Onward ticket? Can it be a return ticket?
When it comes to travel, one thing that can be confusing for many people is the onward ticket. To put it simply, an onward ticket is proof of your departure from the country you are visiting. This can be a return ticket or a ticket to another country. So, why do you need an onward flight ticket and how do you get one?
In this blog post, we will answer all your questions on onward tickets and help you navigate this process.
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1. What Is an Onward Ticket?
An onward ticket is a “travel document” that shows proof of your intention to leave a country within a certain period of time. It is typically required by immigration authorities to ensure that travelers do not stay in a country illegally.
Theoretically, an onward ticket can be a flight, train, or bus ticket that proves you have plans to continue your journey to another destination. In reality, though, it may be tricky traveling without a flight ticket. For some reason, immigration officers like plane tickets much more than bus or train tickets.
What it means is that if you don’t have a plane ticket, you may be question more about your travel plans than if you have a plane ticket.
Onward ticket meaning: a proof of you leaving the country. Usually, it refers to a flight ticket back to your home country, or to another country.
It is important to check the entry requirements of the country you are visiting to determine if an onward ticket is required.
1.1 Can You Use a Bus Ticket as an Onward Ticket?
Theoretically, yes, you can use a bus ticket as an onward ticket.
However, make sure to check the entry rules of the country that you are going to, as they may be asking specifically for a plane ticket. You may still be okay if you have a bus ticket, or train ticket, even if they are asking for a plane ticket. But you can never be 100% sure of that – it depends on the specific airline employee (if they will allow you on the plane) and immigration officer at your destination (if they allow you in the country).
1.2 Can You Use a Train Ticket as an Onward Ticket?
Theoretically, yes, you can use a train ticket as an onward ticket.
As long as it’s a train to another country, and you’ll be leaving not later than your visa ends. Keep in mind, though, that you may be questioned more when checking in for the flight, boarding the plane and entering the country. For some reason, immigration officers and airline staff, put more trust in plane tickets.
Plane tickets are the best option for hassle-free travel.
2. Why Do You Need an Onward Ticket?
You need an onward ticket as a proof that you will be leaving the country.
More and more countries require visitors to have an onward ticket before they enter. This is to ensure that travelers do not overstay their visa and become illegal immigrants. Even though you could still overstay, right? Nothing is stopping you from that. But that’s the rules, and if the ticket is required, mostly you’ll be asked for it when boarding a flight to this particular country.
That leads us to the next question about onward ticket (number 3).
2.1 What Countries Require an Onward Ticket?
It’s best to assume that all countries require an onward ticket.
Not very helpful? I know, but that’s just the reality of travel.
So, it’s best to assume that you may be asked for an onward ticket, either when checking in for the flight or when going through the immigration on arrival. And in case if you decide to travel with a one-way ticket only, just be prepared for that conversation. It’s always a good idea to have an itinerary to share (it doesn’t need to be written down) and clear answers to questions like “how long are you going to stay” and “what’s your plan about where are you going to next”.
It’s the best to assume that all countries require an onward ticket. For the best experience, it’s a good idea to always have an onward or return ticket. You can also check the entry requirements here, on the website of IATA.
Here’s one example, I was traveling from South Korea to Uzbekistan. I don’t need a visa for Uzbekistan, and they don’t require an onward ticket (they don’t mention it at all on their government websites). However, I was asked for an onward ticket when checking in for the flight in South Korea. I didn’t have one, and was asked to sign a document stating that I’m taking the risk and that the airline won’t be held responsible in case I’m not allowed to enter the country.
You have to be prepared for this.
2.2 What Countries Don’t Require an Onward Ticket?
There’s no one list of countries that don’t require an onward ticket. Generally speaking, the less strict immigration process, the more loose onward ticket rules.
You can also check the entry requirements here, on the website of IATA.
It also depends on your nationality (your passport). If you don’t need a visa for some country, the higher the chance you won’t be asked for an onward ticket. For example, if you are a EU citizen traveling within the European Union (EU), there’s a 99.9% chance you won’t ever be asked for an onward ticket.
2.3 What Should You do If You’re Unsure About a Country’s Onward Ticket Requirements?
It’s always best to assume that you’ll need it.
If you’re going to travel without it, for your own safety and convenience, find at least one or two reliable sources for the entry requirements (where they don’t mention an onward ticket; to have better chances of getting on the plane).
3. Do Airlines Check for Onward Tickets?
Yes – airlines check for onward tickets/return tickets.
The trickiest part is that they may ask you for a proof of an onward travel even if it isn’t required. And if you don’t have an onward ticket, sometimes, it will end well. They will just let you go, after you let them know of your travel plans. Other times you may be denied boarding.
