Travel to the Philippines, one of Singapore’s most recent Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) countries, is now a simpler process with the country joining the welcome trend of downgrading its pre-departure COVID-19 test requirement from a PCR test to the cheaper, quicker ART method.
The new rules are already in effect and will reduce costs for travellers from Singapore heading quarantine-free to the Philippines by an average of S$80 per person.
The Philippines reopened to fully vaccinated tourists on 10th February 2022, later joining Singapore’s VTL network on 4th March 2022, for two-way quarantine-free travel.
New PDT options
For those arriving in the Philippines from overseas on or after 11th March 2022, the new pre-departure COVID-19 testing options are either:
- a PCR test within 48 hours of departure; or
- an ART test within 24 hours of departure.
The timing applies prior to departure at the first embarkation point in a continuous journey to the Philippines (i.e. where you do not leave the airport premises at any transit points).
For most of our readers that means the best option will be to have an ART test within 24 hours of the departure time of your non-stop flight from Singapore.
For example if you are departing to Manila with Jetstar on 3K765 at 4.35pm on Wednesday, simply take a pre-departure ART test from 4.35pm on Tuesday onwards.
Children aged three or below by date of birth on departure are exempt from the requirement to have a pre-departure test to enter the Philippines.
At the time of writing, Singapore Airlines has yet to update its travel guidance for those entering the Philippines, so you may come up against some resistance when presenting an ART test at the check-in desk, however the staff should be able to reference the IATA Timatic regulations listed above.
Allowing travellers the option to take an ART test will significantly reduce costs, with PCR tests in Singapore on average costing around S$118, though there are a good number of options in the S$90 – S$100 range.
Pre-departure ART tests including a certificate for travel, meanwhile, cost around S$36 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, on average at S$80 a head meaning S$320 for a group of four.
Convenience is another factor, with most providers in Singapore sending through your ART test results within just one hour of being swabbed, meaning the Philippines’ 24-hour pre-departure window for those taking an antigen rapid test should be more than adequate.
Video ART testing (don’t!)
While Singapore now allows travellers to perform a supervised pre-departure self-swab ART test by video call, the requirements for those taking an antigen test to travel to the Philippines state that it must be “a laboratory-based or clinic-based Antigen test”.
Since neither of these criteria apply to a supervised self-swab over video link, you should not use a Tele-ART service for pre-departure testing purposes prior to travelling to the Philippines.
Play it safe and visit an approved clinic.
Designated VTL flights
You can take any flight from Singapore to the Philippines and enjoy quarantine-free arrival. It’s the return portion of your trip back to Singapore itself where you must take a specifically-approved designated VTL flight to arrive under the quarantine-free process.
Designated VTL flights from the Philippines to Singapore have been confirmed by Cebu Pacific, Jetstar, Philippine Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Scoot from four cities; Cebu, Clark, Davao and Manila.
Here’s the latest list of flights you’ll need to book to return to Singapore quarantine-free between now and the end of October 2022 (click to expand):
This is one of the busiest VTL countries on the Singapore’s quarantine-free network, with around 100 weekly flights to Changi (14 per day) by mid-year.
Full requirements for the Philippines
We’ve updated our full guide for travellers on the two-way Philippines VTL, including vaccination, insurance and immigration requirements.
Be sure to check out that detailed overview, covering the process in both directions.
Philippines VTL testing costs
ART testing in the Philippines, suitable for travel back to Singapore on the VTL, costs around PHP750 (~S$20).
This competitive rate makes the Philippines one of the cheapest quarantine-free trip options in the region, in testing terms at least, now that ART tests are also accepted when flying outbound.
Here are the estimated testing costs for a round-trip from Singapore to the Philippines and back, for those taking a VTL trip.
|SG pre-departure (clinic ART)*||From S$21|
|PH pre-departure (clinic ART)*||~S$20|
|SG arrival (supervised ART)||S$15|
* Prices vary between providers and locations.
This is a significant saving compared to the previous regime, when a pre-departure PCR test was required.
Note that the supervised ART test to be taken at a QTC/CTC within 24 hours of clearing immigration back in Singapore is only applicable for those arriving on or before 14th March 2022.
From 15th March 2022, travellers can take a self-ART using an approved test kit and simply report the result, saving around another S$10 and a fair bit of hassle too.
Other VTL countries requiring pre-departure testing
Here’s a full list of the pre-departure testing requirements when travelling from Singapore to a VTL country, 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|
There is no longer any pre-departure test required for fully vaccinated passengers travelling to the following VTL countries:
- Saudi Arabia
- Sri Lanka
There’s been a progressive move this year by many of Singapore’s VTL countries previously requiring PCR pre-departure tests to accepting the cheaper, quicker ART method, including Australia and Canada, while some countries have ditched pre-departure testing altogether, like the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka.
The Philippines is the latest on the list relaxing its requirements, becoming the sixth of 16 VTL countries requiring a PDT also allowing travellers to take an ART before departure (and remember, the other 16 VTL countries don’t require a PDT at all!).
A family of four could be looking at a saving of around S$320 as a result of this welcome change, money that can be better spent on flights and hotels.
Remember not to risk taking a supervised video or ‘Tele-ART’ to meet your pre-departure test requirement when travelling to the Philippines. While the regulations do not specifically exclude this method, they do say your test must be “laboratory-based or clinic-based”.
Let’s hope for more PDT relaxations like this coming through, which combined with those we’ve seen recently for VTL travellers returning to Singapore, and the eventual scrapping of the complex process in the coming weeks, should help make travel as close to pre-COVID as it can be.
(Cover Photo: Shutterstock)