What to do if you don’t have a return ticket or onward ticket?

Are you planning to fly somewhere without knowing when you will return back? Did you plan a spontaneous trip without deciding how long the trip will be. If so, you probably didn’t buy a return ticket. This might be a showstopper when you want to board on your flight to another country. Even if you plan to get a visa at the airport of your destination, you might still need to show your return ticket when boarding from your departure point.

For our trip to India, we went to the Indian consulate in Istanbul for a visa. We could easily get the visa with just a reservation of flight tickets (in and out of the country), so we didn’t actually buy a return ticket as we didn’t know how long we wanted to stay in India. Before India we were in Sri Lanka. We knew that the regulations for India would be strict so we had to come up with something. Luckily we did have a plan, as we got asked twice by Sri Lankan Airlines for a ticket out of India…

Why do they ask for a return ticket or onward flight ticket?

First of all, every country demands that you stay only for a specified period of time in their country. Therefor the responsible persons want to make sure that you follow the rules. There a a lot of people who get a tourist visa and don’t leave the country. An onward ticket is a way of proof that you will leave the country. So basically it is to prevent illegal immigration. They don’t really care which country you are going to, so might be a return ticket or an onward ticket to another country. If you are backpacking for a long time, you probably need an onward ticket.

You can get checked in 3 ways. At arrival of your destination by the immigration desk and (most common) at departure with check in and even after check-in with boarding. To make things easier and probably faster, a lot of countries have given the responsibility to airlines. There is an international law for airlines to take passengers back if the government officials don’t let the passengers in the country. Therefor you can imagine that airlines will strictly check as it will cost them if you let you in without a proof that you will leave the country. Airlines simply won’t let you on board if you cannot show your onward ticket. If something like that happens to you, you probably won’t have enough time to find a last minute ticket for a good price or a ticket that matches your preferences.

Ways to get an onward flight confirmation (some without buying an actual flight ticket)

If you really cannot decide yet how long you want to stay or which country to go next, you will probably hate the proof of onward flight ticket rule just as much as we do. It’s a shame that they cannot simply believe us for going out of the country as our plan is a world tour. Oh well, guess we all need to adjust to the situation. We want to give you a list of a few things you can do if you feel trapped because you can’t make up your mind and you are not sure what to do.

1. You can always buy a random cheap ticket out. It won’t matter where to, so you might as look for some deals. Ok it’s a loss of money, but at least you won’t buy an actual (probably more expensive) ticket you won’t use anyway. Here is the link of the top 7 cheap flight ticket websites according to the Huffingtonpost: list for cheapest flight tickets

2. Big airlines offer flight tickets which you can cancel for a fee. You can book your flight (confirmed) and cancel once you arrive at your destination. This way at least you don’t have to pay the full amount. This might be a better option than the random ticket.

3. There are also actual travel websites which provide tickets that are fully cancelable (within 24 hours!), one of them is Orbitz. If you don’t cancel within 24 hours, most of the time the ticket becomes non-refundable. Orbitz claims a full refund but there is a catch! Orbitz works with free cancellation until the following business day 11:59pm. Watch out with different time zones. You might not actually get the 24 hours!!!

4. There are different websites which provide actual confirmed flight tickets for a period of 24 hours or 48 hours. These costs round 20 USD. The tickets are real and you don’t have to cancel for yourself. It’s easy and works. Here are a few websites:

5. Then there are websites where you can create your own (fake) flight ticket. One of them is: Return flights. We definitely don’t recommend using these since this is a false document and it could get you in trouble.

We hope that the solutions we provided are useful for all travelers. We know that travelers like us, are having troubles with planning everything in detail, before even seeing the country. As this is the only motivation we don’t see a harm in the solutions given above (except for the fifth solution, that one we don’t recommend). Good luck and enjoy your travels!


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