What's Onward Travel and How Do You Show Proof of It?

This post was contributed by Maxime Beauregard.

It is 11:43 on a Wednesday morning. After logging onto my computer to continue my intensive pre-travel research, I discover some life-saving information: proof of onward travel… huh?

As I was starting my solo-travelling nomad life, no one had told me that if you want to travel the world on a one-way ticket, you need to have a proof of onward travel. What is that you might ask? Well, in fancy lingo, it is a transportation ticket that will prove to the airline, as well as the country to which you are travelling, that you are going to exit the visited country before the limit duration of the foreigner’s stay expires.

In short, they want to make sure you won’t illegally move to that country and stay there forever. 

Some countries are stricter than others and will always ask for a proof of onward travel, some countries will only ask it from time to time… But who wants to take that chance and have to buy an expensive random non-refundable departure ticket on the day of their flight or be sent back to their country when they arrive at their destination? Certainly not me!

So if you are a one-way ticket kind of person, here is some advice to help you out on your nomad journey! (Note that I am not paid to promote anyone from this text, so everything in here is just recommendations from my personal experience). 

First Proof of Onward Travel Experience: purchase a ticket with a 24-hour fully refundable guarantee. I booked my refundable ticket with Expedia.com at 10:00 PM, the night before my departure to Costa Rica, knowing that I was going to arrive in San José at 4:00 PM the next day. Naively, I thought I would have enough time with six hours to get to my hostel and cancel the ticket… WRONG!  

My flight got delayed all the way from my departure in Montreal, which means that my layover in Panama City got bumped, and the only flight available for San José I could get on departed Panama at 9:30 PM. As soon as I arrived at the airport in Panama, I started brewing creative solutions to be able to cancel my flight in time and book another ticket to enter Costa Rica legally. 

Here are 10 not-so-fun fun facts:

  • 11

    I only had access to 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi access at Panama City’s airport.(This became a very stressful race)

  • 22

    Expedia’s website decided to shut down whenever I would try to cancel online my ticket. (Great!)

  • 33

    I got lucky enough to contact my mom on Messenger so she called the company as if she was me to cancel my refundable ticket by phone. (Blessings to my gangsta mom!)

  • 44

    I had to have a new proof of onward travel to enter Costa Rica legally, so I booked another 24-hour refundable ticket. (Momentarily mourning my bank numbers!)

  • 55

    My 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi access ran out and I had to buy more time. (Mourning both my failure and my bank numbers)

  • 66

    When I went to check my email to get my flight confirmation number, I realised that Hotmail thought I was trying to hack my account, so it sent a confirmation number to my Gmail account. (Anxiety kicking in, am I going to get through this?!)

  • 77

    When I tried to enter my Gmail account, I realised that Gmail thought I was trying to hack my account too and sent a confirmation number to my Hotmail account. (Really? Anxiety level 100) 

  • 88

    I realised that as soon as I would arrive in Costa Rica, I had to look for an e-mail platform that would fit my nomad life style and not think I am a hacker every time I travel to a new city. (Lesson learned the hard way… #neveragain )

  • 99

    My mom logged onto my account in my home town, sent me the confirmation code so that I could access both my (dumb) e-mails and my new flight confirmation number. (Reminder to myself: praise my mom on my knees next time I see her in person)

  • 1010

    took a screenshot of my confirmation number in case my email accounts would decide to backstab me again in Costa Rica. (You won’t get me again!!)

    Also, let it be known that Expedia.com is a website from the United States and their currency is in US dollars. An important thing to acknowledge: they reimburse their clients a few days after the cancellation is made. Unfortunately, as a Canadian, I did not take into account the currency fluctuations from CAD dollars to US dollars and therefore I actually lost $60 CAD from these two ‘‘fully refundable’’ tickets. So unless you are from the United States, I wouldn’t recommend this option.   

Second Proof of Onward Travel Experience: After that previous nightmare experience, I decided to go for another option on my second time around. I booked a ticket on BestOnwardTicket.com. It is a 48-hour valid ticket for $12 US that will cancel itself out when the time comes. I was lucky enough to get a coupon code and my onward ticket only cost me $8 US! It was way cheaper than my $60 CAD loss from my previous attempt, plus I didn’t have to worry about the cancellation and all the hassle that came with it. I was a little nervous at first, but it was so easy! The travel agent asked me for my proof of onward travel at the luggage check-in, I handed them my booking information, they entered what they needed in their computer and everything went super smoothly.

It was literally the best investment I could have done for my proof of onward travel.  

I know there are other options to work around. Some people choose to book the cheapest flight out of the country available even though they lose whatever amount this ticket might cost.

I mean, I can’t afford that, but if you can, good for you! 

If you’re wiser than me and have travel points, you can book a flight with your points, and get your points back after the cancellation. This is a great option because you don’t have to spend a penny, however, make sure you read the cancellation policy carefully so that you don’t lose your points. 

Lastly, whatever you do, don’t present a fake ticket. I repeat… DO NOT FORGE A TICKET! Lying to immigration officials is illegal, and that could put you in jail, so just don’t do it! How are you going to travel the world if you’re behind bars? That’s the real question.

In the end, pick the option that suits your situation best, but make sure you have your proof of onward travel with you on your departure day.

Safe travels to all of you travel lovers out there! 

Meet Maxime: Maxime Beauregard is a solo non-binary nomad traveller and a Youtube content creator (Nomad Outside The Box). Beauregard worked in contemporary dance (dancer, choreographer, teacher), backstage production (stage manager, assistant producer, coordinator, wardrobe technician), modelling, and writing. They’ve travelled to Canada, the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, Spain and Morocco.

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