Germany VTL: Arrivals process at Singapore Changi Airport

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Here's what VTL passengers can expect on arrival at Changi- more steps than before, but a small price to pay for quarantine-free travel.

VTL passengers arriving from Germany do not need to serve an SHN on arrival, but will need to undergo a swab test at Changi Airport and self-isolate at home or in a hotel until the results are out. 

After arriving on SQ331, the inaugural VTL flight from Munich, it was time to see first-hand how the VTL arrivals process worked.

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

For those who want the quick and dirty summary, I’d say the VTL arrivals process is certainly much longer than what most Changi travellers were used. It took me just over an hour to go from gate to taxi, an eternity compared to pre-COVID days. 

That said, it’s a fairly logical process, with very little that can go wrong. Here’s the overall timeline of how the day of arrival went for me.

🇩🇪 VTL Timeline: Day 1 🇸🇬
0759 Landed in Singapore
  ▼
0831 Cleared immigration
  ▼
0852 Finished swab test
  ▼
0905 Boarded taxi home
  ▼
1301 Received ICA email
  ▼
1329 Received ICA call
  ▼
1439 Received arrival PCR test result
  ▼
2210 Received booking link for Day 3 test (not working)
  ▼
0700 (+1) Received new booking link for Day 3 test 

Immigration

Disembarking in Terminal 3

After disembarking the plane, you’ll be directed to the Terminal 3 arrival hall. Both VTL carriers Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa use Terminal 3, and it appears gate B5 is the designated VTL gate. This would make sense as it’s the closest to the arrival hall, with minimal opportunities to mix with passengers from other flights. 

Just before the escalator down to the arrival hall, there’ll be an opportunity to purchase local SIM cards. This is your only chance to do so; once you leave this area the process takes you all the way to self-isolation, with no stops in between. 

SIM card purchase booths

The arrival hall may look a little different from what you remember. Swabbing booths and orange chairs have been set up, but they’re not for passengers. This is where the air crew do their swabs upon arrival. 

Arrival hall and air crew swabbing area

Automated clearance is not available for anyone, as the following items need to be manually verified by an immigration officer:

  • Passport
  • Identity card (for LTP or PRs)
  • Negative pre-departure PCR test from Germany
  • Proof of vaccination
  • SG Arrival Card
  • VTP (short-term visitors and LTP)
  • Travel insurance with S$30,000 coverage (short-term visitors only)
  • Mobile device with TraceTogether app (short-term visitors only)

That’s a long list, and as you might guess, caused the lines to move really slowly. I joined the queue at 0811 and finished at 0831. For what it’s worth, I was only required to show my passport; it appeared the immigration officer could see everything else from his terminal.

Most of the officers were doubling up in booths, with one processing and the other watching. Presumably we’re still at the learning stage, but things will hopefully get more efficient soon.

Once processed, you’ll get a single green sticker to wear on your shirt. This will be needed later on for the swab test, so don’t lose it. 

Baggage claim & customs

Baggage claim

After immigration, you proceed to the luggage claim area where you’ll collect your bag, just like before. You’ll then pass through customs and leave the secure area.

With so few passengers arriving these days, customs was doing 100% scans instead of its usual random selection. I was carrying more than my duty-free allowance of alcohol (with the extra duties already prepaid via the [email protected] app, obviously) and was certain they’d ask me to open the bag and show my payment receipt, but nothing happened.

Perhaps they were looking out for more nefarious things. 

Swab test

As you leave the secure area, you’ll see a reminder of the swab test you’re about to undergo.

Swab test reminder

Exit the secure area, and you’ll be directed to turn right and head towards the swab tent. Travellers are split into two different lanes, based on the sticker they were issued at immigration. The right lane (green sticker) is for VTL travellers only. 

Different lanes for different travellers

I imagine the idea is to keep this group as sterile as possible from those arriving on other flights, although ours was the only flight arriving at that time anyway.

Head all the way down and you’ll emerge in an outdoor area. 

Exit to outdoor area

There will be a white tent in front of you, where the swabbing takes place. 

Entrance to swab tent

Hopefully you’ve already paid for your on-arrival PCR test (S$160, bookable via this link). You will receive a QR code after payment; keep that handy along with your passport. 

Photos are strictly not allowed inside the tent, so I’ll do my best to describe what happens next. It’s portrayed as a six step process, but it’s really more like four. 

Swab process

Once inside the tent, someone will scan your QR code and verify the details against your passport (Step 1). If you didn’t prepay for your swab test online, you’ll be directed to a payment counter to do so in person. 

