There’s more simplicity for South Korea trips from today, with the country no longer requiring visitors or returning residents to be vaccinated in order to enter without undergoing quarantine on arrival, though a pre-departure PCR or ART test will still be required.
A post-arrival PCR test is also on the cards, within three days of arrival. While it is recommended to take the test on the first day, there is no self-isolation period enforced, even if you wish to take it later.
Vaccination requirement scrapped
Last week South Korea’s Prime Minister Han Duck-soo confirmed that the country would no longer impose a quarantine requirement for unvaccinated travellers arriving from overseas from 8th June, following a stabilisation of the country’s COVID-19 situation.
Prior to 8th June 2022, unvaccinated returning Korean residents had to quarantine for seven days at their place of residence, while unvaccinated short-term visitors had to book a designated quarantine facility for their seven-day stay at a cost of KRW 1,500,000 (~S$1,640) per person.
Earlier this month South Korea also started allowing unvaccinated children aged 6 to 11 years of age to enter with fully vaccinated parents (previously only those aged 0-5 were exempt), but this latest relaxation of all vaccination requirements means children of all ages are now able to travel.
Hopefully more countries can similarly simplify their requirements in the coming months, though it may be some time before the likes of Australia, New Zealand and Singapore drop their vaccination requirement, like European countries have done.
South Korea’s previous vaccination requirements
Previously, travellers heading to South Korea were subject to a seven-day quarantine period, unless they were fully vaccinated with one of the following vaccines more than 14 days and at most 180 days prior to arrival:
- AstraZeneca (SK Bioscience)
- AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria)
- Moderna (Spikevax)
- Nuvaxovid (Novavax)
- Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty)
If the primary vaccination course had been completed more than 180 days previously, a booster dose of one of the above vaccines was also required.
Here’s an example of how it worked, for entries up to and including 7th June 2022.
Quarantine exemption to enter South Korea
(travellers aged 12+)
|Pfizer||1||1 Jan||5 Feb
|Moderna||Booster||30 Jul||30 Jul||No Limit|
This individual would not have been allowed to enter South Korea quarantine-free between 21st July and 29th July, due to exceeding 180 days without a booster dose, however this is no longer an issue now that the vaccination requirement has been scrapped.
South Korea PDT requirements
Despite the vaccination relaxation, South Korea has not yet made any further changes to its testing requirements.
Since 23rd May 2022, those arriving in South Korea from overseas can take one of the following pre-departure tests:
- a PCR test within 2 days of departure; or
- an ART test (clinic only) within 1 day of departure.
For example, if your flight from Singapore to Seoul departs at 11.15pm (23:15) on Wednesday 15th June 2022, you must take your pre-departure test as follows:
- PCR: On or after 0.00am on Monday 13th June 2022
- ART: On or after 0.00am on Tuesday 14th June 2022
The timing applies prior to departure at the first embarkation point in a continuous journey to South Korea (i.e. where you do not leave the airport premises at any transit points).
Don’t forget to check our comprehensive and continually updated list of the cheapest pre-departure PCR and ART tests in Singapore when planning your trip to South Korea.
For most of our readers that means the best option will be to have an ART test within 1 day of the departure time of your non-stop flight from Singapore.Note: Singapore Airlines still incorrectly states that PCR or ART tests for travel to South Korea must be conducted within 48 hours or 24 hours before departure respectively (not 2 days or 1 day). You may wish to comply with these tighter timescales when flying with the airline, to avoid any issues at the check-in desk.
Children under the age of six (by date of birth on the entry date to South Korea) are exempt from pre-departure testing, provided they are accompanied by adults who submit valid negative PDT results.
Korean nationals and long-term visa holders who have recovered from COVID-19 within 10 to 40 days of their departure date are also exempt from pre-departure testing, provided they have a recovery memo, however this does not apply to tourists and visitors.
Tele-ARTs not allowed
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 South Korea state that it must be “taken at a hospital or clinic”.
The requirements go on to be even more explicit about remote supervised tests.
This is an unfortunate stance for those using the antigen method for pre-departure testing, since a trip to a clinic will have to be made before departure.
What about transits?
If you’re transiting in South Korea on a connecting itinerary without clearing immigration (i.e. with onward boarding pass and any luggage checked through to your final destination), you are exempt from the country’s pre-departure testing requirements.
Only the requirements of your final destination (if any) apply.
Singapore – South Korea flights are ramping up
Just last month we were mentioning a significant ramp-up for Singapore – South Korea flights in the weeks and months ahead, including a brand new low-cost flat-bed Business Class option with T’way Air.
This forms part of a wider increase in services by all carriers on the Singapore – Seoul route, as shown in the following table.
Singapore – Seoul
Jeju Air will also start a twice-weekly Busan route on 25th June, while Scoot will launch a new non-stop Singapore – Jeju route from mid-June 2022, using Airbus A321neo aircraft three times per week.
Singapore – South Korea trip process
Here’s the latest process for those travelling from Singapore (and other countries) quarantine-free to South Korea, and it’s the simplest yet.
Eligibility & Process
Singapore South Korea
- Apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation at least 24 hours in advance*
- Take a pre-departure COVID-19 PCR test up to 2 days before departure, or a clinic-based ART test up to 1 day before departure
- Obtain a Q-code, which must be presented upon arrival
- Take a COVID-19 PCR test within 3 days of arrival, even if you will stay in South Korea for three days or less
* Not applicable for South Korean citizens or permanent residents
Singapore – South Korea trip testing costs
Here’s how round-trip testing costs from Singapore to South Korea and back currently look.
Singapore South Korea
|SG pre-departure (clinic ART)||From S$18|
|S. Korea arrival (clinic PCR)||~S$90
Travellers can now expect to part with less than S$110 on a round-trip to South Korea, a far cry from the S$500+ per person we saw when the VTL with Singapore was first established and multiple PCR tests were the norm.
Currently there are only two COVID-19 tests required on a round-trip from Singapore to South Korea and back, which will hopefully reduce further soon.
Asia-Pacific countries are slowly starting to ease COVID-19 entry requirements, including both testing and in cases like this – vaccination.
It’s now no longer a requirement to have received a vaccine (or a booster in some cases) to travel quarantine-free to South Korea, though pre-departure and post-arrival testing does still remain.
This move will simplify trips, especially for children and un-boosted adults, with the country now being easier to enter than at any time since it launched a reciprocal VTL with Singapore, back in November 2021.
(Cover Photo: Korea Tourism)