SHN-free travel from September: Where can vaccinated Singaporeans hope to go?

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Singapore has announced plans for SHN-free travel starting "early September". Which countries are realistic candidates?

On 24 March 2020, Singapore took the unprecedented step of closing its borders to tourists and short-term visitors in an attempt to control the spread of COVID-19. With very limited exceptions, those borders have remained shut ever since, and the average Singaporean probably hasn’t travelled in more than 18 months. 

empty changi airport
Changi Airport may not be quiet for long, if all goes well

But finally, there’s something to look forward to. Singapore announced yesterday that vaccinated individuals may be able to travel without a 14-day SHN, as soon as early September 2021. The current 14-day hotel-based SHN will be replaced by either a 7-day home-based SHN, or simply a test on arrival, depending on the country’s risk profile. 

Based on what the authorities are saying, this sounds like a three-tier “traffic light” system, similar to that used in the UK. Countries would be divided into low, medium and high risk, with concessions granted to vaccinated travelers arriving from the low and medium risk categories. 

 Fully  Vaccinated*Unvaccinated 
Low RiskTest on arrival; no SHN14-day SHN at hotel
Medium Risk7-day SHN at home
High Risk14-day SHN at hotel
*Fully vaccinated refers to 14 days after the 2nd dose of a two-dose vaccination regime

This then begs the question: where can we go?

When shortlisting realistic travel prospects for 2021, I think of a funnel with three layers:

Countries that accept SG without quarantine
 Countries with direct flights to SG 
  Countries deemed low-risk by SG  

Which countries take Singaporeans?

If you’re fully vaccinated with a Singapore passport, there’s actually nothing stopping you from entering almost 130 countries or territories: 

Countries that accept SG without quarantine
  • Afghanistan*
  • Albania
  • Andorra
  • Anguilla*
  • Antigua and Barbuda*
  • Armenia
  • Aruba*
  • Austria
  • Bahamas
  • Bahrain*
  • Belarus
  • Belgium
  • Belize
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Botswana*
  • Brazil*
  • British Virgin Islands*
  • Bulgaria
  • Burkina Faso*
  • Cape Verde*
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia
  • Curaçao
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Djibouti*
  • Dominica*
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • El Salvador
  • Estonia
  • Faroe Islands
  • Finland
  • France
  • French Polynesia*
  • Gabon*
  • Gambia*
  • Georgia
  • Germany
  • Ghana*
  • Gibraltar*
  • Greece
  • Greenland*
  • Guam*
  • Guatemala
  • Guinea-Bissau*
  • Guyana*
  • Haiti*
  • Honduras
  • Iceland*
  • Iraq*
  • Ireland
  • Ivory Coast*
  • Jamaica*
  • Jersey*
  • Jordan*
  • Kenya*
  • Kosovo
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Latvia
  • Lebanon*
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Maldives*
  • Mali*
  • Malta*
  • Mauritania*
  • Mexico
  • Moldova
  • Monaco
  • Montenegro
  • Morocco
  • Mozambique*
  • Namibia*
  • Netherlands
  • Nicaragua*
  • Panama*
  • Peru*
  • Portugal
  • Puerto Rico*
  • Qatar*
  • Republic of North Macedonia
  • Romania
  • Russia*
  • Rwanda*
  • Saint Barthélemy*
  • Saint Lucia*
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines*
  • San Marino
  • São Tomé and Príncipe*
  • Saudi Arabia*
  • Senegal*
  • Serbia*
  • Seychelles*
  • Sierra Leone*
  • Sint Maarten
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa*
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka*
  • Sudan*
  • Suriname*
  • Swaziland*
  • Sweden*
  • Switzerland
  • Tajikistan*
  • Tanzania*
  • Thailand (via Phuket)*
  • Trinidad and Tobago*
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey*
  • Turks and Caicos Islands*
  • Uganda*
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates*
  • United Kingdom*
  • United States*
  • US Virgin Islands*
  • Uzbekistan*
  • Vatican City
  • Venezuela*
  • Zambia*
  • Zimbabwe*
*Requires negative COVID-19 test | Source: Wego

The most you’ll need to present is a negative COVID-19 test, and in the case of 55 of the aforementioned countries and territories, that’s not even required. 

