Booked: Australia VTL trip

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Singaporeans can finally enjoy travel quarantine-free to Australia from late November. Here's my plan.

While rumours of a Singapore – Australia travel bubble have been brewing for a long time (remember when July 2021 was mooted as a start date?), it was only last week that things finally crystalised.

The good news is that Singapore will join New Zealand as the only two countries that Australia has reopened its borders to:

  • From 8 November: Australian citizens, permanent residents and immediate family members can travel from Singapore to Australia quarantine-free
  • From 21 November: Singapore citizens (but not PRs/EP holders at this time) can travel from Singapore to Australia quarantine-free

Quarantine-free travel will initially be available to Melbourne or Sydney only. Here’s a summary of the key points of the scheme:

✈️ Summary: Australia  VTL
To Australia 🇦🇺
  • From 8 November 2021: Australian citizens, permanent residents and immediate family:
  • From 21 November 2021: Singapore citizens
  • No restrictions on 14-day travel history
  • Fully vaccinated with a TGA approved vaccine
  • Singapore citizens: Apply for ETA via AustralianETA app (Apple | Android)
  • Complete Australia Travel Declaration 72h before flight
    • Melbourne: Apply for Arrival Permit and download Service Victoria app
  • Take pre-departure PCR test 72h before flight
  • Take non-stop flight to Australia (Melbourne or Sydney only)
  • Take PCR test within 24 hours of arrival in Australia
    • Melbourne: Further test between Day 5 and 7
    • Sydney: Further test on/after Day 7
To Singapore 🇸🇬
  • 14-day travel history only features Singapore or any VTL country
  • Purchase travel insurance with min. S$30K coverage (short-term visitors only)
  • Apply for VTP (short-term visitors and long-term pass holders only)
  • Fully vaccinated with any vaccine in the WHO EUL
  • Take pre-departure PCR test 48h before flight
  • Take designated VTL flight to Singapore
  • Take PCR test on arrival in Singapore
Official Resources
Singapore ➞ Australia
Australia ➞ Singapore

I last visited Sydney in March 2018 to review Singapore Airlines’ new A380 Suites and Business Class, and I can’t wait to go back again.

Australia Game Plan

My November is getting real full, real fast.

I just returned from Germany a few days ago, and now begins a 14-day wait before I’m eligible for travel to Seoul to review the South Korea VTL process. The plan was to subsequently fly to San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver to review the USA and Canada VTLs, but I’m going to postpone that in favor of an Australia trip. 

After all, it’s not like the USA ever really closed- even at the height of COVID, it was still possible to travel there. But Australia has effectively been a hermit nation ever since it shut its borders in March 2020; residents were not permitted to leave Australia without special permission, and Australians abroad struggled to come home with repatriation flights heavily capacity restricted.

So there’s something very special about being among the first in the world to visit a post-COVID Australia, and I think that’s good enough reason to put USA/Canada on the backburner. 

Flights

✈ Australia VTL Plan
To Sydney To Singapore
QF82
Depart: 2030
Arrive: 0730 (+1)
SQ212
Depart: 0905
Arrive: 1415

Melbourne and Sydney are the only two quarantine-free options for Singaporeans at the moment, and since I’m already planning to visit Melbourne for the Australian Open in January, I’ll tackle Sydney for the VTL review. 

I think I’ve done more than enough Singapore Airlines reviews at this point- if you’re interested in the post-COVID experience, you can refer to my reports in Business Class to Munich and from Munich, with First Class from Frankfurt to follow shortly.

What I really wanted was to review something new, and amazingly enough, Qantas award space was available. I managed to book QF82 from Singapore to Sydney for 64,000 Emirates Skywards miles + S$236.

QF82 is operated by an A330-200, equipped with the Qantas Business Suite. It looks pretty good in publicity photos, but we’ll need to see how it holds up under real-world testing.

Qantas A330-200 Business Suite

To sweeten the deal, it’s more or less confirmed that Qantas will reopen its Singapore lounges from 22 November- starting with the First Lounge. The Business Lounge won’t reopen “until demand warrants”, which means that every lounge-eligible passenger, be he a lofty Chairman’s Lounge or a lowly Qantas Club member, will get First Class lounge access. 

