“Can I please see your proof of onward travel?” “Whaaaat?!” It shocked me so much the first time I heard about it. I was about to start my Round-The-World-Trip, still home, and I was already facing problems!?
Fortunately, I had booked a flight from Seattle to Bangkok, so I could board… However, I was really angry that a situation like this could occur without prior warning.
Nowadays, many countries demand a return or an onward ticket to allow you to enter. USA, Brasil, México, Panamá, Costa Rica, Australia, Jordan and Chile are a few examples. The list goes on and on, though.
But what if we want to exit overland? Or what if we are not sure when we are leaving? Let’s talk about this subject.
Who Needs A Proof Of Onward Travel?
PEOPLE ENTERING A COUNTRY ON A ONE-WAY TICKET. It doens’t apply if you are arriving overland, or if you have a return flight ticket. Essentially, this is a problem for any traveler whose plans are open-ended and are not sure about the itinerary.
IMPORTANT! This situation only applies if you are entering by plane, not overland.
To make it even more confusing, there is no way to know ahead of time whether they will ask you or not. I had to show my proof of onward travel when going from Spain to Mexico, but not when traveling to the same Mexican airport from Guatemala…
How To Get A Proof Of Onward Travel?
Most of the times, the airline itlsef asks for the onward flight ticket. This is because in case you were not accepted in the country of destination, they would have to pay for the repatriation. Actually, many people have been asked to book a last minute flight in order to board. So, in order to avoid to end up losing a lot of money, here is a list of possible solutions:
1. Rent A Return Ticket
The best and safest option. Companies like Fly Onward provides a rental onward ticket for 24 or 48 hours. How does it work?
The day before the departure, we have to “rent” a flight. After paying a 10USD fee and providing our full name, date and country of departure, we will receive the e-ticket issued by the airline. The ticket will come with a “Confirmed” status which means it has been paid in full.
After the specified time (24 or 48 hours) the company will cancel the flight and it will be no longer valid. However, it shouldn’t worry us since we will be already in our country of destination.
2. A 48h Hold
A similar alternative. I have used it to travel to the US and Mexico several times, and never had any trouble. Some companies like Copa Air offer the chance to hold a flight ticket for 48 hours without providing any credit card detail. We proceed to a normal flight booking but at the final payment stage, we select the 48 hours hold option. The reservation is completely legal and we will have the documents sent to our email, as if we had paid for it.
This way, we can book the flight the day before the departure and go to the inmigration desk without any worry. In case we are inquired into the fact that it is not paid yet, we can defend our right to pay it in 48 hours.
3. Outbound Refundable Ticket
Buy a fully refundable ticket before leaving, cancel it once in the destination and get the refund. While it is a safe options, it means spending a large amount of money (sometimes as much as 1000 USD) and having to wait for the money back.
I used this option once when traveling from Mexico to Costa Rica. I flew with Avianca and I didn’t have any problem with my refund. In fact, it was quite fast and easy. However, always read the fine print carefully. Some airlines may charge cancellation fees.
TIP! Some airlines like Air Canada, Finnair, JetBlue, and most of US airline companies, allow a fully refundable ticket, as long as you cancel the ticket within 24 hours after purchase. Most of the times, the date of the purchase must be at least 7 days before the flight departure.
4. Bus Or Train Ticket
Does a bus or train ticket out of the country work? It depends.
When I was living in Chile, I used to fly one-way from Barcelona to Santiago. Whenever asked for my onward ticket, I showed a bus ticket from Santiago to Mendoza (Argentina) and never had an issue.
Nevertheless, it depends on the check-in agent and the country you are traveling to. I know countries like the US or Canada are more “strict”, so, to be honest, I wouldn’t risk it.
5. Outbound Cheap Flight
Find the cheapest one-way ticket out of the country and accept to lose the money. While this option might be the most “honest” one, it is as well the less practical in terms of saving.
If you go for this options, spend the minimum by checking budget airlines connecting neighbour countries. Click here for a full list of low-cost airlines.
This ticket would only serve as a proof of onward travel and you are not going to use it. That’s why it doesn’t matter when or where it is departing from. Book the cheapest one! Just make sure the departure flight date is before your visa expiration date. You might allowed to stay 30 days, sometimes 90… In fact, it depends on your nationality and the country itself, do your research!
6. A Fake Reservation
I don’t recommend this alternative since lying to an inmigrant officer is illegal. You could end in serious trouble. Still, Return Flights is the best option when creating a fake flight ticket. The result is quite convincing.