S'pore-South Korea VTL flight: Guide to pre-departure ART test in Seoul & on-arrival PCR test in S’pore

Long queue to check-in baggage at Incheon Airport.

Karen Lui | November 30, 2021, 07:23 PM

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We've covered our travel experience from Changi Airport to Incheon Airport, as well as our visit to a South Korean hospital for a Day 6 or 7 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test.

Now for the return, here's a walkthrough of our travel experience from Incheon Airport, back to Changi Airport.

Pre-Departure ART

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has started accepting a negative, professionally administered Antigen Rapid Test (ART) taken within two days prior to departure as a valid Pre-Departure Test (PDT) for selected travellers, including those arriving via the VTL since 11:59pm on Nov. 11.

We took ours at Incheon Airport Terminal 2’s Covid-19 Testing Centre on the day of our departure, making our way to the same Testing Centre where we took our on-arrival PCR test.

Whether you’re taking the PCR test or ART at the Testing Centre, the flow of events are mostly the same.

We joined the queue at the entrance to the Covid-19 Testing Centre, which is located right outside the airport.

Photo by Karen Lui.

We arrived at the Testing Centre at 1pm, ahead of our 1:45pm appointment time.

While the staff allowed us to join the queue before our appointment time, they informed us that they will give priority to those who has an earlier appointment.

First, the staff asked to see our passport and passed us a card with our birthdate written on it.

Before moving to the next station, we had to sanitise our hands and put on disposable gloves.

At the next station, we handed the card over to the staff member who logged into the online system to retrieve our information.

We were asked to check our particulars such as name, passport number, temperature, and a short questionnaire that includes areas such as any past Covid-19 infections, travel history in the past 14 days, and any symptoms.

Once we've confirmed that our particulars were correct, the staff member returned us the card and ushered us to the stations 1 to 3.

Stations 1 to 3. Photo by Karen Lui.

At station 1, the staff member asked for the card and to confirm our name and the test we were taking.

The ART costs KRW84,000 (S$96.48), which can be paid by credit/debit card or cash.

After paying for the test, they will give you a receipt and information sheet.

The information sheet. Photo by Karen Lui.

At station 2, the staff asked to confirm our name and if we have any Covid-19 symptoms or were infected by Covid-19 in the past.

At station 3, the staff checked our name and the test that would be administered before actually performing the test.

Despite being an ART test, the swab went in quite deep in one nostril, making it feel like a PCR test.

Afterwards, we threw our gloves into the box at the station before leaving the Testing Centre.

The entire process took around 15 minutes as the Testing Centre was not crowded when we arrived.

By 2pm, we received an email with our negative test result.

Both the soft copy sent via email and hard copy of the certificate looks like this. Photo by Karen Lui.

We then made our way back to the Testing Centre to pick up the hard copy certificate.

Instead of joining the same queue at the entrance of the Testing Centre, those who are collecting the hard copy certificate can enter via the exit and go directly to station 4.

The passageway is where we exited after taking our Covid-19 test as well as where we entered to collect our hard copy certificate. Photo by Karen Lui.

At station 4, the staff asked for our receipt and passport before handing us a printed copy of our test result.

The receipt required to collect the hard copy certificate. Photo by Karen Lui.

We checked to make sure the details on the certificate were correct, including the date of departure.

The queue to collect our test certificates was not that long either, so we received ours within 10 minutes.

If you’re planning to take your pre-departure ART test on the day you fly like we did, we recommend pre-booking your ART time slot at least five hours before your flight time, lest there is a long queue at the Testing Centre.

You can click here to book an appointment to take your pre-departure ART at Incheon Airport or walk-in at an a recognised health facility.

Airport check-in

Before joining the queue to check in our baggage, we procured our flight ticket via the self check-in kiosk.

Photo by Karen Lui.

Although we did not experience any long queue at the Testing Centre, there was a snaking queue at the Korean Air check-in counter.

Photo by Karen Lui.

The entire process, including the queueing, took us around 50 minutes.

When it was finally our turn, the counter staff asked for the following documents:

  • Passport
  • Vaccination certificate in hard copy
  • Pre-departure test result in hard copy
  • the main screen of our TraceTogether app on our phone
  • ICA travel declaration email (the table under “Your Submission Details”) on our phone

The staff also asked if we had previously been infected with Covid-19 or if we’ve had any contact with Covid-19 patients.

However, perhaps due to the relative newness of the VTL between Singapore and South Korea, the staff counter did not seem to be very familiar with the VTL and asked if we would be quarantining for seven days upon arrival, as well as proof that we were travelling via the VTL.

We showed him this Korean Air webpage that indicated that our flight number corresponds to the designated VTL flight, which appeared to be sufficient to convince him.

Following the baggage check-in, security checks and immigration procedures at Incheon Airport remained the same as pre-pandemic times.

Our flight wasn't full and we noticed that the middle seat in each row was blocked out during the self check-in in order to maintain social distancing. Photo by Karen Lui.

Arrival in Singapore

Upon arrival to Singapore, the process after disembarking the plane were mostly the same as pre-pandemic times.

The only additional step was to make a detour to take the on-arrival PCR test after collecting our baggage from the belt.

Once we cleared immigrations, we collected our bags at the belt before proceeding to register for our on-arrival PCR test.

Registration counters for the on-arrival PCR test right in front of the belt. Photo by Karen Lui.

At the registration counter, we had to show the QR code of our test booking and passport.

Photo by Karen Lui.

The on-arrival PCR test costs S$125 and can be pre-booked via Changi Airport's Safe Travel Concierge.

Registration counters. Photo by Karen Lui.

Once registration is completed, we followed the path to the testing area.

Covid-19 testing area. Photo by Karen Lui.

At the testing area, the PCR test was administered in the form of a throat and nose swab.

The throat swab went deep enough to make us gag.

We were told to say "ah" to help with that gagging issue but it didn't really help. Nonetheless, the medical personnel procured the sample he needed.

The nose swab was inserted and twirled in both nostrils. While it was uncomfortable, it was significantly less so compared to the Covid-19 tests we took in South Korea.

When the test was completed, we continued down the path all the way to the taxi stand.

Despite a minor hiccup at the automated immigration lanes and the time needed to take the on-arrival PCR test, we were ready to leave the airport within an hour of the plane landing.

Receiving the results

We took our PCR test at around 12:45am and received the negative test result via email at 6:28am.

The email containing the on-arrival PCR test result. Photo by Karen Lui.

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