When most of us travel, it tends to be roundtrip. This means that when we arrive at our destination, we have an itinerary that shows that we will be traveling out of the country. But did you know that many countries won’t allow you to enter if you don’t show proof that you plan to leave the country? This is known as proof of onward travel, and it’s actually quite common. This can definitely be a problem for adventurous travelers, backpackers, and digital nomads who may be traveling for extended periods of time, but without an exact itinerary or plan.
The process is confusing and inconsistent too. Many countries may not state that they require proof of onward travel, but may informally enforce it once you arrive in the country. Also, some airlines may require it when you check-in to your flight as well.
I’ve heard that this can definitely be a problem in places like Thailand, where it’s not only beautiful, but the cost of living is cheap. Thailand has had to crack down on people overstaying their visa, and will sometimes even ask tourists to show proof of funds to be able to travel out of the country.
Suppose you’re planning an open-ended multi-destination trip. How do you get around this issue without having to book all your tickets in advance? The good news is that there are ways to get around these rules.
Options for Onward Travel
1. Buy a cheap budget ticket:
You can often find cheap airline tickets from local carriers in your destination region. While I am not crazy about the idea of buying an airline ticket with the intention of not using it, it is an option.
2. Redeem points toward your flight:
Since many of you are points and miles collectors, you can often use your points to book airline tickets without the risk of losing them if you cancel your flight. This is a great way to have proof of onward travel without having to waste money on a ticket. Of course, you’ll want to make sure that your points are refundable before booking the flight.
3. Book a refundable ticket:
This is a popular trick in the travel community. Sites like Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz will let you know book flights with the option of canceling within 24 hours. For example, if I want to book a one-way flight from Thailand to Cambodia, I can select the refundable flight option. This allows me to cancel the flight within 24 hours for a full refund. Also, just be sure that the carrier doesn’t charge you a booking fee, and those are generally non-refundable.
Once I book the ticket, I’ll get an email and e-ticket, which I can then use to show onward travel. This might seem like a shady thing to do, but what I learned after doing some research is that this is a common practice among travel agencies and travel agents.
4. Rent an onward ticket:
I actually didn’t even about this option until I did some research on the topic. You can actually rent a ticket from companies like BestOnwardTicket.com. The process is similar to just booking a refundable ticket, but the service usually gives you additional time and will automatically cancel the ticket for you for a small fee. You also don’t have to pay the actual flight, which makes it much less risky.
This is the best option in case you’re not able to get connected while traveling. For a small fee, you can have the ticket canceled automatically and you’ll still have documentation that allows you prove onward travel.
My only suggestion to be careful of which site you use for this service. Some have bad reputations in the travel community. BestOnwardTicket seems to have a good reputation, but I suggest doing research on the company before renting your ticket.
Additional Tips and Considerations
1. Outbound ticket can be anywhere, but within the timeframe:
Your ticket doesn’t necessarily need to be back to your home country. It just needs to get you out of the country that you are visiting. Though keep in mind that the ticket must be within the visa timeframe. So if your visa is only valid for 30 days, you’ll need to show departing travel plans within that period.
2. Print out your documents (if possible):
While having everything on your phone is probably sufficient, I highly recommend having a print out as well. I feel like the situation is perfect for Murphy’s Law, so you don’t want to depend solely on your phone. Also, I’ve had situations where an email won’t show unless I have connectivity, so be careful!
3. Dress to impress:
This is something that I picked up from some of the travel forums. Travelers were suggesting that you were less likely to get stopped or questioned if you seemed like you might have the means of leaving. I guess that means not looking like you’re a backpacker that might choose to overstay their visa. I know it may seem silly, but dressing a bit more professionally might save you some hassle and scrutiny if you plan to travel one way to a country. Though I would still have a plan before traveling.
4. Bus or boat tickets may not be sufficient:
Some people have reported that bus or boat tickets are not always enough to show the intention of leaving, so keep that in mind.
5. Don’t forge documents:
Whatever you do, don’t attempt to deceive people. There are folks online that walk through how they managed to trick airport officials by altering documentation. I would not recommend going this route. Not only is it illegal, it’s extremely risky and dangerous. Please don’t do it! It’s not worth breaking the law when you can easily and cheaply rent a ticket or book a refundable ticket for free.
Have you ever had to provide proof of onward travel? If so, pleases share your experience below.
– “7 Ways To Provide Proof of Onward Travel” (Goats on the Road)
– “How To Provide Proof Of Onward Travel (So You Don’t Get Kicked Off Your Flight!)” (Expert Vagabond)
– “Preventing Travel Disasters: Why you NEED Proof of Onward Travel” (Happy to Wander)