More and more countries worldwide are now requiring proof of onward travel for entry. Whether you’re an experienced globetrotter or a newbie on your first international adventure, it’s a great idea to familiarize yourself with these entry requirements and be well-prepared. It can make all the difference between a smooth travel experience and an unexpected hassle at immigration.
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1. Why Do Countries Require Proof of Onward Travel?
The goal of this policy is to make sure that people who come to visit the country have plans to go back home within a certain time. It helps the government keep track of who is coming and going, and it also makes sure that people don’t stay in the country for too long. At least in theory.
The worst part about all this is that you may also be denied boarding if you don’t have an onward ticket. That’s why many people decide to use services like onwardticket.com (see our Onward Ticket review) to rent an onward ticket.
We have a dedicated guide to onward tickets. These here are just the basics. To learn more about the topic, check out our complete onward ticket FAQ.
Read more: One-Way International Flights Problems
2. What Countries Require Proof of Onward Travel?
There is no list of countries that require proof of onward travel.
Mostly, you are asked for a proof of onward travel, when:
- traveling to a country where you need a tourist visa
- traveling to a visa-exempt country. It’s a country where you can stay visa-free for up to 30/60/90 days
- traveling from a country other than your homeland
- applying for a tourist visa before traveling
It’s best to assume that all countries require an onward ticket.
Because, you see, it will also depend upon your itinerary. If you’re traveling from your homeland, you’ll most likely have it easier. But, if you’re on a gap year and traveling between countries none of which are your homeland, the chances of you being asked for a proof of onward travel will increase significantly. Simply because you’ll stand out – you will be one of the few foreigners from your country on that flight, and airline will want to make sure you are a “safe traveler”.
Even if the country doesn’t ask for a proof of onward travel, you may still be asked for an onward ticket when boarding the plane/checking in for the flight.
Ask anyone who travels internationally more than a few times a year, and you’ll quickly realize that you may be asked for an onward ticket (return ticket) in almost any country around the world. There are situations, where the likelihood of this will be smaller or almost non-existent, like when traveling within the EU, but travel further and you’ll experience that on every second flight.
3. 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. How to Travel Without Proof of Onward Travel?
The most important thing for hassle-free travel is being prepared.
Second most important thing – staying positive and polite.
- Go only to countries that don’t require proof of onward travel. To avoid any issues with proof of onward travel, make sure to research the entry requirements of your destination country and confirm the policies before leaving for your trip.
- Check the entry and visa requirements well. Save links and/or documents from government websites, as a proof that there are no mentions of proof of onward travel in entry or visa requirements. It can also be screenshots from these type of websites. Anything you think may be useful. Make sure you can access at any time and anywhere. It can also be screenshots. You will use them if necessary.
- Take full responsibility. If the airline denies you boarding the airplane and all other negotiation attempts fail, consider requesting the possibility to sign a document assuming full responsibility for any consequences should you be denied entry into the country. Most likely, they have a pre-existing form for this. This won’t work at immigration check point at your destination, though. And that leads us to the next point.
- Have a proof of you being a tourist. Ensure you have either printed or digitally stored all the necessary documents, making them easily accessible whenever needed. When possible, printed documents are always better, especially when traveling to less-visited countries. These may include any proof of you being a tourist, such as accommodation bookings, tour itineraries, and travel plans. You want to be seen as a regular tourist (what you are), just traveling with a one-way ticket instead of a return flight.
- Have a plan B, if you aren’t ready to give up. Plan ahead for proof of onward travel and have a back-up plan just in case.
Regardless of the situation, maintaining a positive, calm, and polite demeanor increases your chances of navigating successfully. Whether interacting with airline staff or going through immigration, it is more advantageous to appear as an uninformed traveler rather than an arrogant individual.
Featured photo by Lara Jameson