There’s been no shortage of concern from travellers who’ve booked travel from Singapore to Seoul on the bilateral Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme between to two countries, with news coming through yestrday that from 3rd December 2021 all international arrivals in South Korea would become subject to quarantine, regardless of vaccination status.
This arrangement is initially scheduled to run for two weeks, until 16th December 2021, in response to newly detected Omicron variant cases.
It wasn’t immediately announced whether those arriving on the VTL would be included in this new requirement or not, leading to significant uncertainty for the thousands of Singapore travellers with year-end travel plans to South Korea.
VTL arrivals will be exempt
The news we’ve been waiting for has finally been announced, with the Republic of Korea’s Singapore Embassy confirming that those eligible to travel under the VTL arrangement will continue to enjoy no quarantine period on arrival.
[Update on 02 Dec 2021]: VTL travel arrangement would proceed without change at the moment.Embassy of the Republic of Korea to the Republic of Singapore
The existing arrangements will remain in place, which require VTL travellers to take a PCR test within 72 hours of departure, and an on-arrival PCR test at Incheon Airport, then proceed directly to their accommodation to self-isolate while awaiting the result.
Originally the wait was stated as up to 17 hours, but those who have already travelled under the arrangement have happily reported that it actually only takes around 3-4 hours to come through, then you’re free to enjoy the trip.
Suspension of the Singapore – South Korea VTL arrangement is subject to a seven-day notice period.
The South Korea – Saipan VTL is also continuing as planned, despite the new quarantine requirement for general travellers.
The VTL with some differences
Since the VTL between Singapore and South Korea is a bilateral agreement, rather than the unilateral ones established with most other countries (e.g. Germany), there are a few additional requirements to take note of if you’re interested in travelling.
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*
- Purchase COVID-19 travel insurance (min. coverage of KRW30 million – approximately S$34,000)*
- Book an on-arrival PCR test before departure
- 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 or designated bus / train to your residence or accommodation
- Self-isolate until the result is available
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*
* Not applicable for South Korean citizens or permanent residents
Note that depending on your trip duration, there are potentially three COVID-19 tests involved in the Singapore – South Korea direction.
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 or ART test (up to 2 days before departure)
- Travel to Singapore on designated ‘VTL flights’
- Take an on-arrival COVID-19 PCR test
- Self-isolate until the result is available (typically 4-6 hours)
- Take Day 3 and Day 7 post-arrival ART tests at QTCs/CTCs
* Not applicable for Singapore Citizens or permanent residents
** Not applicable for Singapore Citizens, permanent residents or pass holders
VTL flights from Seoul to Singapore
The full flight schedule for the Vaccinated Travel lane flights between Singapore and Seoul is now well established.
Flights are operated by Asiana, Korean Air, Scoot and Singapore Airlines, as shown below (click to expand):
Remember you can take any non-stop flight from Singapore to Seoul and still qualify for this VTL, unlike the only other bilateral arrangement with Malaysia, where designated flights apply from Singapore as well.
A huge sigh of relief for many readers, some of you departing to Seoul as early as tonight based on those who’ve contacted us throughout the day, with confirmation that your quarantine-free trip to and from South Korea can go ahead as planned.
It’s a shame that the government did not make this clearer when announcing wider travel restrictions for general travellers yesterday, causing significant worry and potentially even forcing some to abandon their plans unnecessarily.
Travel certainly is a different beast during these COVID times, requiring patience and flexibility right up to the last minute in some cases – not for the faint hearted! That will be all the more true over the coming Christmas and New Year period as governments continue to react to the new Omicron variant.
In the meantime, there will likely be a big round of applause when SQ608 lifts off from Changi for Seoul shortly after 1am tonight, full of relieved holidaymakers who’ve been on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster today!
(Cover Photo: Shutterstock)