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UAE VTL: Pre-departure PCR test scrapped for fully vaccinated travellers

Trips on Singapore's newest VTL with the UAE are now S$100 cheaper per person, thanks to no more pre-departure PCR test for fully vaccinated travellers.

There’s more good news for pre-departure COVID-19 testing requirements among Singapore’s Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) countries, this time from one of the latest additions to the scheme, with the United Arab Emirates scrapping its requirement for a PCR test before travelling.

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Provided you are fully vaccinated, you can now travel to the country as a tourist with no test required, though if you arrive in Abu Dhabi a free PCR test will be conducted on arrival.

PDT no longer required

Effective from 26th February 2022, the UAE has removed its pre-departure test requirement, which had been a longstanding arrangement since the onset of COVID-19, and comprised:

  • For those arriving in Dubai: A PCR test conducted no more than 72 hours before departure.
  • For those arriving in Abu Dhabi: A PCR test conducted no more than 48 hours before departure.

Children aged 11 or below were exempt from pre-departure testing.

Fully vaccinated visitors can now travel to the UAE without the need to provide a negative test result. This policy applies to travellers from all countries.

Travellers who are not fully vaccinated must continue to comply with these testing requirements.

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Given that the UAE was requiring the more expensive PCR testing method before departure, the savings here are typically at least S$100 per passenger for those travelling from Singapore, with tests starting at S$96 but on average costing S$120, based on our latest analysis.

Vaccination requirement

In order to travel to the UAE quarantine-free as a non-resident, you must present a COVID-19 vaccination certificate with a QR code showing that you were fully vaccinated at least 14 days before departure with one of the following:

  • AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria or SK Bioscience)
  • Covaxin
  • Covishield
  • Moderna (Spikevax)
  • Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty)
  • Sinopharm
  • Sinovac
  • Sputnik V

If you were fully vaccinated with the following vaccines, this must have taken effect at least 28 days before departure:

  • Janssen

Alternatively, you may present a COVID-19 recovery certificate with a QR code, issued at most one month before departure.

Children aged 11 or below are exempt from the vaccination / recovery requirements.

On-arrival testing

If you’re arriving in Abu Dhabi you will undergo a mandatory on-arrival PCR test at the airport, after baggage reclaim. There is no requirement to isolate after the test is taken and you will be provided with the results by SMS.

Those arriving in Dubai may be selected for a free PCR test. (Photo: Shutterstock)

If you’re arriving in Dubai you may be selected for free on-arrival PCR testing. You will then be required to self-isolate until a negative result is received.

Transit passengers

There is no requirement for a pre-departure test when transiting through Abu Dhabi or Dubai. You will still be required to meet the testing requirements for your final destination.

Transiting through Dubai? No PDT is required, unless your destination requires one. (Photo: Dubai Airports)

VTL countries still requiring pre-departure testing

With the UAE now off the list, a total of 19 VTL countries will require a pre-departure test for fully vaccinated Singapore residents in the outbound direction from Changi.

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You’ll 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
Brunei PCR 48h before departure
or
72h before departure (Singapore RGL)
Fiji PCR
or
ART
PCR 2 days before departure
or
ART 24h before departure
Age 11 or below
Hong Kong PCR
48h before departure
Israel PCR 72h before departure Isreali citizens and residents
Myanmar PCR 72h before arrival Age 5 or below
New Zealand PCR
or
ART
PCR 48h before departure
or
ART 24h before departure
Age 1 or below
Philippines PCR
or
ART
PCR 48h before departure
or
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
USA PCR
or
ART
1 day before departure Age 1 or below

If you are heading to a country requiring pre-departure testing, be sure to check our comprehensive updated guide to the cheapest options available in Singapore.

Aside from the UAE, other VTL countries not requiring pre-departure testing include:

  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • India
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey
  • United Kingdom

That’s a total of 13 two-way quarantine-free options with no outbound PDT requirement.

VTL flights UAE – Singapore

The UAE joined Singapore’s VTL on 25th February 2022, having been deferred from late 2021 due to the Omicron variant.

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Those visiting the UAE or transiting back through the country from another VTL location can return to Singapore on designated quarantine-free services operated by Etihad, Emirates or Singapore Airlines, as shown in the following tables.

Abu Dhabi – Singapore

27th March 2022 - 31st March 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= EY470
787-9
AUH
22:25
SIN

09:55*

* Next day

Important

From 1st April 2022, there will be no more designated VTL flights to Singapore.
All fully vaccinated travellers can enter quarantine-free on any flight operated by any airline on any route.

