Narita Airport while transiting between Singapore and New York

Our experience flying from Singapore to New York during the pandemic

We have just arrived in New York City! After close to 2 years, we are finally on the road again as travel is restarting around the world.

We know that it is difficult and worrying to travel in these times. Therefore, we’ve documented our entire experience travelling from Singapore to New York City, USA. As Singapore reopens its borders through the new VTL schemes, we hope to show people that travelling is possible now and is not as daunting as one might make it out to be.

For our trip, JS is flying a transit flight between Singapore and New York with a stopover in Tokyo. M on the other hand is taking the 18 hours long direct flight between the two cities. In our article, we will be giving a fair comparison between the two different flying options.


As the pandemic is a fast-evolving event, information changes quickly. All information given in this blog post is correct as of the time of writing. Please check the included links for the most updated travel information.


Entry requirements

Entry requirements into the US are comparatively relaxed as compared to most other countries.

There are no quarantine requirements regardless of vaccination statuses and most forms of Covid-19 tests are accepted including the faster ART tests.

COVID tests

Both M and I decided to take the ART Covid test as it’s a much faster and cheaper option. Do note that you DO NOT need a PCR test for entry into the US.

There are many clinics around the island that offers ART tests for travel. However, make sure to check with the clinic that they are able to provide an official results certificate.

We had ours done at Minmed clinic. They have clinics all around the island at accessible locations. Remember to make a booking through their site to prevent waiting in line for your turn.

The test costs S$30 (US$22). I was in and out of the clinic in less than 10 minutes. I received the official test results in my email inbox within the hour. Remember to print out the results slip and make several copies for redundancy.

Travel requirements
Printed negative COVID-19 test result
Eligible travel Visa or ESTA approved for visa-free travellers

Experience at Changi Airport

Check-in

Empty Changi Airport Singapore departure hall before our flight to New York City, USA.

Changi Airport has seen a drastic decrease in passenger traffic ever since the pandemic started. As one would expect, most shops in the terminal were either closed or undergoing renovation.

We’d recommend arriving at the airport 3 hours before your scheduled flight to err on the side of caution. Due to countries’ increased restrictions, our check-in process at the counter took a much longer time even though the queue was shorter.

Changi Airport empty departure hall before our flight to New York City, USA.
A very empty Changi Airport departure hall.

While checking in, airline staff will check for your flight, visa and COVID-19 test results. Remember to keep your COVID-19 test results even after this check especially if you’re taking a transit flight. The airline staff will check your test results again before your second segment of the flight.

Transit Area & Pre-boarding

After clearing customs, you’re free to walk around the transit area. You can visit duty-free stores, restaurants and even lounges if they are open. During our visit, most of the shops were closed, especially those selling luxury products.

Changi Airport Singapore transit area before departure.

Before M’s flight, she visited the SATS Premier Lounge at terminal 3 while I visited the SATS Premier Lounge at terminal 1.

READ HERE: SATS Premier Lounge Changi Airport Review Terminal 3

The transit area is separated into multiple zones. Zone 1 is the departure/arrival zone and Zone 2 is the general shop’s area. In Zone 1, staff are required to don on PPEs as that’s where arrival passengers will pass through.

The checkpoint in the transit area in Changi Airport Singapore that separates Zone 1 and Zone 2.

Although there are efforts to minimise interactions between arrival and departure passengers using temporary barricades, there are noticeable gaps within the zones where the 2 groups of passengers share a common space. Therefore, it is theoretically possible for an arriving passenger to infect a departing passenger.

While walking towards our departure gate in Changi Airport, there are clear barricades to separate the arriving and departing passengers.
Lines are set up to separate arriving and departing passengers.
Some toilets within the transit area are closed off to the public to serve as doffing stations for staff at Changi Airport Singapore.
Some toilets within the Zone are closed to serve as PPE doffing stations for staff.

The airport has closed off several toilets within Zone 1 to serve as doffing stations for the staff. Do not worry as there are still toilets available for passengers before their flight.

Right before the departure gate at Changi Airport Singapore.

The boarding procedure is pretty much the same as before.

Flight experience during the pandemic

Due to travel restrictions between countries, most flights around the world are still flying at a reduced capacity.

There were many completely empty rows during my flight. Flying economy, I could lie flat and get a good rest during the 23 hours long flight.

