Australia-Singapore ‘vaccinated travel lane’ bubble opens November 8

Are you up for some satay, chilli crab and Tiger beer?

By David Flynn, October 26 2021
Australia-Singapore ‘vaccinated travel lane’ bubble opens November 8

  • Quarantine-free travel between Australia and Singapore from November 8
  • Australia added to list of 'Vaccinated Travel Lane' countries
  • Covid PCR tests needed pre-departure and on arrival

Australia and Singapore will begin quarantine-free travel from Monday November 8, after the two counties signed an agreement to add Australia to the 'Vaccinated Travel Lane' program which now extends to over a dozen nations.

Singapore's Transport Minister S Iswaran said Australia's inclusion in the VTL scheme reflected the country's strong economic ties to Singapore, as well as the economic imperative "that we persevere with our efforts to reopen our borders" to remain a hub for international aviation and business.

However, unlike most VTL countries, Singaporeans will in the short term be unable to enter Australia as visitors – although a reciprocal arrangement for student and business pass holders from Singapore is expected to be in place before the end of November.

"We also expect student and business pass holders from Singapore to be able to enter Australia, after Australia has finalised the arrangement for their entry," noted the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore. "Other travellers from Singapore would not be able to travel to Australia until a later stage."

The CAAS said that Australia was among the top ten markets for annual passenger arrivals at Changi Airport, accounting for about 4% of total arrivals in 2019; there are more than 50,000 Singaporeans living in Australia, while over 25,000 Australians live in Singapore, it noted.

Sydney and Melbourne, both of which will scrap quarantine requirements from November 1, will be the first ports of call for passengers on direct flights operated by Qantas and Singapore Airlines.

It remains to be seen if Qantas will bring forward the restart of its Sydney-Singapore and Melbourne-Singapore, flight currently slated for November 22-23.

Singapore Airlines, which has continued flying both routes, needs only to open up all seats for bookings; the Star Alliance member has also announced its Airbus A380 will return to Sydney with daily flights from December 1.

The carrier’s Regional Vice President Louis Arul said the Australia-Singapore VTL "comes at an opportune time, allowing customers to plan for their reunions with family and loved ones in the lead up to Christmas or even a well-deserved holiday in Singapore."

Over 80% of Singapore's 5.45 million population has been fully vaccinated, with booster shots now being distributed. While the city-state has been reporting more than 3,000 daily infections in recent weeks, most of those are mild or asymptomatic.

How the Australia-Singapore VTL will work

Quarantine-free passage from Australia to Singapore will be limited to fully-vaccinated travellers, who will need to provide proof of vaccination in the form of a physical or digital vaccination certificate.

This is covered by the government-issued international vaccination certificates but at a later date should also encompass the Travel Pass app being rolled out by Qantas and Singapore Airlines.

Read more: How to get your Australian international Covid vaccination certificate

VTL travellers will also have to return a negative result from three Covid-19 PCR tests:

  • the first test must be taken within 48 hours of the departure of their flight from Australia to Singapore
  • a second test is taken on arrival at Singapore's Changi Airport, and travellers must self-isolate until they get the result (this usually takes a matter of hours)
  • a third test taken within 72 hours of the departure of their flight back to Australia

As each Covid-19 PCR test can cost around $150, this will add some $450 to the cost of each person's trip. Children aged two years and below "in the calendar year" are not required to undergo those tests.

Children aged 12 years and under who are not vaccinated are permitted as VTL passengers, provided they are accompanied by a traveller who meets the scheme's requirements.

Travellers headed from Australia to Singapore under the VTL scheme must be booked onto a "designated VTL flight."

Singapore Airlines' VTL flights are already locked and loaded.
Singapore Airlines' VTL flights are already locked and loaded.

Singapore Airlines will have four daily designated VTL flights from November 8: SQ212 and SQ222 from Sydney to Singapore, and SQ218 and SQ228 from Melbourne to Singapore.

(SQ's low-cost sibling Scoot will also fly daily VTL services from Melbourne in TR19, and a four-times weekly VTL service from Sydney in TR13).

Ahead of the flight, you'll also need to

  • take out travel insurance with a minimum coverage of SGD$30,000 "for Covid-19-related medical treatment and hospitalisation costs"
  • apply for a Vaccinated Travel Pass (VTP) to enter Singapore under the VTL; VTP applications will open at 10am on November 1 2021 (Singapore time) for fully-vaccinated travellers from Australia entering Singapore on or after  November 8, 2021
  • download Singapore's TraceTogether smartphone app "to facilitate contact tracing" and keep it running on your smartphone "at all times while in Singapore"

We realise this is rather more complicated than the pre-pandemic era of "buy a ticket, head to the airport, don't forget your passport" – but, for now, it's just the shape of travel in the shadow of Covid.

Also read: Expert tips to speed up your Australian passport renewal

11 May 2020

Total posts 6

Can't see many business travellers taking this up any time soon if there's a risk of testing positive before you come back and being stranded there for 2 weeks...

Thanks but no thanks... this doesn't really sound like a vaccinated travel lane to me with so much testing...

