Bavarians at the Gate: Trip Planning

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With the Germany VTL starting on 8 September, it's time to get back on the road once more. But not quite as we remember it.

After 18 months of closed borders, the mirage of the Hong Kong ATB, dinner on an A380 and other amusing ways of burning miles on the ground, it’s finally time to return to the skies. 

The inaugural VTL flight from Munich departs on 8 September, and I’ll be onboard to cover everything you need to know about the experience both in Germany and on return to Singapore.

It’s been a while. 

🍺 Bavarians at the Gate
🇸🇬 Singapore- Germany VTL 🇩🇪

Flights

✈️ Bavarians at the Gate: Flights
To Munich From Munich
SQ 328
Airbus A350-900
SQ 331
Airbus A350-900
Total Cost:  184,000 KrisFlyer miles + S$188.90 

I booked a flight to Germany within 15 minutes of the VTL’s announcement, worried there’d be another mad rush like with the Hong Kong ATB.

Surprisingly, that feeding frenzy never materialised. Maybe it’s because Germany’s a lot further and doesn’t lend itself to a short getaway, or maybe fewer Singaporeans have family in Germany, or maybe everyone just prefers dim sum to sauerkraut. Whatever the reason, it’s still possible to find ~S$950 round-trip Economy Class fares to Frankfurt and Munich. And to think that’s how much Hong Kong tickets were selling for shortly after the ATB’s unveiling!

But who pays cash for tickets, anyway? After 18 months of accumulation, it’s time to finally unleash the kraken. I redeemed a round-trip Business Class ticket from Singapore to Munich with 184,000 KrisFlyer miles and S$188.90.

It should be noted, however, that Singapore Airlines is blocking Saver space on VTL flights for everyone except PPS/Solitaire PPS Club members. I’m just an Elite Silver, but thankfully my father could help me book a Saver ticket via the redemption nominee feature. If not for that, I’d have to cough up an additional 28,000 miles- not the end of the world, but why pay more?

Both the outbound and return flights will be operated by an Airbus A350-900, which I’ve reviewed previously. What I haven’t reviewed, however, is how the inflight experience has changed post-COVID. 

Singapore Airlines A350-900 Business Class
Singapore Airlines A350-900 Business Class
Singapore Airlines A350-900 Business Class
Singapore Airlines A350-900 Business Class

What does it mean for the boarding process? The inflight dining? The service routines? And will there be any good movies to watch? Important questions all. 

I’ll be flying out on the 5th and returning to Singapore on the 9th. You don’t need to tell me that’s a short trip, but it’s not really meant to be a holiday anyway. The mission is to recce and report, and if all goes well, return with the Milelioness a month or so later. 

While I was previously toying with the idea of doing some domestic travel within Germany, that unfortunately won’t be possible with the schedule. I may do a separate trip to Frankfurt if First Class Saver space opens up.

Hotels

🏨 Bavarians at the Gate: Hotels
Night Hotel Cost
1 Kempinski Munich  €369
2 Aloft Munich 37,500 Marriott points
3 Hilton Munich City 68,000 Hilton points

With time at a premium on this trip, it’s all about location, location, location.

That’s reflected in my choice of hotels: all within or close to the main tourist area around Marienplatz. I’ve selected three different hotels, at three different price points. 

Kempinski Munich

Kempinski Munich

I scheduled Kempinski Munich (technically called the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten München– confusing because Vier Jahreszeiten means four seasons) for the first night, because my flight lands at 7 a.m and the DISCOVERY Black 9 a.m check-in benefit could really come in handy. It’s not guaranteed, but I figure I have more of a chance than at Aloft or Hilton. 

Superior Room

I also hope the two-category upgrade comes through, because the lead-in Superior Room I booked measures in at just 25 sqm (it’s always funny when a hotel calls the basic category “superior”- to what, exactly?). European hotel rooms are small, as you may already know.

Otherwise, the Kempinski’s location can’t be beat. It’s at the doorstep of the historic Altstadt neighborhood, with Marienplatz just a six minute walk away. I can take the train directly from the airport to the hotel, with a short walk at the end. 

Aloft Munich

Aloft Munich

After Kempinski I’m relocating to Aloft Munich, which despite its cheaper positioning seems to rank well on TripAdvisor (#31 of all hotels in Munich, ahead of the Kempinski and Sofitel even).

Urban Room, Aloft Munich

Munich hotel prices really spike during the weekdays, and the Aloft would normally have cost €264 per night. Fortunately, Marriott Bonvoy is offering a PointSavers rate of 37,500 points per night, which nets me a value of 0.83 US cents per point (the experts say it’s kosher).

