How to Show Proof of Onward Travel – Podcast 006

In this episode B and Jack discuss how to show proof of onward travel as a digital nomad. Initially, they define exactly what “proof of onward travel” means. After that, they present the main methods to provide such proof as well as their preferred way.


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1. Summary

1.1. Proof of Onward Travel Within The Broader Digital Nomad Life System [1:15]

    • The Digital Nomad Life System is a 6-step meta-system created by us at Nomad Tactics that aims to explain how someone can go from living a non-nomadic normal life to living an optimized digital nomad life.
    • The fifth step of the system is called “Base Research and Arrangements”. Once the nomad has selected the key variables related to the base (Step 2: Base Pre-planning), he needs to do some in-depth research and arrangements about his soon-to-be new base. The proof of onward travel is one of such arrangements.
    • To have a general overview of the Digital Nomad Life System you should listen to this episode.

1.2. General considerations about proof of onward travel [3:33]

    • What is proof of onward travel?
      • The proof of onward travel is any ticket that you need to show when going to a new country to prove you intention for departure.
    • Not all countries ask for proof of onwards travel. But as a rule of thumb, you should assume all countries will check that and be prepared for it using one of the methods we list below.
    • The proof of onward travel can either be checked by the immigration officer, the airline when you boarding or both. The most likely scenario is that the airline will do the checking.
      • Many airlines will check the proof of onward travel before your flight, if you don’t have the ticket, they will not allow you to board the plane.
      • The reason why airlines check that is because some countries make the airline liable for the costs of the flight out of the country if the passenger fails to show proof of onward travel in the immigration.
      • Some airlines only check proof of onward travel to certain destinations.
    • Why showing the proof of onward travel can be an issue to digital nomads
      • Many digital nomads like to play by the ear and not have such rigid travel plans (i.e. know exactly when and where they are going next).
      • Many digital nomads have tight budgets, thus they would rather not pay for another plane ticket in advance.

1.3. Different methods on how to get  proof of onward travel [10:00]

    • Think ahead and buy the actual ticket you will use out of the country
      • This is probably the most traditional/conservative method used by digital nomads
      • Works well if you are a highly disciplined and well schedule person
      • Con:
        • The problems outlined above to do with a rigid travel schedule and budget
    • Take the risk by not booking proof of onward travel beforehand
      • This is a method used by digital nomads that are willing to take risks and new digital nomads that are even unaware of the necessity of showing proof of onward travel
      • We do not recommend this method since the alternatives are much better. We are just mentioning this method here for the sake of having a complete list
      • What to do if…
        • You are caught by the airline
          • You can book the ticket right there in the airport (based on one of the other methods listed)
            • Keep in mind that if you have little time for your flight you might lose it, thus you should arrive early in the airport
            • Make sure you have a way to access the internet there to make the reservation if necessary
          • You can tell the airline staff that you don’t want a travel ticket because you know immigration will not ask for one. Some airlines will then allow you to sign a document saying you are solely liable for this decision and its possible consequences. If you sign such document they will allow you to get onboard without proof of onward travel.
        • You are caught in immigration
          • Show proof of your finances (e.g. bank statement) and say you intend to leave
          • Say you can book the ticket right then and there (using one of the methods outlined below)
      • Cons:
        • You might be deported (and possibly not be allowed in the country again)
        • You might need to pay for an expensive flight out of the country (if the airline for one reason or another is not liable to it)
    • Buy any normal refundable ticket
      • Since you using a refundable ticket once you board your plane, pass through immigration, and get to your new base then you can ask for a refund
      • Generally, refundable tickets are offered by airlines
      • Con:
        • Normal refundable tickets tend to be more expensive
        • Might be a while to get your money back, since refundable tickets are usually charged straight away. Thus you will need to wait some time (usually up to a month) to get your money back.
    • Buy any ticket that offers a 24h ticket cancelation/refund policy
      • Similar to the previous method, this ticket is refundable, so you can ask for your money back once you get to your new base. But in this case, you can only ask for a refund within 24h from when you bought the ticket.
      • Usually, this type of refund policy is offered by flight search engines and booking portals, rather than the airlines themselves
      • We recommend Orbitz
      • Con:
        • You might forget to ask for a refund/cancelation in this 24h period and then lose the ticket
    • “Rent” an onward ticket service
      • You can pay for the services of an online travel agency that allows you to “rent” a ticket for you for a certain time frame (usually ranging from 24h to a couple of days)
      • The ticket will truly be under your name (if someone, like the airline’s staff or the immigration officer, were to check it) but this is of course temporary and you cannot truly use it
      • Services we recommend Best Onward Ticket and One Way Fly
      • Cons:
        • It is a grey area if this method is legal or not, therefore you might get in trouble
        • Some of the websites that offer this type of service are shady or unreliable
    • Burner ticket: You buy any cheap ticket out of the country, already being aware that you will probably never use the ticket
        • Check budget airlines for cheap flights
        • You don’t need to buy an airplane ticket necessarily, you can also buy a ticket for a train, bus, boat, etc.
        • Cons:
          • You waste money
    • Book with points
        • Miles or points are usually refundable therefore it makes sense for you to use this and ask for a refund
        • You can generally get your refund (in terms of miles) straight away, since you are not dealing with actual money
        • Cons:
          • You need points/mines in the first place to use this method
          • You can only use this method if the airline company you have miles/points with offers a flight departing  from your new base
    • Fake ticket
      • Some websites provide services for you to fake airline tickets. Also, some people do it themselves since this is a pretty simple thing to fake.
      • We do not recommend this method since the alternatives are much better. We are just mentioning this method here for the sake of having a complete list
      • Cons:
        • It is definitely illegal, so if you are caught you can even be deported or in some cases even go to jail
        • You will need to pay for an expensive flight out of the country

