Do Long-Term Travelers Really Need an "Onward Ticket" When Entering a New Country?
Many countries say they want proof tourists won't overstay their visas. But how often does that really happen? And how should you prepare?
Almost every country in the world is concerned about visitors overstaying their visas. As a result, many countries have policies stating that, before entering the country, you have to provide proof that you’ll be leaving.
The proof in question? Usually just a dated “onward ticket” on a plane, train, or boat that departs the country before your visa expires.
Which isn’t always easy for nomads like Brent and me, since we don’t always know when we’ll be leaving a country.
Yes, we’ll be leaving before the end of our 90-day visa. But will we leave after thirty days — or stay the full 90? That depends on what we think of the country!
In applying for a visa for our upcoming trip to Thailand, I was asked to show an onward ticket for the very first time in our six years of travel.
Which got me wondering. Just how common is it to be asked to show such a ticket? And what happens when you don’t have one?
“It’s very much a crapshoot,” says travel writer James Clark, who writes the Nomadic Notes newsletter. “Countries all have policies where you’re meant to have an exit ticket. But when you get there, it just depends, and they might not ask you.”
The “they” who may or may not ask is usually the airline flying you to your destination. They want to know you won’t be turned away by immigration officials, because the airlines are the ones who will have to fly you home again — possibly at their own expense.
Exactly how often are travelers asked for proof of onward travel, from either the airline or the country in question? In writing this article, I quickly discovered that concrete information about this is elusive — in part, because no country is going to admit to not enforcing its own rules.
But I did come up with some sense of the frequency — and some clear strategies for dealing with this whole issue.
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