Dubai – Singapore

27th March 2022 - 31st March 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= EK352
777-300ER
DXB
09:30
SIN

20:55
 bgcolor= SQ495
A350 Regional
DXB
20:00
SIN

07:30*

* Next day

Important

From 1st April 2022, there will be no more designated VTL flights to Singapore.
All fully vaccinated travellers can enter quarantine-free on any flight operated by any airline on any route.

  Full list of all VTL Flights

Process to Singapore

Obviously no testing (apart from a free on-arrival test in some cases) for fully vaccinated Singapore residents heading to the UAE, but on the way back to Singapore the standard process will apply, as shown below.

VTL Process Singapore

  • Must be fully vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine in Singapore, or any VTL country (e.g. UAE), or any EU member state, or any non-EU countries that have joined the EU DCC system
  • Must have an accepted digital proof of vaccination
  • Must have stayed in Singapore or any VTL country / countries for 7 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’ (see above)
  • Take an on-arrival supervised COVID-19 ART test within 24 hours
  • Self-isolate until the result is available

* Not applicable for Singapore Citizens, permanent residents or long-term pass holders

Testing costs

Here are the approximate testing costs for a Singapore – UAE – Singapore trip, using the VTL on your return, now that no pre-departure test is required on the outbound journey.

🇦🇪 VTL
Singapore UAE
COVID-19 Testing 

Test Cost
UAE pre-departure (ART)* ~S$55
SG on-arrival (supervised ART) S$15
Total ~S$70

* Prices vary based on provider

Most clinics in Dubai focus on providing PCR tests, but rapid antigen testing (ART) is available at Dubai Airport (Terminal 3), costing around S$55, with results in 15 minutes.

With no more expensive PCR pre-departure testing when travelling to the UAE, a VTL trip to and from the country should now pick up only around S$70 per person in testing costs, one of the cheapest and most straightforward on Singapore’s quarantine-free list.

Remember if you have recently recovered from COVID-19 in the last 90 days with documentary proof, you are now exempt from all pre-departure testing, on-arrival testing and isolation requirements when travelling to Singapore, which would make your UAE trip completely free as far as testing is concerned.



 


 

Summary

Pre-departure PCR testing in Singapore isn’t short of options, but it is expensive and potentially inconvenient, so this removal of the requirement when travelling to the UAE is a welcome improvement for this new VTL.

Families in particular will enjoy big savings, for example at least S$400 for four travellers aged 12 or over, money that can be better spent on flights, hotels and other travel expenses. You’ll now need to budget around S$70 per person for testing costs on a Dubai or Abu Dhabi trip.

Overall there are now 12 countries on Singapore’s VTL list not requiring any outbound (paid) testing for fully vaccinated travellers or younger children, including the UK, France, Italy, India and Spain.

Let’s hope for even more improvements to this list in the coming weeks, as the milder Omicron variant subsides globally.

(Cover Photo: Rus S / Shutterstock)

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6 comments

  1. This is great news and thanks for compiling the list! Do you happen to also have a list of VTL countries that do not require on-arrival testing?

    1. Not a list on the site I can point you to as such, but off the top of my head these VTL countries do apply on-arrival tests, and so I believe all the others don’t:

      Australia (except Darwin / NT)
      Cambodia
      Canada (random)
      Fiji (Day 2 in hotel)
      Indonesia (PCR at airport)
      Malaysia (PCR at airport)
      South Korea (PCR at airport)
      Thailand (PCR at airport in HKT/USM, or at hotel / hospital in BKK)
      UAE (Abu Dhabi)
      UAE (Dubai, random)

      Hope it helps!

  2. It’s a misleading statement that you can perform ART at DXB Terminal 3. Though it’s a nasal swab rapid test, it’s actually not an ART and the test result does not say it’s ART instead the test report is titled as Molecular Test. I myself have taken that test in Jan’22 and many airlines does not accept it simply because the report doesn’t say Antigen Test. Since ART is banned in Dubai emirate, you cannot do it in any clinics or hospitals. Above all, Singapore Airlines does not accept ART test for departures from Dubai, even if you manage to do one. I was a bit worried about the false positive on PCR test due to a recent infection so I contacted SIA dubai office and also visited Dubai airport and checked with one of the check-in staffs but all of them said PCR is the only accepted PDT.

      1. Hi Andrew,

        did you get an update on this question (is ART test accepted at Dubai airport and where to get it)?

        Otherwise where to get a PCR? We are flying to Dubai this Thursday and returning a week later.

        Thanks in advance.

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