Proof of Onward Travel – a Story and a Solution

You’ve just spent two months traveling around Australia and now you’re about to spend another two months in Southeast Asia. And while you enjoyed every single minute of your stay in Oz, you’re ready to explore the intriguing cultures of Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

You arrive at Melbourne’s International airport 2 hours prior to your direct flight to Kuala Lumpur and you quickly join the long check-in line at Malaysia Airlines. Thirty minutes pass until you are the ‘next one in line’ and you then eagerly hand over your passport and ticket confirmation number to the airline agent.

She types away on her keyboard, asks if you have any luggage, checks to make sure you packed that luggage yourself and then goes back to typing away on her keyboard again. At that point, clear visions of the Malaysian jungle slowly begin to materialize in your head and you smile widely, unable to hide the thrill of traveling to unexplored lands.

And you remain in that blissful trance, right up until the moment you hear the airline agent say…
Can I please see your onward flight ticket?

You now stand there confused, unaware of what she is trying to ask you. You hear the question repeated and yet you still cannot grasp it’s meaning.

“In order to enter Malaysia, you must provide proof of an onward ticket out of Malaysia. You only have a one-way ticket,” she explains.

“What? I’ve never heard of that,” you reply, and a most unwelcome fear begins to swell up inside.

“We cannot let you board your flight without proof that you will be leaving Malaysia.”

You had planned to fly into Kuala Lumpur, to cross into Singapore by land, take the ferry to Indonesia and then return to Malaysia several weeks later before traveling by bus into Thailand. Why would you need to purchase an onward plane ticket for that?, you think to yourself. You don’t plan on leaving Malaysia by plane.

After an unsuccessful attempt at wooing the airline agent, the visions in your head are now of a plane taking off without you. You even check your pockets to see if you have enough Australian money to get you back into Melbourne.

And then the airline agent offers a suggestion. “If you go over to the Qantas office at the other end of the terminal, you can buy an onward ticket and then hopefully get a refund once you arrive in Asia.”

Off you go, running across the terminal with your backpack dancing off one arm, and with only an hour and fifteen minutes to go until your flight to Malaysia is scheduled to depart. As you approach the small Qantas ticket office, you want to scream. The man behind the counter is in the midst of pulling down the shutters as the clock outside strikes 5:00pm.

You call out to this man and he immediately tells you that the office is now closed. And then you do the only thing that comes to mind. You beg him to listen to your situation. Twenty minutes later, you’re running back across the terminal building towards the check-in counter, this time with a $585 refundable airline ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok, held firmly in your hand.

The airline agent finally checks you in now that you have your onward ticket and without hesitation you rush off to immigration, through security and towards your gate, arriving with only a few minutes to spare. And as soon as you buckle your seat belt and settle into your window seat, you lean your head back, wipe the sweat from your forehead and take a deep breath. You’re on your way to Asia.

Getting The Refund

As you could have predicted, obtaining a refund for your fully refundable onward ticket was not exactly as straightforward as the Qantas ticket man had promised. On your second day in Kuala Lumpur, you trek across the city to the Qantas office, which is closed for no apparent reason. The following day, you go there again and even though it is open, a Qantas employee informs you that the refund process will require two more visits to their office during the following week.

Just thankful to be in Malaysia in the first place, you accept their seemingly unorganized system and plan your time in Kuala Lumpur around your necessary trips to the Qantas office. After your third visit, you’re finally informed that the process has been completed, but, and you just knew there would be a ‘but’, you will not see the refund on your credit card statement for 6-8 weeks.

At this point, you just don’t care. You know you’ll get that $585 back someday and now all you want is to forget about onward tickets and refunds and concentrate on the fascinating culture around you.

The Reality Of Onward Tickets

The above is a true story of course and one that happened to me exactly as I wrote it, about 7 years ago. Perhaps you’ve experienced the same thing, as dealing with the issue of onward flight tickets is something that many travelers face during their adventures.

If you spend a lot of time reading up on the visa/entry requirements for countries around the world (as I do), you’ll realize that a high percentage of countries do require visitors to have an onward ticket in order to be granted entry. However, this is a rule that is often not enforced by immigration officials.

