One of the tips my brother shared with me when I was preparing for my six weeks backpacking trip last year is to have proof of onward travel for my flight out of the country. I didn’t know anything about this until that time my brother told me. And I’m sure many of you haven’t heard about this yet. So what is it anyway?
Proof of onward travel is proof of a return ticket back home or to another destination. When one checks in at the airport, the airline staff asks for a proof of return ticket back home or a ticket to another destination when he/she sees that you only booked one way. This isn’t a problem for most travelers because normally when they go on a trip, they have everything planned and they have roundtrip tickets.
But for backpackers and spontaneous travelers, this could be a problem. Normally backpackers plan as they go. They are not really sure how long they are going to stay in a country because it will depend on whether they will like the place or not. So they only book one way.
Countries that Require Proof of Onward Travel
There are only a few countries that require proof of onward travel. These are Peru, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States, Philippines, Indonesia, and Brazil. But just because your destination is not included in the list doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t ask. When we were flying back to Singapore from Malaysia the other week, the lady at the check-in desk of Malaysian Airlines asked how many days I’ll be staying in Singapore. Then she asked for my flight ticket to the Philippines and got all the details. I’m not really sure what it is for, but I’m glad I have already booked my flight the day prior.
As a precaution, it would be good if you book proof of onward travel prior to traveling to any country to avoid being denied boarding the flight.
Why is a Proof of Onward Travel Required?
Countries require this to prevent people who are visiting their country on a tourist visa from illegally immigrating. They want to make sure that you won’t be staying there illegally. They want you to show proof that you will be exiting their country at the end of your visa period.
Most countries have passed on the responsibility of enforcing these laws onto the airlines entering their country. If the airline allowed you to fly without an onward ticket but the immigration officials deny you entry to their country, the airline will be fined. They will also be responsible for flying you back to your home country with them shouldering all the costs. So to avoid this from happening, the airline attendant asks for your proof of onward travel when you check-in for your flight. They won’t allow you to board the flight unless you are able to present one.
Worry not though if you are planning to go on a spontaneous trip because there are legal ways on how you could provide proof of onward travel.
Ways on How to Provide Proof of Onward Travel
Book a Flight with 24-hour Free Cancellation on Expedia.com
This is the best and cheapest way of providing proof of onward travel. I have tried this last month so I could guarantee you that this works. It is legal and once you have booked your flight, you can actually check your booking on the airline’s website. And doing this is very easy, and won’t cost you anything as long as you remember to cancel the flight within 24-hours after you booked it. So how do you do it?
Booking with Expedia
A few hours before your flight, or before you go to the airport, go to www.expedia.com and search for a flight from your destination to your home country or to another country.
You will then see flight options. Not all flights allow cancellation within 24 hours co make sure the flight you select is one with “Free Cancel w/in 24 hrs” below the price.
After selecting the flight, you will then be shown the flight summary. Make sure that the booking fee is $0.00. If there is a booking fee, look for another flight that can be canceled and doesn’t charge a booking fee. You should also see “Free Cancellation within 24 hours of booking” beside the Continue Booking button.
Click on the Continue Booking button. You will then need to fill in your personal information to complete the booking, then make the payment. After booking your flight, you will receive your flight ticket from Expedia in your email. You can print the ticket and cancel it immediately, or you can cancel it after you pass the immigration at your final destination, as long as you arrive before the 24 hours is up. If your flight is just a short flight, I recommend doing the latter, just in case the airline checks if your ticket is really valid.
Canceling the Flight
Once you get to your destination, don’t forget to cancel your flight so that you can get a refund immediately. Canceling is very easy. In the email sent to you by Expedia, you can either click on the Manage Booking or look for the “We’re here to help” part at the bottom part of the email and click on cancel. It will then redirect you to a page where you can cancel your booking.
After you successfully cancel your flight, you will receive an email from Expedia informing you that your booking has been canceled.
By the way, I am not an affiliate of Expedia and I am not sponsored by them. I am just sharing this with you since I was able to use it already and I didn’t encounter any problem.
Book a Bus or Train Ticket to Another Country That Can Be Canceled for a Minimum Fee
If the country you are traveling to has a bus or train that leaves to another country, then booking a bus or train ticket can also be an option. This is what I did last year when I did my backpacking trip. My first destination was Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Vietnam. I booked a bus ticket from HCMC to Phnom Penh, Cambodia and that was what I presented as proof of onward ticket when I checked-in for my flight to HCMC. I didn’t cancel my bus ticket because I was really planning on going to Phnom Penh after HCMC. But in case you want to book a bus or train ticket within Southeast Asia that can be canceled, you can do it with Baolau. Not all buses allow cancellation though, so be sure to check the fare rules of the bus company before booking.
Use an Onward Flight Booking Company
Booking with Expedia is a very good option because it is free. The risk of using it though is if you forget to cancel the flight. If you are worried about this, you can either set your alarm to remind you to cancel your booking, or you can use an onward flight booking company.
An onward flight booking company is a company/travel agency that makes flight reservations that can be helpful for visa applications or if you want to enter a country without purchasing a return flight. Instead of you going through the process of booking the flight and canceling it afterward, it is they who do the work for you. The flight reservation is real- you can check the validity of your onward ticket on major airline’s websites and if the airline staff checks your reservation number, they will find the booking in their system. The flight reservation is usually valid for a minimum of 48 hours.
I haven’t used this yet but I have read good reviews about the company Onwardticket. To book a legit onward ticket, just provide your itinerary information and their search engine checks for available flights. Make the payment. A ticket costs as low as US$ 12. Once you have paid, you will receive your PDF-ticket with a valid PNR code under your name that you can print as well.
Book a Cheap Flight
If you find the first three options a little bit complicated or you don’t feel comfortable booking and canceling a flight or bus/train ticket, then booking a cheap flight that you can sacrifice might be the one for you. There are plenty of budget airlines around the world with amazing deals. Look for the cheapest one-way ticket to a city in a country close to your destination, and sacrifice the cost.
Hope you found this post useful. If you have any questions or clarifications regarding this post, feel free to leave a comment below or email me. Subscribe to my blog if you don’t want to miss any of my posts. And please follow my Facebook page @iwentanyways and like my Instagram accounts @iwentanyways and @tnadeperalta for updates.
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