I’m open to the idea of replacing this with another boutique hotel that’s around the €100-150 mark, but that may be hard to find around the same area on a weekday. 

Hilton Munich City

Hilton Munich City
Hilton Munich City

I’ll spend the final night at Hilton Munich City. 

A Hilton, you say. Why, how exotic, and also unexpected. Would you perhaps like to review an Olive Garden too, while you’re at it?

Fine, even the name sounds boring. But the Hilton Munich City is next door to the train station that will take me back to the airport, only two stops from the Marienplatz district, and has an executive lounge I’ll be able to access as a Diamond member. 

At least the hotel was renovated back in 2019, so it’s not nearly as old as one might fear.  

Hilton Munich City Deluxe Room

If you read my initial post on the VTL, you’ll know I was also considering the Andaz Munich. Even though it looks gorgeous, I decided against it in the end simply because it’s way too far from anything touristy.

I also thought about spending my S$400 AMEX Platinum travel credit on an FHR booking at an uberlux hotel like the Bayerischer Hof or Rocco Forte, but these were frighteningly expensive; upwards of S$1,000 per night. 

Lounges

SIA SilverKris Lounge Changi

SilverKris Lounge entrance
Temporary SilverKris Lounge entrance

Singapore Airlines will open its brand new SilverKris lounges by the end of 2021. In the meantime, it’s operating out of a temporary facility at Changi Terminal 3. This will eventually become the new KrisFlyer Gold lounge, but currently serves as the common lounge for all. 

A Milelion reader recently gave us an inside look at the lounge, which seems to be perfectly functional, if a little uninspiring. The good news is that it has private shower cubicles and made-to-order meals (plated-to-order might be more accurate though). 

SilverKris Lounge Changi Airport
SilverKris Lounge Changi Airport seating area
SilverKris Lounge food options
SilverKris Lounge Changi Airport food options

His visit was back in April, when Business Class was the highest cabin offered by Singapore Airlines. First Class has since been restored, and I’d be curious to find out if they’ve hived off a separate area for First Class passengers.

I may also review the Ambassador Transit Lounge, Marhaba Lounge and SATS Premier Lounge in Terminal 3 just for that post-COVID snapshot. Tell me if you’d find this valuable. 

Lufthansa Senator/Business Lounge Munich

Lufthansa Munich Lounge | Photo: Johnny Africa

Singapore Airlines uses the Lufthansa Senator and Business Lounges in Munich Terminal 2, which I doubt will be life-changing. Pre-COVID reports say there was a decent selection of drinks and food, but overcrowding was always an issue. 

It’s not like there’s much of a choice anyway, since Priority Pass doesn’t have a lounge in Terminal 2 (Dragon Pass has access to the Lufthansa Business Lounge, FYI). 

Getting around Munich

Munich U-bahn

My initial thought was to minimise the risk of infection by taking taxis and Uber everywhere. But then again, if I’m going to be visiting tourist sites, restaurants and shops, would avoiding public transport really make much of a difference? Mask wearing (of FFP2 masks, no less) is compulsory on German public transport anyway, and supposedly well-enforced.

So public transport it is, then. Munich is well connected by trains and bus, and although the prices may seem steep on first glance, there’s many ways to save. Buying a day ticket gives you unlimited rides (on bus and train), and groups of up to five can share a single group day ticket. 

  Zone M Zone M-5 Child (6-14)
Single Ticket €3.40 €11.90 €1.60
Single Day Ticket €7.90 €13.20 €3.20
Group Day Ticket^ €15.00 €24.70 €3.20
Weekly Ticket €17.80 €60.30 *
^Group tickets accommodate up to five adults or ten children aged 6-14
*Up to three children travel for free with a weekly ticket holder after 9 a.m on weekdays and anytime on weekends

Most tourists will just require a Zone M ticket which covers all of central Munich. On the day of arrival and departure, you will need a Zone M-5 ticket (aka Airport-City ticket), which will take you from the airport to the hotel. Buy a day pass, and you can use it for rides within Zone M once you get to the hotel. 

Tickets are valid from the moment of purchase until 6 a.m the following day. Refer here for an excellent guide on Munich’s public transport system.

Travel Insurance

Here’s my thought process where travel insurance is concerned. 

Since I’m fully vaccinated and in decent health (well, general lack of core strength aside), odds are that even if I catch COVID-19, it’ll be asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic at worse. Under German protocols, that means self-isolation for 14 days in a hotel.

