Singapore has expanded the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme to eight more countries in Europe and North America. These join Brunei, Germany and the previously-announced South Korea in offering two-way quarantine-free travel for fully vaccinated individuals.
|🌎New VTL Countries|
(From 19 Oct 2021)
Singapore will also be easing VTL testing requirements on return to Singapore with the removal of the Day 3 & 7 PCR tests, while expanding proof of vaccination to include the European Union Digital Covid Certificate, SMART Health Card and Common Trust Network.
In related news, the UK and USA will be upgraded to Category II countries, effective 13 October 2021.
These are the biggest developments since the VTL scheme was announced back in August, so let’s dive right in.
|✈️ Summary: VTL Scheme|
|For travel from Singapore|
|For travel to Singapore|
8 new countries added to VTL
From 19 October 2021, the VTL scheme will receive a significant expansion with eight more countries added to the list. This brings the total VTL strength to 11:
|🌎 List of VTL Countries|
|From 19 Oct 2021|
|From 15 Nov 2021|
With the exception of Brunei, all VTL countries accept fully vaccinated Singapore residents without quarantine; Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain and the UK don’t even require a negative COVID-19 test result for entry.
|🌎 Entry Req. for Fully Vaccinated Singaporeans|
|South Korea||✅||PCR (72h)|
(On arrival test must be done by Day 2)
|United States||✅||PCR/ART (72h)|
|*PDT= Pre-departure test|
This means that Singaporeans will soon be able to visit and return from a total of 10 countries completely quarantine-free. While VTL travel isn’t completely frictionless, it’s certainly better than anything we had 12 months ago.
Applications for Vaccinated Travel Passes (required for short-term visitors and long-term pass holders) will open on 12 October 2021.
Designated VTL flights
Travellers from Singapore may take whatever flight they please to the VTL country (although non-stop flights are always preferable, since transit in a third country may affect your eligibility for quarantine-free travel). However, transit flights in another VTL country are fine- for example, you would need to transit in the USA to reach Canada.
|🇰🇷 Exception: South Korea|
|South Korea has only opened its borders to Singapore so far. In this case, you must take a non-stop flight from Singapore to South Korea|
Rather, the VTL concept applies to flights back to Singapore. To avoid an SHN on arrival, travellers must take designated VTL flights where all passengers are fully vaccinated and traveling to Singapore as their final destination (i.e. no transit passengers).
For avoidance of doubt, passengers travelling on a non-VTL flight will be subject to prevailing SHN rules based on their 14-day travel history, as summarised below:
|🛂Singapore Border Restrictions by Category|
(From 19 October 2021)
|Cat. I||Cat. II||Cat. III||Cat. IV||VTL|
|Application required||ATP||Details on ICA website||VTP|
|Pre-departure PCR test||✖||✔|
|On-arrival PCR test||✔||✔||✔||✔||✔|
(home or hotel)
(home or hotel)*
|ART during SHN||N/A||✖||✔|
|Post-SHN PCR test||N/A||✔|
|*Must be fully vaccinated to do SHN at home|
(From 13 October 2021)
|I||Hong Kong, Macau, Mainland China, Taiwan|
|II||Australia, Austria (new), Bahrain (new), Belgium (new), Bhutan (new), Brunei, Bulgaria (new), Canada, Croatia (new), Cyprus (new), Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt (new), Fiji (new), Finland, France, Germany, Greece (new), Iceland (new), Ireland (new), Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein (new), Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway (new), Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia (new), Spain, Sweden, Switzerland (new), Turkey (new), UK (new), USA (new), Vatican City (new)|
|III||Estonia (new), Latvia, Lithuania, Maldives, Slovenia (new)|
|IV||All other countries/territories|
|VTL||Current: Germany, Brunei|
From 19 Oct: Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, UK, USA
From 15 Nov: South Korea
Here’s the details of Singapore Airlines’ VTL flights.
Denmark, Italy, Spain
New: Seattle and San Francisco added as VTL route:
The full list of VTL carriers can be found here.
Day 3 & 7 PCR test removed
VTL travellers currently have to undergo four PCR tests on the return leg to Singapore:
- Within 48 hours of flight to Singapore
- On arrival in Singapore
- On Day 3 in Singapore
- On Day 7 in Singapore
From 19 October 2021, Singapore will ease the testing regime for VTL travellers by eliminating the Day 3 & 7 tests. Arriving travellers will simply undergo a PCR test on arrival at Changi Airport, and self-isolate until the results are out.
