How To Provide Proof Of Onward Travel (So You Don’t Get Kicked Off Your Flight!)

Proof Of Onward Travel Tips
How To Provide Proof Of Onward Travel
Flying Travel Tips

Planning to travel internationally on a one-way flight? You might have a problem. Some airlines and countries require proof of onward travel. Here’s how you can get it.

“Before you can board this flight, I need to see your proof of onward travel.

What?! But I’m traveling on a one-way ticket!

I remember the first time this happened to me. I was checking in at Boston’s Logan Airport for an international one-way flight to Bangkok, Thailand.

Excited to visit Southeast Asia for the first time, I was planning to spend a few months living in Chiang Mai and backpacking around Asia as a digital nomad.

I was flying there on a one-way flight ticket because, you know, I wasn’t sure how long I’d stay…

One month? Three? Would I even go back to the United States? Maybe I’ll travel to a different country after Thailand… overland. I simply hadn’t planned that far ahead yet.

However due to my American privilege and my inexperience with international travel, it never once crossed my mind that this would be a problem.

Can’t I just buy another ticket when I’m ready to leave? Nope.

READY TO FLY? You can “rent” a cheap ticket confirmation to use as proof of onward travel. ➜ Click Here To Get Started
Proof Of Onward Travel Tips
The Rule That Every Digital Nomad Hates

What Is Proof Of Onward Travel?

Basically, some countries want to make sure you aren’t attempting to move there on a tourist visa and never leave. It happens all the time here in the United States, and other countries too.

They are trying to prevent illegal immigration.

Government officials need to see proof that you plan on flying out, respecting the rules of their tourist visa.

They want to see proof of onward travel to another destination.

So while you can technically travel on a one-way ticket, they also need some kind of official return ticket confirmation showing that you are leaving the country eventually.

They won’t necessarily care where that ticket goes, just as long as it’s out of their country.

Ticket Confirmation
Example Ticket Confirmation

Airline Flying Requirements

Many countries actually pass this responsibility on to airlines, meaning that it’s the airline check-in desk who will ask to see proof of your onward travel before they let you board the flight.

Because if they don’t check, and allow you on the flight with a one-way ticket, but immigration officials refuse to let you in, the airline will be responsible for the costs of flying (deporting?) you back to your home country, along with possible fines.

Some airlines are very strict about the proof of onward travel rule.

If you can’t provide proof, you won’t be allowed to board your flight. Or they’ll ask you to buy a return ticket from them right then and there — which can often cost hundreds of dollars more than you want to spend.

Onward Travel Rules Suck!

I feel your pain. Why can’t they just make it easy and allow me to travel on a one-way ticket, trusting me when I tell them I plan to leave in two months?

Some of us prefer to travel spontaneously, without plans!

Most backpackers, long-term travelers, and digital nomads are on a tight budget, trying to make their money last as long as possible. Or they aren’t exactly sure which country they want to visit next. Or they want to travel overland by bus.

Buying round trip tickets just isn’t in the cards for everyone.

Don’t take it personally though. These are their rules for onward travel, and we have to respect them. We have similar laws for foreigners attempting to visit our own countries.

Luckily there are a few easy (and legal) ways to get around this proof-of-onward-travel requirement, so you can travel on a one-way ticket, and not be forced to pre-plan your entire trip down to the last detail.

Flying Onward with Anna
Time To Fly!

5 Ways To Get Proof Of Onward Travel

If you think you may need proof of onward travel during your travel adventure, there are a few legal ways to get around the rules without having to buy round trip tickets everywhere you go.

1: Buy A Refundable Ticket

If you don’t mind waiting a while (sometimes months) to receive a refund, buying a fully refundable second one-way return ticket is definitely possible.

To make it work, you’ll need to buy that second ticket before you leave for your destination.

Once you’ve entered the country, cancel your exit ticket, and wait for the refund.

Just make sure to read the fine print — because some airlines charge cancelation fees, or only refund tickets using flight vouchers instead of cash.


2: Rent A Ticket Confirmation (BEST)

The safest/cheapest option is to “rent” an airline ticket confirmation from a real-life travel agency. This is what I usually do.

OneWayFly.com is a service that books a real return ticket in your name, then cancels it for you later.

It only costs $19, and you’ll get your official ticket confirmation within hours. It’s cheaper than buying your own ticket and safer than trying to forge one (don’t do that!). This is the option I recommend.

Rent A Ticket Confirmation Now →


3: Book With Your Airline Miles

If you are a travel-hacking whiz and have accumulated a ton of points or miles on your travel rewards credit cards, you can use those points to book a one-way return flight and then cancel it later.

Most of the time you’ll find that your points or miles are refunded right away, making it a no-brainer.


4: Buy A Cheap Ticket On A Budget Airline

Extreme budget airlines around the world can have some amazing flight deals. While the airline itself might not be the best — if you don’t plan on actually using the ticket, who cares!

Find the cheapest one-way ticket to a major city in the country next door, and eat the cost. Maybe $50 or $100.

This works best in cheaper areas of the world, like Asia or Latin America. Some examples of budget airlines include EasyJet, AirAsia, Volaris, etc. Click here for a full list.


5: Buy A Bus Or Train Ticket Out

Some airlines might be placated if they can see you have a bus or train ticket that leaves the country. This is obviously much cheaper to buy than a plane ticket ($50?), and you don’t even have to use it.

In my experience, sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. I think it depends on the mood of the check-in agent. It’s a risky option.


What About Forging One?

I do not recommend forging your ticket confirmation. If you get caught, it could end up badly.

Especially if you try to show a fake piece of paper to actual immigration officials rather than airline employees.