Frankly, I’m surprised they’ve done this. Many other airlines would have reopened the Business Class lounge and maybe hived off a small section for First Class passengers, but Qantas is giving everyone an upgrade, so fair play to them.

The Qantas First Lounge in Changi is, in a word, amazing. It’s the best lounge in all of Changi Airport, and yes, I haven’t forgotten about Singapore Airlines. Perhaps the new SilverKris First Class Lounge will tilt the balance, but until then, this is the place to be.

Qantas First Lounge, Changi Airport

There’s no Qantas award space on the return flight, so I’ve gone and booked Singapore Airlines. Business Saver space was available on the VTL flight (both daily flights from Sydney are VTL services), and I paid 62,000 KrisFlyer miles + A$115.60.

At least there’ll be something new to review. SQ212 is operated by a regional-configured A350-900, equipped with the 2018 Regional Business Class seat. While I’ve flown it before to Bali, that was on a B787-10. I’ve yet to try it on an A350, and over a longer flight where there’ll actually be a chance to sleep. 

2018 Regional Business Class seat
2018 Regional Business Class seat

Hotels

I’ve got five nights to spend in Sydney, and it wouldn’t be a Milelion trip if it didn’t mean five different hotels!

The two I definitely want to review are the Park Hyatt Sydney and Fullerton Hotel Sydney. The former is a something of a meme amongst the miles & points community. Back in the days when Hyatt gave away upfront Diamond status (now called Globalist) through status challenges, this was a popular place to break it in.

Park Hyatt Sydney Opera View Room

I don’t have Globalist status, but thanks to the Guest of Honor benefit, it doesn’t matter. A Milelion reader helped me book a stay, and I’ll get the same perks as if I were him- free breakfast, early check-in/late check-out, and a room upgrade. The Park Hyatt Sydney does not do suite upgrades, but frankly, I’d be happy with an Opera View room. 

Fullerton Hotel Sydney Tower Deluxe Room

I’ve had impressive stays at the Fullerton and Fullerton Bay Hotels in Singapore, and the next step is to see if the Sydney outpost can live up to the same standards. I’ve booked a reopening package with 20% off the BAR and breakfast, and my iPrefer Elite status should in theory give me a room upgrade, early check-in/late check-out plus some welcome amenities. 

As for the other nights, I’m leaning towards:

  • Hilton Sydney, recently renovated with an executive lounge I can access as a Diamond
  • Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour, although the prices are rather eyepopping
  • Pier One Sydney Harbour, so I can review a Marriott Bonvoy option 
  • Rydges World Square, for the final night because my flight is at 9 a.m the next morning and I just need something cheap, plus it’s a unique brand to count towards the three I’ll need to renew GHA Black (soon to be called Titanium)
  • Shangri-La Sydney, which has an FHR rate hovering around S$400, perfect for using my AMEX Platinum Charge hotel credit

If you have any experiences with these hotels (or if you can think of more worthy ones), do let me know.

COVID-19 Testing

All fully vaccinated passengers (including unvaccinated children under 12 who are accompanied by a fully vaccinated adult) must take a PCR test within 24 hours of arrival, and on or after day 7 of arriving in New South Wales.

This need not be done at the airport, and testing is free of charge. There is no requirement to isolate while waiting for the results, unless you have symptoms. 

Free testing clinics in NSW

However, pre-departure tests (for return to Singapore) are chargeable. You can’t use a free test to board a flight, since it won’t provide you with a results certificate with information like your passport number and date of birth. 

I’ll write a separate post on pre-departure COVID-19 PCR testing in Sydney, but the Qantas website provides a helpful summary of your options: 

Provider Turnaround Time PCR Price
Histopath 1-hour A$150
By following day 9 a.m A$100
Healius 24 hours A$150*
Same day A$300
Sonic Travel testing 24 hours A$145
Australian Clinical Labs 24-48 hours A$150^
4Cyte Pathology 24 hours A$120
Safework Laboratories 24-48 hours A$150#
*Use code FLYAWAY20 for A$20 off per test
^Does not come with QR code, may not be suitable for travel
#Use code QANTAS21 for A$20 off per test

Given the relative prices and turnaround times, Histopath looks like the best option. It’s available at Sydney (and Melbourne) Airports and costs just A$150 for a 1-hour result. If you want to save a bit of money, you can pay A$100 at Sydney Airport for results by 9 a.m the following day. 