In addition to Malaysia, I can remember being asked to show proof of an onward flight ticket in several countries, including Australia, Singapore, Jordan, New Zealand, Myanmar and the UK. So it definitely does happen and unfortunately, there is often no way to know ahead of time if the rule is going to be enforced. And this is a problem for any traveler whose travel plans are open-ended or mostly overland, and therefore doesn’t involve any onward flights.

The Solution

In order to avoid a similar situation to the one in the Melbourne airport, I now make sure that I’m always prepared. But that doesn’t mean that I’m purchasing onward tickets all of the time. Instead, before I fly anywhere, I actually ‘create’ my onward tickets these days.

While some might think this is a bit ‘questionable’ of a trick, it is a workaround that saves me a great deal of hassle by eliminating the fear involved with hearing those dreaded words – ‘where’s your onward ticket?’ Here’s what to do:

  1. On your computer, open an old Travelocity.com (or similar) flight confirmation that you may have and copy and paste the contents into a Microsoft Word document.
  2. Search online for an actual onward flight from the country you’ll be visiting. (For example, if traveling to Brazil, look for flights from Rio de Janeiro to Buenos Aires, Argentina on a date before your Brazilian visa expires.)
  3. Write down all of the flight information for one of the suitable flights, including the flight #, dates/times, duration, total miles of the itinerary, airline and type of aircraft.
  4. In the Word document, replace the old flight details with the new details you’ve just written down and update any other dates found on the confirmation.
  5. In the “Cost and Billing Summary” section on the Word document, change the price details to match the actual cost of the flight you found during your online search.
  6. Convert the Word document into a PDF file (for a cleaner look) and print out a few copies.

*Alternatively, you could just sign in to Expedia or Travelocity, search for a flight and proceed all the way up until the ‘purchase’ stage. Then print out the final itinerary that displays on the screen and use that as your confirmation. I prefer the above method as it uses an actual paid confirmation format.

This a cropped version of what you end up with…if you click on the image you’ll get a clearer view.

Flight Confirmation

And then, when an airline check-in staff, or even an immigration officer, asks for proof of your onward ticket, simply hand over your confirmation and you’ll quickly be on your way.

Well, can I really guarantee the success of this trick? Nope. So you’ll have to use it at your own risk. However, it’s worked for me each and every time, although the number of occasions that I’ve actually needed to show this proof is tiny compared to the number of countries I’ve entered on a one-way ticket. You just never know.

Have you ever run into any problems with not having an onward ticket during your travels? Anyone with different advice to share?

“And when looking for low prices on airfare, be sure to check out websites such as CheapOair.com which offers cheap flights to destinations around the world.”

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179 Responses to Proof of Onward Travel – a Story and a Solution

  1. Kathryn Fitzgerald says:

    Hi Earl! Thanks for reading this! I have a dilemma- we are flying into PVR and supposed to stay ten days- and fly back to nyc- however I might want to take a detour to experience the day of the dead for three days prior to returning to nyc- tix will be in high demand and I want to purchase now- do u know of any way I can purchase both returns (Pvr-nyc) and (Oaxaca-nyc) and get the unused one refunded without buying refundable tix which are exorbitant – thanks and happy trails! Kathi

  2. Jordan says:

    Hey i’m traveling to England from Toronto Monday with a oneway. I plan on showing them a Train ticket to norway as my onward. Will this work? If so would i have to show proof of my onward leaving norway also?

  3. Chloe says:

    Hi Earl!
    my boyfriend and I are heading to thailand at the end of this month and only purchased one way tickets there and plan to head to australia afterwards but don’t want to book the flight until later on in our trip, we won’t have visas just the 30 day tourist allowance once we arrive. We are wondering if just booking a bus ticket out of thailand would be sufficient as an onward ticket? We may still try your flight ticket trick but just to be safe perhaps book an onward bus ticket if they allow it as an onward ticket..
    Thanks, happy travels,

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Chloe – There really aren’t any set rules. It’s not the immigration officer in Thailand who will ask, it’s the airline that will ask when you check in for your flight to Thailand. It’s their responsibility to make sure everyone has an onward ticket, technically. So, it depends on the person you get. They might not ask for proof of anything, they might ask and be okay with a bus ticket or they might require you to have a flight booked. There really isn’t any way to know ahead of time unfortunately.

