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There are certain countries that we travel to which ask for proof of an onward ticket when you check-in at your departing airport. From what I understand this is to show that you do not plan on staying in this country and have the funds to leave as you already have a flight out should you run out of money there.
This can prove tricky and annoying for travellers like myself who don’t always know when they’ll leave or which city they’ll leave from if it’s a big country.
Of course, I always obey the visa regulations, I will never overstay a visa and with the high monetary penalties that many countries charge for overstaying a visa like Indonesia, I definitely wouldn’t, but I like to have some freedom and not tie myself to a certain departure date.
Luckily there are a few ways to answer the question many travellers have ‘how do I show proof of an onward flight without booking one?’ And I’m going to share 3 ways with you here.
NOTE- I am not saying you should do this, I’m simply giving you some options. Countries that require you to show proof of onward travel require this from a legal perspective so it’s up to you whether you want to do one of the below options and the risk is yours, not mine. Got it!? Ok let’s go.
The easiest and cheapest way to show proof of onward travel is to book a flight before you get to your departing airport so you can show the person at the airport if they ask, however, in order to not spend money on booking a flight you need to book a flight that is refundable!
A quick flight search on Expedia will present you with many options, all of which have ‘Free Cancel Within 24 hours’ next to them. This does as it says, you can continue with the booking, pay for the booking and get a full refund if you cancel within 24 hours, as you can see below.
The best thing to do in my opinion is to book the flight just before you get to the airport so you have the full 24 hours to play with, or wait until you are at the airport and if they ask for proof of the flight, then you can say ‘sorry I didn’t realise. I’ll book a flight out now, it’s no problem’, do it there and then and show them the confirmation. Just make sure you give yourself time and you have good internet.
Once you are through the gates, or when you get to your destination you can cancel the flight, just remember to actually cancel it within 24hours.
IMPORTANT THING TO NOTE – Some airlines may not adhere to this cancellation and some may do but you cannot cancel as simply as I have explained on their website. I recently booked a second flight this way and it said to cancel I had to call Expedia! I couldn’t call an internation number that easily so instead I spoke to them on twitter where they were very fast and helpful and cancelled the flight straight away, so do do this option with caution.
Remember you’ll need to get travel insurance before your trip too, I am insured by World Nomad’s and I really recommend them as they were created by travellers for travellers and I have always had and heard positive things about them. Get a quote here whilst you’re thinking about it.
If you’re worried that you may forget to cancel the flight or you may not have good wifi within the next 24 hours to cancel it which could happen if you’re already in a foreign country, there are many sites that offer you the chance to ‘rent’ an onward flight ticket which means for a small fee they will send you what looks like an actual ticket for you to show the people that check you in, but it isn’t.
A quick google search gave me these 4 options although there are many many more and these are the prices they charge.
One Way Fly – $19.00
Best Onward Ticket – $12.00
Air Onward Ticket – $7.99
Make sure you check a few different sites out as they all seem to have different terms, some you rent for only 36 hours for example.
This option will require some planning and you will need to get the ticket before you get to the airport but I think it’s a good option, plus it doesn’t require having a big payment come out of your account like option one, even though it will be refunded in a few days, and the fact that so many sites like this exist mean it must be ‘ok’.. right?!
I’ve left this one to last as it has some flaws. There are certain flight booking sites like kiwi.com where if you search for a flight and continue the booking process as far as you can without hitting pay you can screenshot the flight details and it pretty much looks like the flight is yours and confirmed.
Usually staff at the check-in desks only briefly check your phone when looking at the confirmation or they take your word if you say ‘yes I have a flight out’, however if you get a member of staff who asks to looks and can see it’s a screenshot and then asks to see a confirmation email you’re kind of screwed with this option.
Personally I worry too much for this scenario and you’re also straight up lying when they ask if you have a flight, you say yes but actually you don’t.
The other 2 options aren’t much better as you have a rented ticket or an-about-to-be-cancelled-ticket but at least there’s more proof and at the moment in time you do have a ticket!
It really depends on the country you’re flying from and the airline. I find that airports in the UK will ask but in the Middle East or in Asia they don’t tend to ask, although don’t go by my word on that.
Not all countries require proof of onward travel and I wish to could share a list with you of Countries that do not require proof of onward travel, but I couldn’t find a list anywhere!
Some Countries that DO REQUIRE PROOF OF ONWARD TRAVEL WHEN YOU FLY TO THEM are: Sri Lanka, India, Philippines, Indonesia, Costa Rice, Thailand, New Zealand, UK, Brazil, China, Japan, Malaysia, Australia,
You should double check before you fly to a certain country to be totally sure but remember it also really it comes down to your departing airport and how on-the-ball they are, or the member of staff that checks you in is that day.
Showing proof of travel can actually be harder when you are travelling via land. For example Thailand is one of those countries that everyone worries about showing onward travel from because you can cross into Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar or Malaysia via land and up until recently you couldn’t even book those land tickets in advance and instead had to wait until you were there.
South and Central America are 2 more areas that people travel by land. I flew into Brazil in 2015 and out of Peru 3 months and 6 countries later but I never got asked to show proof of onward travel once.
Let me know if you have any other ideas!
I’m Ellie Quinn!
I’m a travel addict who has been travelling on and off since 2010. In the Summer of 2018 I quit my office job in London, left my flat and I now travel and blog full time! Yes, I’m living that dream!
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