Which countries does Singapore have direct flights to?

But things aren’t so simple. Even when borders reopen, travel options are likely to be limited to countries with direct flights to Singapore. This is because transiting in a third country may affect your eligibility for a quarantine waiver, should the third country not be on the destination country’s green list.

For example, I could fly from Singapore to Brussels via Istanbul on Turkish Airlines. While travelers from Singapore are exempt from quarantine in Belgium, travelers from Turkey are not. Since I’m changing planes in Istanbul, I effectively become a traveler from Turkey. 

Now, there are obviously situations where transits can work, in cases where the third country is also on the green list. If I were to fly from Singapore to Brussels via Zurich on SWISS, there wouldn’t be an issue since travelers from Switzerland are exempt from quarantine in Belgium anyway (ditto flying via Frankfurt on Lufthansa).

But for simplicity’s sake, we’ll ignore these permutations first and just focus on countries with direct flights to Singapore. 

Countries with direct flights to Singapore
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Maldives
  • Netherlands
  • Qatar
  • Russia
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • Thailand (via Phuket)
  • Turkey
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

That parses down the list significantly, with just 16 countries available. 

Which countries would be deemed low risk?

Going there is one thing; coming back is another. If the idea is to avoid quarantine on both sides of your trip, then we need to consider which of the above countries might fall into Singapore’s definition of “low-risk”. 

It seems like Singapore will consider two metrics:

  • % of population fully vaccinated
  • Number of new COVID-19 cases

I’m curious how that dynamic will work, because we could well see a rising number of new COVID-19 cases in a country that reopens after vaccinating a critical mass of its population. If the idea is to treat COVID as endemic, then new cases per se shouldn’t be a concern, but that’s a question for the policymakers to decide. 

In a recent interview with The Straits Times, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung suggested the following heuristic:

“Once a place’s (Covid-19) infection rate is going down, vaccinations are going up and you go below, say, two or three infections per 100,000, we should start monitoring those countries seriously.”

So here’s the 7-day average of new cases per 100,000, and the percentage of population fully vaccinated in the 16 countries on our shortlist. 

Country🠗 New Cases Per 100,000Fully Vaccinated
UK57.355%
Spain55.454%
Netherlands37.848%
Maldives33.449%
France27.944%
Greece24.846%
South Africa20.13.9%
Thailand19.35.1%
Russia16.016%
USA15.749%
United Arab Emirates14.270%
Turkey13.727%
Denmark13.549%
Switzerland7.846%
Qatar4.760%
Germany1.949%
New cases refers to seven-day average. Data as of 25 July 2021 from Bloomberg and NY Times

I hope you like beer halls, because Germany is the only country on the list that currently falls into the <3 cases per 100,000 threshold. 

Given the greater transmissibility of the Delta variant, it seems doubtful whether the 3 cases per 100,000 threshold will be a realistic goal, and I suspect this won’t be the factor determining whether Singapore lifts SHN requirements for a given country. Vaccination rates will surely have a part to play as well, which might work in the favor of other countries in the EU. 

Other candidates

Sharp-eyed readers may have noticed the absence of some much-discussed destinations like Australia and Hong Kong. 

The reason they didn’t make the funnel is because they’re currently not open to Singapore travelers, but let’s take a quick look at the likelihood of each for completeness’ sake. 

ScoreLikelihood of Leisure Travel in 2021
✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️Highly likely 
✈️✈️✈️✈️Likely
✈️✈️✈️Somewhat likely
✈️✈️Unlikely
✈️Highly unlikely

Australia

Not essential travel
Australia is squarely on the “not happening” list for 2021 travel
New Cases Per 100KFully VaccinatedLikelihood
0.613%✈️

In March this year, news broke that Singapore and Australia were planning a travel bubble for work, leisure and studies by July. Well, July’s almost over, and it’s clear this idea is nowhere closer to fruition. 

