This article was originally published on 11 November 2020 and updated to reflect the latest information.
After a long hiatus, the Singapore-Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble (ATB) is finally back on track. Originally slated to start from 22 November 2020, the ATB was deferred due to the initial surge of COVID-19 community cases in Hong Kong.
With the Air Travel Bubble, Singaporeans can travel to Hong Kong for leisure starting from 26 May 2021. This is the only leisure travel destination currently endorsed by the government; all other travel arrangements to other countries have been restricted for official and business purposes.
Here are the 8 things you need to know about the Singapore-Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble (ATB) before you book that ticket and hop off our little island.
#1 You Need To Apply And Get Swabbed (At Least Twice) For The Air Travel Bubble (ATB)
Firstly, everyone residing in Singapore, rejoice! The Air Travel Bubble (ATB) is for everyone (locals and foreigners) who have been staying in Singapore in the past 14 days, except for Work Permit and S Pass holders working in the construction, marine shipyard and process industries.
These 14 days does not include any period of Stay-Home Notice (SHN) or compulsory quarantine period arising from your return to Singapore or Hong Kong. This means that travellers cannot use Singapore or Hong Kong as an immediate transit point between their travels but have to serve their SHN or quarantine and then wait another 14 days before travelling using the ATB.
While Singaporeans don’t have to apply for a travel visa to Hong Kong, foreigners (depending on nationality) may still have to apply for a travel visa.
All Singapore travellers planning to apply for Air Travel Bubble must take the Pre-Departure Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Test. The test must be taken within 72 hours of your departure. It is not valid if you take it more than 3 days before your flight. You will only be approved for travel if your results for COVID-19 are negative.
You can arrange to take the test directly at MOH-approved swab test providers. The cost of a swab test ranges from S$157 to S$200.
Prior to departing for Hong Kong, you also have to submit a health declaration to Hong Kong authorities within 48 hours of arrival. Please save the given QR code as it will be checked during your arrival and temperature screening. You should also book your post-arrival PCR test during this time.
Estimated Cost of PCR swab test (Singapore): $200.
Once you arrive at Hong Kong International Airport, you will go through the ATB designated lanes through the airport to have your temperature screened and to take your post-arrival PCR test. You may only leave the airport after your test results are negative.
You can book your post-arrival PCR test with these Hong Kong recognised swab test providers. The cost of a swab test ranges from HK$600 to HK$1,610, depending on the provider.
Estimated Cost of PCR swab test (Hong Kong): HK$600 (or about S$100).
#2 There Are Designated Flights (And No Airfare Deals) For Air Travel Bubble
Hold your horses before booking the next cheapest flight to Hong Kong. Before being able to qualify under Air Travel Bubble (ATB), we would need to book designated ATB flights.
These are the flights by Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific Airways (the national carriers of Singapore and Hong Kong, respectively). The ATB will start with one flight a day into each city with a quota of 200 travellers per flight and increase to two flights a day from 10 June 2021.
At the time of writing, there are no promotional flight prices for these flights (SQ882, SQ883, CX734 and CX759). In fact, some of these flights are already sold out at high prices.
Estimated Cost of Designated Flights: more than $700 roundtrip (an SQ flight departing on 10 June 2021 and returning on 17 June 2021 costs $776.10, at time of writing)
#3 You Need To Abide By Hong Kong’s Safe Distancing Measures
Travellers from Singapore are required to download and install the LeaveHomeSafe (LHS) app on their mobile devices prior to leaving Singapore for Hong Kong. Similar to Singapore’s SafeEntry, travellers are required to scan the LHS QR codes displayed at the relevant premises they visit and retain their LHS app visitation records for 31 consecutive days after leaving Hong Kong. More details can be found on their website.
Hong Kong has also imposed safe distancing measures such as mandatory temperature screening and wearing of face masks in public spaces.
Here are some of the social distancing measures in place in Hong Kong that you should take note of:
- You cannot gather in groups of more than four persons in public places, except people from the same household.
- For dining out, the maximum number is six per table and four per table for bars or pubs and clubs or nightclubs. Note that food and drinks may only be served and eaten until 2 a.m. at night.
