Proof of onward travel is becoming a very common and very annoying travel requirement. While on the road, you sometimes find yourself in situations where you simply can’t provide a legitimate onward ticket. Maybe you’re a spontaneous traveler and you don’t know where you’re going next. Maybe you plan to exit the country overland and can’t purchase a ticket online.
To avoid changing your travel plans or having to organize your entire itinerary before stepping out of the front door, you can use one of the 8 methods to provide proof of onward travel outlined in this guide. This includes step-by-step instructions for making a believable fake ticket. These methods will come in handy when you are:
- Traveling on a one-way ticket
- Applying for visas
- Planning to exit a country overland
- Staying spontaneous and flexible with your travel plans
What is Proof of Onward Travel?
If a country requires proof of onward travel, it simply means that you must prove that you have confirmed plans to leave the country that you are entering. This means you must possess a valid airline, bus, or train ticket to a third country or back to your own country.
Why do You Need Proof of Onward Travel?
The reason for this requirement is that immigration wants to make sure that you are leaving the country and not planning to overstay your visa or live and work in the country illegally. By requiring proof of onward travel, they can also be assured that even if you run out of money during your travels, you will still be able to leave the country.
Where is Proof of Onward Travel Checked?
Officially, only a handful of countries have immigration laws on the books stating that proof of onward travel is required for entry. Countries include the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, Peru, New Zealand, Philippines, and Indonesia.
That doesn’t mean that you won’t be asked when entering other countries. At this point, it is best to always be prepared to show proof of onward travel whenever entering a country. Particularly when passing through an airport.
You may be asked to provide proof of onward travel in three different places:
1. At the airline check-in counter
When you check-in for an international flight, you usually have to show your passport in person to get your boarding pass. At this time, the agent may ask to see proof of onward travel before issuing you your boarding pass. This is the most common.
Airlines are often even more strict about requiring proof of onward travel than immigration. The reason for this is that if an airline allows you to travel on a one-way ticket, they may be required to fly you home at their expense. This could happen for one of two reasons:
- You are unable to afford a ticket out of the country
- You are not allowed to enter the country because you lack proof of onward travel
To cover themselves, airlines almost always require that you show proof of onward travel. Whether or not they check it is unknown.
2. Immigration at a land border or at the airport
Before stamping you in, the immigration official may ask to see a valid ticket out of the country. This can happen at the airport or land border.
When you enter a country overland, the chance of being asked for proof of onward travel is lower. You will most likely be able to get away with the excuse that you will be exiting overland as well. With that being said, I recommend you always be prepared just in case you are asked.
3. At the embassy when applying for a visa
Another common place that you will be asked for proof of onward travel is on visa applications. Many countries require that you submit your booked tickets into and out of the country before they issue you a visa.
I have always hated this because if the visa is denied for whatever reason, you wasted money on tickets that are most likely not refundable. One of the top countries on my bucket list is Nigeria. Unfortunately, they require proof of onward travel with the visa application.
Be sure to always carefully check entry and exit requirements before applying for a visa. Also, be careful to accurately list the locations and dates where you will enter and exit the country. Some countries are very strict and will only allow you to enter and exit at the border post indicated on the visa that you have been issued.
How to Provide Proof Of Onward Travel: 8 Methods
Luckily, you have plenty of options when it comes to providing proof of onward travel. Some are legal and some are illegal. Some cost money and some are free. In this section, I’ll describe each method.
1. The Fake Ticket Method to Providing Proof of Onward Travel
Warning: This method is illegal and could potentially get you in trouble if you are caught. It involves forging tickets and lying to immigration officials. For these reasons, I can’t officially recommend this method. I can, however, tell you how it’s done.
If you are not comfortable with breaking the law, I don’t blame you. I don’t like it either. Just skip down to the next section where I list 6 other ways to provide proof of onward travel. Some are better than others.
I have successfully used the fake ticket method on several occasions including at airport check-in counters, immigration, and embassies when applying for visas. This trick has a 100% success rate for me as I have never been questioned or denied entry. It is also completely free and pretty easy to do. Having said this, I probably won’t use this method anymore due to the risks.
