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This summer, I’m traveling again to Italy from Singapore. While the European Union has opened up its border to most countries, European countries are not out of the red for Covid-19 cases. As this is my second time traveling to Italy during Covid-19, you might have read about my travel experience to Italy in 2020 and my quarantine experience back in Singapore, the requirements back in 2020 have totally changed this time in 2021.

An empty Changi Airport is a common sight these days.

Traveling to Italy during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

If my dear readers are traveling to Italy during Covid-19 , here’s what I suggest you consider as you plan your trip. My context is Singapore to Italy but these learnings are still useful for travel to anywhere else in the world.

Do a thorough research on the destination country requirements on Covid-19 swab test, vaccination, quarantine, mask wearing, insurance, and etc. This is probably the most updated resource to find out basic entry and quarantine requirements in Italy and it’s a self-administered survey: https://infocovid.viaggiaresicuri.it/returningtoitaly.html. However as policies change rather rapidly, I’d cross check against other official resources and here are the references I checked almost every other day: Esteri.it website, Italian Embassy of Singapore, Italy Covid-19 map and local restrictions, Singapore Airlines travel advisory (if you are flying with SQ).

Schedule a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) swab test at one of MOH-approved Covid-19 test providers. Italy’s entry requirement states they need either a negative PCR or Antigen (ART) swab test result. In Singapore, a PCR swab test costs about SGD150-200 and you get the result the next day, while an ART swab test costs about SGD30-40 and results available within an hour. Don’t be too quick and happy to decide you are going to take the cheaper and faster option and you can take the test on the day of your departure. Also do note that not all clinics on the list provide PCR swab tests. Luckily I called one clinic in advance and they advised that for international travel from Singapore, a PCR test is mandatory. I managed to schedule my PCR swab test accordingly and got the result a day before my departure, meeting the 48-hours deadline required by the Italian authorities. FYI, as I referred to a couple of different Italian entry requirement websites with one mentioning a 48-hours deadline and another indicating 72-hours, when in doubt, I think it’s safer to take the shorter timeframe.

Obtain the Notarized copy of Covid-19 Real Time Swab Test Result in hard copy. Once the PCR test result is out, my clinic called me to inform my negative result, while at the same time, I also got an email and a SMS from MOH. The clinic will offer to provide a hard copy of the Notarized copy if you go down to collect, but you can also print out the same from the MOH email.

Make a hard copy of all relevant information with you as you travel, I’d think this is best practice when traveling as you will never know if your phone or computer goes out of power or wifi when in a foreign country. I brought with me hard copies of my Notarized copy of Covid-19 Real Time Swab Test Result, entry requirements from Singapore, vaccination certificate and a version translated by the Italian Embassy in Singapore, insurance policy, international driving license and flight details.

Speaking about travel insurance, in my last trip in December 2020, I spent about SGD1,000 on AIG Travel Insurance by Travel Guard for Singapore Airlines that covers any Covid-19 related expenses while in Italy. With vaccination exercises being rolled out worldwide, there are now more affordable choices of Covid-19 insurance, despite all of them excludes travel for which the government has issued travel advisories. I bought an annual policy from AXA Wanderlust as it costs just a little bit more than a 3-month policy at about SGD400.

The EU Digital Covid certificate regulation came into the picture in July 2021. The day I arrived in Italy was the day the country mandates to present a Green Pass to enter restaurants, theatres, gyms, and etc. A Green Pass refers to the EU Digital Covid Certificate or the EU Covid Vaccination Passport, which is a digital proof that a person has either been vaccinated against Covid-19, received a negative test result, or recovered from Covid-19. It comes with a QR code and is valid for travel through all EU countries. Even though I was fully vaccinated with one of the vaccines approved by the European Medicine Agency, I was unable to get a Green Pass as I am not a resident. The QR code on our Singapore-issued vaccination certificate is not scannable in Italy. But luckily my partner advised that the Italian Embassy in Singapore offered a service that translates (into Italian) and legalizes the Singapore-issued vaccination certificate by the Consular Officer for SGD20.90 (to be paid in cash). I called the embassy and they kindly emailed a translated template which I have to fill up and print out, bring it down to their office in United Square between 2pm-4pm on a weekday without appointment, and got the hard copy done within 30 minutes. I brought along hard copies of my vaccination certificate, flight ticket, passport for verification. They have also advised (in the beginning of August when I called), that this legalized document is not an official process recognized in Italy yet, but since it’s translated and legalized by the Consular Officer, it should help in lieu of a Green Pass. So far I’ve used it only when entering MacDonald’s and one or two restaurants when dining in.

Crowded beach in Taormina, Sicily

Figure out where to go for help locally if you unfortunately got the coronavirus or require testing or hospitalization, this is especially if you do not have anyone locally whom you can turn to. Traveling to Italy during Covid-19 is unlike other times, I tend to think of the worst case scenarios and plan from there.

It’s also good practice to bring extra supplies of surgical masks, disinfectants, sanitizers, ART self testing kits (they are available in pharmacies for about SGD16 each). As the Europeans enjoy their summer vacations and wearing a mask is not mandatory in open spaces, I think it still makes sense to mask up, keep sanitizing and practice safe distancing.

Where can you travel during COVID-19?

With countries changing their requirements on entry, swab testing, quarantine, mask wearing and movement restrictions quicker than the change of seasons, it’s really difficult to keep track. According to Bloomberg’s Covid-19 Travel Tracker, the world is taking it slow with only 23% of destinations can be considered “More accessible”, based on their ratings. Check out their tool to see which countries are more or less accessible but take it with a pinch of salt, I’d take the extra step to check the respective countries’ Covid019 related requirements.

Singapore is now on the white list of the EU, meaning travelers from Singapore will be able to enter without Covid-19 related restrictions. The issue faced by many of my friends who have not traveled out of Singapore for more than a year, is not so much of where to go, but the quarantine requirement when coming back home is a daunting factor that’s stopping almost everyone.

Is it safe to travel by airplane during the Covid-19 pandemic?

My experience flying on Singapore Airlines in December 2020, February 2021, August 2021 has been consistently pleasant and reassuring. The flights I took are all not full and there are distances between each passengers. Everyone kept their masks on except when eating and drinking and with the recent requirement of a mandatory swab test 48 hours before flying off, I felt even more assured during the flight.

Traveling to Italy during Covid-19 can be stressful and daunting, dealing with unpredictable policy changes and ever-changing entry requirements of the home and destination countries. I’ll be returning to Singapore in November and will soon start my reading up and preparation to go back home. Watch this space as I update my entry experience in Singapore.

Meanwhile, if you are traveling, keep safe and mask up (regardless whether the locals do it or not). I’ll happy if you can drop a note below to share your travel experience.

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