Conclusion

It’s exciting to be one of the first to visit a reopened Australia, and I’ll be sure to gather as much information as I can about the situation on the ground. Some of the things to be addressed include:

  • What COVID restrictions are in place for Sydney?
  • How do Singaporeans prove their vaccination status?
  • What’s the procedure if your on-arrival/pre-departure test comes back positive?

Any Sydney tips and recommendations?

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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Gerald

Thanks for the info – really looking forward to the VTL travel too.
A small typo on the Histopath PCR prices.

Wan

Hey Milelion, Im a Sydney reader and would recommend the following for your hotels stays.

  • Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour
  • Pier One Sydney Harbour
  • Shangri-La Sydney

Highly recommend Sofitel just because among the 3, it is the newest hotel in Sydney.
Pier One is a unique Wharf hotel. Shangri-La is okay because of the view towards the Opera House.

Hilton Sydney is OK – dont expect the Exec lounge to be open though.

Happy to provide recommendations in Sydney, feel free to DM/email me !

Last edited 1 month ago by Wan
Tom

Either is good and they’re very close to each other so location wise it’s not a consideration. Get the best rate you can and go with it.

Wan

Four Seasons is slightly closer to the main street and you dont have to walk this steep uphill road to Shangri-La (I hate uphill)

Wan

If you choose Hilton, they tend to upgrade Diamonds to Junior Suite so its still a good perk. The Marble Bar below is a nice touch and you get 20% off food and drinks as HH members (Dine with us promo)

Wan

The Kingfish is a must have!

James

It’s strange that Histopath at Melbourne Airport does not provide the 24hrs PCR test, only 1 hr Express Test is available. Anyway, will it easier to treat the PCR Test at the airport to meet requirements for both arrival and also PDT prior to leaving Australia?

James

Any info for Melbourne? Thanks.

Brandon

Please provide info on PCR tests in Melbourne if you have it. Much appreciated.

Dave

Not sure it’s true to say that Australia has opened up to two countries: it’s opened up to one country and one nationality.

smeedee

Thanks for the tip that arrival PCR tests in NSW are free. Did not realise that..

Eli

Hi aaron, when are you flying?

If one happens to test positive upon the pre-departure test, and still positive after a 14 day quarantine (some patients do continue to test positive after recovering from covid), do you know if we will be allowed back to singapore? Thanks for sharing all these info, really appreciate it.

ZYX

Not sure about your dates, but if you intend to watch New Year’s Eve fireworks in comfort in a Sydney hotel, there’s not much options left. Check Four Seasons.
Otherwise, last week I checked Accor Plus free nights options are wide open in Sydney and Melbourne.

Gerald

Would recommend the QT hotel or Tank Stream.

Last edited 1 month ago by Gerald
Wan

Tank Stream is purely a Business Hotel, so not much of a relaxation/luxury hotel tbh. But yes, would recommend the QT hotel too; very quirky!

Mike

Perhaps do a night in a well-reviewed 4-star hotel like Veriu Broadway or View Sydney? Not all your readers can afford to stay in 5-star hotels on holiday, plus it will be good to contrast them with the 5-star hotels which you are staying in on your other nights

Huat

pls try black star pastry’s strawberry and watermelon cake, it is awesome!

bizflyer

Great info Aaron. For NSW, u mentioned testing is required on or after day 7. How many days max after day 7 can we do the test? And does day 7 count from the day we set foot on NSW or from the time we enter Aust? (Say if I go to melbourne first for 3 days). Thanks.

Lifshitz

Pier One is nice but frankly, not memorable in any way. If you’re in Sydney I would seriously try the Sheraton, which is the best Sheraton I ever stayed by a margin, and gives a few St Regis hotels a run for the money

Cammm

Hi Aaron,

How did you book the VLT flights to Australia?