The latest word out of Canberra is that Australia does not plan to move forward on a travel bubble with Singapore until at least “the end of the year”. I think even that’s a long shot, given Australia’s obsession with COVID-zero and lacklustre vaccination roll out (or “stroll out”, as some critics have put it). 

Australia recently cut its already heavily restricted quota for returning citizens, allowing just 3,000 people to return each week. This measure is expected to last till next year, and it’d be politically unthinkable to throw open the floodgates to travelers from Singapore when so many nationals are still stranded abroad. 

New Zealand

New Zealand will almost certainly be out of the question for 2021
New Cases Per 100KFully VaccinatedLikelihood
0.113%✈️

If Australia is an unlikely prospect, New Zealand is even less so. The government has not committed to a timeline for reopening its borders, and there doesn’t seem to be much appetite among the population to do so (a poll found 82% supported a closed border policy for all but returning citizens). Even the travel bubble with Australia has been suspended, in light of the latest flare ups in Sydney. 

While Air New Zealand’s filing of weekly Singapore – Christchurch flights from 31 October has raised some eyebrows, the airline has denied any knowledge of a potential bubble with Singapore, claiming the flights are part of a “Maintaining International Air Connectivity” scheme for cargo and repatriation. 

Japan

Japan’s borders remain closed to all types of travelers for now
New Cases Per 100KFully VaccinatedLikelihood
3.626%✈️✈️

Japan has recently accelerated its vaccination program, and at one point was administering more than one million doses per day. That rate has since tapered off, but the target still is to vaccinate everyone who wants a shot by November. 

While there’s little doubt in my mind that Singapore would consider Japan as a low-risk country (3.6 new cases per 100,000 people), the real question is whether Japan will be willing to reopen its borders. 

Tokyo is still under a state of emergency until 22 August 2021, and entry bans are still in place for travel of all sorts including business. Long-term residents still face challenges re-entering, so 2021 may be a bridge too far for leisure travel. 

South Korea

South Korea and Singapore have been in travel bubble discussions, but nothing has been finalized
New Cases Per 100KFully VaccinatedLikelihood
2.713%✈️✈️✈️

Singapore and South Korea have been holding “exploratory talks” on an air travel bubble since March, and although it all sounded promising, nothing has yet materialized.

The latest news is that South Korea is waiving the two-week quarantine for fully vaccinated individuals who are Korean nationals, or foreigners entering Korea for business, public interest or family reasons. This isn’t a seamless process; an application form needs to be submitted to a diplomatic mission and documentation provided prior to departure, but it’s hopefully the first step in a broader reopening. 

Just like Japan, South Korea would be a strong candidate for low-risk designation (2.7 new cases per 100,000 people), should they wish to reopen. 

Hong Kong

The Hong Kong ATB- coming your way on 22 Nov 26 May watch this space
New Cases Per 100KFully VaccinatedLikelihood
~030%✈️✈️✈️

At this point I think we’ve said all we need to say about the ill-fated Hong Kong ATB. At one point Singapore was just hours away from announcing the third attempt, now it seems like travel to other places may well reopen before Hong Kong. 

The Ministry of Transport has issued the following statement, saying that ATB discussions are on ice until late August:

1. Given the recent surge in community cases and the imposition of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) measures in Singapore till 18 August 2021, both Mr Iswaran, Singapore’s Minister for Transport, and Mr Edward Yau, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, have jointly agreed to resume discussions on the Singapore-Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble (ATB) only when the COVID-19 situation allows. 

2. Both parties will remain in close contact and monitor the public health situation in both places before taking stock in late August on the ATB. 

More concerningly, the appetite for an ATB may no longer exist on the Hong Kong side, due to Singapore’s switch away from a COVID-zero target. It’s no secret the border with China is of greater importance, and if China continues a COVID-zero strategy, Hong Kong will have to follow suit. 

I still think the ATB will eventually happen, given all the time and energy both sides have sunk into it, but the timeline at best seems to be late September. 

