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Onward Tickets for One Way Travelers

Onward Tickets for One Way Travelers

It is often an apprehensive moment when checking in on a one way flight to a country that officially requires proof of onward travel to enter. Most often, I have found that I am not asked if I have a return or onward flight, and therefore everything works out fine. But on a couple occasions, I have found myself in situations that could have been potential problems while dancing around this silly restriction.





I was once boarding a flight to Bangkok from Hanoi and I watched the check in girl ask everyone who wanted their boarding pass if they had an onward ticket. I did not have one. She busted many people who were in line ahead of me. When it was my turn, I confidently walked up to her and chucked over my passport.

“Do you have an onward ticket she asked?”

“Of course,” I loudly exclaimed with a touch of mock annoyance, “I am going home.” This worked. I neither had a ticket, nor was I planning on going home, but the resolution with which I spoke ended all further inquiry.

If she was to ask for proof I probably would have said something about having an electronic ticket and how I just booked it over the telephone and had no printed itinerary and acted really angry. I do not know if this would work.

It is my impression that the onward ticket restriction is just a way for airlines to make money and countries to have an excuse to refuse entry to people that they do not want. Most often, an onward ticket is not requested by either group.

In fact, in eight years of traveling I have only been asked at immigration if I had an onward ticket twice. Once was coming into England, who seems to give almost everybody a problem, and the other time was yesterday in Costa Rica.

Note: Costa Rican immigration often asks for proof of onward travel, but does not seem to enforce the restriction.

Mira and I were asked yesterday, and we just told them that we were going to Nicaragua by bus. It was the truth, and it worked.

I just met a kid today who was also asked for proof of onward travel while coming into Costa Rica. He did not have any, so he was detained for a half hour while he explained his travel plans. They let him in.

A way to get around the onward travel rule is to print up a false itinerary. You can do this by calling a travel agent and making a reservation. Make sure that you have them email you the official itinerary for this reservation, or else this will not work. Print out the itinerary and never pay for the ticket. Put this paper into a plane ticket envelope that you can get from a travel agent and away you go. STA Travel is good for sending official looking itineraries on flight reservations.

Another way is requesting a travel agent to print you up a false itinerary. Please visit Andy the Hobotraveler’s Fake Onward Tickets for more information on this.

Or, I am told, that you can purchase a fully refundable onward or return ticket and then cancel it and collect the refund. I do not recommend this, as I have found it very difficult to get unrestricted refunds from airlines and travel agents.

I usually just show up at the airport without an onward ticket, and I am usually not hassled. If I was ever given trouble to the point that they would not let me board, I would probably just try to quickly find a cheap ticket to a neighboring country and adapt my travel plans accordingly. It is my opinion that this would be a cheaper option than always buying round trip tickets that I do not intend on using.

Traveler tip #2- Onward Ticket Tricks

Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
Heredia, Costa Rica
January 21, 2008

Traveler Photographs.com
Vagabond Fieldnotes.com

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Filed under: Air Travel, Travel Tips

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 80 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3165 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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