Therefore my immediate concerns are medical expenses (e.g. outpatient consultations with doctors and medication) and non-hospitalisation quarantine allowance. I was looking for coverage that cost no more than S$100 for five days, and found the following. 

Provider Cost
(5 days)
Medical Expenses
(COVID-19)
Quarantine Allowance*
(Per Day | Cap)
Allianz (Bronze) S$100 S$1M None
Aviva (Prestige) S$68^ S$20K S$100 | S$2,000
AXA Smart Traveller (Comp.) S$63 S$150K S$50 | S$700
NTUC Income (Deluxe) S$92 US$100K None
Sompo COVID-19 (Superior) S$101 S$200K S$100 | S$1,400
*Non-hospital
^Reflects 30% discount for those who have or whose immediate family members have MINDEF Group Term life/Personal Accident policy + 18% off with TRAVEL18 code

Allianz and NTUC Income immediately fail the cut because of their lack of non-hospitalisation quarantine allowance. Since hotels in Germany won’t be cheap, I’d prefer a plan that provides a S$100 per day allowance, which then rules out AXA. 

So that leaves Aviva and Sompo. Sompo offers significantly more medical coverage, but also requires a pre-departure PCR test, even if the country you’re travelling to does not mandate it. In the absence of a test, they will not cover any diagnosis of COVID-19 within 14 days from the start of the trip. 

This effectively increases the price by at least $135-200 in the case of travel to Germany, and Aviva became the clear winner. It doesn’t hurt that Aviva offers 30% off travel insurance for anyone who has a MINDEF group term life policy, and a further 18% off with the code TRAVEL18. I bought the highest tier plan and paid just S$68 for five days. 

To be clear: you only need to buy travel insurance for the intended duration of your trip. If a covered incident occurs that causes an extension to your trip, you will still receive coverage. 

You can find this in your policy wording under “automatic extensions” or some similar title.

Example: AXA Smart Traveller
Automatic Extensions
Your insurance cover will automatically be extended without additional premium for:
(a) up to 30 days if You are Hospitalised (or placed under compulsory quarantine) while Overseas upon the written advice of a Doctor or the local government authority in the case of a Quarantine Order; or
(b) up to 72 hours if You are unable to complete Your trip as planned due to Public Transport delays that are not Your fault.

As a side note, Great Eastern is offering fully vaccinated individuals a complimentary post-vaccination protection plan with up to S$2,000 of hospitalisation coverage in Singapore and overseas. I see no reason not to take it up. 

Conclusion

I have to admit: after being grounded for so long, it felt strange to be planning a trip. I could sense some rustiness at times, like having to look up lounge access rules or status benefits or other information I used to recall at the back of my hand. 

I suppose it’ll take a little time to get back in the saddle, but man, what a feeling to finally be doing it. 

If there’s other things you’d like to see reviewed, do give a shout out below. 

Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion with the intention of helping people travel better for less and impressing chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Gong

Have a good trip! It’s odd how excited am I over YOUR trip.

Mike

Hi Aaron,

Here is a quick review of SilverKris lounge in Terminal 3 (the temporary one), just made last week: https://youtu.be/wDICG1zfG_8

It was actually a very good experience, similar as before pandemic. Same for the flight service.

Mike

Sorry to dissapoint in advance, no F area and no champagne 🙂

W Ho

But they serve laksa & 1 red & 1 white wine @ 6 Aug.

Arv

I tend to disagree. The service is very limited as is the menu. Nothing like pre covid but seats and overall experience still top shelf. I know they are trying their best but due to limited staffing it was also incredibly difficult getting assistance for my family (who travelled separately to me SIN-ZRH in J class).

S H

Great choice re Kempinski Munich. I will always remember this hotel, as few years ago, we were upgraded from the most basic superior room (using corp rate) to the super top end Royal Ludwig Suite for our 2nt stay! I was totally speechless back then and probably the best every free upgrade in my life (so far). Hope you will get a nice surprise too.

Jyong

Hey Aaron, just to confirm that Aviva doesn’t require a PCR test before departure?