Taiwan

Taiwan seems to be a good prospect for travel in 2021, provided their vaccination rate improves
New Cases Per 100KFully VaccinatedLikelihood
~01%✈️✈️✈️

Singapore and Taiwan have been discussing an air travel bubble since April, with the main barrier likely to be Taiwan’s low vaccination rate. 

Taiwan has had difficulty obtaining vaccines, but has recently received donations from Japan and the USA. A further 15 million doses of BioNTech vaccines have been secured through private channels, and 28% of the population has received at least one dose. 

Should the vaccination figures continue to improve, then Taiwan could be a very strong candidate for Q4 travel. 

Conclusion

While early-September is hardly a guarantee, it’s a relief to know we’re working towards a definite timeline for SHN-free travel. I imagine the initial list of countries will be a small one indeed, but it’s all about baby steps at this point. 

I haven’t made any air ticket bookings yet, but as I stated in a previous post, I see nothing wrong with doing so as long as they’re flexible and for direct flights. 

What’s your take on likely travel destinations?

Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Jim Campbell

Oktoberfest here we come!!!

Lifshitz

Cancelled in order to keep the numbers low for the time being.

Happy Camper

Thanks for this really timely write up, Aaron! I was exactly looking into this! 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

Happy Camper

Given that EU is now borderless, one would think that even if it’s a transit-flight, so long as transit in one EU nation then onward to another EU destination, should be fine..?

Happy Camper

😎

S H

Great, so possible to go Italy! Its not on the no-quarantine list somehow though.

Lieao

Initially i was quite excite about the europe being open back but now a little worries about the anti-chinese sentiment. anyone else similar thoughts?

Colonel Tan

Yup, will kena whack by racist punks

Luckily I have SAF training to protect me

Last edited 9 months ago by Colonel Tan
Kopi lim

SAF training will mean nothing when you are being whacked by 1 or more AMDK

freedom

We are not afraid of Taiwan, but Taiwan is afraid of us, just like Hong Kong, especially with its low vaccination rate.

TS77

Hi Aaron

Have you seen any official news on whether these new rules will just be for Singaporean Citizens or Singaporean residents?

Rachel

What about Israel?

David

We’re looking to fly via ZRH or FRA, seems the safest bet for now.

Rachel

Thanks David! It’s a country on my bucket list and just might be sooner than was planning given it’s one of the few countries with high vaxx rates.

Tanyamib

I actually hope to travel to China. Wanted to watch the winter Olympics!

Lifshitz

Any idea what this would mean for people with infants (who obviously cannot get vaccinated yet)?

Colonel Tan

Are you sure you want to expose your kid to covid for travel?

Sam

Are you able to do a write-up for travel insurance that covers Covid-19? So far I can only see AXA & Sompo doing that

anon

Japan can continue waiting till at least 2022 ba… They not even letting PRs back in yet.. tourism can really wait.. Plus people there also like aussie. Dont want and dont need to open up…

JHH

Why no coverage on China? This is, in my opinion, a top 3 on the list we can realistically fly to in 2021

Anon

China isnt opening anytime soon

matt

So basically nowhere.

Jimmy

Haha Matt, I like your conclusive comment. Personally I think the situation could change towards the end of August. I think we ought not to focus too much on the vaccination rate at this time, but rather what would be the vaccination rate “at that future time point” whereby Singapore is reviewing the border measures, I.e. early September. Right now, most of the countries around the world would have only around half of its population fully vaccinated at best. But instead, I am looking at the charts in the link below (“The race to get fully vaccinated” section) that may… Read more »

Jimmy

Aaron, do you think it would be good to have a watch board table that quick linked from your main menu? Something like how you presented the “likelihood” table in this post, or maybe have an additional column for the brief reasoning or links to details on the development regarding the location…

Just my suggestion.

Jimmy

Thanks for sharing.

By the way, I think Canada has a good chance to open up for international travellers who are fully vaccinated from September onwards, though I guess it might not be a hot tourism destination for tourists from Singapore.

https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/canada-ease-border-measures-welcome-vaccinated-us-tourists-next-month-2021-07-19/

Fakhri

How about Brunei? No community infections for more than a year and at least 25% with at least one dose

JW19

Just curious, besides business, what’s the motivation to go the Brunei, there is next to nothing there.

