Travelling In A COVID-19 World: All You Need To Know (And Hidden Costs)

Sean Yee
Last updated Dec 23, 2021

There are many costs associated with the precautionary measures involved in travel that you may not be aware of. 

With the advent of Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTL) in Singapore, the notion and possibility of travel in a COVID-19 world grows increasingly alluring given that we have been confined within our borders since 2020. 

However, before you rush to book tickets to your ultimate getaway, it is important that you understand the additional costs you might have to bear when travelling overseas. In fact, travellers are now expected to shoulder the costs of their own COVID-19 tests and any COVID-19 incurred expenses. 

Here, we have prepared a comprehensive guide to VTL travel and the costs involved so that you can better plan a vacation that does not break your bank.

Last updated on 23 December 2021. Available VTLs and precautionary measures are subject to change.

What is VTL travel?

VTL is a new initiative introduced to properly reinforce precautionary measures while accommodating the general public’s wanderlust. Through these lanes, recreational travel is finally possible without dreadful quarantines plaguing your holidays. It is also an innovative approach to revitalise our devastated travel industry. 

Just recently, Singapore has opened up VTLs to six more countries including the Maldives and Cambodia, an optimistic testament to Singapore’s resilience against COVID-19. 

That said, the situation is ever-evolving given the volatility of the pandemic, and the VTL list, while exhaustive, may see some changes over time. New additions to the list are also expected as COVID-19 becomes less widespread (Those looking forward to visiting Japan will have to wait a little longer! In the meantime, consider these Japanese buffets and onsens that emulate Japan’s world-renowned hospitality.)

It is imperative to note that in order to access these lanes, you are expected to be fully vaccinated and have verifiable proof of your vaccination status. Singaporean travellers who have gotten vaccinated locally can easily retrieve the relevant information through the Tracetogether or HealthHub app.

Vaccinated Travel Lanes (Air) in 2022

Existing VTL CountriesNotes
Australia
Brunei Darussalam
Canada
Cambodia
DenmarkIncludes the Faroe Islands and Greenland
Finland
FranceIncludes all overseas departments, regions, collectivities, territories and New Caledonia
Fiji
Germany
India
Indonesia
Italy*
Malaysia
Maldives
NetherlandsIncludes Aruba, Curacao, Sint Maarten and all special municipalities
The Republic of Korea
SpainIncludes the Canary Islands
Sweden
Switzerland
Sri Lanka
Thailand**
Turkey
United KingdomIncludes the Crown Dependencies and all British overseas territories
United States of AmericaIncludes the US territories of American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands

*It has been announced on 16 December 2021 that Italy will discontinue its VTL to Singapore until 31 January 2022.

**Thailand has reinstated a mandatory quarantine period until 4 January 2022

Required COVID-19 tests

The resumption of travel does come with a complicated need for meticulous and rigorous testing so as to ensure the safety of you and your fellow holiday-revelers. 

Currently, these are the conventional tests required of you and your companions in order to access Singapore’s VTLs. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests require a professional healthcare provider to conduct while the more intuitive antigen rapid self-test (ART) kits can be done independently. However, there will be instances where you will need your ART tests to be supervised and professionally administered in order to verify your results. 

Here are the typical kits you can find in Singapore, where you can get them and their expected costs. 

TypeSourcePrice
Antigen Rapid Self-Test (ART) kitWatsonsS$13++
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) swab testApproved test providersS$130++
Professionally-Administered Antigen Rapid Test (ART)Approved test providersS$28++
Supervised Antigen Rapid Self Test (ART)  (post-arrival)Quick test centres and Combined test centresS$15
On-arrival Covid 19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) swab test (in Singapore)Changi AirportS$125

Pre-departure (From Singapore)

Prior to your eventual departure from Singapore, you are typically expected to undergo a pre-departure COVID-19 screening test that must be booked and covered on your own. 