4. What Happens If You Don’t Have an Onward Ticket?
There are three possible scenarios:
- You may be questioned more. At check-in or on the border on arrival to the country (airport immigration control).
- You may be denied boarding. It sucks, but it can happen. The airline staff may deny boarding if you don’t have an onward ticket. Especially when you are traveling to a country that clearly requires it. You won’t get a UK/EU flight compensation from the airline for this, and you won’t have a right to care if that happens.
- You may be denied entry and/or visa. This is the worst of the options. Because this may also mean a permanent or temporary ban to travel to the country. Plus, you can’t leave the airport, and have to fly back as soon as possible. And you have to pay for that – last-minute flights can be very expensive.
In some cases, they may give you the opportunity to purchase an onward ticket at the airport, but this is not guaranteed.
4.1 Can You Be Denied Boarding If You Don’t Have an Onward Ticket?
Yes, you can be denied boarding if you don’t have an onward ticket.
While the specific policies may vary by airline and destination, it is always a good idea to check the entry requirements of the country you are visiting to determine if an onward ticket is required. Failure to provide proof of onward travel may result in you being denied boarding or asked to purchase a return ticket before being allowed to proceed with your journey.
4.2 Can You Get Deported If You Don’t Have an Onward Ticket?
Yes, if you don’t have an onward ticket, you could potentially face deportation. This is the worst possible scenario.
5. How Do You Get an Onward Ticket?
There are a few ways you can get an onward ticket. The easiest way is to simply purchase a return ticket, or onward ticket.
If you are not planning on returning to your home country, you can purchase a ticket to a nearby country that you plan to visit next. Or, any country. It doesn’t have to be a nearby country. Just a country where you are going to next.
It can also be a refundable ticket to anywhere. You may cancel it later.
Another option is to use an onward ticket service. These services provide a reservation for an onward ticket, which is automatically cancelled (mostly in 24-48 hours). They are sometimes called “onward ticket rental services”.
6. Renting an Onward Ticket, How Does It Work?
Here’s how it typically works:
- You choose a service. There are several online services that offer rented onward tickets, such as OnwardTicket, Best Onward Ticket, and others.
- You provide information about yourself. You’ll need to provide some basic information such as your name, email address, and sometimes your intended travel date and destination.
- You pay the fee. These services usually charge a small fee, typically between $10 and $20. Some services offer a refund if you cancel within a certain timeframe.
- Receive your onward ticket: After you’ve paid, the service will book a real flight in your name and send you a legitimate booking confirmation. This booking will show up in airline systems, so if it’s checked by immigration officials or airline staff, it will appear valid.
- The company cancels the ticket. Usually, the company will automatically cancel the ticket after a certain period (24-48 hours). This means you can’t actually use the ticket to fly, but it serves its purpose as proof of onward travel.
It’s a real plane ticket, real reservation that you can check online.
If you rent an onward ticket, it’s a real plane ticket. It’s a real flight reservation that you can check online.
These companies usually are travel agents. At the same time, it’s important to note that while many travelers use these services without issue, there’s always a small risk. If possible, it’s safer and more reliable to book a refundable onward ticket yourself, or to have a next destination already planned.
Read more: Onward Ticket Review
6.1 Are Rented Onward Tickets Safe?
In short, renting an onward ticket always involves a risk.
There are three risk factors you should consider.
First, what is the company providing the service? Are they reliable? What are their reviews on Google, Trustpilot, Facebook, etc.? For your own safety, use services of only trustworthy companies.
Second, is this a real reservation? This you will be able to check only when you get the ticket. Go to the website of the airline and find the reservation. Mostly, you can do it on the “manage booking” section.
Third, this is not a real, real ticket. Well, it is a real ticket, and it isn’t a real ticket. This one goes without saying, but if someone asks, you can’t say that you rented an onward ticket. As after that they may not consider it a real enough proof of an onward travel anymore. This is a grey zone. It’s kind of legal. Because, hey, anyone can decide and change their travel plans, right? It is what it is.
Don’t forget about the validity! These tickets are valid for 24-48 hours only. If your flight gets delayed for long-enough, and you are needed a ticket on your arrival, it may also be expired already.
6.2 How Long Is an Onward Ticket Valid? (Rented Onward Ticket)
Some onward tickets are valid for 24 hours, while others – 48 hours.
The validity of an onward ticket varies depending on the service you use, and the ticket that you are buying. The same service may offer both 24 and 48-hour onward tickets. Make sure to check the validity period before making a reservation so that you do not run into any issues.
6.3 OnwardTicket.com Review (Onward Tickets in 60 Seconds)
OnwardTicket.com is a great service for travelers.
