South Korea is one of the few remaining countries to still require pre-departure testing; even COVID-zero holdouts like Taiwan and Japan have dropped or will drop the requirement soon. There was even a period of time when the Korean authorities were considering reinstating mandatory pre-departure PCR testing for all arrivals!
Thankfully, sensible heads have prevailed, and from 3 September 2022, South Korea will drop the pre-departure COVID-19 test requirement for all international arrivals.
However, on-arrival PCR testing will still be required, with a possible 7-day stay in a designated isolation facility for foreigners who test positive.
South Korea to end pre-departure testing
South Korea currently requires all international arrivals to present a negative pre-departure COVID-19 test before boarding their flight. The test can be:
- A PCR test taken within 2 calendar days of departure
- A professionally-administered ART taken within 1 calendar days of departure (tele-supervised ARTs are not acceptable)
This requirement is waived for children aged 5 and below.
From 3 September 2022, this requirement will be eliminated altogether. However, on-arrival PCR testing within 1 day of arrival still be required.
- Korean nationals or foreigners who hold a valid ARC can take the PCR test at a public health centre
- All other travellers will take a PCR test at the arrival airport
The on-arrival PCR test is compulsory, regardless of your length of stay in South Korea. The results must be registered on the Q-code website, and travellers are “recommended” to remain in their accommodation until they receive a negative result.
Should the on-arrival test result be positive, a 7-day quarantine will be required. Korean nationals and ARC holders may self-quarantine at home while short-term visitors will serve the quarantine at an allocated quarantine facility.
Summary of South Korea travel requirements
Here’s a summary of the travel requirements to South Korea, effective 3 September 2022.
|🇰🇷 Summary: Travel to South Korea|
(from 3 September 2022)
|Full Details: Korean Embassy|
The main pre-departure requirements are to get your K-ETA (if you hold a passport from Singapore or another visa-waiver country) and Q-Code completed. The Q-Code requires the completion of a health declaration and submission of pre-departure test results- the latter will be removed from 3 September onwards.
As a reminder, South Korea lifted the mandatory vaccination requirement for all arrivals from 8 June 2022.
When South Korea first opened to Singapore under the VTL, up to five PCR tests were required for a round-trip journey, which would easily cost upwards of S$700. From 3 September, only a single on-arrival PCR test will be necessary. We’ve come a long way indeed!
Here’s the thing though: I’d much rather they have kept pre-departure testing and eliminated on-arrival testing. After all, if I’m COVID-positive, I’d much rather find out before I get on the plane, since a 7-day quarantine isn’t a great way to start your vacation. Until testing is fully removed, skittish travellers may want to hold off on their plans.
Is on-arrival PCR testing a deal-breaker for you?