Batam & Bintan “not-quite-VTL” travel bubble: All you need to know

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Batam and Bintan are open to travellers from Singapore, with no quarantine...at least on the Indonesia side.

Back in March 2021, it was reported that the Indonesian authorities were mulling a “safe travel corridor” between Singapore and Batam & Bintan that could start as early as 21 April 2021. The idea was that tourists from Singapore would take a one-hour ferry ride to the two islands, with testing in lieu of quarantine.

Nongsapura Ferry Terminal

That proved to be a flight (ferry ride?) of fancy, as the plan never got off the ground (set sail?). But as you’ll no doubt have read recently, the authorities are planning to take a second crack at the idea. 

Indonesia opens quarantine-free arrangement from Singapore to Batam/Bintan

On 24 January 2022, Indonesia unilaterally opened a quarantine-free arrangement between Singapore and Bintan/Batam, allowing travellers from Singapore to visit:

  • Batam: Nongsa Sensation, via the Nongsapura International Ferry Terminal
  • Bintan: Lagoi Bintan Resort, via the Bandar Bentan Telani Ferry Terminal

Crucially, the agreement does not apply in reverse. Even though Indonesia is a VTL country, the SHN exemption only applies to travellers arriving via air. In other words, if you take the ferry from Batam to Singapore, you’ll have to do a 7-day SHN.

No doubt talks are happening behind the scenes to make this bi-directional, but that’s the situation we’re in at the moment. 

Details: Batam/Bintan quarantine-free arrangement

⛵ Summary: Batam/Bintan Travel Bubble
To Batam/Bintan 🇮🇩
  • 14-day travel history includes Singapore only
  • Fully vaccinated with approved vaccine
  • Take pre-departure PCR test 72h before departure
  • Purchase travel insurance with min. S$30K COVID-19 medical coverage 
  • Take a PCR test on arrival in Batam/Bintan and wait at hotel for negative result
  • Make a booking for a “travel bubble package” in the Lagoi Bintan Resort or Nongsa Sensation areas
  • Download PeduliLindungi app (Android | iOS)
  • Carry Blue Pass token around at all times
Indonesian Embassy: Travel Bubble

The quarantine-free arrangement applies to anyone who has spent the last 14 days in Singapore, regardless of nationality. Singaporeans do not need visas to visit Indonesia, but other passport holders may need to apply for one. 

Travellers must be fully vaccinated, with the final dose of their primary regime administered at least 14 days before departure.

They will also need to obtain a negative result from a PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure– these start from S$95 in Singapore, and you can find a list of the cheapest options here.

Travel insurance with a minimum coverage of S$30,000 for COVID-19 related medical expenses must be purchased, and a booking for a “travel bubble package” made with a hotel in the Lagoi or Nongsa area. I have yet to see any listings for such packages, but I assume they’ll go live soon enough. 

On arrival in Batam/Bintan, travellers must take a PCR test at the terminal and wait for the result.

  • If they receive a negative result, they may clear immigration, collect their bags, go through customs and head to their hotel.
  • If a positive result is received, they will be required to undergo isolation away from the travel bubble area at their own expense

It’s not clear what the price of a PCR test will be, but the Indonesian government has set a cap on PCR test prices at 275,000 IDR (~S$26) for tests in Bali and Java, and 300,000 IDR (~S$28) elsewhere. This pricing applies regardless of nationality. 

Travellers must download and use the PeduliLindungi app for contact tracing. There’s also mention made of a “Bluepass app”, but I have no idea what this is. CNA calls it an “Indonesian COVID-19 tracing app”, but the only Bluepass reference I can find online is for a scheme run by the Singapore MOM for work pass holders. 

At the moment, it’s unclear what ages will be exempt from the vaccination and testing requirement. However, based on other travel arrangements that Indonesia has, my guess is that children aged under 12 will be exempt from vaccination, while all children regardless of age must take the PCR test. 

What can you do in the travel bubble area?

While in the travel bubble area, tourists will be required to do the following:

  • Only allowed to interact with tourists or parties who are in one travel bubble area;
  • Only allowed to carry out activities in the zone that has been determined in accordance with the itinerary that has been set;
  • Reporting to health workers in the travel bubble area when experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19 to be tested for COVID-19 by RT-PCR examination;and
  • Comply with the mechanism of close contact tracing, isolation and quarantine applicable in Indonesia if a positive case of COVID-19 is found in the relevant travel bubble area.

Travellers are also required to use a 3-ply mask or medical mask, change their masks every four hours, wash their hands regularly, maintain a 1.5 metre distance from other people, and use the PeduliLindung application for contact tracing.

Procedure on return to Singapore

⛵ Summary: Batam/Bintan Travel Bubble
To Singapore 🇸🇬
  • Take pre-departure ART/PCR test 2 days before departure
  • Serve 7-day SHN at place of residence, self-sourced hotel or serviced apartment
  • Take PCR test before the end of SHN

As mentioned earlier, there is no VTL arrangement for sea travellers from Indonesia to Singapore. Indonesia is a Category II country, and consequently, all arrivals regardless of vaccination status must serve a 7-day SHN at their place of residence, self-sourced hotel or serviced apartment (at their own expense).

On arrival at the ferry terminal, they are to head directly to the place they will be serving their SHN via private transport, taxi, or private hire car. 

A PCR test must be taken before the end of the 7-day SHN. This costs S$125 nett per person, and travellers will receive a link to book an appointment by the day before the end of the SHN. 

PCR tests will not be done at the place of isolation; instead you’ll be required to travel to the testing location via private transport, taxis or private hire car. The SHN ends after the traveller receives a negative test result, or upon completion of the 7-day SHN, whichever is later.

For the full details of Category II arrangements, refer to this link.

Overall testing regime

Here’s how much testing is expected to cost for round-trip ferry travel between Singapore and Batam/Bintan.

⚕️ Singapore-Batam/Bintan Travel
DayTestCost
Within 72h before departure to Batam/BintanPCRFrom S$95
Arrival in Batam/BintanPCR~S$28
Within 2 days before departure to SingaporeProfessional ART/PCR ~S$28
Day 7PCRS$125

The total cost will be just shy of S$280, several times the S$86 round-trip ferry ticket!

Conclusion

The Sanchaya Resort, Bintan Island

The Batam/Bintan travel bubble, which seemed like a farfetched idea less than a year ago, has finally materialised. The main problem now is that few people would be willing to incur almost S$300 of testing expenses and a 7-day SHN for what’s meant to be a quick getaway. 

Presumably some kind of VTL Sea arrangement will be finalised soon, which will hopefully make this a more viable option.

Would a Batam/Bintan trip be worth a 7-day SHN?

Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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James Quek

VTL to include Bali will be more attractive.

W L

“Change their mask every four hours” – seriously?! XD You could not make it up…

Shall we say that there is still a lot of room for improvement to make this offering a bit more attractive?

asprino

This is actually a good practice and you should do it even in Sg – your surgical mask probably become useless after four hours of usage

Joe

This is worth considering if you have had COVID in the last 90 days and are thus exempt from any of the testing or quarantine when returning to Singapore, otherwise the effort seems quite extreme for the reward.

Bryan Wang

“Catch Covid and Go Around the World” scheme?

JW19

Back to Royal Caribbean for me…… Much simpler at a significantly cheaper price. Speaking of which they have a new ship coming in April.

Alejandro

These testing requirements are a complete non-sense. Who on earth will take a pre-departure PCR and an on-arrival PCR for a 1h ferry ride?

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