Flying on United Airlines during the pandemic.
On my United flight between Tokyo and New York City.
A sanitising wipe is given to all passengers of United Flights during the pandemic.

Every passenger was given sanitising wipes and all crew members wore masks throughout the entire flight. Other than these measures, flying feels very much the same as before the pandemic.

M on the other hand flew on SIA’s premium economy class as that was the only class available in SG – NY direct flights. In a similar fashion, her flight was very empty.

Premium Economy seat of Singapore Airlines flight between Singapore and New York City, USA.

Even though the seat was much larger and comfortable, the armrest between seats cannot be lifted. Therefore, she couldn’t really lie flat during the flight. On the bright side, the seats can be lowered to the maximum without bothering other passengers at the back.

A care kit is given to all Singapore Airlines passengers during the pandemic.

In contrast to the United Airlines flight, Singapore Airlines provided every passenger with a more comprehensive care kit.

Transit

As much as possible, we will recommend flying direct as compared to flying transit. Transitting through a third country is still doable but is slightly more complicated than before. Here are some tips and tricks to take note of if you’re thinking of doing transit.

  1. Make sure the country you’re thinking of transitting through is open for transit. Not every country allows that. The best way is to check the country’s official pages.
  2. Do not book any transit flights that require you to change airports or terminals. This can be a cause for concern as you will have to enter the country to change airports. Most countries now have strict entry or quarantine restrictions that make entering the country infeasible.
  3. Buffer more time for transit. We’ll recommend at least 3 hours.

I did my transit flight at Narita Airport Tokyo.

During the pandemic, most shops within the transit area of Narita Airport are closed.
At Narita, most shops within the transit area were closed.

After alighting from my first flight, I had to go through security again, followed by final paperwork checks by the airline. It’s at this point where they verified my COVID-19 test results again.

The paperwork check took a while as the staff had to verify my immigration eligibility as well as boarding pass reissue. Upon completion of the check, I was excited to explore Narita Airport and the lounges that it offers!

I had initially planned to visit both the United Club lounge and ANA lounge while I was there. The United Club Lounge was unfortunately closed during my trip. Therefore, I could only visit the ANA lounge.

READ HERE: ANA Lounge Narita Airport Terminal 1 Review

Life in New York / USA

Life in the US is pretty much life pre-pandemic. There were no special mentions of Covid restrictions in the airport and people were mostly going about their lives as usual. It’s a very refreshing difference as compared to Singapore.

New York City during the pandemic is almost life back to normal.

Masks

Most people here do not wear masks outdoor as it’s not mandatory. Masks are, however, compulsory in indoor settings such as restaurants, shops and the subway.

Most restaurants around the country are very strict with regard to this. We’ve seen restaurants denying entry to patrons for not wearing masks when entering.

Covid signs in New York City subway.

If you forget to bring your mask when you head out, you can get one for free at all subway stations!

Dining in at restaurants

As mentioned earlier, it is compulsory to wear masks when entering a restaurant. Otherwise, you can be denied entry. In addition, dining in restaurants within New York State requires proof of vaccination.

For locals who were vaccinated within the state, this proof can be satisfied by downloading the Excelsior Pass mobile app.

For foreigners who were vaccinated in other countries, we can simply show a physical certificate of our vaccination or even a screenshot of the certificate.

Singaporeans in particular have multiple ways to show proof of vaccination. We can get it either through HealthHub, Notarise or Tracetogether.

Conclusion

Even though the pandemic has caused travel to practically come to a standstill the past year, we’re slowly starting to see trickles of it coming back. If you’re looking to start travelling again, it has never been a better time to start than now.

Although there are a lot more things to take note of from logistics to personal hygiene, we believe that it pays off to be early adopters when it comes to restarting travel. There are many benefits to travelling right now.

New York City landscape from the roof top

Air tickets are more flexible now, with many airlines introducing free schedule changes. The crowds are thinner at popular tourist destinations. Hotels across the world have slashed their prices to unbelievable rates.

Follow us on our Instagram page if you’re interested to find out what we’re doing. It is where we post our most up to date adventures.


Looking for more?

Are you planning to visit New York City now that travel between countries seems feasible again?

Check out our guide on the best hiking trails near the city!

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