1.4. Nomad Tactics Recommendation [26:56]

    • Buy any ticket that offers a 24h ticket cancelation/refund policy
      • This is a legal option
      • It will be a free option at the end of the day since you will get your money back
      • It is better than the  normal refundable ticket option because you tend to get your money back quicker (since many times they wait this 24h period to deduce the money from your account in the first place)
      • Obs: Put a reminder in your calendar to ask for a refund  as soon as you get to your new base

2. Transcript

Mr. B: Hey hello welcome to the nomad tactics podcast here we provide life optimizing tips and systems for digital nomads. I'm your host B. and I'm joined once again by the co host Jack.
Mr. B: The topic today is on how to show proof of onward travel.
Mr. B: I will start with a quick summary of the episode.
Mr. B: First me and Jack going to discuss the place of this topic within our digital nomad life system.
Mr. B: After that we will make some general considerations about the topic of proof of onward travel.
Mr. B: Then we will present the most popular methods to show such proof. Finally we gonna present our personal preference.
Mr. B: I hope you enjoy that the episode
Mr. B: Hey hello Jack.
Jack: Hey hello Mister B. yes so today since we're gonna talk about the proof of onward travel.
Mr. B: Yes.
Jack: And I think it's so always important to put things into a larger scale.
Mr. B: Yes so.
Jack: How would you put this into our Digital Nomad Life System.
Mr. B: Yeah so great idea as usual we gonna start placing the the topic within our broader digital nomad life system. Maybe Mr Jack for the people that are still not familiar with our system could you perhaps give a brief explanation.
Jack: Sure how we define our system the digital nomad life system is we have a six steps system that helps a normal person which is a person who works from nine five to a person who can travel around and work remotely basically become additional moment yes.
Mr. B: In the most optimal way as possible Uh so yeah as you said is a six step system and the topic today perfectly fits the third step of our system and the third step is called the base research and arrangements. So since we are talking about a proof of onward travel that's one of the main arrangements one could call that a digital nomad should make beforehand before going to his new base.
Jack: I see the it does make sense to put the proof of the onward travel into this third step.
Mr. B: Yeah.
Jack: But I think it would be nice to let the audience know what is the proof of onward travel in the first place.
Mr. B: Yeah you know that's something quite funny because I think if you are an experienced digital nomad this is the sort of topic you're definitely going to be familiar with because you probably had some troubles before with this issue but I think people that are still beginning their journeys or they are still planning to begin their journeys perhaps they never heard about this topic at all don't you think so?
Jack: Yeah I think if people do doesn't travel a lot but still.
Mr. B: Is not such a common topic.
Jack: Yeah it is.
Mr. B: So yeah I I guess a good way to start would be to provide some you know general definition or general consideration about what you're talking about here so basically.
Mr. B: When what we are talking about when we mention the the term proof of onward travel is basically the proof that you will leave the country at whatever country you're going to and this can be simply understood in terms of some sort this ticket e-ticket that you might be asked to show to the country immigration or to the airline.
Mr. B: And the reason why a country ask for such proof I mean there's more than one reason but basically is to.
Mr. B: Make sure that you intend to leave the country before your visa expire that's perhaps the main reason but also to see if you have enough money because if you already bought the tickets that shouldn't really be an issue.
Jack: I see the last time someone asked me to show the proof of onward travel is by the airline how how's that.
Mr. B: Yes so this is something that sometimes is asked by the immigration sometimes by the airlines but I think more and more this task is being designated to the airlines what happens is that the government of the country going to say look airline X it's your responsibility to make sure.
Mr. B: Whoever comes in also has a ticket out of the country so basically they give the whole liability to the airline and that's why many airlines will check before your flight if you have such a return ticket and if you do not show that ticket the can even and actually very frequently deny you to board the plane in the first place.
Mr. B: So.