I went into Singaporeair.com and all the all the flights to Melbourne / Sydney are all FEPO (For Eligible Passengers Only), for travel in mid-dec. All the flights back are VTL thoug…

Sunny Ng

Would it be 21st or 22nd that Singaporeans are eligible? I thought we would be eligible from 21st midnight?

Sunny Ng

Thanks Aaron!

Shaun

Hi Aaron,
I’m surprised that business class tickets can be redeemed via Emirates Skywards. Have you tried looking at Asia Miles as well? I have been trying to redeem SIN to SYD tickets through Asia Miles but to no avail. So I thought Qantas didn’t wanna release rewards
redemption seats

Sunny Ng

Hi Aaron, if we are going to Sydney for 9 days. Can we combine the day 7 or over test AND the PCR test together?

Also, I read that the free testing in Australia is not for short term visitors aka non aussie/APR.

Could you advice? Thank you!

Angmoh

Be aware SG vaccination certificates are not currently usable for entry to public places in NSW or VIC.
The local AU TraceTogether app equivalents currently don’t accept non-AU vaccinations so most touristy stuff will not be accessible without a local vaccine record.
Unfortunately same issue with restaurants and some local hotels.

Sunny Ng

Hi Ang Moh, is this regardless of the digital cert on verify.sg, and a printout?

Angmoh

Yes unfortunately the AU authorities do not have a solution yet for accepting foreign proof of vaccination in each state.
Lots of places are very strict and unless the local app shows green status then they won’t accept anything else.

John de Vere Loder

You’re wrong. Most restaurants I visited in Melbourne takes paper vaccine certificates, assuming there’s a stamp from your GP affixed to it to prove its authenticity.

JM1911A1

Make sure to check that your return flight is approved on the Singapore end for return – as an Aussie my new husband and I are hoping to go to Singapore in January for our belated honeymoon, and the VTL airlines according to the Singaporian VTL information is only Singapore Airlines/that Qantas is not yet listed as a VTL-approved airline! Hope you have a wonderful time in Sydney, and stay on top of the NSW Health alerts for sure. I believe they have a QR-coding system in place you’ll likely need to download before flying or before leaving the airport.… Read more »

JM1911A1

Qantas was just added in the last three days, so that’s good to hear for everyone!

John de Vere Loder

Hello Aaron, For the hotels, Park Hyatt Sydney remained great even after more than a decade in business. I stayed there for one night in March this year – it was excellent and breakfast was tastier than usual, though service is kind of limited given they have quite a bit of foreign staffs unable to come here. And in terms of dining, Sydney has quite a lot of amazing options so I would recommend not have anything in the hotel except (included) breakfast. Those are my personal favourites: – Glass by Luke Mangan (inside Hilton Sydney, their testing menu pairing… Read more »

John de Vere Loder

Thank you Aaron.

I forgot that, but, if you would like to try some fine beef (there are many types of dry aged Australian wagyu) or just want to bring some home, I would also recommend you to visit Victor Churchill, a butcher in Queen Street, Woollahra, about 15 min. walk from Bondi Junction railway station. They just opened another shop in Melbourne yesterday, and it was simply stunning beyond words.

You can Google it for yourself and you’ll see why it’s a worth a stop there if you’re in Sydney.

Regards,
John, a reader from Melbourne

Jacqueline

Hi Aaron
Thanks for the good read! Would you know if young children below the age of 6 are required to do the pre-departure tests?

Jay

Hi Aaron
Is QF82 a VTL or quarantine-free flight from Singapore to Sydney for Singaporeans who wish to travel from 21 November?

Please enlighten.

Thank you.

MEIX

Hi Aaron, when will you be travelling to sydney? Looking forward to your VTL trip report, especially on how to enter the public places without AU TraceTogether, and where to get PCR tests 🙂

Wan

Will there be a Milelion Sydney meetup? 😀

Chris

thanks so much for the detailed write-up! very helpful.

One thing I need to ask is, what if after coming back from Australia (or other VTL trips), one gets infected by covid19 within 14 days after arrival? Sg govt said all Sg citizens/PRs are required to pay for their own bills.

I read it seems that even the travel insurance does not mention abt this. Appreciate if someone who knows abt this can share any info? thanks much.

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