fuss? I enjoyed seeing Arabic music videos in one of the lobbies. One of the perks of being in an Islamic country, but I never expected it! I had a stopover, and stayed at a hotel less than a mile from the airport. The food was a choice between Chinese, Malay, and Indian food at a buffet. All I can say is that this cuisine works for me, although I like Thai and Japanese too. I’ll send them an email and let them know! Your plane might get lost, but the airport and hotels won’t!
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