This effectively reduces the total testing costs by S$188 (Raffles Medical offers a rate of S$94 per PCR test for VTL travellers).
|⚕️ VTL Testing Regime|
(For travel to Singapore)
|Overseas||48h before departure||Varies|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||On arrival at Changi||S$160|
Do note that certain countries may require a pre-departure test for travellers from Singapore, as highlighted earlier. Also, certain travel insurance policies (most notably Sompo) may require travellers to take a pre-departure PCR test, even if the country they’re travelling to does not require it.
If you’re thinking about South Korea in particular, travellers from Singapore must undergo an additional three COVID-19 tests:
- 72 hours before departing Singapore
- On arrival in South Korea
- On day 6/7 in South Korea
At least the removal of the day 3 & 7 tests in Singapore brings the total test regime down to five (imagine doing seven!); not ideal but hey, that’s the cost of quarantine-free travel.
EUDCC now accepted for travel
Under the VTL, passengers must have been fully vaccinated in their VTL country of departure or Singapore.
This posed problems for Singapore residents who had been vaccinated elsewhere; even though they could get their TraceTogether vaccination status updated by submitting a serology test, their vaccination certificate would still be issued by a third country.
The good news is that from 19 October 2021, Singapore will accept the EU Digital Covid Certificate (EUDCC) for VTL travel.
From what I know, it’s possible for non-EU visitors to convert their vaccination certificates into an EUDCC in:
- France: Non-EU visitors can apply to convert their vaccination certificate into a Health Pass (i.e. EUDCC) before arrival
- Germany: Non-EU visitors can visit a pharmacy (apotheke) and get their certificate converted into an EUDCC (YMMV; not all will accept non-EU certificates)
At the moment, France’s online system presents the most straightforward way of getting an EUDCC, but it stands to reason that other European countries will soon provide a similar service.
The way I see it, this has the potential to open up VTL travel to those who were vaccinated outside of VTL countries, since they can convert their third country certificate into an EUDCC and use that for the return leg to Singapore.
Do note that all vaccination certificates will need to be digitally certifiable (i.e with a QR code for verification). The CovPass or Yellow Card (International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis) will not be accepted for travel to Singapore.
For travellers vaccinated in Canada or the USA, only vaccination certificates issued in the SMART Health Card (SHC) format, by issuers in Canada or the USA on the Common Trust Network will be accepted.
VTL: An alternative to SHN?
Even if you’re not residing in a VTL country right now, the VTL could very well prove useful if you want to travel to Singapore but don’t fancy the idea of quarantine.
(Stay 14 days)
The basic idea involves flying from your point of origin to a VTL country, staying there 14 days, then proceeding onwards to Singapore on a VTL flight. This of course assumes that the VTL country accepts travellers from your point of origin without quarantine (Germany, for instance, waives quarantine for all fully vaccinated individuals).
While you’ll almost certainly incur some incremental costs compared to a 10-day SHN in Singapore (S$1,450), I’m sure there are people willing to pay for 14 days of relative freedom, versus 10 days of staring at the walls.
With more VTL countries, would-be travellers to Singapore now have additional staging points to hang out for two weeks before heading onwards to Singapore.
|🇰🇷 Exception: South Korea|
|South Korea has not reopened its borders to countries other than Singapore, so third country travellers would not be able to fly over to stay before heading to Singapore.|
Remember: you will need to present a recognised vaccination certificate to board your VTL flight to Singapore, so be sure to explore the conversion process before booking anything.
After a successful trial with Germany (and to a much smaller extent Brunei), the VTL is set to take-off on a much larger scale. This is great news for travel-starved Singaporeans, although it must be said that VTL travel won’t be for everyone:
- Even with the elimination of Day 3 & 7 tests, the cost of the overall testing regime may not be affordable for some
- If you test positive overseas, you cannot return to Singapore for at least 14 days
- Some HR departments in both the private and public sector have issued hard/soft bans on non-essential overseas travel
I’ll definitely be looking to review some of these new arrangements, and provide some colour on what post-COVID life and restrictions look like in each of these countries.
Which VTL country is first on your travel list?