If you want to make a fake ticket, here’s how to do it:
Make a template. I used an old e-ticket for this. Just copy and paste the e-ticket into a word processor where you can change the information on the ticket. You can also get creative and make your own from scratch.
Tip: It is best to use an e-ticket from a third party booking site like Orbitz, Kayak, Priceline, etc. It gives more plausible deniability because you could simply blame the booking company rather than the airline.
These tickets also include confirmation numbers from the airline, booking numbers from the booking company, and order numbers from the booking company. All of these look legit and help to confuse whoever is checking your ticket. They don’t know which number to check if they even check.
Change the information on the ticket. Go on Skyscanner or an airline’s website and find a real flight that fits your requirements. Input the airline, flight time, flight number, seat number, and any other pertinent information into your template that you created.
When doing this, make sure there are no inconsistencies or they could call you out on it. Also, make sure your fake ticket is on a different airline than you are flying when you arrive. This is important.
Tip: If you want to make your fake ticket even more believable, you can copy and paste an ad or two into your fake ticket and highlight your name and flight times.
Print it out or put it on your phone and hope for the best. Airlines have a program that they use to verify tickets on other airlines. Even then, I have never had a problem using this method. If you are questioned or if they cannot find your confirmation, you can just blame your grandma for messing up the booking.
Tip: You can also use a bus or train ticket as proof of onward travel. The benefit of this is that if an airline is checking the ticket, they won’t be able to verify the ticket because it is out of their network. It is highly unlikely that anyone will call a bus or train company to check if a ticket is legitimate.
What if I get Caught Using a Fake Ticket for Proof of Onward Travel?
As I mentioned, this method carries some risk. If you get called out, several things could happen:
- You get denied entry- If the airline finds you out, they will probably just tell you that your ticket isn’t valid and to go get a valid one. If an immigration official finds that your ticket is fake, they could tell you that you can’t enter the country. In this case, you’ll have to buy a ticket somewhere else.
- You get fined- You’re breaking the law by lying. A country could potentially charge you with a crime and issue a fine for lying to an official. Alternatively, a corrupt official could solicit a bribe. I’ve never heard of this happening but it is a possibility.
- You get barred from returning- If you’ve arrived in a new country with fake proof of onward travel, a country could decide to barr you from returning for a number of years.
- You get jailed- This is extreme but possible depending on the country. Again, you’re breaking the law.
- They let you slide- If you’re lucky, you may be let go with a warning.
2. Purchase a Refundable Ticket
This is a great, perfectly legal option that is also free. Admittedly, it is a bit of a hassle. To use this method, simply buy a refundable airline ticket from the country that you need to enter to a third country.
Make sure the ticket is fully refundable. Make sure that the ticket at a further date than your visa allows you to stay in the country. After you make it through immigration, cancel the ticet and collect your refund.
When buying a refundable ticket the most important thing is to make sure that there are not any cancellation fees or additional hidden costs. You want to be able to get all of your money back.
The biggest drawback of this option is the time it will take to get your money back. Some airlines may make you wait several months before issuing a refund. During that time, your money is tied up so you won’t be able to use it for travel.
You will also have to deal with the actual process of calling the airline and asking for a refund. This could be torturous or painless depending on which airline you use.
3. Buy a Cheap Ticket and Throw it Away
Sometimes you can just purchase an inexpensive bus or train ticket across the border and just not use it. Budget Airline tickets can even be found very cheap on some short routes. In some places, you may be able to find tickets for less than $10. This method is completely legal and moral.
The drawback to this is that it costs money. In many places, it is also not possible to buy bus or train tickets online and airfare may be too expensive to just throw away. This method is cost-prohibitive in many countries but worth pricing out.
4. Book a Ticket Then Cancel it Within 24 Hours
Most airlines give you 24 hours after you purchase a ticket to get a full refund. In fact, this is a legal requirement for all major US Airlines. They must offer 24 hours to cancel or change a trip without penalty to the customer.
To use this method, book a ticket less than 24 hours before you need to pass through immigration. Wait until you enter the country to cancel the ticket. This way, you have a legitimate valid ticket. Of course, this may or may not be possible depending on the length of your flight and schedule.
