Hi peeps! So recently I went on a Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) trip to South Korea and I must say the trip has positively impacted my emotional wellbeing. I felt so well recharged (mentally!) after the long break! While there are a lot more things to prepare to go overseas nowadays, I’d say it’s all well worth the hassle! I have recently blogged about my preparation guide & travel information about this post-COVID trip on my Korea Travellogue, so for those who are preparing for your VTL trip, please head over, or click the link at the end of this blog to read!
And here are some of the important things I learnt during my VTL trip to South Korea. Please note that this is a summary of the full version of my VTL Korea blog. As the situation is evolving, this is only for your casual consumption.
CAUTION: My trip commenced from mid-December 2021 to mid-January 2022. All information below is reflective of my personal experience during the mentioned period. While I try my best to update the content, please do your due diligence by checking in with the authority and their websites listed in the full version of my VTL blog.
1. It is good to have a Korean Mobile Simcard.
I have always skipped this in my previous trips to South Korea. A wifi-egg / router was more than enough back then but with COVID-19, you’ll need a local number for your PCR test & contact tracing.
Note that at the end of my trip, which was January of 2022, most of the restaurants and premises were no longer accepting writing down your name and your Singapore mobile number for contact tracing. Instead, they’re doing the “Ahn Shim Call” (안심콜) which requires you to make a toll-free call. To improve your chance to enter your favourite restaurant, please get a Korean SIMcard that includes a local voice call plan.
UPDATE: As the South Korea government has removed the "Ahn Shim Call" (안심콜), it is not a must to get a Korean Mobile Simcard. However, some reported that they were required to provide a local mobile number by the airport officer when they were registrating for their On-Arrival PCR at Incheon Airport. We did went ahead with purchasing a Korean Mobile Simcard.
2. You No Longer Need So Many COVID-19 Tests.
During my trip in December 2021, we were required to do 7 tests that include PCR and ART. It sums up to SGD 673.48 for 1 person. Here are the breakdowns during my trip (end of December 2021-January 2022):
• Pre-departure PCR with PTD Swabs. (SGD 107 per pax)
• On-arrival PCR at Incheon Airport via Safe2go. (KRW 174,000, ~SGD 201.87 per pax)
• 6th/7th day PCR at Seegene 씨젠의료재단 (KRW 110,000, ~SGD 124.21 per pax)
• Pre-departure ART test at Eulji Bareun Clinic (KRW 45,000 ~SGD 50.4 per pax)
• On-arrival PCR at Changi Airport (SGD 160 per pax)
• Post-arrival day 3 – supervised self-administered test (SGD 15 per pax)
• Post-arrival day 7 – supervised self-administered test (SGD 15 per pax)
UPDATE: No more on-arrival COVID-19 Tests Required (as of 1st October 2022) • Those who show symptoms within three days of their arrival can get a free PCR test at public health centers
3. You Need to Apply for K-ETA.
Contrary to the pre-COVID time where Singaporean enjoy VISA exemption for leisure travel, you will now need to apply for K-ETA, a travel authorisation by the South Korean government for your travel eligibility. This K-ETA will allow you to stay in South Korea for up to three months and is valid for two years.
4. You Can Take Public Transport from Incheon Airport to Seoul.
Other than the expensive private taxi and limousine service that transport you from Incheon Airport to Seoul, you may also take public airport limousine buses that are designated for passengers arriving from overseas.
However, the frequency for such buses has been greatly reduced so it may be quite inconvenient. That said, you may also take AREX all-stop train from Incheon Airport to Hongik University Station, or Seoul Station, which cost way cheaper than a private taxi.
5. Some Hotels May Require Your Negative PCR Result to Check You In.
While the instructions from the immigration officer were to take any mode of transportation head straight to the hotel and wait for the result, the hotels that I booked required my negative PCR test result to proceed with my check-in procedure. As the PCR test results will take approximately 2-3 hours to arrive, I decided not to take a private taxi from the airport. Taking the AREX train to Seoul station and then changing to a taxi to Gangnam makes more sense as it is way cheaper, and by the time I got to the hotel lobby, I have already received my test result.
6. Some Attractions May Require You To Wear a KF94 Mask.
Generally, you can wear any type of mask you are comfortable with, especially in Seoul, Busan or any other cities. However, while I was in the mountains at Namhae, there was a public notice outside the entrance that requires visitors to wear a KF94 mask so you may want to prepare some. Also, I noticed my mask gets damp way more easily in the winter temperature so it is good to prepare extra in your bag just in case!
UPDATE: While it is not compulsory to wear a mask outdoor nowadays, similar to Singapore, we do see that the South Koreans are still wearing mask outdoor.
7. Don’t Be Surprised if You Get Turned Away at Restaurants or Properties.
While this is definitely not common, there may still be chances that you’ll be rejected an entry due to many reasons. I had an up-to-date vaccination status, I brought my vaccination cert with me all the time, and I have the COOV app and a local mobile number to do my “Ahn Shim Call”, but I was turned away as the cafe did not have their unique “Ahn Shim Call” number and the owner thought it was risky to accept me. I have explained this in detail in my dedicated blog post (click the square banner at the end of this blog). My tip is to avoid visiting your “wishlist cafe/resto” at peak hours. If all things fail, let’s just go with the flow and eat/ visit other places nearby.
UPDATE: During my recent trip in May 2022, the restaurants are no longer checking the Ahn Shim Call and COOV app, there is no problem of being rejected an entry anymore.
8. You Can Travel Out of Seoul.
Once you received your on-arrival test result, you can roam freely. That includes taking a KTX to Busan, to the heritage city Jeonju, taking a bus to the Treasure Island Namhae, or flying to Jeju Island! However, please plan your trip accordingly so that you can take your mid-trip PCR on the 6th/7th day at these designated hospitals.
UPDATE: You only need to take self-administered ART on Day 6 / 7 in South Korea (if stay ≥8 days)
9. The ART Test at Incheon Airport Can Be More Expensive.
During my time, we were allowed to do an ART test for pre-departure to Singapore. While the one at Incheon Airport cost ~SGD 75, we found an alternative at Eulji Bareun Clinic, which is located in the charming Euljiro area that cost KRW 45,000 (~SGD 50.4) per pax.
UPDATE: There is no need for travellers to do any COVID-19 Test when they're coming back from South Korea through Changi Airport.
10. Sanitise Frequently.
As we are travelling during the pandemic and with all the changing rules and regulations, I wouldn’t say that it is absolutely risk-free. What we did was really sanitise every single thing we touch, drink a lot of water and I am also taking a few supplements that help to improve my immunity (DM me on Instagram to find out more!). We also got this Hinoki sanitising spray from Olive Young and have religiously sprayed it all over ourselves and on our clothing the first thing we reach the hotel every single day!
I hope you enjoy reading this blog and if you would like to get more in-depth information about the VTL trip to South Korea, click on the banner below to read my ultimate preparation guide & travel information you should know before embarking on your Singapore – Korea VTL trip!