After that, you’ll go to a registration area where six printed labels will be given to you (Step 2).

Then it’s off to be swabbed (Steps 3-5). You know the drill here, tilt your head back and think of England. It’s both a throat and nasal swab, and yes, they’ll do the former before the latter. They will take 5 of your 6 stickers, leaving you with the final one to present at the exit of the tent

Homeward bound

All that’s left now is to go home directly (Step 6). No public transport is permitted; it’s taxis, private hire cars or private car only. If someone is coming to pick you up, they will do so at Terminal 3 Basement 1 along with the usual Grab and gojek options. 

Terminal 3 taxi stand

The taxi situation at Changi is…not what it used to be. There were about five people in front of me, and I waited around ten minutes for a cab. 

Taxi home

Self-isolation

Your self-isolation period begins from the time you leave the airport till the time you receive the result of the on-arrival PCR test. 

Two types of self-isolation accommodation are permissible:

  1. residential accommodation (i.e. HDB flat, condominium or landed property); or
  2. non-residential accommodation (i.e. hotel or serviced apartment)

Travellers must isolate alone, or with household members who are vaccinated and have the same travel history, arrival date and self-isolation requirement.

In other words, a family who travelled back from Germany on the VTL could isolate in the same home/hotel room. 

If you opt to self-isolate at home and other household members without the same travel history are present, you will need your own enclosed room with an attached toilet. All parties must wear masks, observe hand hygiene and minimise interactions solely to the purpose of facilitating the entry of the traveller into the enclosed room with attached toilet.

In other words, all the Milelioness could do was open the door and wave at me as I proceeded to the bedroom.

A few hours later, you’ll receive an email from the ICA Airport Command Post, attached with a COVID-19 testing order. 

🗎 Legal notice for travellers arriving in Singapore (VTL)

This is basically a reminder of your obligations under the VTL. 

You’re also likely to receive a call from the ICA, intended to verify your current whereabouts. My call came through around five hours after clearing immigration, which should be more than enough time to get to your self-isolation premises. You’ll be required to switch on your camera as part of the verification process. 

While the purported turnaround time of the on-arrival swab is 24 hours, I can tell you it’s reliably less. I was swabbed at 0852 and got my results at 1439, roughly a six-hour turnaround. Other data points I’ve read report similar experiences. 

Interestingly, the swab results did not show up in HealthHub until much later that evening, so look out for the email instead of refreshing HealthHub. 

I was emailed the result at 1439, but only got the HealthHub alert at 2113

Once the results are in, you’re free to leave self-isolation and proceed with regular activities.

Day 3 & 7 swabs

As part of the VTL arrangement, you’ll need to undergo two further swabs by 1500 hours on Day 3 and Day 7.

The day you enter Singapore is considered Day 1, and to avoid any ambiguity, you’ll receive an email with unique booking links (don’t forward it to anyone else!) stating the dates in black and white. 

Day 3 & 7 booking links

The MOH publishes the following timeline for receiving these emails:

Time of Arrival Immigration Clearance (Day 1) Email notifications from Safe Travel Office (STO)
On dates of D3 & D7 tests and booking link for D3 test On date & booking link for D7 test
0000 – 0559 hrs ~1230 hrs on D1 ~0700 hrs on D6
0600 – 1159 hrs ~1830 hrs on D1
1200 – 1759 hrs ~0030 hrs on D2
1800 – 2359 hrs ~0630 hrs on D2

However, I received both my Day 3 & 7 booking links at the same time (2210 on Day 1), in separate emails. As it turns out, it was a bug. Neither booking link worked. I was subsequently sent another booking link for the Day 3 test at 0700 the following day, which worked fine. 

Both Day 3 and Day 7 tests cost S$94.16 each, and are conducted at 36 different Raffles Medical Group centres around Singapore. 

VTL Swab Test Locations

There is no need to do both tests at the same location, or to self-isolate after each test.

Raffles Medical at Raffles Holland V- one of 36 locations to do Day 3 & Day 7 swabs

Do note the differences in opening hours (especially those closed for lunch or on weekends), and if you’re travelling with kids, the minimum age for swabbing. Several locations will only swab children aged 13 and above, while 12 is the de facto minimum age for VTL travel (as anyone younger can’t be vaccinated). 

For convenience, I’ve put all of the locations on a single map.

The booking interface is straightforward, with the date already pre-populated. It should be the case that each traveller gets his/her own email, but if you’re travelling with minors, you should check with ICA whether the email will be sent to you or the child. 