Lying to immigration officials is illegal, and could land you in jail.

Some people do this, but it’s extremely risky, and can get you in a lot of trouble!

Which Countries Require Proof?

Many countries technically require proof of onward travel, however, they don’t always enforce the rule.

To reduce your chances of them asking, it’s wise to avoid dressing like a bum/hippie/vagabond with no money.

Business casual always works best at airports if you want to avoid questions.

A few countries definitely require documented proof of onward travel. They include New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States, Brazil, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Peru, and the Philippines.

However, depending on the airline you use, you might also get asked for proof before visiting countries like Thailand, Mexico, and Panama. Do some research on your destination country to be sure.

Or, just rent a ticket confirmation in advance, to cover your bases. It’s super cheap.

Don’t Get Caught Off Guard!

Even though this rule might seem ridiculous, if you are a backpacker or digital nomad who prefers to travel on one-way tickets, you will eventually get asked for proof of onward travel.

I’ve probably been asked at least 10 times over the past few years.

Luckily there are legal loopholes around it. You just need to remember to get everything sorted in advance before you find yourself stuck arguing with the airline check-in agent, about to miss your flight! ★

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Tips for how to provide proof of onward travel when flying on a one-way ticket. More at ExpertVagabond.com
Tips for how to provide proof of onward travel when flying on a one-way ticket. More at ExpertVagabond.com

Have any questions about proof of onward travel? Have you ever been asked before a flight? Drop me a message in the comments below!

THANKS FOR READING

Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 9 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel more with crazy stories, photography, and money-saving travel tips.
Matthew Karsten
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Leave a Comment

172 thoughts on “How To Provide Proof Of Onward Travel (So You Don’t Get Kicked Off Your Flight!)”

  1. Thanks for the information it has been truly an eye opener
    What happens if you are returning to a country where you would like to do residency do you still need that onward ticket

  2. your suggestion worked like a charm! thanks so much for writing this. my son is traveling to italy for a month and we don’t know if he’ll be coming home after that or going back to where he actually lives at the moment in LA, so we booked him a one-way ticket til we could figure it out. we read your post previously and knew he had a train ticket from paris (where he was flying into) to milan and figured since he was leaving france for italy that’d be proof enough for the airline. well! he got to the airport and was immediately forbidden to proceed to security without better proof of onward travel! he called me and from across the country i got him a temporary ticket from the site you recommended and within minutes, he had confirmation and was through to security :))) so smooth!! thanks, man.

  3. Okay, so say I rent a return ticket because I’m not sure if I want to stay a week or two months in the U.S. (I’m from Canada), but I’m fully intending to return to my home on a beautiful little gulf island in B.C. Once I really do purchase another one-way ticket home, won’t the U.S. authorities notice that I never took that other trip and if so, will that cause me any trouble?

    • As long as you are not actually overstaying your visa, they don’t care when/how you leave. They aren’t tracking every ticket you buy or cancel. They just want a basic level of proof that you are planning to leave beyond “trust me”.

  4. Hello! I thought your article was very helpful! I have a one way ticket to japan (waiting for my visa to process) and didn’t buy a return flight. Would you recommend onewayfly.com (what you suggested in your article)for proof of onward? I am afraid that japan will accept this but turn around and decline myself entry into Japan.
    Thank you for the help!

    First time traveler Donna

  5. I want to travel to Barbados and i will be using Qatar airways and i will like to use a one way ticket because i will be leaving there for another country what do i do to get there because right now am confused

    • You need proof that you’re leaving Barbados at some point. Like another flight confirmation — proof that you’re flying from Barbados to somewhere else in the future.

      Otherwise they might not let you board your one-way flight into the country. Because they don’t want you staying there as an illegal immigrant.

      Even if that is not your intention, you need to prove that to the airline officials. They won’t just take your word for it.

  6. Panama currently requires a return flight ticket to your country of origin from Central America within 90 days. When going to a new country, I always book an onward flight ticket that is fully refundable when cancelled online within 24 hours.

  7. I found a very cheap one way to Stockholm. I’m about to do 2-3 months in Europe and then head to Asia if possible. If I bought a ticket to London (not that is not in the EU) would that count as on ward travel?

    • Yes I think that will cover you Kayla. As long as they see that you are leaving the Schengen Area.

      I know it’s confusing, but even though England is part of the EU (for now), it is not part of the Schengen Area (which is the agreement that deals with travel visas).

      A Schengen Tourist Visa doesn’t include the UK.

  8. Round trip airfares from Europe to the USA are considerably cheaper. I travel to see my family in Europe at the very least twice a year. Are there any repercussions to buying a one way trip to my european destination, for example, in June 2019 for my summer trip and then purchase a round trip ticket from Europe to the USA in July 2019 with a return to Europe in November 2019 and then continue to book round trip tickets in reverse. The savings would be huge. I have not checked to see whether or not they would even sell me a ticket in reverse so that I could always have proof of return in my possession. Thanks in advance…

    • Hey Rosalind! I honestly don’t know. I think all they need is the proof that you are leaving the EU eventually, and within the 3-month tourist visa limit.

      My guess is you should be good. But it doesn’t hurt to rent a ticket confirmation that first attempt, just in case. It doesn’t cost much — a little insurance policy for if it doesn’t work.

  9. So I’m traveling to Thailand and I found a airline ticket to Malaysia for $17. I won’t get on that flight, but the issue is that it is past that 30 day visa they will give me. My plan was to go to the immigration office and extend my visa for another 30 days once I got there. Do you think i can explain that to them?

    • It is possible.
      You have to pay at immigration office for certain baht. I’m not sure how much the price is, but you definetely can extend your stay there.