What and How to prepare for VTL Travel


Experience and Perspective

As outbreaks of new cases and variants ebb and flow, so these regimes can also be
expected to come and go. That is the price of living with a disease that has not yet
settled into its endemic state.

“The new normal is already here. Get used to it” The Economist, 18 Dec. 2021

Travel, near or far, is very much part of most Singaporean’s lifestyle. Recently we took advantage of the VTL (Vaccinated Travel Lane) arrangement to visit beautiful and eclectic Spain for 2 weeks.  

Seville, Spain. Never imagine we could enjoy travelling again during the pandemic!

Here’s sharing our insights on how to prepare for an overseas travel under the current VTL (Vaccinated Travel Lane) arrangement. Please note that information shared are applicable during our travel period (Dec 2021).  We recommend you find out the latest updates from official embassy websites and Singapore travel advisory sites before your trip. Here are some tips:

  • Find a suitable date that allows for post-trip COVID contingencies

It is important to find a travel window that allows for contingencies should you or fellow travelers contracts COVID-19.   Plan for a date that allows at least 10 days of flexibility after arriving back where there are no critical commitments or deadlines. E.g., exams, no interviews, auditions etc. This is in case there be a need to use it for hospitalization or quarantine, be it overseas or in Singapore.

Highlights from stunning Montserrat, Spain.
  • Find a destination that suits your travel risk profile

With the spread of COVID-19 omicron variant around the world, it is important to consider carefully if the profile of the country suits your risk appetite. Factors such as standards of healthcare, languages spoken, population vaccination percentage and average number of Covid cases etc. For us, in addition to the above factors, we picked a destination that has moderate to mild winter conditions so that the possibility of catching flu may not be so high.

  • Find out if the country allows unvaccinated travellers, including children and how unvaccinated travelers are quarantined in case of Covid.

Some countries allow for unvaccinated children while others may not. Find out also on how unvaccinated travelers will be treated if they contract COVID-19 whilst travelling. None of us like to be caught unaware and having our travel plans curtailed.

  • Buy adequate travel insurance

It goes without saying that travel insurance is of paramount importance. There are many packages that offer Covid coverage.  Here are some aspects to consider when purchasing the right travel insurance:

  • Ask your insurance agents if the coverage for your COVID-19 contingencies is sufficient to cover expenses in the foreign country;
  • Ask if your policy requires additional PCR or ART tests and if these tests are paid at your own expenses.

Finally, do purchase the policy immediately upon purchase of the flight tickets/ travel packages to ensure that the full amount you have paid in advance for the trip can be refunded should the country decide to lock-down or ban visitor arrivals.

  • What kind of vaccination proof does the country need and where do I get them?

Our local Trace Together App, SingPass and HealthHub App are not recognised overseas.  This is where the Notarise website comes in handy (https://www.notarise.gov.sg/ )

Screengrab from the Notarise website (www.notarise.gov.sg )

The Notarise website is online portal for outgoing Singaporeans to convert their vaccination status into a recognizable format by the foreign countries (E.g., QR code and/or a printed certificate).  It is essential that you complete the required information on the Notarise site, obtain the QR codes and download the certificates. Save them as PDF files on your mobile phones and make hardcopies to bring along wherever you go.

In Spain, eateries and restaurants require us to show our Notarise certs and scan the QR codes before admitting us.

Le Mezquita-Catedral de Cordoba. A Mosque in a Cathedral. Imagine that! Spain is simply amazing!
  • Does the country require a pre-arrival health declaration and if so, by when?

In addition to the vaccination certificates printed via Notarise, countries may also require travellers to complete a visitor’s health declaration about 2 to 3 days prior to arrival.  This is akin to the manual visitor’s arrival cards filled on the plane except it is in digital format and needs to be done, printed and carried onboard with you.  The custom officers at Spain did ask to see it as part of immigration clearance.

Do check with your travel agent or the embassy website for these important declaration steps.

  • How are COVID positive travellers and their close contacts managed in the country?

Not all countries will have a Home Recovery Process.  Some in fact may admit travelers to their local hospitals depending on the severity of their symptoms. It would be good to be clear on what to expect.  On that note, it would be good too to find out how close-contacts of COVID-19 patients will be treated (i.e., how is the quarantine being done) and for how long.

Highlights from Barcelona.
  • Prepare financially for quarantine/hospitalization overseas.

Ways to prepare in the event of overseas quarantine / hospitalization include:

  • Increasing your credit limit in your credit card for contingencies
  • Bring along doctor’s reports on prevailing medical conditions and prescriptions for medicine
  • Pack extra clothing
  • What are the pre-arrival tests and digital forms to fill-in before arriving back in Singapore
Screengrab from SafeTravel website as of Jan. 2022

Find out what are the arrival obligations before returning to Singapore.  Some of these PCR/ART tests must be done 2 days before your flight home and within the week after returning to Singapore.  These information can be found through the following site: https://safetravel.ica.gov.sg/

Screengrab from SafeTravel website as of Jan. 2022
  • What is the best way to stay connected while overseas?
So happy to be back loaning the ever-reliable Changi Recommends routers before our trip.

Whenever we travel, we have always depended on the Wi-Fi routers from Changi Recommends.  From the deepest tunnels in the Tokyo subways, the most remote waterfalls in Iceland and throughout out self-drive across Eastern USA, Changi Recommends Wi-Fi routers have helped us stay updated on traffic conditions, news and also to look-up on local travel deals. 

In these uncertain times, it is even more important to ensure that connectivity is reliable. We prefer these routers over purchasing overseas SIM cards for 3 reasons:

  • Familiarity: Leisure travel has been suspended for last two years and with the slow reopening, we are really not sure how reliable foreign service providers are.  Moreover, we were not prepared to manage language barriers and service gaps. We trust the familiarity and service standards of the Changi brand name and it has always proven to be trustworthy.
Stable connection wherever we went in Spain allows us to stay connected with the kids at home via Facetime
  • Stability: We had experienced local SIM cards losing connectivity when travelling from one region to another, or sometimes bandwidth could be limited in different regions, requiring the user to ‘top-up’ before connectivity is re-established.   These are unpleasant surprises that we’d rather live without. Our experience with Changi Recommends’ Wi-Fi router is largely stable throughout. On the rare occasion when the connectivity is affected, we just needed to turn off and on to refresh the routers and we are good to go again. We make it a practice to refresh our routers every morning before we leave the hotel.
  • Fuss-Free Support: We do not like to remove our SIM cards from the mobile phones because of all the fuss that comes along with it.  This includes finding a safe place to store your existing micro-SIM card (the fear of losing it, issues in configuring etc.).  As with gadgets and technical equipment, contingencies may arise from time to time. This is especially so when it involves local TELCOS and service providers. With Changi Recommends’ Wi-Fi router, when we needed help, there’s a 24-hour WhatsApp number and even a Singapore phone number to reach. It’s always nice to hear a local ‘voice’ when in need. In our recent trip in Spain, the took resolved a technical issue within 30mins and reconnected us back before we resumed our tour.  That’s reliability!
Adding Spain to our list of many countries that we have relied on the Changi Recommends router for reliable connectivity.

To find out more about Changi Recommends Wi-Fi routers and their promotions, please visit: https://www.changirecommends.com/owifi.aspx

Cordoba, Spain. The pandemic has taught us to seize opportunities to invest in relationships when we can because life is very unpredictable.

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