Ortloc

I know a few people who make annual trips to Brunei for religious purposes. Mainly buddhists.

ZYX

No need to exchange notes and buy everything at half price.

Happy Camper

Thought about another angle…

Side-stepping medium or high risk cities (in EU, for example) by entering and existing a low risk one..?

Again, seeing that EU is now effectively borderless.. one can fly SIN>MUC.. then make way to a ‘medium’ or ‘high risk’ country.. but fly back home MUC>SIN and not have to serve SHN..?

I’m not advocating this but just being the devil… and by thinking out loud, would this not pose a potential ‘bad thing’ for Singapore authorities in wanting to ‘block’ a potential increase of imported cases.. from ‘higher risk’ countries..?

Frederic

This works only if you have not spent any time in a higher risk country within 21 days of your return to Singapore. I believe ‘they’ have ways to check.

Happy Camper

Sorry but I don’t understand what you’re saying… “This works only if you have not spent any time in higher risk country within 21 days of your return to Singapore” statement doesn’t seem to make any sense, to me… how does one spend any time in any country within 21 days of returning? contradicting, no? “I believe ‘they’ have ways to check” seems a little like a ‘big brother is watching’ conspiracy theory? As mentioned EU has no physical borders (that I’m aware of) so unless there’s a Trace Together type system in EU and even if there was (is… Read more »

Frederic

Hi, you do not have to stay put in 1 country for 21 days and you may spend time in different countries within the 21-day period, as long as none of them is a high-risk one. It’s just that in the EU, land borders can be crossed almost without noticing and, in the meantime, the list of high-risk countries back in Singapore might keep being updated. I am not totally sure about the last part but I believe that, with proper authority, cell phone roaming and credit card records may be obtained. There have been cases of people being caught… Read more »

Last edited 9 months ago by Frederic
Happy Camper

Ah.. Much clearer.. Yes, land crossings aren’t manned and that’s what I meant..

Yes, IF a crime has been committed (eg. Lying in declaration forms) and you wind up post-trip being found positive for Covid-19 and Police were to investigate, they can dig up and trace your journeys…

May not stop some people from doing so, I reckon… unfortunately… and that was the point I was making.. this has a possibility of having a negative impact on our future numbers..

Happy Camper

Yup yup..

Frederic

Hi Aaron, though not very high on a travel agenda, Luxembourg requires a PCR test of all travelers (cf. your first table). Indeed, they only recognize EU vaccination certificates for now. No quarantine, though. Had to check for sure because I am flying off on Sunday. Here is the Government link: Visiting Luxembourg – Coronavirus – Official information – Luxembourg (public.lu)

Frederic

Hi Aaron, I agree with your interpretation. It’s just that the IATA engine says otherwise (“passengers with a covid-19 vaccination certificate issued in Switzerland or an EEA member state”). The issue is, which source is the check-in agent going to look at? Obviously, if you call up the airline, they will just re-direct you to the IATA website (because it’s the passenger’s responsibility blah-blah) or suggest that you ring up the embassy, ahem.

Pierre

The picture is not up to date. There are 8 more kiosks in this row and there are all touchless!

https://www.linkedin.com/posts/happymeter-ai_happyhover-touchless-solution-at-singapore-activity-6802395658381860864-Q08_

freedom

Qatar may have better chance than all these. It has slightly higher vaccination rate and around 5 cases per 100,000.

Time to consider QSuite and just in time for QR awards from Alaska Mileage.

Alvin Koh

When I called the Belgium Embassy, it’s seems that there’s no need for PCR test when arriving in Belgium if we only transit in IST.

Alvin Koh

Apparently, it’s ok if you only spend a few hours in transit. I have written to Turkish Airline, Brussels Airport and also the authorities in Belgium managing travelers into Belgium. Will update here when I get their response.

Alvin Koh

Hi all,

Updating on reply from Brussels Airport When I wrote to Brussels Airport, I made clear that I am transiting through IST. They replied saying “ Coming from a green zone you don’t need any test to enter Belgium”

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