Vaccinated Travel lane to Canada
Before we get into it, I would like to sat a BIG thank you to our friends Nabila, Farid and their wonderful family for hosting us and welcoming us into in their lovely home, and making Anand pretty much fall in love with Canada (though he might refuse it).
Thinking of hopping on the VTL to Canada? Here is everything you need to know about it.
Let’s start with the flight
- The only direct flight from Singapore to Canada flies to Vancouver. If you plan to fly to Toronto, you can either fly into New York or via any category 2 country that has a VTL option, eg Frankfurt, London, Spain.
We went via Frankfurt, because when we booked our tickets it that was the only option. But that also meant we had to brace ourselves for a 15 hour layover on our way back to take the VTL flight. Luckily a week before flying, Singapore updated its catergory 2 VTL list and added around 5-6 more European countries. So we changed our return flight to go via Heathrow, London. This reduced our layover to just four hours, but it also meant a much longer que for check in counter at Toronto airport since flights to London were packed
While it exciting to see that Singapore is opening its borders to many countries, and although they are trying to make travelling safe, I feel like they’ve also taken the joy out of it with the longest possible list of formalities, which you can see below.
✓ Print tickets
✓ complete Safe travel concierge checklist (found Changi airport website)
✓ Submit and print health declaration (ICA website)
✓ Book and pay for on arrival PCR test (book via the safe travel concierge website)
✓ Apply and Print VTP (Singapore Citizens and Permanent residents don’t need this)
✓ Print Notaries vaccination cert (notarise.sg)
✓ Print Notarized PCR test (we showed print outs while going, but everything on our phones on the way back)
✓ Complete ArriveCAN and print receipt
✓ PCR test 72 hours before departure
✓ Notarize PCR test
*if flying via London, you also need to fill out a Passenger Locator Form (PLR)
If you go through the list, you will notice most of paper work needs to be done to exit and re enter Singapore. Owing to the long list of documents, checking in at Toronto airport took us almost 40 mins, because a man named Ming at the Air Canada Counter refused to accept our Singapore ID cards (there are no Visa stickers) as proof that we live in Singapore (don't they have a training for these things?). Even after his supervisor had to intervene, he continued to waste our time by looking up the ID cards on google and then going over the documents over and over again because he was confused! All this while having two unrelated side conversation with other Air Canada employees. Moral of the story, don’t fly Air Canada, and if you do, stay away from Ming, he will make you miss your flight, like we almost did.
PCR test dilemmas
We did our Pcr test 66 hours before our flight, or so we thought. At Changi airport, during check in, they added another six hours to the calculation owing to time difference, nothing of which is mentioned anywhere on the Singapore airline website nor on the Canadian government website. So at the airport they said they I may not be allowed to fly because my test was 3 mins over 72 hours! Can you believe that! Since Anand and my test was done about 7 mins apart he could fly and I couldn’t. Finally the nice lady at the counter spoke to her supervisor and called someone at Frankfurt airport to confirm if they would let me fly. After standing at the counter for 5 mins (which felt like 50) and listening to the whatsapp call going unanswered, we were asked to take a seat. 10 mins later, and a morbid gloom has taken over us, sadness is looming over kissing our holiday goodbye.. finally she emerges from a far away counter, slowly walking towards us, we prayed for the best, but my heart expected the worst, as she comes nearer my heart starts pounding and I can't take it anymore, when she finally utters the word “ you can fly”, it like I had gained wings myself and could just float away with joy, boarding passes issued and off we went through an empty and eerie Singapore airport, different from what we’ve seen in countless TLC shows. 13 + hours later including an hour delay to avoid the troubled Afghan airspace we arrived at Frankfurt. Time to board our next flight and weirdly enough the Air Canada staff at Frankfurt airport who checked our PCR test did not seem to care.
On the other hand, while returning, Singapore required a PCR test to be taken within 48 hours, and as our luck would have it, Toronto didn’t seem to have any express pcr test options available at the time (We checked a number of clinics). So we had to push our test until the last minute to take the layover and time difference into account before boarding our flight to London. The clinic in Toronto told us they cannot guarantee us a result in less than 36 hours, so the risk is on us. But we had no option. After a long disappointing and tensing conversation later asking about our results on the day of our departure we finally received them merely few hours before our fligth.
And as luck would have it, during our transit on November 8th, Singapore announced a new rule - you can now enter with just an Antigen test. WHY Singapore WHY! couldn’t you have announced that rule a few days earlier and spared us the stress. And I know we were one of the few taking the stress, cause very few people were flying to and from Toronto to Singapore during our trip. As a matter of fact there was just one lady on our initial flight, who caught the same connecting flight like us at Toronto. And on the way back, there was literally no ones besides us flying to Singapore on the same flights.
Here a general idea of what the various test cost
PCR test pre departure from Singapore - SGD 128 (express cost close to SGD 300)
PCR test pre departure from Canada - CAD 180
On arrival PCR test in Singapore - SGD 160
Antigen Test in Canada - CAD 45ish
Another thing to keep in mind if that AIR Canada expects you to be at the airport at at least four hours prior to departure, as a rude blonde Air canada employee on a power high kept blurring to me at the airport while removing her inner frustrations at all the confused passengers. But clearly they don’t mention that anywhere on the ticket.
We also faced an issue with regarding our vaccination. At first people at Safetravel office in Singapore told us we were not allowed to fly, since we are vaccinated in Hong Kong. And only passengers vaccinated in Singapore or Canada are allowed to fly between the two countries. After explaining that we already completed the serology test and wasting an hour being on hold with them, we decided to directly speak to Ministry of Health of Health and were instantly given the go ahead. I wish the two offices would really talk to each other and be clear on their policies. But our calls definitely had an impact, a few days later, the websites were updated to mention that Singapore residents vaccinated with the WHO recognised vaccines with serology test and notarised results were allowed to fly on the VTL.
Bottom of this story, we fought a hell lot of odds to make this trip happens, spent more money on tests than shopping and I’m still a little jet lagged while writing this. So was it worth it?.. Hell YES!
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