Dickson

Greetings fr Germany! We just flew into Munich yesterday and are now at Bavarian Alps. Having been here now, making this trip was one of our best decisions! The feeling of getting out & about again is so rejuvenating. Be prepared to be shocked at how forlorn Changi airport is. Nothing can prepare you for that. It’s like emerging out of a bombed out city with desolation everywhere. Do bring a print out of your vaccination cert with you. Very helpful, even during SQ checkout & German passport control. In Germany, masking is strictly enforced indoors & many do wear… Read more »

Dickson

Biz class was about 1/2 full. Meals are delivered all in 1 tray. No paper menus & system wifi to access menu can be spotty, so do a screenshot of meal & drinks. No pillow / cushion offered on seat, have to request then you get. Otherwise good flight. Right hand side gets view of sunrise. Checkin experience was bad. 1 counter (think it’s counter 4) for F, 1 for j, 3 for economy for all SQ flights. Even then, on arrival 10+pm, about 3-4 on Q each in F & J. Checkin process very long, about 10 mins or… Read more »

Dickson

Forgot to mention this : They block off 1st 3 rows in biz class. I think for crew use. More importantly, that includes the 2 toilets in front of cabin. This means all biz class pax are left to share 2 toilets in the middle of the cabin.

Salmon Lee

I assume the airport would be like when we went for the A380 restaurant last year, almost totally empty and most shops are closed.

Arv

Couldn’t agree more with this! Best decision ever to get out. No masks outdoors is a blessing from having to mask up in 35 deg humidity for little medical reason. Indoors is still strict which is good. But no QR, lots of music (apparently we spit too much in SG and spread covid), and no numbers or hours restrictions. It’s a constitutional thing post WW2 – you simply cannot restrict movement or curtail freedoms in Europe. Enjoy your holiday – I know we are!

Paul

The Business tickets are going for $3600 all-in. That makes a redemption rather poor value for one’s miles, doesn’t it? Unless, of course, one values over and above that the flexibility to change one’s mind and cancel the trip for no officially-cancellable reason.

Alan

what is wrong in paying cash for ticket?

o_O

where’s the fun in that

Alan

The way it is put, it seems to me like he is being a sour grape to those who can pay for their ticket in cash?

Sam

You’re probably reading too much into it.

In any case, why would anyone redeeming air tickets be jealous of those paying cash for the same ticket? If anything, it should be the other way around.

Alan

Erm… why would someone who is able to pay cash for the ticket be jealous about those who redeem?

You need to plan spending on your cards to maximize points earned whereas those cash buyers just go straight up and buy without going through all those troubles of collecting miles for redemption…

Help me understand please..

W Ho

What’s the name of this blog?

SKS

Probably just being blind and ignorant.

Benjamin

Nice! Travel safe. I hope the shops are open by the time you travel. I was travelling to Copenhagen a month ago and there was no retail shops open (except the KrisFlyer lounge) during my trip to and from CPH , so it was kind of sad

Chermaine

Help out a gal here.

I (Singaporean) want to finally travel out with my Australian boyfriend (S Pass holder) but he does not trust the VTL in a sense that it may be cancelled on short notice.

In that case he would need his HR to get a re-entry permit which may take time and effort. At the same time Australia has a long waiting list for citizens so he could not even return home and fears to be stuck in a 3rd country indefinitely.

What can I say to address his concerns?

Thank you!

Michael

that (flying home as soon as the closure is announced) will only work if one’s VTP is valid for the next flight. if the person has planned for a 2 weeks trip and they close the lane on day 3 with a 48-hours notice, not only will the VTP not be valid yet (requested date + 6 calendar days), it’s also too late to apply for a new one (7 days in advance).. personally my HR has been doin a great job in getting our people back, so I am not overly worried (i’m flying out the day Aaron returns… Read more »

Last edited 21 days ago by Michael
Lifshitz

We flew to Germany just before VTL was announced, were bumped from the flight that was later designated VTL and cannot use VTL (traveling with an unvaccinated baby). That being said, for our HR the reentry slots from Germany were wide open while those from the UK or France we’re all booked (friends in these places). So I wouldn’t be too worried except if he thinks his HR might not bother (not entirely impossible since him being on an SP means it’s unlikely to be a senior role). Long story short, unless you’re willing to get hitched, there will be… Read more »

David

I’m curious how the service on SQ will be. I did a trip on LX business to Switzerland in March and then back on SQ business. While the LX service was amazing with starter, main, desert all served separately, SQ felt very much like economy with just one tray with all on it. Service on SQ was generally very bad (very unlike SQ), even though we were only 4 people in business class, it took them so long to prepare the food, that I was pretty much done with my meal, by the time my wife got hers…. I really… Read more »

Hor

Aaron, have u identified which clinic/lab that you would be using for your pre-departure PCR test on your return from Munich to Singapore?

JKL

According to SQ’s infographics, if you are not staying in Germany for at least 21 consecutive days, in your case 4 days, you do not qualify under the vaccinated travel lane. Yours would fall under 7 days isolation back home in SG if u look at SQ’s infographics. So u are prepared to stay at home in SG for 7 days without stepping out of yr home?

JKL
Michael

“Have you remained in Germany and/or Singapore for the last 21 days”?