Mr. B: The main the main pressure points one could call the government puts to the airlines is by saying look if anyone comes to our country and the immigration officers say doo you have a ticket out of the country?
Mr. B: And the person say no I do not means that the airline didn't ask in the first place therefore it will be a airline responsibility to pay for all the costs from you from your travels outside.
Mr. B: Is that clear enough for is that my being confusing here?
Jack: Well I guess this can be understand as the the government this outsourcing that responsibility to the airlines.
Mr. B: Basically that's it yes.
Jack: I see, but Mr beat them for me this is this problem has only happened to me twice during my travel?
Mr. B: Yeah.
Jack: So why is this an issue to digital nomads?
Mr. B: So yeah I guess that's a two part question so first let's address the frequency so you said it happened to you twice and I know you are digital nomad for a while now as you said this is not the kind of issue you gonna encounter every time you decide to take a plane to go to a new country.
Mr. B: There are certain countries that are more famous for asking for this proof of onward travel than others but is sometimes a little bit of a lottery based on the country based on the airline you choose and also based on the day sometimes they say oh you gotta show sometimes they don't ask for anything so it's the let's say unfrequent issue.
Jack: Don't think there's going to be this sort of issue going to happen to you every time but our advice is always assume that it might happen therefore be prepared with the advice that we gonna give later on on this episode so that's the first part of your question the second part. You asked why do you think that's an issue for digital nomads and it seems to me that they they main reason why.
Mr. B: A proof also on our travel is problematic for digital nomads is because many times digital nomads don't want to have such proof and the reason for that is because they want to have a more flexible schedule to do with their trips so they simply don't want to know exactly when and where they're going next.
Jack: Yes they want the flexibility during the travel.
Mr. B: Yeah I I really liked this flexibility so for me when I first learned about this issue I thought that there was some being really annoying I don't know about you what's your personal opinion on the issue. Do you do you mind?
Mr. B: Mmhm.
Mr. B: The needing to show this proof of onward travels or for you something that is you don't really mind you say if they are asking for it I can just buy a ticket.
Jack: Yeah providing an onward tickets always bother me because I don't want to buy the ticket beforehand since my budget is quite tight.
Jack: And for my understanding most people in the digital nomad community or other same situation as me.
Mr. B: Yeah I mean surely the budget of many digital nomads sometime this is quite small so as you said I think putting this money up front might be an issue for many people no doubt again as a rule of thumb our advice here is.
Mr. B: Just assume you might be asked therefore be prepared for it.
Jack: Yeah you're right I think any traveler should prepare.
Jack: A way to prove prove they're going to go on the onward travel began I'm pretty sure you want to keep on travelling since you're digital nomads.
Mr. B: Yeah.
Jack: So Mr B you wrote down there are eight methods to do with the proof of onward travel and the first one here is think ahead and by the actual ticket out of the country.
Mr. B: Yeah so as it appears this is perhaps the most common sense way to deal with onward travel proof and this basically means that if you are a very you know discipline digital nomad and you can organize your your trips well you can simply think ahead where you gonna go next when you're going next and book the ticket so basically you are doing what the country the immigration wants you to do.
Mr. B: So this is the the common sense solution but perhaps is not the optimal solution to the many people because they want more flexibility.
Jack: Yeah especially now with the online booking you can basically booked a ticket anywhere any time you want.
Mr. B: Yeah.
Jack: And the the second method right now is take the risk you don't book any ticket and you just go.
Jack: I think it's a stupid method but I'm sure someone out there is doing this.
Mr. B: Yeah I think to be honest many people do that.
Mr. B: Because they don't even know they need a proof of onward travel so you never booked a plane ticket where you didn't know you had to have a another ticket out of the country.
Jack: You mean have I ever been to a country that.
Mr. B: Yeah we found a return flight or something.
Mr. B: Because I think many new travelers they are not even aware of this issue sometimes they take they applied this method even without knowing.
