Can You Leave The Changi Airport When You’ve Got STPC?

T3 Changi International Airport Singapore 19 July 2009 at 3.20 am

The question above may sound like a silly question, but I needed to get the answer when I had to stop over in Changi on my way to Honolulu last week. The thing is I gotta get out of the airport cause I needed to meet a friend in SG.

…and his determination to wait for me at the other side of the gate while I’m trying to clear the immigration would seem like a chivalry that all girls crave

I have told him that I would meet him though actually what are we gonna do in the middle of the night in a “garing” SG? So like any other “smart” people, I googled and tried to find the answer and just my luck I didn’t get any informative answer.

So I asked Wulan who works in a travel agent and she’s been a very good supporter (as I may call my dear friends who support my “rendezvous” with this particular guy) and she was eager to help me. But the sms in the morning, one day before my departure, broke my heart. She wrote, and I quote, “My friend said, it depends. If the immigration holds your passport, because you got STPC, you can’t go out.”

Oh well, what should I tell my dear “gebetan” then in SG?

I decided to leave the question hanging and let my gebetan wait for me in Changi just like we have planned. I felt our rendezvous looked a little bit more romantic where two people who were eager to reunite can’t meet just because of some stupid regulations from the authority and his determination to wait for me at the other side of the gate while I’m trying to clear the immigration would seem like a chivalry that all girls crave

And so the night came and our plane was delayed. I guess even SQ was playing trick on us because that very reliable airlines on this particular night couldn’t even keep its promise to its passenger. And from the information I got from my gebetan, he kept monitoring the Changi airport’s flight status to find out when my flight would confirm (aaawww tooooo tweeeeeettttt).

He asked me, “Untuk apa ke Singapura?” Why are you going to Singapore?

Then around midnight my plane touched the runway and I had to go to T1 where the transit hotel is from T2. I might say the journey itself has taken some times and we had to do this–check in to the hotel–otherwise the hotel would charge us USD 100 if we don’t use the voucher. When I got to the hotel, he texted me and asked me if I had cleared the immigration. Lucky me, I traveled with my colleague, Nadya, who is also my dear supporter. She said, okay leave your luggage with me and I will return your key tomorrow morning. So you don’t have to check out yourself. Just go and meet your guy and I will wait for you in T3 tomorrow morning. Just remember you have to check in at T3 since that’s the terminal where the UA will be boarding. She even accompanied me back to T2 and showed me the place where all the passenger from our flight had to clear the immigration. If you can’t get through it, I will be up here, she said. So I called my gebetan and asked him if he was still there at the other side of the gate waiting for me. He was.

The thing that worried me was I didn’t have the boarding pass for the next flight because the UA counter would be open at 4.30 am the next morning and the lady in the transit lounge warned us that without the boarding pass, they won’t let us through, but that wouldn’t stop me from trying, would i? So all I have is just my ticket with my flight itineraries. And so I went downstairs, filled immigration form, and headed to the immigration check point. One of the officers there gave me the sign to come to him. Okay, here’s my judge and my life would depend on his verdict. He was a Malay and he asked me to speak in Malay. Usually I refused to speak in the language since I keep insisting that Malay is different from Bahasa Indonesia, but that night I surrendered. If I had to trade my belief with one stamp from the immigration then I would.

He asked me, “Untuk apa ke Singapura?” Why are you going to Singapore?

I answered in English, “Actually I only transit here before my next flight tomorow morning, but I have no boarding pass because the counter will be open tomorrow…”

“Oh jadi transit, ya? Di sini tidak bisa keluar masuk sembarangan.” So, you’re only transiting here? You can’t in and out as you wish.

Oh damn. Here’s the verdict. I’m sorry Eugene.

“I know, that’s why I will check in tomorrow morning at T3 for my next flight.” I started to yield and speak in Malay. (Can’t write it here. I just hate myself I had to do it)

I saw him wrote “Transit” on my immigration form and then I heard he stomped his immigration stamp on my passport: “Singapore Immigration. Arrival 18 July 2009. Permitted to enter and remain in Singapore for thirty days for social visit from the date shown above bla bla bla bla”

I couldn’t believe he let me through.

I felt a little bit giddy when that officer gave me the stay permit and when I was walking on and heading to the arrival hall, I felt so relieved when I saw him waving at me and gave me the sweetest smile. Aaahhh even a simple rendezvous like this can be more romantic with the immigration interference

A little note:
1. You may get out of the Changi Airport when you got STPC (Stopover Paid by Carrier), but remember you have to check in first at the transit hotel, either in T1 or T3 because they will charge you USD 100 if you don’t use the voucher.

2. If you have a lot of luggage and you travel alone, I may suggest you to bring all your luggage with you so you won’t waste any time when you check out of the hotel. (You just have to return your key and you’re free to go or you may ask the hotel staff to keep your key before you’re out).

3. If you have to check in from another Terminal, make sure you come back the earliest time the counter of your airlines open so you can clear the immigration and get inside the airport. That way you still have some times to go back to T1 or T3 for checking out.

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