Last week, Singapore announced that Australia and Switzerland would be added to the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme from 8 November 2021.
While Singaporeans had been eagerly awaiting Australia’s addition, there was a catch: two-way quarantine-free travel would only apply to Australian citizens, permanent residents and their families. Word on the street was that reciprocal arrangements for students and business pass holders would be in place from late November, while leisure travel could be possible by December.
But in a very pleasant surprise, those timelines are being brought forward. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that Australia will reopen its borders to all vaccinated Singaporeans, starting with New South Wales and Victoria from 21 November 2021.
|🌎 VTL Agreements|
|From 8 Nov 2021||
|From 15 Nov 2021||
|From 21 Nov 2021||
Two-way quarantine-free travel to Australia to start in November
The full details of the arrangement have yet to be released, but here’s what we know so far.
From 8 November 2021, Australian citizens, permanent residents and their families will be able to travel between Singapore and Australia with no quarantine on either side. Singapore Airlines has already scheduled For Eligible Passengers Only (FEPO) flights from Singapore to Melbourne and Sydney to cater to this group.
From 21 November 2021, this arrangement will be extended to travellers from Singapore. Notice how I didn’t say “Singapore residents”. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, it appears that Australia is going to disregard travel history:
The new arrangements are for Singaporeans, not those from other countries who pass through the city state. About 417,000 visitors from Singapore came to Australia in the year before the pandemic, more than half of them for holidays.
The visitors from Singapore must depart from the city state to be eligible but do not have to have spent the previous 14 days there.
Based on my reading of this, so long as you board a flight from Singapore to Australia, you’re fine. In other words:
- A Singapore resident could fly from Singapore to Australia quarantine-free, regardless of his/her 14-day travel history
- A resident from a third country would not be able to fly to Australia via Singapore, unless he/she enters Singapore first (with the associated testing/SHN requirements), and then takes a separate flight to Australia
In other words, it won’t be possible to travel from Country X to Australia with a transit in Singapore. Those who want to travel to Australia without quarantine must first enter Singapore, undergo the necessary tests/SHN, then travel to Australia.
This won’t be an issue for residents of Hong Kong, Macao, Mainland China or Taiwan, since they can already enter Singapore quarantine-free. Likewise, it won’t be an issue for a resident of a VTL country entering Singapore under the VTL arrangement. The logistics mean you’ll need to schedule some time between your flights (since you’ll need to undergo a PCR test on arrival at Changi ➞ Self-isolate until results are out ➞ Take pre-departure test for Australia ➞ Fly to Australia), but it’s certainly possible.
Of course, it’s also possible that the arrangement may just be for Singaporeans only (Scoot’s Facebook page referred to Singapore passport holders), but we’ll need to await official confirmation.
|⚠️ Update: The Australian High Commission in Singapore has stated that this arrangement will only be available to Singapore citizens (read comments section)|
Travellers to Australia must take a pre-departure COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours of departure time. There are further testing requirements on arrival and post arrival, although these can be done free of charge in Melbourne and Sydney.
This means that Singaporeans looking to travel to Australia can expect three paid tests per person, as summarised below:
|⚕️ VTL Testing Regime
|🇸🇬 Singapore||72h before departure||From S$128|
|🇦🇺 Australia||On arrival
|Free of Charge|
|🇦🇺 Australia||48h before departure||~S$150|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||On arrival at Changi||S$125*|
|*From 18 Nov 2021. Prior to this, the test costs S$160|
Vaccination and other requirements
Apart from the testing requirement, travellers from Singapore to Australia must also satisfy the following:
- Being fully vaccinated with a TGA approved or recognised vaccine, such as Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Janssen-Cilag, Moderna, Coronavac, or Covishield, at least 7 days prior to arrival in Australia. Children under the age of 12 and those who cannot be vaccinated due to a medical condition are exempted from this requirement
- Presenting a valid vaccination certificate in English, i.e. either the Australian Government issued International Covid-19 Vaccination Certificate (ICVC) or a paper or digital vaccination certification issued by a national or state/provincial level authority or accredited vaccination provider
- Completing the Australia Travel Declaration at least 72 hours before flight departure.
All travellers entering Melbourne will need to download the Service Victoria app. This allows users to check-in and display their COVID-19 vaccination status.
Designated VTL flights
Travellers from Singapore to Australia may take any direct flight from Singapore to Melbourne or Sydney.
However, travellers from Australia to Singapore must take designated VTL flights. Flights operated by Singapore Airlines are shown below; Scoot is also operating VTL services from Melbourne and Sydney, and I fully expect Qantas and Jetstar to join the VTL party shortly.
|Melbourne – Singapore|
|8 November 2021 – 26 March 2022|
|SQ218||Daily||12:35am – 5:15am||Airbus A350-900|
|SQ228||Daily||4:40pm – 9:20pm||Airbus A350-900|
|Sydney – Singapore|
|8 November 2021 – 30 November 2021|
|SQ212||Daily||9:05am – 2:15pm||Airbus A350-900|
|SQ222||Daily||4:10pm – 9:20pm||Boeing 777-300ER|
|1 December 2021|
|SQ212||Wednesday||9:05am – 2:15pm||Airbus A350-900|
|SQ222||Wednesday||4:10pm – 9:20pm||Airbus A380-800|
|2 December 2021 – 26 March 2022|
|SQ212||Daily||9:05am – 2:15pm||Boeing 777-300ER|
|SQ222||Daily||4:10pm – 9:20pm||Airbus A380-800|
Passengers on non-VTL flights will be subject to the prevailing SHN requirements on arrival in Singapore.
Here’s an overview of the eligibility criteria for travellers entering Singapore on the VTL scheme.
|✔️ VTL Eligibility Criteria|
|Long-term pass & short-term visitors||
|*Children aged 2 or under in the current calendar year are exempt
^Exception for children aged 12 and below, if they are accompanied by vaccinated traveller
If you’re looking to redeem miles, here’s the one-way costs for awards between Singapore and Melbourne/Sydney. I’m not seeing a whole lot of Saver space in Business or First Class for the rest of the year, which isn’t that surprising given how popular the routes are.
|Redemption Cost from Singapore to Melbourne/Sydney
(Flight on Singapore Air)
Complete Guide to VTL travel
For a detailed guide on the VTL process, including eligibility, testing requirements, travel insurance, recognition of vaccination certificates and FAQs, refer to this post.
Singaporeans have been pining for Australia ever since travel shut down in March last year, and it looks like their wishes will finally be answered. I’m really surprised that two-way quarantine-free travel opened up so quickly after the one-way arrangement was announced, but hey, I’m not complaining.
The Australian Open is certainly on my to-do list, although that’s in January and I’ll be looking to visit Australia as soon as possible to write about the on-ground situation over there.