The USA has announced some new safeguards for international travellers entering the country, which will also be applicable to those departing from Singapore for a two-way quarantine-free Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) trip, with a much shorter window for pre-departure testing than currently applies.
For those departing to the USA from overseas on or after Monday 6th December 2021 at 13:01 Singapore Time (flight departure), a negative pre-departure PCR or ART test for COVID-19 must have been conducted within one day (as little as 24h but up to 48h in some cases) of your flight departure time, because of concerns about the Omicron variant.
That’s one of the shortest timeframes currently in force for pre-departure testing when travelling to one of Singapore’s VTL countries, though thankfully the option to take a rapid (~30 minute) ART test still means it shouldn’t pose a significant problem, you’ll just have to plan a little more carefully.
New pre-departure testing window
Currently, travellers heading to the USA must have their COVID-19 test within a generous 3-day window prior to the calendar day of departure, allowing at least 72 hours (and close to 96 hours in some cases) prior to the flight, in which to have your swab taken.
If your departure to the USA is on or after Monday 6th December 2021 (05:01 hours GMT, which is 13:01 hours Singapore time), you’ll now be subject to a shorter 1-day validity window for your pre-departure test (minimum 24 hours to maximum 48 hours, again dependent on your flight’s departure time).
This timescale applies to the non-stop flight departure time, or the departure time of the first flight in a series of connections booked on the same itinerary, within which you will enter the USA from another country.
“By using a 1-day window, test acceptability does not depend on the time of the flight or the time of day that the test sample was taken.”U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
The first Singapore Airlines flights to the USA to be affected (by flight number / route) will be:
- SQ34 SIN-SFO at 18:40 on 6th December
- SQ38 SIN-LAX at 20:45 on 6th December
(and thereafter all SQ40 LAX flights too)
- SQ26 SIN-FRA-JFK at 23:55 on 6th December
- SQ8 SIN-HKG-SFO at 08:25 on 7th December
- SQ28 SIN-YVR-SEA at 09:15 on 7th December
- SQ24 SIN-JFK at 11:50 on 7th December
- SQ52 SIN-MAN-IAH at 01:30 on 8th December
- SQ12 SIN-NRT-LAX at 09:20 on 8th December
Note that SQ24 SIN-JFK on 6th December falls under the current rules (3-day swab), since it departs on 5th December Eastern Standard Time in the USA.
Here’s the before and after difference, using some Singapore – USA departure examples.
Example testing windows
Singapore – USA
Day / Time
|Pre-departure testing for:|
From 6 Dec
SIN – HKG – SFO
SIN – LAX
As you can see it still makes a difference that the USA has not imposed a strict 24-hour test timing requirement, instead sticking to its previous policy of applying the number of days prior to your flight departure date in which you can get a test, so there’s some flexibility.
Obviously the later your flight departs the better in this case!
If you have a busy schedule, Raffles Medical at Changi Airport Terminal 3 (Basement 2) is open 24 hours a day and provides 30-minute turnaround ART testing at S$30.
It may therefore be easier to arrive at the airport earlier than planned and have the test done there before proceeding to check-in for your flight.
What about children?
The USA applies its pre-departure test requirement to all passengers except those under two years of age. This is not changing under the new shortened testing window.
Testing costs in Singapore
If you require a pre-departure test in Singapore before embarking on a trip, here’s our latest rundown of the cheapest locations to get a test suitable for travel.
Note in particular that self-administered ART tests are not accepted for travel purposes, so you’ll still need to visit a clinic and obtain a certificate from the health provider when travelling to countries that accept an ART swab, like the USA.
Based on our recent analysis, pre-departure test costs in Singapore are around:
- PCR: S$107 (cheapest) – S$149 (average)
- Home PCR: S$138 (cheapest) – S$193 (average)
- ART: S$27 (cheapest) – S$37 (average)
Other VTL countries requiring pre-departure testing
The USA isn’t the only VTL country requiring a pre-departure test for fully vaccinated Singapore residents.
You’ll also be subject to testing requirements when travelling to the following countries, in addition to VTL testing on your return:
Testing before travelling to selected countries
based on fully vaccinated travellers departing from Singapore by air
|Country||Test type||Test timing||Exemptions|
||48h before departure||—|
|Japan||PCR||72h before departure
||Age 5 or below|
|Myanmar||PCR||72h before arrival||Age 5 or below|
|Qatar||PCR||48h before departure
||Age 3 or below
Vaccinated Qataris and residents
|PCR 2 days before departure
ART 1 day before departure
|Age 5 or below|
|Taiwan||PCR||2 days before departure
VTL flights USA – Singapore
Here’s a list of the VTL (and non-VTL) flights from the USA to Singapore, which you’ll need to use on your return journey to benefit from quarantine-free arrival in Singapore, assuming you are also returning from the states (click to expand):
VTL testing to Singapore has also been beefed up
On your return from the USA (or any VTL country), you’ll now face two additional COVID-19 ART tests on Day 3 and Day 7 after your arrival day (Day 1).
These take the form of a supervised self-administered COVID-19 ART test at one of 50 Quick Test Centres (QTCs) / Combined Test Centres (CTCs) on Day 3 and Day 7 (arrival day is Day 1). The cost is S$15 including GST per test.
You must book an appointment before your visit. If you do not have a local mobile phone number, you won’t be able to make an appointment and will instead have to register in-person at the QTC/CTC.
You do not need to self-isolate after the Day 3 or Day 7 tests. Results are provided by SMS within 1 hour, but you can leave the QTC/CTC immediately after the test itself.
Unfortunately it means there will now be four separate COVID-19 tests to complete when travelling to Singapore on the VTL, for those touching down from 3rd December 2021, which slightly increases the associated costs.
|VTL country pre-departure*||~S$30||~S$30|
* Prices vary between providers and locations.
That means there are now five COVID-19 tests on a roundtrip from Singapore to the USA.
Travel to the USA from Singapore has required pre-departure testing for some time, most recently allowing cheaper and quicker ART tests as well as PCR tests to be used.
Due to Omicron, the generous 3-day (up to 96 hours) testing window is being significantly curtailed for departures from Monday 6th December 2021 (1pm SGT onwards), with the new 1-day requirement allowing at least 24 hours and up to 48 hours to get your test taken and obtain the result, depending on the departure time of your flight.
That’s obviously a much shorter window, but with pre-departure ARTs readily available across Singapore it should still be fine for most travellers, with an at airport option for the time pressed.
(Cover Photo: Colton Duke)