Jack: The last time to have this issue was I traveled to Thailand because I was planning to take a bus to Vietnam and so I didn't have a ticket that's the closest of memory I have.
Mr. B: And no and nobody asked you for that proof.
Jack: No that didn't ask.
Mr. B: Yep sounds good then.
Mr. B: As we commented previously at the proof of on our travel is not something that is always ask therefore a lot of the times you can get away.
Mr. B: And there are certain things you can do if certain scenarios play out if let's say you don't have a proof of onward travels and the airline asks you for one they're basically two things you can do there number one you can book the ticket right there as long as you have an internet connection to book a ticket you're good to go the only problem is when you have very little time for your departure.
Mr. B: And booking takes takes a while so yet just if you don't have any proof of onward travel make sure you get to the airport a little bit earlier than usual. The other solution that works with certain airlines but certainly not all is you can say look I know I don't have a proof of onward travel but I am willing to take the risk.
Mr. B: And some airlines give you a form saying that you are totally liable for your decision of not having a ticket out of the country.
Mr. B: If for whatever reason in immigration that if they ask you for a proof of onward travel and you don't present it's up to you to cover all the costs of your flight back or even the legal consequences attached to the decision I know a couple of people that done that and to be honest immigration don't usually ask.
Mr. B: Now let's think about the case in which the immigration caught you so you pass through the airline nobody asked you about the the proof of onward travel and you arrive in the country you are getting in your present your passport and the person in the immigration says look I need some sort of proof that you will depart the country basically what you can do is show some sort of financial proof that you are like you you have enough funds to to leave the country you can show that you have a job overseas that you will return to and if they really insists that to be an issue you can say you can book right there the ticket even if you're caught let's say on immigration at least from the testimony of some of my friends if you book the ticket right there day will still let you in the country.
Jack: Yeah I feel you're just throwing the dice.
Mr. B: Yeah.
Jack: You're in the hands of the immigration.
Mr. B: No doubt.
Jack: You yeah that there surely if you have a great negotiation skills.
Mr. B: Great negotiation skills and you go through.
Jack: Yourself out of the the hole you just dig yourself into yeah.
Mr. B: Yeah as you said I think there are some cons attached to the solution that I don't know if they make it very attractive me personally I also wouldn't take it and the first disadvantages that you might not be allowed in the country and be deported and that's not good because in theory you could have your name marked in a negative way so the next time you're trying to go to the country they might have an issue with you and also it might be a very expensive option.
Mr. B: In the case the worst case scenario plays out in the case you are not allowed in the country because as we said before you might be liable to pay your flight out of the country whatever the price of the flight is.
Mr. B: So yeah overall I don't think that's a very clever solution.
Jack: I see so the next one is refundable tickets.
Mr. B: And so their refundable ticket basically as the name suggests you going to be buying a ticket before your trip that is refundable I mean that's that's a clever solution because you can buy the ticket show to the immigration.
Mr. B: Show to the airline and after you you pass through you can ask for refound and book a new ticket whenever you want. have you ever done that Mr Jack?
Jack: I mean no not in my memory but I have something similar. It's I bought a ticket but I changed my dates after I enter the country so it's something similar.
Mr. B: I see.
Jack: I see I never thought the loophole
Mr. B: So you didn't ask for the refund.
Mr. B: You ask to change the date.
Jack: Yes.
Mr. B: Yeah that's actually another solution so I named this method refundable ticket but I think in theory you could have a transferable ticket as well and in that case you said instead of asking for a phone you just going to ask for date change right? I think to be honest most of the tickets that are refundable are also transferable because these tend to be more expensive tickets so they give you all the perks associated with it.
Jack: Yeah I usually pay a higher price.
Mr. B: Yes.
Jack: Associates with it yes.
