fireworks over a city

Don’t Make This Rookie Mistake Booking International Trips…

For most travellers, you’ll never face an issue like this. But if you’re one of those people that like to visit multiple cities, countries and destinations in one trip, and occasionally pieces things together as they go – listen up. Many countries will deny you from boarding your flight if you cannot prove onward travel. While that may sound straightforward, sometimes it’s not.

a stack of passport and coinsProof Of Onward Travel

Proof of onward travel, put simply, means that you need to show a valid e-ticket or form of confirmed transportation that has you leaving the country you intend to visit. It doesn’t matter if you have flights from other countries down the road back to wherever you live, all that matters is that you have proof of leaving that specific place.

For example: Let’s say you want to visit Singapore and Hong Kong before heading back home. You aren’t quite sure how long you’ll be in Singapore, or which flight you’d like to take, so you book flights from your home to Singapore and then from Hong Kong home. You plan to see how things go and then book an onward flight to Hong Kong.

It all sounds great, but it’s not allowed.

Many countries (including Singapore) will not allow you entry without being able to show proof when you check in for your flight that you have an onward ticket from that specific country. If you don’t, you’ll need to book a ticket then and there, or risk missing your flight entirely, at your own expense.

a colorful cube on a beachThis Is Catching More Travellers Out

With points and miles becoming mainstream and opportunities to land great last minute deals everywhere, people are more relaxed about travel than ever.

Many people also prefer to play things by ear, or see how things go with work meetings or friends before getting locked into a non refundable reservation. Consider this as fair warning that it’s crucial to check the entry requirements for the place you’re visiting before showing up at the airport.

Last year, I was forced to purchase an expensive ticket back from New Zealand to Australia before I was allowed to check in for my New Zealand flight for this exact reason. I had confirmed onward flights from Australia back to the USA, but I wasn’t sure exactly how many days I’d be in New Zealand, so I left it open-ended.

It was a rookie mistake and cost significant money to rectify. Worse, I could’ve missed my New Zealand flight entirely. What makes this all so tricky is that enforcement varies by airline and country. Some have policies stating that you’ll need proof, but you never get asked. Others don’t have it stated clearly anywhere, but then the airline demands that you do.

Paying With Credit Card On LaptopHere’s How To Play It Safe But Win Too

The moral of the story here is that you should always have confirmed onward travel anywhere you go, with all the little connecting flights booked too. If you still want some flexibility, credit card points and airline miles really are your friend.

If you can make a confirmed reservation using points, you can often cancel or change at little or no penalty (think $35), whereas buying a cash ticket can mean forfeiting the entire thing if you don’t want to use it. Confirming a points reservation allows you to put an inexpensive place holder that gets you into the country while you sort out final details of when and where to go next.

Obviously, you can never overstay a visa or entry permit, but if you’re talking about 5 days versus 6, this is awesome. You can then book your last minute flight however you wish, or change plans on the fly if a neat opportunity comes up. On that note, leaving an empty day for whatever comes your way is one of the best travel tips on the internet.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. We have different polices in the USA. if you can get in (doesn’t matter how – fly, train, bus, boat or sneak acreoss the Rio Grande) you can stay as long as you want. Free housing and health care provided for all. Maybe even a universal basic income as well. What a country!

  2. Before I signed up for global entry I was constantly dinged on the Kiosks when entering the US via Kennedy despite or (or maybe due to) having had a student visa and now travelling on an ESTA

    They always asked to see proof of exit. The first round, the lovely lady at entry asked to see my ticket – to which I informed her that like almost all plane tickets these days is an e-ticket but I would happily show her my reservation on my phone. A BIG no. Phones are not allowed when going through the border.

    After some polite and pleasant discussion she let me enter. And I learnt a valuable lesson – print your ESTA confirmation and booking details out … just in case.

    Or get Global Entry.

  3. A good aricle reminding people. Once i flew from Bkk to Eu on Us passport ( actually a flight back) on quatar they want see ticket from EU. After showing Eu passport they were ok. A reminder for other do not try the fake bookings. Philippines are quite strict Bout and they checked the validity. Once flying from Port Moresby (Air niugini) i had to write an Oath declartion that i will pay all cost in case being refused in Singapore. When arrived they couldnt care kess. Maybe times changed.

  4. You can book a fully refundable ticket to a close destination (such as KUL or BKK) in the case of Singapore. Once you clear immigration cancel it and then you can find a cheaper alternative (points or discounted ticket) ex Sin once your plans firm up.

  5. How does this work if your are leaving a country on a cruise or by car to another country?

  6. Good information, but one should check if proof of onward travel is required, before paying an arm and a leg for multi stop tickets. The example of Singapore, in my experience does not require proof of onward travel. I fly in/out of Singapore at least twice a year. I’ve never had to prove onward travel, I have a US passport but live in Europe, often fly from SIN to Seoul with out an onward ticket. Thailand, Laos, Malaysia a d Cambodia don’t require proof. However, I have been “questioned” about onward travel when I was in Fiji. I did have to direct the officer to my work visa.

  7. Just sharing my todays experience in sixaloa, we were crossing from CR to Panama, but returned back to CR because on the Panama border you need to show a return ticket to a country other than Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
    thats the update I wanted to make, bus ticket from Panama to Costa Rica is useless, you need a whatever transportation ticket (ferry San Blas to Cartagena, was the option suggested as cheaper by the border officer)
    still thinking of what to do
    but a piece of advice, there is a place just at the corner where the anoying drivers want to take you called Tropical Ice, their wifi pass is Tropicalice01 and you can get a malt extract drink for 30us cents, the guy is supper nice.

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