- Local tours can go up to 30 people per tour and a maximum of 50% capacity in the vehicle.
- You are not required to wear face masks when exercising in outdoor spaces (like parks), indoor sports premises and public skating rinks.
- Cinemas are open but seats cannot be occupied four consecutive seats in the same row and food and drinks may not be served.
In general, a rule of thumb is to keep your group of friends and family to a group of four or lesser and wear your face masks as long as you not eating or drinking. You can check the latest safe distancing measures for Hong Kong here.
#4 Travel Attractions In Hong Kong Are Open For Tourists
With all these safe distancing measures, you may be thinking if the tourist attractions are still open. The good news is that most (if not all the prominent ones) are open. The not-so-good news is that there may be limited capacity and you may need to book in advance to secure your slot.
For example, Hong Kong Disneyland recommends that you make your reservations 7 days in advance and the park is closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays (except for public holidays and designated days).
#5 The Air Travel Bubble Can Be Suspended Anytime
If all the above restrictions have not dampened your enthusiasm for travelling, there’s one tiny caveat that you need to be aware of: the air travel bubble can be suspended at any time by the governments.
If the 7-day moving average of the daily number of unlinked COVID-19 cases (excluding dormitory resident cases for Singapore) is more than five in either Singapore or Hong Kong, the ATB will be suspended for two weeks.
The ATB arrangement can resume if there are improvements in the number of unlinked COVID-19 cases and the criteria can be checked on the CAAS website.
So once you booked your flight and made all the arrangements, pray that there will be no sudden spike in COVID-19 unlinked cases.
#6 You Have To Foot The Cost of Medical Treatment If You Contract COVID-19 In Hong Kong
Given the lack of insurance coverage, if you contract COVID-19 during your stay in Hong Kong, you are responsible for the full cost of medical treatment in Hong Kong.
Some insurers have started adding COVID-19 coverage for selected countries (including Hong Kong) to their travel insurance plans. For example, you can be covered for up to US$100,000 for overseas COVID-19 medical expenses under NTUC Income’s travel insurance plan. Additionally, for those already flying on Singapore Airlines, you can add travel insurance with COVID-19 coverage to your travel itinerary.
If you somehow manage to return to Singapore before showing COVID-19 symptoms, you are allowed to tap on Government subsidies and MediShield Life/ Integrated Shield Plans coverage if you are a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident.
#7 Return To Singapore Under Air Travel Bubble (ATB)
To return to Singapore, Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents need not apply for anything but Long-Term Pass holders (e.g. employment pass holders) will need to apply for entry approval from MOM (for work pass holders) and MOE (for student pass holders).
To return under the ATB, you need to stay in Hong Kong and/or Singapore for 14 days consecutively. This allows you to return via the designated ATB flights and proceed with your activities after arrival without serving a Stay-Home Notice (SHN).
For ATB returns, you need to take a COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours before your ATB flight at one of the testing institutions recognised by the Hong Kong Government, and obtain a test result certificate in English, certifying your result is negative.
All Singapore Citizens, Permanent Residents, and Long-Term Pass holders arriving on designated ATB flights will be required to take an on-arrival COVID-19 PCR test at Changi Airport. They then are required to immediately take private transportation, taxi, or private hire car from the airport to their own accommodation. They must remain isolated at their accommodation until their test result is confirmed to be negative.
Note: Children below the age of 6 years old are not required to take the pre-departure and on-arrival COVID-19 PCR test to return to Singapore via the ATB.
If you are returning via a non-designated flight, you have to serve a 7-day SHN at your own residence/ accommodation upon entry into Singapore and undergo a COVID-19 PCR test during the SHN period. You don’t have to take a pre-departure PCR test for a non-designated flight.
If you are still keen to travel with all these in mind, go forth and book your Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific Airways flight to Hong Kong. Just be prepared to pay for multiple swab tests and undiscounted flight tickets to enjoy travelling in an Air Travel Bubble. For travel-starved Singaporeans, this may be still worth it.
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