  4. Leah says:

    Hi again, Let me rephrase that. I want to stay abroad longer than the 6 months in India, but don’t have a set date to fly out and waiting on friends to confirm plans as to what country…
    Questions and dilemma still the same. Thank you.

  5. Leah says:

    Hey Earl,
    Your blog is one of a kind. Read all the posts. Situation: Going to India in a month. Have 10 year term tourism visa. Problem: Want to stay longer than 6 months allowed. Buying an onward travel ticket with a 24 hour refund window seems dicey given the time it takes to fly to India. Question: What would be the best option? Buying a refundable ticket, with which airline? When was the last time you used your infamous copy and paste for onward travel and ever in India? How do you get around the ‘ticket’ number needing to be legitimate for the possibility that airlines could punch it into their system? Compliment: Something about your delivery and sense of humor reminds me of Howard Stern…
    Thank you.
    Sincerely, Leah

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Leah – That’s a tough one…I’ve never used this method for India and this time, when I just flew here two days ago (I’m in India now), nobody asked for proof at all. As for which airline you can buy a refundable ticket for, you’ll have to look online on Kayak.com or something and search for refundable tickets…I’m not too sure who is offering what at the moment. And with the ticket number, when I used the copy and paste method, nobody ever checked the ticket number…they just looked at the print out and that was that. But as I’ve mentioned in the comments, these days I really don’t use that method any more. I prefer the fully refundable ticket method since that is more reliable overall. Hope that makes sense!

      And thanks for the comment, I think :)

  6. Ken says:

    Recently, going from Melbourne to Bali with Garuda they wanted to see Indonesia exit ticket but I explained I would be applying for a 30 day extension to my 30 day VOA visa so I was not sure when I would leave, the cost and messing about with Garuda makes it not an option to buy now and change date later (customer service on the ground is non existent).
    I showed them a credit card, a big wad of Indonesian money and same with Australian money. They let me through but said Indo. immigrasi might make me buy one there and then.
    On arrival in Bali I just slipped an Immigrasi guy (the one who hangs about in the area where the huge queue starts) some money, $20 is enough, for an “express immigrasi exit” . . . he doesn’t give a hoot about your next flight and you are out the door an hour or more before your fellow travelers.
    Good luck y’all . . . . . I have been on and off the road for 50 years.

  7. Michael says:

    Hey. We are also traveling for the sake of traveling…does anybody know if a bus ticket to leave india does do the trick? It’s much cheaper than flying and if we have to have proof on leaving the country it doesn’t stipulate via plane…

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Michael – For India, usually a bus ticket does not work since there are really only two countries you can go to by bus – Nepal or Bangladesh. So they know that many travelers go there and then come back to India so they don’t often trust just a bus ticket.

  8. If you check-in online, print your own boarding pass, and then walk straight to your gate when you get to the airport, doesn’t that solve the problem of the questioning check-in agent? I have a one-way ticket to Cancun the day after tomorrow and no return or onward ticket whatsoever. For once I thought it might be fun to leave things open and decide later if I’m returning from El Salvador, Guatemala or Mexico sometime in March. I’m getting a little nervous now though…

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Marie-France – If you are flying internationally to a destination such as Mexico, you are usually required to go to the check-in counter or possibly the gate counter in order to have your passport checked in person. And this is when they ask about onward flights if they choose to.

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  10. Erin says:

    Most airports (at least in the US) have a self check in kiosk. Will using these avoid having to pull one over on an agent? Once you’re in the terminal you’re okay, right?

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Erin – I doubt it because I’m sure the systems are designed to detect certain patterns that might be ‘suspicious’ or at least lead to extra questioning. Once you’re in the terminal you are finished with immigration and customs, yes.

  11. Kristine says:

    This also happened to me leaving Toronto for St Marten. I was going to crew on a sailboat. All I had with me was the information of the boat I would be sailing on. This was enough for them.

  12. Lars Ruesink says:

    Anyone here who has done something similar when he/she booked a retour ticket?

