Proof of onward ticket

How To Get Proof Of Onward Ticket For Travel

If you’ve searched for this post on how to get an onward ticket, also called a return ticket or forward ticket, you’ve just learned that some countries require this and you want to learn more about it. And maybe you need one now? Well, I can help! This post covers what an onward ticket is, why you need one, and how to get proof of one. I also list the pros and cons of each.

What Is An Onward Ticket And Why Is It Required?

When planning an international journey, one of the common requirements imposed by immigration is proof of onward travel. This means you need to show proof that you plan to leave that country before your visa expires. In effect, you’re showing that you’re not planning to overstay your visa or remain in the country illegally. And that if you spend all your money you’ll be able to get back home.

Most people purchase round trip tickets when they make a flight, but there are times when you want to keep your agenda loose and book it later. Let’s say you’re a US citizen and you want to travel to New Zealand. You have 3 glorious months to explore the country, but, although it’s a small island, you may not know if you want to leave from the North or South Island, or where you want to go next.

Maybe you’re still deciding if you want to return to the USA, or visit Australia or Singapore, or somewhere else after your trip. Maybe you have a situation at home where you may need to be prepared to return earlier than you plan to. Or maybe you’re just a digital nomad and have the freedom to travel anywhere. Basically, you want to leave your plans flexible.

Usually, the most accepted onward ticket is a plane ticket band home or to another destination, but some times a bus, ferry, or train ticket will also suffice.

Which Countries Require Proof Of Onward Ticket?

There are several countries that have this as a requirement although often it depends on which passport you have and/or if you require a visa. Brazil, Costa Rica, Columbia, Cuba, Dubai, Ecuador, The Republic of Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Oman, the Philippines, Peru, the United States, and more say they require proof of an onward ticket online.

, As I write the list above, I know that I have traveled to some of these countries without an onward ticket (before I knew it was a rule), so it’s not always enforced.

The responsibly to make sure you have an onward ticket is placed on the airline flying you to your destination as if you are rejected at the border, they are responsible for flying you back, plus any fines or fees. The airline turns this around and places the responsibility on you. You need to be the one to research the rule for your destination and passport and be prepared with an inward ticket, even though they may not ask you for it.

If you have a round trip ticket booked through the airline, they will already know that you have the onward requirement in the form of a return ticket. And since most people buy round trip tickets, that is why not many people are aware of this rule.

If you don’t have a round trip ticket, the airline will probably ask for your onward ticket at your gate. As noted above, it doesn’t always happen, but you need to be prepared or you risk buying an expensive flight on the spot or being rejected from your flight altogether.

So how do you get an onward ticket? I’ve listed several options below along with the pros and cons of each to help you make a decision.

How To Get An Onward Ticket

When considering any of these options, make sure your onward or return ticket is within the allowable limit of your visa stay. If your visa expires in 30 days, your ticket needs to be for before the expiration date. This may seem obvious, but sometimes people buy one in a panic situation and forget this important detail.

1. Buy A Fully Refundable Ticket From An Airline

You can buy a return ticket or ticket for onward travel that is fully refundable. These tickets are usually offered at a premium cost, but as long as you meet all of the airline’s requirements, you get all of your dollars back.

Every airline is different, so make sure to read the fine print with the airline you’re booking with. Also read the details on how long it takes for you to get your money back, as sometimes you need to wait a few weeks or even months to get your refund. If you’re heading off for a trip, you need to keep your credit limit in mind.

To find the cheapest location for a forwarding ticket, use a search engine like Skyscanner. Select your destination (the place you need an onward ticket from) as your origination point and “Everywhere” as the destination. Select the date of your ticket, or select the entire month. Then hit search. You will get a list of places to fly to listed in order from lower cost to highest cost.

Skyscanner may not list which tickets are fully refundable, but you can use this list to find the cheapest places to fly to. Then drill down on those locations directly on airline websites. Book the selected ticket directly with the airline, making sure to read all the fine print about the refund. And make sure they refund your credit card and do not just provide you with credit for future travel.

Pros

  • You get a real ticket, or e-ticket, with an e-ticket number to share with gate authorities.

Cons

  • Time consuming to search for fully refundable flights and read all the fine print.
  • Getting your refund may be challenging, depending on the airline.
  • Ties up dollars on your credit card for weeks or months.

2. Book A Flight With A 24-Hour Cancellation Policy

Most airlines offer the option to cancel your ticket within 24 hours of booking it. You can take advantage of this by booking a flight very close to your departing flight, then canceling it after you land. Timing here is tricky, but it costs you nothing if you are successful.

One word of caution is that immigration may ask you for your ticket when you land, so it’s best to keep it until you are outside of immigration. You also need to read all the find print to make sure you get a cash refund and not credit for future travel.

Pros

  • There is no cash outlay for this option.

Cons

  • Timing can be risky.
  • Read the fine print or call to make sure you can get a cash refund or if it’s credit for future travel.
  • Find out how long it takes to get your refund.

