Some good news for those eyeing the upcoming Vaccinated Travel Lane between Singapore and South Korea from 15th November, with SIA confirming in its latest update that unvaccinated children aged 5 or under will be able to accompany an eligible vaccinated adult on Singapore – Seoul flights.
They will of course also be exempt from on-arrival quarantine in South Korea, meaning families with younger children will be able to plan a leisure trip.
This is a slight surprise since the original stance from South Korea once Singapore opened the rest of its VTL scheme to unvaccinated children aged 12 or under earlier this month was that there would be no relaxation of the rule for this particular arrangement.
Which children are eligible?
The 5-year-old age limit is based on date of arrival in South Korea, so for example a child born on 15th December 2015 travelling with fully vaccinated parents will be able to enter South Korea quarantine-free up until 14th December 2021 at the latest (the day before their 6th birthday).
That means only children aged 6 to 11 at the point of arrival will not be eligible for this two-way quarantine-free arrangement, since they exceed South Korea’s maximum age threshold for unvaccinated travellers, but are not yet eligible for vaccination in Singapore.
Those aged 12 or above will have to be fully vaccinated.
Do note that children in Singapore can only book their first vaccine dose appointment after passing their 12th birthday, so the earliest they can be considered fully vaccinated is at least 5 weeks later (two weeks after the second dose).
Approval for the Pfizer vaccine to be administered to 5-11 year olds is expected later this year.
Which adults are eligible?
Unvaccinated children aged 5 or under will have to be accompanied by a fully vaccinated adult who also complies with the other VTL requirements.
You’re eligible to accompany them provided you were fully vaccinated with an approved WHO vaccine and have a digitally certifiable vaccination certificate issued in Singapore or South Korea, and you have remained exclusively within Singapore and/or South Korea for the last 14 consecutive days.
In Singapore your vaccination status via the TraceTogether / HealthHub apps and Notarise service are acceptable.
For those vaccinated in South Korea, vaccination certificates issued by the Korean Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), as well as authorised clinics and hospitals, are permitted.
The VTL with some differences
Since the VTL between Singapore and South Korea is a bilateral agreement, rather than the unilateral ones established with other countries (e.g. Germany), there are a few additional requirements to take note of if you’re interested in travelling.
Details remain a little sketchy with this one, with final arrangements still to be laid out by authorities. This information is based on what has been posted to date by Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority and Singapore Airlines.
Here’s how it works in the Singapore – South Korea direction:
Singapore South Korea
- Must be fully vaccinated with a WHO vaccine and certificate issued in Singapore or South Korea
- Must have stayed in Singapore or South Korea for 14 days
- Unvaccinated children aged 6+ are not eligible
- Apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation* (application from Singapore not yet available)
- Purchase COVID-19 travel insurance (min. coverage of KRW30 million – approximately S$34,000)*
- Book an on-arrival PCR test before departure (from 8 Nov)
- Take a pre-departure COVID-19 PCR test (up to 72 hours before departure)
- Travel to Seoul on any non-stop flight
- Install the Self-Check mobile app and enter your daily health status for 14 days from the day of arrival
- Take an on-arrival COVID-19 PCR test
- Leave the airport via private transportation to your residence or accommodation
- Self-isolate until the result is available (12 hours)
For stays of 8 or more days:
- Take another COVID-19 PCR test on either Day 6 or 7 of your trip, with the arrival day as Day 0*
- Self-isolate until the result is available*
* Not applicable for South Korean citizens or permanent residents
Note that depending on your trip duration, there are potentially two post-test self-isolation periods to endure while in South Korea.
Here’s the process from South Korea to Singapore:
South Korea Singapore
- Must be fully vaccinated in Singapore or any VTL country
- Must have stayed in South Korea, Singapore or any VTL country for 14 days
- Apply for a VTP in advance*
- Purchase COVID-19 travel insurance (min. coverage of S$30,000)**
- Take a pre-departure COVID-19 PCR test (up to 48 hours before departure)
- Travel to Singapore on designated ‘VTL flights’
- Take an on-arrival COVID-19 PCR test
- Self-isolate until the result is available (6-24 hours)
* Not applicable for Singapore Citizens or permanent residents
** Not applicable for Singapore Citizens, permanent residents or pass holders
Testing costs are the main drawback
A few of the South Korea VTL’s finer points are still to be clarified, but as you can probably see it’s testing that’s going to be costly with this one.
Here’s an example of the testing costs you’ll face per person on a trip from Singapore to South Korea and back.
|Singapore pre-departure*||S$125 – S$200|
|South Korea arrival||S$150 – S$200|
|South Korea Day 6/7 test||S$150 – S$200|
|South Korea pre-departure||S$150 – S$200|
|Total||S$735 – S$960|
* Prices vary between providers and locations.
Granted this is a worst-case scenario, for those staying in South Korea for 8 days or longer, but it’s still a very significant per-person expense to bear in addition to flight and hotel costs.
Even those remaining in South Korea for a week or less will be looking at a minimum of S$585 in testing costs.
On return to Singapore, children aged 2 and below in the calendar year (i.e. for arrivals in 2021, those born on 1st January 2019 or afterwards) are exempt from the pre-departure COVID-19 PCR testing requirement in South Korea, and the on-arrival COVID-19 PCR test at Changi Airport.
We don’t have further details yet about what COVID-19 tests unvaccinated children aged 5 or under will be subject to prior to departure for South Korea, on arrival there, and at the Day 6/7 stage. This will no doubt be clarified once full details of the scheme are available.
Flights from Singapore to Seoul
Eligible travellers can take any non-stop flight from Singapore to Seoul to benefit from the VTL arrangements in both directions.
The first option is Korean Air flight KE646 from Singapore to Seoul in the early hours of 15th November 2021.
Singapore Seoul VTL Flights
(from 15 November 2021)