At long last, Singapore residents can enjoy two-way quarantine-free travel when the VTL with Germany starts on 8 September. Here’s all you need to know.
After 18 months and numerous false dawns, it’s finally happened: quarantine-free travel is available to Singapore residents for the first time since the country closed its borders in March 2020.
Prior to this, all other arrangements had either failed to materialise (see: Singapore-Hong Kong ATB) or were feasible in one-direction only (e.g. while Singapore allowed New Zealand residents to enter without quarantine, New Zealand did not permit Singapore residents to enter at all).
But with the upcoming Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL), fully vaccinated individuals will be able to avoid an SHN on return to Singapore, as SHN will be replaced by a series of PCR tests instead. The first VTL starts on 8 September 2021 with Germany, and hopefully more countries will come on board before the year ends.
Summary: Vaccinated Travel Lane arrangement
Fully vaccinated (at least 14 days after completing the full regimen of Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty, Moderna or other WHO Emergency Use Listing vaccines) travellers will be able to avoid an SHN when travelling from Germany to Singapore, provided they meet the following criteria:
- Must have stayed in Singapore and/or Germany for the past 21 consecutive days
- Must take designated VTL flights from Germany to Singapore
- Must apply for a VTP (visitors and Singapore pass holders only)
- Take pre-departure COVID-19 PCR test in Germany
- Take PCR test on arrival in Singapore and on Days 3 and 7
Unfortunately, children aged below 12 will not be eligible for VTL travel, since they cannot be vaccinated yet. Moreover, vaccinations must have been administered in Singapore or Germany; those who received their jabs elsewhere will not be able to travel on the VTL (even if they subsequently got their vaccinations recognised in Singapore).
Let’s take a look at the criteria in closer detail.
(1) Must have stayed in Singapore and/or Germany for the past 21 consecutive days
VTL travellers must not have travelled to countries other than Singapore or Germany in the past 21 days. To be clear, this doesn’t mean your trip to Germany must be at least 21 days long – you can travel for any amount of time, provided that in the past 21 days before you re-enter Singapore, you were not physically in any country other than Singapore and/or Germany.
It follows from this that you can’t use Germany as a springboard to explore the rest of Europe. While countries in the EU allow free movement across borders, entering another European country would disqualify you from VTL travel back to Singapore (unless you returned to Germany and stayed 21 days before flying back home).
(2) Must take designated VTL flights from Germany to Singapore
While there’s no restriction on what flight you can take to Germany (you will want to fly direct though, because transiting in another country will impact your eligibility for VTL travel back to Singapore), VTL travellers will only be able to choose from designated flights back to Singapore.
The current VTL flights are:
- From Frankfurt
- Singapore Airlines SQ325, departing 2200 arriving 1625 (+1) on Sunday, Tuesday and Friday
- Lufthansa LH778, departing 2155 arriving 1645 (+1) on Thursday and Saturday
- From Munich
- Singapore Airlines SQ331, departing 1315 arriving 0705 (+1) on Monday and Wednesday
These flights are exclusively for VTL passengers (i.e. no transit or unvaccinated passengers allowed). If passengers book any other flight from Germany to Singapore, they will not be eligible for an SHN waiver.
Remember, there’s no such thing as a VTL flight to Germany, because the scheme only applies for travel in the opposite direction. You can identify flights with the special VTL tag that Singapore Airlines has added to its booking interface.
(3) Must apply for a VTP (visitors and Singapore pass holders only)
This requirement does not apply to Singapore citizens and permanent residents, who can skip this section.
Otherwise, short-term visitors and long-term pass holders will need to apply for a VTP between 7 and 30 days before their intended arrival in Singapore. This can be done on the ICA’s website from 1 September 2021 onwards.
VTP applications will be approved or denied immediately, and are free of charge. Each traveler requires a VTP of his/her own, and each VTP is valid for a single entry.
(4) Take a pre-departure COVID-19 PCR test in Germany
There is no need for Singapore residents to take a PCR test before departing from Singapore to Germany.
However, all VTL travellers must take a pre-departure PCR test within 48 hours of their flight to Singapore. The test must be taken at an MOH-recognised institution, and antigen rapid tests or self-administered PCR tests are not accepted.
(5) Take a PCR test on arrival in Singapore, and on Days 3 and 7
VTL travellers will undergo a PCR test on arrival at Singapore Changi Airport (S$160). After the swab is taken, they must proceed directly to their declared self-isolation accommodation by private transport and remain there until the results are released. After that, they can proceed with regular activities as per normal.
They will be required to do a further PCR test on Days 3 and 7 (S$94 each) after returning to Singapore (no self-isolation is required after either test). Missing this test is grounds to be served with an SHN in a dedicated facility.
What if you test positive for COVID-19 in Germany?
It’s one thing to test positive on return to Singapore, where you’re familiar with the procedures and healthcare system.
However, it can be quite scary if your pre-departure test in Germany shows a positive result. Stay calm – you’re vaccinated and odds are that your symptoms will be mild. The lab will notify the local health authority, which will instruct you to self-isolate for 14 days. For tourists like yourself, this will be done in a hotel (unlike Singapore, Germany does not have a system of government-run quarantine facilities). Self-isolation ends once you clear an ART or PCR test, depending on the severity of your symptoms).
If your symptoms are severe, you will be directed to a hospital for treatment.
Get proper travel insurance
On that note, if you plan to travel to Germany on the VTL, you definitely want to get coverage for COVID-19 related medical treatment, evacuation and trip interruptions. While the majority of travel insurance policies still exclude COVID-19 events, there are a few which provide coverage:
- Allianz Travel Insurance
- Singlife Travel Insurance
- AXA SmartTraveller
- EQ CovidSafe
- NTUC Income Travel Insurance
- Sompo Travel (COVID-19) Insurance
Even though Germany does not require Singapore residents to take a pre-departure COVID-19 test, certain policies (like NTUC Income and Sompo) require it nonetheless. This is so travellers can prove they didn’t already have COVID-19 when they departed Singapore. Be sure to peruse the fine print of your policy for terms like this.
For many Singaporeans, the VTL with Germany represents the most realistic chance of overseas travel in 18 months. While there are still a few hoops to jump through, the deal-breaking SHN requirement is removed in favour of a battery of COVID-19 PCR tests.
Unlike the Hong Kong ATB, airfares have remained extremely reasonable; at last check, return Economy Class tickets to Germany were still under S$1,000. It’s also possible to redeem your KrisFlyer miles for flights, although the VTL flights back to Singapore are only pricing at the more expensive Advantage level.
All in all, it’s a very exciting development, and hopefully not the last.
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By Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to teach people how to travel better for less, with credit cards, airline and hotel loyalty programmes. With 500,000 miles flown and counting, he’s keen to debunk the myth that you can’t travel in style without breaking the bank.