More good news for VTL travel, with Sri Lanka relaxing its pre-departure test requirements for those flying in from overseas by adding acceptance of a cheaper antigen rapid test (ART) as an alternative to a PCR test.
Sri Lanka joined Singapore’s VTL network on 16th December 2021 and we’ve already had reader reports of hassle-free trips there, including from friends of ours who went over as a family for Christmas.
You can travel to Sri Lanka on any non-stop flight from Singapore, or transit in a VTL country, if your stay will be less than 14 days. For longer trips, you can take any routing to Sri Lanka and still use the VTL on the way back to Singapore.
New PDT requirements
For those arriving in Sri Lanka from overseas on or after 28th January 2022, the new pre-departure COVID-19 testing options will be either:
- a PCR test within 72 hours of departure; or
- an ART test within 48 hours of departure.
The test result must be in English and must be printed out.
Previously, only a more expensive PCR test was accepted for travel to Sri Lanka.
Singapore Airlines still refers to the mid-December testing profile at the time of writing, but hopefully this will be updated with the latest requirements in the coming days.
Allowing travellers the option to take an ART test will significantly reduce costs, with PCR tests in Singapore on average costing around S$130, though there are a good number of options in the S$95 – S$115 range.
Pre-departure ART tests including a certificate for travel, meanwhile, cost around S$39 on average in Singapore, with multiple options in the S$21 – S$30 range.
For families in particular the savings do start to add up.
Convenience is another factor, with most providers in Singapore sending through your ART test results within just one hour of being swabbed, meaning Sri Lanka’s 48-hour pre-departure window for those taking an antigen rapid test is more than adequate.
Singapore is currently conducting a pilot exercise allowing travellers to perform a supervised self-swab by video call with provider Doctor Anywhere.
This costs S$12.84, in addition to the cost of the test kit itself, which is typically around S$7. Your test kit must be approved for use in Singapore.
A certificate suitable for travel is provided, and this method is also accepted by Sri Lanka. This is therefore an ideal way to do your pre-departure test before a VTL trip without having to leave home.
Travelling to Sri Lanka with children
Sri Lanka has also relaxed its pre-departure test requirements for children, with the PDT now applicable only to those aged 12 and above since 14th December 2021 (previously, those aged 2 and above needed a PDT).
However, there is still a slightly complicated post-arrival test for some unvaccinated children.
- Children aged 11 and below can follow the quarantine-free arrival process when travelling with their parents without any testing.
- Children aged 12-18 who have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to departure are subject to the same process as fully vaccinated adults (PDT only, no arrival quarantine)
- Children aged 12-18 who have had one dose of the Pfizer vaccine at least 14 days prior to departure are considered fully vaccinated.
- Unvaccinated children aged 12 -18 years will undergo on-arrival PCR testing at Colombo Airport, or at any other approved laboratory, and must inform the result to the area MOH. The cost is US$40 (around S$55).
For most of our readers this will only affect those travelling with unvaccinated 12 year olds, who are still eligible to use the VTL to return to Singapore quarantine-free.
Getting a single Pfizer jab for your unvaccinated 12 year old at least two weeks before travelling to Sri Lanka is one way to make the process simpler, or ideally just have them fully vaccinated if possible.
Full requirements for Sri Lanka
To travel to Sri Lanka without quarantine, tourists must adhere to the following requirements:
- Apply online for an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) to enter Sri Lanka, if required.
- Complete a “Health Declaration” form here no later than 24 hours before arrival.
- Have a COVID-19 vaccination certificate showing that you were fully vaccinated at least 2 weeks before departure.
- Have a printed negative COVID-19 PCR or ART test (as outlined above).
- Purchase mandatory local COVID-19 insurance (US$12 per person), even if you have your own policy.
- Unvaccinated children aged 12-18 must have an on-arrival PCR test (US$40 per person).
- Unvaccinated children aged 11 and below can travel without arrival testing, with fully vaccinated parents.
- Fully vaccinated travellers are allowed to make their own arrangements for accommodation, airport transfers and local transportation.
Designated VTL flights
Travellers can take any flight to Sri Lanka, since there are no designated VTL services in this direction.
Here are the designated VTL flights from Colombo to Singapore, operated by Singapore Airlines and SriLankan Airlines (click to expand):
Sri Lanka VTL testing costs
ART testing costs in Sri Lanka at private hospitals are now capped at Rs. 2,000 (~S$13), after the government found providers charging almost three times that amount, then brought in legislation to address the issue.
Since you’ll need a professionally administered ART test within 2 days of travelling back to Singapore on the VTL, this low rate makes Sri Lanka one of the cheaper quarantine-free trip options, now that ART tests are also accepted when flying outbound.
Here are the estimated testing costs per fully vaccinated traveller for a Singapore – Sri Lanka – Singapore trip example, based on the new testing requirements.
|SG pre-departure (ART)||From S$21|
|Sri Lanka pre-departure (ART)||S$13|
|SG on-arrival (PCR)||S$125|
|SG Day 2 (self ART)||~S$7|
|SG Day 3 (self ART)||~S$7|
|SG Day 4 (self ART)||~S$7|
|SG Day 5 (self ART)||~S$7|
|SG Day 6 (self ART)||~S$7|
|SG Day 7 (self ART)||~S$7|
This is a significant saving compared to the previous regime with a pre-departure PCR test required.
Note that the self-swab ART tests on Day 2 to Day 7 back in Singapore are only required if you are leaving your place of accommodation that day, so you can potentially save some of these tests and their associated costs if you have no need to do so.
Other VTL countries requiring pre-departure testing
Here’s a full list of the pre-departure testing requirements when travelling from Singapore to the following VTL countries, in addition to the usual testing regime 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|
|Brunei||PCR||48h before departure
72h before departure (Singapore RGL)
|PCR 2 days before departure
ART 24h before departure
|Age 11 or below|
||48h before departure||—|
|Israel||PCR||72h before departure||Isreali citizens and residents|
|Myanmar||PCR||72h before arrival||Age 5 or below|
|PCR 48h before departure
ART 24h before departure
|Age 1 or below|
|PCR 48h before departure
ART 24h before departure
|Age 3 or below|
|Qatar||PCR||48h before departure
||Age 3 or below
Vaccinated Qataris and residents
|South Korea||PCR||2 days before departure||Age 5 or below|
|ART 1 day before departure also accepted from 23 May 2022|
|1 day before departure||Age 1 or below|
18 of Singapore’s 26 VTL countries require pre-departure testing before you travel there, but it’s great news that Sri Lanka has become the 8th among those accepting the cheaper, quicker and more convenient ART test option.
This comes a week after Australia also began to accept rapid antigen tests (RAT or ART) as a pre-departure option for international travellers.
A family of four could be looking at a saving of around S$400 as a result of this welcome change, money that can be better spent on flights and hotels.
There’s even a video pre-departure ART option you can do in Singapore, with a certificate acceptable for travel, so you don’t even have to leave home.
Let’s hope for more relaxations like this in the weeks and months ahead, as Omicron waves hopefully start to subside around the world.
(Cover Photo: Shutterstock)