In response to a recent increase in COVID-19 cases in South Korea, authorities there are tightening the testing timeframe for arriving travellers from Monday next week, while also recommending self-isolation following the on-arrival test.
This is an unfortunate (but small) step backwards for quarantine-free travel to the country, with both testing and vaccination requirements having been progressively relaxed, up until now.
South Korea on-arrival testing
For those arriving in South Korea on or before Sunday 24th July 2022, an on-arrival PCR test must be conducted within three days of arrival.
From Monday 25th July 2022, this test will need to be conducted within one day of arrival.
Furthermore, travellers are now “recommended to remain in their accommodations until they receive a negative [on-arrival] PCR test result”, with immediate effect, replacing the advice that you were “allowed to carry on activities before or after taking [the] PCR test”.
While this is not a requirement to self-isolate, do note the latest recommended practice.
For most of our readers, it will therefore now be easier to complete your on-arrival PCR test at Incheon Airport (pre-book here), rather than at a non-airport medical institution, though you can still opt for the latter provided you do so within one day (see here for some options).
A COVID-19 test centre is also available at Gimhae International Airport in Busan, while a new facility is being set up this month at Jeju International Airport.
Your on-arrival test result should also now be registered at the Q-code website.
Do note that if the on-arrival test result is positive, a mandatory seven-day quarantine period is required.
Korean nationals and Alien Registration Card (ARC) holders may self-quarantine at home, however short-term visitors must serve the quarantine at an allocated facility.
Pre-departure testing remains
South Korea is one of the few countries popular with Singapore residents that still imposes a pre-departure testing requirement (though vaccination is no longer mandatory).
Since 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 17th August 2022, you must take your pre-departure test as follows:
- PCR: On or after 0.00am on Monday 15th August 2022
- ART: On or after 0.00am on Tuesday 16th August 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.
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 you can now take a supervised pre-departure self-swab ART test by video call in Singapore, 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 and on-arrival testing requirements.
Only the requirements of your final destination (if any) will apply.
Singapore – South Korea trip process
Here’s the latest process for those travelling from Singapore (and other countries) quarantine-free to South Korea, for arrivals from 25th July 2022 (latest changes highlighted).
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 1 day of arrival, with a recommendation to self-isolate until a negative result is received
- Upload your on-arrival test result via the Q-code website
* 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.
Quarantine-free travel to South Korea has been progressively simplified over the last few months, but from 25th July 2022 there will be a small step backwards, with the country insisting that its on-arrival PCR test be be taken within one day of touching down, rather than three days.
Travellers are also recommended to self-isolate until a negative on-arrival test result is received, though this is not mandatory like it was in the past.
On-arrival test results should also be uploaded to the Q-code website, with a mandatory seven-day quarantine at a designated facility imposed for visitors who test positive.