The speed at which they operate is impressive, providing tickets swiftly to ensure a seamless travel experience. The process is incredibly user-friendly, with clear instructions to choose your flight and receive your ticket. Plus, the affordability of their pricing is a huge bonus.
It’s a hassle-free, cost-effective solution for securing onward tickets.
7. Can You Get a Refundable Ticket Instead of an Onward Ticket?
Absolutely – this is one of the best options if you need a proof of an onward travel but can’t or don’t want to book a flight anywhere yet. Getting a refundable ticket instead of an onward ticket is a common strategy used by many travelers.
You can book a refundable ticket. Cancel it. And get the money back.
7.1 How to Buy a Refundable Ticket?
Buying a refundable ticket is a process similar to buying any other airline ticket, with the main difference being that you specifically choose a fare that allows for refunds. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Choose your airline. Some airlines offer fully refundable tickets, including Southwest, JetBlue, Delta, United, and American. Research which airlines provide this option for your intended route.
- Search for flights. For the simplicity, we recommend you to use an airline’s website. To make things as cheap as possible, look for shorter flights/cheaper flights. You will have to spend this money initially.
- Select a refundable fare. When choosing your fare, look for options labeled as ‘refundable’ or ‘flexible’. These fares are typically more expensive than non-refundable fares but can be cancelled for a full refund.
- Last but not least, read the fine print. Before finalizing your purchase, make sure to read the fare rules and conditions. Confirm that the ticket is indeed refundable and understand any terms or fees associated with cancelling the ticket.
Remember, refundable tickets are typically more expensive than non-refundable tickets, so it’s important to take this into account. Also, don’t assume that you’ll be getting back the money right away. It may take days, sometimes weeks.
Always check the cancellation policy before making your booking. Don’t just assume that the ticket is going to be fully refundable.
8. What If You Can’t Buy an Onward Ticket?
Maybe you don’t know where are you traveling next.
Maybe you are planning on applying for a visa extension, and don’t know yet when are you going to leave the country. You also don’t know yet, if they are going to give you that visa extension. Sometimes, you just don’t know.
Or, maybe you want to stay as flexible as possible. You want to have the freedom of traveling with one-way ticket. What are your options?
- You can take a risk. And just go. Without a proof of onward travel.
- You can book a refundable ticket. Just book an onward ticket somewhere. Cheap. Refundable. And then cancel it, if you don’t plan to use it. See the previous point to learn more about refundable flight tickets.
- You can rent an onward ticket.
It all comes with either some risk, or extra effort that you have to make. It’s one of the one-way international flights problems. There’s no perfect solution. Most likely there also won’t be a perfect solution in near future.
9. Do You Have to Print Onward Ticket?
Yes, it is better to print onward ticket. If possible. I know it sounds silly, but, again, this is the reality of air travel in many countries.
If you can’t print onward ticket, or you don’t want to do it, make sure you will be able to access your onward ticket without internet.
- Save it to your phone.
- Save it to your laptop or tablet, if you have one with you.
- Save it also somewhere on the internet, where you can easily access it from anywhere. Just in case something happens with your electronics.
- Write down the reservation number and flight data.
Do all the 4 steps, and you’ll be definitely fine!
10. Do You Need a Return Ticket to Enter the US?
Whether or not you need a return ticket to enter the US depends on several factors including the type of visa you hold.
With ESTA, it’s highly recommended. If you’re traveling on an F-1 student visa, you do not need a return ticket. Speaking of other short-term visas, such as B1/B2, a return ticket is recommended (because you may have to be able to prove the length of your planned stay in the US).
Don’t forget that you need a “visa” for connecting flights through the USA.
11. Onward Flight Ticket for Thailand? Onward Flight Ticket for the Philippines?
Do you need a return ticket to enter Thailand?
It’s a good idea to have it. If, however, you are planning on extending your visa, make sure to read the visa extension rules and be prepared for possible questions about your travel plans. Many people do so, you aren’t the first or the last one. Just make sure you have some plan, and it isn’t your 4th, 5th or 6th arrival in a short period of time, because then it may get tricky.
What about the Philippines? The same like with Thailand.
12. Do You Need a Return Ticket to Enter Australia?
You don’t have to have a return ticket when traveling to Australia. But, the immigration officers at the border may ask you for one, or for the proof that you plan to leave and can afford to do so before your visa runs out.
So, if you don’t have a return or onward ticket, be prepared for possible questioning on arrival and/or when checking in for the flight.
What is your experience with onward tickets? Have you even had any problems traveling without an onward ticket? Have you tried onward flight ticket rental services?
Featured photo by Natã Romualdo