    My story is the following:
    I am going to travel through South America for 6 months. Since a retour ticket is way cheaper than a one way ticket I decided to book a retour to Buenos Aires and start and end my trip in Buenos Aires. My ticket now actually says that I will stay in Argentina for 6 months which obviously is not the case. Normally spoken Dutch people like me don’t need a visa if they stay in argentina for less than 90 days but now my ticket says something different. Therefore, my carrier (Iberia) asks for a visa number already in advance, which I don’t have as I am only planning to stay in Argentina for a month or two.

    Today I called Iberia and told them about my plans and that I don’t need a visa for that reason. Their response was that they simply look at the dates on my retour ticket and won’t allow me to board the plane without a visa. Does anyone have a similar experience or does anyone know if they will also accept a ticket to another country in South America as a proof of onward travel instead of looking at your ticket dates for a visa only?

    Kind regards,


    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Lars – What you can do is book a ticket from Argentina to your next destination. Perhaps you can just book a bus ticket from BA to Santiago or a ferry ticket to Uruguay. You need something that shows you are leaving Argentina within those 3 months or else it doesn’t work. You don’t need a return ticket, you just need an onward ticket to somewhere else.

      • Sarah says:

        Hi Wandering Earl,

        Just been reading your comments and I can see your a bit of a travelling guru! Soooo…I don’t suppose if you know if a ferry ticket Buenos Aires to Montevido, Uruguay a few days before the end of the 90 days will suffice as an onward ticket do you? Because I know that lots of people make this journey to extend their visa in Argentina (and as this is my intention too!) I was wondering if you know how smart these guys are haha!! Do you think they will accept this or will they guess my intention and send me on my merry way?!

        Thanks for help and hope your having a blast :)

        • Wandering Earl says:

          Hey Sarah – The thing is, there really aren’t any specific rules with this stuff so a lot of the times it depends on who you are talking to. One officer might be okay with it, another might not, another might not ask for proof at all. Technically, the ferry ticket should be sufficient but no guarantees of course :)

    • Lars says:

      Booked myself a ticket out of the country as a proof of onward travel. In the end this seemed totally unnecessary as nobody asked for a proof of onward travel. Nor Iberia nor Argentinian customs asked anything about my stay or whatsoever, they just stamped my passport and told me it will be valid for 90 days..

      • Wandering Earl says:

        Hey Lars – That’s the thing, you never know unfortunately. It’s not always 100% certain they will ask but if they do, it can be an issue. Glad you made it!

  13. Sonya says:

    Hey Amandine,

    I am in the same situation you were. I’m leaving for colombia in two days and I don’t know what to do about that onward ticket thing…
    What did you do?
    Thanks :)

  14. Soph says:

    Hi guys, would it not be best just to book, print and immediately cancel? That way you don’t have to risk missing the 24hr canx period, plus the refund will be there quicker?

    Or do you think they will check that you haven’t cancelled there and then?


    • Soph says:

      By the way I’m leaving this Wednesday, and only just found out about the onward travel thing… #lastminutemary :/

      Cheers :)

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Soph – That is an option but sometimes, the airlines might check to make sure the ticket is valid. It is usually the airlines check-in staff that check, not immigration, so if they look up your confirmation number in the system and nothing comes up, it could get tricky.

  15. Brittany says:

    Hi Wandering Earl,

    I’m currently looking at applying for a tourist visa to Thailand that would allow me to stay 2 months with a possible one month extension. I’ll be applying from Manila and am required to show proof of a return ticket or onward travel I guess. Do you think the Expedia trick will be sufficient enough for a visa application? Have you used it for that before?

    Cheers and Happy travels!

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Brittany – I’ve never had to prove that on a visa application so I can’t say. But if you book a fully refundable ticket, print it out and include it with your application, once your visa gets approved you can then go online and get the refund. That might be a better option.

      • Adam says:

        Hey Earl,

        I plan to leave for Malaysia in about two weeks. At this time I only have enough money to purchase a one way ticket. Would I have a problem entering Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with a one way ticket? I do plan on buying a return ticket later on in my visit.

        • Wandering Earl says:

          Hey Adam – It’s not about the immigration or entering the country. It’s about checking in for your flight. It is usually the airlines that ask for proof of onward travel in order for you to board the flight that will take you to Malaysia as it is their responsibility to make sure every passenger is following the rules. So, it depends. The airline check in staff might ask for proof, in which case they won’t let you on the flight without it, or perhaps they won’t. You never really know unfortunately which is why it’s always good to be safe and get some proof.

