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Proof of onward travel and spontaneity

Many countries require "proof of onward travel," which often means a plane or bus ticket purchased in advance proving you will leave the country on a specific date. 

This makes it hard to be spontaneous, and it means purchasing a one-way flight can become a bit of an obstacle course. I understand sometimes it's possible to procure a fake ticket to get past border control and then do as you like, but aren't there legitimate ways around this? 

How have you found ways of being spontaneous while still meeting all the stringent requirements of entry? 

5 Answers

top answer by
Anthony from Vancouver

Panama is one such country that requires proof of onward travel. I got in at an overland border crossing from Costa Rica by showing the immigration agent a travel itinerary on my iPhone screen.

Others faked it with a web booking airline itinerary printout even though they never bought the ticket it just showed a valid flight number on a specific date and airport that they intended to take.

At no time did the immigration officer try to verify the information.

Its also usually only necesaary to show proof that you have to be somewhere else in the future, like an airline ticket in another country. 

4 thanks

answered first by
Christopher from Melbourne

The only legitimate way is to simply purchase a refundable ticket. Sure, it usually costs more but if you do your homework, you should be able to get the entire thing refunded - just make sure you do the aforementioned homework as many carriers may charge you a fee or three.

Aside from this, there is no way around the rule without breaking it (or at least heavily bending it). 

As a side note, from experience I have not once entered a country where this rule existed and they have questioned me on my exit strategy. I've discussed this many times with fellow travellers and some have done the refundable or fake ticket trick. Other travellers have said that they will pull the "oh, my tickets are with my friend, I'll go get them" trick, leave the queue and purchase tickets online on their phones. I'm yet to hear anyone who has actually tried that though.

The only times where I've spoken to someone where the issue has been raised was when the airlines themselves kicked up a fuss. They do this as if you are denied at the border they have to fly you back to where you came from and they don't particularly want to be handing out free flights. As a traveler, you have a ability to ask for a waiver to sign that forms a guarantee with the airline, stating you'll pay for the fare. This is usually backed with a credit card.

The essence of the rule is to make sure you are not planning on illegally staying in the country for longer than your stay allows. As an extra precaution if you are tempting fate with no return ticket, keep copies of your bank statements showing that you have a healthy balance and that should keep the powers that be happy.

4 thanks

answered by
Michelle from Melbourne

I agree with Christopher. When I've booked multiple carriers for a trip, I've been quizzed by airline check-in staff about my next leg. In terms of border control, a lot depends where you're flying into and, of course, what restrictions apply to you depending on your citizenship. UK immigration officers ask a lot of questions and if they're not convinced about your answers it's not much of a stretch to imagine they'd want to see proof that you're intending to leave the country within a given period. You don't necessarily need an airline ticket - something as simple as a fully-refundable Eurostar ticket to head from London to Paris or Belgium would suffice.

I certainly wouldn't 'fake' a booking. Almost everything leaves an e-trail so it would be easy for officials to find out whether your booking is legit.

2 thanks

answered by
Sean from Swampscott, Massachusetts

If you are purchasing within the United States, almost all airline purchases are refundable at no charge within 24 hours (but check the fine print to be sure) -- it's part of federal law. So rather than run the risk of being caught with a fake itinerary, I would buy the fully refundable ticket. 

1 thanks

answered by
Kemkem from Malaga

Truthfully, what l've always done is price my ticket online, showing the places being visited, with dates and so forth. I print out that page (last page before paying usually), then l change the flight to whatever l am purchasing. I have never once had any officer question it when they look. Maybe l've just been lucky.

1 thanks

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