Planning a holiday in Hongkong now that the Singapore-HK air travel bubble (ATB) is set to launch on May 26? Budgeting for a trip during a pandemic is more than just about working out how much air fares, accommodation and daily expenses in HK will cost. It now comes with extra expenses as compared to pre-Covid-19 times. Yes, we’re talking about mandatory Covid-19 tests — all four of them.
Under the ATB arrangement, anyone who’s remained in HK or Singapore for 14 consecutive days (excluding quarantine or stay-home notice) can travel quarantine-free between both places. There are no restrictions to the purpose of travel, but they can only travel on designated flights operated by Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific.
However, travellers under the ATB will need to undergo four Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests in total — pre-departure tests to be taken within 72 hours before their scheduled departure time from each city, and post-arrival tests at both places as well.
There are a few exemptions, though. Children under the age of six do not need to undergo all four tests. They are required to take only two tests — one prior to departure to Hongkong, and upon arrival at Hongkong International Airport (HKIA). Travellers who are returning to Singapore within 72 hours of their post-arrival PCR test at HKIA will only undergo three tests — they do not need to get tested again before they depart Hongkong.
But for the majority of ATB travellers, the total cost of all four tests is estimated to be around $500 to $700. Yes, per person.
On top of that, should travellers contract Covid-19 while in Hongkong, they’ll have to bear the full costs of medical treatment as well, so consider getting travel insurance that includes Covid-19 coverage.
How much will all that cost? A breakdown of how much you may have to shell out for Covid-19 tests and travel insurance if you're travelling SIN-HK-SIN:
Test #1: Before leaving Singapore
A check with a few Ministry of Health-approved clinics shows that a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, to be done within 72 hours prior to your scheduled flight to HK, costs anything from $165, and can go up to $200. You’ll need to make an appointment at one of the accredited test centres (full list here). Prices vary from clinic to clinic.
Test #2: Arriving in Hongkong
The post-arrival PCR nucleic acid test to be carried out at HKIA was priced at HK$499 (S$85.30) when the ATB was first announced last November. Details and the booking website for the ATB that’s set to launch on May 26 have yet to be announced, so it remains to be seen if the prices remain the same.
Test #3: Before leaving Hongkong to return to Singapore
Travellers returning to Singapore will have to take a pre-departure Covid-19 PCR test at one of the approved clinics in HK (full list here). The cost of a test varies, and can range from HK$480 (S$82) to HK$1,470 (S$251.25).
Test #4: Arriving back in Singapore
The post-arrival Covid-19 PCR test carried out at Changi Airport costs $160. Travellers can pre-book their test here.
If you contract Covid-19 while in Hongkong, you’ll have to bear the full cost of medical treatment “subject to respective cities’ prevailing medical and healthcare policies”, according to Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS).
So, yes, getting travel insurance is probably a good idea. Not all travel insurance plans have Covid-19-related coverage, so it's best to read the fine print before you buy. One travel insurance plan that comes with Covid-19 coverage is Income’s travel insurance plan. Premiums for a single trip plan for travel to HK start at $34 for a three-day trip or $53 for a seven-day trip.
Photo: Unsplash/Sebastien Goldberg, Mufid Majnun