Depending on the country you are visiting, you will need to complete this screening within one to three days before your date of depature, with a digital or physical certificate from an authorised healthcare provider. With the current travel hype, it is recommended that you make the necessary arrangements in advance, with contingencies in place so as to ensure a seamless process on your departure date. 

You can find the list of approved healthcare clinics here (PCR tests) and here (ART tests)

After which, you should authenticate your test results via Notarise or with the help of your chosen clinic and have them translated into a QR code that will be used during the boarding and clearance process. 

Each country has its own specific set of requirements so it is crucial that you understand them prior to embarking on your journey. This comprehensive list covers most of the VTL countries’ screening requirements, though you should expect changes that are reflective of global and local circumstances. Most, if not all, the countries that accept ART test results only do so if the ART screening is administered by an approved healthcare authority.

Updated as of 23 December 2021, Singapore has decided to discontinue new ticket sales to existing VTL countries until 20 January 2022 to mitigate any potential spread of the Omicron variant. In the meantime, make sure to check out the exciting events and happenings in Singapore that might sate (at least temporarily) your travel desires!

CountryCOVID-19 Precautions
AustraliaTravellers (five and above) must attain a negative pre-departure COVID-19 test result within three days prior to his/her departure date.

Self-isolation of up to 72 hours is required when entering Melbourne and Sydney
Brunei DarussalamTravellers must attain a negative pre-departure COVID-19 test result within two days prior to his/her departure date.

Self-isolation of two to 14 days is required
CambodiaTravellers must attain a negative pre-departure PCR test certificate by an approved health authority within three days prior to his/her departure date. A lab report must also be submitted to further corroborate with the test results.

An ART test is also required upon arrival
CanadaTravellers must attain a negative pre-departure PCR test certificate by an approved health authority within three days prior to his/her departure date. A lab report must also be submitted to further corroborate with the test results.
Denmark
FranceTravellers (11 and above) must attain a negative pre-departure COVID-19 test result within two days prior to his/her departure date.
Finland
FijiTravellers (12 and above) must attain a negative pre-departure RT-PCR test certificate by an approved health authority within three days prior to his/her departure date.
Germany
IndonesiaTravellers must attain a negative pre-departure PCR test certificate by an approved health authority within three days prior to his/her departure date. A lab report must also be submitted to further corroborate with the test results.

A PCR test will also be administered upon arrival and visitors are required to serve a quarantine period of up to ten days. Another PCR test will be administered upon the conclusion of the quarantine period.
ItalyTravellers must attain a negative pre-departure PCR test certificate by an approved health authority within three days prior to his/her departure date. For ART screenings, they must be taken one day prior to arrival. 

A PCR test will also be administered upon arrival and visitors are required to serve a self-isolation period of up to ten days. Another PCR test will be administered upon the conclusion of the quarantine period.

Note: As of 16 December 2021, recreational travel to Italy is prohibited regardless of vaccination status.
MalaysiaTravellers (three and above) must attain a negative pre-departure RT-PCR test certificate by an approved health authority within two days prior to his/her departure date. 

A RT-PCR test is also required upon arrival.
MaldivesTravellers (two and above) must attain a negative pre-departure PCR test certificate by an approved health authority within four days prior to his/her departure date
NetherlandsTravellers must attain a negative pre-departure Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) test certificate by an approved health authority within two days prior to his/her departure date. For ART screenings, they must be taken one day prior to departure date. 

Unvaccinated children aged 13 and above are required to serve a mandatory self-quarantine period regardless if his/her parents’ vaccination status
Sri LankaTravellers (12 and above) must attain a negative pre-departure PCR test certificate by an approved health authority within three days prior to his/her departure date. 

A PCR test will be required upon arrival for visitors aged 12 to 17 years old.
SwitzerlandTravellers (16 and above) must attain a negative pre-departure PCR test certificate by an approved health authority within three days prior to his/her departure date.
South KoreaTravellers (five and above) must attain a negative pre-departure COVID-19 test result within three days prior to his/her departure date.