Mr. B: One possible negative side of the refundable ticket if you decide to use is that it might take a while for your money to come back because they're going to basically deduse from you and then you're going to ask for a refound and they go to pay you back but that might take one or two months.
Jack: So that's the deficiency.
Mr. B: Yes.
Jack: Now you have deficieny in your bank.
Mr. B: So yeah you're going to be a bit short on money for a while perhaps
Jack: So the next solution we got here is also refundable but it is also twenty four hours ticket policy.
Mr. B: It's it's kind of similar to the refundable ticket strategy but not the same so when we were talking about a refundable ticket.
Mr. B: We usually think about the policy from an airline itself now when you talk about the refundable twenty four hour ticket policy we are thinking more about the platform provider or the the website policy so some websites that allow you to book flights have this policy that you can ask for a refund within twenty four hours of booking this is great because basically similar to the previous strategy you can book a ticket passed through the airline counter past reintegration get to the place and ask them to refound all within twenty four hours. There is one website that I have use for a while now it's called it orbits thats O.R. B. I. T. Z. dot com if you search for airline tickets there you're going to see that many of them offered this option of twenty four hour period refound I I think I showed you this website.
Jack: You did show me you the website. I just want to say once I almost forgot to get the refund so almost pay the ticket.
Mr. B: Yeah that that's actually a good point that you raise you only have twenty four hours so probably you should set yourself a reminder in your phone to cancel and get the refound as soon as you get to your new base. Otherwise you as Jack said you might be required to stay with the ticket because the tickets in Orbitz dot com I don't think they are the best deal in the market the only benefit of booking there is this feature.
Jack: I see yeah remember the twenty four hours when though this very important if you want to get the refundable twenty four hours ticket policy.
Mr. B: Yeah.
Jack: So the next solution we have here is rented onward ticket service.
Mr. B: So I guess that's the extremely popular solution nowadays perhaps the most popular one for digital nomads at least in the last few years the this strategy you gonna go to service online service that allow you to rent a ticketfor a certain time frame and usually this time frame is from twenty four to forty eight hours but in some cases it might be up to a certain number of days. And the idea behind this strategy is that the service will allow you to use the ticket for this time frame and you are legally the owner of that ticket for that time frame but at the same time it's a limited time frame so the ticket in actuality was never truly yours I I believe you you said you have to quite famous websites for that Mister Jack.
Jack: Yeah I have used the following two service during my last travels so the first one is best onward tickets dot com and the second one is one way flight dot com but the the Mister B. is this the service legal or is it illegal?
Mr. B: I would say it's a little bit of a gray area because as we explained.
Mr. B: You legally have the ticket but at the same time you know that that's not a real ticket one could call because you can actually take a flight with it.
Mr. B: So little bit of a gray area I don't think you gonna get in much trouble with this kind of service at least I never heard of anyone that got in trouble just that's something to keep in mind and also to do with this type of rent onward ticket services I just would like to let the listeners know that there's a lot of scammy sites to do with that the two that we mention here today.
Mr. B: Mr Jack used before there are other ones people mentioned to me were not that reliable either they didn't get their tickets or they were overcharged.
Jack: Yeah of course there are a lot of scammy website the the service looks a bit shady the next solution we have here is burner ticket is simple you buy a cheap ticket the you will probably never use to board a flight you just hold it to show you're gonna have it.
Mr. B: Yeah so the burner ticket.
Mr. B: Just to to make it clear in many cases do not require to be a an airplane ticket it can be a bus ticket or train ticket so when we talk about proof of onward travel we simply talking about a proof that you are leaving the country doesn't matter how so the burner ticket as Mr Jackson said you've just gonna buy whatever is cheap and you gonna you know be okay if you lose the ticket which most likely going to be the case.
Jack: Yeah or usually people who do this option choose like really cheap airlines.
