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Singapore has opened quarantine-free vaccinated travel lanes for 10 countries so far. Although travel restrictions and quarantine requirements are still in place for visitors from Malaysia, hopefully, it won’t take too long more for these neighbouring countries to reconnect 🤝

This article describes the co-founder of Pestle & Mortar Clothing, Arthur Loh’s experience in travelling from Malaysia to Singapore to relocate permanently in September 2021. Since then, Malaysia has abolished MyTravelPass and now allows international travel. In Singapore, however, the same entry requirements still apply for Malaysians and only essential travel is allowed.

At the time of this interview, Arthur was on Day 11 of Singapore’s 14-day quarantine requirement. Singapore has since reduced this quarantine requirement to 7-10 days. Until Malaysia-Singapore’s restrictions ease further, read Arthur’s experience to learn some tips and know all about what to expect when travelling to Singapore.

Pre-Arrival

What was the purpose of your travel to Singapore, and when did you travel?

My wife had been given a transfer for work to her Singapore HQ sometime around April or May. So we set about making plans to permanently move to Singapore in September 2021. Before this, both of us lived and worked in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Were you restricted from entering? If so, why?

Initially, yes. There was a travel ban between countries as Malaysia’s cases rose and Singapore saw new clusters popping up. We had most of the documentation secured by then, but could only sit around waiting for Singapore to allow Malaysians to travel into the country.

Were there many in the same situation as you?

I expect there were tons – I know of people who had gone back to Malaysia to visit family and were now stuck. I even had a friend who was in the same exact situation we were in. 

What was the pre-arrival process like? Did you need permission, pre-quarantine, health declaration or medical insurance prior to booking a flight?

The first thing that we got was a secured date to travel into Singapore – as approved by the Singaporean ministry. This was a specific date, on which you were only allowed to enter the country the day before or the day after. Of course, we already had our Long-Term Pass approvals as that would then give us our actual passes after entry into Singapore. We then proceeded to book our flight according to the date given to us by Singapore. 

We realised really quickly that Malaysia also required an exit pass called MyTravelPass (abolished as of 10 October 2020) that would allow Malaysians to actually leave the country. This was a vital part of the process and is often overlooked, as immigration can and will turn you back if you don’t have this pass – thus losing your entry date into Singapore. It’s important to note that Malaysian Immigration takes anywhere between 14 – 30 working days to approve one of these. 

Without the MyTravelPass approval, we’re certain we would still be in Malaysia as many Malaysians are now struggling to secure an entry date into Singapore. We understand from many that there is a set amount of entries each day allowed into Singapore. 

We also had to take a PCR test no more than 72 hours before arrival in Singapore and fill in an online Health Declaration for Singapore’s immigration before we left Malaysia.

Singapore is currently only allowing fully vaccinated foreigners into the country. It is untrue that people who had taken Sinovac are not allowed in. 

On flight

What was the process like checking in and flying from Malaysia? 

Checking in took a lot longer than usual as the poor airline staff had to go through every piece of documentation to ensure that you would be allowed to exit Malaysia and enter Singapore.

Besides your passport and flight booking, they would also go through:

  • MyTravelPass
  • Employment Pass approval
  • SafeTravel Document (Singapore’s entry documentation)
  • Negative PCR test (consult your local doctor to ensure the results are valid for travel)

What were the barriers you had to go through at the airport and immigration?

Being allowed to go down the escalator to immigration, then immigration (All E-Passport Lanes were closed), then another checkpoint to check your documents followed by security at the boarding gate. 

Travellers can get anxious about contracting Covid-19 in-flight. Did you feel confident when embarking the plane? 

We took Singapore Airlines and there was a maximum of maybe 20 passengers on board. They spread you out, and if you’re seated too close to someone else, the flight attendants were happy to allow us to switch seats. 

Upon Arrival

Can you share in detail what happened when you landed and the SOP you had to go through to get past GO?

As we arrived, we were ushered through the entire process and lanes were cleverly set up so passengers were clear on where they needed to go. There were checkpoints every 10 metres so you knew where you needed to go. Every single person working at Changi Airport donned full PPE and were extremely pleasant every step of the way.

Our first stop was immigration, where they went through our details. We had to do a health declaration beforehand but had filled some things in incorrectly. There was a person there to assist the immigration officer in helping us to do it with an iPad.

After doing that, immigration checked all our documents, gave us vaccination stickers in our passports (we are both fully vaccinated) and we went through immigration. Then, we went to baggage claim, through customs, and we were led to a massive tent that is set up for PCR testing. 

Once the test was taken, we were taken to a bus which transported us to a designated quarantine hotel.

Did you have to bear the cost of the test and quarantine? 

As foreigners, we have to bear the cost of our own quarantine – SGD 2,000 for a single person, and SGD 2,600 for 2 people quarantining together.

Off top of your head, what was the most shocking revelation to you?

Looking out the window of my quarantine hotel every day and seeing people here go about their day normally is something that I have not seen in quite a while (Malaysia only began easing movement restrictions in September for those fully vaccinated). It’s the bit of silver lining that got me through quarantine. 

Were there moments where you thought this was easy, interesting, pleasant and you felt safe?

The experience as a whole begins quite exciting, after not having been able to board a flight in so long – the prospect of which becomes quite the highlight. Although, the anxiety of ensuring you have all your documentation in order right up until you board your flight can be quite taxing. 

In KLIA, passengers are left to their own devices and social distancing is at your own discretion, or at the discretion of others. Arriving in Singapore was a totally different experience, from being herded through the lines to each volunteer ensuring SOPs are being adhered to. 

Post Arrival

How do you feel about all this at the end of the day?

There isn’t ONE particular part of this that was more interesting than another. In fact, the entire experience as a whole will definitely be something of interest for a long time to come. 

Do you have any advice for our readers and users?

Do your research to ensure you have every documentation necessary. The poor girl in front of me at immigration was very nicely told that there was nothing they (the immigration officers) could do to help her because she didn’t have a MyTravelPass approved document and they couldn’t let her pass. She had to turn back.

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