Travel to South Korea has long been hamstrung by the need to do multiple costly PCR tests. When the country first reopened, travellers had to take up to three of these: before departure, on arrival, and on Day 6/7.
Thankfully, it looks like PCR tests may be on the way out, at least for the most part. Back in March, South Korea replaced the Day 6/7 PCR test with a self-administered ART, and from 23 May 2022, travellers can present an ART result (but only in-clinic; tele-supervised tests are not accepted) to satisfy the pre-departure test requirement.
From 1 June 2022, the window for on-arrival PCR testing will also be expanded to within three days of arrival, versus day of arrival currently.
South Korea to accept pre-departure ARTs
Travellers to South Korea are currently required to take a pre-departure PCR test within two calendar days of departure. For example, if your flight departs at 10 p.m on 15 May, you can take your test anytime from 13 May onwards.
From 23 May 2022, ARTs will also be accepted for pre-departure testing, as per a report by Yonhap News Agency. This must be done within 1 day of departure.
The Korean embassy in Singapore has since clarified that tele-ARTs are not acceptable; antigen tests must be done in a clinic.
In the article below, I’ve highlighted the cheapest places to take a pre-departure ART or PCR test in Singapore.
On-arrival testing window widened
Travellers to South Korea are also currently required to take a PCR test on arrival. This can either be done at the airport, or at a medical institution near their accommodation.
From 1 June 2022, the window for on-arrival testing will be widened to within three days of arrival.
From June, international arrivals will also be required to undergo a PCR test within three days of their entry into South Korea. The mandatory test is currently required on the day of arrival now.
-Yonhap News Agency
This is presumably intended to take pressure off the airport testing facility, where queues have been building in recent times as more visitors return. It also implies that travellers intending to stay in South Korea for less than three days (why not?) will only need to take a pre-departure test.
Travel to South Korea
With the latest changes, here’s a summary of the procedure for quarantine-free travel to South Korea.
|🇰🇷 Summary: Travel to South Korea
|Full Details: Korean Embassy
When South Korea first opened to Singapore, the total cost of testing could easily exceed S$500 per person, thanks to the relatively expensive PCR tests required.
With the revised testing regime, however, travellers will pay just over S$100 per head. Those making very short trips to South Korea (<3 days) would only have to do a single antigen test.
|⚕️ South Korea Testing Regime*
|48h before departure (PCR)
ART accepted from 23 May
|🇰🇷 South Korea
|On arrival (PCR)
Within 3 days from June (PCR)
|🇰🇷 South Korea
|Day 6/7 (ART)
|*Children aged below 6 are exempt from all testing requirements
South Korea will be further easing its onerous testing regime, by accepting ARTs as pre-departure tests from 23 May and widening the window for on-arrival testing from June. This will further reduce the cost of travel to South Korea, especially for those travelling with family.
Hopefully, in due course we’ll see on-arrival PCR tests replaced by antigen testing as well.