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The Onward Ticket Dilemma

What’s an onward ticket and why do I need it for my around the world trip?

In addition to a passport and any necessary visas, most countries in the world have a protocol in place that requires you to provide proof that you’ll actually be leaving their country (an onward ticket) in order for you to enter.

“Onward ticket” doesn’t mean you need a ticket home or out of that country specifically, but that you should have documentation that your travel will be continuing outside the country at a later date.

For example, if you want to enter Thailand, your proof of onward travel could be an air ticket 3 months later out of Singapore or Vietnam, if you plan to travel overland. This will work most of time but you should always double check with the consulate of the countries you’re planning on visiting to get their specific official requirements for entry beyond having a passport and a visa if required. It’s not a bad idea to have proof of your plans to travel onwards in train, car, or bus (transit tickets, reservations for lodging and car rentals, etc), just in case.

Onward ticket protocols may sometimes go unenforced, but you really should be prepared to show paperwork. Agents can deny you boarding on your flight if you don’t have proof of onward travel, or worse, when you do arrive you can be denied entry into the country, forcing you to go back to your point of departure at your own expense.

Governments use this process mostly to reduce the flow of undocumented immigrants coming into a country for work, especially from bordering or nearby countries, not to discourage long-term tourists. Which doesn’t mean that tourists haven’t been affected by the rule.

A few countries that absolutely require documented proof of onward travel are Peru, New Zealand,  United Kingdom, United States, Philippines, Indonesia, and Brazil.

It’s possible to avoid some hassles by dressing presentably (think business casual, neat and tidy) when flying and being polite to passport control. Also, be sure your plans (as told to customs agents) match up with other people traveling in your party regardless of what you actually intend to do at your destination.

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