SINGAPORE — With Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) deals paving the way for quarantine-free round-trip travel, hype-crazed Singaporeans are dusting off their passports and making up for lost time.
But traveling during a global pandemic is fraught with uncertainty, and while travel insurance was a good idea before Covid-19, it’s practically essential now. In fact, it is literally essential for some VTL countries like Malaysia and South Korea, which require foreigners to purchase travel insurance with Covid-19 medical expense coverage as a condition of entry.
Fortunately, the majority of travel insurers now offer Covid-19 cover, either integrated into the main policy or as an additional endorsement.
It won’t burn a hole in your pocket either. With the various promotions going on, coverage can be had for less than $10 per day (see table on Covid-19 travel insurance policies sample coverage).
What you need to be covered for
Assuming you are vaccinated and in good health, any Covid-19 infection should be fairly mild.
However, it is still important to have coverage for medical costs related to Covid-19, whether they are as simple as an outpatient consultation with a doctor or as serious as hospitalization.
Additionally, some VTL countries require foreigners to purchase travel insurance with specified minimum coverage for Covid-19 medical treatment. You will usually need to present your insurance certificate before boarding the flight.
Emergency Medical Evacuation
In the event that you contract Covid-19 and your situation deteriorates, doctors may decide that an evacuation to Singapore for further treatment is necessary.
This can be a very expensive process. According to examples from the insurance company Chubb, a medical evacuation by air ambulance can cost upwards of US$100,000 (S$136,700). You’ll want to make sure your travel policy provides adequate coverage in this area.
When choosing your policy, make sure it offers separate coverage for medical expenses and emergency medical evacuation.
For example, MSIG TravelEasy (Standard) offers combined coverage of $65,000 for overseas medical expenses and emergency medical evacuation.
Allianz Travel Insurance (Bronze) provides $1 million coverage for medical expenses and a separate $1 million coverage for emergency medical evacuation.
If your situation is serious enough to warrant repatriation to Singapore, you may already have incurred significant medical expenses abroad. It is therefore essential that you have something left over to cover the evacuation.
If you test positive for Covid-19 abroad and are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, standard procedure in most VTL countries is to self-isolate in a hotel.
The two situations where travelers are most likely to test positive for Covid-19 abroad are:
- On arrival abroad: assuming the country requires another Covid-19 test on arrival (most European countries and the United States do not); and
- Before departure to Singapore: All VTL travelers to Singapore must take a rapid Covid-19 antigen test/polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test within two days of departure.
Testing positive on arrival is not a great way to start your holiday, but it is unlikely to incur additional accommodation costs, as you can use the hotel already booked to self-isolate. However, getting a positive result on your pre-departure test can be expensive as you have to book additional accommodation beyond your originally scheduled return date, pending the green light.