Alternatively, you could print your e-ticket right after you make the booking then immediately cancel it. The drawback to this method is that when you pass through immigration or check-in for your flight, your ticket will not be valid if you are traveling after you already made the cancellation. Tickets are occasionally checked for validity so keep that in mind.
This method is completely legal. It’s what travel agents used to do back in the day. If a client booked a one-way ticket, the travel agent would charge a small fee to book then cancel a ticket for proof of onward travel.
5. Rent a Ticket
This is a new service that just popped up sometime in the last few years. You can now pay a small fee to a company that will provide you with a ticket to use as proof of onward travel. Basically, they just book a ticket in your name, forward you the e-ticket to download, then cancel the ticket for you. Prices start at about $8 for this service.
Personally, I think this is a waste of money because they are just charging a fee to book and cancel a ticket for you which is something you could do yourself for free. The drawbacks are the same as booking a ticket and canceling it yourself. After 24 hours, the ticket will no longer be valid. Again, this is usually not a problem but it must be taken into consideration depending on where in the world you are traveling. Some places are much more strict than others.
A number of companies offer this service. Some are better than others. Some are straight-up scams. Be sure to do your research before buying one of these. If you’re interested in renting a ticket bestonwardticket.com seems to be one of the more popular options. Their tickets are valid for 48 hours.
I have never tried this method so I can’t recommend it. Let me know in the comments how it works if you end up trying it out.
6. Carry Proof of Sufficient Funds
In lieu of showing a booked ticket, many countries will accept a recent bank statement that shows that you have sufficient funds to support yourself for the duration of your stay and purchase a ticket home. Usually, they will require that your account has a balance of at least $5,000 for the previous 3 months.
Many counties and airlines will accept this and even list it as an alternative to proof of onward travel. It is a good idea to carry proof of funds regardless if you can. Some countries require it before issuing a visa in addition to proof of onward travel.
7. Ask If You Can Sign a Waiver
This will only work with the airline, not immigration. Rather than simply not allowing you to board your flight, some airlines allow you to sign a waiver. The waiver states that they are not responsible for your return airfare if you are turned away by immigration when you arrive.
Even if you are allowed on the flight, it does not necessarily mean that you will be allowed to enter the country. You will have to deal with talking your way in when you arrive if you are asked to provide proof of onward travel at immigration.
8. Talk or Bribe Your Way Out of It
I wouldn’t rely on this method but sometimes you can talk your way out of proof of onward travel. It probably won’t work in developed countries but in the developing world, it may be worth a try. It really depends on where you are, what you look like, and the circumstances.
You can even offer a bribe if you are comfortable with that kind of thing. Bribing an official would be my absolute last resort though and I wouldn’t recommend even attempting it unless you are desperate or confident that they will accept it.
What Happens If I Show Up Without Proof of Onward Travel?
You want to avoid this if at all possible. If you didn’t plan ahead and find yourself in a situation where you’re heading to the airport without any kind of proof of onward travel, one of three things will happen.
- A ticketing agent or immigration official will ask you to buy a ticket- In this case, you’ll have to go to an airline ticketing counter and buy the cheapest ticket you can find. Preferably a refundable ticket. Alternatively, you could just buy your ticket home. If there are no cheap tickets available, this could cost you hundreds of dollars.
- You’ll be denied entry- If you don’t have enough money to buy a ticket, the airline may simply not let you on the flight. In this case, you’ll just have to turn around and leave. If you’re at immigration, you could be denied entry. In this case, the airline may be forced to fly you to your home country.
- They’ll let you in anyway- In some cases, you may get lucky and they just let you in. Before this happens, you’ll probably be questioned and hassled. It really depends on the mood of the airline employee or immigration official.
Final Thoughts on Providing Proof of Onward Travel
Although it is a hassle, you do have options when it comes to providing proof of onward travel. I prefer the fake ticket method though I can’t officially recommend it as it is against the law. In some cases, one of the other methods may be the best under certain circumstances.
The method that you use really depends on where in the world you are traveling and the particular circumstances. For example, I wouldn’t risk submitting a fake ticket when applying for a visa to a developed country. They’ll probably do a much more thorough check of ticket validity. However, I find the risk completely acceptable when overlanding through developing countries like Latin America or Africa for example.
How do you provide proof of onward travel? Share your experience in the comments below!
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