Friday, 20 June 2014

How to save 2 HOURS of queue time in USS

Queuing is an integral part of the theme park experience. On average, a typical visitor spends about 4 hours of each visit waiting in line, and this number quickly grows on peak days. Universal Studios Singapore (USS) attracts about 10,000 visitors a day, which places it as one of the top 20 theme parks in Asia. This, unfortunately, also means long lines.

Update September 2015: Even more tips for Battlestar Galactica

USS Queue 2 Hours Transformers Battlestar Galactica

Before I begin, let me share the typical wait time of rides in USS on a non-public holiday weekend:

20 mins
70 mins
20 mins
Revenge of the Mummy
10 mins
30 mins
10 mins
Treasure Hunters
10 mins
50 mins
20 mins
Jurassic Park Rapids
20 mins
60 mins
45 mins
Canopy Flyer
30 mins
45 mins
35 mins
Puss in Boots
20 mins
60 mins
40 mins
Battlestar (Regular)
20 mins
90 mins
45 mins
Battlestar (Express)
15 mins
20 mins
5 mins

This adds up to over 4 hours of queue time, or 50% of your visit. It means you experience your favourite rides fewer times.

Before I begin, let me first say that this post is a bit...complicated. So, if you have some money to spare or find all this planning a pain, you can consider looking at express tickets. I mean, now you can even get express tickets online from tour agencies like Voyagin, so no need to spend time queuing to get Universal Express tickets!

1) Arrive at the park between 1030 and 1045

Although people are aware of the ride queues, most forget that there is also a long line to get into the USS when the park just opens. In fact, just before the park opens, there are about 300 people waiting to enter. This means that if you arrive at 0945 and the park opens at 1000, you may have to wait till 1020 before you enter - a 35 minute wait. At 1030, the queue to enter the park usually shortens to about 10mins.

However, do not arrive too late either. Most tour agencies arrive at about 1200-1400 and the signature attractions will suddenly see explosion in queue lines.

Time saved: 25mins

2) Buy your tickets online

The ticketing counter outside USS usually only has 1-2 counters open, 4 in the early morning. This means average queue time to buy tickets is almost 20mins. By contrast, booking online will only take about 10 minutes, and often times there are online purchase discounts (see rwsentosa promotions for more info)

Time saved: 10mins

3) Take Transformers: The ride at the end of the day

This is no doubt the signature attraction of the park. Wait lines of 90 minutes is not uncommon and even the single-rider line experiences long waits. However, one thing I observe is that people always like to charge into the ride the moment the park opens. This means queue lines build up very quickly in the morning.

So instead of following the pack, take time to explore the park and return to this ride about 1hour before the park closes. By then, all the tour groups will have left and I was even able to ride 2-3 times back to back within 20-30mins.

Time saved: 50mins

4) Avoid the whole Jurassic Park section 1 hour after each WaterWorld Show

The Waterworld Amphitheatre is able to accommodate almost 3000 people, and a large number of them proceed straight to Jurassic Park right after the show ends. Trust me, even the kiddy ride Dino-Soarin can see 20 minute queue times after WaterWorld shows. This means that queue lines can artificially swell by up to 30mins just a few minutes after the show ends. Usually, it takes about 1 hour for the rides to absorb the additional crowd and queue lines to return to normal.

The 1 page information leaflet gives information on WaterWorld show times.

Time saved: 30mins

5) Eat your in-park meals after 2.30pm

3 Simple reasons. Firstly, 2pm-4pm is the time when most foreign tour agencies bring their tour groups to the park. This also means the longest queues at the more popular attractions.

Secondly, most people like to eat at about 1pm, this means it is harder to find (good) seats at the restaurants and longer queues to buy the food.

Finally, USS food servings are actually quite big, so you can actually take your 2pm-4pm meal as a Lunch+Dinner combo and only have to eat a night snack.

Time saved: 10 mins

6) Use Single Rider line, ESPECIALLY PUSS IN BOOTS!

There are 5 rides that offer single rider - Revenge of the Mummy, Transformers, Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure, Canopy Flyer and Puss in Boots' Giant Journey. Basically, single rider is a special queue that you can take if you don't mind splitting up your group to fill empty seats.

For the 2 rides at Jurassic Park, the single rider is less useful as you need to wait very long (sometimes 15 minutes) before 1 single rider gets to board. Also, do not use single rider for Revenge of the Mummy from 2pm-4pm, as South Asia tourists like to hoard it.

The best one, though, is Puss in Boots' Giant Journey. With an unusual 3 seats in 1 row, there is almost at least 1 empty seat every train. In fact, Single Riders are so desperately needed here that you can be ushered to overtake 30mins of Universal Express queue!

Time saved: 30mins if in a small group, 1 hour if going alone

7) If there are kids, visit the top kids rides the evening

The 3 non-spinning kids rides in USS are Madagascar: A Crate Adventure, Sesame Street and Treasure Hunters. One thing is that most families who visit the park likes to leave by 6pm (perhaps to have dinner). This is particularly true for Treasure Hunters, which is so popular with kids that 1 hour queues are possible, but almost no adult or teen will want to ride it.

Besides, isn't it great if your child gets to choose whatever character he wants to ride on for the carousel?

Time Saved: 30 mins if you are with children

8) Annual Pass Thrillseekers and Coaster Wannabes, this template works 100%!

  1. At 9.50am, wait at the entrance of the USS Priority Queue, for Season/Annual Pass holders only.
  2. 10.00am, run, (yes run!) straight to the entrance of Battlestar Galactica. Dump everything in the lockers.
  3. 10.05am, Your first ride of the day
  4. 10.20am. You should be on your second ride. By now queue has built up to 10 mins. If you have not taken Cylon yet, go now as the queue for Cylon usually build up faster
  5. 10.30am. Your third ride of the day. By now queue will reach 25-30mins.
If you see the list of queue time above, most people will need to queue about 2 hours just to take Battlestar Galactica 4 times, but this strategy allows you to ride 3-4 times even before the queue reaches its full length.

[note] Battlestar Galactica usually operates 1 train per side on weekdays and often does 2 trains per side on weekends/public holidays after 12pm, so there is very little reduction in queue on weekdays!

It also works well for first time Galactica pilots. Do the exact same thing except go ride Revenge of the Mummy first (which is just beside) to warm up. Should be able to take 1 round of mummy plus 2 rounds Human with no problems.

Time Saved: Up to 90 mins, if you can squeeze in 3 rides

Total Time Saved: 2 hrs 15 mins to 3 hrs 45 mins

Additional tips:

  • If you are about to buy or renew your season/annual pass, visit the annual pass lobby during noontime since there will be fewer people making their cards then.
  • If you are a passholder, it is advisable that you visit the park only in the last 2 hours of opening. You may not experience all rides in one day, but you don't need to
  • The queue time boards for Treasure Hunters and Canopy Flyer is actually over-inflated. This means if you see 45mins, the actual queue may be closer to 30mins (courtesy of Luke, see his blog here)
  • Enchanted Airways will operate 2 trains during Friday and Saturday afternoons, so even though the queue may look long from the outside, it actually moves very fast
  • For express passholders: A lot of people with express rush into battlestar galactica first thing in the day, so you can sometimes expect shorter express queue after 3pm when people use up their express (yes, even for express pass holders there are ways to save time!)
But trust me, the queue lines at USS are already very reasonable, compared to what happens at Shanghai Disneyland on a nearly sold out day. Anyways, you may also like this post: 8 ways to save money at USS. And Please don't forget to like the Second Drop Facebook Page.