  16. Ruchik says:

    I have used the expedia trick for getting a visa. One country required a purchased/confirmed air ticket before applying for a visa. The risk was that if for some reason the visa was rejected, I would lose the air ticket, as the cheaper tickets these days are non refundable.
    Let me throw in another question for you, when you travel to all these places, do you buy your air tickets first and then apply for the visa? Or do you think that it is better to wait, get the visa first and then buy the ticket. The latter option is less riskier, but the downside is that by the time you apply and get the visa (most countries do not allow you to apply more than 2 months in advance of your travel date), the flight ticket prices have skyrocketed, as now you only have about a month before departure date to buy the ticket. Your thoughts?

  17. Brayden Hall says:

    Hey there Wandering Earl,

    I have recently purchased a one way ticket to Rio de Janiero, Brazil and plan on travelling throughout the rest of South America and flying home from Ecuador. I do not have a return home ticket or an onward flight ticket purchased yet. However, I will be purchasing flights from Santiago, Chile to Rapa Nui (Easter Island) before I actually leave Vancouver to begin my travels as that is another destination that I plan on going to during my trip. Do you think that these flight tickets would work as proof of an onward ticket?

    It would be greatly appreciated if you could get back to me.

    Thank you either way! :)

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Brayden – The thing with this stuff is that it’s impossible for me to truly know what will happen because it all depends on the airline check-in agent, how strict that particular airline is about these rules, etc. They might not ask you for any proof, they might ask you, they might be okay with you saying that you’re traveling around all of South America, they might want to see actual tickets. It’s hard to pinpoint unfortunately.

      With that said, usually a country just wants to know that you plan to leave. So if you have a flight from Chile, that does indicate that you will have to be in Chile, which means you will have to leave Brazil to get there. So on paper, it looks good but again, there’s just no way to guarantee anything.

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  19. Dirty D says:

    Hi Wandering Earl,
    Myself and 2 other friends are traveling into Bangkok via Philippine airlines and currently booked on a one-way ticket. We were thinking about purchasing a bus ticket out of the country before arrival just to be safe, your thoughts? I’m all about forging a return-ticket but the other 2 travelers are a little bit more weary. Appreciate the help!

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Dustin – The thing is, it’s not about the immigration officials in Thailand. I’ve almost never heard of travelers being asked for the onward ticket at immigration. It usually happens at the airport when the airline check-in staff do their required checks of your documents. Sometimes they will ask, sometimes they won’t. So you could try out the bus ticket option as there’s a good chance that in the Philippines, they won’t be as strict when you get to the airport and they probably won’t even ask for anything.

  20. Zivah says:

    Hi guys, do I need an onward ticket if I will be traveling to the Philippines via Philippine Airlines but will leave the country through Zamboanga then to Sandakan, Malaysia by boat?

    Thank you

    • BK says:

      Hi Zivah,

      Just really puzzled with your plans on why you need to leave from Zamboaga to Sandakan. But probably if you are really a traveler, then that’s a new experience. Though I believe the nearest airport is Kota Kinabalu and you need to travel around 5 hours by land. If by sea, then it would take around 24 hours.

      But going back, you MIGHT still be asked for an onward ticket and a lot of questions on why you exit route is Zamboaga.

  21. kanannie says:

    If you show a fake onward ticket from another airline for a flight that is 45 days out, how will the counter agent know that it’s a fake ticket? Does AirAsia have access to check Lion Air’s ticket and flight information for 45 days in the future?

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Kanannie – No, in general, they can’t check. However, these days, it can be easier just to purchase a fully-refundable ticket the day before your flight and then get the refund as soon as you land.

  22. Daniel says:

    Me and my partner have brought one way tickets to Colombia, departing in a few months time. We plan to travel then to Ecuador and then to Peru using overland public transport. We have already booked our return flight from Peru, will this suffice as “proof of onward travel” for the airline when I flight to Colombia? Does the onward ticket need to be out of the country you are flying into, or will proof that you will be flying back to your home country within a few months time from a neighboring country be enough?