3. Book With A Third Party That Offers 24 Hour Cancellation

Some third party travel websites offer free cancellation within 24 hours of booking flights. This is one of the easiest ways to get an onward ticket, although, as with the others above, you need to read the fine print. Make sure to understand the details of where a refund applies and if you get a cash refund or a credit for future travel.

Companies that offer this include Priceline, Orbitz, Travelocity, and Expedia. This offer is not available on every flight they offer though, so make sure the one you are booking does. As you move through the purchase process with each website, you will be prompted to either filter by flights with “no cancel” fees, or upgrade the flight you selected to a category where cancellation is offered.

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As above, you may be asked for your onward ticket by immigration when you land, so make sure to keep it until you are outside of immigration.

Pros

  • This is super easy, as you do not need to search by airline, they sort out the flights that offer this feature.

Cons

  • Read the fine print or call to make sure you can get a cash refund or if it’s credit for future travel.
  • Read the fine print to learn how long it takes to get your refund.
  • As above, cancellation timing can be tricky, especially if you have a long flight.
  • Sometimes these flights are sold at a premium, so those dollars will be tied up on your credit card.

4. Rent A Ticket Through A Travel Agent

There are registered travel agencies that provide a service to deliver flight reservations with a Passenger Name Record (PNR code), which can be verified on major airline’s websites. Examples include Onward Ticket and Best Onward Ticket.

You receive a PDF document that includes a flight itinerary and a PNR code that confirms your reservation for a specified amount of time. This can range from 24 hours to 7 days, depending on options provided by the agency and price you pay.

Note that you do not get an official e-ticket number. The only way to get this is to purchase a full priced ticket.

This option is super easy, and can be purchased in a few minutes. You can even buy it in advance and have it delivered to your email right before your flight. It’s also inexpensive, costing less than $20 in most cases. It does, however, come with its own risks.

First, some airlines accept the PNR code, but some will want to see your actual ticket or your e-ticket number. Second, if you read the Terms and Conditions of the service on these websites, most claim that using their service is at your own risk.

I tested both of these options to see what you get. With Best Onward Travel, I was able to select from several flights that looked very official and received a very official looking PDF.

With Onward Travel, I was assigned a ticket that looks similar to the ticket above, but was black and white. As noted above, and as promised, these do not have an e-ticket number.

Both of these companies say that if major airlines look up the PNR, they will see your ticket. I do not know how to do this, so did not try. To be extra careful with this option, make sure you do not book a ticket with the same airline you are flying on.

Pros

  • This is one of the easiest solutions to implement as it only takes minutes to log on and rent a ticket.

Cons

  • The airline may not accepting a ticket without an e-ticket number and ban you from your flight.

Many people use these services successfully, it some have had problems. For full, verified reviews on each service, check Trust Pilot. Sort by the negative reviews to get a feel for the issues people have run into.

5. Buy A Cheap Flight You Do Not Plan To Use

Depending on your location, you may be able to buy an inexpensive flight that you just do not use. 

To find the lowest price ticket to anywhere use a search engine that offers “Everywhere” or “Anywhere” as a destination (like Skyscanner). I did a search as an example using Thailand as the origination point and a flight to Singapore came up within the limits of my visa for $41.

A big negative to this is that buying a ticket you do not plan to use, and are not planning cancel, is a breach of contract with most airlines. Make sure to read any fine print on the airline website first.

If you do not show up for your flight, you can be banned from flying with this airline in the future, lose any points, and possibly be persecuted. If you do choose this option, make sure to cancel your flight even though you know you will not get your dollars back.

Pros

  • Smaller cash outlay than a fully refundable flight

Cons

  • Buying a ticket you do not plan to use is a breach of contract of most airlines. It’s best to cancel in advance, even though you know you will not get your dollars back.

6. Look at Train, Ferry, and Bus Tickets

Depending on your location, and your passport, you may be able to purchase an inexpensive train, ferry, or bus ticket as an onward ticket instead of an airline ticket.

First you need to make sure this is an acceptable option. If you can’t find details online, call the embassy of your destination for details. With this option, however, it also becomes very important to know the details of acceptable border crossings. Plus, you you never know if they will ask for a copy of your visa for that destination.

An inexpensive example here an onward ticket from Dubai. You may be able to show a purchased bus ticket to Oman, which can be as little as $25.

Pros

  • This option has the potential to be a very inexpensive option.

Cons

  • This options takes more research to understand acceptable border crossing places/methods. Talk to an embassy or do a detailed search to learn more.
  • They may ask for proof of visa for your next destination.

Warnings and Comments

One thing you should never, ever do, is lie to an immigration official. This is immigration fraud and can lead to serious consequences. Damages vary by country, but you can be deported, banned for life, fined, or worse. Forging documents is also illegal, so never forge your own ticket, or buy a ticket from a site that forges tickets.

While many people have successfully used the rent an onward ticket type services, there is no 100% guarantee that the process will be trouble free.

In my opinion, it’s best to book a fully refundable flight or one that provides a refund if you cancel within 24 hours. It’s a hassle to read all the fine print, but safer in the long run.

If you’ve had an experience with one of these methods for proof of onward travel, please add comment below.

Safe Travels!

Julie

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