Do you always have an onward air ticket when entering a new country?


#1

I’m looking into visa requirements for Indonesia and Thailand (our first two stops) and it’s looking like I’ll need to show proof of onward air tickets out of both countries to be allowed in. Is that true in practice?

If so, I’m curious how other nomads manage it – do you just buy cheap tickets out that you’re OK with not using to satisfy the requirement? Or do you chance it?


Can I use a bus/train/boat ticket as a departure ticket to get a visa in Thailand?
#2

The only legitimate way is to simply purchase a refundable ticket. Sure, it usually costs more but if you do your homework, you should be able to get the entire thing refunded - just make sure you do the aforementioned homework as many carriers may charge you a fee or three.

Aside from this, there is no way around the rule without breaking it (or at least heavily bending it).

As a side note, from experience I have not once entered a country where this rule existed and they have questioned me on my exit strategy. I’ve discussed this many times with fellow travellers and some have done the refundable or fake ticket trick. Other travellers have said that they will pull the “oh, my tickets are with my friend, I’ll go get them” trick, leave the queue and purchase tickets online on their phones. I’m yet to hear anyone who has actually tried that though.

The only times where I’ve spoken to someone where the issue has been raised was when the airlines themselves kicked up a fuss. They do this as if you are denied at the border they have to fly you back to where you came from and they don’t particularly want to be handing out free flights. As a traveler, you have a ability to ask for a waiver to sign that forms a guarantee with the airline, stating you’ll pay for the fare. This is usually backed with a credit card.

The essence of the rule is to make sure you are not planning on illegally staying in the country for longer than your stay allows. As an extra precaution if you are tempting fate with no return ticket, keep copies of your bank statements showing that you have a healthy balance and that should keep the powers that be happy.


#3

Thanks @grum. Kind of what I was thinking. I’ll probably purchase my Bali --> Thailand leg before leaving for Bali then.


#4

Oh, side note, I was in those two countries in the last month and I totally forgot about the ticket thing and wasn’t asked. Never have been asked anywhere.


#5

In my experience it is the airlines that will check; they don’t want to have to give anyone a free ride. Sometimes you can plead ignorance and ask for a waiver, especially on short haul flights, but that gambit hasn’t ever worked for me on a long haul (for obvious reasons). Purchasing a ticket on the spot simply to board a plane is not fun so I tend to take greater precautions with long haul flights.

Immigration officials have never asked me about onward tickets but I have a rather “good” passport and fit the profile of “wealthy westerner” when traveling in Asia. Depending on your citizenship, general appearance, and the disposition of the official you encounter your mileage may vary.


#6

Good to know – seems from what I’ve heard anecdotally off the forum, too, that the problem would come when boarding our Seattle --> Bali flight, likely. Since our next destination will probably be Thailand, we’ll just buy our AirAsia/TigerAir Bali --> Thailand tix.


#7

I’ve never bought an onward ticket, and having a British passport, luckily I’ve never had any problems.

However every time I go somewhere with my Thai gf, she has to have an onward ticket or they won’t let her board.


#8

I have found myself in the same situation many times in the past. Entering a country and not knowing when I’ll be leaving or where I’ll be going next. I don’t recommend lying to government authorities, but…

I use TripIt to manage all my travel plans. You can always add a flight to TripIt for planning purposes without actually buying the ticket. Then print your updated itinerary. I’ve never had anyone ask specifically “have you actually purchased this ticket already!?” nor have I ever had anyone call the airline to confirm the booking.

For what it’s worth, I often end up buying tickets and traveling on those flights, I’m just not always sure of that when I enter the country.


#9

Same as the others, I’ve only ever been asked by airlines. I think I just told them where I was going next, but didn’t say I had a ticket.

Immigration never seem to ask me anything when I’m entering or exiting.


#10

Airlines consult the TIMATIC database to determine what document requirements they need to check before allowing you to board. These can be found in several places online like http://www.staralliance.com/en/services/visa-and-health/.

I had a bit of a scare this year when I was flying from Hong Kong to Bali. I bought a one-way business class ticket on Cathay using my airline miles since I wasn’t sure when I would want to return. I didn’t have any luggage to check, so I checked in online and went through security/immigration with the electronic boarding pass on my phone. When I was boarding, the boarding pass scanner beeped three times and the gate agents informed me that I wouldn’t be able to board without a ticket number for a flight out of Indonesia. I have a US passport.

I had to quickly think of a solution since the boarding doors were going to close in 15 minutes! Luckily I knew that if I booked a return flight with my miles, I could get it all refunded within 24 hours. So I quickly opened up my laptop, tried to sign on to the airport wifi (which required painful SMS authentication), and searched for available return flights. I had just enough miles and booked the reservation. Many award flights aren’t immediately ticketed, so I had a suspenseful 10 minutes waiting for my reservation to go from confirmed to ticketed. Luckily, I barely made it, but my heart was racing!