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Daniel – Generally, that will work just fine. They just want to know that you are leaving the country and having a flight home from a neighboring country should work.

  23. Jeff says:

    I may be blind but I can’t find any refundable tickets on Orbitz or Expedia.
    Where should I click? It only gives me cheap ticket with no refund options…

  24. sandy says:

    Earl, if you have issues entering the UK, why don’t you just buy a full flexible business premier class train ticket to paris via Eurostar? It’s fully refundable and you get your refund in 5 business days of requesting it.

  25. Amandine says:

    Great posts and very interesting string of comments.
    Bought a one way ticket for Colombia, departure in 10 days so I want to fix the proof of onward travel. I am not so tempted by the “fake” suggestion but would need more than 24h refund due to long travelling before getting to the airport… Anyone could suggest a good company/ website with a fully refundable tickets and no fees?
    I am always suspicious on the “refundable tickets”, wouldn’t want to end up buying business class tickets and not being able to get the money back…. ;-)

    • Jeff says:

      I have the same fear regarding ‘refundable’ tickets… And I’m still searching for a good website/company for this.

  26. Gemma says:

    Thanks Sean.

  27. Gemma says:

    Hey Sean, when you bought your return tickets did you buy a return ticket to the US from Ecuador? Or from another country in SA? My partner and I will be going on a 12 month South American trip but we haven’t bought tickets yet. I dont know whether a Montreal – Quito return ticket with a return date 12 months later will get us into Ecuador given the 90 day visa limit. Or is that going to cause issues? Would it be safer choosing another country to exit from so that Ecuador can see we will be leaving?

    • Sean says:

      Hey Gemma,

      We bought a fully refundable ticket from Ecuador, on the same airline. Not that this was the best solution — it took months, and more than a few calls, to receive the refund. I think the key is that the return ticket isn’t an Ecuador thing, but more an airline issue. From what I’ve read (this comment string included), as long as you can provide proof of onward travel to the airline (including some sort of ticket number), you should be ok. If you already have booked your out-of-Ecuador travel, have a printout of that ticket, so they can enter it into their database.Of course, it can’t hurt to have a bunch of documentation. Our issue was that we didn’t have the ongoing ticket (we were planning on booking it in-country).

      Have a great trip! 12 months in SA sounds fantastic. We just did 3 months, 1 day in the US, and heading to Mexico for 5 weeks!


  28. Tom says:

    ah right, many thanks are they the tickets that have FREE cancel beside them? so i get one of these i can cancel it within 24 hours, and get refunded right away without any problems??

    Its that simple? Is there a limit though to how many you can cancel, you would imagine that if you do it every single time, they’re going to catch on?

    suppose what you could do is, not have proof of onward travel, then if asked at the airport, just quickly buy one of these refundable tickets and show them, but have heard a lot of airports don’t always have free wifi……

    Can you not just tell them you’re going to get overland travel out of the country once you’re in there, so India for example they ask for proof, could you not just show them your funds, and explain you will be getting a train in to Nepal, have you tried this method?

    Many thanks.

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Tom – I only do it about once every six months so I’ve never had a problem. And I’ve used the ‘overland travel’ explanation before but it rarely works. It’s just much easier to have proof of a flight so that you don’t have any issues at all at the airport.

  29. Tom says:

    If we do use this Orbitz website, any idea how long it take for the refund to go through?
    It’s a tricky one because you don’t want to have to buy a ticket and spend money but at the same time, if you get stopped without faux proof, or legit proof, you’re gonna be screwed, and just end up wasting more time/money, suppose you could always just get a cheap train/bus ticket if they have neighboring countries…..

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Tom – You have 24 hours to cancel the ticket so at any time you can go online into your Orbitz account and cancel it and then you are credited for the purchase right away. But just make sure the ticket you buy allows for the 24 hour cancellation. Most tickets do but some don’t. It will say it on the site though.

  30. Sean says:


    Sorry for the late reply on this, but thought it would be helpful for other people even if it’s too late for you. We flew Copa Airlines as well, and purchased a fully refundable ticket at the airport with them in order to board the flight. I wouldn’t recommend this option, though — Copa has a policy that they have two “billing cycles” of your credit card to refund your money, so they will hang onto it for quite a while. We submitted a cancellation/refund request online, which they took 10 days to acknowledge, so the “countdown” started then. It’s been two months since we’ve submitted the request, and no refund yet. I’d go with one of the other methods Earl has mentioned.

