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South Korea – Singapore VTL: Everything you need to know and what to expect when you travel

VTL travel is tricky business, especially if it’s your first time.

There are a ton of documents and administrative matters to get through, and you’re still not over the anticipation (also fear, if we’re honest) of sitting on a plane after two years. If you’ve been planning a trip to South Korea, fuelled by your latest Squid Game obsession, swoon-worthy K-drama actors or more, you’ll need more than just your eager heart, passport, and check-in baggage when you head to the airport this time.  

Here’s a rundown on everything you need before your flight to South Korea via VTL, and what to expect when you arrive.

Korea VTL

What you’ll need to prepare before you fly to South Korea via VTL

  1. Passport: As with pre-pandemic travel, you’ll need a passport with at least six months validity.
  2. Pre-departure PCR test: You’ll be required to take a PCR test 72 hours before your departure at any authorised clinic, including Healthway Medical, SATA CommHealth. It can take up to 24 hours for the results to be emailed to you, so be sure to book your test in time. If the copy that the clinic has sent to you isn’t notarised, be sure to notarise the document here. Print out the notarised document with QR code, and ensure that you have a soft copy as well. This will cost anything from S$107 to S$150 depending on your clinic and other surcharges.
  3. Notarised vaccination status: Only vaccinated travellers can fly via the South Korea VTL, and you won’t be able to rely on TraceTogether once you’re abroad. Get your vaccination status notarised here. Print out the notarised document with QR code, and ensure that you have a soft copy as well.
  4. K-ETA visa: In the past, Singaporeans didn’t a need a visa when travelling to South Korea, but all visa-free travel to the country has been temporarily suspended. If you’re travelling under the South Korea VTL, apply for the visa here. It will cost S$12, and can be used for 2 years.
  5. Travel insurance: You’ll have to speak to your insurance provider about this, as you’ll need an insurance policy that covers COVID-19 medical expenses, with a minimum coverage of 30 million won (S$34,000).
  6. Booking for on-arrival PCR test (Korea): South Korea requires travellers to take an on-arrival PCR test at Incheon International Airport when they arrive. It has to be booked here before you fly. Print out your reservation when it has been confirmed. This will cost about S$200.
  7. Booking for pre-departure ART test (Korea): Self-administered ART tests are not allowed, so you’ll have to take a professionally-administered one 48 hours before your flight at any of the approved medical institutions here.
  8. Booking for on-arrival PCR test (Changi Airport): When you return to Singapore, you’ll have to take another PCR test in Changi Airport and this can be booked and paid for before you fly here. At time of writing, the test will set you back S$125.
  9. Additional PCR test in Korea on Day 6/7 for travellers staying more than 8 days: Travellers will be required to take another PCR test on the 6/7 day of arrival if you’re visiting for more than 8 days. The list of medical institutions can be found here. You won’t be required to self-isolate after this test, and it will cost around S$150 to S$200. You’ll also need to physically head down to the locale again to collect your results.
  10. Download the Quarantine-Report Self-Check app: This app is similar to our local TraceTogether app.
  11. Supervised ART rests in Singapore on Day 3 and Day 7: As part of Singapore’s efforts to mitigate the effects of the new Omicron variant, all travellers are expected to take COVID-19 tests daily for seven days on arrival. Days 2, 4, 5 and 6 are self-administered ART tests, and results can be submitted online using a link that will be sent to you. On Day 3 and Day 7, the ARTs will be have to be done in a supervised setting at a Combined Test Centre or Quick Test Centre.
Korea VTL
Travellers will be issued this blue card after checking in their baggage in Singapore, to be worn while going through the immigration checkpoints in Korea.

Essentials and tips when you fly

  1. Get a Korean SIM card: This is an “optional” thing to have before you fly, which is why we didn’t include it in the the checklist above. At the immigration counter, you’ll be required to submit a Korean phone number as part of the on-arrival card, and those who aren’t staying in a hotel might not be privy to an local phone number. It will also be useful to have a Korean SIM to use for local contact tracing. Those who will be taking a second PCR test on Day 6/7 will need to leave behind a local contact number for result notification, so while getting a SIM is optional, it’s highly recommended you do so for ease of travel. This Xplori SIM card has 5GB of data for up to 20 days, and will only cost you S$14.90. Best of all, you can have it delivered to you in Singapore before you leave so that you can use it immediately.
  2. On-arrival PCR test (Korea): It doesn’t matter whether you select the East or West test centre when you arrive, as travellers will be ushered by their friendly airport staff to the locations after you step into the arrival hall. While they won’t chastise you for not coming on time as per your booking, the timing for your booking should be reasonable — it took slightly more than an hour to clear the various checkpoints and take our bags, so that should give you a rough gauge as to what time you should book your PCR test on the website.
  3. Get a file: With so many documents required, you’d best be carrying a file with everything in place.
  4. Health Declaration Form: Before flying back to Singapore, you’ll need to declare your health status electronically via this ICA link.

Travelling can be nerve-racking during this period, but with this South Korean VTL checklist, things should be a lot smoother when you visit soon. Bon voyage, and safe travels.

All information provided here is accurate at time of writing. However, this is subject to changes depending on the COVID-19 situation.

(Hero and featured image credit: Ansel Huang via Unsplash)

Jocelyn Tan
Senior Writer
Jocelyn Tan is a travel and design writer who's probably indulging in serial killer podcasts or reading one too many books on East Asian history. When she actually gets to travel, you can find her attempting to stuff her entire wardrobe into her luggage. Yes, she's a chronic over-packer.
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