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 473

Note about the prices of COVID-19 PCR

For arrival at SIN the cost of mandatory PCR is SGD 160 including GST which is AUD 158. There is some suggestions that should be or could be prepaid with the airfare when paying for SIA VTL flight tickets 

Pre departure tests in SG costs from SGD128 for clinic test, or SGD178 at your nominated residence (both 30-36 hrs turnaround) or express (6 hrs) at SGD388. Different clinics different prices but this is the cheapest quote I can see so far.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 473

BTW, DO READ THESE INFO PROVIDED BY THE WEBSITES 

www.changiairport.com/en/airport-guide/Covid-19/FAQ.html

safetravel.ica.gov.sg/health/

Ignorance is not generally accepted as an excuse particularly when public health orders in SG are concerned 

Great news.

I'm more of a black pepper crab guy personally.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1000

I was going to head to SG later this month but our staff have been forced to work from home again following new government health orders due to infection spike so it looks like I'll defer until they are back in the office.

16 Feb 2017

Total posts 23

So - what happens it just transiting thru Changi onto another VTL flight to Europe ?? This implies one needs to get a PCR test and then hang around the airport for 12 hours ? And ditto on the way home ??

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Aug 2012

Total posts 209

Just not worth it for a short holiday of a week or less. Their testing requirements are completely OTT and will deter many from visiting.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 May 2019

Total posts 35

So a couple doing a 2-3 day stop over to or from Europe will have to test 3 times and pay $900 for the privelidge? This is not even remotely practical. Will kill one of the benefits of using SIN as a transit point to EU.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

05 Nov 2014

Total posts 56

That's nothing, @no_info .

How do you propose to get the required insurance to use the Vaccinated Travel Lane program? And what are you going to do if you test positive while you're in Singapore? Where are you going to stay?

Singapore takes this pandemic extremely seriously. if you think you can just use Singapore as a simple transit point you risk being very disappointed.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

05 Nov 2014

Total posts 56

This is a complex and sensitive matter, and both governments have handled it rather well.

Singapore is a key friend and ally of Australia in the region, which is why it was listed in Phase C of the National Plan as a candidate for travel bubble status with reduced quarantine restrictions.

Singapore has had a wonderful vaccination campaign, and is at 82% double vaccination of Over-12's. It has a model similar to the Australian National Plan - which is why it has this existing Vaccinated Travel Lane program.

As we know, the governments of NSW and Victoria intend to now have less stringent quarantine arrangements than Singapore - in fact they are abolishing it completely. 

But Singapore has found that even at 82% double vaccinated it is still at a stage of having to endlessly reintroduce restrictions, because their infection rate is stubbornly three times higher than even Melbourne's, and their death rate is becoming a real problem - it's up to 0.23 per 100,000 per day now, which is exceeded only by the USA in the advanced world.

This means that the bubble is already under pressure at both ends. People on this thread are complaining about the restrictions that Singapore is imposing, but they have no choice at such high infection and death rates. Meanwhile Australia is in a similar dilemma, because Singapore is a valued friend and transit point, yet we cannot afford to have Covid circulating or killing people at the level it is in Singapore.

To me, the restrictions and testing requirements seem appropriate and proportionate, and I congratulate our Singaporean friends on them.

The Vaccinated Travel Lane program is sound and proportionate, and Australia is very privileged to be given entry to it.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

05 Nov 2014

Total posts 56

Bear in mind that use of Singapore's Vaccinated Travel Lane program requires each visitor to have insurance covering at least SGD$30,000 for treatment of Covid.

The Changi Airport website explains that any visitor to Singapore who tests positive either a) on arrival in Singapore, or b) when tested for Covid 72 hours prior to international departure from Singapore, or c) in transit will be transported to a medical facility run by Raffles Medical Group, where they will be detained (and if necessary treated) at their own expense.

If the visitor's travel insurance includes provision for detention even if hospital care is not required, the passenger will be covered by his or her travel insurance, as they will be if they require inpatient treatment. 

But if the travel insurance policy only reimburses actual medical treatment for symptomatic Covid, a vaccinated passenger who tests positive (12% risk if exposed if Pfizer jabbed, 33% risk if AstraZeneca-jabbed) would actually have to pay for his or her detention in Singapore.

So, just to be clear:

1. You need ample Covid cover in your travel insurance to be able to use Singapore's Vaccinated Travel Lane program.

2. If you fail a Covid test, including the one 72 hours prior to departing Singapore, you will be detained at a Raffles Medical Group facility. The current infection rate in Singapore is high - 63 cases per 100,000 per day - so this is an eventuality you should consider.

3. If detained after failing a Covid test, you may find that your insurer only pays if treatment is required. Rather like in Queensland you will be detained if you test positive whether you need treatment or not, and if your insurance does not cover the cost you will.

Singapore Airlines - The PPS Club

20 Apr 2015

Total posts 28

This VTL makes a world of difference for us expats who have been stuck in Singapore for 2 years. Flights booked!

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1000

Since all QF flights are to and from SIN only rather than travelling onto Europe etc, am I right in saying that they are all designated as VTL flights?

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2546

That's my thought as well, but not making any assumptions, will wait for QF to update on its AU-SIN plans.


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