  31. Hello Earl, the solution might land us in embarrassment, if we get caught. How would you justify yourself in such a situation.

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Rambow – Things have changed slightly with this one which is why I mention in the comments that these days, it can be easier just to buy a fully refundable ticket or use a website like Orbitz that allows you to hold a reservation for up to 24 hours and cancel it within that time. This way, you can use the ticket to show to the airport staff and then get a refund as soon as you arrive at your destination.

  32. Can’t you just book a flight before you go to the airport with a 24 hour cancelation policy and then just cancel it right after you land? No money spent and no risk of being denied?

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey William – Sure, you can do that if you can find such a flight. For some destinations, it’s a bit harder to get a flight with a 24 hour cancellation period but now you can try using something like Orbitz which offers 24 hour cancellation period for many flights booked on their site.

  33. Ricardo says:

    Thank you Earl i have been reading your blog for hours!!;

    I would like to do this but I dont have any flight confimation layouts… Im planning to go to Thailand this month. Someone have any idea of how i can make this? or any cheap alternative to fill this requirement?


    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Ricardo – Another option is to simply purchase a fully refundable one way onward ticket and then, once arrive in your destination, just hop online and get the refund. That might be easier.

  34. Sean says:

    Hi Earl,

    Our experience was pretty similar — leaving the US to Ecuador for a four month South and Latin American tour, and we ran into the airline agent requesting proof of return. Having heard about this, we had an itinerary mocked up, but unfortunately, without a ticket number (important — they must have a field in a database to fill in!), it was no good. We ended up having to buy two refundable tickets as well. We’ll be using your technique moving forward. For people who are concerned about the “legality” of this option, I have also heard of people buying low-cost bus tickets onto a neighboring country as proof of exit. Haven’t tried it, but it would likely be far less expensive.

    • Sophia says:

      Hi Sean.

      Thank you for your post.
      I too, am flying from the USA to Ecuador (currently on a one way ticket) in late April, 2014.
      I would be ever grateful if you could tell me the name of the flight company (I’ll be flying with Copa Airlines)?
      And where to/ and via what website you bought the fully refundable air tickets??

      It would be incredible for my own peace of mind to hear what you have to say, to save me the stress. Thank you :)

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  37. Tom says:

    would this be considered illegal? am going backpacking around Asia for a year, and will most likely do this, what would the consequences be if the ticket was fake, and they realised.

  38. Dana says:

    I have a friend in Kula Lamur,Malaysia and he out staid his visa. After paying the fee required by immigration; his ticket is now out of force. They will not exchange it to allow him to leave the country; isn’t there a way to have the airline refund then issue a new ticket? I am stuck as what to do to get my friend out…Any suggestions?

  39. Jennifer says:

    I recently flew standby to Beijing. In order to pass through the airport or stay for a free 72 hour period during which a visa is not required, you need a confirmed ticket out of Beijing. I wasn’t sure I’d get on the Beijing flight until the time of boarding, so I waited until entering through SFO security to purchase a connecting flight to Siem Reap via Kayak that I had pre-selected and was luckily still available. However, the agent at SFO insisted that I needed this itinerary printed. I had a screen shot of the ticket confirmation on my phone and had no way to print (being I was already at the airport). The agent agreed to print out the confirmation. My question is, do you need a physical copy in hand of your confirmation or should a digital copy on your mobile device work just as well. When I got to Beijing, they confirmed my onward ticket before allowing me to leave customs.

  40. Mike Markoff says:

    Hey Earl,
    I had the same dilemma trying to check in at LAX to go to New Zealand- my heart dropped. I actually bought a refundable onwards ticket using American Advantage miles… which ended up being easily refunded, and took no precious dollars out of my pocket. Of course a few hours after landing my working holiday visa finally went through.