Mr. B: Yeah if you have like budget airlines like Ryanair or Air Asia available in the region in which you're saying maybe that's an option because you're not going to lose that much.
Jack: Yeah so that's a good option so the next solution we have here is you book a flight with points.
Mr. B: Yeah.
Jack: So this means basically to use miles or points to book a flight so therefore they are usually refundable.
Mr. B: So the idea here is that if you booking flights with miles usually most of these flights are refundable and the refound is given to you immediately with miles again so since you're not dealing with money the whole process of the refund is quicker again another benefit is the fact that you're not using money so you know if you're short on cash that's one one less expense for you just one problem with this strategy is the fact that you need to be able to find the flight.
Mr. B: Number one that accept to be paid by miles and number two that leaves the specific country in which you are going to now so you can only use this miles approaching certain destinations not all over the board.
Jack: I see so this option gives you very limited options in terms of flight tickets.
Mr. B: Yes.
Jack: And the final solution we have is to fake a ticket which is something we don't recommend.
Mr. B: Yes yes I mean we are just citing this because this is something that some people do.
Mr. B: So we just presenting as a possible solution but we definitely do not advise or recommend for people to do it number one because it's illegal and if you lie to an immigration officer you can you know have severe consequences perhaps never entered the country again or even be deported or perhaps in some cases even go to jail and I mean the reason why this faking a ticket does not make sense is because some of the other strategies and options we we just presented are basically free so there is not a good reason to to preferred this option right? I mean sure flight tickets look like something very simple to fake because it's simply just a web page with some random numbers there but there are ways for them to check if that's an authentic ticket or not and the pay off here at least for us me and Jack it is not it's not worth it.
Jack: Yeah that you're absolutely correct so Mr be out of the a solution out here which one is your favorite.
Mr. B: So personally the one that I use most consistently and the one that I think provide the best trade off is the refundable twenty four hour ticket.
Mr. B: So just a quick recap that's when you go to certain booking websites that allow you to get a full refund if you ask within the initial twenty four hours.
Mr. B: And the reasons for me why this is such a great option is because number one that's legal that you're doing absolutely nothing illegal there.
Mr. B: In the end of the day gonna be free because you're gonna get a full refund.
Mr. B: And is better than the quote unquote normal refundable ticket because in many instances the websites that offered this twenty four hour refund policy wait this twenty four hour period to deduce the money from your account since you're asking for the refund before did twenty four hours.
Mr. B: Sometimes they didn't even deduce the money in the first place therefore you won't be short of money because it never left your account.
Jack: Yeah it sounds like twenty four hours ticket it's a really good options.
Mr. B: For you is the the best option as well or you.
Jack: Yeah I I tried the rent the ticket but is always makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable because I never know whether I have a ticket or not.
Mr. B: I see you you think oh maybe if the guy in the immigration check perhaps I don't have it and then I'm in trouble.
Jack: Yeah maybe the ticket was never real in the first place.
Mr. B: Yep.
Jack: Yep so yeah I do prefer refundable twenty four hours ticket.
Mr. B: Yeah.
Jack: So Mister B. I think that's the wrap of the episode do you want to add anything to this?
Mr. B: No I think that's pretty much it I mean this is an important topic perhaps is not the kind of thing many people find to be a problem in most of their airplane trips but none the less since it's basically free with some of the strategies I don't see any reason why you shouldn't be more cautious and you know be prepared and always have a proof of onward ticket.
Jack: Yeah I think you're correct so if you enjoyed this episode please make sure to leave a review and a comment on your listening platform thank you for the follow is soon going on social media like Twitter Instagram and Facebook. Finally if you want to see the show notes of this episode onward travel proof you can go on our website Normand tactics dot com thank you very much.
Mr. B: Thank you.

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3. Resources