Why would he not qualify, boss?

Last edited 21 days ago by Michael
Sam

He reading comprehension fail

Michael

I just received my VTP and the wording was changed to:

“Stay in Germany, or Germany and Singapore, for 21 consecutive days before departing for Singapore.”

That might make it clearer now.

Last edited 20 days ago by Michael
W Ho

Original requirement when VTL announced was 21 days @ either Germany or SG.

Dave

Of course not.

Ian

It’s worth noting that Sompo’s COVID-19 travel insurance covers travel made against the SG government’s advice (e.g. if you wish to visit other European countries for leisure before spending 21 days in Germany), whereas Aviva’s policy does not provide COVID-19 cover if you travel against the SG Govt’s advice.

Elizabeth Quek

Thanks for the details about the insurance. Made it a lot easier for us to choose one. If you shortlist data/ sim card options, will you be able to share them? I’m going for 1.5 months and will need something reliable for working on zoom.

SQ Flyer

Re reviewing domestic travel, while Frankfurt might be difficult to work into a 4-day itinerary, Nuremberg is only an hour from Munich by train.

Lee

Check the train schedules and have a backup plan if you do consider this (it’s an excellent idea!) – GDL has announced a strike from 02-07 Sep

LanceT

Can consider Regensburg for a day trip. Nice Unesco World Heritage site, 1.5 hr away via train.

Thor

Enjoy and stay safe! Looking forward to your trip report 😉

noob

Insurance research was awesome 🙂 Definitely saves time, I’m just going to follow what you do.

Germany was one of the few European countries that I never went out to explore much when on business as I found it boring. But beggars can’t be choosy, enjoy the trip! And do let us know the highlights of where you visited.

I’ll just copy you!

Bri

Would be very interested in any other lounge options open in terminal 3. Also interested if there is any change on the first three rows becoming available closer to departure, especially on the VTL back to SG.

SQT

are you required to take a pcr test before your departure back to SG? What would happen if the test is positive?

Tom

I may also review the Ambassador Transit Lounge, Marhaba Lounge and SATS Premier Lounge in Terminal 3 just for that post-COVID snapshot. Tell me if you’d find this valuable.”

Please, this is the first trip report you’re doing in 18 months, arrive at the airport 10 hours prior to your flight and review everything you possibly can haha – only half joking!!

Dave

Marhaba and Ambassador are flagged as unavailable in the Priority Pass app. I’m hoping that’s fake news. Else a review would be appreciated of course 🙂

LionDen

Can one priority pass and same boarding pass allows multiple lounge visits? or you have multiple priority passes? lol

Arv

Hey Aaron, for someone who is now in Switzerland with whole family, doing home quarantine on way home and have zero regrets redeeming to and from Zürich – it has been an amazing experience. Absolutely zero covid discussion or issues in Europe. Managed to also cover London, Amsterdam and Lisbon for work on the same trip! Now ensuring we serve our 21 days in Switzerland to comply with ICA rules. Honestly it’s been no big deal at all and things are very much normal in Europe. The SQ Biz experience was… interesting if not basic. Lounge same. But over here… Read more »

Totalf1

I’m confused, don’t you need to stay in Germany for 21 days to be eligible for VTL benefits? Doesn’t it make sense that they want to minimise the risk of you bringing it into SG -hence the 21 day ask? If it’s ‘or’ there’s a chance you catch it and bring it back we’ll before the half life of the virus.

I can see others have this doubt as well, guess we’ll just have to find out.

W Ho

Why not LH one way?

Michael

Looks like Aviva downgraded the quarantine allowance to $50 for 10 days.

EDIT: Ignore me, Covid quarantine was listed separately.

Last edited 16 days ago by Michael
Dan

Why do you choose to go for a short trip, since you already paid for a flight ticket, I think you should stay longer in Germany and have a holiday

Rae

Great research done on the travel insurance! Just wondering if you had looked at AIG cause I thought I saw it offering the same coverage albeit without the mandatory PCR test. Although I have not really read the fine print thoroughly so I could have missed something there hmm.

For discussion sake, am I correct to say that if one were to stay >15 days in Germany then the pre-departure PCR test in SG could be skipped? Since at least 14 days would have passed before needing to take a PCR test in Germany for the return flight home.

Rae

Valid point there, I overlooked the part where we might fall sick during the trip *shudders* Shall weigh my options between AIG and Aviva 🙂

Thanks!

Gaz

Did you buy the Aviva insurance online? Their website seems broken, can’t click through after getting a quote and no-one ever picks up the phone on their hotline…

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