A PCR test will be required upon arrival and on Day 6 or 7 if the visit spans for eight days or more.
Spain
ThailandTravellers must attain a negative pre-departure RT-PCR test certificate by an approved health authority within three days prior to his/her departure date.

Note: As of 22 December 2021, quarantine-free travel to Thailand has been suspended until 4 January 2022
The United KingdomTravellers must attain a negative pre-departure COVID-19 test result within two days prior to his/her departure date.

Upon arrival, a PCR test will be required on Day 2 and it must be provided by a private test provider (Requires pre-booking)
The United State of AmericaTravellers must attain a negative pre-departure RT-PCR or ART test certificate within one days prior to his/her departure date
Turkey

Upon Arrival (Back to Singapore)

Upon returning back (or arriving) to Singapore, there will be a screening routine that must be adhered to religiously. Spanning up to seven days, the screening regime will include both professionally-supervised and self-conducted ART tests. For self-procured ART kits, you are required to upload your test results through a link that will be sent to you. 

To surmise the process, a PCR test will be administered at the airport upon your arrival. After which, you are to commute directly to your declared self-isolated abode or accommodations until the PCR test results are released (within a day). Subsequently, you will be asked to undergo two supervised ART tests (Day 3 and 7) and four self-procured ART tests (Day 2,4,5 and 6) to complete the screening regiment.

DayRequirements
Day 1 (Upon arrival)PCR test administered at the airport
Day 2Self-procured ART test
Day 3Supervised ART test
Day 4Self-procured ART test
Day 5Self-procured ART test
Day 6Self-procured ART test
Day 7Supervised ART test

Travel Insurance

Short-term visitors are required to purchase an appropriate travel insurance that has a minimum coverage of S$30,000 against COVID-19 related medical charges. This is especially relevant for those living abroad who are intending to visit friends or relatives currently residing in Singapore. 

You can find a list of suitable travel insurance options here. Do note that Singaporean citizens and Permanent Residents are excluded from this travel insurance mandate; though it is ideal to opt for one regardless when travelling. 

Expected Costs

To help put things into perspective, here is a rhetorical scenario that will allow you to better understand the many costs involved in your travel plans that you may have been remiss to consider.

Rhetorical Scenario: Singaporean Citizen travelling to France (Round-Trip) via the VTL

An average Singaporean traveller looking to head overseas can expect an additional expenditure starting from S$337 just on the necessary tests involved. Moreover, if you are intending to travel to countries (such as South Korea) which require a PCR test upon arrival, you should expect to cover the costs of those tests as well.  

This is also under the assumption that the traveller has a suitable self-isolation abode ready upon arrival, does not possess travel insurance and has test results that are consistently negative. 

Expenses Required
Pre-departure Covid-19 test (PCR test)S$130 ++
On-arrival mandatory PCR test (at the airport)S$125
Two supervised ART testsS$30
Four self-procured ART kitsS$52 ++
TotalS$337 ++

Non-citizens visiting Singapore should take into consideration additional expenses, such as a mandatory travel insurance plan, a local SIM card (to maintain the compulsory Tracetogether app) and the booking of a self-isolation facility.

Is it a good time to travel?

The hype over leisure travel is totally understandable, especially with Christmas and New Year Eve approaching. However, there is a significant cost to such an indulgence that you will have to consider when making your travel plans in a COVID-19 world, let alone the time and hassle involved when undergoing the many tests required of you. Unfortunately, this might be the new normal for travel until the pandemic abates. Do not fret though, for there is a rich trove of delightful activities that await you in Singapore if you can put aside the travelling bug for a while more. 

If you are ever unsure if it’s the right time to travel, just remember – recreational travel is meant to alleviate stress, not induce it. 

Read these next:
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By Sean Yee
Sean loves all things that is food (except bitter gourd — the bane of all cuisines). However, he loves his wallet too. As such, he has set himself on a quest to find deliciously cheap food while exploring opportunities to grow his wallet; just so that he can get more food. A vicious cycle really.


Sean Yee December 23, 2021 81870