A confirmation email will be generated after the appointment is made. You can subsequently change your appointment to a different time or clinic, if needed. 

On the day of the swab, bring along the following:

  • NRIC or Birth Certificate (if you are under 15).
  • Passport and Employment Pass/Work permit (for foreigners)
  • Receipt for test(s) purchased, if any (there’s no need to prepay)
  • Vaccinated Travel Pass(VTP) Approved Letter 

If you’re leaving Singapore within a week of arriving on the VTL , you may skip one or both of the post-arrival tests. 

If your time of departure from Singapore is:

  1. before 1500 hours on the day of test, you will be exempted from taking your scheduled PCR test. Any unutilised charge(s), excluding administrative fees, will be refunded by the designated chain of clinics to the credit card used to pay for the tests
  2. on or after 1500 hours on the day of test, you are still required to take your scheduled PCR test. You do not need to wait for the test results to be released before departing Singapore

Otherwise, missing either test is grounds to be served with an SHN at a dedicated facility (at your own expense), possible prosecution under the Infectious Diseases Act, and revocation of your VTP.

Thoughts on the process

🇩🇪 VTL Timeline: Day 1 🇸🇬
0759 Landed in Singapore
  ▼
0831 Cleared immigration
  ▼
0852 Finished swab test
  ▼
0905 Boarded taxi home
  ▼
1301 Received ICA email
  ▼
1329 Received ICA call
  ▼
1439 Received arrival PCR test result
  ▼
2210 Received booking link for Day 3 test (not working)
  ▼
0700 (+1) Received new booking link for Day 3 test 

The VTL arrivals process obviously has a lot more steps than pre-COVID days, but if it’s the price for quarantine-free travel, I’ll gladly take it. 

All in all, it took 1 hour 6 minutes from the time the plane landed till the time I got on a taxi home. That would be unthinkable at the airport which perfected the “20 minutes from touch down to taxi” model, but I’m confident the process will get shorter as time goes by. 

One thing they could have done a better job of is signposting the fact that the swab takes place after you leave the secure area. 

Most travellers knew they had to do a swab on arrival, and were confused why they’d made it all the way to baggage claim without one. Some didn’t want to leave the secure area, worried they’d be inadvertently breaking the law by doing so. 

Conclusion

Changi Airport

The VTL arrivals process may sound complicated when put into words, but in practice was rather straightforward. It certainly shouldn’t cause you to lose sleep (the pre-departure swab test, on the other hand, is a different matter altogether), and is a small price to pay for quarantine-free travel.

It’s going to take a while for travel to go back to the way it was pre-COVID, but for now, this is as good as it gets.

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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James Quek

The inspection call from ICA was it via whatsapp call?

LionDen

many thanks for the detailed process!

What app do ICA use in the video call to verify your whereabouts? Zoom? WhatsApp video??

David

they used WhatsApp for me in the past

Freddy

What’s “the ICA app” that you used to pay the duty?

Spoon

Keying the keywords of ICA, app, and duty into Google gets you your answer instantly.

Freddy

Ahh… Thanks. I tried searching “the ICA app” in the app store but nothing showed up.

Sebastian

Hey, we were in the same flight then.

Excellent review, all up point. Today got day 3 test all good as well, but they take a lot of time verifying ur information, like for real it was a 30 minute waiting and i was the only one at that moment. Wish u better luck.
On my case the ica call, Came after 1 day on whatsapp

James Quek

Can buy duty free wines
first before baggage collection as per pre-covid times?

KJY

Thanks for the report.
Did you purchase any Travel insurance on this trip? It’s that required by Germany or SG side?

I also counted.. you have done total 5 Swab Tests?

1) Pre-departure to Germany Test $130
2) Pre-departure to Singapore Test $130 (Medicare)
3) Changi airport Swab test $160
4) Day 3 Swab Test $94.16
5) Day 7 Swab Test $94.16

Spent around $620 for just the Swab Test…. 😅😅😅😅

Juno

Hi Aaron, are you able to use the on arrival test as a Pre-Departure Test to fly to Hong Kong?

Denise

Thanks for this detailed explanation. This is very helpful!
You mentioned that foreigners should bring a passport AND work permit/employment pass for the 3rd and 7th day test. When travelling as tourist, would the passport be sufficient?

Also, do you know if there is a counter to receive a Wifi passport in the area where you can purchase sim cards?

Sun

Hey Aaron! May i check when you arrived Munich did you have a vaccinated cert/form from the govt? Where can I get this? Or trac together all is fine?

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