Proof of Onward Travel – Free Travel Hack



Do you need proof of onward travel?  Have you checked?  It should be on every travelers check list BEFORE you set off to a new country. Checking what the visa and entry requirements are, but also ascertaining whether proof on onward travel required. The chances are that your proof of onward travel is never checked, but in many cases before you board a flight to a country, you’ll be asked to show your proof of onward travel.

Which Countries Require Proof of Onward Travel?

There are several countries that DEFINITELY ask for documented proof of onward travel – New Zealand, the United Kingdom, United States, Brazil, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Peru, and the Philippines.  We were also asked for proof before we got on a plane to Thailand.

If you’re not sure about how long you’re going to spend in a country, or think that you might want more time that you originally planned, then booking the cheapest flight (as we all do) with non refundable, no changes is usually what everyone gets tied into.

How to Get Proof of Onward Travel

  1. Buy that cheap plane ticket and be stuck on the dates that you pick now.
  2. Buy a much more expensive plane ticket that allow changes, so you can, well change. And probably pay for the change as well.
  3. Take an old flight confirmation and fake it to look like a new one. Many travelers spend hours doing this and no doubt worrying about whether it will pass muster or not.  Note that you’re using forged documents here and it might end you up in trouble with immigration authorities!
  4. The way that we always use – number four is below – check it out and see what you think!

The best way to get FREE proof of onward travel

At the time of writing, many US airlines allow you to cancel a flight booking within 24 or 48 hours without charge – regardless of whether you have status with them or how cheap the seat you’re booking it.
We tend to use United – (and as United is part of the Star Alliance, there are many code share flights, so it doesn’t need to be WITH United, or via the USA).

  1. Find your flight.
  2. Check the cancellation terms.
  3. Confirm that you’ve got enough credit on your credit card
  4. Book the flight.
  5. Save the flight receipt and confirmation as screenshots and PDF’s somewhere that you can easily access them. Save a tree or two and don’t print a hard copy.
  6. Cancel your flight within the free cancellation period
  7. That’s it.

We’ve used this method in many countries.  We’ve even use it at airports when we’ve not been allowed to check in because we didn’t have that proof of onward travel.  In those cases we walked away booked a flight on the airport wifi.  We then printed the details to a PDF and screen shot, checked in and then cancelled the flight.

Check out how we plan and research our travel – along with 20 great resources that you can use too

Let us know how it works for you or if you have a better method of organizing your proof of onward travel.

PS We previously included details of the company FlyOnward which provides a service to rent onward flight tickets.  However, as of December 2017 we’ve removed them from this post.  We haven’t used them ourselves, but trusted fellow travellers have advised that they have not received a good service.



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About Sarah Carter

Sarah Carter is an avid reader, writer and traveller. She loves hiking, sailing, skiing and exploring the world through food. She left a successful career in IT security and compliance in both the UK and US to travel the world with husband and partner in adventure, Nigel.

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4 thoughts on “Proof of Onward Travel – Free Travel Hack

  • Lynne

    2 weeks ago, at the airport, going to Brunei I could not even get to the check in counter. There was a man stopping you. 1of the questions, and there were many, was proof of departure from Brunei. I booked a $20 bus ticket out of the country, screenshot it. He did not understand the screenshot, so he had to get someone else, younger who did. Losing $20 doesn’t bother me.

    • Donald Rapier

      Had 2 problems:
      First time in 2011. While in LA, I was returning to Costa Rica on US Airways. The airline agent would not accept my open ticket on TransNica bus. I stood firm and after a few minutes with airline management. They decided to let Phoenix personnel handle it (connecting flight). I got to Phoenix and there was No Problem.They were wanting force me to buy an airline ticket.
      Second time in 2014. I was living in Panama moving back to Costa Rica. I had to make 2 trips. Upon returning to Panama from my first trip the Panama agent ask to see a return air ticket back to the USA (my country of residence). I had a bus ticket back to Costa Rica a few days later. I was instructed to go to an internet cafe across the street and get a ticket. I speak Spanish and I understood that the internet cafe was wanting me to buy a flight internary for $40 which is no a ticket. It seems like the internet cafe would split the money with Panama IMG later. It was a Scam. I went back across the border (it’s an open border) to an Internet Cafe and bought a ticket to Fort Lauderdale. I then returned to Panama IMG and presented my ticket. After about 20 minutes and much discussion because it was a real ticket and not an internary, I got my Visa. Upon getting home, I call the airline and cancelled the ticket.