  41. Bjorn says:

    I have encountered this problem many times, so I started having a friend of mine, who owns a travel agency, to email me “fake” tickets. It worked for a while, but it doesn’t anymore. The airlines have caught on to it. At the check-in counter they will check the ticket number in their computer, and if it isn’t valid they will refuse you. This has happened twice to me, almost making me miss my flights.

    It is not immigration who require an onward ticket, it is the airlines. When immigration refuses someone entry for what ever reason, it is the airline’s responsibility to take them out of the country. So the airlines are just covering their losses. At land border crossings no one has EVER asked me for an onward ticket, so clearly it is not the immigration office who are pushing for this.

    This is silly and very inconvenient for us travelers. I wrote to IATA and suggested that travelers without onward tickets should instead be able to deposit $500 at check-in, which the airline can use if the person gets refused at immigration, and the traveler can then reclaim the $500 at the ticket booth in the destination airport. No reply and Im not surprised.

  42. ariane says:

    Hi there! I need some help, I’m holding a Philippine Passport. I already have my tourist visa to Dubai, but haven’t purchased my ticket yet, It should be manila-dubai-manila, but since im flying to other countries, I’m going to base my departure to Dubai in the country of my final destination. I’m flying to SG with RT tickets Manila-SG-Manila for 4 days, I’ll be in SG for 2 days, a day in Malaysia (train), then fly to Bangkok for 2 days with one way ticket AirAsia KL-BKK. I have a problem in entering bangkok, lets say I’m planning to fly straight from BKK to Dubai? Can I just buy a one way ticket to BKK and show my ticket to Dubai as my onward travel or exit ticket to their country? or I still need to buy RT tickets BKK-kuala lumpur-BKK and just use my bkk-dubai-manila when departing from bkk?

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  44. Ken says:

    I got stopped by jetstar in darwin airport on a 1 way flight to singapore. So much rubbish. My solution and to purchase a train ticket out of singapore, but only 1km out of singapore making it as cheap as possible. It worked, althought i was lucky there was reasonable internet at the airport and i turned up early enough

  45. Lemmi says:

    Hi Earl!
    I,m traveling North/Central/South America over a year now and I,m planning to hitch a boat trip from Brazil to Africa so I,m wondering if I can do the same and when I enter Africa by boat present an onward travel confirmation?…..

  46. Hannah says:

    Ha yes i felt this may have been a bit of a dumb thing to do. I shall try and wing it with ryan air! Cheers Earl :)

  47. Hannah says:

    Hi Earl!

    This article is a bit of a life saver -thank you!

    I’m just creating my own ‘proof’ now for a trip to Jordan. I’m wondering if what I have done will be ok, because the template I am using is from the flight I will actually be on (i’ve got confirmation from Iberia for a Royal Jordian flight. And i’m using a royal jordinian flight as my fake flight.) My worry is that becuase I am on a royal jordinian flight and am providing ‘proof’ of another flight, they can easily spot or find out that I have made up my ticket number or confirmation number. So do you think I have been ridiculous? Or do they just cast an eye at the onward travel document?

    The other template I could use is a ryanair one.. but you cant really get rid of the Ryanair branding from the rest of the confirmation, and the company doesnt sell flights out of Jordan, so i kind of think that would be even less convincing?!

    What do you reckon?

    Cheers for your help! Happy travels.

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Hannah – I’d be careful with using a template from the same airline that you are flying with because they can easily look it up in the system and see that it is not real. The idea is to use a completely different airline so they can’t do that!

  48. lindsay says:

    Hi Earl,

    Earl i was just wondering why the need to convert the document into a pdf file?

    I realize you say “for a cleaner look” but seeing you’re providing the authorities or airline with a printed version (hard copy) I’m of the understanding that once printed it would appear identical regardless of whether it came from a pdf file,word document or some other source. Could you please elaborate for me?

    It’s been on my mind for a while now & I’d greatly appreciate your thoughts.

    Cheers & All The Best.


    The only reason I can see is if you show the airline or others directly from your smart phone or lap top? Is this the case as I don’t travel with either.

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Lindsay – It’s not vital but I just prefer to use a pdf document as to me, it looks a little neater and more official when in that format. It’s probably not a huge difference but it doesn’t hurt either I guess.

  49. lindsay says:

    Hey Earl
    Great advice thanks & happy travels.

    Cheers Linz

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