I don’t suggest winging it like I did - check the database and sort out the appropriate option before entering the country. There are plenty of options to book fully refundable airline tickets to allow you through immigration.


#11

@namehra I’ve always had a ticket for my next flight but I thought that if I have to present a fake ticket, I’ll get an old ticket and change the details. Good to know TripIt makes this easier. Not that I want to try it!

The most “adventurous” trip I did was not booking anything from Sevilla to Barcelona beforehand. That train ride was so expensive! It would have been cheaper to go back to Paris :slight_smile:


#12

I’ve been asked for onward tickets by an airline when flying to Thailand before; they simply directed me to their ticket desk and suggested I bought the cheapest refundable ticket out of Thailand going. Unfortunately it required me to waste time going to their Bangkok office to actually obtain the refund, but having £150 locked up for a week is not the worst possible outcome.


#13

I’ve recently flown in from Hong Kong to Bali, with a stopover in Kuala Lumpur, with AirAsia. They did ask me for a fly out of Indonesia ticket in order to check me in, so I’ve opened my laptop and booked one (had to do it anyway).

The other option is to purchase a ticket and choose to pay via wire transfer. Show them the confirmation email and they’ll go with it. You can then decide whether to actually pay or not (I believe 48 hours until it’s cancelled) depending on your plans.

The customs in Bali didn’t ask me for any return ticket at all.


#14

I remember seeing this the other day and thought I would share the “hack”:


#15

The only time I’ve been asked for an onward ticket was flying to Japan. Luckily, I found out a few days beforehand.

Just remember, an onward ticket doesn’t have to be an air ticket. For Japan, I booked on the ferry to Korea. I didn’t even have an actual ticket, just a screenshot of the booking I’d printed out. When I got to Japan, I cancelled the ticket and got a full refund (it was only cheap anyway).

I’d be too scared to buy a “refundable” air ticket in case there was some stupid fine print on the refund conditions. I don’t trust airlines and the amount of $$$ it costs for a refundable ticket is more than I want to shell out.

So, don’t just look at air travel but all options for onward travel :smile:


#16

I have often bought fully refundable tickets to show the airline or immigration if asked. Just remember to check carefully when you buy them that they are actually refundable and remember to do it as soon as you are in. All it means is that some of the available credit on the credit card is unavailable for a day or two.

Lots of airlines have asked but they rarely actually required proof, so it would have been easy to just say I had a return ticket.

The only immigration that gave me a hard time, when I didn’t have a return ticket, was the United States. In that case, they accepted that my American Express card would allow me to buy a ticket any time and didn’t actually make me go and buy one. The immigration officer asked, “What would you do if I told you you needed to buy a return ticket before boarding?”.

This was boarding a plane in Canada, so the immigration clearance was actually before the flight.


#17

I was wondering about this. Do you know if a bus ticket will be accepted as an onward ticket in South America? E.g. Fly to Lima from Europe, and present a bus ticket from Cusco to La Paz as my onward ticket.


#18

Obviously, I can’t say one or the other since it would pretty much rely on the airline staff but I think what the checkin staff are looking for is enough documentation to ensure you aren’t turned back by immigration when you try to enter the country you are flying to and don’t really care much beyond that. They don’t want to pay to fly you back home.

The immigration staff are mostly concerned with you not breaking the law and becoming an illegal immigrant - so long as you plan to get out of their country within the legal visa period, they should be happy.

Technically, if you have records proving that you have the financial means to get out of the country again (bank statements etc), that should be enough but sometimes that’s not accepted. I guess they think you might go on a bender with the money and not have enough left for a ticket or something.

But yeah, I just know what I’ve experienced or what I’ve found out from other people so take this for what it’s worth. Every country and airline will be different.


#19

I’ve been asked by airlines, but never at immigration.

An alternative is to Photoshop an itinerary, be it an email confirmation or boarding pass. But of course, there is an inherent risk.


#20

I never bought return ticket. I was asked for it two time only. First time a flight from Hong Kong to Malaysia. They asked me at the airline checkin counter and when I said that I did not have one, they made me sign a discharge and prove I can buy a way out (credit card or enough money), which Malaysian custom never cared to ask. Second time when I went to the immigration office in Malaysia, for a visa extension on a separated journey, the agent asked me if I had a return ticket and I just reply that I was waiting for the visa extension before buying it, they say nothing and extended the visa.

Most of the time, even if a return ticket is supposed to be required for a visa they never ask for it. I guess be a Canadian help.